One of the best and most buzzworthy games of 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, demonstrated again that deep, open-world RPGs do not need a multiplayer component to earn love from fans and critics, or to score triple-digit hours of gameplay from players around the world. Despite the occasional rumor or desire from a segment of The Elder Scrolls fanbase regarding Skyrim potentially introducing multiplayer into Bethesda's flagship franchise, like Oblivion, Morrowind, Daggerfall and Arena before it, Skyrim remained a solo adventure experience.
That doesn't mean the next The Elder Scrolls game will follow suit.
Bethesda's marketing head, Pete Hines, went on record almost a year ago addressing the question of Skyrim featuring multiplayer where he said it's absolutely something the studio could do, but it was something that didn't fit in with Skyrim.
“So certainly we could do multiplayer. Unquestionably."
Around the same time, Skyrim‘s Game Director Todd Howard said multiplayer is something Bethesda has looked into and it is something fans highly desire.
"The two most requested features we get are dragons and multiplayer. We got one of them this time! We always look into multiplayer, put lots of ideas on the whiteboard, and it always loses. It’s not that we don’t like it. I can think of ways it would be a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, that dev time is going to take away from doing the best single player game we can, and that’s where our hearts are."
So, where fan-made user mods have attempted to add multiplayer to Skyrim, Bethesda may do it themselves in The Elder Scrolls Online, a rumored MMO from Bethesda and ZeniMax Online which, according to Tom's Guide and their inside sources, may be unveiled as early as this May, a month before E3.
According to multiple sources of Tom's Guide, The Elder Scrolls Online will include the provinces featured in the last three games of the series (Cyrodiil, Morrowind and Skyrim) and will feature three joinable factions, each represented by a symbol of a creature: "A lion, a dragon, and a bird of prey."
Bethesda responded with a "no comment" to them reaching out, but an MMO built into the already-established and constructed worlds from the last few games in The Elder Scrolls series is not hard to believe, especially when taking into account a few key pieces of news:
- Bethesda has job postings up which detail work on an MMO.
- When Skyrim was first announced in December 2010, their PR sent the following message out in response to inquiries about multiplayer: "It is not an MMO. We have an MMO studio, ZeniMax Online, but they have not announced what they are working on." So, ZeniMax Online has been working on an MMO for at least a year and a half.
- The lands of Morrowind and Cyrodiil are built into Skyrim and while we speculated that they could be there to represent the "substantial" DLC expansions for Skyrim, perhaps that world is being fleshed out for an MMO... since these three provinces are exactly where Tom's Guide claims The Elder Scrolls Online will take place.
Bethesda's heavy push towards consoles with the last three series installments leads us to believe that such a game would likely release on the same platforms as Skyrim but at this point, it's conjecture on top of rumors. We can only hope that any such Elder Scrolls MMO does not replace what would eventually be The Elder Scrolls VI, a true successor to Skyrim. Whether you're a fan or not, BioWare just did this with Star Wars: The Old Republic and while it may be a great MMO, it is not a substitute Knights of the Old Republic 3.
It's more likely that The Elder Scrolls Online uses the world familiar to us from Skyrim and blows it up by adding two provinces and the multiplayer features. Although the provinces may not be familiar since Tom's Guide's sources and research points to the game possibly taking place during the Second Era, before any of The Elder Scrolls games took place.
For an interesting read on the series adding multiplayer, check out our examination of The Elder Scrolls multiplayer potential from December 2010.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes to discuss.
Source: Tom's Guide