ZeniMax Is Creating a New Engine

You probably know ZeniMax Online Studios (ZOS) as the creators of Elder Scrolls Online, the Elder Scrolls MMO released in 2014. Since its rocky launch in 2014, ESO has gone on to sell over 16 million copies and and become one of the MMO giants of today. If any one thing was holding back ESO, it is the engine it was built on, which has at times struggled to keep up with the MMO’s massive aspirations.

Today we found ZeniMax has been hard at work on a new engine for 2 years, or since around the same time Starfield was announced. The most curious part of this announcement might be that it talks of both a new IP AND a new engine. If ZOS is making the game, one would expect some kind of online component, hence Zenimax “Online” Studios heading the project.

Given ZOS experience with MMO’s, the prospect of a new MMO, perhaps based around Starfield, is quite a compelling thought. The obvious play might be Elder Scrolls Online 2, but ESO has covered that territory, and covered it well, where as a Starfield MMO or some other new IP would really give the studio a chance to dive into the unknown.

Now, let me be quite clear, this is all speculation at this point. ZOS has not said what this new engine is for, other than that it will be an MMO. The fact is we don’t know yet, and so its probably best to keep our expectations tempered… but that’s so difficult to do when the MMO arm of the Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Starfield studios is working on a new game!

What Do We Know Then?

UPDATE: Colin Campbell who worked on Jedi: Fallen Order and Mass Effect has signed up as a level artist. Notice the Space theme of both of these games!

In this tweet, xbox news has confirmed that ZOS is working on a a new IP built on a brand new game engine and it has been in development since at least 2018!

And in this tweet, Lead graphics Engineer at ZeniMax Online Studios , Alex Tardif, has said “Not much to say about this yet, but its been so much fun creating a brand new engine. With how rare this kind of thing is nowadays, I feel fortunate to be at this studio while we invest heavily in our own technology.”


Does this mean that some of that 7.5 billion dollars from the Microsoft purchase is going to be spent on a new in-house engine? It looks that way.

It also looks like things a ramping up in a big way as job postings for this project have picked up as well.

Will this Engine be the Future of ZOS games or Bethesda Games or both?

I can’t help but speculate that Bethesda might use such an engine for some of its games as well. One of the issues that troubled Fallout76 was the fact that it was built on the same Single-Player Creation engine, which was based on the Gamebryo engine which was used to develop Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind back in 2002.

Bethesda had Battlecry attempt to integrate quake netcode into fallout 4’s engine to turn it into a multiplayer engine. This created a slew of fascinating problems that arise when you take an engine, designed to populate a world based around a single player (dubbed “atlas” as he was responsible for holding up the entire world) and convert it to something that populates the world for multiple players, in multiple places, at the same time. History would suggest that Fallout76 perhaps could have benefited from a new engine like the one ZOS is working on.

Starfield, Elder Scrolls VI and Beyond

This same Gambryo Engine (now called Creation Engine) from 2002 is being overhauled once again to build out Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI as mentioned by Todd Howard.

With each new console cycle, we evolved together. From bringing mods to consoles with Fallout 4, now over a billion downloads, to the latest technologies fueling Xbox Series X/S. These new systems are optimized for the vast worlds we love to create, with generational leaps not just in graphics, but CPU and data streaming as well. It’s led to our largest engine overhaul since Oblivion, with all new technologies powering our first new IP in 25 years, Starfield, as well as The Elder Scrolls VI.

Todd Howard

Bethesda has done an amazing job of taking this old engine and repeatedly redefining what it is capable of with one upgrade after another. They have invested in it, and upgraded it relentlessly through the years. But at some point a new Engine needs to be built, as 20 years in the gaming industry is an incredible amount of time to repurpose anything, let alone the backbone of your franchise.

Will this new ZOS engine be part of that solution?

ZOS’ New Engine

It will be interesting to see what this means. Will ZOS use this new engine to create a Starfield MMO, or simply a Starfield multiplayer game? Will Bethesda leverage it to create Starfield II or Elder Scrolls VII? Creating a brand new engine from the ground up is a massive investment, and a massive undertaking. We don’t yet know what they plan to do with this, but with as much as they’ve decided to invest in it, we know its going to be huge. Having an engine built from the ground up for online play could allow for more successful online-spinoffs for future Elder Scrolls, Starfield, and Fallout games. Or perhaps its simply being built for the sole purpose supporting ZOS’ next MMO. Time will tell!