I can't say I'm particularly shocked by this news, but that doesn't mean I'm not tremendously disappointed by it. In another entry on a snaking tapestry of departures from what makes Elder Scrolls, well, Elder Scrolls, TES Online won't be doing your virtual eyeballs any favors. Yes, there will be a first-person viewpoint, but don't expect any bells or whistles - or arms, legs, and torsos, for that matter. In fact, adventuring in first-person - taking in the sights and breathing in the chitinous wafts of a nearby Silt Strider - will put you at a distinct disadvantage.
Game director Matt Firor explained the system - at least, as it stands - to Digital Spy:
"We are still working on this system, but right now, we have first and third-person support, just like in any other Elder Scrolls game. The only difference is that you don't see your hands and weapons in first-person mode."
"The main difference here is that in an online RPG, enemies can spawn in a 360 degree radius around you, especially in PvP - so third-person view mode, if you use it, will give you a far greater ability to see enemies behind you. In many situations, this will be the difference between living and not surviving a combat sequence."
Admittedly, combat has never been The Elder Scrolls' strongest point, but surely there's a way to fix it without neutering the focus on up-close-and-personal immersion. Again, it seems like the team at Zenimax is taking more cues from the hypothetical notion of An MMO than it is Elder Scrolls' beloved legacy. Again, change isn't necessarily bad, but too much and you may as well slap a different name tag on the thing and be done with it.
Then again, Firor did point out that this is only the plan right now. Things could change. But it sounds like that'd require revamping the entire focus of combat, which would cause a delay of such epic proportions that it'd probably get its own, multi-hundred-page in-game tome. So yeah, don't count on it. All that said, writing off a game this early would be pretty short-sighted. But ouch, my ability to feel hope. It is waning.