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Bethesda Explains Why Elder Scrolls Isn't an MMO

By - Source: Joystiq | B 43 comments

Bethesda's Todd Howard explains why The Elder Scrolls franchise hasn't entered into the MMOG realm.

Even when Morrowind hit the market back in 2002, Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls franchise felt like it could have been an MMO rather than a single-player RPG. That's the byproduct of excellent craftsmanship: the ability to suspend reality and convince the player that they're wandering in a vast, thriving world. That effect intensified even more with the release of the fourth Elder Scrolls title, Oblivion.

So what gives? Will Bethesda ever broaden the franchise into true MMOG territory? Probably not. The fifth installment, Skyrim, is on the verge of publication, and it's sticking to its single-player role-playing roots despite being bigger than Oblivion and Morrowind. Why? Because the team prefers the single-player role-playing model.

"I like this kind of game better," said Bethesda Game Director/Executive Producer Todd Howard. "You know, it's what most of us are into. I'm not really an MMO guy. I respect them, I look at them, but I don't play them. It feels more real to me when I'm the hero and it's crafted for that. A community aspect to it, I recognize a lot of people would want that in a game like this, but it changes the flavor for me."

"The audience we have for our kind of thing is big enough that we don't have to tone it down," he added. "We can just do our thing, and it's kind of grown with each game. So there was no pressure from anybody above me to say 'Hey, you need to change this.'"

During PAX, Joystiq asked Howard how he and his team could tell when a game this massive is actually finished. Based on his answer, it's partly due to an overall feeling of completion on a content level, that there's a saturation of activity that's not particularly overwhelming. "As the project goes on, we're finding areas where there isn't enough to do, and we keep adding," he said. "So the game always ends up a lot bigger than we anticipated."

He added that certain features seen in Oblivion were scaled back in Skyrim, such as reducing the number of large cities from nine to five. Some of the skills have also been scaled back.

To read the full PAX interview with Bethesda's Todd Howard, head here.

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Top Comments
  • 31 Hide
    shening , September 2, 2011 5:06 AM
    I wouldnt want it as an MMO but it would be nice if it had COOP and I could invite friends to my world and play with them.
  • 25 Hide
    Zero_ , September 2, 2011 5:16 AM
    Great story telling is not possible with an MMO. That's the major draw in an oldschool RPG. (see DA:o )
  • 22 Hide
    RabidFace , September 2, 2011 5:41 AM
    It's awesome to see developers like this. Keeping to their roots and not budging. This is what makes great games, keeping the integrity of the game and what works (why fix whats not broken?), while improving on every installment.

    While I will agree that the Elder Scrolls series would be nice with co-op, but it's not the developers vision, and in the end that is what matters :) 

Other Comments
  • 31 Hide
    shening , September 2, 2011 5:06 AM
    I wouldnt want it as an MMO but it would be nice if it had COOP and I could invite friends to my world and play with them.
  • 25 Hide
    Zero_ , September 2, 2011 5:16 AM
    Great story telling is not possible with an MMO. That's the major draw in an oldschool RPG. (see DA:o )
  • 4 Hide
    dapneym , September 2, 2011 5:26 AM
    sheningI wouldnt want it as an MMO but it would be nice if it had COOP and I could invite friends to my world and play with them.


    I absolutely agree. I like the Elder Scrolls series, but I really think there's no excuse now for not at least including Co-op. I'd love to play it with my friend online (2-4 player co-op over LAN or internet would be great).
  • 17 Hide
    wildkitten , September 2, 2011 5:39 AM
    zero_Great story telling is not possible with an MMO. That's the major draw in an oldschool RPG. (see DA)

    I think World of Warcraft proves your point. The simple fact is the story, which was so great across Warcraft's 1-3 and the novels and comics, has greatly suffered in the MMO. In some repsects it's totally ignored and one of the main reasons I left because Blizzard just doesn't seem to care, especially when you consider the number of retcons.

    I can see some people's points about wanting to play with friends, and co-op play would be good. But a good cohesive story is very important to building a strong franchise.
  • 22 Hide
    RabidFace , September 2, 2011 5:41 AM
    It's awesome to see developers like this. Keeping to their roots and not budging. This is what makes great games, keeping the integrity of the game and what works (why fix whats not broken?), while improving on every installment.

    While I will agree that the Elder Scrolls series would be nice with co-op, but it's not the developers vision, and in the end that is what matters :) 

  • 21 Hide
    alhanelem , September 2, 2011 5:45 AM
    All elder scroll games are supposed to be a thrilling single player RPG, making it into an MMO would alienate the diehard fans (like me) and if the developers want to stick to their roots LET EM!!!
    its worked out so far
  • 0 Hide
    freetheweed , September 2, 2011 5:56 AM
    i'm very excited to play this and i'm glad they're keeping the single player aspect. sometimes i do feel a bit "lonely" playing these sort of games, because they simulate a live world. but hey, maybe down the road they'll find a way to merge single-player's strong focus on story with MMO's incredible community strengths.... old republic has promised they'll accomplish this feat. we shall see!!!!
  • 7 Hide
    martel80 , September 2, 2011 6:12 AM
    Once they manage to get the AI to a reasonable level, you will no longer need other human players. You could just go into town and invite random NPC guys for some dungeon pillaging. :) 
  • -3 Hide
    Swolern , September 2, 2011 6:59 AM
    this game is BADA$$
  • 9 Hide
    Swolern , September 2, 2011 7:02 AM
    holy crap that still pic on top of page is awsome. Thats a lot of tessellation :) 
  • 7 Hide
    shoelessinsight , September 2, 2011 7:10 AM
    bak0nBecause the team prefers the single-player role-playing model. That's exactly why I haven't bought one. It doesn't matter how great the game is if I can't play it with my wife or my friends.

    Understandable. For a lot of people, a game needs a social aspect or it's just no fun. And it's good you can say that without bashing the game itself.

    I personally enjoy single player games quite a bit, and I am looking forward to Skyrim's release. With so many games these days sacrificing single-player content in favor of the (often) easier to make multi-player features, it's nice to see some real effort being put into a different kind of game.

    Of course, we all know that it's the modding community that will really take this game home, but I still appreciate Bethesda giving us a hard-built template to play with. =)
  • 7 Hide
    NuclearShadow , September 2, 2011 7:41 AM
    While I wouldn't go as far as zero_ saying a good story isn't possible within a MMO, the problem is however a story cannot really advance with the player in such. In a normal game when you save a village from bandits as a example they are actually saved, you made a difference in the world MMO's cannot provide that experience and in the game world you and your actions are not worth anything. This is the problem with MMO's they can have great story in-fact many great stories but it can never actually involve the player.

    With a game like Elder Scrolls where your actions actually shape the world to some degree, a MMO simply could not fit into such. The game would have to be severely dumbed down.
  • -4 Hide
    palladin9479 , September 2, 2011 8:15 AM
    I totally see why they want to not make it an MMO but they should allow you to host a COOP game with the other players being "side kicks". The hosting player is still the hero and you still get a story, but you can enjoy the content with friends. This is what NWN / NWN2 did and it was highly successful.
  • 2 Hide
    cats_Paw , September 2, 2011 8:17 AM
    Bigger than Morrowind? I mean, morrowind was quite bigger than oblivion (it had a bit more of unclaimed territory and farther spaces between dungeons and locations, but still). Bigger than morrowind?!
    If its true i really cant wait to get this game (after i finished deus ex 3 in 1 day 8( ).
  • -7 Hide
    cats_Paw , September 2, 2011 8:24 AM
    NWN was highly successfull? Never heard of that. Coop is for other type of games at all. There is no point in a co-op where the main character is basicly always alone (part of the story style). This is becouse its not the same going into a creepy cave alone than with a friend who is charging like a mindless orc.
    NWN was a baldurs gate/DA game style, while oblivion and such is a first person game. Not to metion that, i always found it hard in oblivion to "not-accidentally" hit some ally that then would turn hostile in team fights... Imagine that crap in co-op...
  • 6 Hide
    palladin9479 , September 2, 2011 8:31 AM
    Umm yeah, NWN / NWN2 were both highly successful, as in they made their producers money and went on for many years with multiple expansions and player created content. The player created content part was amazing, that you could build your own world for you and your friends to run an adventure was cool, or that you could download and play other people's creations.

    The campaign's released with the game were just to show off the engine, review sites completely missed that part and figured that was ~all~ there was to it. Lately I've stopped reading game reviews, too much is based on the 15 to 60 min of time the reviewer puts into actually playing the game, all in a rush to get the review out right at launch.
  • 7 Hide
    killerclick , September 2, 2011 9:52 AM
    Good, I don't want an MMO. It's just a way for developers and publishers to skimp on AI, content, writing, etc. You can't have immersion if you keep running into characters like Left Nutz and Right Nutz who complain about lag and noobs.
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