Single-Player Is Not Dead

August 7th, 2013 Posted by Opinion 15 comments

I am going to be very blunt. I am a constant pursuer of truth. In fact, that is one of the reasons I studied mathematics in college and why my day job is analyzing data. I deal with numbers on a daily basis and am constantly trying to tease out their factual meaning.

This past weekend, I was perusing the internet, visiting various forums and such, simply catching up on gaming news as I normally do. However, time after time, I kept seeing misinformation about Elder Scrolls Online crop up. What’s worse? One misconception in particular was repeated several times. What is this idea, you ask? What has frustrated me and has occupied my mind these past few days that I felt compelled to address the issue?

The Elder Scrolls Online will replace the single-player titles.

Clearly, this idea is quite an enticing talking point. Indeed, this author is discussing the matter right here. But keep in mind, the need for this piece is borne out of necessity and not by a need to march to the beat of a drum just because others are doing the same.

Taking a closer look at this claim reveals a few key observations, ones that are so easily and readily dismissed by aforementioned entities.

Observation 1
This claim is borne from fear.

It is no secret that I am the sole presenter on Elder Scrolls off the Record who has never played an MMO. I have my reasons, but I believe it is precisely this fact that allows me to comment on this observation.

Not unlike many of you, I too have fears about The Elder Scrolls Online. I have conveyed these fears many times over the show, and will continue to do so despite my unpopular opinion. These fears stem from the irrefutable fact that a game such as this has not successfully been implemented before. This melding of a quintessential genre-defining franchise with a massively multiplayer concept gives all the right to be fearful

All of this fear naturally leads to an unsure audience. It is critical to understand just who this audience is, for it isn’t simply homogeneous in its makeup. This audience consists of members from mainstream industry media outlets, Elder Scrolls veterans, MMO veterans, and fan productions such as yours truly. Each group of this audience and indeed each member of each group have their own opinions based on past experience.

From what I have seen thus far, I still believe that the “Elder Scrolls” component of ESO still needs to prove itself. However, from this fear stems a very real sense of hope, hope that this game can achieve its ambitious claims. It has a very arduous task indeed, and trust me when I say this, Zenimax Online Studios are doing their damnedest to deliver on their promise.

Observation 2
This claim is borne from ignorance.

Imagine someone saying “the fork will replace the spoon”. Clearly, this is quite a preposterous claim, especially considering the countless situations where a spoon is desired and in fact, required, such as eating soup (believe me, I’ve tested this theory).

In fact, you are probably reading the above paragraph chuckling quietly to yourself in mild annoyance. Why? You know that forks and spoons have their uses. Although one may be better than the other for certain tasks, they are both required and have their own uses. Suggesting that forks will replace spoons is simply ignorant.

It is this very attitude that perpetuates the notion that the Elder Scrolls Online will replace the single-player titles. In fact, if this claim were brought to ZOS, I imagine they’d feel quite offended and belittled. I don’t recall Zenimax ever claiming to want to replace the single-player Elder Scrolls games, nor do I believe that this is their goal.

It is also this gross simplification that really affects me the most. Again, having read recent internet threads about this game, my frustration only grows. A few claim that this game is a sort of sequel to Skyrim (which is just isn’t), while other individuals claim that it will replace the classic titles (which it can’t do).

Ignorance on this level is inexcusable. Not only is this disrespectful of The Elder Scrolls canon, it is poor reporting. Thousands of readers will consume this information and perceive it as fact. It could not be further from the truth.

The Facts
What do we actually know?

We must take care to recognize the facts that have been presented to us. Intelligent speculation may be thought-provoking, but can’t replace cold hard facts.

  1. Elder Scrolls Online is NOT being developed by Bethesda Studios
  2. Elder Scrolls Online is NOT a sequel to Skyrim
  3. Elder Scrolls Online takes place 1000 years PRIOR to Skyrim
  4. The Elder Scrolls canon does NOT support Elder Scrolls Online as a sequel to Skyrim
  5. Despite sharing similarities with the single-player titles, Elder Scrolls Online is NOT a clone of these titles
  6. Elder Scrolls Online will NOT replace the single-player titles
  7. Zenimax Online Studios have NEVER said that Elder Scrolls Online will replace the single-player titles
  8. The single-player Elder Scrolls games are NOT dead
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alan bradney says:

so when is the next installment of the elder scrolls due , im skyrimmed out

Daniel C. says:

Alan, if you are “Skyrimmed out” and not very interested in what Skyrim has to offer at the moment, then I suggest you try out the other Elder Scrolls titles. Sure they may not look as good or they seem “dated”, mostly true, but they are still Elder Scrolls and and if you take the time to get into them, I bet you can still have some fun adventures in them as well.

Daniel C. says:

Also, it takes Bethesda at least three years to make another Elder Scrolls game, and they have a couple other things on their plate it seems. I don’t think Bethesda wants to compete with TESO next year or even the year after that in terms of Elder Scrolls titles.

Daniel C. says:

Shank, I agree with you 100%.
So far, I haven’t seen or heard those claims, but I don’t look very far away from the official sources or verified sites anyways. I do not doubt that those claims are out there. And to me, they are pretty silly..

Your opinions, especially the ones you voice on ESOTR, are valid and agree with you most of the time, so don’t believe you are the odd man out. Just a hopeful player and fan of the series and its future ;)

I do think it will be a bit tough for you to get into TESO at first because you are so stealth and single player focused and hopefully you will grow to enjoy it, but if you end up not liking it much and go back to Oblivion, I won’t hate or blame you for it.

What I played and saw at Quake Con was quite MMO-like and focused but it did help answer a lot of questions MMO and single-player people had about how it actually looks and plays. I do have my doubts about the stealth mechanic in TESO because what I played with the 30 minutes at a time I couldn’t do much with stealth and it wasn’t quite clear with the disguise functionality and such.

But all-in-all, the main thing for me with TESO is that it’s an MMO that is a lot more RPG-like. Active combat, first person, voice acting, natural quests, very open gear system. I love the single player Elder Scrolls games and so far, I really like what I played of ESO. I’ve been waiting for an MMO like ESO so I can get more into them and I think this one may do it.
I’m hopeful ;)

Velkerath says:

Nice post Shank! I have to agree with everything you said shank. I enjoy both MMO games and RPG games I think everyone needs to just understand they are doing what they can to give us BOTH game types into one. As far as the argument goes it seems just like the stupid 1st person vs 3rd person argument which is just stupid to argue over.

Dolenz says:

Like Daniel C I have not seen or heard these claims that TESO would replace the single player games. I am not even sure it was worth the article honestly.

But I did want to point out one thing about the article.

” These fears stem from the irrefutable fact that a game such as this has not successfully been implemented before. This melding of a quintessential genre-defining franchise with a massively multiplayer concept gives all the right to be fearful”

The Ultima games definitely were genre-defining RPGs and they were melded into the very successful Ultima Online.

You could even say that World of Warcraft was the product of the genre-defining Warcraft series of games.

Maybe I misunderstood the point you were trying to make but those two examples jumped into my brain as soon as I read your statement.

Kanati says:

Thanks Shank. It needed to be said.

Even though Joe interrupts and shuts you down much more often than he should on the show, I usually find you take on things to be the most interesting.

FWIW, I think the main reason Zenimax was created as a separate business unit was to enable the parent company to leverage the Elder Scrolls brand (ie the lore you all love) without interfering with Bethesda’s ability to produce single-player games.

With that, I’m just going to peace out of here and go find some flowers.

okasion says:

As a person who rarely enjoys MMORPGS, Western or Eastern, I totally agree with you, and seriously look forward to a next single player TES.
When I’m far or simply without internet, TES series always helped me to have fun without having to worry about my ping, servers, monthly fee, or whatever.
Hope this does not go the way WoW or Ultima Online. I do not wish my TES to be arruinated because Bethesda wants to make even more money. There’s no need to. Throw us an updated Morrowind or another SP TES and it will sell like better than a monthly pay MMORPG always.

Matt says:

Response to the Responses Article

Disclaimer: I don’t presume to tell a clearly well educated author his own business. I respect his opinion, despite my counter points and present them all with that respect in mind.

In Response to Point 1: Speaking only for myself on this one and from the position of not knowing what a final product looks like, I am not particularly hoping for the success of this game. Sure, it’d be nice if they redefined what an MMO is. But I am very well versed in the world of MMOs. There is a reason their profitability has been steadily declining and this is due in large part to genre fatigue. There are only a handful of options available in the way of in game mechanics and all of them limiting in a way that we ES fans would feel very uncomfortable with. Even were these issues to be worked out in an ideal fashion, it could pheasibly lead to just the circumstances you tried to address in point number 2.

In Response to Point 2: Your characterization of the scenario is incorrect. This is not a case of the fork trying to replace the spoon. That is, it’s not one tool that does one thing attempting to replace another which does something entirely different. THE penultimate MMO serves as the prime example of just this type of thing, demonstrating that the concept isn’t without precedence. World of Warcraft brought the RTS wing of its franchise to an end and necessarily so. The two cannot really exist in unison. Nor can an online Elder Scrolls and a single player franchise for many of the same reasons. You do not want to undercut one of your products with another and split your customer base. You also do not want to set up a situation where a heavily lore based franchise has to coordinate the complexities of in game actions and mythology between two or more studios.

To say Bethesda isn’t clearly attempting to leverage the momentum in the video game industry to move to a software-as-service business model is slightly naive. This is especially true given that it just happens to be developed for the first generation of systems with a robust cloud storage and data delivery system. It is no stretch to say Bethesda wishes to move to this model, as do many designers/publishers today. This is not a nebulous fear stemming from ignorance and this claim is insulting to your readers, a demographic of people unusually well versed in the economics and bureaucracy of their favorite hobby.

Addressing the “Facts”:

Number 6 and 7 cannot be presented as fact. You do not know this first hand, and there is non trivial evidence to suggest this is precisely what the publisher intends, should it be a commercial success.

Numbers 2 and 3 can just as easily be interpreted as the developers covering themselves in the somewhat likely event that The Elder Scrolls Online does not prove a commercial success. MMOs are a tired genre. Consumers are resistant to free to play models in this particular genre due to the “pay to win” mechanics that inevitably crop up and subscription models for new titles don’t fare well either. Consumers do not like being treated as a revenue stream, those who like MMOs enough to play are already invested in legacy titles and will be VERY unlikely to simply walk away from WoW or Eve, etc due to the amount of money and time already spent. My point is, this is risky and Bethesda knows it. They may well simply be giving themselves an easy out to go back to the tried and true single player model.

Matt says:

To clarify my response to point number 1, I am not particularly hoping for the success of this game due to what I states in Response 2. I am not fond of the software-as-service model. I do not wish to see it succeed as it inherently removes liberties from the end user concerning how they may handle their purchase and ultimately charges far more money for a similar product which ads little or no additional value. The success of a key franchise like the Elder Scrolls in this fashion would open the flood gates for others to follow and I in no way welcome this.

IWZZY says:


Single Player says:

I’ll be honest here.
I wont be touching another Elder Scroll after Skyrim till another Single Player Elder Scroll becomes available.

I would be willing to spend hundreds of dollars onto Elder Scroll games and their DLC if they were single player.
Since this next Elder Scroll is a MMRPG, I won’t be even downloading it if it’s free. Nor spend a single penny.

MMRPG is not in many people’s interest. Thus is why I believe you wont be making much. It’s pretty in graphics.
That’s fine. But graphic is least of my interest, and online society is so toxic, it makes the game unplayable in general. I wait for your next game, Elder Scroll. But wont see light in this MMRPG.

Zanteogo says:

Ultima Online ended the single player Ultima series.

World of WarCraft ended the single player WarCraft series.

Why would anyone assume this will end differently?

I hope it fails because it will mean the single player games will continue.

Wade says:

I would love it if the writer was correct that this won’t be the end of the line for single player Elder Scrolls games, but I won’t believe it until I see an official announcement from Bethesda about the next single player Elder Scrolls game.

In addition to the Ultima and War Craft examples stated by other, another game I loved that has vanished is the Knights of the Old Republic games. Since the Old Republic MMO came out, there has been no new KotOR games. As a guy who has less than no interest in online gaming, this trend is very disturbing. I loved the War Craft games and the KotOR games but have no interest at all in WoW or the Star Wars Old Republic MMOs. I have the real world to interact with and deal with other people, I play games to immerse myself in fantasy worlds. I don’t want to some 12 year old trash talking punk to spoil my game experience.

What I really would love would be a Morrowind update à la Halo Anniversary. A faithful update of the game, improving the graphics up to Skyrim level without messing up the game. At any rate, I love The Elder Scrolls and after Skyrim I will play again when a new single player Elder Scrolls comes out, until then I will bid a fond farewell to The Elder Scrolls in case it’s gone for good.

Jon says:

I think Elder scrolls online will fail, a lot of people who bought and played Skyrim where new to the series.

They are going to be expecting a similar level of game in Elder scrolls online but with friends. What they are going to get is a PvP centered game and it is going to be a huge shock.

Some of the decisions Zenimax are making are counter productive for both sets of players, such as,

No player housing
Class system
Very limited skill points (unless you PvP)
Economy systems requiring either forced PvP and guilds or too much effort.
Missing elements from previous games (Dragon shouts, spell crafting)

All we really needed was an elder scrolls game that,

updated and incorporated all the old game into one included multiplayer Co-op and adversarial
a better combat system, I would have been happier with a system like dragon age origins or even dare I say it a turn based system.

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