What is The Elder Scrolls Online?

The Elder Scrolls Online is a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) currently being developed for the PC by ZeniMax Online Studios. It is the eighth title in The Elder Scrolls series, the first non-numbered title since The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard (1998), and the first MMO in the series. It is due for release in Q3/4 2013. There are currently no plans to release The Elder Scrolls Online on consoles such as the PS3 or XBox 360, although a release on these platforms in the future has not been ruled out. As of 2013, The Elder Scrolls Online will have been in development for 6 years, and it’s announcement came relatively late in the game’s development cycle.

Bethesda Softworks – a subsidiary of ZeniMax Media – has traditionally developed all titles in the main The Elder Scrolls game series since its inception in 1994, but the team responsible for these games has no involvement in the development of The Elder Scrolls Online. Instead, ZeniMax Media created a new studio – ZeniMax Online Studios – for the specific purpose of developing an MMO based on promising IPs owned by ZeniMax, starting with The Elder Scrolls. The studio was formed in 2007, and is headed up by veteran MMO developer Matt Firor, who previously worked on the critically acclaimed PvP-focused MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot (Mythic Entertainment, 2001).

The game is considered a canonical entry in the series, and the writers use the same library of resources that the writers for the single player games use in the production of numbered franchise entries. The two teams of writers often liaise on the progress and plans for both sections of the franchise to ensure lore consistency as best they can, and the setting for the MMO was intentionally chosen to avoid hampering any future numbered entries in the series.

The Elder Scrolls Online is being developed as a traditional MMO experience, and will include levels, experience points and standard player progression (including solo, small group and raid content). A heavy focus is being placed on exploration, as this has always been a centre piece of the single player games. Players will be encouraged to actively explore their factions zone in order to find the quests, events and content they will need to complete to progress through the games 50 levels. The Elder Scrolls Online will utilise a standard fixed class system, as opposed to the free for all class system that is featured in the single player games. The Elder Scrolls Online places a heavy focus on level-based progression, again unlike the single player games. Despite this, the game will utilise a similar (but not the same) FPS style combat system, although it has been adapted to better suite an MMO environment.

In addition to standard PvE content, The Elder Scrolls Online features open world “free for all” PvP in the same style as Dark Age of Camelot. The developers chose to section off a whole continent – Cyrodil – for the specific purpose of GvG (Guild versus Guild) combat. Instead of choosing to follow the standard “two faction” model that most MMOs utilise, The Elder Scrolls Online will feature three playable factions, a decision that was surely made to prevent faction imbalance problems that usually dogs PvP in games with only two factions.
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