Bethesda Announces “Elder Scrolls” MMO
“And all throughout the land,
There was the sound
Of stirring macaroni.”
–Everyone Got Laid, The Billy Nayer Show
Such were my initial thoughts upon hearing the big announcement yesterday. Despite the hundreds of hours I’ve put into Skyrim (many of which occurred during the months I was “working” on my book), I am not at all excited at the prospect of an Elder Scrolls MMO. When the announcement first popped up on my Twitter feed, the most dominant emotion it provoked was exasperation. No gushing, no flushing, not even the ghost of a “I’ll check it out at some point.” Just pure, unadulterated “Ugh.” Imagining the look on my face makes me feel dirty, like I should go put four-inch gauges in my ears on the way to pick up some lime-green sunglasses.
This is odd on several levels. First, as previously mentioned, I have played the shit out of Skyrim, and I haven’t even finished the main quest line on any of my toons yet. My mods are scarce, my unexplored locations scarcer, and–as promised earlier on this very blog–every peasant girl has a horse to ride because I am as wealthy as I am lawful good (on one toon, anyway). It’s exceedingly rare for me to put this much time into a single-player game, but Skyrim just so goddamned big. Whatever the quality of their storylines, Bethesda knows how to make worlds that are a hell of a lot of fun to explore.
Second, I love me some MMO’s. Had my father’s economic philosophies been switched at birth, I would no doubt be the embodiment of the basement-dwelling loser, forever glued to my tricked-out, parent-purchased PC, hoarding achievements like candy and out-earning Chinese gold farmers. I’m not entirely sure where the sense of overwhelming satisfaction I get from such activities comes from, but I know I’m very susceptible to it given the right circumstances. I’ve spent scores of hours farming mats to craft a weapon for one of Tori’s toons when I run out of shit to do on mine. Were I free of the need for employment, I would surely be one of those mad multi-boxing fools that most players pity in a slightly jealous manner.
Why, then, am I not tripping over furniture that foolishly placed itself in the path of my excited frolicking? Because we don’t need another high-fantasy MMO. The genre, while worthy in its own right, is so completely played out that developers heralded for their innovations in the wider MMO field still can’t break away from it. Both Guild Wars 2 and Tera are bringing exciting new things to the table, but their vehicle of delivery still involves two-handed swords and iron-clad mammaries. When it comes to setting, even JRPG developers–whose reception among fans is usually in direct proportion to how classic a game feels– have shown more forward thinking than MMO developers in the past six years.
This is all the more puzzling given that Bethesda owns the rights to Fallout. Yes, Skyrim was more of an immediate commercial success than anything they’ve produced to date, but I have a rather strong suspicion that many of Skyrim‘s fans have no interest in an MMO. When they realize that it won’t have Skyrim-caliber graphics combined with a multiplayer style reminiscent of Fable, they will lose interest. A Fallout MMO, while still suffering from sloppy combat and life-threatening concentrations of the color brown, would have at least given fans of the genre a different setting to explore between bong hits.
But no. Instead, Bethesda is playing it safe and going the route of the chainmail bikini. Unless they manage to top both Tera and Guild Wars 2 in terms of hype and innovation, their star in the MMO sky promises to flash for a moment before vanishing forever.