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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The MMO, where a franchise goes to die

I didn't want to say it, I really didn't. I had hope, I said to myself "Bethesda knows what they are doing, they will deliver an MMO Skyrim and it will be awesome," then they started opening their mouths and I began to feel like someone hit the reverse on the time machine. Welcome back to 2000!

I understand that many players pine for the fjords days of Vanilla WoW or the feel of Everquest, but when take off the nostalgia colored glasses we remember that the memory is primed to remember the good moments and forget the numerous times we wanted to plant our keyboard in the wall or wished for features to be fixed/improved. I loved Final Fantasy XI, I recall it fondly and remember the dozen classes, good looking visuals (for its time)...but I forget having to spend 2+ hours searching for a party just to level, losing hours worth of work because of a bad pull and so on. I don't want to go back to that, as obnoxious as things like LFR can be at times, I'd rather have a bad group in a few minutes than no group at all.
TES will be the second to illustrate the rule named in the title, that the MMO has become the place franchises go to die. I doubt we'll ever see another Warcraft game, and if we do it will be either a reboot or set somewhere very different in the Warcraft setting. Suffice to say, I don't think we'll see a warcraft game that is not an MMO. Dark Millenium is perhaps a third example...Space Marine, a fantastically fun game, will see little additional content because THQ is focusing on its upcoming MMO. TES will be the next, though if anyone is going to break the rule it will be this developer but that is only because they are very familiar with taking large leaps in their timeline.

The way the information is coming out I wonder if the devs for this particular TES game actually know anything about their player base. While I am sure there are plenty of TES game players who enjoy occasional PvP, and I am sure a few DAoC players played Skyrim, but given what I have seen on Reddit and blogs I think they are forgetting that what the vocal players seemed to want was just a Skyrim they could occasionally share with their friends. Things like public dungeons, a single-player ONLY main quest and a focus on PvP balance (because if it exists, it becomes the focus) seem like the antithesis of their base's desires. I enjoyed Oblivion, I enjoyed Skyrim, but I can see no reason to be excited about this title.

Rigid classes...those are still around but in the Elder Scrolls universe I always hoped they'd stay far far away. I understand the justification, justifying a large pool of individual skills against each other is very difficult, especially when some might synergize. They don't want to see everyone taking 2-handed Axe Skill and Illusion Magic because it allows for some devastating combo. On the other hand even Skyrim somewhat "encouraged" classes by making it much easier to level and allowing a natural synergy. I will give them a pass for now, but I do hope they choose to go bolder, perhaps something between Skyrim and a rigid system.

Forgive me as I turn up the sarcasm, but public dungeons? I can imagine nothing less entertaining in a game like Skyrim where I trek off into the wilderness for an hour and stumble across a cave, only to find it littered with corpses and someone has written "XxSeptimxX was here bitches!" in mage lights on the wall.

Single-player only quest...this...this is what tells me they are either crazy or joking. I can't prove it, but I am 99% sure that a large number of Skyrim players, I'd dare say a majority of some kind, at some point during their playing or when talking about it with friends said "You know what'd be cool? Multiplayer..." Sure the public dungeons will allow this, but even SWTOR managed to handle the idea of a character-focused story while allowing others to help you along. Either just have NPCs outright ignore the friend (like SWTOR), or take a chance and try to come up with a system in which a player (the leader of the party perhaps) becomes the protagonist of the quest temporarily.

Here is my checklist for how to make an MMO your Skyrim fans will love:
- Skill based system with a focus on PvE balance.
- If you must have PvP, balance PvE and PvP independently from each other.
- Dungeons are instanced at the entrance but players can easily join each other by grouping.
- Focus more on the sandbox and less on some grand adventure, plenty of TES players ignore the main story completely.
- Grouping, focus on grouping, 1-6 players.
- Instance certain important places, perhaps even entire towns. Half of what made Skyrim what it is was the as it was to stack cheese on the Jarl, not everyone wants to see it.
- I'll get in trouble for saying it, but FUCK THE ENDGAME. I don't care about raiding, there are other games for that, TES is about the sandbox, quests and exploration, NOT farming Deathwing.


  1. I think it will be canceled. The MMO used to be seen as the surefire way to turn an IP into some endless cash, but lately that prejudice has taken a beating. On the other hand, a new single player Elder Scrolls game is already a massive success. Why take the risk?

    I agree with your last bullet as well. Enough with this model of some leveling filler before a repetitive 'endgame'.

    1. I feel like the MMO (and to some degree "AAA" games in general) are becoming a huge gamble...I see three usual outcomes: your game prints money (WoW), you end up going F2P and doing alright (plenty out there), or you crash and burn hard.

      Perhaps there is some financial scheme I don't know about, but they have Skyrim which sold fantastically (and I don't think put them in a 38 Studies bankruptcy situation), so why mess with a good thing.