Editorials, Featured

What Should be Next: For the Elder Scrolls Franchise

by on November 30, 2011 2:00 PM 15

['What Should Be Next' is weekly column where I examine and discuss certain trends, franchises, genres and ideas in the gaming industry, and where they should be headed.]

It seems like every where you look people are talking about The Elder Scrolls Five: Skyrim. There’s really no escaping it. Like Oblivion did 5 years ago, this most recent trip to Tamriel is truly one for the ages. Some are even brave (or foolish) enough as to call it the best video game of all time. Really?

The thing is, and this is something that comes to mind whenever I play an amazing game, where does it go from here. How much better can it get? Besides some annoying bugs (some of which are being addressed this week), Skyrim is pretty much every gamer’s dream come true. A title full of so much content that it can actually live up to it’s $60 price tag; an unfortunate rarity in games, especially as of late.

So where was the biggest room for improvement? While Todd Howard and company put together a campaign that was tight enough to keep even the most impatient player at bay (face it, society and Twitter is spoiling us), it still showed hints and signs of what I felt were one of Oblivion’s biggest flaws, and that’s when the player is granted just a bit too much freedom.

What Should be Next: For the Elder Scrolls Franchise

Linear shouldn’t be considered a four letter word.

So here’s my biggest gripe with Skyrim, and well recent games in general. As I’m getting older, I’m starting to enjoy games for different reasons. Story being at the very top of the list of priorities, especially when I’m spending money on a title.

Story was the biggest reason why Skyrim had the ability to pull me in the way that it did. Right from the start, I wanted to know more about my character and all the other players that the main quest revolves around. Finding out about being Dragon-Born, discovering what it meant, and knowing what I needed to do is what kept me enthralled. Unfortunately it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

As you progress through the main quest you’ll make stops in towns and cities where the NPC inhabitants will have a tendency to want to throw you off track. I get the idea that it’s probably the developers way of introducing things like the different guilds and quests, but to the novice Elder Scrolls player (like myself) it’s just too easy to get overwhelmed and lost in Skyrim’s shuffle. Don’t get me wrong, I love to get lost in a game, but just not in the literal form.

Don’t get it twisted, I think that because of it’s sandbox nature, Skyrim is an amazing game. The ability to do anything and everything you want is awesome. I just personally feel that there should be some kind of bumpers in place. At least in the beginning of the game.

What Should be Next: For the Elder Scrolls Franchise

How to put up walls in a sandbox.

This isn’t mean to stir the pot about linear vs. non-linear or argue about Western and Eastern video game storytelling philosophies and why one is better than the other. No, the site has already covered that. This is just to point out that even an already great franchise can benefit in the storytelling department by making you experience the story that they (the developers) wanted you to play from the start, even if it means keeping you on somewhat of a linear path.

I’m sure that fans of the franchise will read this and cry foul. And I totally get that people play Elder Scrolls franchise because of the freedom that it allows, something that other titles, in or outside of the genre, simply don’t offer. It’s a franchise that pushes boundaries and acts a video game spiritual successor to the “choose your own adventure” books from our childhoods. I get it.

But why don’t the developers have players focus on the story that they worked so hard on? All of the hours of planning, writing, and effort that goes into building a world, its characters, and their conflicts worth caring about, goes straight to the crapper when you take emphasis off of its significance. I can’t be the only one that feels this way.

In interviews leading up to Skyrim’s launch, Todd Howard was quoted saying that the main story isn’t the game’s main quest. Neither are the guild stories. That the world of Skyrim is the game’s story. While that certainly does sound splendid, when you look at it at face value, you quickly realize it’s just the usual PR stuff  that a person who’s trying to sell a game is going to say.

Where do we go from here?

I’m not sure what the right formula would be to pull this off. Todd Howard and his gang of fantastic fantasy would  really have to come together like Voltron to hit a sweet spot that will entice or better yet nicely force (for lack of a better phrase) players to make the main story quest a priority. An adventure that will prepare you for what you will you encounter in the lands of Tamriel. If you were to ask me what should be next for the Elder Scrolls franchise, it would be a focus on a story that doesn’t just starts at a high note, but that keeps the same energy until it’s completed, without coaxing you off the correct path.

What do you think should be next for The Elder Scrolls franchise? I’ve said my part, now it’s time for you to share your own thoughts in the comments section.

Join the Discussion

  • http://profiles.google.com/tophawtdog4411 David Whyham

    i love how you talked about what was advertised in the title at the very end with a small paragraph -_- … * leaves room *

  • Leathersoup

    You want a linear story? Go play Final Fantasy.  Those games have become as linear and as boring as possible.  There’s a reason why JRPGs are dying off.  It’s because they don’t do things like Bethesda is.  

    I hope Bethesda keeps doing sandbox.  It’s what they do best and they do it oh so well.

    • http://dualshockers.com Joel Taveras

      I actually praise the sandbox aspect of the game. What I’m saying is that being thrown into the fire shouldn’t be the only way its presented. They could benefit from telling the story they wanted to tell from the begining, and then when it’s completed say “hey go check out the rest of this awesome world we’ve created for you.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

      There’s no need to diss another genre for bethesda to keep doing sandbox games. Different doesn’t necessarily mean worse, and JRPGs are dying off so much that the latest Final Fantasy sold 6.2 million copies. 

      I know quite a lot of western RPG developers that would love to be “dying off” like that.

      There’s room in the market for both genres, dissing one as a blanket statement just because it doesn’t appease you personally is juvenile at best. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

      There’s no need to diss another genre for bethesda to keep doing sandbox games. Different doesn’t necessarily mean worse, and JRPGs are dying off so much that the latest Final Fantasy sold 6.2 million copies. 

      I know quite a lot of western RPG developers that would love to be “dying off” like that.

      There’s room in the market for both genres, dissing one as a blanket statement just because it doesn’t appease you personally is juvenile at best. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

    Simply enough, the market is packed full with linear games, there’s no need for the Elder Scrolls series to uniform to that. Not that it will happen, anyway :D

    It’s always good when the market provides for different tastes. The Elder Scrolls is for the ones that don’t want to be shoehorned into a story from start to end. It will always be like that, so I guess a more appropriate headline would be: “What will never happen: for the Elder Scrolls franchise,” ^_-

    I’d add a “thankfully” after it, but that would be too personal.

  • Ybrenden

    Problem is, if they put more effort into making the Main Story Keep your attention, then it would ruin the Main Quest if you prefer to advance a bit, then focus on other things, like exploring, doing other questlines or just running around robbing ppl. You would pretty much have no choice but to finish the Main Quest first, or leave it hanging in an awkward place.

    • Anonymous

      I tend to agree. The main story in Skyrim is even better designed than Oblivion, simply because it is less urgent. It’s like all these events going on, but the world is still going on around you. Sure, dragons are attacking you occasionally but that doesn’t force you into the main story, it just kind of reminds you that it’s there waiting whenever you want to get back to it.

  • Eamonn Dunne

    More enemy variety and better boss battles as in skyrim it felt a bit stale fighting dragon priests and dragons. I thought oblivion had better enemy variety especially when you were at a high level.

  • Eamonn Dunne

    More enemy variety and better boss battles as in skyrim it felt a bit stale fighting dragon priests and dragons. I thought oblivion had better enemy variety especially when you were at a high level.

  • Anonymous

    What should be next for the Elder Scrolls? How about a game that isn’t super buggy? 

    From what I’ve read, the new patch has actually made things worse! This is a shame because I was hoping that this patch would fix the game and therefore I could go ahead and buy it. I’m not the biggest fan of medieval stuff but this game looks incredibly fun. The main reason I haven’t gotten it already is due to my playthrough of Fallout 3. That was by far the glitchiest game I’ve played this generation and I am hesitant to repeat that experience again. 

    I’ll sit on the sidelines for now and hope that Skyrim will be fixed at one point. I’m not expecting the game to be glitch free (like most Japanese games) but if they can get it to the level of Red dead redemption (which was pretty glitchy too) then that’ll will be good enough.

    Anyway I’m glad you’re mostly enjoying the game Joel but I think you would have more fun if you stopped focusing so much on the “main” story. Just go with the flow. Don’t be afraid to get side tracked by stuff. The main story is just one aspect of this game and only worrying about that will make you miss out on all of the other great things there are to do. Whenever I finally get Skyrim I plan to get on a horse and just go sight seeing for hours on end. Yeah it’s not the main or even a story quest but with a world this detailed you have to just let yourself get lost in it to truly appreciate it.

  • Joshua Casey29@yahoo.com

     I like every aspect of the game except all the bugs but there should be no limits in a game like skyrim and thats the best part…there aren’t any. I think that is what defines the entire elder scrolls series. Fighting the dragons are a little the same every time but still plain fun. I also think that they should bring morrowind back with skyrims steroid graphics and dual wielding as a DLC for Skrim.

  • Gregstonjosh

    they should make a game where you play as a dwemer (dwarf) and discover what happened to them and why they disappeared

  • Haven DaSilva

    1. Longer/more content in main story. Lots of room for deeper water, too many things only hinted at. 

    2. MORE FREEDOM. Really, for all the bragging this game does about its freedom, it really doesn’t have a lot. I mean I can appreciate the intended dual grey-area on the political quests, but I really think there should have been a rogue-ish middle ground. Or just more options, maybe involve the Thalmor more. Maybe I WANT to see what happens if Potema is truly resurrected. Would go on, but don’t want to drop an essay. 

    3. WAY more character customization options. Skyrim has NOTHING on Fable, or others of its kin. There are no obese people in Skyrim. There are no short people. There are short RACES, but no short people. No hair dying, no tattooing, no piercing, nothing. With games like Fable being so well received, I’m having a hard time comprehending the reason for so much less options besides pure laziness, which Bethesda is infamous for in select aspects of their game. I say game because they just remake the same game, over and over, and simply put different clothes on it. Not saying that’s bad, but it’s 2012, it’s time to improve more than just the graphics. 

    4. A more individualized plot. For example, a Khajiit character should experience the world differently than a Nord. THEY AREN’T ALLOWED INTO CITIES, yet if the Dragonborn happens to be one, they can just waltz right on in with no questions asked. 

    5. More weapon/armor choices. And some sort of levelable discipline system (i.e, different fighting styles with weapons)

    6. A more modern UI. I know how it’s praised for its simplicity, and it’s WAY better than other ES titles, but really, if I have a carry weight of 800 and I use it, I’m spending more time scrolling through than actually playing. Have submenues, like helmets & armwear in the armor section, poisons and boosters in the potions section, etc. One more menu bar over, and way more organization. Worth the extra screen space. 

    7. More voice actors, or at least more diversity. If none of those VA’s can change their pitch at all, something is seriously wrong. In the Thieves Guild questline, Karliah’s elf friend and the main bad guy sound EXACTLY the same, same tone and manner of speech as well. Very de-mystifying. 

    Don’t get me wrong, I love this game, have 400+ hours in so far, but there’s a LOT of room for improvement. Better doesn’t mean best. Just because other game companies don’t offer the kind of games ES titles are, doesn’t mean that’s an excuse for being lazy in the fine details. 

  • Haven DaSilva

    1. Longer/more content in main story. Lots of room for deeper water, too many things only hinted at. 

    2. MORE FREEDOM. Really, for all the bragging this game does about its freedom, it really doesn’t have a lot. I mean I can appreciate the intended dual grey-area on the political quests, but I really think there should have been a rogue-ish middle ground. Or just more options, maybe involve the Thalmor more. Maybe I WANT to see what happens if Potema is truly resurrected. Would go on, but don’t want to drop an essay. 

    3. WAY more character customization options. Skyrim has NOTHING on Fable, or others of its kin. There are no obese people in Skyrim. There are no short people. There are short RACES, but no short people. No hair dying, no tattooing, no piercing, nothing. With games like Fable being so well received, I’m having a hard time comprehending the reason for so much less options besides pure laziness, which Bethesda is infamous for in select aspects of their game. I say game because they just remake the same game, over and over, and simply put different clothes on it. Not saying that’s bad, but it’s 2012, it’s time to improve more than just the graphics. 

    4. A more individualized plot. For example, a Khajiit character should experience the world differently than a Nord. THEY AREN’T ALLOWED INTO CITIES, yet if the Dragonborn happens to be one, they can just waltz right on in with no questions asked. 

    5. More weapon/armor choices. And some sort of levelable discipline system (i.e, different fighting styles with weapons)

    6. A more modern UI. I know how it’s praised for its simplicity, and it’s WAY better than other ES titles, but really, if I have a carry weight of 800 and I use it, I’m spending more time scrolling through than actually playing. Have submenues, like helmets & armwear in the armor section, poisons and boosters in the potions section, etc. One more menu bar over, and way more organization. Worth the extra screen space. 

    7. More voice actors, or at least more diversity. If none of those VA’s can change their pitch at all, something is seriously wrong. In the Thieves Guild questline, Karliah’s elf friend and the main bad guy sound EXACTLY the same, same tone and manner of speech as well. Very de-mystifying. 

    Don’t get me wrong, I love this game, have 400+ hours in so far, but there’s a LOT of room for improvement. Better doesn’t mean best. Just because other game companies don’t offer the kind of games ES titles are, doesn’t mean that’s an excuse for being lazy in the fine details. 

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