While my focus is on First Person Shooters, I’m still keeping an ear out for VG rumors, and I heard one that interests me: An Elder Scrolls MMORPG. Now, I know that Morrowind and Oblivion especially have hordes of fans, and that the game would certainly be purchased en masse, regardless of it’s actual quality just because it’s an Elder Scrolls title, but I question whether or not the same feel that exists in Morrowind and Oblivion is even possible in an MMORPG.
The problem doesn’t lie in making the games, the difficulty lies in translating the fun parts of Elder Scrolls into an MMORPG. These games are entirely single player, where the player has a huge impact on the rest of the world. You can attack and kill anyone you want (with consequences, but the game doesn’t stop you), and you can reach an insanely high skill and statistic level (with potions and just playing to an extreme point). The world is largely your oyster, and you can do with it what you will.
The things that would translate well are pretty strong. The skill system could be made into a good MMORPG skill system (though the leveling system should be changed to a more experience based system, I think that a World of Warcraft like system would work, with individual skills capped by character level), but I also think that unlike other MMORPGs, you should be able to choose what stats to increase (similar to the choices given when you leveled in the single player games).
The guild system would translate in a good way. I’m thinking Morrowind’s guild and house system, where you could join any or all of the guilds and houses, but ultimately you had to choose one. That gives some freedom, but ultimately you must remain an initiate or you must choose to ally yourself with one of them. This could be a good basis for PVP.
The bad things, sadly, are the things that make the game great. The Elder Scrolls series was great about scaling enemies in the world to your level. If you were lvl 1, there would be low level mobs, but if you were lvl 20, there were much harder mobs. This is unlikely to work in an MMORPG, as you would have high level characters standing in newbie areas just to spawn high level mobs (because it’s funny in a sadistic way). The MMORPG would have to stick to a more traditional level restriction of mobs to certain areas. This was one of the elements that made the original games fun and exciting, as you could travel anywhere and still find a challenge.
Another bad aspect is that with hundreds of thousands of players, it is highly unlikely that the players can feel like they have a real impact on the game. At best case, only those players who play all the time will feel like they have an impact. The immersion factor of Elder Scrolls games would be largely gone.
Ultimately, while I would love to see an Elder Scrolls MMORPG, I doubt it will happen. At best case, it seems like we’d get a WOW clone in the Elder Scrolls universe, which probably would sell well, but it’s doubtful many people would play it. The Elder Scrolls made you a hero, but let you save the world and have your own adventure and you had the time to explore the world and enjoy it. That is very far from the description of any MMORPG, and I just simply don’t think it’s workable. However, if Bethesda develops one, I will at least take a look at it.