What appears to be Game Informer's world-first preview of The Elder Scrolls Online has been splashed across the internet. In a nutshell, The Elder Scrolls Online looks different and plays differently to a single-player Elder Scrolls game.
The graphics are stylised with a tint of cartoon, in a way reminiscent of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The gameplay is Elder Scrolls squashed to fit a lag-conscious and balance-conscious MMO world - i.e. real-time combat is out, and classes, levels, hot bars and a third-person viewpoint are in.
Becoming a werewolf or a vampire is a no-no, as will be mastering all skills and becoming godlike in power. Player housing is out to begin with.
It's a different genre and a different developer - TES Online is being built by the 250-strong Zenimax Online team. Bethesda Game Studios, maker of single-player Elder Scrolls, collaborates "extensively" on lore and geography, but keeps its nose out of high-level design decisions.
Those are bossed by Matt Firor, who led development of Dark Age of Camelot - an MMO noted for its 'realm versus realm versus realm' open world player versus player combat. And the hallmarks of that game are here to see.
Gamers join one of three factions, each with three playable races. There's the north eastern Ebonheart Pact (nords, dark elves, argonians); the southerly Aldmeri Dominion (high elves, wood elves, khajiit); and the north westerly Daggerfall Covenant (bretons, redguards, orcs).
They'll clash in Tamriel's central province of Cyrodiil, a PVP middle-ground, where keeps and forts and mines and farms will fought over by as many as 100vs100 (vs100?) people - siege weaponry included. The ultimate goal is taking the Imperial City and crowning your faction's emperor - an automated process determined by the person who tops a sort of contribution leaderboard. Being emperor bestows little more than bragging rights, apparently. That faction will then attempt to hold the Imperial City.
There will be instanced PVP arenas as well.
Most of the world of Tamriel will be open to explore - Skyrim, Morrowind, Summerset Isle and Elsewyr were all mentioned - but regions such as Skyrim won't be as complete as in The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. This allows room for expansion content.
Dungeons will be both instanced and non-instanced, enabling public exploration alongside other groups.
Stamina will be the central pillar of combat. It governs blocking, sprinting, interrupting and breaking free of incapacitating effects (roots, snares, stuns, etc.). All classes and weapon types will be able to block with varying success. And how you manage your stamina bar will be a key tactical consideration.
That mechanic aims to ruffle the healer/tank/damage MMO trinity, but those classes appear to generally be intact. There's no aggro table in The Elder Scrolls Online, which means an enemy is just as likely to attack you for picking your nose as it is the warrior smacking it in the face.
Groups will be made up of five players, and classes can combine abilities. A rogue may oil the ground and a mage ignite it. A mage may create a firestorm and a fighter spin within it, creating a cyclone.
Hot bars sound like they're small. The first two slots are weapon abilities, automatically assigned. The remaining handful are changeable class abilities. And the final slot is an ultimate skill unlocked by filling a finesse bar that rewards tactical, skilful play.
PVP will be a large part of the endgame, but there will also be multi-group raids, heroic versions of dungeons and high-end public dungeons.
The Fighters, Mages, Thieves and Dark Brotherhood guilds are all available to join. They're reputation-based factions that offer abilities and rewards for your hard work.
Phased questing, where the world alters for individual players as they finish a story-arc, will feature. Fetch and kill quests will be there, too.
Crafting will feature but it hasn't been detailed.
Mounts haven't been detailed.
Stealth will feature but hasn't been completely figured out.
Dragons are unlikely to appear.
Fast travel we be an option from wayshrines, but not from the map screen.
There won't be pets, yet.
There won't be marriages to, or romances with, AI characters.
The Elder Scrolls Online will be fully voice acted.
The loot system wasn't detailed.
There are screenshots in the leaked Game Informer reveal, but we'll only go so far here.
The Elder Scrolls Online is built on the HeroEngine - the same technology that powers Star Wars: The Old Republic.