Interview: Zenimax Defends Elder Scrolls Online

By Nathan Grayson on June 11th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

This is, of course, a picture of me after the end of E3. I'm the corpse way in the back.

If you’ve only got 15 minutes to wow a crowd, it stands to reason that you’d unload your biggest guns until even the most ardent doubters would have no choice but to fly a white flag with your face on it. Elder Scrolls Online‘s E3 presentation, then, was worrisome. The action-based combat looked hollow and unconvincing, and we spent the bulk of our time watching a perplexingly un-Elder-Scrolls-like quest chain involving ghosts, time travel, and “collect X amount of Y item” prompts unfold. Meanwhile, the potentially unique three-way factional PvP battles got a chaotic 45-second flyby video that looked like what’d happen if an upturned anthill learned magic.

But then, let’s face it: even at their best, MMOs don’t demo well. That in mind, I attempted to get a clearer picture from creative director Paul Sage. So then, what exactly sets TESO apart from a legion of increasingly same-y looking online worlds? Can we mix and match classes as we see fit? Can we slaughter random NPCs? Does TESO stand a chance in a hostile MMO landscape that’s even chewed up SWTOR? And, most importantly, will there be books? It’s all after the break.

RPS: You dedicated a lot of the presentation to discussing how solo quests can affect the world – for instance, by putting a horde of restless ghost baddies to rest. Is the goal of Elder Scrolls Online to more or less make the player feel like the hero of a single-player RPG?   

Paul Sage: Absolutely. One of the things we set out to do was make you feel like the hero. You saw when you went back in time, and you saw the direct results of that [in the present]. That is one of the big things we want to do, because we want NPCs to react to you when you come back to town – ala Oblivion’s running “You’re the hero of Kvatch” joke. We want NPCs to recognize your accomplishments and those things.

RPS: But, generally speaking, MMOs do kind of a terrible job of making us feel like heroes. Other people run and leap and spam general chat all around, and they’re doing the exact same things as you. Why not instead focus on constructing a world that doesn’t try to ignore that?

Paul Sage: It’s a matter of perspective. If you feel like NPCs respect your accomplishments, there’s nothing that says other people being around takes away from that. In fact, it enhances that.

RPS: Right, but MMO NPCs are about as low on the NPC food chain as you can go. Typically, they’re rooted in one place for the sole purpose of spewing exposition and quest info. I’m not sure how much I’d really care if one said, “Hey, you’re totally that guy who slew the one thousandth instance of Xan’thulrex, the giant beagle.”

Paul Sage: With us, our NPCs might recognize your accomplishments or something else that’s not even an accomplishment. They respond to what you’ve done, so it does feel more like a living, breathing world. NPCs have professions – and I know that’s true of a lot of other games – but specifically what I mean is the NPC’s responses will change based on what the player’s done. Race and class choice is also a factor [in those responses].

You can also look at our goal to crown a player emperor. There’s faction warfare, and that’s one of the things where, yeah, you really are special. But if you don’t want to do the quests, you’re more than welcome to just go explore the dungeon content. So really, if that’s your goal where you don’t want to be the hero, we’ll have an option for you there, too.

RPS: So is the emperor system endgame-only? Also, are you doing anything else to sort of break outside the traditional MMO mold and move into more player-driven, emergent territory? 

Paul Sage: I absolutely don’t think that’s the only thing [along those lines]. You get to take over keeps and things like that. When you get into these large player battles, that’s something where almost all gameplay is completely emergent. You never know what’s going to happen in a situation like that. That’s why we make MMOs. That’s why we’re excited about it. So that’s the kind of emergent stuff I think really sticks. So I think the emperorship is a great thing, and I think the keeps are a great thing.

I also think that being able to control the way your character progresses – the way I get to slot in abilities – or even say, “Hey, I’m a mage and I have this axe, so I’ll use this axe.” Little things like that really make you be able to play the way you want to play.

RPS: How would it work if I were a mage who used an axe? Is the weapon skill leveling open and usage-based like in earlier Elder Scrolls games?

Paul Sage: It’s not really usage based so much as it is what I slot in. But you will grow. You’ll grow in power and discover new ways to use the axe. So, absolutely, that’s something we felt really strongly about. If I find a certain weapon, I should be able to pick it up and use it.

It’s not an open class system in [an optional design-your-own-class] type of way, though. When you see somebody on the battlefield, you’ll kind of know the broad range of what they’re capable of, but you won’t know the specifics of what they’ve slotted into their shortcut bar at the time. So we do want some structure, but we also want to give you a lot of customization.

RPS: The E3 presentation was basically a chain of clearly defined glowing quest-givers. Will there be more impromptu exploration, though? Environments that tell their own stories, etc? Will there be books? 

Paul Sage: There’s absolutely a place where you’ll find books. Will that start off a quest? Absolutely, that could start off a quest. You can also find lots of places where there are no quests at all. One of the things I don’t think we’ve talked about a lot is the fact that we have content that just kind of emerges from the world. So you’ll see bandits out lugging someone – so to speak – and you can decide to run up and kill the bandits if you want to. It’s really your call if that’s what you want to do. Or maybe you do something else in that situation. It’s those things that are also sprinkled throughout the world.

There are also what we’re calling Daedric Anchors in the world. Daedra filter out of them [and attack]. It’s a little bit reminiscent of Oblivion Gates. That, again, is something where you’ll be in the world, and suddenly, there’s just something over there. And then the player has something they can do to remove that Anchor from the world. I don’t want to call it an event so much. It’s just a happening in the world.

RPS: Can I kill NPCs who aren’t necessarily enemies? Can I go rampaging through towns?

Paul Sage: There will be NPCs that aren’t necessarily bad guys that you will be able to kill. Like, can I play the villain? I think that’s the fantasy for some people. They really want to play the villain, so we’re going to support that.

RPS: Mainly, though, you cited action-based combat and an involving storyline as the things that will set Elder Scrolls Online apart. But, admittedly, those things have been done in other MMOs – for instance, Tera and SWTOR, respectively. So how do you stand out?

Paul Sage: Well, you can take almost anything and say it’s been done in another game. It’s really about how it’s done. It’s taking a quest and discovering that it takes a little bit longer. We reveal the story over time – which, you know, is never going to sound special until you play it.

As for the action-based combat, I really do think it sets us apart. I know there are other games that have it, but specifically, when you’re playing online with your friends, we have synergy abilities where you pair up. Those kinds of things definitely take it [to the next level]. You definitely have the large PvP battles. It’s really a matter of how it all blends more than any one specific thing, because we can look at almost anything and say “Hey, another game has done something similar to this.”

RPS: When you first revealed Elder Scrolls Online, you got a fair amount of backlash from fans. It’s not first-person, there’s a WoW-esque action bar, etc. Have you been listening, though? Do you plan on revamping any specific aspects of the game to address those complaints? 

Paul Sage: It’s interesting, you know, there’s going to be reaction from a lot of things. One of the things that would be bad would be to react to something you just see – as opposed to when you play. When people are playing the game and giving us feedback, we’re absolutely going to be looking and saying, “That is something we need to change.” But a lot of people see the action bar and see it as something that’s bad, because they picture rotation’s going off – you know, these long chains they set up – as opposed to what we really tried to do with it, which is, you can’t pause combat during an online game.

So, for us, it’s a matter of having abilities that are easy to access on a keyboard-mouse setup. So it was really straightforward to put them on these shortcut bars and see how it works. Then, when you start playing, you realize you can use an ability with only a slight delay before you can use it again. But you can use it until your mana or stamina bar runs out, and you pair it with this real-time thing, and it really starts to feel good.

Even internally, we play every day, and then we have an every week playtest where the whole company stops what they’re doing, play for a few hours, and then we write up what we liked and didn’t like. We’re pretty hard on ourselves, too.

RPS: Do you have a timeframe for when players will get to give you feedback – like, via a beta or something?

Paul Sage: 2013.

RPS: Are you worried at all by the current state of the MMO market? I mean, EA recently launched SWTOR – which, like you, had strong story content and a beloved license behind it – but it’s already deflating due to a general feeling of “been there, done that” from players – especially in regard to endgame. How will Elder Scrolls avoid a repeat performance? 

Paul Sage: It’s interesting because, when we say MMO, we just say the word as if it means something. And I know what you mean, but for us, the first thing is that it has to be a compelling game – a compelling RPG. So first, we plan out a number of hours. So when we’re planning internally, we’ll say, “OK, here’s the number of hours where we really have enough content.” Then what we look at is what’s repeatably fun and what actually works to be repeatable. And you heard me mention our dungeons at level 50, for instance, you can go in and replay, but it’s new content. It’s not the content you’ve seen before.

But when you look at Skyrim and how many hours people will put into that, that’s part of the plan. I don’t want to talk post-ship because we’re not out yet, but we know that there needs to be content coming in that’s new and fresh. And I will tell you that I love the PvP system, and why I like PvP is because that always feels like “That is really cool.” Especially the three factions. I’m sure you’ve seen that in another game, but it’s so much fun to be able to play it and crown an emperor – to have these things going on. I don’t want to speculate about number of hours, but I would say I’ve played a game like that where I’ve spent more than several hundred hours.

RPS: Sure, but I think many people would also argue that SWTOR was a “compelling RPG” first and foremost. Speaking personally, I feel like there’s just something tiresome about the traditional MMO formula. Like, “go here, kill ten of these, gain XP, level up” is really good at hooking new players for a couple hundred hours, but once they burn out, they really burn out. 

Paul Sage: I think, for us, it’s really a matter of making sure the game feels fresh right away. I can’t say more to how it feels after you’ve played 500 hours. No one at the office has played 500 hours. But I can say that it feels fresh when you first get in there – and intentionally so. We have a huge number of people that have worked on previous online games, and we’ve realize that there’s not just a cookie cutter way to do this. We have to do it such that it feels fresh.

RPS: So Elder Scrolls is finally going multiplayer. Is Fallout next? 

Paul Sage: If you’re just asking me personally, I would love to do that. I don’t even want to begin to talk about how many hours I spent in Fallout 3, and it was great. But as a studio, we’re just concentrating on this game right now. Obviously, though, it’s something we’re all super passionate about. I mean, that’s not a PR line. I love Elder Scrolls, so I’m super happy to do it.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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237 Comments »

  1. Flukie says:

    If its more like GW2 than TOR then im interested, simple really.

    • Spengbab says:

      If you’re interested in GW2, then… why not play GW2? It’s even gonna be released earlier than ESO

      Personally, I think it’s been proven that the old-style MMO like WoW is pretty much a waste of money and the possible end of a developer. I obviously don’t have the solution, but mimicking Blizzard’s cash cow isn’t going to lure the masses in – they’ll just play WoW, which has been around longer, has had so many more hours of development, content, exposure, etc.

      Invent something new or keep making horse armor.

    • Quarex says:

      It sounds like they have at least a few decent ideas that are not overdone, but I wonder how different “there will be non-enemies you can kill” in this game will be from Star Wars: The Old Republic’s “non-hostile NPCs who are nonetheless in hostile areas and who you might kill by accident,” which did not make me feel very villainous.

    • j3w3l says:

      To me it sounds like it more closely resembles rift. Gw2 was the evolution of the public questing system, rift and eso are more an iteration of it

  2. Shantara says:

    Thank you for not being afraid to ask tough questions.

    I still cannot see this game succeeding. A WoW clone in 2013… Really?

    • tumbleworld says:

      Yeah, great questioning. Thanks, Nathan. Shame the guy came out sounding like a politician.

      Q: “The E3 presentation was basically a chain of clearly defined glowing quest-givers. Will there be more impromptu exploration, though? …”

      A: “Yes, there will be books.”

      This whole thing has FAIL screaming all over it.

      • Apples says:

        That part and the part where he intepreted the “hero of Kvatch” thing as a “running joke” rather than a voice clip that got old really fast were the most worrying. Will there be books, a mainstay of the Elder Scrolls games and one that provides most of the bits of exposition and fascinating backstory and world history? There’ll be A PLACE WHERE YOU’LL FIND BOOKS. And they’ll set off quests. D’oh…

        • AmateurScience says:

          He actually sounded very much like he was making the bit about the books up on the fly.

          • Apples says:

            He really does. The bit where you can learn new ways to use an axe sounds improvised too – not sure what those ways are as it’s generally inadvisable to do anything but use the choppy end to chop things with, but okay…

          • Vorphalack says:

            To be fair to the Paul Sage, there IS more to the game than Books that ”Absolutly could start a quest” and Mages with axes. There is also PvP:

            > ”And I will tell you that I love the PvP system, and why I like PvP is because that always feels like “That is really cool.””

            The Paul Sage will turn 9 years young in August. We wish him well.

          • Sarkhan Lol says:

            That’s clearly just a reflection of the RICH and VARIED dynamic real-time story influencing nature of the The Elder Scrolls Online Quest System system. Do you take the quest.. or NOT? You are the hero! Or villain if you want (the quests will be the same but you have the option to scowl while completing them)

            Also, City of Heroes/Villains did the whole NPCs comment on your achievements thing already, and honestly it was kind of embarrassing. I don’t want people in the street telling everyone that I was grinding snakes in the sewers while I’m trying to chat up some fetchingly pornographic demon-angel-vampire hybrid okay. It’s a period we’d all just like to forget. Doing it with Elder Scrolls voice acting can only ruin us.

        • Squirly says:

          “So you’ll see bandits out lugging someone – so to speak – and you can decide to run up and kill the bandits if you want to. It’s really your call if that’s what you want to do.”

          Wooooow! *facepalm*

          • adammtlx says:

            Kind of like how I can just ignore a glowing quest giver. It’s really my choice. How exciting!

        • Aardvarkk says:

          That interview helped to develop my first thoughts on the game. Not excited, what’s the opposite of that.. oh yeah, disheartened.

      • Jarenth says:

        I personally loved the first and second questions the most, because I could only really interpret that exchange as:

        RPS: So will this game focus more or less on being a single-player hero?

        Sage: Yes. We want you to feel like a hero.

        RPS: But an MMO usually has other players doing the exact same thing? Won’t that get in the way of any player feeling like an exceptional person?

        Sage: Nu-uh!

        Great interview, Nathan. Was it easy or difficult staying coherent when the person on the other side keeps replying in what seems to be stream-of-consciousness dialogue?

        • Shuck says:

          Yeah, good questions met with answers that didn’t fill me with confidence. it’s like the developers didn’t understand the fundamental issue with “being a hero” in a multiplayer game. Being hailed by NPCs as the “savior and hero of X” doesn’t hold a lot of weight when the player standing in line in front of you and behind you get the same greeting. He seemed unable to give any description of the system that in any way differentiated it from exactly what WoW does, for instance, so it’s unclear why the dynamics should be any different.
          I’m guessing he had readied some talking points and couldn’t help but go back to them, unprepared for being asked real questions.

        • Docslapper says:

          my thoughts too. This Sage marketroid seems to have:
          1. not played any Skyrim (or even any of these things they call video games that the kids like so much these days)
          2. been making shit up on the spot
          3. summoned from the fifth circle of marketing hell specifically to annoy games journalists

    • Jesus H. Christ says:

      yeah great questions. after all the fluff questions Ive read over the years, these questions were awesome. too bad you didn’t interview Iwata at e3 ;-)

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Sounds more like a Guild Wars 2 clone than a WoW clone.

    • mmalove says:

      Yes, great questions. This game reminds me so much of SWTOR, how they announced what a fantastic single player game it would be. And the thing is, aside from being a bit grindy, SWTOR was a great single player experience. I enjoyed my character’s rise from slavery to sith lord status, that I specifically could chose to murder off annoying NPCs, his action combat, if you will.

      The thing is, this didn’t translate well into multiplayer. Sure, it was fun beating on things in a group and having folks to talk to, and the game mechanics rewarded this activity with stat buffs, better loot, more exp and access to flashpoints’ stories that you couldn’t solo. But, it all just felt so out of line with the concentration of single player. And further, once the single player campaign was complete, I just felt, done. I didn’t want to invest 500 hours exploring the world(s), I didn’t want to engage in pvp or raiding or repeatable hardmode dungeons. In short, none of the success of the single player really transitioned into something I’d be likely to sink additional time into, or sustain a monthly fee for.

    • S Jay says:

      Same feeling: the questions were tough (great). The answers sucked completely though. They are going to flop this hard.

    • hilltop says:

      I really must echo the praise of others here: Excellent questions Nathan, refreshing to see this kind of interview in gaming press. Thank you!

      Shame about the MMO…

  3. strangelingo says:

    Absolutely disinterested. Absolutely!

    • Lev Astov says:

      Absolutely, that man said absolutely way too much. Total PR babble.

    • Bimble says:

      Just registered (Been lurking for a couple years, fantastic site) to say that these are the worst responses I’ve ever seen.
      Regarding the corner Sage put himself in with the NPC comment; “It’s a matter of perspective. If you feel like NPCs respect your accomplishments…” Ask your average MMO player if they give a toss about what the questgiver thinks! They are merely the button you press to get to the quest/reward. Loot/XP/Rep is all that’s important in MMOs and unless they’ve done something ground-breaking to change that then my Merchant stroking my ego don’t mean diddly.
      The conversation continues on in the same vein, cashing in on GW2 hype and hoping to stumble upon an idea in development. I think the game died for me with the book comment though, If it read: “Yeah there are books, some give you XP, some skill points, some are easy to find, some are really hard to find, some unlock new abilities, open up new areas, teleport you instantly into battle, books are an integral part of TES and we know how important they are to our fans!” Or just admit he had no idea. This may be the least original game ever. SWTOR TERA both gonna be F2P before it releases.
      Nothing in these responses (or indeed any other press for the game so far, huge E3 fail notwithstanding) gives me the slightest bit of confidence in this game, which is a real shame, there are times in Skyrim when I imagined how epic it would be with a few more players, and whilst I knew the experience of an MMO version wouldn’t be the same, they could have at least shown a modicum of innovation and shown the series the respect it deserves.

      This gen consoles have hair growing out of their ears and soon PCs will come with rail guns. Sony and MS will miss the mark and Onlive-type services in cheap as chips PC based freeview style boxes will destroy consoles forever, and when this happens, I won’t be playing TESO.

      • x1501 says:

        Skyrim and Oblivion would have been ‘epic’ with 1-3 more players you know, not with 100-300 more players you don’t. I hate it that after years and years of people asking them to implement very simple campaign co-op, they finally had the wisdom to go from single-player to massively online, skipping local multiplayer altogether. I really hope this abomination will crash and burn. Considering that the only good thing about their singleplayer games–mods–is gone, it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

        • Xerian says:

          This game isnt made by Bethesda though, who’re the ones you’re complaining about. This game is made by Zenimax, with Bethesda keeping a watchful eye over them so they dont completely screw up the lore. Modding has always been an integral part of Bethesda’s games, and they’ve realised that – - Look at the Steam workshop… They’ve put time and money into helping players mod their game, and I bet they’ll continue to do so, as they seem to have realised how important a feature it really is.

        • GDorn says:

          This.

          I want to play an Elder Scrolls SMO, not an Elder Scrolls MMO. I want to put together a group of players who get a persistent instance of the world in which all actions have permanent, world-changing consequences. When we’re done saving and/or destroying the world, we throw it away or mothball it until more content comes out.

  4. DeanLearner says:

    If they have a key binding that lets you shout “STOP RIGHT THERE CRIMINAL SCUM!”, much like “Shazbot!” in Tribes 1 they will be just fine.

    If they don’t…. may god have mercy on their souls.

  5. 7Seas says:

    Good job on holding their feet to the coals Nathan.

    Sadly, this will be a flop because MMO’s as we know them are played out. Compare SWTOR to the Mass Effect franchise and I think any rpg fan can tell you which they’d rather play. MMO’s are stagnant, shallow little worlds filled with meaningless grind. And yet they don’t for the most part even do it as well as D3. Many people are like me, they played WoW back in the day (years and years ago now), and now we just bounce off every new mmo because the same stale dull gameplay is there, no matter what little spin they’ve put on it.

    • Lord of the Fungi says:

      As for “shallow little worlds filled with meaningless grind”, that was how Mass Effect 3 felt as well. Wave after wave of pointless enemy spawns. So I’d rather play ME1 than SWTOR, but SWTOR rather than ME3.

    • AmateurScience says:

      That ‘first-time MMO’ magic has gone, doesn’t matter whether it came from WoW or SWG or EQ, the things that made WoW special for me: discovery, exploration, co-operation and community, have been lost in a sea of theorycrafting, min-maxing and streamlining, lost innocence as it were. I don;t think I’ll ever enjoy an MMO (in that style) again.

      • ashereize says:

        That is exactly how i feel. I remember seeing the early combat videos of Tera and being impressed because you can dodge attacks etc, and you have to aim. So when I got in the open beta only to see combat is the only thing they did. The prologue was interesting, but after that – typical rolling hills/green fields with uninteresting slay/loot quests. So shallow.

        Anyway, I hope some company will come along and do something refreshing, sadly I don’t see that happening any time soon

      • Lemming says:

        I agree completely. I’ll be getting GW2, but I’m under no illusion about what it is. I’m there for a big RPG world for me to play in happily by myself. If I end up enjoying the multiplayer stuff – great! But it’s not what has me interested.

      • Docslapper says:

        Agree. I popped my MMO cherry on DAoC and I’ll never forget those innocent carefree days grinding to level 10 (OMG the power!) and gleefully joining random groups.

        Now I’m just hoping that Planetside2 is as good as the original, or I’m walking away from ever trying anything MMO ever again.

      • Obc says:

        to be honest, i get the same feelings of discovery, exploration, co-operation and community everytime a new expansion launches for wow. its really great to get back into it and find new stuff and hidden corners in a new world but soon after 2-3 months i stop playing because only that feeling is what i enjoy, and the polished WoW expansions still deliver them after so many years.

      • j3w3l says:

        There are games that look very interesting on the horizon
        Archeage,age of wushu, world of darkness

    • Claidheamh says:

      Well, wait for Guild Wars 2, I say.

      • TormDK says:

        I’m not seeing anything in GW2 that hasn’t been seen before.

        Combat is TERA based, you get to dodge twice within a short time span. There’s either 3+2 skills, or 5 skills (Depending on you going 1h x2, or 2h) on your hotbar as well as up to five support abilities.

        I’m not going to go into hype mode because instead of “Kill ten rats, pick up five apples” quests you can do events where you can kill either 20 rats, or pick up ten apples. The so called personal story is the only real quest I’ve found, and since it increases so fast level wise you’ll be *forced* to continue doing events to increase your level.

        I don’t know about you, but I prefer story grinding to mob/event grinding.

        Also, the game has no clearly defined roles as a design choice. Some will like this, others like myself will find it very annoying. (Especially if you enjoyed the Tank or Healer role in previous MMOG’s since those roles are not there – now it’s various degrees of support)

        Given how event scaling is, players that try and engage the horde of monsters that appears to attack their event area will be flattened as they are no more than a speed bump. This is very annoying for Melee based characters as moving forward should be what Meleeing is all about.

        GW2 will have it’s own crowd that will enjoy it very much, but it’s not living up to it’s level of current hype for me.

        • Claidheamh says:

          Level doesn’t mean much in GW2. You should not focus on that at all. You should go out and explore, and the leveling will happen by itself. Or do the opposite, really. That’s the whole point. You shouldn’t take much into account the balancing of a beta that only happens some weekends though.

          • TormDK says:

            Aye, as I said – GW2 will have it’s followers since traditional MMOG’s did not leave much for the players that prefers exploration.

            I couldn’t care less about those events though, they are forced on me if I want to continue my background story (Which I find a million times more interesting) as the game only downlevels you – it does not go the other way :) (Except in PvP, but who cares about that :P)

            Don’t get me wrong, GW2 seems to be a good game, but it does not live up to the amount of Hype it has across the MMOG scene currently. At least not for me.

          • Vorphalack says:

            How much you ”Hype” GW2 is entirely down to personal interpretation. After playing both beta weekends and that one day event, I can safely say that it has delivered exactly what I expected. Nothing ArenaNet previewed has been cut, or altered so significantly that it is functionally different from the original reveal. In terms of how much i’m enjoying it, the game gives me the same feeling I got playing WoW classic all those years ago, only without the dread of a stale raiding end game to great me at the level cap.

            Incidentally, you must introduce me to this ”MMO scene” sometime. I’m embarrassed to admit that after MMO gaming for 12 years, i’ve never heard of it.

          • TormDK says:

            I would Vorp, but it’s a bit like Fight Club.

        • RandomGameR says:

          I think you’re missing the point a little, though. GW2 is doing everything that’s been announced in the Elder Scrolls Online, but it’s coming out sooner. So if you don’t like GW2 then there’s absolutely nothing to like about TESO.

          • TormDK says:

            I’m just here for the trolls and the puns.

            TESO is a shipwreck as far as I’m concerned.

    • kio says:

      It’s interesting because, when we say MMO, we just say the word as if it means something. Clearly it doesn’t. Because, you know, books will start quests. Absolutely.

      • Kdansky says:

        What a great innovation!

        WoW had that in 1.0 already, right at release. I am not impressed.

        His answers come down to “We have a lot of content to keep you busy!” Didn’t they get the memo that WoW has more content by an order of magnitude, and that you should not try to compete with a superior product without bringing something to the table at least?

        There is [according to any source I've seen] nothing in this game that wasn’t done before. WoW covers 90% of it, DCU (and GW2 and TERA) have the action-combat, SWTOR has the story, and FFXI had the synergy abilities (which only work well on paper). As for other features, such as “three faction PVP” I can cite DAoC, which is more than 10 years old. I’d start looking for a job if I worked there…

        • neonordnance says:

          There’s one thing being brought to the table here, and that’s the bloody license. There are going to be legions of disappointed console gamers who buy this game for their little-used laptop or desktop, expecting Skyrim 2.0.

          Dear Zenimax: stop this madness.

        • Xerian says:

          GW2 has synergy abilities aswell – And quite a lot of ‘em too. But yeah, TESO is pretty much a shipwreck, and I wish Zenimax would just GTFO with this game and release a TES MMO in another 5-6 years, with actual innovation. They’re basically just rubbing this game on the TES name and hoping a bit of excellence rubs off.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I think a better example is SWTOR against Skyrim… The Elder Scrolls are relatively less popular than Star Wars, and Bioware is arguably at least equal to Bethesda, and yet I’d say the single-player offline Skyrim is much more widely regarded as a good game, and better filler of your time.

  6. jhng says:

    “RPS: Is the goal of Elder Scrolls Online to more or less make the player feel like the hero of a single-player RPG?

    Paul Sage: Absolutely”

    Hmmm. I’m going outside the box, but imagine if you could actually be the hero of a single-player RPG? Maybe it’s out of Zenimax’s reach technically at the moment, but perhaps something to shoot for in a future iteration.

  7. malkav11 says:

    I don’t feel like he actually answered most of your questions.

    • AlManiak says:

      Yeah, the whole middle part of the interview about what really sets it apart felt like he was just beating around the bush.

    • theoriginaled says:

      More or less exactly what I wanted to say. Theres a lot of question dodging and double speak coming out of Zenimax regarding this game:
      How will you make the player feel like a hero when theres other people playing the game doing the same thing.
      “Absolutely. Well you cant say theyre doing the same thing because that person is running that way and that person is running this way. Its Dynamic”
      How do you level the complaints and criticisms against the ui.
      “Absolutely.I think that a hot bar is an effective way to use skills in a game. Its like you have skills and can use them.”
      So if you see that axe you can pick it up and use it even if youre a mage
      “absolutely. We wanted to create a game where you can use things, but there is definitely a class system so you cant use certain things but the things you can use you can use if you want to”
      How do you field criticisms about releasing another tired mmo alongside a million other tired clone mmos
      “Absolutely. We dont consider this an MMO; more, a multiplayer game with a mass group of people who happen to be playing it together. for instance if you see a group of bandits robbing someone you can help them or not, because you have that choice and you can team up with other people or not and its all about choices like that that bla bla bla.”

      you get the point.

      • AlManiak says:

        I absolutely get the point. It’s interesting how dynamic this conversation is. It’s like I’m the hero of this conversation, but there are other people here doing the same thing. It’s dynamic!

        • AmateurScience says:

          I’m overcome with the dynamism, immersion and heroism your massively online comment has absolutely filled me with. I hope you can turn it unto a successful franchise with assymetric social connectivity and water cooler moments.

          Absolutely.

        • NathanH says:

          That’s absolutely what sets this conversation apart from other identical conversations.

        • Skabooga says:

          You can pick up an axe, and like, use it if you want to. Absolutely. And you’ll learn to use the axe in new ways. For example, you can maybe chop carrots with your axe. Absolutely.

      • f1x says:

        you forgot the “its interesting because..” parts

    • oceanview says:

      Want to hear him avoid even more questions:

      http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2012-the-elder/731254

      just watch it. the first 70 seconds are pure gold.

      • Kdansky says:

        That was absolutely painful. It looks like a small graphical update to WoW (better technology, worse aesthetics), he says NOTHING of meaning about the content, and the questions are all stupid and heavily loaded for promoting it. It’s more of a commercial, really.

        “You can play the game that you wanna play.” – Doesn’t say even the tiniest bit about what you can do, which makes me infer it’s just kill 10 wolves over and over again.

        This is going to crash and burn badly, if they don’t cancel it before release.

        • Vorphalack says:

          Too far gone to cancel. This is the worlds slowest train wreck, everyone on board knows it can’t end well but none of them can do anything to stop it. I only have sympathy for the poor unsuspecting buggers who will buy this because they liked Skyrim, but have absolutely no idea how shallow MMOs can be.

      • Toberoth says:

        Ouch. I think I’m going to feel uncomfortable all day after watching that.

      • Nikelspank says:

        I’m not sure that this guy knows the difference between ‘replying to a question’ and ‘talking randomly at length’. He appears to have merged the latter concept with the former.

        • oceanclub says:

          I get the impression that at some point, Bethesda looked at WOW and thought “Hey, we want a piece of that action”. And that’s pretty much as far as the thinking went.

          P.

      • slerbal says:

        Wow that was just stream-of-consciousness vomit. Though to be fair given the painfully brown-nosing introduction from the presenter he probably needed to throw up anyway :)

        I cannot put into words how disinterested I am in TESO. It will come out, there will be hype, there will be comment storms and it will most likely slip into a slow death and I won’t even notice. I loved Morrowind and Oblivion and when I have a free year I am looking forward to playing Skyrim, but TESO? Nah.

      • magnus says:

        ‘Accessibility’ should be considered a four letter word after that.

      • neonordnance says:

        I feel sorry for Mr. Sage. What can he say? He’s just the poor PR guy they’ve thrown to the wolves. It’s not like he can admit how shitty ESO is going to be. He’s got to go out there, put on a fake smile, and bullshit about how great a terrible game is going to be.

        Mr. Sage, you have the sympathy of the internets.

        • oceanview says:

          He’s the creative director. Surely he’s got better things to say than this ?

          • Baines says:

            That depends. Does “Creative Director” actually mean anything?

            Robert Bowling was the “Creative Strategist” for the Modern Warfare franchise, but at least with MW3 he ultimately seemed to just be a glorified PR guy, with no real influence over anything.

            Wikipedia entry for “Creative Director” gets lost in the vague business-speak that you see used to explain unnecessary job titles. While you get names like Miyamoto or Molyneux as examples, I could also see a company having a creative director who doesn’t really know much about the world or even the game that he is making. (Molyneux himself sometimes seems to be talking about different games than the ones the coders are actually creating. And he’s one of the big names, not some guy hired to fill out an empty slot on an org chart.)

      • Frank says:

        Thank you! That atrocious video made my day. It was too painful to watch all the way through, but its mere existence is cheering.

        Also, they need to do some serious damage control.

    • tlarn says:

      To be fair, people who are being interviewed about big games still in development need to be careful with what they say, because their job is potentially on the line; there’s info that you can give away, and there’s internal information. I’m sure there’s coaching as well in that regard, such as what to talk about, what to be vague about, what to avoid answering entirely for whatever reason.

      Still, this interview doesn’t exactly make me feel confident or interested in MMO #571.

      • Mattressi says:

        Typically things that are kept vague are features that might not make it or which are interesting features that will add excitement (like, “hey guys; you can ride a freakin’ dragon in this game”). I doubt that a month from release they’re going to unveil their best-hidden features: “hey guys; we’ve actually made a good game, not a crappy WoW-clone! It’s basically Skyrim, but bigger and with other players!”. No, if the game was going to be like that, we’d know already.

        I wish that they hadn’t started this game until after Day Z was a thing. I’d love to see a persistent Skyrim-like game, where you can play with other players. I hope that this horrible traditional MMO model dies and the future of MMOs is in 50 to 200 man servers (some run by the company who made the game, some run by the public) with persistent saving of stats. That might finally mean that the “RPG” in MMORPG actually makes some bloody sense. Roleplaying an Excel spreadsheet is not real roleplaying.

      • malkav11 says:

        I can completely understand if he needs to avoid talking about some aspects of the game. It’s still a ways out and companies usually want to carefully manage what they reveal when. But why not simply say, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk about that right now.” Dodging questions or ignoring them entirely to deliver the same talking points repeatedly (especially without elaborating on them meaningfully) just comes off as shady and offputting.

    • Web Cole says:

      My thoughts exactly, not only did he fail to answer the questions, he failed to even dodge them in an interesting way.

      I can’t help but compare this to the marketing SOE and Matt Higby have been doing for Planetside 2. Higbys interviews are always interesting and he is quite frank about the development process, even if he isn’t sure of the answer.

  8. misterT0AST says:

    Woah Nathan! Those questions! Full assault mode activated!

  9. Maldomel says:

    I’m not entirely convinced, but if they can manage to change some things or make some feel ‘fresh’ along the way, I guess it could be a good start.

  10. Jimbo says:

    TE SO DOA!

  11. fuggles says:

    I just don’t understand why anyone would make an MMO. There are so many already, the competition is so tough and the financial cost so massive that you are almost certain to fail miserably. I hope that the genre is abandoned in favour of different styles as new developers just keep throwing themselves onto this particular sword.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      It gets far worse when you look at the details. I don’t understand why a company renowned for creating compelling single-player experiences and effectively owning the RPG market whilst receiving absurd sums of money for it, would then make an MMO. At least when Bioware did the same thing it kinda made sense, because Starwars is the biggest multi-media franchise in the history of ever. If Starwars is failing, The Elder Scrolls online doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.

    • Salt says:

      I must imagine it’s due to the mental trap of looking only at winners for inspiration.

      They look at WoW and see it still drowning in money after all these years, and so decide to do the same thing as them. Sadly it’s (almost) the equivalent of looking at a lottery winner and deciding that playing the lottery is the best way to become wealthy. The couple of winners every week see a staggeringly huge return on investment. But to make a rational analysis you need to also examine the millions of people who don’t win big.

      • AmateurScience says:

        It’s like they look at WoW subscriptions falling and think ‘What those people really want is to pay US for a slightly different but altogether very similar experience instead! SOMEONE FIND ME A VENTURE CAPITALIST WHO KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT VIDEOGAMES!’

        When in fact I’m increasingly of the opinion (and am definitely an example of the fact) that once you’re tired out by an MMO it kind of precludes you enjoying anything even similar. I tried Rift, I even bought SWTOR but I bounced off them both hard despite a long and happy time playing WoW and before that SWG. After a while I began to feel like Sisyphus. I mean, there’s a reason the best stories have a beginning a middle and an end after all.

        EDIT: and there’s only so long something can remain mechanically interesting too.

        • Kdansky says:

          >EDIT: and there’s only so long something can remain mechanically interesting too.

          I’d like to disagree. If the mechanics are good enough, they stay interesting. Examples: Tennis, Chess, Starcraft*, Street Fighter 2*, Tetris, Settlers of Catan, Football.

          All of these are *old* by game standards, and yet they still have an active following.

          *These see updates from time to time (Starcraft once every decade?), but they don’t change anything. SC2 is the same game like SC1, it just looks prettier.

          • AmateurScience says:

            Good point, well made. I would argue though that your examples are mostly, if not all games based primarily around the mechanical interactions of say Ken vs Blanka (not played SF2 since the SNES days!) or Protoss vs Zerg etc. Gameplay and the mechanics thereof are central to them all. When you talk in terms of narrative one might put up with shonky mechanics if the story was great, but my point was that an MMOs narrative or setting is rarely if ever ‘worth it’ on it’s own merits because there is no closure, no arc, no sense of place. So if the mechanics aren’t laser focussed, compelling, deep and addictive there’s nothing else to stick around for. And there’s especially nothing to pay a subscription for.

        • Wolfeywood says:

          Funny the game is now released a year and a half later and everything Paul Sage has been delivered and then some. Most fun MMO I have ever played…O and yes they’re books in the game. I hope you feel retarded…people like you breathe hatred into everything you come across.

    • Chris D says:

      It’s the cargo cult publishing model. Blizzard has enough money to buy the moon and unfortunately the lesson execs take from this is usually not “let’s build something creative and original” but “Build me another one just like that, so I too may have all the money in the world!”

      Edit: It seems I am too slow. Oh the shame.

      • Galcius says:

        Great analogy though.

        It’s clear that the biggest danger to the Games industry is these Cargo-Cult business leaders, who probably haven’t played anything since Pac-Man when they were in their early 20′s; they don’t understand the games industry, they don’t know what players want, they just look at the only thing they can get their heads round – other people making lots of money. And try to emulate them.

  12. Crimsoneer says:

    Well done for asking the tough questions. Shame he either didn’t really understand, or pretty much ignored them.

    Isn’t A a problem?
    Well, that’s interesting, but our A is different, so no.

    Well, great. Still a little disgusted at this blatant franchise milking. Especially Elder Scrolls, of all the damn things.

  13. magnus says:

    Elder Scrolls MMO? No,No,NO!

    I can only facepalm and post a Plan 9 From Outer Space line that sums up my feelings on this perfectly;

  14. Aemony says:

    I don’t know, the more I hear about this the less interested in it I am. In my own opinion, a TES MMO would basically be an open world where levels doesn’t dictate the content you can experience, as opposed to your own personal skill with the abilities you’ve unlocked. I mean that a lvl 1 player should be able to team up with a lvl 30 player and still feel useful in combat, and especially feel as if the content they’re exploring and experiencing matters to both of them. The dungeons should be ability-driven, not level-driven per se, so a lvl 15 player with a certain set of abilities should be able to team up with players on completely different levels, take on a dungeon together and feel that each party member contributes with their own set of abilities, without a regard for their specific level.

    How a player progress through the world should also be mostly up to personal preference and the player’s own sense of exploration. The quests and content should be discovered in a similar fashion as in the actual TES games, natural and not as IN-YO-FACE as MMOs tend to be. But the key thing is that the world shouldn’t be linear in progression as the usual MMOs.

    Sure it would be quite an undertaking, but shouldn’t it be? It is, after all, supposed to be a TES MMO, right? And not a MMO that carries the TES name and only slightly borrows a few elements from the TES games?

    A man can dream, eh?

    • Moraven says:

      Agree, take the current games, make it bigger, make events and dungeons refill so more than one person can explore it…mmo open world would be great.

  15. somini says:

    How could this look worse? This interview was a trainwreck. Luckily better games like Dishonored can’t be affected by this flop. There is still Prey 2. NOOOO!

  16. Vexing Vision says:

    Well done. I think the evasive answers killed my last interest in the game – and I would have killed for a chance to play Skyrim or Morrowind in co-op multiplayer with friends.

    I love the setting. Tamriel is my second home away from reality, and has been since Daggerfall. I am so much their target audience that all that’s missing is me waving a sign saying “All Hail Sheoggorath” around.

    But this entire concept is just making me sad.

  17. Evilpigeon says:

    Hey guys let’s make an Elder scrolls MMO but take out everything that people like about the single player version!

    This looks generic and uninteresting.

  18. MeestaNob says:

    Quick version: it’s Elder Scrolls but online and enough people will tolerate it for long enough for our accountants to justify us deliberately missing the point of the games that spawned it.

    Bugger this industry, shut it all down.

  19. Jnx says:

    “But then, let’s face it: even at their best, MMOs don’t demo well.”

    It’s mainly because they don’t play well either. This will sink faster than SWTOR. Probably not as fast as APB though because Zenimax won’t abandon it right away.

  20. marcusfell says:

    Now THAT is a good interview.

    • frightlever says:

      Yup, if you enjoy watching someone blithely ignoring the point of most of the, surprisingly spiky, questions.

      I rather did enjoy that.

      • hilltop says:

        Not that I think you meant it as a criticism or anything, but I think it only seems “spiky” relative to the drivel we read in most games journalism with journos bending over backwards to provide a platform for more canned marketing-speak. Basically different variants on “your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?”

  21. derella says:

    The part where he talks about what sets it apart from other MMOs was pretty funny… Mainly because he listed features of other MMOs. The only thing that sounds unique is the Emperor thing, and even that sounds like a pointless title more than anything.

    • briktal says:

      MMOs really need “killer features” to set themselves apart from all the existing MMOs out there. However because they end up taking so much time to develop and get running, many of the existing MMOs (especially WoW), can add those new features themselves. TESO probably seemed like a far more interesting game on paper 3-4 years ago.

    • Moraven says:

      Emperor thing has been done in Asian MMOs, forget the name of one I recall.

      • theoriginaled says:

        It’s called ArchLord, and is also (despite the aforementioned PVP player rules the world mechanic) about as generic as an MMO can possibly get.

    • Moraven says:

      wrong spot.

    • slerbal says:

      I felt a shiver run down me at the god-awful term “Emperorship” :(

  22. Drayk says:

    I am absolutley not convinced…

    I tried SWTOR, AION, TERRA, RIFT, … None of these games hooked me for more than a couple of days/weeks. It’s always the same boring stuff. It feels more and more like korean grind. You spend all the time running from places to places, killing X rats. I think wow was the most intreseting with several quests using a bit of new gameplay (flying, using pets, bombs, rockets, special abilities and such… )

    I am really waiting for a game that’s just… Fun to play.

    I must be getting old…

    • tlarn says:

      Don’t worry, it’s not you; MMOs have been stagnant for a good while now.

    • f1x says:

      I played them all aswell, level at least 1 char to highest level in each, tasted a bit of everything posible
      also played AoC, Warhammer online, Tabula Rasa, Lineage 1 & 2, a lot of the F2P things, and of course WoW for at least 6 years, from the beta until 1 year ago

      From that experience I get this :
      AoC and War actually tried something new, but playerbase sinked (because of WoW mostly) and the games were unfinished, but they were some really fine games with neat ideas that WoW and other games picked up, in this case I think its a shame that when there was something different out there, the playerbase still thought it was better to keep playing WoW (myself included)

      The rest simply cloned the formula that WoW perfected, and that why they failed, boring quests, half-open world, poor instances, boring combat, etc,

      Of all the latest MMOs, I only enjoyed Rift,
      Rift to be honest, its a really good MMO, because it was not freaking overhyped and because it has a lot of things to do, things that get old in a while but at least it gives you a lot of options, a simple thing that most of the other MMOs missed

      • Lord of the Fungi says:

        I don’t know about War, but AoC sinked mostly not becuase of WoW but because it was mostly unfinished, with scarcely any content after Tortage (well, ok, after level 30). And even then is was a bug-ridded beta rather than a playable game. Really, you cannot blame WoW for that one.

        • f1x says:

          yes of course, that was absolutely wrong,

          but even after they patched pretty much everything in, (of course it was too late) people were too shy to give it a chance

          I dont know, around that time I felt many fine games (perhaps yes, AoC is not a good example) were just abandoned, never find enough playerbase because people couldnt be arsed to try anything new

    • RaytraceRat says:

      and why does rats always needs to die? I love rats…

  23. Greggh says:

    Can we has this E3 presentation??
    I couldn’t find it anywhere on the tubes :\

  24. AmateurScience says:

    The thing that I don’t get is that the ‘offline’ TES games do a pretty handy job of giving you the choice to play out an utterly mundane not-the-hero-of-legend life (see the Elder Strolls etc). Hell even Oblivion’s main plot was about someone else being the hero and you kind of helping out (in a heroic way of course).

    It’s like they’ve looked at what makes TES special and distinct in people’s minds: first person, immersion, free-form XP-free character growth, open worlds and modability and thrown it all out. At this rate the only thing left in will be the shonky QAQC and the single voice actor that did all the voices in Oblivion. I bet the races have their factions baked in too, that would be a tragedy.

    • Nick says:

      when everyone is “the hero” for the exact same reasons, being “the hero” becomes meaningless, yeah.

      I want an mmo that is basically Minecraft (you can interact more or less fully with the world), + Day Zero (no npcs, no bullshit quests, player interactions are what matters. I find it darkly amusing that people are pretending that this is some sort of revolution in game design when many people have in fact been wanting/clamoring for this sort of thing for years).

  25. Shooop says:

    “collect X amount of Y item”

    Imminent failure confirmed.

    “They respond to what you’ve done, so it does feel more like a living, breathing world. NPCs have professions – and I know that’s true of a lot of other games – but specifically what I mean is the NPC’s responses will change based on what the player’s done. ”

    So just like Skyrim where guards will stop and say they heard you did something every time they get close.

    Poor guy is either deluded or embarrassed by how bad he knows it’s going to turn out.

  26. frightlever says:

    Sounds like somebody thinks their MMORPG is gonna be special. I do not envy that guy in 2014.

  27. Maritz says:

    What a shambles. And just to really kill it off, he threw in this little nugget:

    There are also what we’re calling Daedric Anchors in the world. Daedra filter out of them [and attack]. It’s a little bit reminiscent of Oblivion Gates.

    Nooooooooo.

    • AmateurScience says:

      ‘Hey everybody, you know that thing that you all hated* from Oblivion? Well…SURPRISE!’

      *note: I actually rather liked the concept, but really did not dig the implementation.

    • Apples says:

      It’s real f-cking* nonsense to put in ‘Anchors’ (which mysteriously have never been referred to in the whole of tamrielic literature, ever!) when Daedra were running around all over the bloody place in Daggerfall and Morrowind. Why not have them spawn at/in Daedric shrines? Or wizard towers? Or, you know, generally places where they make sense and not just “HERE IS A SPOT WHERE YOU CAN FARM DAEDRA HEARTS”.

      *I never figured out if we are technically allowed to swear here…

      • Hoaxfish says:

        I believe you can swear as long as it’s part of a properly constructed sentence

      • Toberoth says:

        I assume swearing is fine as long as it’s not too ridiculous. I don’t think you’re going to get in trouble for saying “fucking.” Someone correct me if I’m wrong?

    • neonordnance says:

      I’d like to bring your attention to a small section of a lengthy comment I posted after the last ESO article. Here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/06/05/slo-mo-booming-noises-the-elder-scrolls-online/ (about halfway down, go read it if you want, as I had a lot of fun writing it):

      “Even a desperate attempt to woo more subscribers through a much-hyped “oblivion crisis,” in which Rift-style random attacks are introduced, fails to generate much buzz, and hardcore Elder Scrolls fans decry the lack of respect for the lore.”

      I’m like the Nostrodamus of shitty games.

      • Maritz says:

        Indeed you are, although it sounds like they’re putting this crap in from day one.

        I fear that, much like Cassandra, Zenimax are going to ignore your predictions though. And they’re going to look like right dicks when you are proved right.

    • hilltop says:

      This is reaching new heights of absurdity. I hadn’t heard about the Obl- Daedric Anchors before.

  28. MOKKA says:

    “(…) so it does feel more like a living, breathing world. ”

    I don’t know exactly why but somehow I feel everytime a developer of a MMO says something like this, he needs to get slapped in the face, preferably with a big rock.

  29. Flint says:

    In this short while he’s been a part of Horace’s troops, I must say I’ve already become quite fond of Nathan’s interviewing style. Keep up the good questioning.

    • ShadyGuy says:

      Me too. Which probably means they’re gonna blacklist him as his reputation and infamy among PR people grows. :P

      • Hoaxfish says:

        He needs a pseudonym.

        Maybe “Marvin Softtouch” executive interviewer of IGN’s “Say Anything for Money” department.

        They’d never suspect a thing until it was too late.

    • Toberoth says:

      I agree, it’s really, really refreshing to hear an interviewer asking hard questions and making developers justify their decisions.

    • ankh says:

      Even though I already made a similar comment.. I totally agree. Nathan, you rule. I also think it’s a great idea to go under different names otherwise they are going pay the germans to create some kind of PR-bot that can answer your questions but will end up destroying all life on earth, because that would be the only way.

  30. Revisor says:

    The Elder Scrolls games (specifically Oblivion, haven’t played Skyrim yet) already have a very unpleasant MMO / generic dialogue feeling around them (with some, exceptional few well-written characters and quests).

    Creating an MMO might be just acknowledging and embracing this blandness-as-a-service.

    Bethesda saves money on their writers and this just continues their trend of throwaway simpleton stories. Definitely not for me.

    • Mattressi says:

      I’d rather TES games have bad writing than that they compromise on their open-world, sandbox style. It’s never been a series that features strong, unrepetitive dialogue, but it’s always been open world and has many things to do. It actually allows roleplaying, which I think is great. Games like Minecraft have no dialogue, but are loved by many. It’s not a case of developers milking gamers for money; it’s a case of them prioritising. I can’t imagine that many past and present fans of TES games are fans because of the dialogue (unless for humorous reasons); people that love a well-written story with well-written dialogue simply aren’t the target of TES games. People who enjoy an open world, who enjoy minimal linearity and many options, and people who like to roleplay in the true sense; they are the target audience of TES games (at least, IMO…and excluding the obscenity that this article talks about).

      • Brun says:

        This. The best stories in every TES game are the ones you make yourself. A lot of players aren’t willing or able to make that kind of mental investment in the game, though, which is why you get so many complaints about the bad storyline.

    • Grargh says:

      Morrowind had lots of very enjoyable dialogue, because there was no dogma of having every single word read out loud. Spoken dialogue has to be short and repetitive because of both disc space and the frightening recording cost*, where with pure text the writers can just pile up whatever they feel to be right and needed in any given situation. I never understood why recent RPGs have abandoned simple text-dialogue so completely.

      *and because few players want to listen to half an hour of audiobook for a quest…

  31. Mordsung says:

    The disconnect between developer and player has grown so large that I am convinced most of us, the players, could design better games than the devs.

    And I’m not talking about the programming and stuff, just the design itself.

    • wodin says:

      I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I’ve been allowed in to design games for a developer. There is no real school or course that can teach you it. All you need is ideas and be able to get them across for the programmers etc to interpret. So yes in effect I’m sure many out there could design a game better than alot being made now.

      • Apples says:

        This is offtopic, but this makes it sound like you’re the mythical “ideas guy” that everyone thinks they’re going to be in a games company. How’d you swing that? Can you program enough to prototype or how’d you get started?

        • Mordsung says:

          You can backdoor into design through other fields such as writing.

          Probably the easiest method of backdooring in. You just need a two year journalism degree to satisfy the requirements of most videogame writing departments… along with a strong portfolio, of course.

          A lot of designers in the industry often started in really odd positions, even stuff like community managers or customer support.

          If you’ve got the ideas and the right guys like your ideas, you can find yourself writing design documents.

          I considered it for a while but I have an iron-grip on my ideas and I would be very vexed to have my ideas modified or changed in a way I didn’t like.

  32. Nick says:

    It’s too bad. I thought the idea of an Elder Scrolls MMO had a lot of potential.

    This interview is basically: RPS: “So… did you make another WoW clone?”

    Developer: “No! … well… yes, but look, we put in *mentions something that people actually dislike about the elder scrolls games, further showing how clueless he is about why people play these games*”

  33. Jack67 says:

    Nothing says “I’m the sole hero” like a public dungeon full of frantic heroes bustling around like it’s a subway station at rush hour. So far, every interview I’ve read about this game seems more like a boardroom pitch than anything real. It seems he says the game can be everything to everyone. Chances are it’ll be EQ meets DAoC with a sprinkle of WoW. In other words, a rehash to cash in on the MMO drones.

    His argument of every game being derivative either betrays the pure business nature of the project or the lack of imagination of the developers. Sure, everything is derivative, but let’s not recycle the bits of MMOs that make them so dreadfully dull. This is an Elder Scrolls game, which means a strong single-player feel. Don’t make dungeons public, and make more servers with a lower player population instead of cramming thousands of players into one server to maximize the hardware investment. Give the player the impression of playing around other people instead of feeling like being yet one more anonymous “hero” among the mass of shoulder-to-shoulder other “heroes.”

    Don’t we have enough MMOs that make the player feel like a tourist going from one NPC kiosk queue to another? Sure, it’s hard to make a better MMO experience, but developers should try to learn from past mistakes rather than keep building the same square wheel again and telling us that this is a completely different kind of square wheel.

    • Mattressi says:

      I’d love to see an MMO where you’re not pretending to be a hero. Not that you can’t be special or great, but where you play a role in the game (be a hunter, healer, etc), rather than have the game lie to you and try to pretend that you’re the hero of the game. Not everyone wants or needs to be the hero. I’d imagine most people play to have fun, not to raise their self-esteem by having the game tell you that, of the million+ players on higher levels, you are the true hero. I’d have fun running a town or contributing to a town or faction. I don’t have fun when a static NPC says “hey, [checks player class], you’re so strong and brave [alternatively quick, stealthy, smart, etc]. Thanks for collecting my [generic item/person] from [generic bad guy(s)]“, despite every player on a higher level than me having completed this same quest already. Doing quests to actually obtain needed items would be awesome; perhaps the town you live in is under attack and desperately needs better weapons, and you’re tasked with collecting them (perhaps tasked by a real player too; the mayor of the town) – that would be great!

  34. Flamekin42 says:

    “- Is the goal of Elder Scrolls Online to [...] make the player feel like the hero of a single-player RPG? – Paul Sage: Absolutely.”

    Wroooong. What if I don’t want to feel like THE HERO, what if I’m fed up with the whole idea of being an unfailing hero facing THE EVIL, because, you know, I’m past 15 years old?

    What if – just if – I want to be a random wanderer, who gets to see a magic and unique land, spend a couple days hanging around the Red Mountain, maybe mount a siltstrider and help some random farmers and then dive into Black Marsh and make friends with some argonians and take a canoe down the southern ocean – whatever its name is. Random experiences open up the world immensely and that was what TES was always about – surely MMO based on TES should add MORE random wandering around the world, not LESS of it by making you a generic hero who has to save a generic land in a generic battle with whomever. It’s so black-and-white juvenile and plain boring.

    The fun part is that WoW lets you do just that, but WoW clones usually sort of fail to grasp the idea.

    • AmateurScience says:

      I think the concept of finding a place within a virtual world rather than striving for mastery over it is one that is sadly neglected. It’s even possible to have ‘always chaotic evil’ big bads and evil plots and all sorts: just place the player at the periphery. It was one of my biggest issues with Skyrim that joining any of the guilds resulted in a meteoric and slightly farcical rise to power within the space of 7ish quests. It would have been ok to stop at ‘no longer the FNG’.

  35. ColonelClaw says:

    Here’s a question I would have asked:

    “Has your art director ever played an Elder Scrolls game?”

  36. Grargh says:

    I feel really bad for all the people working on this game. I mean, it’s obviously a stupid decision from several years ago, and now they have to see it through to the end knowing nothing good can come out of it, regardless of their talent and hard work. How does it feel for them to read these pessimistic comments here? And this Paul Sage even has to ridicule himself in front of the press because he can’t just say “It’s an uninspired WoW-clone, dunno what’s going to be special about it, sorry”.

    • Bluerps says:

      Yeah, I think so too. The guy probably knows that the game won’t turn out so great. But the only way to get out of it’s development would be to quit his job (and I can totally understand why he wouldn’t want to do that, even if he is certain that the game will suck). So he grits his teeth and tries to get though interviews like this as best as he can.

    • Arglebargle says:

      A bunch of MMOs in production now were started 4-5 years ago, based on the WoW model, which was the top dog back then. Not looking so good right now, but like a train or an oil tanker, they don’t stop or change direction too swiftly. Most likely a slow motion wreck.

      The folks who like the setting are not getting behind this, and the people who aren’t interested aren’t going to be that impressed.

    • adammtlx says:

      Yeah. It makes me feel bad for the people actually doing the work. Four or five years ago some suits made the painfully ignorant and short-sighted “copy WoW for free cash” decision and now there’s a hundred people stuck working on their crap DOA project.

      Many of the workers will likely lose their jobs and we can only hope that the lost millions don’t have ripple effects as more losses at Bethesda both in terms of people and their own projects.

      Meanwhile the suits that the project originated with will continue to take home seven figures and blame their employees rather than their own awful, awful choices.

  37. wodin says:

    Loved the angle the questions were coming from and they really couldn’t come out with a good enough reply. So it’s a formulaic MMO and they believe MMO means something.

    Sounds great!

  38. Eclipse says:

    “Paul Sage: Absolutely. One of the things we set out to do was make you feel like the hero”

    And that’s all it’s wrong with MMORPGs, I, for once, don’t want to feel like the hero of a singleplayer game. I don’t want to feel special, I don’t want to be “the one” in a world where every living being (players) are “the one” too, it’s stupid and makes the whole world instantly fake.
    I also don’t want the very same quests everybody gets and I don’t want to get quests talking to NPCs that are there to say the very same thing to anyone that passes by.
    Problem with MMOs is that they are boring single player games with people

    • Mattressi says:

      Yep, as I’ve said before: current MMOs would all be regarded as the all-round worst games ever produced, if they didn’t include the ability to play with other players. Maybe some people enjoy other people so much that they can overlook how disgustingly horrible the game they’re in is, but I’ve always been bored to tears by MMOs. If MMOs had interesting, innovative social features, I could understand the appeal, but they’re all just horrible bargain-bin singleplayer games, but with a global chat feature that lets you see people saying a whole bunch of acronyms and trying to sell generic items.

      If anyone can show me an MMO that would make even a half-decent SP game, I will be shocked. The closest I’ve seen is WoW, which is similar to the Diablo games (but Diablo really isn’t very fun in SP anyway).

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        Maybe some people enjoy other people so much that they can overlook how disgustingly horrible the game they’re in is

        I think that’s true. The one thing MMOs do very well is make it easy to play a game with people regardless of where they are in relation to you. It’s effortless to log in and start playing with people, and that’s a very appealing thing. But the genre really is … I hate to say ‘broken’ because that term is so overused, but I think it’s accurate.

        I’m talking about theme park MMOs here of course.

        • malkav11 says:

          This is actually something MMOs do very poorly, because they split the population across a large number of entirely separate servers and make it extremely difficult to move one’s progress between them, if not impossible. All my friends play or have played WoW. With two exceptions, none of them did so on my server, or even on the same server as one another. And those two exceptions were because a) I deliberately chose the same server as one person and b) a friend I met later had decided on that same server because it hosts the guild of a popular WoW podcast (which is why the first friend had picked that server, also). So I’ve never gotten to play with the vast majority of my friends. I actually lost online friends to WoW because they stopped logging into the MUDs, MUCKs, or instant messengers that I used to keep in touch with them, and even though I knew they played WoW and what server they were on, it wasn’t mine and I couldn’t communicate with them cross-server. (I think you can now, but that’s a pretty recent addition and I have long since lost track of these people.)

          • CitizenDickbag says:

            Some of Cryptic’s MMOs use a different system that I’ve really dug; everyone’s in the same world and same server but each area splits into a new instance when it’s full, and you can switch to a friend’s instance at will.

          • malkav11 says:

            Yeah. And there are a few others that handle things well in this regard, like EvE (no separate servers), Guild Wars (so instanced that you can just jump to friends), Guild Wars 2 (you pick a home server for WvWvW PvP, but can guest on friends’ servers for PvE content). Still, most MMOs adhere to a strict and balkanizing server structure.

  39. Norak says:

    sad,

    I’ve seen this interview before, the game was different, the swtor,

    the developers were telling same things exactly, how awesome their game is and how they did different things then other mmos. That’s why I spent more time in minecraft than swtor.

    Seriously zenimax, every update you make about this game gets a “meh” from players so far. We simply will not buy another wow clone, that era is done with swtor, which is exactly what you are making. I spent 250+ hours in Skyrim (pc), maybe more with early ES games, but so far I didn’t see anything that can grasp my interest in ESO.

    You don’t really think something is terribly wrong in your doing?

  40. Love Albatross says:

    Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

    STOP FUCKING SAYING ABSOLUTELY.

    This game is going to be a huge failure, and they’ve only got themselves to blame. MMOs are dead. If you can’t do something genuinely different with a persistent online world then you’re wasting millions on a game that is just going to struggle along for a while before being closed down or going F2P (I give SWTOR another 6 months max).

    Did this start out as a different game entirely? It’s the only thing that would explain why they’ve decided to completely ignore the style and mechanics of other ES titles.

  41. Lemming says:

    a publisher having to defend an MMO that isn’t even finished yet.

    Success written all over it! :-/

    This NEEDS to fail. What kind of message are we sending publishers if it doesn’t? “Please turn all our half-decent games into derivative MMOs with less features!”

  42. Moraven says:

    Sounds like a Mix of WoW / D3 with DAoC pvp

    “Be the Hero” WoW has done this better since Wrath using phasing, where you are basically in your own world within a world, making changes to it but your eyes only. Which I guess that is how it is in Skyrim now, but they basically want to milk subscriptions. $120 a year > $60 every 2-3.

    JRPG like Xenoblade had a ton of find X/X questing, but it warranted more exploration and discovery since you did not have a big marker on the map (quest giver still told you where to go) along with the game being open to explore. So was not as bad. Gameplay is great tho.

  43. Bluerps says:

    So far, watching the development of this game felt kind of tragic. Like watching a car that is about to crash, and for some reason everyone knows it except for the driver.

  44. Hoaxfish says:

    Ideas for an Elder Scrolls multiplayer experience:

    1. Don’t do it.
    2. Do it, but make it like NWN’s toolset+user servers
    3. Do a drop-in/drop-out co-op
    4. Copy Dead Souls’ invasion/assist thing
    5. Do a co-op campaign, designed for about 2 to 8 people.

    • zaphod42 says:

      I would kill for drop-in/drop-out co-op Skyrim. Why on earth aren’t they working on that instead of this pointless MMO?

      • AmateurScience says:

        The ‘main’ TES and Fallout games are being made by a separate team, so it may end up in TES:6 or Fallout 4. I think it would be awesome in the extreme. It needn’t even be co-op, it would be seriously cool to have an adversarial twist in there somewhere. Imagine a dark brotherhood quest that sent you to assassinate another player. I think that would rock.

  45. Lemming says:

    RPS: How would it work if I were a mage who used an axe? Is the weapon skill leveling open and usage-based like in earlier Elder Scrolls games?

    Paul Sage: It’s not really usage based so much as it is what I slot in. But you will grow. You’ll grow in power and discover new ways to use the axe. So, absolutely, that’s something we felt really strongly about. If I find a certain weapon, I should be able to pick it up and use it.

    It’s not an open class system in [an optional design-your-own-class] type of way, though. When you see somebody on the battlefield, you’ll kind of know the broad range of what they’re capable of, but you won’t know the specifics of what they’ve slotted into their shortcut bar at the time. So we do want some structure, but we also want to give you a lot of customization”

    Erm…anyone else find this part very funny indeed? Hats off to the guy for some serious duplicious speech there. He’s basically just described WoW and a million other MMOs’ class systems and claimed it’s their idea!

    • adammtlx says:

      “So we do want some structure, but we also want to give you a lot of customization.”

      “We think there should be some bits where you can do some things, but some other bits where you can do other things. It’s going to be so great, you guys. Really!”

  46. zaphod42 says:

    Looks like it has little to nothing to do with The Elder Scrolls, so meh. If they managed to bring the feel of the first-person combat, the open-world, almost fantasy simulator online, that could be fun. But it doesn’t look like they’re doing that.

    It looks like they’re making WoW + SWTOR + GW2, and… sorry guys, but notice how I just said a lot of acronyms there? Those are already games that are out and beat you at it. If you don’t improve on them massively, why are we going to care?

  47. Milos says:

    Looks like they absolutely feel passionately about taking it to the next level.

    It’s almost amusing how much he can talk without saying anything concrete. At least he managed to convince me not to look forward to this, as if I needed help with that.

    • Daryl says:

      I agree. This interview is a whole lot of nothing. I really don’t have any expectations for this game anyway. I have a feeling it will only appeal to those who are super-hardcore TES fans, or people who aren’t worn out on the traditional MMO model.

      • theoriginaled says:

        I find (In my circle at least) who its appealing to most is those who got sucked into skyrim and dont give a second thought to just how obnoxious the mmo machine has gotten. The much coveted girlfriends-of-friends-who-started-playing-after-watching-skyrim-over-his-shoulder demographic. the ones who will squee over a prerendered teaser cinematic not realizing it has nothing to do with the actual game.

  48. Was Neurotic says:

    Well I’ve been waiting for this pretty much since Arena, so anything they do is going to make me happy for at least 500 hours.

  49. 23YearOldBedWetr says:

    Ugh, cmon guys!

    It’s not a WoW-clone, it’s DAoC 2 – - – And, WoW having come after DAoC and ruining the MMO forever, was actually a dumbed down DAoC clone.

    Kind of bummed no one has interviewed Zenimax about their involvement in DAoC – one of the best games in the “golden years” of MMORPGs. MMO gamers have been longing for a DAoC 2 announce for years now.

    Bummer instead we get a game attached to an unrelated intellectual property. So as a flip side to all the “I don’t want your MMO in my Elder Scrolls” comments, – - – - > take your Elder Scrolls out of my Camelot !

    • Brun says:

      WoW is really more of an EQ clone than a DAoC clone – or at least it was through Vanilla and some of BC. It’s since morphed into its own animal though.

  50. ffordesoon says:

    Poor bastard. He clearly knows it’s a tepid game that nobody wants at this point, but he has to make it sound great on the spot. Not his fault he’s polishing a turd.

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