On Our Lore Standards
The UESP's lore section is always a work in progress, and we encourage people to contribute to it. News flash: Perfection Isn't Required! Add as you see fit! We're here to help you add reliable and verifiable info, not hinder you.
Anyway, the following are my thoughts on what we're trying to do with the lore section. TL;DR, unless you're bored.
Creating the lore of the Elder Scrolls is an interactive process. Always has been, to some degree or another. The developers look to what the fans are thinking and taking away from their games, and it influences how they make content moving forward. They are collecting stories, information, how we view the world they created and are continuing to create, and then picking the bits they liked best. You may have noticed allusions to this process by the developers, in-game and otherwise.
The problem is, not all lore is the same. There's official lore, and unofficial lore. Notice, I'm not talking about whether something is "canon". Look at the lore guidelines. There's nothing about "canon" in there. Rather, we're talking in terms of in-game lore and out-of-game lore (OOG). "In-game" in practice means "official", as we have treated anything which has Bethesda's formal, official "stamp of approval" as "in-game" for our purposes. The novels, game manuals, pocket guides, and spin-off games, for instance. (Update - the guidelines have been revised to acknowledge this official/unofficial distinction.)
Then, there's unofficial lore. This is stuff which the greater community is familiar with, most notably the works of the prolific TES contract writer and former developer Michael Kirkbride, but which has not been expressly incorporated into the games or other official supplements to the game world. Many of the people here love it, myself included. Many excellent sites cater to this unofficial lore, and I will avoid mentioning names only because I don't want to insult anyone by omitting them. Go out there, find them, absorb their stories, pick the stuff you like best, and make that your Elder Scrolls. This is your "monkey truth".
Time and again, the developers have acknowledged bits and pieces of monkey truth. It is by definition the stuff so good that it should have been in the games, so naturally, they feel need to incorporate it in some way moving forward. So go out there are pick it, you monkeys!
But catering to this unofficial lore has never been our purpose. We're here to provide accurate and verifiable information.
This policy has been criticized, because so much monkey truth has proven to be "accurate and verifiable", and it seems like understanding the Elder Scrolls requires some understanding of it. Sometimes, if you want to understand what something in-game is referring to, you need to know something they have never made explicit in the games.
This is why we allow some OOG citations, preferably when they have the blessing of the community, when it helps to explain in-game content.
But sometimes it feels like a disservice to a topic to include some of its points but not all. And some OOG writings are more widely known and cherished by the Elder Scrolls fanbase than the finer points of, say, Battlespire lore. So why not document everything? Short answer: because the game developers did not see fit to do so.
Apparently, when Jimeee explained to Michael Kirkbride why it was unlikely his stellar OOG epic c0da would be documented by the UESP, he replied, "Whatever, wiki-man. Your site always plays catch up. It always has."
A valid criticism. But also a compliment, in a way. The UESP is not really concerned with documenting where the Elder Scrolls is going. We're here to document where it has been. It necessarily entails that we are always striving to catch up, and never inventing.
While many of us here are big fans of the monkey truth and we all have our own personal headcanon, this site is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the content. The UESP is like pings of sonar between submarines. With every revision, we say "This is where I'm at. Where are you all now?" Imagine if we all included our own OOG headcanon into the quest guides. No, we couldn't knowingly allow anything that was not accurate and verifiable by the standards of the community in those. And it can't be any different in the lore section. We compromise this only when we're forced to, when doing so is necessary to provide contextual information on something which the developers have not adequately explained in-game. It is ancillary to explaining the in-game content.
But why not do away with OOG altogether? All or nothing? Well, again, because we're being forced to flesh out articles. And if I have to do some necessary elaboration in an article concerning a topic which is never properly elucidated in the games, relying on Michael Kirkbride's words, official or not, is bound to be more reliable than utilizing my own personal, vague impressions.
I've heard rumors that some game developers have been known to check on us once and a while. This is both the greatest complement we could possibly receive, and terrifying, because I'm terribly aware of how much work we still need to do.
But could you blame them? Even if each person there knows every bit of past TES lore off the top of their heads (and who does?), they've got their own "Bible" of secrets about the world, I'm sure. How are they supposed to keep track of what their audience already knows and what only they know about the Elder Scrolls lore? Keep in mind, they're just a group of people, and individuals come and go with each game. How are they supposed to keep the world they've built as consistent as possible from game to game, and thereby preserve that all-important element of immersion for their RPG series?
Well, that's what the UESP lore section is here to do: we're chopping out all that unnecessary game-mechanic info which is specific to each game, and saying, "This is what we've been told, this is where we've been, as completely and as accurately as we can convey it given our limited manpower."
The only thing we need to do this job right? More people, helping the cause! So if a more consistent, vivid, immersive TES world is something you want, help us make sure that your fellow fans and possibly even the architects of your favorite series are all on the same page. Or Pages.
Comment from: jimeee [Member]
Ah yes, that encounter with the Elk was fun. The whole thread was about what “open source lore” meant and it’s implications - MK was commenting all over the place giving it the “official” stamp of approval.
The topic moved onto UESP, and several folks had it in their heads that UESP has a “deep-seated hatred” for all things not in-game. I tried to explain UESP’s stance on OOG and how C0DA is too open for it be documented on a wiki in any reasonable way. That was when MK stepped in and made that killer insult - though I must say he really doesn’t like it if you talk smack right back at him.
Great blog post. The “all or nothing?” argument is tricky when dealing with very specific MK concepts. In these cases it’s hard to draw the line, even when the words come from MK himself. I believe its one of the reasons why almost no one has touched the CHIM article with a 10 foot bargepole in a year.
I do agree that more people joining the cause would be great - but I think many find it intimidating (I certainly did a while back).
05/07/14 @ 07:51
Comment from: minor edits [Member]
I’m really worried that knowledgeable people will be scared away from contributing. That fact is, relatively few people are playing ESO at the moment, and that will likely remain true for the next seven months, at least. Even after the console release, many people (like me) will refuse to play the game until the subscription is dropped. Knowledgeable ESO players willing to take the time to disseminate info are a valuable commodity to us right now. If they get daunted by a bunch of policy mumbo-jumbo, it will really slow things down.
So if someone knows ESO stuff that hasn’t been incorporated into the lore section, I want to encourage them to simply forget the rules and dump that info where ever they see fit. People like me can take the time to sort out the formatting later. That’s the best opportunity cost: the wiki gets the raw info promptly, contributors here not actually playing ESO will have something to do, and the player gets to promptly return to his game (and hopefully will return again soon with more info).
05/10/14 @ 14:46
Comment from: jimeee [Member]
I think there are several reasons why lore contributions are generally a little slow, and it’s not just policy. From my experience in lurking and commenting on various TES forums, it usually a few repeating things I have personally noticed:
1) Some people have had a bad experience previously. Some people have tried to add various OOG pieces, only for it to be reverted. The ensuing back and forth sometimes leads to an argument, so they simply leave with the impression that UESP is very territorial and won’t editing bother again.
2) It seems many of the knowledgeable lore buffs in the wider community just aren’t playing ESO (at least when compared to Skyrim). Some are outright are choosing to ignore ESO lore altogether.
3) I see a good number of knowledgeable lore folks out there who just don’t like the official/unofficial stance of UESP. These are generally the folks who are in heavy into MK/C0DA and the “everything is now canon” movement. I think they prefer writing their own “C0DA” pieces, rather than get involved in wiki stuff.
4) Editing a wiki is sometimes a pain in the arse - no doubt about it. I think all the syntax/template stuff can put people off. If only we had some sort of wiki visual editor.
05/13/14 @ 12:36