Elder Scrolls Online's "main backbone story" is a solo affair: "you don't see other people in it"

The Elder Scrolls Online

How do you tell every player that they're the saviour of the world in an MMO? It's a sticky question that many MMOs face, and that few deal with especially well. Tom sat down with game director Matt Firor to find out how Zenimax approach the problem in The Elder Scrolls Online.

"The way we do that in Elder Scrolls Online is there are parts of the game that you just do solo and you just do in a story instance. So the main backbone story of the game, which is your interaction with Molag Bal, one of the Daedric princes, you're the hero in that story, so you experience that only yourself."

It's a familiar technique we've seen before in Star Wars: The Old Republic, LoTRO and many other MMOs that do their storytelling in carefully choreographed instances. TOR even employs hazy barriers across certain entrances in the game world to stop incompatible classes from wandering into cutscenes that aren't meant for them. It's a jarring system, but it prevents situations in which dozens of players cluster around story NPCs, triggering separate text boxes to further their quest. It's also useful for MMO players who like to play solo.

"The whole rest of the game you can do solo if you want, except for some of the higher end dungeon content and of course PVP," said Firor. "So you can do it with groups, you can do it solo, but that main story is your story, so you don't see other people in it, you're saving the world, you're the hero."

Of course, once you're playing solo online, you might just as well play solo offline. In a different Elder Scrolls game. The Elder Scrolls Online will let you travel beyond Skyrim's borders, however, past Cyrodiil and into realms that haven't yet been explored by Bethesda's single player outings. A minimalist interface promises to bring players closer to that world, though there will be an MMO skill bar and, thanks to TESO's massively multiplayer nature, character creation will be a bit more constrained than Elder Scrolls RPG fans will be used to.

"Since we have a PVP component to our game it's very difficult to make a skill based game like in Skyrim, so we went back to a more traditional character based system like in the older Elder Scrolls games just to make it easier to balance to make sure the PVP system worked," Firor explains.

"Well the Elder Scrolls formula has kind of evolved over time, and if you look at Elder Scrolls 1: Arena to Daggerfall to Morrowind. Things have evolved in every game, so it's not like they're all exactly the same as the one before, there's a clear line of evolution. What we had to do to make it an MMO is to kind of evolve over to the multiplayer side and there are some things that come with that."

Check out our Elder Scrolls Online round-up post for more.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.