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Elder Scrolls Online: Bethesda dealing with fan backlash

Bethesda isn't developing the MMO, but fans are expressing concern that The Elder Scrolls will never be the same [UPDATE: trailer viewable]

Update: When we reached out to Bethesda Softworks for comment, Bethesda's Pete Hines stressed to us, "This does not impact the current or future plans of Bethesda Game Studios."

Original story:

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was one of the top rated and selling games of 2011, but lurking in the background all along has been the rumored Elder Scrolls MMO. With the game finally confirmed to be in development by ZeniMax Online Studios, long-time fans of the franchise are expressing concern that the MMO will alter the future of the series, and Bethesda has had to manage the community reaction carefully.

Many of the comments on the official Bethesda blog were filled with negativity. At the heart of the matter is that Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls series have shown that "massively single player" can still do quite well in this industry, and fans are worried that ZeniMax will decide that its top franchise will simply have to be online going forward.

"Way to go in completely missing the key theme of a game series," wrote commenter Darkstorne. "Yep, a series renowned for making the player feel like the solitary hero in a sprawling immersive world, DEFINITELY needs a new game where the player is one of thousands of heroes running, jumping, bunny hopping across the land, shouting 'n00bz I am teh 733t!!1!!1'

"Please say this won't indefinitely post-pone the release of the next real TES title, the way World of Warcraft has indefinitely put Warcraft 4 on hold."

A Bethesda spokesperson/moderator reassured worried fans, "The teams working on these games are separate. Todd Howard's team at BGS will keeping doing the type of games they like making, and the ZeniMax Online team will focus on MMO games like this newly-announced title."

Many of the fans do understand the distinction between the teams at ZeniMax Online and Bethesda Game Studio, led by Matt Firor (co-founder of Dark Age of Camelot developer Mythic Entertainment) and Todd Howard respectively, but at the same time, business decisions could one day impact the future of The Elder Scrolls.

"I think Todd or someone should put up some sort of message to assure fans of the Elder Scrolls series. Because even I, a massive fan of the Elder Scrolls and Bethesda Studios… am worried by this announcement," wrote commenter Zarathas.

"Zenimax have basically high jacked the Elder Scrolls name to give the MMO a kick start into the market place. If this ruins, cancels or delays the single player games, Ill be disappointed and would have lost my favourite game series."

That said, there are still a good number of fans who are giving ZeniMax the benefit of the doubt and are eager to see what kind of MMO the Online team can produce.

"I have never played a MMO before, but this might just be my first," wrote commenter Liquid_Waffle. "I still really want you guys to announce the next Fallout, I've been waiting four years for a sequel to Fallout 3."

"I can't wait to hear more about it," said commenter Noah. "The Elder Scrolls was inspired greatly by D&D, and if you really look at it, role-playing games have always been about having multiple players. The experience is greatly enhanced when you have other people to role-play with. The series comes with a lot of baggage, and it would have to feel like the series, just transformed to accommodate a large number of players."

The June issue of Game Informer will have more details on the Elder Scrolls Online. This is one the industry will want to watch.

Update: an official teaser trailer has just been made available. Check it out below.

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Latest comments (10)

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Annnnnnnnnnnnnd, so it begins. Again. I wonder how long before the first massively under-thought online petition rolls out to get Bethsoft to can the project or something similarly stupid. Look, loyal fans are great, but ill-informed knee-jerk killjoys are the worst, even if they have good intentions at heart.

Of course, I'm a bit of a hypocrite here (hee hee) as I was one of those not into SWTOR (even after playing it at shows three times for a while) because I'm and ancient RPG devotee who prefers his games single player (and with less reappearing monsters three feet away every ten seconds or so). Still, I had to hand it to BioWare for pulling it off and expect to do the same for ZeniMax when I finally see and play this game
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It looks like a developer cant win, and best to stick to their guns and allow the proof in the pudding to be the outcome. Everything else at this moment are protectionist fears from fans who belove their single player experience understandably
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James Boulton Owner, Retro HQ Ltd8 years ago
I can understand the fan sentiment. Personally I'm not a fan of MMO RPG's at all, but you'd be stupid not to exploit a franchise like TES in that space.

I honestly believe (and hope) Zenimax / Bethesda are aware of the difference in markets and this is an addition to their line-up and not an evolution of the series.

It would be nice if they break the mould a bit in the MMO market, but somehow I think it's going to be the same old stuff...
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Show all comments (10)
Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve8 years ago
I think the reaction is understandable considering how the importance of IP legacy has taken a back seat nowadays. It's a world where an IP will be twisted and shaped into anything so long as it makes money, and its sadly a formula that works all too well. On the other hand you could say that many developers and publishers couldn't survive if they didn't squeeze their successful franchises for all they're worth, but either way it's a sad feeling when an IP goes past its golden years due to a bad design direction, I can't blame people for worrying about that fact.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Interesting point, Thomas. but isn't the purpose at the end of the day for the industry to generate money for itself and (usually) its creators through many of these AAA projects (even if they end up as "free" games at some point)?

I know it sounds mercenary, but I think a lot of fans see game making as some angelic artistic process that somehow HAS to stay "pure" and true to what they want to fantasize about as they're glued to the TV. When I first heard about this a while back (well, overheard in a tossed off remark at the end of a conversation), I wasn't happy at all because I thought it would be replacing a new TES game and taking resources away from the series. As this isn't the case, I'm sure that XeniMax is going to be doing as much as they can to get it right as opposed to simply doing a template of other MMO's, slapping a TES logo on it and waiting for the subscriptions to roll in based on name recognition alone.

Of course, there's a difference between a fan project done for fun or love and put out there for no cost or as an affordable self-published work and a hefty MMO that's drawing all sorts of negative and positive press worldwide. We're sunk in the age of the bigger publishers feeling the need to explore uncharted territory (well, in terms of certain IP's) even if that ground is saturated and nothing but quicksand if things go not as planned...

Well, at least it's not a mobile game (yet). Cue the usual suspects to come along and say that it SHOULD be because certain devices have a skrillion users per second buying new content and so forth and so on...
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Greg, here it's not just the fans who are outspoken against using the franchise for an MMO, but the original creators themselves:

The series has been kind of an antithesis to the MMO-ification of RPGs, and the core values of the series are what many deem incompatible with MMO gameplay.

Given this, it should come as no surprise to anyone that this is viewed as an unnecessary direction to take the IP. I feel sorry for the devs for having to deal with this negativity, but the uphill battle this game will have to fight could have been seen coming by miles away. Especially as it has to withstand the side-by-side comparison to skyrim, which is loved for a gameworld so intricate and detailed that it seems impossible to deliver the same in an MMO format.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus8 years ago
I think a lot of the worry stems around the fact that Skyrim was, really, the last of the old guard: a single player game that didn't force the players online at all. You literally don't need to use the internet *once* to play Skyrim, which is becoming increasingly rare in the cases of games with tacked on multiplayer for the sole purpose of exploiting online passes and secondary purchases.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
@Felix, Oh, I know all that, as I'm a TES fan from the Arena days. I was kind of playing Devil's Advocate, as it seems that even if Todd Howard and anyone else not liking the idea were FOR the game 100%, there would still be a backlash by many out there.

Interestingly enough, I see Diablo III's beta wasn't being slammed around so much as this game is thanks to Blizzard basically telling us whiners that we had to take it or leave it as an MMO and that's that. From what I hear, most people who've played it are falling over themselves to praise it, but an always online experience is not what I want in a Diablo game (as I couldn't play that way and hell, I like my solo offline story-based RPGs, dammit)...

Of course, I won't be buying DIII at all, nor an online TES game. But I won't tell either company to not make the games they think will make them a profit because I'm not fond of what they're doing...
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Dean Kortenhoven Gaming and Tech News Writer 8 years ago
I too am a huge ES fan since the Arena days (and have all of the games), but I would be completely happy soloing in an ES MMO.
The key word being "soloing".
If they make playing alone difficult or impossible then I've no real use for it.
I played Everquest for years (on dial-up no less) and 99% of the time it was soloing. Sure it was a grind fest and I did millions of corpse runs, but I found it quite entertaining none the less.

What I find a bit disturbing lately is that people used to get excited about new games. Now it seems like the majority of this generations gamers just bitch.
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Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek8 years ago
I don't think it was a bad move for the Elder Scrolls franchise to broaden its wings, assuming that is the game sticks to the franchise values and keeps that quality bar.

Before seeing anything I had a mild sense of curiosity and excitement. But honestly, after seeing screenshots of the announcement it left me feeling flat and uninspired. What I saw didn't look like an Elder Scrolls game at all and it looked like a different title with the name slapped on. The gameplay could still lead a path to success, but it will be an uphill struggle in my eyes. The proof is in the puddling though, so only time will tell.

It must be hard for the developer, expectations are very high and I can only hope they try and take all this negativity and engage with the community to resolve issues and gain confidence.
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