Category: "Rants"

On Our Lore Standards

  03:13:00 pm, by   , 1085 words  
Viewed 12893 times since 04/13/14
Categories: UESP, Rants

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.

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Zenimax recommends out-of-game trading site

  03:06:00 pm, by   , 97 words  
Viewed 10272 times since 04/11/14
Categories: Rants

Don't use Twitter? Then you're a good person. Kidding, obviously. I don't know about you, but I'm still hoping this particularly vapid social media fad will die out. Bunch of narcissists, activists with agendas, and generally stupid ... well, twits. No thanks. And by that, I mean that I offer no thanks to the people who infected the world with this crap.

But just so you're aware, Zenimax recommended the TESO Elite forums as the place to go for trading in-game ESO goods. So go see if you can pawn off all your fishing tackle and Coldharbour rags!

Ebonarm - REJECT THE RETCON

  10:45:00 pm, by   , 703 words  
Viewed 4074 times since 03/30/14
Categories: Elder Scrolls, Rants

Let me say first of all that I may be getting ahead of myself; I've only had a chance to view and experience a very small slice of ESO. I have no idea what they may have planned, and I may be misinterpreting things.

 

 

That being said, ATTACK IN THE NAME OF THE EBON ARM!! SHOW NO MERCY!!

 

 

I noticed that ESO included a new version of From The Memory Stone of Makela Leki, a wonderful, rich, often-overlooked text from the ancient days of  TES II: Daggerfall. I was delighted, as it was one of the many older texts which I had been hoping to see again in a TES game.

 

Then I read the changes in  the new version.

 

Many of the changes were insubstantial (not to mention entirely unnecessary and maybe even detrimental, but I'll save that rant for another day). But one change was substantial, and it really bugged me: they killed Ebonarm.

If you're unfamiliar with Ebonarm, see the link above. He's a God of War in the Iliac Bay region. Or at least, he was. He hasn't been mentioned since Daggerfall, but that's hardly surprising. Many, many things have disappeared from TES, only to return with gusto a few years later. That is what many of us have always loved about TES: the integrity and detail of the vast, strange world it presents to us. Almost every little thing about it seems to be carefully thought out and meticulously incorporated (almost; spare me the list, lore masters). The deeper down the rabbit hole you go, the more wonders you will find; that is TES. So naturally, on the wiki, we presume things remain "true" from game to game unless and until they are controverted.

Well, with ESO, Ebonarm's existence is now controverted. We've all been busy with ESO preparations, so I didn't even notice the absence of Ebonarm until I saw that mentions of him were actively omitted from Memory Stone of Makela Leki. But, looking back, I realized that Ebonarm's not mentioned in Varieties of Faith in Tamriel, or anywhere else I could find where a mention of a god of war would be expected. He has been written out of TES.

NO.

I've had plenty to grumble about with ESO (see Legoless' forum discussion and my previous rant), but it's mostly been over relatively small mistakes and similarly inconsequential changes. But this is different. The only gods I can think of in a similar situation are Seth, a god from Arena who has not been heard from since (most likely an abandoned concept), and Sai, a god of luck whose story is somewhat intertwined with Ebonarm's (meaning that if Ebonarm has been erased, Sai is most likely gone, too).

But unlike Seth, Ebonarm is actually an interesting character, and one with significant backstory. Take a look at the books The Ebon Arm and Oelander's Hammer. He's an enemy of all Daedric Princes. There were temples dedicated to him in TES II, for ****s sake. More importantly, he has room to grow. It's not just what they're throwing out that I find objectionable, but what they're failing to add. Ebonarm's a diamond in the rough, filled with potential. And what I expect, nay, demand, from The Elder Scrolls series is that they polish their diamonds, rather than chuck them into the trash.

I was resigned to simply add this to the list of black eyes ESO has given to the lore, until Pilaf the Defiler inspired me to fight back. So here we are. Don't tacitly accept the end of Ebonarm. Demand an explanation! Push for a reversal! Next time Zenimax wants to have a Q&A, chant the name of the Black Knight. When they ask what you would like to see, request the ebony-clad ginger with the mightiest of swordarms. Fight for the Black Knight. Shout from the rooftops that we're mad as hell, and we're not gonna take it anymore!

 

 

Or, at least, add this userbox to your user page.

 

Pilaf also pointed me to this dissertation on Ebonarm from IceFireWarden over at the illustrious Imperial Library. Speculative, but definitely worth a read.

 

And now for something completely different, courtesy of AddictedtoMorrowind on the forums:

Thanks for reading

AKB's Auto Korrect Blog: Will There be Another Elder Scrolls Game?

  07:02:00 pm, by AKB   , 714 words  
Viewed 3058 times since 03/27/14
Categories: Elder Scrolls, UESP, Rants
What it all comes down to

Does Bethesda like money?

Seems like a simple answer, right? Yes, obviously. While people never ask that question, people seem to have extreme doubts over whether or not Bethesda is willing to make the games that just so happen to make them that money they love so dearly. As long as there is more money to be made making Elder Scrolls than there is in not making them, we will continue to see Elder Scrolls games. A better question to ask is if Bethesda has enough other projects on the side to not only keep them occupied, but are profitable enough for them not to need to go back to their main franchise.

As far as I'm concerned, the real risk of Bethesda not creating new Elder Scrolls games comes solely from the fact that they have become quite successful due to them. Look at their release history, particularly the "Other Games" section. More and more often than not, especially since they started to feel the need to distinguish between the game studio portion of Bethesda and the software company, Bethesda is not making the games themselves, they are publishing them. At the time of writing, none of the forthcoming games that Bethesda is involved with are being developed by Bethesda. Like the extremely dubious company slogan we claimed they used since all the way back to the early days of the UESPWiki, the more we've played with them, the bigger they got. From Bethesda's humble origins of creating games for systems like the Atari or Commodore, they've grown into one of the largest software companies in America.

So is there a reasonable risk that Bethesda will simply move away from Elder Scrolls games? Well, no and yes. No company is ever going to just up and abandon valuable intellectual property like ES, but they might take a more hands-off approach to the series in the future. Like with the increasingly imminent next installment in the franchise, The Elder Scrolls Online. We have seen a handful of non-Bethesda ES games in the past, such as with TES Travels, a spin-off series that existed to create some really tricky trivia questions that only people with an N-Cage or empirical knowledge of the UESP might know. In fact, now that I think about it, almost all of the spin-offs have been pretty bad. If ESO sucks, at least we can say they were staying true to the franchise.

Now if you're anything like I imagine you to be (mostly constantly making lewd gestures at the monitor with the hope I shall somehow know you are doing it. I do), you might be a bit upset at the idea of a Bethesda not making the series that made them famous anymore. And to that, I just have to say Bethesda Softworks and Bethesda Game Studios are just a bunch of utterly meaningless words for as much as they affect my opinion of the games. A good game is a good game, regardless of who makes it. Going beyond that, a development studio is not as important as the names behind it. If you can make a good product, I don't care if you call yourself Dog Vomit Interactive. Well, I do, that's a rather appalling name for your business there, imaginary company.  But even then, I don't truly care all that much about the people behind it either. The fact that Julian Lefay, "The Father of The Elder Scrolls",   has not had anything reaching official involvement in the series since Battlespire has not harmed my opinion of the rest of the series that he was largely responsible for creating. In fact, I've liked the games that came after his departure much more than anything before it.

While it might not have Bethesda at the helm, the team we are familiar with, or the game features we expect, and likely not very good, The Elder Scrolls series will never truly die. If Bethesda were to somehow go belly up tomorrow, I'm sure there will still be the fans and other companies to pick up the pieces. And then they'll run it straight into the ground with all of their shitty ideas that ruin all that we love. That was supposed to be a comforting ending somehow, I'm sorry.

Morrowind's Ancestral Tombs and the Future Games

  09:41:00 pm, by Damon   , 640 words  
Viewed 6359 times since 03/19/14
Categories: UESP, Rants

I guess I'm about due for a new blog post, considering my last one was... The last time I did it. I also guess I ought to do some UESP-specific postings for once, and there's something that's been nagging at me recently about a minor site practice. Well, "nagging at me" is an understatement. I hate it with a passion strong enough that AKB would be forced to ban me from IRC after I described it so explicitly.

In Morrowind, there are numerous Dunmer tombs scattered around province of Vvardenfell containing the usual crypt stuff, each one named after a random Dunmer surname. Appended to each tomb's location page is a list of known Dunmer of that surname. That's fine, it's interesting to know how prevalent the family name is within Morrowind, and it helps deepen the game's immersion to go visit a tomb to pay respect to a deity's shrine, or to raid a tomb and see if there are any special items in it, save it from being defiled, etc. The thing that irks me is that we show off the members of the family who are located in future games as well within the Morrowind artcles. Granted, they are clearly marked as being from the game (Niluva HlaaluSR, a worker at Black-Briar Meadery in Riften), but it still feels incredibly inappropriate to me.

The style for the UESP articles is that the gamespace articles are written for the game's present tense, meaning you say "Balmora IS a town..." not "Balmora WAS a town", as if the Red Year's destruction was relevant to the state of the city in the game.

Why, I wonder, should the names of NPCs you'll never see be mentioned? It's rather jarring to go from reading present-tense, which is appropriate for the article, and then reading something that belongs to the future, yet is presented as if it were present and relevant. It's not often that a gamer looks up the Hlaalu Ancestral Tomb for Morrowind-related purposes, then suddenly becomes interested in this unimportant bloke from Riften who was alive 200 years later and in a completely different game. Most users want information specifically for their own game, and that's the information that we should be providing to them, in my opinion.

It would be one thing if the information was attached to a miscellaneous section that was specifically for out-of-game notes, such as the "See Also" or something, but the information is A. within the game's article section, B. rather circumstancial and coincidental, and C. other tombs, like Nordic Barrows or Cyrodiilic tombs, don't reference any names that could also be tied to the tomb. Either the information is relevant or it's irrelevant, and the inconsistency is an issue, in my opinion, though my preference is clearly that the information be omitted.

I assert that such information is circumstancial, because with very limited exceptions, there is no clear cut case of geneology ever mentioned. In the case of a Hlaalu, you can compare it to a realword Johnson or Anderson - two names that are exceptionally common names, and others of the same name aren't necessarily related, given how common the name is.

For that particular Hlaalu tomb in Morrowind, you can be guaranteed that from a Lore perspective, there are so many people and presumably so many Hlaalus that they aren't all related and tied to that one tomb.

By the way, this isn't with just the Hlaalu Ancestral Tomb: You can go to our Ancestral Tombs article, and pick articles at random. If a surname existed in a game that isn't either Morrowind, Tribunal, or Bloodmoon, it's still mentioned as if it were just as relevant to the playthrough of Morrowind.

I guess that's the end of my little UESP rant. I'll post something fun eventually, unless I let my other projects get in the way.