Skyrim Elder Scrolls Heralds a Shift to Freemium

Skyrim

As a self-confessed Skyrim addict, I view the arrival of the freemium online version — announced at E3 — with some trepidation. The game is not due out until 2013 but with Skyrim still fresh in many player’s minds, the preannouncement’s garnered a lot of interest, and the early videos look breathtaking.

My character in Skyrim was a total overachiever who, having become leader of the Dark Brotherhood, College of Wizards, Colleagues and game playing, has eaten up over 180 hours of my real life.

But of course massive multiplayer online games, even after conversion from a AAA title, are a different type of experience compared to single player games. While both might have a mixture of human-created and procedurally generated quests, the only fights in a single player game are against the likes of monsters and guards. In an MMO, the big elephant in the room is PvP (Player v Player). How will the game prevent experienced players from carving up new ones? Will it even allow PvP? How exactly do players interact?

The game designers have said (in videos on the GameInformer hub) that they want the player to feel as if they are the only hero, and thus prevent situations where there are 20 players queuing up to take down a Boss. But they also want it to be easy for two or more players to go dungeoneering and face proportionate numbers of monsters. This is is similar to leveling up in Skyrim, where dungeons that offer lightweight Draugs (undead) against a new player will have Death Lords, Draug Wights, etc., against a really experienced player.

The most interesting challenge  will be maintaining the quality of quests over time. If they’ve developed a really good procedural quest generator, the game retain a player’s interest. I created one of those for a multiplayer postal game 20 years ago, and it’s no easy thing to do.

For me, a large part of Skyrim’s fun is exploring. I’ve probably covered 95 percent of the game, at least twice and on foot. It’s the best way to see it, and Elder Scrolls looks to offer a much larger game area (including many of the other areas of Tamriel). Just as there are random encounters at key points in Skyrim, there will be quests offered to players as they move around.

As it will be freemium, I’m guessing that you’ll be able to buy better weapons, magic potions, armor, etc., with real money. Maybe design flags, heraldry or a coat of arms for that personalized look? 

My father used to say he’d have loved to play golf but knew it would eat up too much of his spare time. That’s been my attitude toward MMOs. However I’ve a feeling that when Elder Scrolls comes out, I may just have to play.

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