The Elder Scrolls Online Might Be Your New Entry-Level MMO

It’s pretty fair to say that most of the people who play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are not MMO players.

While Skyrim has a big PC community, it’s huge on consoles. The last three Elder Scrolls games have been, in fact, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was arguably among the best titles to grace the early days of the Xbox 360. And thus, it’s probable that most of the people who are big fans of Bethesdsa’s Elder Scrolls IP are at this point used to playing the games in the series with a controller in hand rather than a mouse and keyboard.

And while I can’t say for certain, if I had to guess, I’d say that console players are the reason that The Elder Scrolls Online looks a whole lot like a scaled back, simpler version of the most popular MMOs out there. After checking out the hands-off demo at E3 2012, I was struck by how easy to play it seems to be, and how much emphasis is placed on simplicity. This seems both to have the effect of making meeting people in TES Online easier, and also of lowering the barrier of entry for players.

The demo we saw at E3 2012, led by Game Director Matt Firor, highlighted the social aspects of TES Online. As Firor mentioned, the thing that makes MMO games interesting and unique is the social component, allowing users to find friends, meet people, team up and so on. But it’s not always all that easy. Modern MMOs are often heavily instanced — Star Wars: The Old Republic has been notably criticized in this regard. Instances mean that when a group heads into a dungeon, and then is followed by another group, the two actually have separate experiences of the same area. This keeps from having too many players in the same place at the same time, getting in each other’s way.

Save Some Strangers in the Woods

TES Online does include instances, Firor said. But it also has social aspects that are designed to keep players together. Among these are public dungeons, or dungeon-like areas, that aren’t quite as difficult as a regular dungeon, but are a significant step up in difficulty from regular areas.

From the sounds of things, Firor and the rest of the TES Online team want you to venture into these areas, and they also kind of want you to get into trouble when you do.

Fighting through these public dungeon areas has an incentive system — if you get into combat alongside other players, you get rewarded. It’s an interesting idea based on the simple premise that MMOs often don’t encourage players to work together out in the world, even though there are tons of people in that world. So in TES Online, say you see somebody getting their asses kicked by a group of skeletons, for example. Firor says that if you come to that player’s aid, you’ll get all the experience and rewards you would have gotten if you had initiated combat with the mob. And so will the player you helped out. The TES Online team is hoping you’ll be able to use that system to make new friends on the fly.

“Meeting people and playing together — it’s why people play online games,” Firor said during the demo. “Public dungeons allow players to meet organically.”

Characters builds are set up in such a way that when you do meet people out in the world, you can be helpful to one another regardless of class or combat role.

“Builds are designed for one or two roles, so no one is ever excluded,” Firor said. You should, then, be able to handle playing as a DPS character or switching into a healing role, for example, depending on who you meet.

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