I admit that sometimes I am amazed at how angry or worried gamers can get about release announcements. The excitement I have come to expect, but the apprehension still surprises me at times. Not that it should - games as media are far more interactive than music, movies or books. As a result, our level of investment increases as well. It is a major part of why we play these games - because we become immersed and feel we have a stake in the outcome.
I have only played the last two Elder Scrolls games - Oblivion and Skyrim. Both had their flaws, both were still brilliantly realized games that have fostered a very engaged community (just check out the various mods on PC). There have been rumors about The Elder Scrolls series coming online in the form of an MMO - and with the recent announcement that this game is in fact a reality that is well on its way, there has been a very divided opinion on the internet over this reveal.
I am very curious to see how this goes, personally. I know I am not alone on this front, but there are quite a few people who fall into a completely different camp. While their concerns may have merit (is it going to be buggy, is it really going to be any different than World of Warcraft, does it ruin the spirit of the series) - I still do not see why they often appear unwilling to give the game a chance.
I have always felt like both Oblivion and Skyrim would have benefited from some sort of online interaction. You get to buy these beautiful houses and customize what is where for display. I spent more time doing this on Oblivion than I care to admit. And when my favorite house was done and I was happy with it - I had no one to share that with. I was playing on my 360, so I didn't even have the option to screen capture it. Even if I did, would anyone have cared? My son paused and looked at it for about two and a half minutes, said "That's cool" and went about his business.
The world is huge, with sweeping landscapes and all sorts of environments you can explore. I think that the design structure of the worlds while often fascinating, can at times be a bit dull too. Why dull? Because you can walk in a straight line for long periods of time and see nothing and no one. A world like this would be very easy to fill up with other like-minded adventurers.
Other personal touches, like creating and naming your own spells - don't those little bits of personal flair feel like they would be more fun when shared with others?
Now the concerns. Of course, there may be bugs. That's not a reason to not do this in my opinion. If anything, having servers where people can beta test and find bugs early may take one of the biggest complaints people have with Bethesda and offer them a means of ironing out issues well in advance - presuming they have the patience to make use of this window and not just push the game out too quickly.
Really, right now we are mostly left with speculation. I feel like it is far too soon to tell. But that also means it is too soon to say this is a bad idea. I recall all of the hang wringing (or whining perhaps) when two other companies made bold choices in their design. One example is from recently, one is not. The more distant example was a company well-known for their strategy game polish and expertise, taking one of their worlds online to create a little game that became known as World of Warcraft. There were a ton of skeptics back then that the premise simply was an ill-suited one for the world and the developers.
The more recent example? When Bioware wanted to add multiplayer to Mass Effect 3. Now that I've beaten the storyline, the only mode I've made use of over the last month has been the online, which has been awesome in my opinion (and the opinions of quite a few others).
Of course, in the interest of fairness, adding multiplayer to a series is not always a sure thing. Far from it. The Elder Scrolls Online could turn into the Next World of Warcraft - or the next Final Fantasy XIV. But seeing as no video game is a sure thing - ever - shouldn't we give this one a chance to see what Bethesda plans to do with it, before dismissing it as ruining the series and a slap to the face of TRUE Elder Scrolls fans? I plan to, but I can't speak for everyone.