Category: "UESP"

On Skyrim III: Questing for Perfection

  05:18:02 pm, by   , 902 words  
Viewed 24268 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!

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On Skyrim and UESP

  11:47:25 am, by   , 427 words  
Viewed 34776 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 17192 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 36323 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:
Nyk45
Vivec's Tears
Reaper67
JamesF14
ace62394
masser
Dragour
Vivec's Tears
urthdigger
r
Dark Lord
Sonixboom
foodme
RobotNixon
Guy No. 2
Wolf
Dlarsh
Generalno1
scribbane
videogmer314
The Dog Whisperer
satan_n_stuff
Jpot
and of course the Mod Team, aka Team C:
Codex
Cactus
Caz
Josjie
Dogmantra

This is the Cactus speaking..

  02:18:45 pm, by Cactus   , 437 words  
Viewed 66859 times since 05/11/09
Categories: Welcome, Games, Elder Scrolls, Hobbies, UESP

Hiya!
My name is Ricky and I'm a Moderator over on the UESP Forums. I just thought I'd bring a touch of the forum life over here to the blog. I'm not even sure what that means, but it sounded good in my head when I signed up for this.


Oh, an introduction? Is that what you want?
Le'see, I'm called Cactus on about 90% of the internet and surprisingly by several people in the real world, too. I've been a member of both the wiki and the forums since September 2007. I'll admit I'm not much of an editor on the wiki, more of a reader, but I've fixed my share of typos. I've been a Mod since late 2008.

My interests, aside from video games, lie in writing and music. I've been writing since I was about 14 and I've finally gotten good enough I don't hate everything I write. I'm still too lazy though. I've been playing drums since 2004 or 2005. Until recently I was in a band called Optical Delusion. We released a single album in 2007.

I'm recently (and voluntarily) unemployed in preparation for a rather significant change in my life--I'm moving to Germany to continue my education and hopefully end up as an architect.


I love jumping on bandwagons and looking cool by mimicking others, so I'll share the games I've been playing recently since everyone else did. &#59;)

  • Oblivion:
    This is a rather recent addition to my "current" games. I was obsessed with it for over a year and it finally got old. A new Argonian assassin has rekindled my love for this beautiful game.
  • Fallout 3:
    This is an obsession that won't die. I've played through it so many times and just as the fire was going out, the DLC came out and I've been loving it all over again.
  • Spore:
    This is a really great game, I think. It really supports creativity. If you don't have it, get it. The expansions add quite a bit to the game, as well.
  • Sims 3:
    I could practically write a post on this game and the series in general. I've been absolutely obsessed with Sims games since I played SimCity 2000 on my first computer back in 1998. Since then I've played SimCity 3000, SimTower, SimCopter, Streets of SimCity, SimSafari, Sims (and all expansions), Sims 2 (and all expansions) and probably some others I've forgotten. It's like they've somehow taken drug addition and packaged it as a computer game. Truth be told I'm probably a bit more passionate, though less obsessed, with this series than Elder Scrolls.
  • Morrowind (Deutsch Version:
    In preparation for my move I've been playing this in German. It's.. not easy.