The Elder Scrolls Online has been announced! In the coming months we're going to gather every nugget of information about the game and post it here, as a constantly growing repository of facts and analysis. Whether you're for or against an online adaptation of the single player-dominated RPG series, The Elder Scrolls Online has the potential to be a great MMO on its own terms. Bethesda and Zenimax have assembled an experienced team, and - to hear them tell it - the game has been in development for several years. Keep checking back for more info as we get it.
The initial announcement
Bethedsa Zenimax announced the Elder Scrolls Online back in May, which is also when the first details started to creep out.
The first Elder Scrolls Online trailer
The first ever Elder Scrolls Online trailer arrived a day after the first annoucement. The voice-over sets the stage for the MMO, but other than that there's not much info here. Pretty logo, though.
The setting and world
According to Game Informer's announcement , The Elder Scrolls Online will take place in the second era of Tamriel's history, and the main quest charts the daedric lord Molag Bal attempts to take over the world. The Elder Scrolls Online's main story will be a single player affair, you don't see other players along the way .
Molag Bal is the prince of domination and the enslavement of mortals, so this probably isn't going to end well. His plane of Oblivion is said to be a ruined copy of the world: think Tamriel as we know it, but with lots of rubbish mods installed.
The second era is a fairly open part of TES history. All prior Elder Scrolls games have taken place in the third era, with the exception of Skyrim, which is set in the fourth. The sheer amount of lore in each game means that we already know a fair amount about thousands of years leading up to The Elder Scrolls Online, however.
A few major events could conceivably take place within the lifetime of an MMO beginning at this point. Around the time when the game will take place, Morrowind's god-king Vivec is due to flood the entire region to kick out the invading Akaviri forces. That'd make for a pretty exciting world event.
It's also an important period for Tamriel's guilds. This is when the Dark Brotherhood forms out of the outlawed Morag Tong, and the Mages Guild is only a few hundred years old at this point.
How did the developers take inspiration from Skyrim and Oblivion ? Well they have imported the layout of Cyrodiil from Oblivion to ensure Elder Scrolls fans find things familiar, but Skyrim will be a little different. While major landmarks and cities will remain, this is Skyrim long before the ruined world we know, and there'll be very different stories to tell.
The two factions announced so far are the Daggerfall Covenant (Bretons, Redguard, and Orcs) and the Aldmerri Dominion (Aldmer, Bosmer, and Khajiit). Players will choose a faction and race at character creation.
The Aldmerri Dominion is a authoritarian High Elven empire and a precursor to the black-robed villains of the same name in Skyrim. According to Game Informer's reveal , their objective is to subdugate all of the other races. They have three territories:
- The Summerset Isles are the homeland of the Aldmer, located off the south-western coast of Tamriel.
- Valenwood is a massive forest and home to the Bosmer. The wood elves are protective of their natural habitat and don't build cities, so expect sporadic human settlements instead.
- Elsweyr, the Khajiit homeland, has only formally existed for a few hundred years by the middle of the second era. It's a mixture of desert and jungle, and it hides substantial Dwemer ruins.
Expect the Daggerfall Covenant to be a looser affiliation of races. “There is a lot of historical friction between the redguards and the bretons", game director Matt Firor told Game Informer . In The Elder Scrolls Online, the Daggerfall Covenant will be composed of the provinces of High Rock and Hammerfell - but it's worth bearing in mind that at this point in the fiction the areas was made up of dozens of smaller kingdoms.
A few hundred years later, in the event known as the 'Warp in the West' - a contrivance on Bethesda's part to explain all of the competing endings for The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall - those separate kingdoms were magically remade into Daggerfall, Wayrest, Orsinium, and Sentinel. Its in this form that they're better known, and it'll be interesting to find out whether Zenimax's more stable High Rock acknowledges this shift in the fiction.
Player vs. Environment
Unlike the single player Elder Scrolls games, The Elder Scrolls online will use an MMO style hotbar, but with a twist. The UI will be minimal , with players taking their queues from animations and other in world hints instead of a wall of text. Lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle told us he wants to "Look at the world, not at my hotbar".
In our Elder Scrolls Online combat overview we learnt that abilities will work in a similar fashion to Guild Wars 2. You have six abilities, the first two are based on your weapon, the next three on your class and the final one is an 'ultimate' ability, extremely powerful, but you can only ever use one at once. Any class can use any weapon, so a Mage can carry a sword, and the more people he stabs, the better he'll get at it. The idea is to let you craft your own playing style from a wide range of options.
In our Elder Scrolls Online interview we learnt that the combat will be built around co-operative 'synergy' moves. Player attacks will spark effects that other players can exploit to create a bigger, flashier and more damaging attack.
Despite the MMO trappings, familiar elements from the single player Elder Scrolls games will be present. These include guilds, including the Mages Guild, and birthsigns. Skyrim allows players to switch birthsigns on the fly, and we don't yet know whether The Elder Scrolls Online will go with this system or opt for the previous, chosen-at-character-creation model for assigning bonuses.
Player vs. Player
The Elder Scrolls Online's structure makes a lot more sense when you factor in the influence of Mythic's 2001 MMO Dark Age of Camelot, which was produced by TES Online director Matt Firor. DAOC had three factions that occupied separate regions of the world, and those three factions clashed for control of territory in a central, neutral region.
In The Elder Scrolls Online's case, that central region is Cyrodiil - the setting for TES IV: Oblivion. Like DAOC, the focus will be on laying siege to enemy fortresses. If it sounds a little like Guild Wars 2's World vs. World PvP, that's not a coincidence: ArenaNet have a few ex-Mythic developers on their team, too.
In our Elder Scrolls Online interview the developers spoke about how important the PVP aspect is. They want everyone to be involved in the great war. Even if you don't want to fight directly, you can still contribute in lots of ways, such as crafting gear for front line troops.
Do you know Elder Scrolls Online information that we haven't post here? Put it in the comments below and we'll include it in the next update.