Hines: Not really, because if you look at the kinds of things you can do in an MMO - and I've probably spent 250 or so hours in World of Warcraft - the kinds of things you can do in World of Warcraft are really very different than anything you can do in Oblivion.
MMOs have a much more difficult time creating a sense of permanence. You can't let one person do something that nobody else in the world can do. Every quest that you do... that thing 30 seconds later has to reset itself for the guy coming behind you who also has that quest.
Whereas in Oblivion, whatever you do is done. The whole world is meant to focus around the experience of only one character, and everything in the world that happens revolves around that one character.
In Oblivion, if you're playing on the PC and you want to give yourself some completely game-unbalancing ability or weapon or whatever, who cares? It's your game, you're not affecting anyone else's experience. But in an MMO, everything has to be very balanced, that everything you do has to be set against "Well, what can everybody else in the world do?"
Do you think we'll ever see the two successfully blended together?
Hines: Certainly there's some folks that are kind of going that route. I mean, Hellgate: London - I haven't tried it beyond the demo yet - but the idea's that there's a single-player thing and a multiplayer thing; and there's certainly folks that have tried to do a bit of both on some level.
Obviously the challenge is that - that if you're going to have a single-player thing, if you try and blend it with an MMO, you still have that "Have you balanced the world so that nobody gets out completely out of kilter with everybody else?". That's the rub.
I'm sure we'll continue to see hybrids, folks doing a bit of this and a bit of that. But we still think there's definitely a place for, not just single-player role-playing games, but single-player games.
Finally, in what areas would you like to see the single-player RPG develop?
Hines: Ultimately I think that folks are going to continue to focus on different areas and just expanding what's been possible. If you take a look at what we've done with the Elder Scrolls series, that's moved from being very generic to where we have these big worlds but all the characters were essentially the same, to Morrowind where they were all different but then nobody moved, to Oblivion where folks are now moving around in the world and they're interacting not only with you but with each other and trying to make the world more believable.
I think we're just going to continue to explore different directions in this sandbox thing that we can do, whether it be through AI, through dialogue, or just the things that we allow the player to do in this world.
I think there's lots of directions that the genre can go that is hasn't before, but I also think there's just lots of things we can get much better at - story telling and all that stuff. I think you'll see us get better at the things we're already doing and then maybe continue to branch out and try other stuff.