Game Rant’s Anthony Taormina and Rob Keyes analyze the potential of Elder Scrolls multiplayer.

At last night’s Spike Video Game Awards, Bethesda Softworks pulled out what may have been the only true surprise announcement of the night by revealing the first teaser trailer and release date for the next entry in the Elder Scrolls series. Titled Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the next entry into Bethesda’s fantasy series to fall in line with the other powerful success record of Bethesda’s history of RPG titles. Though the Skyrim trailer contained no real footage to speak of, the real question is what type of game experience will Skyrim offer?

We know it’s coming but what we don’t know, is what type of gameplay Skyrim will feature or if all the hints and evidence about it possibly featuring a multiplayer element (co-op?) or actually being an MMORPG will form the truth about Elder Scrolls V. So for now, let’s talk about how if Skyrim or more specifically, the larger world of Tamriel, can work as an MMO.

With Oblivion and Fallout 3 feeling like ostensibly two similar playing games with different facades, what can Bethesda do to make Skyrim not feel like another retread of similar territory? The obvious answer to the droves of fans that have requested it is to make an Elder Scrolls MMO although such a game would likely explore than just the province of Skyrim, but would allow players to return to previously explored areas including Morrowind, High Rock and Hammerfell. Having not seen any gameplay or screenshots of Skyrim yet, an MMO or multiplayer functionality still remains a very real possibility. Game Rant looked to the footage, Bethesda’s history, and some statements made by Bethesda to find out if Skyrim is the Elder Scrolls MMO gamers want it to be.

Your first thought might be that Skyrim is based in just that one province but Elder Scrolls lore provides opportunity for how such a game with a one-province title could be much more than that. Skyrim is a war-torn land with history of territorial disputes, ranging from invading the province of Morrowind to the War of the Bend’r-mahk which saw Skyrim battling inside the borders of Hammerfell and High Rock.

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Since the RPG became one of the most popular game genres in the video game stratosphere, there has always been talk of the more popular series becoming massive, massively multiplayer that is. Ever since the huge boom that is World of Warcraft, a MMO version of an already popular game series, there continues to be rumbling of which other franchises with built-in audiences will make a similar leap. As we speak, LucasArts and BioWare are doing exactly this with The Old Republic, making an MMO out of the widely successful single player RPG titles, Knights of the Old Republic.

The other series that has always been at the top of the list for the MMO jump has been the Elder Scrolls franchise. Not only would the RPG gameplay and the first person melee combat be the perfect contrast to what is done by many other MMO developers, but the worlds Bethesda created in the continent of Tamriel are already so huge, not only in physical size but in history and culture, that they are just calling out for multiple players to inhabit and journey through.

Even the act of playing Oblivion itself called out to something akin to the MMO experience with such a populated and lively world. The franchise’s ability to take away so many hours of a gamer’s life is certainly a quality any MMO player knows very well. Making the leap from single player to multiplayer experience would extend an Elder Scrolls title to not just a 40 or 50-hour game but a game where players are logging weeks or months in their playtime. Some already dedicated an unspeakable amount of hours to Morrowind and Oblivion, and even to Arena years before that.

With Fallout 3 specifically, Bethesda has shown that they are willing to not only provide regular but also rich content to keep the experience going for the gamer. Being able to extend an experience like Skyrim through updates and expansions would be the perfect venue for the developer to continue that long running commitment to fans but also to introduce new and exciting elements without having to completely revamp the engine for a new title. Instead of a piece of DLC adding a new shorter series of quests, Skyrim expansions could do for Elder Scrolls what things like Lich King and Cataclysm are doing for WoW — making the game feel completely new.

More importantly, all of the little details of fundamental fantasy MMO gameplay are there. From questing, to inventory systems, custom clothing and armor, spell casting and spell making, alchemy, mounts, guilds, a variety of classes and leveling up, etc. etc. They’d obviously need to add in the party-making system and more crafting and mounts, but the world and gameplay are there.

Speculation could go all day as to what could or couldn’t go into an Elder Scrolls MMO. What should be included is an engaging storyline, as hinted by the VGA trailer, and an evolution of the gameplay found in Oblivion; hopefully even a return of some of Morrowind’s more popular elements that were removed for Oblivion.

Continue to Page 2 for more on MMO development time, the multiplayer experience and risking the immersion and story of Elder Scrolls.

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tags: Bethesda, PC, PS3, Skyrim