Category: "Elder Scrolls"

The Folly of Godhood

  05:47:32 pm, by AKB   , 1276 words  
Viewed 8668 times since 01/18/14
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, UESP

I do not want to write this. As a rule, I hate touching on this topic more than it is absolutely necessary. But I already did the teaser in the last entry, so I guess it's unavoidable now.

The Champion of Cyrodiil, the player character from Oblivion, is absolutely the most problematic hero this series has ever created. Why, you might be asking? Because the developers had the neat idea to allow the player to become The Sovereign of The Shivering Isles, Lord of the Never-There, The Fourth Corner of the House of Troubles, the Gentleman with the Cane, the Prince of Madness, The Mad God. I am of course referring to the Champion of Cyrodiil taking up the mantle of Sheogorath during the events of the Shivering Isles expansion for Oblivion.

It should be obvious to anyone that having one of your gaming avatars become a bona fide god in the context of the setting would be problematic. But making him into one of the "eviler" gods? It's madness. Rather literally so in this case, actually. Unlike the Nerevarine, who basically just exited Tamriel stage right, Sheogorath is one of the most integral elements of the world, and is one of the few reoccurring figures in the games. So not only did Bethesda make it so that the Champion of Cyrodiil would remain relevant in the future (as he would surely already be), but they also put him in a position where it would be rather hard for them to exclude him from future games. The Nerevarine, even without that little detail of him leaving the continent entirely, didn't mean we would ever see him again. All they would have to do is not have us visit Morrowind, or if they did, not a part of it where he currently was. The Daedric Princes, on the other hand, can easily pop up anywhere.

Considering the fact that Sheogorath had appeared in all of the games in the main series since his introduction, there is no good way to write him out of newer games. While there was a small way for them to avoid the old hero, by having Jyggalag take his place in the cast of often seen Daedra, that even would not have avoided the events of the Shivering Isles entirely, since the return of Jyggalag is one of the biggest parts of that expansion.

To speak tangentially here, for just a moment, the absence of Jyggalag from Skyrim did surprise me. It's hard to just ignore godhood, that's the issue with making a character that we controlled into one, as Bethesda can't ignore Sheogorath as easily as some inexplicably anonymous hero. I had figured that he would have shown up, in some quest where you help him branch out into the mortal realm again. But that doesn't happen, in fact, no one even mentions him a single time in Skyrim. Here's hoping we'll see our new orderly Prince make his return in the next game that isn't an MMO.

Even before the release of Skyrim, the Champion of Cyrodiil was causing problems due to this weird situation. As becoming an insane Daedric Prince isn't the ideal end for a character that you made to most people, a lot of fans of the series argued over the canonicity of him being the Mad God. The policy on the UESP is that all quests that do not contradict are assumed to be completed, with conflicting paths being mentioned as being so. But most people didn't want to listen to that, so they argued over it every way possible. Everything from fan theories (including such cliches as it just being a dream, or your character went crazy in the Shivering Isles (which is basically the exact same scenario we currently have, only with Sheogorath still being the old Sheogorath)), to demands that we change the policy, were thrown at us so that this wasn't put on the wiki.

Once Skyrim hit store shelves, the issues with Sheogorath grew so much worse. Bethesda included some lines of dialogue that clearly suggest that he is or was the Champion of Cyrodiil: "You are far too hard on yourself, my dear, sweet, homicidally insane Pelagius. What would the people do without you? Dance? Sing? Smile? Grow old? You are the best Septim that's ever ruled. Well, except for that Martin fellow, but he turned into a dragon god, and that's hardly sporting... You know, I was there for that whole sordid affair. Marvelous time! Butterflies, blood, a Fox, a severed head... Oh, and the cheese! To die for." (note that it is hard to attribute what the butterflies, cheese, or blood may be referring to, as there are so many options for them. However, the original line of dialogue, "You know, I was there for that whole sordid affair. What a marvelous time! I remember blood, and cheese, and there was a severed head." is much less referential than the one that was used) And people went nutters over that, arguing over how we might be interpreting it wrong, or that they meant Sheogorath was there in spirit, or anything to get around saying that the CoC went crazy. But I won't linger on those arguments more than I have already, they were rather not fun, and I would hate to spark them again.

The insane idea that the fans are not only the starring role, but also get a say in how the story goes is the unique problem to the RPG genre. There really is not a good way to handle these "used" characters. You can't write them out of the story, just say they went away, or have them remain in the story without some problems arising. After all, the player is not controlling a character, the player is the character. Yet, all the while the player is dictating the shape of the leading role, the development team clearly had some ideas on who that character is supposed to be. They usually express this through later decisions on which one of several possible actions occurred, or just disallowing certain behaviors. For example, the main character in the recent games did not kill children, for any reason (note that I say recent games, the Agent from Daggerfall cannot say the same). Still, while you don't want your fans to have too much input onto the role, by putting them in charge of it, you're going to step on some toes when you say they didn't remove the liver of every grandmother in the world, or even make it so they can't. That is the disconnect between what the player can do with a character, and who that character is. I could go around slaughtering every single nice person in the world as publicly as I want to, but that doesn't mean we have to say that the game character spent the next millennium in a prison cell for the murder of every citizen in the entire country. That wouldn't make any sense.

The historical protagonist just has to ignore all that messing about in between the quests, for the most part. It's hard to have the player's character from another game show up in another one if you do anything else, and you don't intend to piss people off. While some people may not like it, there really isn't a cleaner way to run things available. The only real issue with this approach is what happens when the story has split paths for you to take, which is coincidentally the number one issue facing the Dovahkiin, and is the next topic I am going to discuss.

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Why We Don't Know What Happened to the Hero

  12:35:51 am, by AKB   , 867 words  
Viewed 4381 times since 01/16/14
Categories: Welcome, Games, Elder Scrolls

As I have previously written, we don't get to see or hear about our hero very often after we controlled them. While I briefly touched on the issue with talking about what happened to the old heroes, I'm going to go into that a little more now, as promised.

As we know, the misuse of a single pronoun to describe the Nerevarine (the hero from Morrowind) in Skyrim caused quite a bit of controversy. But that wouldn't even be the first time that one of the sequels caused an issue with the Nerevarine, Oblivion also got in on that action. During some routine wandering around the breathtakingly beautiful province of Cyrodiil, you will eventually run into two NPCs having a conversation in which the following line of dialogue will be uttered: "Rumor has it the Nerevarine has left Morrowind on an expedition to Akavir, and has not been heard from since." And that single bit of text ignores the single most important duty of the Nerevarine, to be the Protector of Morrowind.

At the end of Morrowind's main quest, you have successfully defeated Dagoth Ur (which always came off as somewhat tragic to me, but that's not the topic for today) and stopped The Blight from ravaging Morrowind. For your amazing accomplishments, Vivec (if you didn't kill him already) will give you the title of "Protector of Morrowind": "The blight is gone, and we have survived. Now we must dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the Temple. And you must dedicate yourself to your responsibilities as Protector of Morrowind. There is much to do. You still have Kagrenac's Tools, potent weapons, and the wit and experience of a proven hero. The Tribunal and the Temple are happy to yield to you the duties of fighting the enemies of Morrowind."

So to summarize, the Nerevarine was entrusted with the safety of all of Morrowind, and then promptly left Morrowind for good. A measly six years later, the Oblivion Crisis happens and decimates Morrowind. Good job, oh mighty Protector of Morrowind! I hope Akavir was nice. But after such tragedies, surely the Nerevarine would return to his (look at me, abusing pronouns just like Bethesda!) people, right? 4E 5 would once again continue the nasty string of bad luck for the Dunmer with the Red Year, and the Nerevar Reborn seemingly out of the picture for good. For someone who was supposedly the reincarnation of one the greatest Dunmer leaders ever, the Nerevarine left them in a really, really bad way.

I personally believed that the departure of the Nerevarine had more to do with getting him out of the way for the Champion of Cyrodiil, but considering the countless anguishes that were tossed at the Dunmer people immediately afterwords, it just feels like the Nerevarine was more a part of the problem for the Dark Elves than any kind of savior.

While I find that in light of the future of his people, the disappearance of the Nerevarine seems to be too poorly thought out, I can't help but wonder if we wouldn't be more upset if we did not get an explanation for why he wasn't there. If the Nerevarine was just ignored for the sequels, wouldn't there be more of an uproar? Let's think of how that series of events goes, without that single line of dialogue explaining what happened to your old character. We hear nothing about the Nerevarine, and Vivec disappears alongside him. So the Oblivion Crisis happens, cities like Ald'ruhn are destroyed by Daedra, and apparently the Nerevarine just doesn't do anything. The Ingenium is created, and the people of Morrowind are actively sacrificed to this dark machine, while the Nerevarine remains aloof to their fate. Argonians invade Morrowind, but the Nerevarine doesn't take on his role of old and lead the defense. A mass exodus from Morrowind occurs, while the Nerevarine does not help manage the relief efforts. By not explaining why the Nerevarine wasn't there, one of the fan favorite heroes becomes one of the most despicable figures in ES history through simple inaction.

The "ignored" Nerevarine, despite having the same list of crimes as the one we have, is just simply so much more unlikable as his lack of action would go unexplained. That is to not say I agree that the Nerevarine should have just disappeared, I would have preferred him to remain involved in events, even if we don't get to see him again, but the Akavir explanation is better than none at all. Barely, but it is still preferable to me.

Any issue with the hero from Morrowind still has nothing on the sheer chaos brought on by the Champion of Cyrodiil's fate, however. And that's the topic of the next entry in this look at the fates of our heroes, after we control them. As a little note, I'm sure you noticed I skipped over the Agent from Daggerfall. That's because his or her fate is more clear cut, on account of his or her death at the end of his or her adventure. Bit tragic, but at least it doesn't leave room for a few hundred words worth of ranting about what he or she should be doing.

Whatever Happened to the Heroes?

  12:54:48 pm, by AKB   , 802 words  
Viewed 5000 times since 01/02/14
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, UESP

What happens when you take a blank slate of a character, and you make that non-character the main character, or at least the character from whom's perspective the story is experienced? You get a bunch of people who get extremely attached to the character. When you let them design the character as well, they feel like they own that character. Character creation is one of the most appealing parts of the Elder Scrolls franchise. Getting to lovingly sculpt your virtual avatar into the exact shape you want is a great bonding activity for the player and player character. Once you're done, you have invested some time into the development of the person you'll be controlling, and thereby making you invested in it. There is no issue with creating character investment by having the player generate the character, unless that character is in anyway important to the game world.

There have been quite a handful of heroes in Elder Scrolls games, so I'm only going to talk about the first one in-depth today. I'm of course referring to the hero from Arena, the Eternal Champion. The Eternal Champion did not escape general notice, even if he is described as being "enigmatic", or as "courageous, indefatigable, and forever nameless" (his name was Talin, at least in the game manual).

I'm not sure how it is exactly possible for his general traits to not be recorded. Uriel Septim VII honored his champion immediately after he was freed, saying he would have a place at his side. So did Uriel lie? Did he try to hush up the events? And if so, he did a terrible job of it. His biography mentions the events quite clearly, there was plenty of public documentation of the event. I just don't know how a person, who traveled across the entire continent, talking with countless people along the way, and even acknowledged by the most powerful ruler in the land after he rescued him, could not be famous. Or what about his involvement with Queen Barenziah and King Eadwyre, who were responsible for the information the Champion received through Ria Silamane? Considering his mentions in relation to the general history of the Empire, and his involvement with some of the most important historical figures of his time, how did he just disappear?

Let's assume that the Eternal Champion, Talin, was a total recluse after the events of the game. He never did anything notable again. Or let's even say he died immediately after freeing the Emperor somehow. He just falls dead after the end of the game. He was still, while living and active in the events of the world, known by a huge number of people throughout the world. Arena absolutely required you to talk to random characters to find the dungeons where the pieces of the Staff of Chaos were hidden. And not just random people, the mages of the College, various rulers, people who would remember you and would likely even keep a record of you. Even if all of these very important people did not bother keeping any kind of record of you, after the defeat of Jagar Tharn, no one came forward and said they knew you?

If I had to guess, there is no rational lore explanation available. The real answer is that Bethesda Softworks didn't want to define this character the player controlled and made, even if it means the game world needs to ignore the player character. They didn't want to take that bit of fun away from the player, believing that however they would define the character, they would piss off almost everyone, even people who made their version of the character in the described way. And there assumption was correct. One of the most common issues on this site is whenever we have to mention any of the heroes in the game, people will mess with it. They'll change character titles, character details, and will constantly argue about any policy relating to our management of them.

While I'm going to talk about this more later, let's look at the hero from Morrowind, the Nerevarine. Neloth, a character who would most likely know the Nerevarine for most ways you could complete the main quest, called him "him" in his special return in Dragonborn. Not "him" if you were also a him, but him if you were male or female. And people were upset, even going so far as to call it a bug or an oversight. While it even kind of makes sense if he was male as his past incarnation, Indoril Nerevar, was, fans were still upset over having the option of him being female later called wrong. It is just impossible to give these characters, well, character, without upsetting the people who would want to see them further developed.

Item Pages

  12:55:24 am, by AKB   , 763 words  
Viewed 3951 times since 01/01/14
Categories: Elder Scrolls, UESP

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone familiar with the series this site is dedicated to when I say that Elder Scrolls games have a lot of items. How many? Well, enough that we don't even give a second thought to the majority of them. When you have several hundred of any type of item to consider, the distinct traits of specific items become unimportant. Even in a small set of items, the redundancies begin building up rapidly. For example, the Lunar Weapons set (I am using Skyrim examples for the purposes of this blog entry, simply because it is the latest game at time of writing). While there is some nice lore around the items as a group, there isn't much interesting about individual versions. Or there is an issue with individual items being unique is one or several ways, but the item itself being completely uninteresting besides that. An example of this are the Gloves of the Pugilist. The linked item has a unique enchantment, but there just isn't much else to say about it. So it might seem obvious that we shouldn't have pages for these items, they should just be on some kind of giant table with the rest of the boring objects in the game, right?

Throughout our site's history, the answer to the above question was quite obvious. Items weren't really worth that much of a fuss over. You were either an artifact, or you just weren't important. And this neglect of the huge number of garbage items worked, at least for the editors. It simplified a lot of our work, as we wouldn't have to write an article for generic helmet number 146, when we could be working on a lot more interesting pages and projects. Yet, our readers saw things differently. One of the most frequent requests I have ever seen us get is for us to give more item in-depth coverage. With these frequent suggestions in mind, I began a lengthy look at the pages we have for items. My examination of them revealed that we had two different kinds of item pages, the "generic" item page style (example, note that I have never worked on the linked to page, and have not really looked at in my time here ever), and the "artifact" item page style (example, note that I am responsible for the current set-up of that article, and am quite proud of it). The prior example is just a table of the relevant items, getting the necessary stats out and nothing else. The latter example, on the other hand, is more of a hub page, it just lists some key facts about the item, while linking to a more complete page on the subject.

Obviously our readers seem to prefer the style of the second one, it provides some actual content while also allowing for some simple organization. The clearer organization of the second style is better for our editors, however. Not only does it save editor time, as bots can easily produce those tables in many cases, it is also just less redundant. The vast majority of the items on those generic pages are just that, generic. We could create pages for all of the items listed on those pages, but not only would people probably not see them, they would be nothing but cut-and-paste copies of each other with a few words changed each time. I know this would be true, considering that this cut-and-paste method is what I use when writing new item pages. It's just the easiest way to go about it, since not that much information changes each time. While I think the "artifact" style is visually impressive and the preferred choice by our readers, it just isn't practical for all cases.

So if we want to please our fans by providing more item articles, while also not just producing pure drivel, a new balance between these two styles need to be found. While a lot of generic items will never have pages of their own that are anything more than a redirect, we do seem to need some more item pages. So more of the item groups, like unique items or quest items, need to be given the "artifact" makeover. And that's what I'm currently working on. While we need to consider what we will do about items on a bigger scale in the future, I am currently sorting through it and working on what I think is appropriate.

Just a quick update on what I'm up to. Oh, and also have a happy New Year.

A wild blogpost appeared! Nocte used Masterball!

  02:33:21 pm, by Nocte Canticum   , 173 words  
Viewed 5784 times since 12/30/13
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls

Wow it's been a while since anyone posted on the blog... So I bought myself a new computer recently, and an iPad, and a 3DSXL. With all these new toys, I've had so many games available I cannot decide what to play. Eventually I picked up Pokemon X, the latest instalment in the long-lived series. It felt like any other Pokemon game does ("Are you a boy? Or a girl?"), until I discovered there was character customisation.

Character customisation is so incredibly important to me. It's fine if there is none at all (take the Legend of Zelda series, for example). But if customisation is implemented, it needs to be done WELL. Skyrim, for example, does it fairly well. If I can get my character to look at least somewhat similar to what she should be, I am content. And poor character customisation can be immersion-breaking for me - better to have it not at all than have some half-assed attempt.

That's all for now. Next time I'll talk about voice acting. :D