The Elder Scrolls Online
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (May 2014)|
|The Elder Scrolls Online|
|Developer(s)||ZeniMax Online Studios|
|Series||The Elder Scrolls|
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows & OS X
April 4, 2014
PlayStation 4 & Xbox One
|Distribution||Optical disc, download|
The Elder Scrolls Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing video game developed by ZeniMax Online Studios and released on April 4, 2014 for Microsoft Windows and OS X. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions were originally set to be released in June 2014, but in May 2014, a delay for the console versions was announced, with the release of these versions now expected in early 2015. It is a part of The Elder Scrolls video game franchise, of which it is the first open-ended multiplayer installment. It was announced on May 3, 2012 in an exclusive reveal by Game Informer and formally revealed in the same month's issue of the magazine. Elder Scrolls Online was released on Steam on July 17, 2014.
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Upon creating a character, players have access to four classes: Dragon Knight, Templar, Sorcerer, and Nightblade. As in previous The Elder Scrolls titles, gameplay is mostly nonlinear, with a mixture of quests, random events, and free-roaming exploration of the world. The game does not provide a mode for single-player offline play, although the developers have stated that there will be "plenty of content" designed to accommodate players who prefer to play solo.
The player is able play as numerous races such as Nords (based on vikings), Bretons (humans of elvish descent) or Dark Elves (ash-skinned elves) for example, the player is also able to become either a vampire or a werewolf, both of which grants its own skill tree.
As with other games in The Elder Scrolls franchise, the game is set in the continent of Tamriel and features a storyline indirectly connected with the other games. The game is set a millennium before the events of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and around 800 years before The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, with the Daedric Prince Molag Bal appearing as the main antagonist as he attempts to meld the plane of Mundus with his realm of Coldharbour.
Most of the continent of Tamriel is available in the game, although much of it is locked off for expansion content. Players have the opportunity to join any of the three factions warring over the throne of the Emperor of Tamriel: the First Aldmeri Dominion (represented by an eagle), composed of the Altmer (High Elf), Bosmer (Wood Elf), and Khajiit races; the Daggerfall Covenant (represented by a lion), composed of the Bretons, Redguard, and Orsimer (Orcs); and the Ebonheart Pact (represented by a dragon), composed of the Nord, Dunmer (Dark Elf), and Argonian races. Players may also unlock an additional race, Imperial, which may be a part of any of the three factions. Pre-ordered copies of the game include the "Explorers' Pack", which allows all races to be played in each of the factions.
The Elder Scrolls Online had been in development for 7 years until its release in 2014. It is the first project for ZeniMax Online Studios, which was formed in 2007. Matt Firor, studio lead at ZeniMax Online, is also the director of The Elder Scrolls Online.
While rumors of a massively multiplayer The Elder Scrolls game had been circulating for years, accurate information about the game and its imminent May 2012 announcement was not leaked until March 2012, to online publication Tom's Guide by an anonymous industry source. According to the leak, the game was scheduled to be shown at E3 2012 in June and QuakeCon 2012 in August. On November 8, 2012, Bethesda released a video on YouTube called "An Introduction to The Elder Scrolls Online", in which the game's developers talk about the game's content and development. Several actors were announced to voice the characters of The Elder Scrolls Online, among them John Cleese, Bill Nighy, Kate Beckinsale, Lynda Carter, Alfred Molina, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Hale, Malcolm McDowell, and Peter Stormare.
On June 2013, Sony announced that The Elder Scrolls Online would be available on PlayStation 4 at their E3 press conference. It was later clarified by Bethesda that it would also be available on Xbox One. While players on PC and Mac play together, those on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 play only with others on the same platform. In August 2013, at Gamescom, it was announced that The Elder Scrolls Online would have a monthly subscription fee upon release for all platforms. Subscriptions can be purchased in 30-, 90-, and 180-day increments. While it was announced in January 2014 that the game would not require a PlayStation Plus subscription to play online, the Xbox One version will require an Xbox Live Gold subscription in addition to a The Elder Scrolls Online monthly subscription. On May 8, 2014, Bethesda spoke about development of the console editions, announcing that the release date for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game would be delayed until the end of 2014, though it was revealed in December 2014 that the game's console debut was once again delayed into the Spring of 2015. ZeniMax Online Studios announced that players who purchase The Elder Scrolls Online before the end of June 2014 will have the opportunity to transfer their characters from Windows or Mac to either console platform and receive a free 30-day subscription.
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Shortly after the game's launch, it was reported that some players were unable to activate the 30-day complimentary game time included with their purchase until a subscription had been set up and—in "a strange state of affairs" and "most likely a mistake"—after a full month had been paid for. A serious item duplication exploit was discovered that allowed players to gain huge fortunes, which was patched shortly after release. ZeniMax later announced that they had permanently banned thousands of accounts because of the exploit.
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Initially, The Elder Scrolls Online received mostly mixed to positive reviews upon release; the game has a weighted aggregate rating of 71.43% on GameRankings, based on 44 reviews, and 71/100 on Metacritic, based on 63 reviews. PC Gamer gave the game a score of 68/100, writing that it is "an MMORPG of moderate scope with a few good ideas" but cautioning that "'okay' isn't good enough when you're facing down this much of a premium." The game was mainly criticized for an excess of bugs, a phasing mechanic that separated players from groups, and its Veteran Progression System. Zenimax has responded to these criticisms by fixing many bugged quests, introducing a new phasing mechanic that did not separate groups, and is currently working on a replacement for its Veteran System called the Champion System, scheduled for completion in March of 2015. The system is being rolled out in phases, with the first having came in July 2014 tweaking game difficulty at Veteran Levels, the second in November 2014 that made leveling up from Veteran 1 to Veteran 14 more similar to the Level 1-50 experience, the third is to come in February 2015 introducing a progression wheel where players can unlock special passives through Champion Points, and the fourth and final phase is to be rolled out in March 2015 which will remove Veteran Levels entirely, readjusting the maximum level in the game to 50.
The game had 772,000 subscribers in June 2014 according to SuperData Research. It was later reported in October 2014 by the same company that the game had generated around $111 million in subscription revenue, indicating that the game had about 1.2 million subscribers around that point.
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