Category: "UESP"

Predictions for Skyrim and UESP

  05:41:57 pm, by Nephele   , 1058 words  
Viewed 64187 times since 09/25/11
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, UESP

I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what I foresee happening on UESP when Skyrim is released -- beyond the obvious points, such as that UESP is going to get alot more traffic. These thoughts are in part based on what I witnessed when Shivering Isles was released -- which was the last major game release for UESP. However, SI hardly compares to Skyrim, because SI was only an expansion and therefore didn't introduce any new game mechanics.

As an aside, for those who may have wondered, the release of Oblivion doesn't provide us with much as far as an example for what to expect with Skyrim. Not that I was active on UESP when Oblivion came out; I first discovered UESP a couple months after Oblivion's release. But I do know that UESP had only recently converted to a wiki when Oblivion came out. Even by the time I started editing, the site was pretty minimal, at least compared to where it is now. Templates, screenshots, redirects, help pages, style guidelines, site policies -- none of these were in place yet. Anonymous editing was first enabled months after I started editing -- and, for the record, no, that didn't mean that there was a dramatic increase in vandalism, badly-written content, or unwanted content.

So, back to the future.

1. UESP is facing alot of competition. When it comes to Skyrim, UESP is starting from square one, just like every other wiki being set up to cover Skyrim. People are going to choose which website to read based primarily on google -- and at this moment UESP is doing pretty poorly on google searches related to Skyrim. Fewer readers means fewer editors. Which means less new content, and therefore even fewer readers, etc. I'd like to see UESP do well -- and not just for the sake of UESP, but for the sake of the Elder Scrolls community as a whole. Having as many editors as possible work on the same wiki means that the community has one good, comprehensive website -- instead of a half-dozen incomplete websites with overlapping (but inconsistent) content. If UESP wants to be the primary Skyrim wiki, we're going to have work aggressively towards that goal.

2. New content will be added very quickly. I'm guessing that by November 12th people are likely to have posted (minimal) walkthroughs for the majority of the game's quests, and basic desccriptions of nearly every place -- if not on UESP, then on some other Skyrim wiki. My guess is based upon how quickly content was added for SI: one day after the game's release, the quests page already contained a walkthrough of the entire main quest.

3. Most of UESP's regular editors will disappear. We all want to play Skyrim, plus we'd all like to avoid learning any spoilers about the game. And for most of us, playing the game doesn't mean rushing through the main quest in 30 hours; it means spending hundreds of hours exploring all the random corners of the world. So those editors who buy Skyrim are going to be too busy to visit UESP for several weeks. Those who don't have the game are going to actively avoid the Skyrim namespace. I'm not trying to blame anyone or make anyone feel guilty -- it's just human nature, and it needs to be taken into account when anticipating how Skyrim's release will affect UESP. I'd also love to be proven wrong!

4. New editors / anonymous editors will be responsible for most of the new content. It's just a natural consequence of points #2 and #3. Although UESP's regular editors are unlikely to be rushing to add to the wiki, there are other people who enjoy being the first ones to post information online about a new game. Those editors will be the ones who are most active on UESP starting November 11th. Even though the new editors are likely to have little wiki experience, it doesn't mean that the new content will all be a horrid mess. For example, look at the history of an SI quest such as The Cold Flame of Agnon. In three days, it was transformed from an unformatted dump to a proper quest page -- incomplete, but properly laid out and properly written. Nearly all the work was done by anonymous IPs and brand new editors, such as Jrtaylor91 (whose first UESP edit was on that quest page).

5. Fact checking of Skyrim content won't be possible -- at least not at anywhere near the level we're used to for other games -- for many months. The most obvious problem is that initially none of us will know the quests or any other game details. But beyond that there are a couple of other issues that might not be so obvious.

  • We don't know when the Creation Kit (aka Construction Set) will be available. Without it, we can't do any of the quick fact checks we're used to -- for weapon damage, gold values, dialogue,etc. We won't even know how to take in-game values, such as weapon damage, and convert them to base values -- will weapon damage be affected by skill level in Skyrim and, if so, what's the equation?
  • We won't understand of the new game mechanics. For example, if editors disagree over the reward for a quest, we won't be able to resolve the question. Is it a levelled quest reward -- but how does levelling work in Skyrim? Is it a random reward -- again, how do random lists work? Is the reward dependent upon other factors that are a new feature of Skyrim, such as Radiant quests? As far as we know right now, two players could have different experiences for nearly any detail of a quest. So how do we figure out whether edit X is adding incorrect information to an article? Eventually -- 2012? -- we'll hopefully start to get a handle on the range of possibilities (although it took a couple of years to understand various nuances of Oblivion's levelled lists). But we'll have to write most of the site's web pages before then.

There's no way to know until a couple months from now what really is going to happen. But these are some of the issues going though my mind when I think about how UESP can start to prepare for Skyrim's release.

 Permalink3 comments »

On Skyrim III: Questing for Perfection

  05:18:02 pm, by   , 902 words  
Viewed 24473 times since 18/03/11
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, UESP

Of all the new features introduced in TES V: Skyrim, the one that has UESP's active editors simultaneously wriggling with delight and squirming with horror is "Radiant Story".

At its most basic level, this seems to be a way of avoiding the problem with some quests in Morrowind and Oblivion where you could screw them up by doing something before you got the mission. The previous games handled this in several different ways, depending on how much work the developer realised was necessary / was prepared to do. In Morrowind's Alof and the Orcs quest, you got the chance to continue if Alof was dead, but had to work out everything for yourself. That's fair enough. On the other hand, you could never complete Oblivion's Acrobatics Master Training quest quest if Torbern was dead when you received it. Another way of dealing with the problem was to make certain characters "essential". In Morrowind, killing one of these people gave you a nasty message that basically said you were screwed and should reload an earlier save: in Oblivion, you simply couldn't kill such NPCs, which could lead to incredibly useful allies or incredibly irritating enemies if things went wrong.

Another problem, mainly with Oblivion rather than Morrowind, was that you could completely clean out a dungeon only for some NPC to tell you that you needed to go there, whereupon it suddenly filled with foes. A great example of this is Hrota Cave, which is totally empty until you begin the Den of Thieves quest, at which point eight assorted thieves move in and suddenly everyone in Anvil tells you they've been there for ages. The alternative, of course, is to completely lock up a location until the related quest begins (e.g., Anga and Pale Pass).

From what's been revealed so far, Skyrim's solution sounds rather elegant. If, for instance, you kill Joe the barman, who was supposed to give you a quest, Joe's family might be able to offer you the quest instead - obviously after making you jump through a few hoops for killing hubby/daddy/illicit lover/whatever. Similarly, if you've already been to Scary Dungeon, which would normally be the location for the quest, the game will relocate it to Mysteriously Empty Mine - nearby, but which you haven't visited. Presumably if you've already visited everything the game will set the quest in the dungeon you visited least recently, and if you deliberately run around all the nearby dungeons before getting the quest to find out what happens, a giant boxing glove on a spring flies out of your computer and punches you in the groin for trolling.

This isn't going to solve everybody's problems. A worryingly-large number of people on UESP's talk pages complain that they've killed everybody in the world and can no longer complete a certain quest. Tough. If you've killed not just Joe, but Joe's children and wife, his closest friends, his less close friends, and anybody who ever even glanced in his direction, then you've missed out on the quest and it's your own fault.

Presumably there's some kind of limit as to where quests can be located. Again, we don't know exactly how Skyrim's dungeons are going to work but to use an Oblivion model, it wouldn't make much sense being asked to retrieve a rare magical tome from a monster dungeon just because you'd been to all the mage/necromancer locations in the area. Has the engine progressed to the point where all previous inhabitants can be switched out and replaced with more appropriate ones? If so, add one more problem to UESP's list... Another way of handling this would be to have the potential quest-giver say something like "Well I heard a rumor about a treasure in some local cave but it seems somebody went in there recently and proved it wrong." if you've looked into all the obvious locations, then have another line for when things have respawned.

At the start of this post I implied that Radiant Story was going to be a big problem for UESP but I got lost explaining what RS is and haven't really explained the problem yet.

The main problem is ease of description. Daggerfall offers several random quests: for instance, some publican in a tavern somewhere will ask you to do X at nearby dungeon Y. Our pages on such quests aren't really very helpful, since they can't tell you where to find X or how to accomplish Y. With Morrowind and Oblivion, most quest pages are filled with detail not just on X and Y, but on how to avoid tricky monsters M and N, where to find powerful treasure T and how to screw quest giver G for most cash. The trouble starts when everybody adds their own personal favourite methods. Until recently, most quest pages were festooned with loads of pointless notes about methods, cheats, hacks, oddities and so on. Most of those have been ruthlessly (but usefully) pruned, but now imagine what it's going to be like when even the quest-giver and location aren't fixed.

To summarise: it looks like we've got a lot of challenges ahead when it comes to writing the quest pages. As Bethesda tell us more about what to expect, we may be able to start honing in on the options. Whatever happens, UESP will provide the best content possible - however long it takes!

On Skyrim and UESP

  11:47:25 am, by   , 427 words  
Viewed 38117 times since 22/12/10
Categories: Elder Scrolls, UESP

Obviously, my first thought when TESV: Skyrim was announced was about how much I'm going to enjoy playing it, but as more and more articles appear, we're beginning to get an idea of what we can expect and how it's going to affect UESP.

One of my own first reactions was annoyance at hearing Mysticism is no longer going to exist as a skill. Not because I'm a fan of it in particular, but because this was just days after I wrote UESP's Lore:Mysticism article. I hope there's a book in Skyrim explaining the change so I can reference it.

The new "Radiant Story" system is going to have a huge impact on how we write up quests. Since the death of a quest-essential NPC can now lead to another giving you the quest instead, we'll have to think about how the Related NPCs section works. Todd Howard's latest interview suggests that even the location of a quest can change, depending on which dungeons you've visited already. I imagine there's still going to be a set list of locations, and that we'll be able to discover that using the CS, but it's going to be another change to make.

Howard also mentions that there are over 200 "perks" in the game, and these will influence quests as well as just your skills. The perks are arranged in a tree, which presumably means you can only get some if you've already got others. We'll need to come up with a friendly way of documenting that too. The new perks and skill system is going to lead to a huge amount of flexibility in the way your character develops. I can only imagine the number of "My 1337 character" pages we're going to get...

My big concern is the format of the game files. Many of the pages for Morrowind and Oblivion (and the addons) were generated by writing code that reads the .esm and .esp files containing the game data and turns it into human-readable text. That's how we know we've got all the NPCs, items, places, quests and so on. Although there'll definitely be some way of reading the new files, if they're too different from the current format it'll take a lot longer to do.

I wasn't around on UESP when Oblivion came out, but I can imagine how chaotic it was then. With Skyrim it's going to be even worse. Part of me is horrified at the thought, but another part is looking forward to the challenge. I guess we'll find out in just over 9 months!

UESP Statistics

  08:00:10 pm, by Daveh   , 644 words  
Viewed 17399 times since 12/10/09
Categories: Elder Scrolls, Statistics, UESP

I've recently returned from an extended work trip to Mexico and thought I'd continue my delayed blogging with some statistics on the UESP web site.

  • Daily Hits = 600,000 -- About 95% of the site's traffic is from the Wiki with only about 2% from the various maps, 2% from the forums and less than 1% from everything else. Currently this blog is only getting about 100 views per day, which my being away for 2 months probably doesn't help. Note that during this summer the average daily hits were much higher at around 800k with it reaching near 1000k on the weekends. Weekends always have 10-20% more traffic.
  • Daily Visits = 80,000 -- The typical user of UESP views around 10 pages per visit.
  • Users with Ads Enabled = 70% -- The average daily number of ads served is currently around 400,000 compared to overall average daily of 600,000.
  • Number of Servers = 6 -- While 6 low-to-mid end dedicated servers may be a little overkill for a site of this size it is better to have enough capacity to support unexpected spikes in traffic along with the usual site growth.
  • Daily Bandwidth = 120 GB -- Relatively low for a site with this much traffic mainly because we're content focussed and don't have any downloads to worry about. Some of that traffic also includes inter-server communication.
  • Database Size = 5.5GB in 7 million records -- Most of the database is from the Wiki which is just under 5GB in size with 2.5 million records. By size, most of this is taken up from the Wiki's text table at 4.4GB.
  • Database Queries = 100/sec -- The database server is currently at 690 million queries over 81 days of uptime. About 60% of queries are read-only SELECT queries.
  • Currently Longest Uptime = 287 days (content2/3) -- In general the servers are very stable running CentOS and typically don't require any regular reboots or maintenance (luckily). All of the issues and downtime that have occurred have been due to incorrect settings or user error.
  • Server Cost = 300$/month -- I haven't updated the exact monthly cost since I changed to cheaper servers with a 24-month contract this summer, but its likely in this neighbour. The nice thing now is that all 5 purchased dedicated servers are on a 24-month contract which means not only cheaper overall costs but also no web server fees are due until August of next year (although it will be about 2500$ when that time comes around).
  • Number of Files = 270,000 -- Many of these, 160k, are the UESP Wiki images and thumbnails and about 80k of the remaining 100k are map tile images. This count only includes files serving the various web pages and files. Total number of files on content1 is 575,524.
  • Oldest Files = Dag992.faq -- The version of this Daggerfall FAQ is dated 24 August 1996 although the original text FAQ was started around two years earlier in the fall of 1994.
  • Alexa Traffic Rank = 14,406 -- While the overall accuracy of Alexa can be questioned it is still a useful tool to compare a site's relative rating. The highest Alexa rank we've had was ~6000 in March of 2008. It is also nice to know we rank 644 in Kazakhstan.
  • Average Time on Site = 11 minutes -- The average time is about the same for both the Wiki and forums with the maps averaging a lower 5 minutes.
  • Most Popular Browser = Firefox (47%) -- IE is next at 37% followed by Chrome (6%), Safari (6%) and Opera(3%).
  • Users with more than 100 Visits since August 2009 = 60,000 -- I've only had Google Analytics enabled since August 2009 but the traffic trend has most visitors with 1-2 visits (35%) followed by another group of regulars who have visited 10-100 times (32%).
  • Traffic from Search Engines = 66% -- Most of the site's traffic originates from search engines, primarily Google, with "Oblivion Wiki" being the most popular search term (10%).

I've always liked statistics in general (for reasons I've never thought to consider) and if I had more time there are myriads of more stats from the site I've love to compute and collect.

UESP Forum Turns Four!!

  11:52:56 pm, by Cactus   , 548 words  
Viewed 36861 times since 23/11/09
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, News, UESP

It's just closing up on the fourth anniversary of the forums now. Our girl, she's growing up.:>>

We celebrated this year by holding a few competitions in writing, art, and even a competition for the Mod-team's avatars and signatures. We didn't have quite as many entries as I'd hoped, but it was still fun going through all the entries and choosing the best. Well, fun and difficult. Everyone who entered brought something different and interesting to the table, and at times it was a tough choice. We finally came up with our decisions and posted them earlier today. We even rewarded the winners with a superficial and temporary appointment to Tea Part Mod.&#59;)

The writing was the worst to judge. Every single entry was really really good. Masser wrote an interesting action story involving the enslavement of Argonians by other Argonians. Dragour wrote an exceptional piece about a runaway Telvanni wizard that had a really good ending. Vivec's Tears wrote a great poem about Oblivion vs. Morrowind that I found quite amusing. Urthdigger wrote a very funny piece about the Neravarine fighting the head of House Redoran. And finally r brought his usual intelligence and style to the table in the form of an essay written from the point of view of a Mages Guild scholar. If you didn't catch the link before, you can find all of these writings by clicking this link.

Regarding signatures and avatars, you can just swing on over to the forum and check out the winning entries for yourself. The winner for signatures was Nyk45 and Nyk also tied with Reaper67 for the avatar win. They're really quite good, so please check them out.

While this isn't a competition, it does involve the whole forum. As a bonus to the other festivities we had the idea for Mod interviews. Having no one else to do them for us, we decided to them ourselves. Every mod came up with a series of questions for all the other mods. With five of us, it quickly grew to be a really huge deal and the interviews were huge. In addition, we made a special thread so anyone on the forum could ask us questions. We took those, the tons of questions from the other mods, and compiled them into five in-depth and often very funny interviews. PLEASE, go check these out as they're worth a read. Warning, you'll need some time, so pull up a comfy chair and grab a bowl of crisps and enjoy!:p

And finally there was the art competition. I mention this last because in my opinion, this was the most outstanding entry of all, and I think it deserves special mention. It's a photo taken by user Yeepo and titled "A Knife in the Dark." Hopefully everyone reading this will recognise that reference.
A Knife in the Dark

I'd like to close by saying thank you to EVERYONE who participated in any way, whether you entered into a contest or just asked us a question. So, a shoutout goes to:
Vivec's Tears
Vivec's Tears
Dark Lord
Guy No. 2
The Dog Whisperer
and of course the Mod Team, aka Team C: