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‘The Elder Scrolls Online’ details emerge

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The Elder Scrolls Online (Bethesda)

Few games are as content-packed as Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series, but those itching to roam around Tamriel with a bazillion other people should be pleased as a dragon on a pile of gold with the news of The Elder Scrolls Online.

Game Informer's got the goods on this massively-multiplayer entry in the long-running RPG series, due out in 2013 for the PC and Mac. It's a new direction for a franchise that for nearly two decades has focused squarely on huge, single-player experiences.

"It will be extremely rewarding finally to unveil what we have been developing the last several years," game director Matt Firor told the magazine. "The entire team is committed to creating the best MMO ever made — and one that is worthy of The Elder Scrolls franchise."

But while the full reveal won't be official until Game Informer's June issue hits mailboxes,  leaked info has already made its way online.

In development since 2007, The Elder Scrolls Online will be a third-person action/role-playing game set a millennium before the events chronicled in recent smash hit Skyrim. Some staples of the series, such as the ability to turn into a werewolf or vampire, have been removed, though fans will recognize towns and cities chronicled in other Elder Scrolls games.

Loads of playable races will be available, including staples like Nords, Orcs, and the cat-like Khajit. Taking a cue from Star Wars: The Old Republic, the game will also be fully voice-acted, though it reportedly breaks from massively-multiplayer tradition by not featuring a typical 'quest' hub, instead rewarding players for clearing out areas of enemies. And for those with a thirst for blood, player vs. player content will be a part of the new game.

It's a bold decision by Bethesda -- and a curious one. The company's already enjoyed enormous success with the Elder Scrolls series; last year's highly-acclaimed Skyrim was among the best-selling titles of 2011, and the company expects to earn even more by releasing downloadable content for the game this year. Taking the series online to battle the likes of World of Warcraft and The Old Republic for your monthly subscription allowance (provided that's the pricing scheme, as nothing has been announced yet) is a risky move.

It's also one that has some fans scratching their heads. The Elder Scrolls franchise has long made its mark as the single-player equivalent of massively-multiplayer gaming, offering countless hours of wide-open exploration minus the pitfall and perils of dealing with other online players. Daggerfall, Morrowind and Skyrim are more than just cool role-playing games -- they're sprawling fantasy sandboxes that put you in charge of the experience. That's bound to change once your experience is joined by thousands of other players.

Still, we're excited to hear more — and with the E3 game expo right around the corner, it shouldn't be too long of a wait. Until then, how about a teaser trailer?

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