Please don't steal my stuff :'(

  02:55:25 am, by   , 837 words  
Viewed 26049 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

 Permalink1 comment »

Achievements Are Awful (and also Alliteration)

  12:12:40 am, by Nocte Canticum   , 364 words  
Viewed 22873 times since 08/20/13
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls

I hate achievements. I am a "completionist" and I hate achievements (okay, most achievements). One may ask "Nocte, why do you have so many achievements if you hate them so much?" (I really don't, but that's beside the point). Allow me to explain. There are three kinds of achievements, in my opinion.
1. The normal-gameplay achievement:
These achievemets are the ones that anyone who plays the game, regardless of skill level, will ultimately obtain. For an example (and to connect this marginally to the Elder Scrolls), look at the Xbox achievements for Oblivion. Every single one of those are obtainable by completing main quests or faction quests. They take no extra effort aside from the player, and are granted through normal gameplay. These achivements seem silly to me, because they reward me for playing the game (which should be rewarding in and of itself), yet I always seem to get them...
2. The grinding achivement:
These achievements are the ridiculous achievements that require repetition of the same or similar actions. As an example, consider the achievements "Defeat 100 'X' enemies". For an Elder Scrolls example, look at the Skyrim achievement "Reader", which requires the player to seek out and read 100 skill books. I tend to ignore these achievements, because grinding is not my thing (I get enough of that in JRPGs).
3. The exploration achievement:
These achievements are my favourite (lesser of three evils), and the only achievements for which I will excessively work. These achievements reward the player for finding unique locations in the game, or creating a unique event that not every player would encounter. The biggest example I can always think of (though not an ES example) is the Half-life 2 achievement Vorticough in which the player finds an alien singing in a cave. It takes a little effort to get to the cave, but the player is rewarded with an adorable in-game event (and the achievement too, I suppose). Depending on the in-game reward for completion, I will actually try for these achievements.

So, there you have it. My rant on achievements and why I dislike them so much. That being said... I am always willing to brag about the ones I DO have! :P

Skyrim's Lost Potential

  10:33:17 pm, by   , 468 words  
Viewed 41531 times since 07/31/13
Categories: Welcome, Elder Scrolls

We expect a movie critic to actually have seen a film's ending before giving a rating. Food critics who eat only part of their steak and skip the side dish altogether won't really know enough to give a review on their meal. Likewise, a major video game in modern times like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim cannot be judged properly until it has run its course. It stands as a perfect example of how such games are expected to have at least one major DLC. This expectation is built into the pricing model, the game design, and even the expectations of the fans. We don't just judge a game, we judge a game's promise, how much enjoyment we expect to receive from it in the future. Thanks to Bethesda's announcement on April 15, we know that we have seen the last of the Skyrim DLC, and while many of us may still be spending countless hours with it over the next few years, we can now look back and judge whether Skyrim's potential was realized. Upon doing so, however, I can't help but conclude that this seems like a game which stills needs one or two more additions of DLC to be complete.

The ways Bethesda could have resolved the civil war quest line are as numerous as they are exciting. Whether it's the Empire finishing off the Stormcloak resistance, the Stormcloaks securing their borders, or some less orthodox third option, it doesn't seem complete without players getting a chance to ensure their choice becomes High King. We only got four missions dealing with the Eight Divines; that doesn't seem right. That whole thing with the Forsworn and Madanach just sort of ended. What about the under-utilized Orc strongholds, and all those teasing loading screens about how Orsinium was rebuilt on Skyrim's border? As AKB wrote in his April blog entry "Consequences Matter", many of Skyrim's quest lines "don't conclude, they stop". Clearly, there were many areas ripe for new or expanded storylines which would have added significant depth to the overall game.

Instead of fleshing out these areas which felt, for lack of a better word, unfinished, Bethesda pulled the plug on Skyrim DLC. We can only speculate on their reasoning for doing so. Perhaps the profits from the first three were lower than expected due to the technical problems encountered with implementing them on the PS3, and maybe the economic downturn was a factor. They may have wanted to focus on making a launch game for the next generation of consoles. But I don't think the notion that Skyrim had run its course creatively holds much merit.

Despite its unrealized potential, I think Skyrim stands as one of the best games ever made. I just wish the artists had made a few more brushstrokes on their masterpiece.

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

  10:31:35 pm, by AKB   , 972 words  
Viewed 12898 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.

On Morrowind

  09:10:26 pm, by Damon   , 679 words  
Viewed 36707 times since 07/24/13
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls

I was going to post about how I've been playing Assassin's Creed lately, but this is an Elder Scrolls blog, and what have I posted about the Elder Scrolls? Wait, you guessed "Nothing"? You're correct, but this isn't a game show, so there's no prize.

I just want to discuss a game that I've had my love renewed in. Morrowind. The hype over Skyrim and its DLC and the Skyrim cleanup projects on the wiki have really taken away from the focus on the older games for me, and I've spent... A lot... Alright, very little time focusing on Skyrim, but that little time I had wasn't on what I loved. Jeancey's Morrowind Overhaul Project and the influx of editors working to overhaul the namespace and bring it to standard has lead me to look at Morrowind again, and in new light.

It's a simply amazing game. It's got its weaknesses, such as the hit chance, which was irritating when you're so close you're clipping, yet you can't do damage, but overall the games amazing. It feels to me, and this is solely my opinion, that the game is still better than its successors.

For one, I completely love the land. It's unique, compared to the pretty, yet stereotypically fantastical setting. In Morrowind and Skyrim, you can travel around with a vague idea of what's out there... Sabretooth cats in the mountains, deer in the planes, and so on. There are of course fantasy characters who vary it up, but overall, it's a rather normal landscape, compared to the mountainous ashlands of Vvardenfell, where none of those creatures could possibly survive.

For ruins, we've got Dwemer, Daedric, Dunmer strongholds, and in Bloodmoon, barrows, in addition to ancestral tombs of the Dunmer. What's Oblivion give? Ayleid ruins, abandoned forts, and caves. Skyrim? Nordic ruins, Dwemer ruins, and barrows. The ruins in each of these are typically bandit occupied, save for the automatons of the Dwemer ruins.

The Ayleid ruins of Oblivion were unique and interesting in appearance, but the rest felt fairly safe, in my opinion, as in, unlike Morrowind, it didn't feel dangerous to be in them (though that's mostly attributed to the leveling system). In Morrowind, of which I am a nearly five year veteran, I still hold a certain apprehension when it comes to discovering ruins. I don't know if some strange Daedric creature or a Dwemer sphere will come out and jump me, or if an Orc in heavy armor will be waiting with a claymore to eviscerate me.

Guilds and quests... This one, I need to consult the wiki over, since it's fact, and not opinion, so hold on...

OK, I'm back! :p

I am counting a dozen factions that could be joined:

Great Houses Hlaalu, Redoran, and Telvanni, Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, Thieves Guild, Imperial Cult, the Tribunal Temple, and Imperial Legion, East Empire Company (if Bloodmoon is installed), and the Morag Tong.

We have significantly less in Oblivion: The Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, Thieves Guild, DArk Brotherhood, and Arena.

Skyrim... Companions, College of Winterhold, Thieves, Brotherhood, Bards (I don't count it since it's only two quests), and the Civil War, where you can be a Stormcloak or Imperial Soldier.

Morrowind feels more... Alive, I guess. There are so many factions to interact with, and the politics of each held region is evident when you interact with the residents of the towns. The quests of each aren't perfect, by any means, since I prefer a story driven guildline over questing with only the loosest of stories, and in that aspect the newer games win me over.

I'm going to two part this... I can write a novella about this, and in fact I might, if I remember to, go on about the game mechanics, which I'll throw out, are bloody amazing in the newer games. I just feel that the new, improved game mechanics come at a loss to story, since so much time has to be spent working on making them cutting edge amazing... But, that's a highly opinionated post for another day.