The UESP has expanded tremendously over the last few years, almost too fast for even an administrator like me to keep up all the time. As it turns out, when your site doubles the number of articles it has in less than a year, some people might lose the script. It doesn’t help that we haven’t been exactly diligent with recording our site’s history. Okay, technically we’ve recorded every single thing we’ve ever done, but that doesn’t count. I want an easy to read version. But when you’re the nth generation user of a website which has gone through several different versions, additions, and changes, it’s hard to retroactively fix this issue. And it is an issue, we might have really grown in more directions than we can comfortably track. For example, were you, dear reader, aware that the UESP has a Youtube Channel? Because I wasn’t. I AM AN ADMINISTRATOR OF THIS SITE, AND I DID NOT KNOW WE HAVE A YOUTUBE ACCOUNT. Thankfully, no one else noticed it, but that channel is just the ultimate sign of how some confusion may crop up as a site expands if it does not keep a user friendly site history up to date. For goodness sake, our website is almost 21, in a little while it’ll be old enough to drink… and I already made that joke in the last blog entry.
But in the interest in not doing another rant, I’m going to try to do a basic overview of the UESP’s history. I’ll give it an honesty try, at least. So here’s A Brief History of the UESP From the Point of View of Someone Who Missed the Majority of it, But His Parts Are the Best Anyway So That Doesn’t Really Matter, which you can see after the break.
It goes without saying that UESP’s history is hard to entirely keep track of due to it running in some form or another for almost twenty years now. Well, I guess it goes with saying, since I basically said that in the introduction and the previous sentence. But if you were to start UESP’s history anywhere, you shouldn’t go farther than our founder, Dave Humphrey. I guess you could also go back farther to the beginning of the game series we’re dedicated to, The Elder Scrolls: Arena… I’m really bad at this, sorry. But as he describes it in his official account of it, the roots of the UESP start after he discovered and enjoyed Arena, read about The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, and decided to start a FAQ about it. In the Fall of 1995, in keeping with ES tradition of not recording the official dates of the start of things, the UESP was officially founded. For the first decade of its life, the UESP bounced between different websites, before officially finding its home in January of 2004 at its current address. February of 2005 saw us transition from our old format into the current wiki format, however. If you’re curious about what we looked like back then, well, here it is. Not much to look at now, but it’s nice to see how far we’ve come.
Work with setting up the wiki version went smoothly enough, you can read about the early affairs of the site here. It might be off the current topic, but looking through that is quite a bit of fun. I like the fact that the last portion of that article, while guessing the release date incorrectly, correctly determines the location of the next game back in 2008, a good three years before its release, and two before its announcement.
Modern Form Takes Shape
It was in the same year that the UESP officially took its start towards becoming the wiki we know and love today that the grand site tradition of starting new branches of it began. November of 2005 saw our forums be added to the family, whether we had a concrete use for them or not, they became the newest branch of our website. The forums history was rather spotty at the start, but they’ve since taken off, so I guess it worked out. Well, not at the start, as evidenced by things like this 44 page thread on how inactive the forums were. In a similar vein, we also started our first IRC early in 2006, which have been a greatly loved portion of the site since then.
While the UESP worked slowly but surely in its earliest days to put together its first article, it’s relatively easy to find the starting date of the true beginning of the march forward from the old FAQ into the behemoth we’ve become today. March 24th, 2006 saw a massive increase in site activity that would never let up. Coincidentally this was also the date of the European release of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Our roots may take you back to Arena, but we truly blossomed with Oblivion (again, taking our cues from the ES series). What followed were a few years in which we’d finally start to get a knack for this whole wiki thing. This was the game that saw me officially join the site, just two days short of the 2011 New Year.
The release of Oblivion, despite causing an increase in site activity that never went back down to the levels before it, also introduced us to the slow periods between games, where mega projects blossom, and our best work is quietly and tirelessly produced. Basically all of the first major site-wide projects, DRP, ICP, MRP, OBNPCRP, and SIRP to give some examples, were launched and thrived during this period. The extra activity Oblivion brought is what turned the site that used to be filled with articles like this into the one that produced this kind of article on a regular basis.
The first slump after Oblivion also saw our blog start, which you are currently reading. Additionally, it also saw the start of our much beloved Elder Scrolls Maps with a map of Cyrodiil produced using Google Maps API. We also retroactively made one for Morrowind, although, tragically, not Arena or Daggerfall. Lastly, we started providing better coverage for the series companion books, which I have, to my poor fortune, never gotten a hold of any of them, so can’t provide many details on.
Along Came Skyrim
If Oblivion was our first true spike in activity, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was a spike through our heart. Yes, Skyrim killed the UESP by merely releasing. But, as you should realize by the fact that you are reading this, we got better, and began the lengthy process of doing to Skyrim what we did to the games before it. The work on Skyrim was my first release, and it was also some of the most work and fun I’ve ever had. To this day, we’re still pumping out new, lovely articles for Skyrim, and even finding new ones to make. Yes, I linked to an article I made, shut up. It’s my recounting of our history, you’re lucky Dave’s involvement with it got mentioned instead of how much I bench press. You want some examples of Dave’s involvement? Fine. He made some pretty cool maps of Skyrim and Solstheim, and a bunch of other very technical jobs that I can barely comprehend, but seem to be vital to the site not dying. He also became our first official employee, which is only appropriate since it was his idea in the first place.
In an effort to mimic how Skyrim caused the site to explode, we decided to essentially double the extra branches of the site by adding on a Google+ page (which is what caused the creation of the previously linked to Youtube channel, since Google decided to screw around with that so all of Google is one account), a Twitter account (hello if you were brought here via the automatic tweet these blog posts put out, by the way!), a Facebook page, and a Tumblr blog.
The Elder Scrolls Online and the Future of the UESP
The Elder Scrolls Online caused our lovely site to go from around 19,000 articles before its release to over 36,000 in less than a year. The UESP went through the growth spurt that we’ve come to expect with new games, even if it was a much trickier game to cover since we had to work all the harder since we did not have access to the single player development tools, or even the ability to pause the game. The UESP marches forward, even if we neglect some portions of the site at times (including this one!), our wiki has always remained the heart of the operation and never stopped the pace it gained with Oblivion. We’ve only improved our stride.
So where does that leave us, in this modern times when an administrator like myself could suddenly realize we have a Youtube channel we were unaware of even existing? Well, why don’t you tell us? Ever since we’ve converted over into being a wiki, the UESP’s future has always been tied to what its users want. After all, we’re no longer some FAQ on Usenet, but a wiki ran and operated by the desire of its editors to create the best guide to the Elder Scrolls we can. Yeah, we’ve played it by the ear quite often, and we have just as much an idea as to where we’re heading as Todd Howard knows where the series is going, but it’s worked out pretty alright so far I think. I’ve enjoyed it a good deal, at least.
So here’s to our upcoming twentieth anniversary, whenever that is! We aren’t entirely sure, exactly. Sometime in the Fall of 1995, though!