With the Tamriel-sized bombshell dropped unceremoniously in game journalism’s collective lap, we can finally get to what we do best.  Rampant speculation.  It’s kinda our thing.  We get measly teasers and, forced to wait agonizing months with no information.  We begin to sculpt opinions from nothingness about a game which doesn’t even exist in the most concrete sense of the word.

Yeah, let’s do that.

What should The Elder Scrolls: Online include?  What shouldn’t it?  Why will it be awesome, why will it be terrible?  Sit back, call over the stewardess and order another mimosa. Here we go, flying through time and space.

Let me show you my wares.

A Post Guild Wars 2 World
First of all, for those of you not keeping up on all the numerous MMO happenings in 2012, slated in November they’re going to be shaken up in a big way.  Guild Wars 2 looks to revamp everything from leveling curves to persistent worlds to PVP to end-game dungeons to everything else.  Needless to say, any MMO coming out after GW2 must try to meet at least some of those benchmarks.

So what can The Elder Scrolls: Online bring to the table and how will it succeed?  The obvious inclusion of those three, beautiful letters is going to help, M-M-O.  I remember when Skyrim came out, my friend and I getting into a discussion about which is better, SWtOR or Skyrim.  He posited that the mere fact that you could experience it with your friends made SwtOR better.  To a certain degree, I do agree.

Kanduri, I miss you.

There are very few games that would be worsened by adding multi-player aspects to them.  Disregarding  the admitted and facile argument, it’s true.  I could be making a new Uncharted 3  game, but if my buddies ask me to join them in a round of Dungeon Defenders that PS3 is going off pronto.  While the aspects I loved most about Skyrim were those of quiet, peaceful solitude, I feel that more is better for TES:O.

Now let’s get specific.  I have dabbled in WoW, but spent a long, long time in Lord of the Rings: Online (a shamelessly proficient WoW clone).  Yes, Kanduri Whitebeard of the Grey Mountains, Master Artisan Woodworker and I were boons.  That’s my MMO cred.  But, I hope TES:O is nothing like LOTR:O, WoW or SWtOR at face value.  It’s a tired template that has become stale.  Look towards Guild Wars 2 for inspiration.

The Elder Scrolls Have Wonderful Quests
Yes, I want “L” to bring up my quests and “C” to open my character menu, it’s too ingrained to change.  But, in a post-GW2 world, questing should and will be different.  TES already has some of the best , most-intimate questing around.  I remember being morally distraught in Oblivion when one of the Dark Brotherhood quests had me kill all my friends.  Any of you who have quested in the ice caverns below the lighthouse near Winterhold know how well TES can build quests.  That needs to be in TES:O, no more “Kill X Y’s and bring me Z”.

Like this, but not as purdy and waaay bigger.

Size, Depth & Quirk
In fact, the only really confirmed thing about The Elder Scrolls: Online is that you will get all of Tamriel.  So, yeah.  You can head down to the troll swamps of south-east Cyrodil and then all the way up to Solitude in one walk.  Whoah.  Dislike the craggy, desolate beauty of Skyrim?  You can just fast-travel to the foggy banks of Morrowind.  The freedom and scope of TES:O already gives me goosbumps, to see those artificial walls separating the lands of Tamriel razed to the ground.

Another thing I hope is present in TES:O is an old-school RPG mentality.  I disliked the fact that in Skyrim you only get to choose perks and three stats to level.  Fastidiously optimizing Kanduri’s hunter traps was time well-spent.  Maxing out speed in Oblivion made me feel unique.  Heck, I even remember using Personality as a dump stat in Morrowind.  This whole movement of simplifying RPGs needs to stop.  Choices are what makes gaming fun, and this still lives in the MMO.

Other things like mounts, picking lots of flowers, finding items in tree stumps, M’aiq the Liar, equipment repair and magic schools are necessary and expected.  It just wouldn’t be a TES game without them.  The world of Tamriel is rich and historic, I expect it to pay as much tribute to its in-game legends as it does to its previous entries.

M’aiq, I swear, one more lie …

Advanced Storytelling
And, I’ve yet to speak of the game itself.  I would love it to mix traditional TES gameplay with presentation aspects of SWtOR.  The way BioWare made story important is a huge step in MMOs.  I also liked how you almost-always had an AI companion (like Lydia, R.I.P).  These are great ideas that should be utilized, considering Skyrim worked on the same issues and had positive results.

Pure Speculation
While we’re speculating, free to play?  You better believe it.  F2P is the way of the future (sigh, that’s another article I’m working on).  Subscription based games are dying alongside the retail market, except arguably WoW and SWtOR speaking of MMOs specifically.  In my opinion, a subscription based MMO in 2013 is out of the question.  WoW is half free as-is!

Finally, there’s the intangible.  Man, I just love TES games.  They facilitate memories, not just experiences.  While being dark and humorous, they walk the line confidently and flawlessly.  Somehow they are the epitome of both old-school and modern.  If any series can take that feeling and bottle it up in an MMO, it’s gotta be The Elder Scrolls.

 

Aww, gosh.  Don’t believe me though.  I’m a starry-eyed fanboy.  If you want the take of someone not colluded by illusions of grandeur, check out Jay’s much more realistic take on the subject.