Bethesda Explains Why Elder Scrolls Isn't an MMO

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.

  • shening
    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.
  • bak0n
    Because 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.
  • Zero_
    Great story telling is not possible with an MMO. That's the major draw in an oldschool RPG. (see DA:O)
  • dapneym
    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).
  • I totally
  • wildkitten
    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.
  • RabidFace
    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 :)

  • alhanelem
    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
  • freetheweed
    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!!!!
  • martel80
    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. :)