You know what I hate? Complaining. Yes, I understand the intense irony of that claim, but it’s absolutely true. I know that most of my blog posts are nothing but barely concealed rants about the smallest details relating to the series, ranging from complaining about swimming mechanics to lengthy tirades over a simple question, but that’s not the kind of person I truly like to be. I don’t like complaining about things I don’t like, I think it’s unhealthy for the mind to be focused on the negative. So in a daring move to free myself from these corrupting impulses, I spent the last few months meditating on any blog topic that would not revolve around some niggling little issue. So after that prolonged absence, I have returned with more minor issues to drone on about. Today, specifically on my mixed feelings about the twentieth anniversary of the Elder Scrolls franchise. See the rest after the break.
On the tenth anniversary of the Elder Scrolls franchise (or at least as close to the anniversary as they could get, as the series was officially release on “Sometime in March of 1994”), Bethesda Softworks, in their infinite wisdom, re-released Arena for free. This is was a really nice gesture, it allowed for people to actually play a game that would had otherwise largely lost to time otherwise. Yeah, it was released “as is”, but it still made it available to a larger audience, and made it alright for people to create nice preconfigured packages to make the game easy to run for those with a passing curiosity about them. During the time between Arena being released for free and the fifteenth anniversary, they claimed that they would not do the same for Daggerfall, however. So in 2009, when the rough fifteenth anniversary arrived, they decided to go back on their word and give away copies of Daggerfall at the cost of the bandwidth to download it. Note that that Beth Blog announcement actually came in July, several months later than the best guess of March. I guess you can’t blame them for missing the correct month to honor an anniversary of a game that came out sometime in March of 1994, when it was supposed to come out for the holidays of 1993.
Now, when I saw the announcement where they released Daggerfall for free on the fifteenth anniversary, after the free release of Arena on the tenth anniversary, a thought came into my mind that I’m sure I wasn’t alone in having. On the twentieth anniversary of the series, Bethesda would make another old ES game freely available to the public at large. And so I waited, with bated breath, for the release of either Battlespire or Morrowind (if they were feeling very generous, and wanted to continue ignoring the spin-off games). With this in mind, I was extremely excited when I saw Todd Howard post an update to the Beth Blog with a retrospective of the last two decades. And then, to mark this grand event, Bethesda released a new wallpaper (pictured) of an unidentifiable fortress somewhere on Tamriel (probably?). Despite some discussion over the matter, we never could figure out any specifics about the location that could be confirmed. The twentieth anniversary was marked with a rather touching personal message about Todd Howard’s experiences with the series, a definitely pretty but impossible to identify fortress probably related to the setting but we have no real way to confirm this at the moment, and not that free game I was hoping for…
Did I really just write a blog post to complain about not getting a free game that I had little reason to expect ever becoming free? Oh wow, I really do need to find less whiny topics. I swear, it’ll happen someday. Probably.
To be honest, I don’t mind them not being released for free, it’s their property, they can do with it as they want. It would have been a nice tradition to continue, but I’m not that worried about that. What I do worry about is the possibility of these games being lost as time moves on. The series is now over twenty years old. Next year, it’ll turn twenty-one, be allowed to drink legally, and any memory of these old titles will be completely lost. Entire portions of the series, in essence TES Travels and Battlespire and Redguard, will be lost to time if they aren’t released again in some fashion. And yes, while most of these titles are not the most fondly remembered games in the series, the same is true for Arena and Daggerfall, which were not the runaway hits the more recent games have been, and have not aged well to boot. Still, Arena and Daggerfall deserve to be preserved due to the impact the Elder Scrolls franchise has had since then, and so do these games. Now, I understand that giving away games for free doesn’t make much sense when you’re in the business of selling them, but that’s just the thing. Bethesda is not selling them, and it appears they’re making no effort towards making them available at any point in the future. If the games were to be released freely to the world, with Bethesda doing nothing but releasing the games as they are, they wouldn’t see anymore lost sales than they are by not providing any method of purchasing them. But if the games absolutely have to be sold at some cost, surely it wouldn’t be too impossible to make them available on a digital platform such as GOG?
Whatever you decide to do Bethesda, please just let these games come back in some fashion. And Todd, I don’t know where this series is going either, but let’s make sure we don’t forget where we’ve already been.