Between releasing Fallout games that completely miss the essence of the franchise and re-releasing Skyrim Bethesda Softworks have unwittingly provided hints as to what we can expect from The Elder Scrolls VI. Brace for mild speculation.
Bethesda Softworks are being understandably tight-lipped about The Elder Scrolls 6 and even the most minor of details, let alone a potential release date, are still a closely guarded secret. While little could be gleamed from the sole teaser published so far, a few patterns can be observed when it comes to the way they design their open-world sandboxes.
The studio's approach to design is nothing if not iterative, from the engine right down to core design philosophies, and based on what we've seen from previous main series entries and DLC packs, we can make a reasonably educated guess as to what one might expect from the next Elder Scrolls title.
MORE ACTION, LESS RPG
Some have called it streamlining, others refer to the practice as dumbing down, but whatever the case, Elder Scrolls games have shed more and more of their RPG elements and systems in favour of a more action-centric experience in the 25 years since Arena.
The whole segment of languages is gone, so is climbing, medium armour, mysticism, various weapon types, etc. - the list is longer than the arrow sticking out of my knee.
Some of these features have been retooled, such as birthsigns, while others are gone altogether, and most of that in the service of an overall action focused flow of gameplay.
Similar to how Bethesda's Fallouts are designed to be shooters, rather than RPGs, we can expect to see a lot of features morph or get trimmed down in an attempt to make The Elder Scrolls accessible and easier to pick up for those uninitiated or uninterested in a more traditional RPG.
There's nothing inherently wrong in trying to attract a wider audience, and another way of accomplishing this is having a killer feature. Those are usually a singular, easily summed up selling point, and work wonders for marketing.
Daggerfall had an enormous overworld, Oblivion had Radiant AI, Skyrim had dragons, and whatever the next game's title may be, our guess is that it will be mounted combat.
Horses along with their misbegotten armour have been around on and off for a while in The Elder Scrolls, and Bethesda don't seem to be intent on giving up on the feature anytime soon. Skyrim allowed for limited brawling from horseback, but using powers or spellcasting wasn't possible.
Riding dragons also became a thing in the Dragonborn DLC, but similar to fighting from the saddle it was a clunky and seemingly underdeveloped afterthought, rather than a proper feature. Bethesda are probably going to look for ways of remedying this in the upcoming title.
Nothing says this game is better than the ones before like saying it's bigger. The manner in which Bethesda will make this claim is not as certain as the fact that they will indeed make it. More is always better, right?
Be it the number of hand-crafted dungeons, the surface area of the overworld, the number of quests machine generated or human-made - you can be sure that some quantifiable factor will see an increase.
Our guess here is that the play area will see a considerable expansion. After all, the aforementioned riding around requires open spaces with few obstacles, as to allow for casual manoeuvring of one's steed if nothing else.
Another reason increased scale is almost a certainty is that this, as well as being one more potential killer feature, is something that can easily be promoted or slapped on the back of a box in the form of promo blurbs and the like.
PLAYER OWNED CITY
All that vacant real-estate will just be begging for some activity, and what better way to provide than laying down some foundations and brickwork.
Player run or owned settlements wouldn't be an entirely new thing for the series. Morrowind's Bloodmoon expansion had the player develop a colony for the East Empire Trading Company on the island of Solstheim, while the main game allowed for construction and upkeep of a player stronghold which would amount to a small town once completed.
These features were a little barebones in terms of customising your outpost, but Bethesda have displayed an increasing interest in bridging the gap between Construction Set and in-game urban development in their Fallout titles.
The Elder Scrolls games have provided players with some adobe or the other in the past, and upping the scale here to town levels fits in more than neatly with the previous scale and marketable feature points.
CREATION CLUB BECOMES CANON
This one will be a little harder to explain without stumbling headlong into CHIM territory. Suffice it to say that certain aspects of aspects of Elder Scrolls lore have narrative links to player agency and interaction that seep over into our tangible flesh and blood world.
The anticipation here is that once the lore stumbles out into the real world proper, it will run right into the outstretched arms of Bethesda's Creation Club.
If stories, locations, events and lore conjured up in the minds of players have a place in official canon, then there is no better way for the studio to lend them credence and make some money in the process than saying that modding work done by the most determined of fans is indeed valid lore, and incidentally an avenue for monetisation.
Depending on how it could be pulled off it may turn out a world-building and design masterstroke. Alternatively, it might just give players flashbacks of Fallout 76, and remind fans of the Elder Scrolls series exactly how out of touch Bethesda can be at times.
We will be playing bingo with these predictions at AltChar HQ as more info about the game is announced. All of the listed predictions could go both ways on the matter of fan and critical reception, but as with many things Bethesda and game design related - the devil lies in the execution.