Damon's Throwback Thursday Post

  07:45:00 pm, by Damon   , 563 words  
Viewed 4342 times since 03/27/14
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, Misc

In recognition of twenty years of The Elder Scrolls, let’s bring UESP’s blog into the “Throwback Thursday” trend with a reminiscing blog post about my first encounter with the Elder Scrolls series. I say Morrowind was my first experience with it, and in a sense it was. It’s my first in-depth experience that got me into the series, but my very, very first time touching a TES game is what I’m talking about now.

Back in 2007 or 2008, I was hanging out with my friend at his house, and he had Oblivion on his laptop and was playing it when he offered to let me have a run at it. Where do I start? I guess from the beginning would be the most appropriate.

The Imperial City

I remember the chills I got when Uriel’s sorrowful face came up on the screen and he touched the glowing Amulet of Kingsand started his opening speech: “I was born eighty-seven years ago...” It was very awe-inspiring to see the gates to Oblivion opening and to see Daedric forces and siege engines marching towards the gateway to Tamriel. Then, the cut to Tamriel and the fly-over of Lake Rumare and the Imperial City and architecture not like anything I’ve seen before. The theme song was amazing at this point in the cutscene: It always gives me chills to hear that crescendo and then the break to silence.

Then, of course, character creation. With the exception of Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, I hadn't had much experience with completely open games, and never with roleplaying games like TES. Honestly, it was a little intimidating to look at all these different buttons and choices with no idea how it would affect gameplay. There were so many strange races that were utterly alien to me to choose from, like the Argonians and Khajiit, to even various elves. I can't remember exactly what I selected, but after a lot of "What do I choose?" and "You choose and do whatever you like" as a reply, I came up with something.

The very first thing I did was run around in my cell hitting the chains and tossing my dishes around. There weren't many games at that time that I played that had detail such as that, and it was very much the most amusing thing I did that day, running around in the Imperial underground interacting with objects.

After listening to a certain charming Dark Elf and then escaping out the sewers after over an hour of looking at every nook and cranny I could reach, I was exposed to a a large lake and the most beautiful scenery ever. Most importantly, I was right next to this huge city or palace or fortress that I saw in the opening cutscene just before, and I set off up the hill to find a way to get inside and explore.

I can't remember much else about that first hour or two playing Oblivion, and all things considered, it doesn't matter. But, what's always stuck with me was this initial overwhelming sense of curiosity (and in some instances fear) of what I could find and discover in this world I found myself in.

Happy Birthday to The Elder Scrolls, and thanks Bethesda for giving me one of my greatest passions and all the memories and experiences that came with the last half-decade of playing The Elder Scrolls!

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

  07:02:00 pm, by AKB   , 714 words  
Viewed 3100 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 6390 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.

AKB's Auto Korrect Blog: Fan Accessible Betas and the Future of the Elder Scrolls

  07:37:00 pm, by AKB   , 891 words  
Viewed 6890 times since 03/09/14
Categories: Elder Scrolls

Because I wanted a fancy name for my own entries, I will now be presenting these under the name of AKB's Auto Korrect Blog, because I like playing with acronyms.

One of the most interesting things about Elder Scrolls Online is the fact that despite the game release date still being a month away, millions have already played it (or at least that number of invitations have been sent out). So really, the whole official release date is just the point where getting to play it when you want to will be less of a pain, as countless ES fans have already gotten the chance to experience it and make up their minds on it. In return for providing  relatively free scale testing and bug hunting, we got a chance to take an early look at the game. For the developers and the players, this is surely a great working relationship. We get to make a more informed decision before buying the game, while ZeniMax gets free testers and the chance to address our concerns.

So if this publicly available beta is so good for all involved, why doesn't everyone do it?

Well, the answer is, everyone is already doing it. I'm sure I'm not the first person to tell you about the wonders of services like Steam's Early Access, which allow you to play your favorite games before they are even out. Of course, this is blurring the lines between when a game is out, and when it is in development.  And that is not necessarily a good thing. Take a game I looked forward to for ages, Starbound. Months ago, I got my first chance to play it after they announced it would be available as an Early Access game, and quickly set it down again. While the developer, Chucklefish, did do its due diligence in dealing out the information that it would be rather buggy and not finished, I still had to play this game I've been looking forward to since I heard about it through the Terrarria fan base. And I hated every moment of it for it not being done. And I imagine a lot of people are like me in this regard, you can't just not play the game you've been looking forward to for ages, even if you know it's not the game you've been looking forward to for ages yet. So thanks to Early Access experiences removing the barrier between the content complete product customers are expecting and the barely functional garbage most games are early in their life, you have a lot of people tired of the game before it is even "released".

There are other issues, such as the lowered standards that go with this, and the fact that a lot of games that shouldn't really be getting money for their half-thought out ideas are now selling themselves on assets that simply do not exist yet, but that's the biggest issue for me. First impressions are a big part of any experience for me, and when my first expression is vomit inducing, I'm probably not going to stick around for the end product. And this has happened to me for ESO. I took my first shot at the beta when I got it during the NDA portions of it, and didn't play it much after that. I just could not care as much after hearing Microsoft Voice Simulators sing my praise for completing a quest, learning a lot of the things I was specifically looking forward to are not in the game yet, and seeing my character deleted the moment the weekend playtest was over. I never felt motivated to play the future rounds of beta as I did the first one, since my first shot at it was such a mess.

Still, unlike with Early Access games, I can disassociate my experiences with ESO beta from games like Starboound for the simple fact that I haven't given them a red cent to play their game as of now. I did not buy ESO into the beta, so as far as I'm concerned, the beta won't be the ESO I have to put money down to get. And in the little time I tried the later rounds of beta, I do feel like it is getting better than worse as the release date approaches. So with that said, letting the fans play test the game for the developers, at no cost to the fans, is a pretty fair way to go about developing your game. Because the simple fact is, we can either bug proof the game now, or after we buy it. Even the most casual fan knows ES games are buggy, especially at launch. If you give the fans a chance to squash those bugs before the game comes out, well, you might just release the very first working launch ES game ever.

So do I think future ES games in the main series should do something like Early Access? No, I don't think you should provide a single player experience that is not at least completed to a reasonable level should see the public eye, especially if I'm giving you money for it. But should they try giving it out to more of their fans for free, so they can help make the game a better experience. Absolutely.

Quick Beta Impressions

  03:57:00 pm, by   , 440 words  
Viewed 4531 times since 03/04/14
Categories: Code

My experience was very glitchy. Eventually, just trying to talk to people in Stonefalls or trading with a merchant would usually end with a reboot. Crafting was largely out of the question. Logins failed, I got trapped in areas I shouldn't have been able to access at that moment, sometimes my attacks didn't affect enemies (and vice versa), and quite frequently, I couldn't move the camera while moving the character.

In other words, it felt a lot like playing Morrowind. I was playing in the wilds of mainland Morrowind two days ago. I waited a decade to do that. If you played Morrowind, do yourself a favor and make an Ebonheart Pact character.

The music is excellent. Except one melody sounds nauseatingly reminiscent to that of "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion. This is intolerable.

Because of the glitchiness and control limitations, I had to stick to using sorcery and a destruction staff. Which is amazing if you're in the same position, by the way. It's likely one of the easier combat styles in the game. Keep a summoned daedra around at all times, and when you see an enemy, cast your favorite ranged spell (I think mine was called Shadow Touch), spam with the staff as they charge, then use a fast-acting and powerful spell as they get really close. Almost any enemy you will encounter (in the early days, at least), will be dead before they can hit you twice. Piece of cake, as long as you don't face three or more enemies at once by yourself.

My laptop is far from top-of-the-line, but the game looked like a slightly enhanced version of Morrowind. Of course, it was a relatively empty version of Morrowind.  However, there are apparently skills in the game to obtain which will allow players to perceive things at greater distances, which might make the game feel less empty. Also, I imagine there are plans to flesh it out a bit in the future.

Regardless, I don't see the emptiness as a bad thing.  It's thrilling if, like me, you're annoyed by the trend of shrinking sandboxes in each game. In Oblivion and Skyrim, the player character, relative to the world around him, was a giant who moved like a cheetah. Things feel bigger in ESO, and the player character more... proportionally appropriate, I guess.

That's all I got for now. The Dunmer sorcerer Yewie Espee shall continue his quest for knowledge in the next beta, hopefully. For now, he will continue praying to Azura that his universe becomes free-to-play, as he fears that he may cease to exist if it does not.