“We’re not making Skyrim 2,” says The Elder Scrolls Online studio

The Elder Scrolls Online will launch into a difficult MMOG marketplace and battle against a weighty set of expectations forged by the spectacular Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

To gain greater insight into the challenges facing its developer Zenimax Online, we recently spoke to The Elder Scrolls Online’s game director Matt Firor to discover how his studio is tackling these issues.

The last few years haven’t been kind to traditional MMOGs. What, in your mind, is the key to bucking that trend?

The biggest single thing you can do to ensure your MMOG is successful is take your time and do it right. You only have one chance to launch, [so] you’ve got to make sure that you have a full range of features for a full range of people. I like to think of it more as we’re making a world that we want people to live in. Yes, there’s a game there, but there’s a lot of games in the game. We want to make sure there’s just a ton of stuff for you to do.

There will be players whose first Elder Scrolls game was Skyrim and whose expectations have been set by that game. How do you communicate the ways in which you’re different?

Well, we exist in the same universe. We’re making an Elder Scrolls game, but we’re not making Skyrim 2. So I think the Skyrim guys had that same problem when they went from Oblivion to Skyrim: “Your last thing was Oblivion, how could you possibly top that?” We’re not trying to ‘top’ Skyrim. [It’s] a fantastic game – if you wanted to play Skyrim, go play Skyrim, right?

What is your relationship with the Elder Scrolls community? Could it be improved?

I think that the reaction that we had when we announced the game was more about having heard game developers say things about games for a long time and then [not seeing] what they were talking about. A lot of the mixed reaction that we got was [aimed] in that direction. It wasn’t necessarily about Elder Scrolls. There was some of that, but mostly it was, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard of [action-based] combat systems, we’ve heard that. We get into the game and it’s the same old thing.’ We want people to get in and play. We’re not going to sit them down and give them a presentation, they’re just going to sit down and play it.

Was the decision to add a firstperson mode based on public demand?

Yes and no. We always knew it was something players were going to want. We couldn’t actually do it – and we’re still in the process of doing it – because when you have other players seeing your character from a different distance from where you’re seeing it, a lot of systems have to be designed. We needed to make sure we had the thirdperson working first, not just because it was your camera, but because it’s how everyone else sees you in the world. But we’ve known for a long time that we were going to do it.

You can read our latest impressions of The Elder Scrolls Online here.

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