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Bethesda on expected "mixed" reaction to The Elder Scrolls Online

"If we could have done Skyrim as an MMO, we would have."

Bethesda has discussed the reaction to Elder Scrolls Online, saying even before work on the game had begun it expected it would be mixed.

Some fans have expressed concern about TESO's art style, which they deem too cartooney and not in keeping with the gritty, realistic Elder Scrolls universe.

Last month developer Zenimax Online said TESO doesn't look like Skyrim because MMOs can't yet replicate those sort of graphics on the scale they offer. That's why it has stylised visuals - a technique that allows pixel-restricted MMOs to "look good and interesting".

Bethesda PR and marketing boss Pete Hines told Eurogamer at E3 that many fans of the series were expecting TESO to be Skyrim the MMO - an entirely unrealistic proposition.

"I certainly felt that some people were going to expect Skyrim, but massively multiplayer, which, if we could have done that, we would have just done that, right?" he said. "We would have just done Skyrim that lets you play with a thousand other people."

Much of the early negativity, Hines said, came from reveal previews written by a handful of game journalists. Bethesda is showing TESO at E3 in part because the company wants more journalists to experience the game for themselves and form their own opinions.

"I've talked to a few journos coming out who were like, based on what everybody was saying, I was expecting X, and I like the real-time combat, or I like this, or, hey, I like the way it looks," Hines said. "I'm interested to see everybody's write-up."

Hines revealed that even before development on the game began, Bethesda knew the reaction from fans would be mixed, and likened the current debate about the game to the discussion of openworld RPG Fallout 3 in the run up to that game's release in 2008.

"From the very beginning when it was first conceived we knew the reaction would be mixed," Hines said. "It's not all that different than what we went though with Fallout 3, which is, you're taking this thing that everybody knew and loved like this. Now in that case it was same genre, different developer, different approach. This is an RPG, but MMO is a different in how things work."

Hines expects sceptical fans will come around as more of the game is revealed. He compared TESO's development and campaign as a "marathon", and revealed plans to allow more and more people to play more of the game over time.

"There's always that issue of meeting expectations or what people had in their mind's eye," he said. "It's really early. We've only shown the barest glimpse of it here. We've got an awful lot of stuff to talk about that's new for the genre and new for MMOs, things people haven't tried before, that are doing things in a different way.

"We're going to give it time and give ourselves a chance to explain all the other things we're doing, let people see it, let people play it. It's a marathon, especially with an MMO. You see an MMO demo, that doesn't mean anything to me. What means something to me is, what's it like when I sit down for three or four hours? Is that engaging? Is that unique? Is that compelling? Is there any reason for me to want to come back the next day?

"We want to keep informing, but get it to the point where people play it, because it's just a wholly different thing experiencing when you play it versus when you watch somebody."