Category: "UESP"

Please don't steal my stuff :'(

  02:55:25 am, by   , 837 words  
Viewed 26146 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

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On The Importance of Setting Expectations (And Sticking With Them) - Part 1

  10:31:35 pm, by AKB   , 972 words  
Viewed 13030 times since 07/31/13
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, UESP

As I was browsing through our collection of maps when I noticed something was a bit odd with almost all of them. Mainly, their names. I had trouble finding any that had the proper naming scheme that we use for images (as described on Help:Images). This was quite the issue, as we have well over one-thousand maps, and not much in the way for commonly used naming standards. Sometimes it's just an incorrectly capitalized word, and sometimes its because it seemed to predate anything resembling site standards. Regardless, it leads to us having a ton of things with either odd naming schemes, or are just clearly incorrect. And this agitates me, when I see the maps for Skyrim more or less all with standardized names that support site standards, and I see anything younger being entirely messed up.

Maybe its because I've spent a lot of my time working on Skyrim recently, so I have grown accustomed to us largely keeping file naming under line, but I still wondered why it bugged me. Why should it? We had less of an idea of what we were doing, a lot of those maps are over a half-decade old! The site has changed a lot since then. And sure, it would take a lot of work to correct, but but then I realized why my time editing our Skyrim section has caused this to irk me. It's because I can type out the file name for essentially all of the images in the Skyrim namespace without a need to look them up. People spent a lot of time ensuring they follow a specific standard, and as such, other people are more likely to follow it naturally, as well as making the mistakes less time consuming to clean up and obvious. The reason is because once you build up an expectation for something, going without it is hellish. Familiarity is one of the greatest comforts in life, and I wasn't getting it.

The Point in the Post Where We Start Talking About the Games, and Not Minor File Naming Issues That I am Positive No One Else Cares About

You don't have to look far too see how this is true. In fact, you can find numerous examples of this throughout the Elder Scrolls series. Let's pay attention to the out lash over what I feel was a logical alteration, making Alchemy something you can't do on the fly in Skyrim. In Skyrim, you were reliant on clearly marked Alchemy Labs for your potion-making needs. This was a departure to how this skill worked in Morrowind and Oblivion. This is ignoring the shift from having to use a stationary Potion Maker in Daggerfall to the alchemy system featured in Morrowind. Because who seriously bothered with alchemy in that game?

People got used to the relatively quick way potion-brewing worked in Morrowind and Oblivion, so something as simple as saying you have to be in one place to make potions changed how the game was played for a lot of people. I understand this aggravation, but I also get the reasoning behind the change. Does it really make sense to be able to do alchemy, what is supposed to be a precise science in the ES universe, in a second in the middle of a monster-infested cave, or at least doing that without a sturdy surface for all of the equipment? No it doesn't. It also made more sense when taken into consideration for the other things you could craft. As an example, consider Enchanting in Oblivion, which could only be done in the field if you had a Sigil Stone. However, this was ALSO a change on how Enchanting worked in Morrowind. In Morrowind, it could be done wherever you wanted, just like Alchemy. So you could say that each hero has grown increasingly incompetent after the Nerevarine. I know that almost all of the older Elder Scrolls fans certainly already say that.

Now that I think about it, more and more examples of little and large mechanics have changed from game to game. Armor sets simplified, weapons removed, skills eliminated and merged, the drastic changes to the dialogue system, the removal of open cities, the removal of horses, the addition of horses, the addition of horse-mounted combat, the removal of spell crafting... the list just goes on and on. I could name examples all day. I'm not saying that changing things is bad, but it can be so aggravating that it hurts just to think about it. It's why you see people modding in skills like Acrobatics back into Skyrim, so they can have that sense of familiarity back. It also has something to do with the fact that movement in Skyrim is absolute crap now that all the athletics skills have been cut, the only way to get some advantage is to take the Sneak perk Silent Roll, and that's just ridiculous. "Oh, look at me! I'm so stealthy! Watch me do somersaults wherever I go! This was definitely a wise use of a perk point!" I'm just saying that when the Altmer are the fastest race in the game due to them being slightly taller than everyone else, and no other trait being relevant to this, you have issues.

Now that I have successfully incorporated a cleverly hidden implication that Altmer are terrible, I think I'm going to get back to this at a later date. I've just barely scratched the surface here. Not that I expected to wrap this up in a single afternoon on a topic as broad as "Things That Have Changed From One Point in Time to the Next", but you get my point. Tune in next time for more minor gripes about petty issues within a video game series! It's basically all I have going on.

Elder Scrolls Online - The Task at Hand

  12:46:16 pm, by AKB   , 1385 words  
Viewed 89432 times since 02/18/13
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, UESP

As someone who has been one of the main supporters of the concept of us having a blog, I find it odd that I've never taken the time to ever write a blog entry for the blog that I've so thoroughly supported. Ever. I've encouraged others to do so, but I never actually sat down and did it myself. To finally quiet my suspicion that I've been rather hypocritical when it comes to this section of the site, I think it's about time I write about something. So let's talk about something else I've been thoroughly ignoring for a better part of a year after initially showing the interest to take the lead in UESP projects relating to said thing. I am of course referring to the Elder Scrolls Online.

The Elder Scrolls Online was bound to be a rough subject for us. Not because we won't be able to write about it, but because we aren't sure how we'll write about it. While at its core it appears that its shaping up to be a fine part of the ES franchise that we know and love, it is still an MMO. MMMOs are significantly different beasts to the normal, primarily single player RPGs (Battlespire and Shadowkey being the reasons for the 'primarily') we've dealt with in the past. It's about time that we start to look at some of the major issues that will eventually cause a ton of arguing in the near future. So without further ado, let's begin.

VIPs - Very Important Players
It's an odd fact about MMOs that sometimes in a game with millions of players, one of them will become infamous (I can't think of a single case where a player became famous in an MMO community without that bothersome 'in') enough that they draw ire from the entire community, and eventually from sources outside the game. I'm talking about people like "Cursed You", the username of a Runescape player infamous for being instrumental in the discovery of a way to attack other players outside of PVP zones, or just take one of the dozens of major scammers who ripped off thousands of dollars of real money from players in Eve Online (random example). Players can earn such a reputation that we should document them, right?

Well, that's the issue. We've never allowed documentation of people who are famous members of the community before, so this is going to be quite a point of contention amongst us. An example of this already happening would be all of the people asking if we'll bother to document who becomes the Emperor in the PvP element of ESO. And while I don't think those people will really matter for the most part, there may be times when we'll argue about allowing documentation about a specific person.

The simplest solution will be to just deny documentation for anyone who doesn't earn an extreme amount of attention (as in, news sources outside of the game take interest in the story), but there is certainly going to be quite a few scuffles about where we draw that line. Of course, sometimes the player isn't as important as the incident we create, which incidentally leads into my next topic...

Extraordinary, Player Created Events
Who doesn't remember the Cursed Blood Incident? The player created plague on the land of Azeroth? If there is one thing players love more than anything else, it is finding a way to utterly break a game. When you happen to do that in a world populated by millions of other players, well, all the better. There is a real possibility that we'll see events such as that one happen in ESO, and we need to figure out a fair way to deal with them. ES players have quite a history for odd behavior that attracts quite a deal of attention (take the dreaded 'arrow in the knee') gag as an example, and ES games are infamous for their bugs. When the two collide, we might have to document the results.

As of now we've been pretty much ignoring memes and the ilk in the ES community, but I think that we might have to rescind or at least change our policy when it comes to these things. While it might mean we'll have to make a reference to the obsession with murdering the Adoring Fan (in the General namespace most likely, to keep that nonsense far away from our game documentation), but it may be a better alternative to simply ignoring these events entirely. I can't even think of any mention we give to the controversy surrounding the reclassification of Oblivion by the ESRB from 'T for Teens' to 'M for Mature'. That was all over the news, virtually everyone heard about it, and we didn't give it any attention. Yes, it goes against our normal instincts to ignore stuff like that, but the fallout for ignoring these events may be worse than giving in. We are still a fan site, and there is little a fan loves more than seeing how awesome their fandom is (I guess shipping would beat out that, but that's off the topic at hand). Of course, if we start to act more like a fan site, that might mean a few other changes to our regular operations. Mainly when it comes to our involvement with the community.

Playing a New Part in the Fandom
The UESP has been for years widely accepted by ES fans as a generally great guide for ES lore and quests. We might have to start emphasizing our involvement with the fandom in the years to come. This means playing a more active part in updating the community on ES news, keeping tabs and taking part in Elder Scrolls related events, and being an active part in the path the games take themselves. That last one in particular will be a hard one. I'm talking about things like player guilds. With ESO coming out, we probably should form one for the game. The main issue with that being that our reputation in the game may very well help or hinder the site, so this may easily become one of the hardest things we'll have to deal with if we do it. Even more importantly, we must remain active for the course of ESO for the whole 'playing a more active role in the ES community' thing to work. This also means playing a more active role outside of the games. As in, being a bit more reliable for things like interviews and call outs to the fans by the developers.

To be entirely honest, this is the subject I know the least about, and I believe the ignorance is somewhat shared by my fellow editors (or that just might be me projecting my own mental incompetence on those fine fellows). This is likely going to be something we'll have to learn to do together to make it work, so it's best we iron out what our role will be in regards to the community surrounding ES is going forward. We will of course remain a game and lore guide, but we might have to apply more of a focus to the part Elder Scrolls plays in our world.

In Summary
The UESP will and must remain largely the same as it has been for years, but we also have to start looking to the future. While the UESP has been practically a boulder for the ES community over its run, I think its time for us to try to be a rock and roll with the course the developers are taking the series (by the Nine, that comparison fell apart rather quickly). The developers are taking the series in strange, new directions, so we must learn to adapt to those changes ourselves. This isn't the first time they've branched out of their rut, so we might as well learn to do the same. I predict we'll see more regular ES content in the future (more regular content for the games, new books, possibly a movie, or even a regular comic series or television run. Basically, we should prepare for anything related to ES in the future as we simply don't know what they'll do), and we have to be adapt for this.

The War on Speculation

  11:28:33 pm, by Kalis Agea   , 565 words  
Viewed 34900 times since 10/25/11
Categories: UESP

This is going to be a quick blurb about something that been bothering me about UESP as of late: the popularity of taking speculation and guesswork as fact.

We're all guilty of it, in one way or another. We love to believe what we desire to believe. But, unfortunately, UESPWiki (or any wiki for that matter) is not a part of Wishful Thinking Land. That's the dominion of the forums and other sites for TES discussion. A wiki, however, is intended to serve as a catalogue/encyclopedia of factual information. I often find myself feeling in the mood for speculation and wishful thinking (lately is a good example) and I typically channel that into fanfiction and writing in general as well as music. And I would like to be able to say (don't quote me on this, because I'm most likely wrong) that I haven't added speculation or guesswork to UESP in a while now (at least a few months).

Now, as a patroller I'm slightly biased towards this and perhaps treat it a little harshly (I do apologize if I come across as rude to anyone; I mean well!); thus my ideas on how to deal with this may be slightly extreme or just plain laughable (which is why I'll refrain from posting them here on the blog for now). However, my personal opinion is beside the point -- the fact remains that speculation and guesswork is not welcome on the wiki, although it is welcome on the forum (I myself typically refrain from even entering the forum, let along making use of it; I'm just going off what I gather from other people's posts).

One of the most famous (and, for me at least aggravating) pieces of speculation currently circulating in the Elder Scrolls community is the concept that we will be playing as a relative or descendant of the Emperors. This is based off of the fact that the Emperors are once or twice referred to as the "Dragonborn". My typical refutation of this stance goes like this: the Emperors were called "Dragonborn" as a reference to the Amulet of Kings that was an heirloom to them. In TESV: Skyrim, however, "Dragonborn" refers to being literally born of the blood of dragons; the Septims were not born of Dragons. Hell, Uriel and many of his predecessors weren't even related to Tiber Septim! The contexts are completely different. Therefore, the word "dragonborn" does not necessarily tie the Emperors to the protagonist of Skyrim.

The problem with adding this type of thing to the wiki is once it's there for any amount of time, it may begin to be regarded as a likely possibility, despite the fact that it is unfounded guesswork. That is the reason that posts like these make me so petulant. It is, without a doubt, an overreaction on my part; but hey, it's just natural. So please, unless you want me to go berserk on you, please refrain from adding this to the wiki and instead discuss it on the forums.

As a side note, I do promise to work on my impatience with these types of editors. One of the reason I've been slightly inactive on the wiki as of late is that I've been taking time to cool off and relax. With Skyrim coming up, I need to be refreshed and have at least some semblance of patience.

Hacking the ESM/ESP Files

  09:55:49 am, by   , 472 words  
Viewed 46810 times since 03/10/11
Categories: Programming, UESP

If you obsessively read everything on UESP you may have noticed one or two cryptic posts like this and this lately. What are these ESM and ESP files, and why are Daveh, Nephele and I trying to pull them apart?

Take a look in your Oblivion program directory and you'll find a few different files. There's Oblivion.exe itself, which is the main game engine itself. In the data directory you'll find several ".bsa" files. This seems to stand for "Bethesda Softworks Archive" and each one is a compressed file containing the graphics textures, sounds, speech and meshes (the files that define what makes an image solid). You'll also find Oblivion.esm and, depending on how many plugins you use, several ".esp" files. These are Elder Scrolls Main and Plugin files, and contain information about NPCs, weapons, armor, quests, places and so on, as well as information about the landscape. In other words, these are the files that contain all the information we need for UESP.

The file format was created for Morrowind and evolved a little for Oblivion. It's also used in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, and has changed a little more for those games too. At the moment, the assumption is that a similar format will be used for Skyrim. This is partly down to wishful thinking, but then again as the files are purely about data storage there's no reason to change a winning format to radically.

Each file consists of records arranged in a huge list for Morrowind, and into something a little more like a tree for the other games. A record is made up of a label ("ARMO", "NPC_", "CELL", etc) and several fields that provide the data. You can get more information about the format for Oblivion here, although it's quite technical and slightly out of date.

So why do we need to hack these files?

Simply, there are too many items to create them all by hand with any degree of accuracy. That means we have to get our bots to do it, but NepheleBot and RoBoT need data to work with, and the only realistic way of doing that is by pulling it directly out of the game files. Using the Construction Set would reintroduce a manual component that would lead to mistakes, and looking at the files and getting information by eye doesn't always work because some of it's compressed and it would be a really, really awful job anyway.

To give you some idea of scale, for Oblivion and its official plugins, there are 1,277,347 records with a whopping 4,682,059 fields. Try sorting through that lot by hand.

Come 11 November, while you're enjoying playing the game for the first time, spare a thought for those of us who will be digging into its guts to bring you the best information we can!