Category: "UESP"

The Beauty of Morrowind

  06:40:55 pm, by Jeancey   , 772 words  
Viewed 3177 times since 01/18/14
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, UESP

Morrowind, by far, has always been my favourite of the Elder Scrolls games. Many people complained about its combat system or about the graphics, but I don't think they truly grasped the beauty of the game. In the early 2000s, game maps were essentially funnels; you had to go here through this specific path, with occasional offshoots and secret areas for you to find. As is often the case, if you saw something in the distance, you couldn't get there directly. You had to go through some elaborate path in order to get there. Often these barriers were logical, as long as you didn't think too hard about them. Neverwinter Nights, for instance, you were often blocked by cliffs and mountains, and masses of trees. If you think too hard about this, however, you realize that all of the open areas are nearly perfect squares, and you realize how unnatural that is.

Morrowind was different. You were open, and free, and allowed to go anywhere you could see. There was never anything on the horizon that, once you got closer, you realized you couldn't actually reach. In some ways, it was even better at this than Oblivion or Skyrim because it was set on an island, Vvardenfell. There are places in Oblivion that you could see, but you couldn't actually reach due to the barriers involved, as was the case in Skyrim, but in Morrowind, the entire world was at your fingertips.

Morrowind also felt so much larger to me than Oblivion and Skyrim. I'm sure if you look at the actual area involved in the game, Oblivion and Skyrim will both be bigger, but the impression one got from playing the game just wasn't the same. Morrowind felt huge, massive even. After hundreds of hours of playing, if you started a new game, you could still find places that you have never been to before. A large part of this, I think, is due to the map and travel systems. In the later games, every location, once discovered, will appear on the map. Even before they appear they can be seen on the compass so that you know when there are locations nearby. Once you found those locations, you could essentially teleport between locations at will. Morrowind didn't have any of this. Sure you had a map with locations marked on it, but only the most major locations or the largest dungeons were displayed. If you zoomed in on your immediate area, you could see markers for the entrance to a location that you had been to before, but not ones you had never seen. There was no compass pointing you to the entrance, or a easy way to move between dungeons, you had to physically run there. This, more than anything, is what made Morrowind feel so large. The world just doesn't feel big when you can go from Bruma to Leyawiin at the click of a button. Even the travel options in Morrowind, silt striders, boats, guild guides and the stronghold teleportation system provided easy and logical limitations on your movement. You can't simply take the boat from Khuul and appear at Tel Mora, you had to boat hop from place to place, getting yourself closer to your destination, just as you can't take a plane from Seattle and fly directly to Moscow; you have to stop a few times along the way.

More than that, though, the world itself felt more alive. You didn't go into a dungeon and kill some generic bandits who would respawn when you returned 10-30 days later. You killed real people, with names and uniqueness. When you went back to that dungeon ten, fifteen or even one-hundred days later, those people were still dead, and no one had taken their place. You could make a real impact on the world. You weren't limited in any way on what you could do, within reason or logic of course. If you wanted to kill Caius Cosades, the main quest giver for the main quest, you could. He wouldn't just be brought to his knees, only to get back up a few seconds later. He would be dead. Of course you have now ruined your game, but you were allowed to.

In all, Morrowind felt like the biggest, fullest, and most alive world that Bethesda has ever created, and better than any other game I have played to date. It might not have had the best combat systems or graphics, but who needs those in a role-playing game? All you need is a character, and the ability to affect any change you want upon the world.

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The Folly of Godhood

  05:47:32 pm, by AKB   , 1276 words  
Viewed 8438 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.

Whatever Happened to the Heroes?

  12:54:48 pm, by AKB   , 802 words  
Viewed 4921 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 3833 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.

Please don't steal my stuff :'(

  02:55:25 am, by   , 837 words  
Viewed 26058 times since 09/01/13
Categories: UESP

Plagiarism of the UESP's content is a big problem. Please see our articles on common mistakes and copyright ownership. Basic rule of thumb: if you weren't the one who added some original content here, you don't have the right to take that content and publish it as your own somewhere else. It's just that simple. The rest of this is too long; don't read.

When I'm not monitoring the recent changes to the UESP or making minor edits small tweaks to pages, I'm often preparing a substantial update to one of our lore pages. TES easily has the most intricate world ever imagined for a video game, and yet much of the information we've been given about it is incomplete, ambiguous, misleading, and even intentionally contradictory (damn you, Bethesda). So please understand that trying to properly fact-check and expand a lore article is often an intensive and time-consuming endeavor. Once I find a project, I conduct a source pull: I comb through the UESP, the game data, and sometimes The Imperial Library for every scrap of relevant information I can find. Then I review it all and start a sandbox. If a page already existed, I copy and paste it, then review for inaccuracies and provide any needed citations. If I can't corroborate something, I go back to the sources, consult my fellow editors, and maybe even visit the high-functioning, usually good-natured sociopaths we keep chained up in the lore forum. If I still can't corroborate something, I remove it. Then I fill in any missing information in a logical way while trying my best to follow all the UESP policies (and we've got quite a few). This often leads to a complete overhaul of the page's layout. Even after I've finally published my revisions, I revisit the page several times over the course of several weeks to see if fresh eyes can detect any typos or other problems I had initially missed.

It is hard to do it right. Harder than it looks. This stuff doesn't just appear out of thin air. It's thanks to labors of love from people like me.

Occasionally, I check other wikis dedicated to documenting The Elder Scrolls and discover that someone else is taking credit for my words. Not Bethesda's words. My words. Instead of putting in the same efforts I did, these people decide it's far easier to essentially copy and paste onto other wikis the things I've worked so hard to put together. I'm sure it is much easier for them. Stealing is typically a lot easier than creating.

Now, to preface, I love The Imperial Library. It's not really a wiki, but I want to make clear that their contributors have not inspired this rant. Their out-of-game information is often summarized on the UESP (always giving them credit, of course). I've directed UESP readers to visit their site even if it wasn't strictly necessary to do so, such as here and the comment here, because any UESP user would benefit from a trip to TIL (so long as they can properly distinguish between in-game works, out-of-game works by developers, and pure fan fiction). I think the two sites have complementary strengths and weaknesses, and I've certainly never had to worry about anyone there plagiarizing work from the UESP.

I also don't have a problem with online videos about Elder Scrolls lore which basically lift parts (or even all) of their scripts from the UESP. I love watching them, and it's kind of a thrill to realize that a well-made video is quoting something I've written. I'm happy to indirectly assist the makers. Some other UESP editors might feel differently, but these videos aren't in direct competition with the UESP, either. We're not a video-hosting site. They're in a different media format, and their works are usually transformative enough that I don't think there's a real plagiarism issue. And, if anything, watching a video about TES will often give a viewer the urge to visit a site like the UESP to corroborate some things or to delve more deeply into a topic, so these videos probably benefit the UESP indirectly.

However, the case is entirely different when someone else decides to take my work and claim it as their own on a competitor wiki. It has happened many times before. To the best of my knowledge, it's very rare for a UESP contributor to take something from another wiki without permission. I've seen it happen maybe once in the more than two years I've spent here. Content on the UESP, however, is quite frequently added to other wikis. Most recently, I saw that a plagiarist on another site had received a formal award for his efforts - which were in large part actually my efforts for several different pages here. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but who wants to be flattered in the first place? It's uncomfortable. But I digress. Point is:

"This is not 'Nam. There are rules."
-Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski