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The First Elder Scrolls Was Originally A Much Different Game

Had Bethesda developers not had a change of heart, "The Elder Scrolls" wouldn't have been the legendary series it is today. "The Elder Scrolls: Arena," which released in 1994 and was the first installment of the fantasy RPG series, was planned as something entirely different from the former sports game maker. Looking back, such a decision may have altered the course of gaming history as a whole.

The "Arena" that players ended up getting was, as "The Elder Scrolls" fans are now familiar with, an open-world RPG set on the continent of Tamriel. The player, assuming the role of a prisoner, must assemble the Staff of Chaos to free Emperor Uriel Septim after he's trapped in an alternate dimension. "Arena" allows players to create their own spells and explore a variety of locations, including dungeons. It also includes a day-night cycle in which shops close at night and reopen in the morning. At first, however, the game was going to lean more into the "arena" aspect of its title.

The Elders Scrolls: Arena was initially closer to a fighting game

According to an archived page from the website for "The Elder Scrolls," "Arena" was first drafted as a "medieval-style gladiator game." Players would assemble a team of fighters and travel to cities across Tamriel to challenge other teams. The ultimate goal was to become "grand champion in the Imperial City." The continent of Tamriel was something developers came up with during their time playing the tabletop RPG "Dungeons & Dragons."

Considering their love for "D&D," it was inevitable that RPG elements began to creep into the development. In addition to fighting in each city's arena, they wanted to make the cities fully explorable. Then, they got the idea to add dungeons as another layer of exploration. Eventually, the archived page said, the developers decided that "The Elder Scrolls: Arena" should just be an RPG.

With the direction of the game completely shifted, there was still the issue of the name. Unfortunately, it couldn't be changed. In a now-archived interview, developer Ted Peterson said the marketing material and box art had already been created, meaning "Arena" had to stay. The way Bethesda got away with this, he continued, was by giving Tamriel the nickname "the Arena" because of its reputation for violence. Now, the name lives on as a reminder of what almost was.