There’s something unique about Virtual Worlds that all MMO’s fail at. With the MMO market saturated and highly competitive, this is a story of why Elder Scrolls Online will fail.
In the last 3 years, we’ve had a flood of MMO’s that are basically clones of World of Warcraft gameplay, or at least trying.
A Few of the more recent MMO’s on the scene are:
- DC Universe
- Guild Wars II
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
- Star Trek Online
- The Elder Scrolls Online
What’s The Problem?
Besides market saturation, the problem is that none of these games really stand out as the essence of what a Virtual Persistent World is.
Some think it’s not fair to judge all MMOs by the World of Warcraft standard, but the fact is they’re all trying to duplicate the same WoW game mechanics while just putting a different pretty dress on it.
The market cannot support more than 1 or 2 Virtual Worlds, and anyone who puts out a new MMO is going to fail unless they add innovation and new exciting gameplay mechanics into their game.
..and this is why I predict The Elder Scrolls Online will fail.
I say this with a deep sadness because I absolutely love the Elder Scrolls universe. I can’t count how much time I’ve enjoyed playing Morrowind, Oblivion, and currently Skyrim. They’re just really awesome single player games (bugs aside).
There are a few elements a new MMO needs in order to survive in this ridiculously competitive market under the shadow of WoW.
Here they are along with an analysis of how The Elder Scrolls Online compares to each element…
1. A Single Persistent World
All MMO’s exist on corporate server space in a server farm cluster.
Most games have a server/network schema that breaks them up into multiple persistent worlds, but deep down inside they all want to be a single world that players can travel across.
There’s no word yet on whether ESO will be broken up into different cloned shards that are discrete, but everyone is hoping it’s one big world. We’ll see.
2. Large amount of other players existing in the same world
Eve Online has over 60,000 people online at the same time at peak hours. That’s astounding, and that’s the definition of a MMO that did something right. On top of that, they’re all on a single continuous world, see #1 for why this is important.
The developer’s of ESO, ZeniMax Online Studios, have spent the last 5 years working to make sure that their engine can handle the gaming mass expected.
They initially licensed the HeroEngine, but only as a reference guide for building their own custom ESO Engine complete with a modern-day robust client, server and messaging layer.
The real question is if they can pull-off the type of infrastructure that will allow a single continuous virtual world without sharding.
3. Freedom to compete, cooperate, or form groups with other players
By their nature, MMO’s are sandbox games allowing freedom of action without funneling you through a specific plot with cutscenes ad nauseam.
Almost all of them allow players to group together into Guilds or Clans. In those games that don’t, people tend to make it happen anyway by handling the logistics offline and wearing the same clothing in-game or adding some kind of abbreviation to their names.
Part of the problem that arises is the “freedom to compete” part of this element.
No MMO has ever allowed unrestricted aggressive player competition since the early days of Ultima Online and Shadowbane.
MMO’s tend to create artificial boundaries and technological limitations to Player vs Player combat.
The Elder Scrolls Online has few details other than PvP will be an important part of the game.
Specifically they’re focused on faction warfare, which is technically an artificial limitation.
4. Making an impact on the virtual environment built for you to live a virtual life
MMO’s are a virtual world and the creators WANT you to live your virtual lives in their game (and give your real life monthly dollars to them).
So they give you things to do, characters to level up, and loot to grab in order to keep you interested and then attracted via the sunk cost dilemma.
Not since Shadowbane has an MMO really understand what it takes create a serious attachment between player and world.
Being able to build houses, terra-form the ground… being able to change your world as an individual and as a group is key to building a serious natural level of attachment.
When you’re out questing, gathering your loot, making friends… you’re going to want to come “home” to your house or guild house to store your loot, decorate, making your piece of the world your own.
A place to have a social gathering that you have ownership in, is an ideal gameplay mechanic in MMOs.
Sadly, Elder Scrolls Online will not have player housing because it’s too hard to do. You won’t be able to change the world at all.
What an amazing disappointment from an MMO perspective as well as an Elder Scrolls perspective where you can own your own house in every version to date.
Just Another MMO
It sounds like the only thing that’s going to make The Elder Scrolls Online stand out is the rich ES lore backstory.
That’s great in terms of immersion, but it’s not going to keep players for long which is going to hurt the bottom line until they close down the servers.
Despite protest from the developers, they are making Just Another MMO.