One of the biggest draws at PAX East was, without question, Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls Online. Those who are looking forward the most can be easily separated into two categories; first are fans of "The Elder Scrolls" franchise who have been waiting years for such a thing. And that's a game that unites all the different lands that they've traversed, into a single package, one that can finally be played with other players.
The other half is those who simply want another MMO to sink their teeth into. Anything but WoW; to say that World of Warcaft has gotten long in the tooth and stale is a massive understatement. It's still a solid game, make no mistake, and Blizzard has done a commendable job of keeping things fresh. Still, it's been almost ten years, and people simply want change.
To the point that many believe that it's way overdue. Its timelines, or perhaps lack thereof, was the first thing we asked Brian Wheeler, the game's PVP Directorů
ComingSoon.net: So why exactly did it take so long for The Elder Scrolls Online to happen?
Brian Wheeler: We've wanted to do an MMO that taps into The Elder Scrolls universe for a very long time, but the biggest barrier has been technology. It has finally caught up to the point in which we can do what've wanted to, both in terms of social interactions, and just visuals alone.
CS: When did development start exactly?
Wheeler: We projected about 7 years ago what computers would be capable of, which was when the wheels first started turning. So we've been basically been waiting for technology to catch up to us. Though, believe it or not, "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" for the Xbox 360 was also a huge catalyst. Thanks to Xbox Live, that's when players also began wondering about the possibility of playing together, exploring lands together.
CS: Speaking of, what territories does the game cover? And how does it fit into the overall Elder Scrolls mythos?
Wheeler: All of them; Morrowind, Daggerfall, Oblivion, and Skyrim. Plus new places. Obviously, we didn't recreate all the parts in all those old games, due to technical reasons. But also for storyline reasons as well. Online takes places a thousand years before Skyrim, and 800 years before Oblivion, and is in line with the lore that was established in both of those games.
CS: So, will players encounter people, creatures, and events that were only hinted upon in those two games?
Wheeler: Most definitely. Seeds have been sowed for years now, and longtime Elder Scroll fans will be extremely pleased.
...Among all the different kinds of games that one can find on the busy PAX show floor, MMOs are the hardest to truly to test drive. It's not the kind of game that one just jumps into and plays for five minutes. But in our precious few moments with the game, we came away super impressed.
Again, it's hard to really comment on the story, or even the mechanics properly, so let's just say the graphics were phenomenal. There appears to be this unwritten rule that says all MMOs must have cartoony graphics and be draped in primary colors. And while Elder Scrolls Online is not quite as harsh or chiseled looking as "Skyrim" (actually, there's a reason for the aforementioned cartoony visuals: it allows for greater graphical flexibility, since rendering realism is both tough and creatively stifling), it also has a more mature look that many MMO players have been craving.
As for the release date, that is still way up in the air. The game just began its closed beta, though it is hoped that it will finally be let loose by year's end.