How the success of Skyrim changed The Elder Scrolls Online

April 5, 2024
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Doesn’t time fly? It feels like only yesterday I was being ushered into a darkened booth during a bustling E3 2012 to watch a behind closed doors gameplay demo of the newly-announced MMORPG The Elder Scrolls Online. Here I am now though, some 12 years later, looking at the game again for the game’s 10th anniversary – a milestone that will also be celebrated in-game over the next year, spanning the time between the game’s PC launch in 2014 and the release of its console port in 2015.

It’s safe to say the The Elder Scrolls Online gameplay I watched at E3 2012 was radically different to what today’s players see, and to be fair, it was radically different to what players saw when the game eventually released two years later, too. Not much, if any, footage still exists of the game as it was then (certainly none with the UI I saw in the demo), but during the early days of development the graphics were simpler and the gameplay was way more reminiscent of classic MMOs of the time, like World of Warcraft and Dark Age of Camelot, featuring on-screen toolbars and a pulled-back third-person camera view with no option for first-person at all.

So why the sudden shift in style so late on in the production process, considering the game had been in development since 2007? By E3 2013, gameplay trailers for The Elder Scrolls Online were showcasing first-person combat and a visual style much more in keeping with the classic single-player Elder Scrolls experiences. I put that question to Matt Firor, president of ZeniMax Online Studios and the man who has been in the driver’s seat for the game since its very inception, and his answer was pretty simple.

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