Skyrim EP41: Stay a While and Listen

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jun 5, 2014

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 139 comments

Link (YouTube)

Am I going crazy? I have this vivid memory of going to see Paarthurnax and having him give me a little exposition that I was really enjoying, and instead of being able to ask him for more, I was railroaded into saying something like, “Whatever, I don’t care about any of this. Just tell me what I want to know.” Is that not in the game? Am I thinking of another scene?

Also, Josh was not pulling my leg. The voice of Paarthurnax is indeed Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario.

But I think the important thing is that Skyrim mostly abandons the multiple-choice dialog, and in scenes like this is really hurts. If you don’t care about lore or this is your tenth trip through the game, then it’s nice to just get your quest marker updated and be on your way. And if you’re a lore hound it’s great to be able to do a self-directed wiki-walk through the lore, picking topics and exploring what interests you. A linear conversation is miserable for both types of players. I think we get one multi-choice break at the end, but this conversation should have been much more compact, with more options early on.

Also, as great as Paarthurnax looks, this scene gets to be visually tiring kind of quickly. It’s not like a movie scene where we get exposition characters emote, change view, and the camera hops around to show us interesting things. What we have here is basically a mostly static image while Paarthurnax rambles on like he’s recording a his own podcast. (Paarthucast?)

Games shouldn’t try to be movies. But if you ARE going to try to be a movie, at least be an interesting one.


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139 thoughts on “Skyrim EP41: Stay a While and Listen

  1. kerin says:

    I think I remember the line you’re talking about but it comes up later, after you talk to the Blades who want you to kill Parthie for poorly considered (and even more poorly explained) reasons. You can talk to him a bit, and Dragon Buddy is all yeah, no, I see where they’re coming from but that’s not cool, and you get the choice to either be a dick about it or say something even more out of character.

  2. Corpital says:

    I’ve only ever played the main story until you get to Alduin’s Wall and then stopped, but if the Blades really want you to kill the Paarty dragon and you actually do it, what happens with the negotiations in the civil war storyline?
    Everyone still meets in High Hrothgar and nobody cares?

    Also I have no idea why, but ‘Did my horse die? Oh no, there he is.’ and then immediately ramming a cart in it’s face while running past it and taking a carriage made me laugh hard enough to wake my housemate up.

    1. Ilseroth says:

      They ask you to kill parthuurnax *after* the negotiations… literally 5 seconds after… while you are still in the hall of the greybeards… who are two seats away.

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        No, you can get the quest to kill Parthuurnax *before* Seasons Unending. You just have to speak to them after this particular quest here.

        Basically Arngeir *tries* to state that they won’t have Delphine and the Blades at the meeting, but then the Blades specifically state that they have just as much reason to be interested in the proceedings of the negotiations, and eventually Arngeir concedes that they are allowed to be at the treaty.

        At least, this is what happens with the “Haven’t finished the Civil War questline but still want to do the quest where I can capture a dragon at Whiterun” treaty, if that’s what you’re referring to – or is there a post Civil War one that’s different? I’ve yet to complete the Civil War once yet, so I don’t actually know.

  3. aldowyn says:

    Krosis means ‘sorrow’, as in the abstract concept.. and is also used as a simple apology, like ‘sorry’.

    also: Apparently I’m going to eat the world.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      No no no.You see,you are an american dragon,but aldueeeeeeeen is the skyrim one that wants to eat the world.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      It is also about the *only* dragon-speak word that never gets translated to you. Which is sort of silly.

    3. Mintskittle says:

      I seem to remember reading somewhere that the dragon priest Krosis was named such because the devs placed his coffin right next to a word wall guarded by a dragon, so you have to fight both at the same time. It’s the devs apologizing to the players, I think.

      1. IFS says:

        And its in a place that you can reach really early on, I think it was literally the first dragon fight I had after the one at the tower that Balgruff sends you to on one of my games.

        1. aldowyn says:

          yeah, it’d be a relatively likely one to get sent to by the radiant quests. I think it’s in the mountains just north of whiterun, IIRC?

          1. guy says:

            Yeah, Mount Anthor or something like that. It’s pretty common to get it put on your map by like level five from a Radiant quest or environmental chatter.

  4. Grudgeal says:

    I wonder what ‘webcast’ is in Dragon. Because you just *know* Paarth would use that word every single time before adding “…webcast” afterwards.

    That verbal tic got on my nerves *really* fast.

    1. Raygereio says:

      I suppose it can get annoying, but I appreciated that tic.
      When I have a conversation in English when I haven’t spoken that language in quite some time, I often find myself throwing in some Dutch (my native language) words here and there as I try to remember what those words in English are. Similar to what Dovahbro is doing.

      1. Disc says:

        Never developed the tic myself but it does make a lot of sense. Actually speaking and having a conversation in English is a relatively rare treat and whenever it does happen there’s always that initial struggle to find the right words to fill in all the blanks. It tends to go away after a while, but it’s still embarassing and annoying when your mind just goes blank in mid-sentence and I have to stop to figure out the right word, so I can see why people would speak like that.

    2. Joakim Karlen says:

      It would be something along the lines of Zii Tey Tinvaak (Spirit Tale Speech), to denote non-physical, narrative, speech. It could also be Lok Ven Tinvaak (Sky Wind Speech), where the Ven denotes something quick, like the wind.

  5. Tapkoh says:

    Not only do you have to be the dragonborn for that option at the college entrance to show up, but you have to have reached this point in the main quest. Otherwise, you’re stuck having to cast spells.

    1. Grudgeal says:

      Strangely enough, the quest keeps pointing you to Esbern or Arnstein even if you do know where to go next. Apparently, Bethesta were too lazy to remove that step in the quest contingent on your prior knowledge.

    2. Michael says:

      I forget, can you just skip this stage, and go out to Professor Crazy’s ice cave without joining the college?

      1. Cinebeast says:

        Actually, yes, I’m pretty sure you can.

        But I’d say it’s difficult to role-play a good reason for why your character would abruptly decide to brave the northernmost floes beyond the College on the off-chance that you might run across an Elder Scroll buried in an iceberg.

  6. Henson says:

    This. This is the moment that destroyed my interest in the main quest. I was okay with it up till here. I liked meeting the greybeards. I liked meeting Esbern. I even liked infiltrating the Thalmor fortress. But this…this! You’re having a conversation with a dragon, for Pete’s sake. And it’s so BORING.

    This is the moment where Bethesda’s dialogue scenes collapse into themselves. It’s not that the conversation is too long, it’s that it’s just so empty. It’s all dry exposition, and Paarthurnax has no personality, and his mouth movements look ridiculous, and his constant lapses into the Dragon tongue have no purpose other than to piss me off. If the rest of the game hadn’t already convinced me that there’s a serious problem with how Bethesda handles conversations, this would put the nail in the freakin’ coffin.

    To put this in comparison, I actually met another non-hostile dragon prior to this. He’s from the Interesting NPCs mod. And you can’t speak to him. All you learn of him is what his human companion has to say. And all he says is “Beware Alduin’s flame.” Without moving his lips. This minimalist approach is so much more effective at building atmosphere around meeting a dragon. This dragon keeps secrets, and the mystery is interesting. Paarthurnax tells you his life story.

    1. MrGuy says:

      The “lapsing into dragon speech” really irritates me, because you just know the final cut was the result of an uneasy truce between two writers who hate each other.

      One thought it would be really cool to have this whole dragon language that the dragon speaks in, only interspersed with a word or two of english you could sort of follow along. They spent a ton of time on “cool sounding dragon speak” and were crazy proud of it.

      Then writer two comes along and says “hey, that’s great, but I have no idea what the dragon is saying. And most players won’t either. So that’s dumb. Let’s have the dragon speak English. It’s not like we use real “aincent Nord” to converse with characters. English, dude.”

      Writer one gets in a tizzy about all the work he put in, and writer two is underestimating just how much the players thirst for immersive lore. Writer two tells writer one to get over himself, and if writer one’s lore isn’t interesting enough to sound cool in English, he’s a hack that should be allowed to decide things anyways. Writer one calls writer two a neanderthal, writer two calls writer one a self-important hack, sad times ensure, and they both get called into the head writer’s office for a strong talking-to.

      The head writer had heard enough, so he makes a decree that the dragon can still speak dragish, but only if he also translates himself into English for the player, hoping that’s enough of a win for each of them to shut the pair of them up for awhile. That’s why you have the dragon saying stellar lines like “Why have you come to my {whatever}, my mountain?”

      Both writers head back to their desks to stew about it, but eventually they get back to working and hating each other. And that’s how they wrote the Thief’s Guild quest. The end.

      1. Tizzy says:

        The thieves guild quests as a series of moves and countermoves in two insane writers’ all out war. Like competitive madlibs, where players try to write the others into a corner…

        It makes so much sense now!

      2. If the main character understand the dragon speech then use forced subtitles, problem solved.
        This is how BioWare solved it with KoTOR for alien speech, and it worked great, though the alien “speech” did get repetitive at times, which could easily be solved by some semi clever sample playlist randomizer and weighted playback, which is pretty easy to code.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    ERMAHGERD,A DERGERN!And boy are his nostrils in catberts face!

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Isnt that flame shout weak just because you know one third of it?Kind of how fus isnt that impressive before you get the other two?

    1. aldowyn says:

      pretty sure it still sucks. Ice breath is better because it slows/freezes, I think.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well yeah,ice trumps fire in practically every video game.

        1. Humanoid says:

          Yeah, even in games where ice kinda sucks – HoMM comes to mind – fire still manages to be worse. Ignore both and use lightning spells.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Meh,aside from IV and V*,direct damage spells suck as a whole,so just focus on (de)buffs.

            *And thats only because in IV your creatures can cast them for massive damage and in V they get extra debuffs.

      2. Tizzy says:

        Ice form better than ice breath, though.

    2. Raygereio says:

      No, it really is amazingly crappy. The second and third words even make the shout less efficient.
      “Yol” does 50 fire damage and has a 30 second recharge. The full “Yol Toor Shul” does 90 damage and has a recharge of 100 seconds.

      The full Fire Breath shout does affect a pretty large area in front of you, but the low damage and huge cooldown just makes it straight up worthless.

      1. hborrgg says:

        I was going to add that it does 25% more damage if you meditate with Paarthurnax, but holy cow! The fact that the second and 3rd shouts are even worse really is bad.

      2. newdarkcloud says:

        The problem with the shout is that it is pure damage. It has no other use besides pure damage (same with Ice Breath, there is a separate shout called “Ice Form” that freezes enemies).

        Most of the other shouts in the game have other effects. As a result, they will still be useful even later in the game.

        On the other hand, you can’t make this shout too high damaging b/c there’s a chance that a LV 1-5 player will get it. To them, a 150 damage Fire Breath or something would be OP.

        What they should have done is level scale Fire and Ice Breath. Unfortunately, I don’t know if their system can do that. It seems that in a TES game, any item/spell that is level scaled will lock in once you acquire it. With three parts to the shout, this could cause it’s own problems.

        Perhaps they could have tied in to Speechcraft? They’d have problems where you REALLY can’t be guaranteed to get that skill high, but it is a valid solution.

        Damn Bethesda technology really does tie there hands here.

        1. hborrgg says:

          How much extra damage does the burn effect from fire breath do?

        2. Kana says:

          One of the mods I had was a dragon shout overhaul, and it made Yol awesome. The cooldown was long enough you couldn’t spam it, but it would destroy packs of little mooks. Really made me feel like being an actual dovahkiin, a mortal with the soul of a dragon.

          Sadly, it had the crippling disadvantage of not being Fus Ro Dah. Seriously, the mod gave it a slight damage boost and that made it noticeable but not really lethal.

          Except that it has ridiculous knockback. I beat so many humanoid bosses that were really hard by pillar humping and spamming fus ro dah.

          I don’t think just having a damage shout is too terrible. Especially since shouting anything locks you out of other shouts (another thing I hate, but it’s there), so you’re making a trade. Damage for a long cooldown, and that CC from Fus could be needed soon.

        3. Humanoid says:

          I’d give the fire breath some secondary effect such as causing panic or somesuch. Hell, make the panic the primary effect, the fire is just a bonus because ultimately it’s just a Flames spell duplicate.

          1. Ringwraith says:

            Which, strangely enough, is one of the Destruction perks.
            Probably doesn’t apply to shouts though, despite this sort of thing happening by accident all the time.

        4. Lachlan the Mad says:

          I am 200% in favour of a mod where Speechcraft becomes the governing skill for dragon shout damage. Add a couple of perks to reduce dragon shout cooldown and I will give you all of my money for said mod.

          1. aldowyn says:

            that might be a decent excuse to go digging into skyrim modding when I get a chance :P

          2. Michael says:

            Requiem does that, I think.

          3. Being able to really level the dragon shouts was something I missed (the three words did provide some leveling, but they are more like three stages).
            It would be awesome if you could Fus Ro Dah a dragon such that it would be literally tossed around on the ground from the force and had to get up again, the needed ragdoll physics are there after all.
            Three word ice or fire shouts should also have similar impacts.

          4. Cinebeast says:

            SkyRe does just that. Well, it ties Shouts to Speechcraft, anyway, and it adds a few Shout-specific perks. The whole mod is basically “Skyrim-as-it-should-have-been.”

            EDIT: Whoops, I see Grudgeal already pointed that out.

        5. Ciennas says:

          However, there was a simple script mod for Oblivion: The Quest Reward Leveler. Oh how lovely and simple it was! It checked your inventory every time you closed it, finding if any item was applicable for a better version, then replacing it with the better one- but only if your level was the prerequisite to get the newer version.

          With such elegance, I’m surprised that it hasn’t been in use in all later Bethesda games- maybe like a weapon upgrading altar or somesuch, to keep it ‘lore friendly.’

          Lopping back to shouts, I can’t think of a single reason why they couldn’t make shouts grow stronger with player level. It would even make a great deal of sense, broadly speaking- the Dovahmuncher gets better at using the words of power that is their heritage.

        6. Grudgeal says:

          The SkyRE mod does that.

          Of course it also overhauls practically *everything* about the game so it’s all or nothing I’m afraid.

        7. Raygereio says:

          What they should have done is level scale Fire and Ice Breath. Unfortunately, I don't know if their system can do that.

          You can easily do this. That’s just a simple matter of grabbing Fire Breath’s spell and adding new damage effects with player-level condition.

        8. Michael says:

          Except, it doesn’t really mater if a level 5 character gets a shout, because in the base game, shouts don’t yield any XP…

          Okay, so Skyrim distributes XP for actually doing a thing, and only distributes it the specific skill that was used… that’s cool. But, shouting isn’t tied to any ability, so there’s no advancement. It becomes a “get out of jail free” panic button, but the player doesn’t actually get more powerful from using it, except in the level dependent random gear they pry off their foe… oh, wait.

    3. Josh says:

      Its DPS is actually reduced by using the higher upgrade levels. The cooldown scales up faster than the damage.

      Also at level 3 its still only 90 fire damage. That’s about 3.5 swings with an un-upgraded, unenchanted Daedric Greatsword. Throw in anything that’s been improved to legendary level and it’s just a joke.

      1. Tizzy says:

        Even the greatsword comparison doesn’t quite make sense, because damage would go up with a variety of perks, plus maybe we should look at power attacks (also, what is the effect of skill on damage?).

        So that, by midlevel, 90 damage is barely above what I would expect a decent weapon attack to deliver.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So spoiler warning is about cycles

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      No, Daemian Lucifer is about cycles

    2. MrGuy says:

      Until they realize that’s stupid, and retcon it in a patch.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You know Mumbles,dark souls is like making love to a beautiful woman.Lots of anxiety and frustration until you learn how to do it,but man does it pay off afterwards.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Dark Souls is like making love to a beautiful woman.

      Always keep the shield in place, roll around her while she’s flailing and get behind her knee to take her down.

  11. Jacob Albano says:

    Going down the mountain after talking to dragonbro was the first time I realized Become Ethereal prevented fall damage too. You can jump a good long way and be totally fine.

    1. Jokerman says:

      Do you still ragdoll?

      1. Jacob Albano says:

        Nope! It’s quite handy as long as the shout doesn’t wear off right as you hit the ground.

  12. djshire says:

    So then Shamus would you say that this conversation just seems to….drag on?

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      Good god that pun burns.

      1. djshire says:

        Great Success!

        1. guy says:

          Truly you are an ancient and revered punmaster.

      2. Alexander The 1st says:

        Well to be fair, Fire Breath is the only Dragon Shout Paarthurnax appears to know at this point in the game *is* Fire Breath, and Dragons apparently only have conversations in the Dragon Tongue by Dragon Shouting, so that’s to be expected, I’d think.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I wonder how many times Ill read that pun during this season before it becomes unBEARable.Wait….I seem to have done something wrong.HAAS anyone seen where my mistake is?I cant seem to find it.Its like it vanished in a PUFF OF SMOKE.

      1. djshire says:

        Man, reading this post almost makes you wish for a nuclear winter…

  13. PossiblyInsane says:

    That Paarthurnax conversation…

    Dovahkitty: Teach me Dragonrend!
    Paarthurnax: Not yet, lemme teach you a fire shout first.

    *Fire breath training*

    Paarthurnax: Ah, Dovahkitty! I sense you want to learn the Dragonrend shout!
    Dovahkitty: (conversation option 1) WHAT? How could you possibly know that? Who told you?
    Me: *sigh* Really, Bethesda? You can’t even keep track of causal relations IN THE SAME CONVERSATION?

    I’d give it the benefit of doubt and call it sarcasm, except it’s Bethesda…

    1. Corpital says:

      Maybe the fire shout DOES have a secondary effect is not as useless, as everybody thinks. Maybe it erases short term memory.

      The dragon showed you the shout, then forgot what you were here for and just assumed that you want to learn how to kill Alduin. Then Catbert shouted and also forgot what he told Paarty.

      No, wait. That makes the shout ever more useless. Incredible!

      1. MichaelGC says:

        This quest also put me in mind of things that can cause short-term memory loss. (The thing that bugged me about talking to Paarthingy wasn’t that my railroady options were limited, but that they seemed so out-of-“character” compared to all the previous railroady limited options I’d selected from.)

        It’s as if the Dragonborn got high from huffing out Lok Vah Koor on their way up, and turned into some sort of stoner.

        -Dragons like mountains, right?

        -An Elder Scroll? What’s that? Oh, riiiight. Already got two of those, dude! They’re right here. I thought they were, like, king-sized blunts! Man I am so baked right now.

  14. Dovius says:

    “Let’s not bring cycles into this.”

    For the Scroll of Ages unfurls, and Eras come to pass.
    What was, what will be, and what is,
    may yet fall under the Daedra.
    Let the plotholes ride again on the winds of time

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      WoT reference. Yay. Also change that from Deadra to retcon.

  15. guy says:

    I hate how the Shouts don’t scale with level. Any direct damage or status effect shout is actually pretty likely to be completely useless by the time you unlock it. The one thing that every character who progresses the main quest is highly likely to have and they couldn’t be bothered to balance it.

    To be fair to the Elder Scrolls as Macguffin thing, all their uses seem to be time-related, whether predicting the future or performing time travel.

    I first encountered the cybernetic ghost of christmas past from the future in Yugio The Abridged Series. I don’t know if it was referencing a prior incarnation.

    I think the mage lady is actually on guard duty, and mostly tells angry drunk people to get lost.

    1. Tizzy says:

      Level-scaling would have been interesting. There are quite a few useful shouts, all things considered, but the direct damage ones definitely don’t fall in that category. There is a clear difference between making the shouts overpowered and making them completely useless. I think the devs underestimated how cool it would be for the player to feel like a real dragon.

      Give the shouts a huge damage output and a very long cooldown and players may actually use them occasionally, just for fun, without making the rest of the game useless.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        I suspect Bethesda’s shitty engine is why they didn’t do it that way. If you look at Oblivion, all level-scaled loot/spells are totally locked in once you acquire them. With 3 different words of the shout to acquire, that could result in really awkward scenarios where you get 1 word of the shout a LV 1 and the second word at LV50 and get huge disparities.

        I propose linking it to speechcraft, but that has it’s own problems.

        1. guy says:

          You could probably hack it with a script that fires on leveling up and gets rid of your old shouts then replaces them with new shouts scaled to your new level.

          1. Mintskittle says:

            There was a mod for Oblivion that did that for quest rewards. When you hit the next level range, it swapped out the old items for the next tier reward.


            I can’t remember if this is the one I used, but yeah, it can be done.

        2. Tizzy says:

          Excellent idea! At last, a use for Speech…

        3. Hal says:

          I always thought a good path would have been to scale the power of the shouts with the number of dragon souls you’d absorbed. Increase efficacy or duration of the effect, decrease the cooldown, something like that. That gives it something like level scaling, since you’ll probably have 20 or so unused souls as the game progresses.

  16. hborrgg says:

    Ok opinions: does Paarthurnax betray you at the end of the game if you don’t kill him?

    Basically, his whole point is that dragons are all supposed to be inherently evil, greedy, and power-hunger and only Paarthurnax has been able to overcome his inner nature thanks to thousands of years of complete isolation and meditation atop the Throat of the World. Yet once you kill Alduin (oh yeah spoiler, you kill Alduin), it’s literally not 5 minutes later that you return to Paarthunax, finding him flying around with a bunch of dragons and saying something along the lines of “Gee, thanks for killing Alduin, Dragonborn! I’ve never felt this alive in years, so I’m off to go fight other dragons and become the new dragon king. See ya!” And then he flies off with his new dragon followers.

    That seemed really odd to me.

    1. Ciennas says:

      They’re just waiting to see what the audience thought of them all. They make huge actual plot forwarding decisions between the games stories.

      Morrowind’s fate, for example. Or what became of the empire in the wake of the Oblivion Crisis.

      The only time they did anything plot relevant in game was in Fallout 3 with Broken Steel- because they realized that having a Mary Sue on the good guys side needed neutralizing.

    2. guy says:

      He probably plans to Shout pacifism into them.

    3. What was ODD was that when you get back down the mountain everyone wasn’t all “OMG I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO TAKE CARE OF ALL THESE DRAGONS ALL OVER THE PLACE YOU SUCK.”

      1. hborrgg says:

        I must admit, putting a stop to those annoying random dragon encounters was my primary motivation for completing the main story the first time I played.

    4. krellen says:

      The impression I got from Paarthurnax’s departing statements was he was indeed going to go become the new dragon king, but he was going to be a dragon king that taught dragons to be cool, chill out, and not go around murdering everything all the time.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        That may be his intent but can he hold to it? He’s managed this long by living in isolation. It could be that by taking his place as dragon king, he begins to indulge his dov nature to dominate and that, like an alcoholic after a couple of drinks, he’s back off the wagon again.

        In the playthroughs where I kill Paarthurnax, that is the reason I do it, not because of crimes long past.

        Then again, after the main quest of the Dragonborn DLC, you have a trump card if he tries anything in your life time (in addition to Dragonrend.)

        1. krellen says:

          Paarthurnax can revert back to being evil whenever he wants; the whole point of the Dragonborn questline is that dragons aren’t in charge any more. It’s the mortal’s world now, as proven by the Dovahkiin killing Alduin, and dragons just have to accept that.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Hmm… Parthy trying to hold/establish his dominion (let’s say with good intentions) over other dragons, who are by nature aggressive creatures primarily respecting strength while at the same time not slipping back into his “unrefined” ways… that could make for an interesting story (perhaps for a DLC). Obviously I’m ignoring how it would be written and handled based on the quality of the main game and assuming it was done well.

    5. Tizzy says:

      This is the devs doing their usual “let’s give the player an alternative, and punish them whichever branch they pick”. Kill Parthunax, and you should feel like crap. Spare him, and you may have unleashed the new evil. The writers just love that dumbass trope.

      Some mitigating factors, to be fair:
      1. Before you even get to kill Alduin, it is made very clear that Parthunax’s motivation to side with the humans was not pity and peace, but jealousy of Alduin. He used to be his first lieutenant, after all.
      2. After Parthunax flies off to subdue his kin, Odaving shows up to say: “yeah, right, good luck with that! Parthunax is overestimating the authority he has on the others.”

      Disclaimer: I didn’t even try to spell those dragon names correctly, Aint nobody got time for that crap!

    6. Michael says:

      He does… allegedly have a positive influence. Once Parthunax becomes the Dragon King… or whatever, the random dragon spawns are more likely to be non-aggressive, and just flying around picking off bandits or whatever.

      In theory, dragons are supposed to always be aggressive before you finish the main game, but, I think finishing Dragonborn also starts making some non-aggressive. Or a mod did it…

      1. aldowyn says:

        the dragon AI has always been really weird.

  17. TMTVL says:

    Wait, I thought you have to become the Dragonborn to do the main quest? Shamus, watchu talking about at the end there?

    1. evileeyore says:

      He’s likely saying he wasn’t doing the Dragonborn main quest when he ended up going to Wizard School…. and in ones where he had to go there for the Dragonborn quest, he was probably already in the college (if not it’s leader).

      Which is always how it went for me. I always ended up having done the majority of non-main quests by the time I bothered with any of the main quests.

    2. newdarkcloud says:

      He likely wasn’t even on the main quest when he triggered the College.

      It’s still really stupid that they make you join the College and Thieves’ Guild as part of the main quest.

      When you think about it, all of the other questlines aside from the Dark Brotherhood are on the main quest path. After all, the Companions are right there in Whiterun when you arrive. At least you don’t HAVE to join them.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        You don’t really have to join. Faralda just lets you in. You can put off attending orientation and go straight to the library which I always do (and as noted, if you’re on the main quest, you can just say you’re Dragonborn and they won’t make you take the normal test).

        For the Thieves Guild quest, you can completely bypass Bryjolf if you’re just looking to get on with the Main Quest. You can always rebuff him in the market or just go at night when he’s not there. You can then talk to Keerava at the Bee and Barb Inn and she will point you to Vekel in the Ratway (or if you already know your way from previous playthroughs, you can just go straight to Esbern). Once you’ve found Vekel, you can either bribe or coerce him into giving you the scoop on Esbern if you still need that information.

        So you don’t have to join anyone. But yes, various quests are written to take you to various holds and give you the opportunity to make contact with guilds. Pretty much every quest line will intersect with something else to make sure you always have something to do.

        1. Ciennas says:

          I find it worrisome from a design standpoint that I had to look up a walkthrough in order to avoid signing up with those guys.

          This again brings to mind a thought: The original fun of Morrowind was that they totally meant the ‘do whatever you like’ aspect, right up to and including crumpling your plot hook laden note into a ball and hucking it into the bottom of a murderfish infested river, never to touch the main quest.

          From Oblivion onwards, they’ve gotten progressively more… backseat drivery towards the players, which undercuts their main draw significantly.

          (Come to think of it, I’ve still never sided with any of the Great houses…)

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            You can do whatever you like in Skyrim and Oblivion too. They’re just better about actually making sure you know about some of the game’s options. Its not like they keep pestering you (except about things like joining the Legion or the Stormcloaks but it only makes sense that people would be prodding each other about that.)Why are so many people in these comment sections so horrified that in an rpg you might actually be given a quest instead of having to go foraging around in the bushes for one?

            What you see as deliberate design, I see as differences in technology. Skyrim and Oblivion have AI and mobile NPCs. I’d be willing to believe, having played Morrowind, that if they’d had that available, they would have used it and brought more of the quests directly to your attention. As it was, they did use the limited tools at their disposal to force dialog on you on many occasions. Its clear even back then that they would have wanted what Skyrim and Oblivion have in terms of options for dropping quests on you.

            But lacking that ability, they designed the game around that limitation and it became “about” going out and finding everything yourself.

            1. Ciennas says:

              Yeah, but if you didn’t WANT to join one of the groups, you have to have a frikkin walkthrough to avoid them.

              It’s the game that I’m playing right then. I should be allowed to skip on content if I want.

              And yeah, Morrowind showed them evolving towards Oblivion. You had a quest where you had to tail a guy (A mechanic that went underutilized, in my humble opinion.), and they static clung you to the floor so the villain could get her speechifying in before you wrecked her junk with the sword she helped you recover for reasons unclear.

              You could have them wander around in Morrowind, they just didn’t want to go back and retweak all the NPC’s in the base game for it.

              Point being this: Force content down my throat and I’ll be very irritated, especially in a role playing game that sliced off all the options the player really wanted to make. Let me come to it as I like? You’ve made a traveling violence salesman very happy. And the Player, too!

              1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                I am only offering the following in the spirit of being helpful (because your comments leave open the possibility that you are not aware of this option and hey its cool, we all miss things, I sure did).

                You can terminate dialogs you don’t want to have. On a keyboard you can use the Tab button to exit dialog any time you want. I don’t know what button you’d mash on a controller but since the Tab key is also used to access the Level Up/Magic/Items menu, its probably whatever that key is on your controller.

                If you find it annoying, you find it annoying. I can’t argue with that. And even if I don’t feel the same way, you’re clearly not alone in this comment thread so its feedback worth considering. Hope the “tab out” tip helps.

                If they had a similar option in Morrowind, I didn’t see it. Then again nobody is actually talking so you can just click through text you don’t want to read and exit.

        2. aldowyn says:

          I’m pretty sure you get a related task as soon as you get in that will forever clutter your list.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            On the Thieves Guild, you can avoid getting any extraneous tasks if you do what I stated above. The College, you might get one, I can’t remember.

            We live in strange times when gamers will complain that they’re forced to add quest objectives to their journal that they don’t have to complete. I guess you’re one of these completionists I’ve been hearing so much about?

            Have you ever been able to clear all of your objectives? In a thousand hours of play I’ve never come close.

        3. Michael says:

          It’s kinda weird… the most gregarious faction is probably The Companions. Who don’t feature at all in the main quest line. You will run past them on your way into Whiterun the first time, but that’s about it.

          The Dark Brotherhood is also secretive as hell, and it’s actually possible to finish the main game and all the DLC without ever stepping foot in the city they’re based in. (Well, technically if you “finish” Hearthfire, you might run through the place.)

          But, the Thieves Guild practically strong arm you into joining, and the College gets rammed down your throat in Dawnguard and the main game. Except the College is entirely willing to tell the player to screw off, if they’re not a high caliber mage (or a previously, thought extinct breed of demi-god). And, then, the thieves guild route you to the Mages, the Dark Brotherhood routes you to the Thieves…. it’s almost like they didn’t trust you’d actually explore the world, or they thought it was totally the same thing as the mutually exclusive quest lines in Morrowind.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            Thats really as it should be given what you learn. The Dark Brotherhood of course should be the easiest to avoid just because of who they are.

            And the Thieves Guild should be the most aggressive both because they’re desperate for members and because they really have nothing to fear about getting caught in Riften. The other three guilds don’t need you when you first join.

            That is not to say that I don’t have complaints about the Thieves Guild. I was going to start blogging just to log my complaints but then Shamus pretty much covered it all in his run down of the Thieves Guild.

            Being forced into working with Karliah was the first time Skyrim ever felt like it was forcing me to do something I didn’t want to do when I should have had an option. She’s also the closest the game gets to a Mary Sue (aside from the Dragonborn himself) with everyone going on and on about how “clever” she is when her plans are mostly idiotic (again, something Shamus covers at length and better than I ever could, because he’s a Mary Sue too )

            Working with Serana felt like that too in the beginning. I was all set to just slaughter all vampires in Dawnguard and the moment she falls out of the tube I pretty much growled at my tv “oh no, you are NOT going to make me sympathize with a vampire just because she’s cute and friendly.” But she won me over with her advanced AI.

        4. Henson says:

          No, you don’t have to join the College, technically. But even if you Fus Roh Dah your way inside, like Josh did, Faralda makes the strange assumption that you’re here to become a mage anyway. “Welcome, Apprentice.”

  18. Traion says:

    They technically explain why you only need a random Elder Scroll. In one of the books lying around in the game they state that every Elder Scroll has different stuff written on it depending on the reader and that even their number and location can vary from day to day.

    1. guy says:

      But for some reason in Dawnguard you need specific ones.

      1. Traion says:

        Yeah I got nothing on that, I see that the same way I see intelligent deathclaws in FL2, some writer got really really high…

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          Or, more likely, they don’t understand their own lore.

          1. Tizzy says:


            The lore is so complex, and there must have been so many people working on this…

            I am new to the lore. It may have been easier to digest for people who followed along as the universe expanded, but for me it’s like drinking from a firehose. Though I do appreciate the complexity and the various contradictory things and evolution of religions which do feel very realistic.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              How complex can it really be when a 12 year old became a master of it?

              1. Tizzy says:

                Don’t underestimate him; I’m beginning to think that Ruts is smart.

                Smart enough to sit out this episode, for starters…

                1. evileeyore says:

                  Damn, he bested us again!

          2. Ringwraith says:

            Though, on the other hand, the scrolls you need for that are ones which have been separated from others for a long time, and thus may have not had the chance to mingle quite as much as the others normally do.

            Though half the point of the things is that they make no sense in a lot of ways.

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Maybe its because the event you’re trying to view in the main quest is tied to a ritual performed with an Elder Scroll. And you’re bringing your scroll back to the place where the other scroll was used (and where there is still a “wound” in time from the original event).

          So for that sort of thing, any scroll you bring back will be able to show you what you need to know. In the case of Auriel’s bow, you’re trying to find a location and none of it is tied directly to a previous Elder Scroll usage.

    2. hborrgg says:

      . . . in accordance to the needs of the plot.

      1. Tharias says:

        The needs of the plot outweigh the needs of what actually makes sense.

        1. guy says:

          They’re time-traveling magic prophecy scrolls. Being whatever and wherever is most convenient is entirely in line with their nature.

  19. Regarding the telekinesis mentioned in Looper: I haven’t seen the film, but anyone familiar with either Babylon-5 or Rising Stars (both by J. Michael Straczynski) knows that having that kind of power would be incredibly dangerous when used as he proposes. Think about exerting that kind of force on an artery in someone’s brain while standing only a few feet away. That power could turn someone into an unstoppable assassin, not to to mention the damage it could inflict in combat (to an eye, other internal organs, etc.). It’s one of the many reasons that using the Force should be a heck of a lot more physically destructive than a mere lightsaber when you want to drop someone fast.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      It’s a realllllly common, but rarely explicitly stated aloud, trope of psychokinesis stories that it only works on the exteriors of objects — or if does work inside objects, it only works inside non-living objects. It happens sooo much that it seems to go beyond lazy or unimaginative writing.

      Were I codifying it into an RPG, I’d say that living creatures have a null field out to their skin – you can generally pick them up and throw them around, but not squeeze their heart or play blender with their cortex. A psychocreative could project flame AT a person, but not start a fire inside their skull.

      JMS is one of the few writers I’ve seen delve into the whole “working inside a living being” scenario (mentioned in Bab5, and explicitly done by a character in Rising Stars). It makes kinetic powers infinitely more scary boo.

      1. Thomas says:

        How fragile are arteries? You can levitate a coin a few centimetres without applying a huge amount of pressure to any particular point, and our bodies have all sort of mushy stuff inside them that would resist the pressure you do apply.

        Levitation in Looper is shown to be really crud, I’d probably describe it as a hazy push force that extends a thumb width or two from your hand. I don’t think you’d be able to rip with it, so surely it wouldn’t be any more impactful than hitting yourself on the neck with your hand? I imagine you’d need a shear force, but this one was entirely push and they implied it was quite a skill to be able to modulate that push and control in any way

  20. 6:36 – Nice “The Tick” reference there, Josh. A pity nobody picked up on it. This city needs a better class of nerds.

  21. Michael R. says:

    I don’t understand how mentioning that Mass Effect had history-cycles as a theme is burn. All she did was mention it, not complain about it.

    (I, for one, really liked it, and thought that one of ME3-ending’s big failings was that it focused on the robots vs humans thing, instead of the cycles. You know, the primary theme for the entire trilogy that doesn’t get any resolution whatsoever.)

    1. evileeyore says:

      Because they were just taking about how stupid “cycles of history” were.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Yeah but all they were really saying was that it was stupid. They didn’t get into why (I think in their ME3 videos their main objection was that it doesn’t really explain anything.)

        I personally like the possible implications of what Arngeir was saying. It would be interesting to have a story about a world that was clearly meant to die but won’t because the hero keeps saving it. That everything you’re doing is keep a dry and rotting world going when there’s a fresh vibrant one waiting to take its place. I know that Dark Souls has shades of that (at least the decaying world part) but its not specifically that.

        And actually the Elder Scrolls would be an interesting series to do that with. A well established world where everything the game has you do in previous installments is then turned on its head.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          “Yeah but all they were really saying was that it was stupid. They didn't get into why (I think in their ME3 videos their main objection was that it doesn't really explain anything.)”

          The most condensed way as to why it is stupid(but not nearly the most complete and comprehensive one)is if you reconcile geth and quarians.Then the catalyst tells you how synthetics are bound to go to war with organics in every cycle,and YOU CANNOT MENTION THAT THE WHOLE SUBQUEST YOU DID THROUGH MULTIPLE GAMES INVOLVED STOPPING A WAR BETWEEN SYNTHETICS AND ORGANICS AND THAT YOU MANAGED TO MAKE THEM COEXIST!

          But thats just one small grain in the idiocy that is cycles which are just a minuscule part of moronity that is mass effect 3.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            Yeah, you succeeded this time. But that doesn’t mean you’ve solved the problem of AI for all time. Its still only a matter of time before someone screws up and creates a more out of control breed of AI. The war between the Quarians and Geth only happened in the first place because the Quarians freaked out (which I thought was a nice touch. They were too genre savvy).

            EDI begins to speculate about it earlier in the game, that its because of the way AI normally emerges in ME. Increasingly networked devices rely on each other’s hardware capabilities to reach the raw aggregate computing power needed for AI. This leads to a devaluing of the individual. EDI is the rare exception because she’s based on unmatched Reaper tech which is powerful enough to allow a single machine to be a fully functional AI. Thus she is more likely to value the individual.

            Besides, 1) You have to be pretty much maxed out Paragon or Renegade to make that happen. 2) They eventually acknowledge that Commander Shepard and this cycle as a whole are different. Javik underscores this throughout the game.

            I know I’m fighting an uphill battle defending ME3, but if I’m going to concede, its going to be to a well thought out position.

            1. Disc says:

              The probmem is the Geth/Quarian peace and EDI being a friendly AI are something that we can observe and verify while everything else is just a bunch of hearsay and speculation.

              There’s no other source that we could reliably determine anything about AI in this regard, and while it’s comparatively small sample size, it’s the best we’ve got. Javik was born after the Reapers came and knows only what he was taught and what he witnessed before going into stasis. And even then, the only actual story involving betraying AIs involved the Reapers corrupting said AI before they actually went rogue, which kinda undermines the whole point.

              The Citadel/The Goddamn Kid comes off at best as an AI that just went crazy at some point and fails to realize that it’s stuck in a logic loop, who also apparently uses to Reapers to turn otherwise non-threatening AI against organics just to prove his point (ME1 anyone?), which is further proof that it’s just absolutely fucking bonkers.

              1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                You bring up a good point about direct observation vs hearsay. I hadn’t considered it.

                I will say this. It went from being nebulous in the original ending where there were enough gaps to allow you to piece things together in a way that made sense to you (if you wanted to), to bad when they confirmed that they didn’t really know what they were talking about in the Extended Cut DLC.

                I personally felt like it came back around a bit when Leviathan came out. Then it became clear that this was really about the Leviathans getting their cut of the loot. Its just that, as we sometimes do, they came up with a justification that sounded more high minded on paper (the inevitable cycle business) and told the Reapers that this is why they wanted the problems of synthetics solved (Kind of like how we justify war as being for a high minded cause when its usually about resources).

                They simply failed to consider (or didn’t care) that they were creating the problem they created the reapers to solve, by leaning on lesser civilizations so hard that they felt like they had to create ever more sophisticated machines to keep up with the demands. Then you get robots overrunning local populations and the Reapers are stuck with robots their Dominate ability doesn’t work on instead of slaves they can control. Since the Reapers were created to solve this problem, they were probably hard coded to believe that this was a problem that needed solving and not question it.

                Its a saving throw after the fact but better than nothing.

    2. IFS says:

      Except cycles really weren’t a theme until ME3 decided they were at the end and tried to ram it down everyone’s throats. There was a cycle of destruction that the Reapers had allowed but it hadn’t been a theme in the previous games. The ‘Mass Effect is about Cycles’ thing is a defense of ME3 that they’ve mocked before which is I think why its supposed to be a burn.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Its not shoved down our throats as a theme, its presented as a setting element.

        And the cycles element had been discussed before including the conjecture that the Reapers might not be in control of the cycle which lines up with their explanation of what they believe is going on each cycle.

        I really think the only problem with it all is that the revelations with the Catalyst come at the end of the game. If it had happened at some earlier point, that part of it could have been saved.

        As for the three options, I think that could have been saved by adding a ‘Consult’ option. Sure you couldn’t get a signal in the bowels of the Citadel but you should be able to get one out on the surface when many of your allies are above you and within line of sight. Then you consult everybody and depending on which allies you have on hand, you get a consensus between one of the three options. But you being on the satellite have the choice to adhere to that consensus or do what you think is best.

        The conversation with the Catalyst does play into a different theme, understanding. Throughout many previous encounters, you have sought to understand those you opposed. You debate them when the chance presents itself (MrBTongue calls it talkie and techie.)

      2. Jokerman says:

        Im sure the whole cycles thing was something that was all explained to you by Virgil and Sovereign back in ME1, that conversation with virgil is really interesting to go back to now the whole thing is said and done.

        1. aldowyn says:

          it was interesting to start with.

        2. guy says:

          Cycles as a thing were discussed by Vigil, but I wouldn’t call it a theme. For one, the cycle had been broken literally tens of thousands of years ago when the Protheans sabotaged the Keeper control system.

  22. Flock Of Panthers says:

    The Greybeards would have been so easy to fix.

    Where do they come from?
    You could make them a jedi order, but a more interesting option is that they are retired Jarls.

    Nord culture doesn’t seem like they would (in ancient times) keep following an infirm Jarl, and they have a system wherin you can challenge a jarl to combat.

    So the Jarls that live long enough to grow old and grey, are expected to abdicate and come live on the mountain.

    That explains why they have food carted to them (respected elder nobles), explains why they have the greybeard name but also allows you to put some women in there (female jarls rarer in antiquity?).

    And you could have some easy shortcuts for personalities.
    One of the elders is serious about the tradition. One is pretending to be senile. One is senile.
    Not all of them are master Thuum users. You might actually get lumped into ‘Fire Shout 101’ with a 87 year old Duke, and see him/her get rather shitty as you effortlessly outstrip their weeks of study.
    One didn’t want to come live here but his cousin gave him an ultimatum to abdicate or be challenged.

    Then put the elimination of that little runt into the dark brotherhood questline.

    Could have been fun

    1. Henson says:

      I like this idea. Though, it does have some interesting implications. For one, if retired Jarls become Greybeards, then learning the Way of the Voice must not take very long; instead of training their entire lives, they start learning in their twilight years. This would explain how so many of the old Nords, who are now Draug, learned to shout – because it only takes a decade, at most. And it would also explain why they follow Jurgan Windcaller’s Way of the Voice philosophy, to prevent every Joe Skyrim from learning how to yell people off of cliffs. It would also explain why the Greybeards allowed and were able to teach Ulfric a shout, since they have some kinship with other Jarls (I’m assuming he was a Jarl by this point?).

      Also, what happens if a war-loving Jarl joins the Greybeards, an order dedicated to pacifism and non-involvement? Would the Greybeards deny entry to a Jarl with a troubling history? (side note, Interesting NPCs actually has a former Greybeard who left over differences in philosophy)

  23. I agree Shamus, the camera use is odd.
    During camera grabs like when talking to The Old Paternal One. Why not just go into a proper cutscene, with scripted character placements, then vary camera positions and add camera sweeps, make the dragon and your character walk or sit. This would let you see how awesome (or not) your own character looks.
    The game engine is fully capable of this.
    The dialog choices cold still be there overlayed at the bottom maybe.
    The way they do it however with old Partu’s face kind of stuck in-front of you like that is weird.

    Now if the first person view is so vital for the game concept, then why allow camera grabbing in the first place? It make no sense.
    I can understand the intro (it could be explained away that you are chained/tied to the cart etc. If not then why the heck did you not jump off and run?)

    Hag on I just remembered the kill cam in Skyrim, why is that done if everything is forced first person? Really odd design choices here.

    1. Tizzy says:

      I think there is exactly *one* cutscene, if sorts, in the original game, which is when you ride the dragon. Or did I forget others? Anyway, I assume that any cutscene would have to be in the main quest of civil war quests, so there must be really only one.

      Isn’t this weird? One? Not zero, not six, one…

  24. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Morrowind is just “Lists of Instructions: The Game.” Having now beaten the game, I don’t see the depth you’re talking about. “Oh you can dig deeper and learn about the Lore”. Yeah, Oblivion and Skyrim have that too. They just decided to put their encyclopedias in actual books instead of putting the codex entries next to the dialog entries.

  25. 4th Dimension says:

    Now that you mentionaed the Elder Scroll and whole time travel thing, I never really understood the ES timeline.
    I mean as I understand it the Elder Scrolls timeline goes something like this:
    – primordial age – Humans live of in the artic (north of Tamriel) and west of it on some islands (Redguards)
    – at some point in time the climate starts changing and it pushes the humans from their northern homes to start migrating south and raiding today’s Skyrim
    – Humans eventually defeat the local Elf populace who retreat into the mines with the Dwarfs. Humans are here to stay.
    – Some of the humans continue onward and settle in today Bretton lands dominated by Elfs. There they mix with elves and from this mix Bretonians are born.
    – Skyrim humans continue raiding Elves including the Morrowind ones. Nervar and Strike at the Red Mountain happen.
    – Sumerset Isles elves obsessed with Meric superiority opress non elf population under the dominion.
    – Talos a Skyrim Nord and a Dragonborn together with friends brings down the elves and founds Imperium.
    – At some later point in time Redguards migrate to the Tamriel when their islands sink?
    – Empire launches a invasion of Akavir that ends in failure.

    So where in this timeline does Alduin come. One might think he would be a world wide problem back then because supposedly dragons ruled all. But we only see humans fighting him, and in Skyrim none the less?

    1. Tizzy says:

      I could never figure it out.

      Also, there are *way* too many dragons. How could a fledgling human population possibly support them all?

      1. Dragonking Burger Drive-Thru…
        It’s Fus-Ro-lishious!

  26. Patrick the inconceivably incoherent says:

    I’ve been a part of more interesting conversations in Gorlowka’s used potion shop in Mine Town.

    Also; Shamus’ full name is an anagram for the wonderfully “Yu hug ass, Mon”. Which is hysterical if you imagine saying it in a Jamaican accent.

  27. Asimech says:

    I’m partial to “Podthurnax”.

    Semantic Complaint/Pet Peeve/Deep Nerdery Time:
    Simulators (when they’re video games instead of learning/practice tools) deliver entertainment by creating a feeling of “realness” through gritty game mechanics. “Grit” here being in the sense of “like sand in underwear, but some people like it”. Basically the hassle of dealing with the mechanics is the draw.

    If judged as a Looting Simulator Skyrim wouldn’t fare much better than as a role-playing game. There’s a totally-not-just-weight value, a limit to shopkeeper’s cash and not all shopkeepers take all things unless you have a perk. I would expect a Looting Sim to have at least a second value for how much space an item takes and stuff to buy to improve the values so you can loot more in a single trip.

    You know, an actual mechanical focus on what is being simulated instead of purely relying on the natural hoarding habit of the average player to turn it into a focus after populating places with lootables.

    If we have to stay with existing categories, Skyrim is a sandbox. If we don’t, then Skyrim is a Mucking About game, more specifically Mucking About in Dungeons.

    I guess what I’m trying to get to is that I think Skyrim is MAD.

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