ZeniMax Online Studios has released their first real look into The Elder Scrolls Online, a developer diary filled with gameplay and lots of discussion on features and mechanics. From a robust PvP system designed to show "hundreds" of characters on screen to their shard-less server system that takes World of Warcraft's shared server technology and turns the game into a single cluster, ZeniMax wants to create the next big online game -- and a great Elder Scrolls game at the same time.
Matt Firor, game director of Elder Scrolls Online, starts off the the video with the following quote, not only capturing the goal of developing Elder Scrolls Online, but the challenge as well:
"With the Elder Scrolls Online we're bringing two groups of players together. We've got the Elder Scrolls crowd which is used to great games like Skyrim and Oblivion and Morrowind in the older games, and then we have the MMO crowd which is used to all the great MMOs from the last 15 years. We're bringing them all together into one great game and we're really excited to tell you about it."
By all means, everything said in the developer diary is what an MMO and an Elder Scrolls fan would want to hear. Focus on lore, exploration and visual coherency with the franchise are high priorities for a lot of players. Mechanics seem to be in line too, as in strategic, tactile combat, nine races to select from, dynamic events and huge PvP battles. As a first look at the game, ZeniMax Online does a great job of not scaring people away.
Reading between the lines, however, it's clear that the whole picture has yet to be shown. Most of the footage is taken from a free-floating camera, and almost all third person play lacks all UI elements. Some scenes have astounding graphical fidelity, but others (like the PvP scene) look particularly low-fi. In other words, ZeniMax has gone out of its way to make gameplay look distinctly un-MMO-like. Perhaps this is most clear from the quick cuts used in combat, avoiding showing the repetitive animations that pervade the genre.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying anything looks even remotely bad about Elder Scrolls Online. I love MMOs, and I actually think the game looks great. It's disheartening to me to see ZeniMax actively disassociate itself, at least visually in the trailer, from what it absolutely is an MMO. There's going to be lots of UI, with health bars, name panels, percentages and guild tags. Show the MMO, make me believe this will be a great MMO and not an Elder Scrolls game that just happens to be an MMO. I think everyone knows the truth by now.
An Introduction to The Elder Scrolls Online - Youtube