The Altered Scrolls, Part 20: Miscellaneous, Q&A

By Rutskarn Posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016

Filed under: Elder Scrolls 80 comments

This series could go on forever if it was nothing but gripes and praises.

Whatever else I have to say about the Elder Scrolls series, they are more multifaceted than nearly any release on the market. There are so many features, changes, retcons, experiments, reversions, and outright glitches that assuming I cut this series off before the next presidential election I am guaranteed to leave out that one part you were looking forward to. As it is, I’m sensing the graceful opportunity to conclude is coming up soon.

That’s why I’m taking a moment to talk over a few final Skyrim and Bethesda thoughts before I turn the next few entries over to review and Q&A. After that I’ll offer a few hot (or freezing cold, musty, and ageworn) takes on the games that exist at the outskirts of the franchise: outliers like Redguard, Battlespire, and TES Online, works that bear the branding if nothing else. The three have much in common: they’re technically canonical, they have novel mechanics, and nobody plays them.

So what remains to talk about now?


Crafting is an example of slow mechanical evolution by consensus. You can’t really say a lightbulb went off over game developers (or rather, you can argue heatedly about when and how much it did); instead, a few pieces of well-worn conventional gaming wisdom gradually congealed.

People love getting lots of loot. People love improvements to their core set of equipment. Rather than have any loot that isn’t core equipment turn out to be garbage, why not let players gather little things that are individually worthless and turn them into better things? The collecting and hobbyist aspects of the system inarguably fit well within the paradigms of RPG dungeon crawling–a relatively small amount of extra effort for a very big synergistic bonus.

Alchemy in Morrowind was probably the first step towards appeasing crafters, but it wasn’t until Fallout 3 that gathering raw materials to make or improve gear became an obligation of the franchise rather than a incidental facet. It doesn’t hurt that titles such as The Last of Us, the latter Far Crys, and Tomb Raider proved the systems weren’t only appealing to loot-driven RPG players. We’ll probably see this featured in every Elder Scrolls game until the concept of crafting weapons from raw materials is declared heretical by Our Reptillian Benefactors.

Bethesda and Fan Requests

For as much as diehards complain Bethesda doesn’t listen to them, the company does have a sweet spot–if a fan request is lingering, doesn’t get in the way of their development priorities, and is technologically feasible, it’ll probably make it into the game. Double that chance if fan desire is great enough to make manifest a dozen mods of varying qualities and obscenity. Let’s look at some fan demands throughout history and judge them against Beth’s apparent criteria:

Get Rid of Invulnerable NPCs? (After Oblivion) Lots of mods came out doing this and there’s always people grousing about it somewhere–it does require some technological finagling to distinguish a random death by dragon or glitchy AI from a deliberate player murder, but that’s probably fixable. Unfortunately, the ability to kill off NPCs useful for quests later stymies their development goals of universal accessibility and maximum stability. So probably okay to ignore this one.

Put Spears Back In? (Since Oblivion) Tons of incessant, angry fan requests (leading up to Oblivion, anyway). Technologically doable, if not efficient in terms of resources allocated. Doesn’t directly contradict any design goals. And yet…there aren’t many good mods out there for spears, are there? Plenty of people are willing to complain, but how many people pass the ultimate acid test–actually doing something about it? So again, probably not worth it.

Dragon Riding? Fan requests, mods, fits in fine with dev goals. Only, uh, how the heck are you going to program this? There’s a reason the mods are janky; implementing this requires a lot of changes to how the world is simulated. For now, aerial mounts are a no…but man, that fan intensity. Don’t be surprised if one of the next two titles is a.) designed so that flying is feasible in the overworld, impossible in towns, and b.) features winged birdlike mounts as a major selling point dropped (probably literally from off-camera while bearing the iconic character as rider) in the first trailer.

Hoods? (After Morrowind) Everybody wanted hoods in Morrowind. Tons of mods existed and there’s no good logistical or technical reason to leave them out. So hoods went from “not on the development radar” to “a substantial consideration from Oblivion onward.”

Horses? (After Morrowind) Dropped from Morrowind, but after a certain amount of indignation (which would have doubtless spawned more mod attention if the scene was bigger at the time) they were back in Oblivion, just in time for the technical considerations of 3D mounts to be worked out. Then it was time to work on the fan backlash to that and get mounted combat working.

Two-Weapon Fighting? (Since Fuggin’ Forever) People have demanded this since Morrowind. They’ve been modding this since Morrowind. This clearly isn’t something Bethesda cared about on their own–they haven’t put it in any of the games that came before, haven’t even brought it up–but it seems as though if the crowd’s asking for it, they were willing to sit down and do it right.

There’s one thing I think is important to remember about Bethesda: their fanbase has swollen tremendously with every installment. From Arena through Skyrim, every game they’ve put out has effectively doubled their audience. It is reasonable to ask them to listen to that audience–and I will put it to you that they absolutely do that. What is not reasonable, or at least not practical, is to ask them to listen to their “oldest” and “core” fans, because that’s the one group that’s guaranteed to be the minority.

If everybody who loved Morrowind stopped buying TES games tomorrow–absolutely all of them boycotting in unison, something that routinely fails to happen in videogames–I’m not sure Bethesda would ever notice.

And now: if you’ve got any questions about any game in the franchise, or any topic about the franchise, please post them below. I’ll try to get to all of them in my final posts.


From The Archives:

80 thoughts on “The Altered Scrolls, Part 20: Miscellaneous, Q&A

  1. MrGuy says:

    If you were given the job as the design lead for the next game, and wanted to make a sensible next evolution of the franchise that still was recognizable a TWS game, what are the top 5 things you’d either add, remove, or change?

  2. James says:

    Bethesda have shown to move more and more away from having your class restrict you going so far as to make all the content always available, so much so that a person who has never casted a spell can become Arch Mage, a person who does not sneak at all can become Listener of the Dark Brotherhood and a person who has no self respect for their time can become Leader of the Thieves guild.

    Do you think that Bethesda will continue along this path more, removing things like mana restrictions on high class spells? or similar decisions

    1. pedanterrific says:

      This is what the Shout mechanic is. It trades MP for cooldown timers to give all builds access to high-level magic.

    2. Majikkani_Hand says:

      Out of curiosity, what class do you think would have been time-wasting optimized? Bard?

      1. James says:

        i was mostly making a joke about how terrible the thieves guild story is, but thinking about it, a person who has investing in speechcraft thinking it would help them in the bards college would indeed have ALL that time wasted. so yes the bards college would indeed waste everyones time all the time.

  3. John says:

    A silly question: why are people so worked up about spears?

    Sure, they seem necessary for verisimilitude, since spears have been nearly ubiquitous in human history. But the reasons they’re so common in real life- easy to make, easy to use, effective in large groups- seem to run counter to the heroic power-fantasy that RPGs offer. You can’t do, like, cool spin moves with them. Whose power fantasy involves a spear?

    I guess I’m curious what motivates the fan gripes- is it a desire for historical accuracy? Tactical complexity? Do people really like the Iliad?- but I’m not so curious that I’m actually going to go read them.

    1. Veylon says:

      “Whose power fantasy involves a spear?”
      Probably the same people who want to ride dragons. You can’t fight from the back of anything but the puniest of dragons with a sword. The range simply isn’t there. A bow would be practical, but ranged weapons are for sissies. Absent spears, the rider is a mere passenger who offers suggestions whilst the dragon does all the fighting and what kind of a power fantasy is that?

      1. Arstan says:

        I vaguely remember a dragonlance game, which was a dragon rider simulator. They had lances, not spears)

    2. Ilseroth says:

      To be fair, this varies from person to person, it’s a matter of preference purely. You may not see it as a powerful/impressive thing, but other people may (and clearly based on requests and mods do)

      To be fair, part of the reason why Spears aren’t particularly popular is that their main benefit is their range and penetration. In a game like Skyrim, where the AI is laughable, if you give a weapon with a significant range advantage people will just sit at the edge of their range poking things to death; not to mention that actually judging range of a weapon in a 1st person game can be… challenging due to lack of depth perception.

      Personally I love making characters that use spears. my second character in Morrowind was a spear user, one of my favorite Dark Souls characters exclusively used a spear… hell all the way back to Dark Ages of Camelot i had a Hunter that used a Spear.

    3. Incunabulum says:

      I disagree

      You can do all the cool stuff of a quarterstaff *and* stab people six feet away.

      1. Ilseroth says:

        The problem is that due to D&D based games, the quarterstaff is kinda seen as a “meh” weapon. the fact it is generally only really used by Magic based classes due to their lack of martial proficiency. So when people pick up an RPG, melee based classes rarely benefit from the use of a quarterstaff, despite it being multifunctional and useful (same with spears)

        1. Hermocrates says:

          Being able to cast spells from a quarterstaff was actually one of my early favourite additions to Oblivion, come to think of it. I’m just a sucker for that kind of pulpy, Gandalf-esque magic. But I think my ideal TES implementation of quarterstaves would be as more of a general mage’s implement: casting spells with it drawn would enhance them (intensity/duration), and it could also be used as a martial backup weapon. For melee characters, make cheap variants without the magica enhancement, call them Bo Staffs and group them with the Akaviri weaponry :p

          1. Ilseroth says:

            As you said, it has to do with Tolkien to be honest. He used a staff as the “Mage” implement, so in western fantasy the two are paired up pretty much by default.

            I am all for having the ability to use staves as sort of a mage conduit, but the reason for the removal of staves/spears as a weapon to use is purely a practical one for TES series. Simple fact is, using a Spear or Staff like a Warhammer/Great Sword is just silly. Their inclusion would require a new animation system set specifically for them, and hell spears would be more about thrusting so they probably would be different from staves. That’s a lot of animations. Considering how much they want to strip down the game (hence “One Handed and Two Handed”) that just doesn’t play into it.

            1. Joe Informatico says:

              Tolkien didn’t though. Gandalf used a staff as a walking stick and light source and occasionally as an off-hand parrying device/secondary weapon, but when he fought in hand-to-hand combat, he used a sword. As with most things blamed on Tolkien, the real culprit is probably Gary Gygax.

              1. Ilseroth says:

                He used it to cast spells on several occasions, no he didn’t lob fireballs with it, but he wasn’t really that kind of Wizard. He was more a deft hand a gentle nudge. While he had a sword, his object of power was a staff, Saruman’s object of power was a staff. It is the wizards walking stick and whatnot, but that was because Gandalf was partially influenced by “the Wanderer” of norse mythology.

                When it came to Tolkien’s universe, the Staff was the symbol of magic.

                Hence why when it came to making a weapon for magic users, the staff was an obvious choice for D&D and so on.

                1. ehlijen says:

                  Let’s not forget how adamant Wormtongue was to have Gandalf’s staff taken, and how that not happening turned out for him. Clearly, it had some part to play in a wizard’s use of magic.

                  What surprises me though is that the White Wolf RPG Exalted, for all its claims of enabling cool martial arts and eschewing anything DnD, doesn’t give the quarterstaff a greater role to play.

                2. Mike S. says:

                  Tolkien was following centuries-old examples. E.g., when Prospero gives up magic at the end of The Tempest:

                  But this rough magic
                  I here abjure, and, when I have required
                  Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
                  To work mine end upon their senses that
                  This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
                  Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
                  And deeper than did ever plummet sound
                  I’ll drown my book.

                  The association seems to go a ways back (e.g., Moses challenging Egyptian sorcerers, with their respective staves becoming snakes and doing battle for them) and to overlap with the general association of staves and rods with power (scepters), divinity (the caduceus), etc.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        You beat me to the Hero fight! But I can still add the Red Viper vs. The Mountain fight in Game of Thrones and the Achilles vs. Hector fight from Troy.

    4. Nidokoenig says:

      Read Romance of the Three Kingdoms, or play Dynasty Warriors, it’s full of bad motherfuckers with legendary spears. Lu Bu even got turned into a dragon and named Volga in Hyrule Warriors, that particular spear-wielder is so popular. Spearing someone and then slamming them to the ground or launching them into the air is badass in a way swords can’t replicate. Hammers or axes might be able to do something like that believably, so it’s not like the functionality would be completely specialised.

      Besides the mounted combat stuff, spears are just kinetically different to swords in ways that axes, daggers, hammers and staves aren’t, at least in how they’re implemented in vidya. The range, the stabbing motion, it implies a level of spatial awareness and a mix of close to mid-range combat ability that would make a great change within melee combat. I remember in Morrowind making spear characters occasionally just for variety.

      Also, a spear is a wooden staff with a point or blade on the end, perfect for a mixed melee and magic build.

    5. Humanoid says:

      Probably the most typical case would be roleplaying a former soldier, which is hardly out-of-the-box thinking. A career adventurer would likely go for something a bit more compact. I’d say it’d be roughly equivalent to taking assault rifle proficiency in a modern setting, versus a handgun.

    6. Friend of Dragons says:

      One of the reasons I’ve been enjoying Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archives series of books is that one of the main protagonists–and the one who gets the most screentime, no less–is a spearman. It’s a neat little detail since the sword is so much more common as the hero’s weapon.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Also him refusing a magical sword is the character’s defining moment.

        That is after he kicked the living shit out of a guy armored in power armor using that magic sword, with only a spear.

    7. Felblood says:

      Spears have gotten a lot of short shrift in modern fiction, but there are plenty of historical settings where polearms were the mark of a professional soldier and swords were considered tools for commoners, like conscripts, bandits and street bravos.* The only way to reverse the trend, of swords getting pushed over spears, is to put more spear users in fantasy settings.

      –and not as sidekicks. There’s a reason that the TV tropes name for an PRG sidekick is “The Lancer.” Final Fantasy IV is probably more responsible than Tolkien for making the spear the signature weapon of the second fiddle, but this goes way back. –at least to Lancelot’s mastery of the joust and King Arthur’s signature Excalibur, and probably even further.

      * some quick examples of ages when spears were cool:

      The legendary Sword Saint, Musashi, wrote that the spear is the first weapon any soldier should master, as it’s superior reach makes it a better weapon for fighting on the open field, whether one is fighting from a formation, or alone and surrounded. Because all samurai wear swords as a badge of their office, it would be shameful not to practice the sword as well, and it is a lot more convenient to carry around if you live under the constant threat of assassination, but when he had to go into battle, he wanted a spear.

      Lance tilting at speed, and still placing accurate shots, is one of the most elite fighting styles, meaning that it was only really feasible if someone practiced professionally, for their entire career. Like Gunslingers and Ninjas, when their fighting form became obsolete so too did the users’ entire way of life. Until then, the knights literally ruled the western world. Unfortunately, in most game systems tilting’s unique wheeling & charging rhythm is difficult to present in a fun or balanced fashion.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        I’m not entirely convinced by the first paragraph about how peasants had swords. I think it was the other way around. Sword is pretty much useless and too expensive for a peasant and requires a lot of training to master.
        Spear on the other hand is a simple to make (take a stick, add sharp bit to it’s end, or even simply make the end pointy) is multifunctional (from walking sticks, over hunting untill finally to fighting) and when you get right down to it shield+spear is the easiest combination of weapons to use.

        Now I’m not saying spear wasn’t effective, or that mastering it wasn’t hard or not worth it, but if you had to choose what to arm with your group of untrained conscripted peasants, shield+spear is a clear winner, because the training boils down to keep the enemy at range and poke them with the sharp end.

        1. Felblood says:

          Believe it or not, the ease of manufacturing low quality spears was only one of many factors that influenced their use and popularity, and it’s importance fluctuated based on a lot of economic factors.

          There was a long period where the meta in France was to put a wall of expendable peasants with swords and boards out front, to absorb all the arrows, and back them with a smaller force of professional soldiers with halberds. The reach and versatility of the halberd allowed the sergeants to support their squad from the back, and even gave them a chance at pulling down horsemen as the overrode the formation, but one of its primary functions was to make it clear to the conscript meat-shields that if they wanted to abandon their sergeant and leave him undefended, they would be retreating onto the spear-point.

          Ironically, these forces were later supplanted by massed conscripts equipped with crude glaves, which were often literal kitchen knives on the end of sticks.

          1. Felblood says:

            Also note that my original post was in response to an assertion that swords=elite and spears=mooks. I’m only trying to demonstrate the this is not universally the case. After further thought, I realized that I might not have made my actual thesis clear.

            Equipping and fielding armies in the middle ages really was a lot like Chess, with each side trying to ensure they had the right counter in the right place at the right time, for whatever gambit their opponent might be planning. So the popular conception of a given weapon would change from generation to generation, as the meta shifted.

            This is far from limited to just spears versus swords. There were plenty of situations where certain types of spears were considered to be status symbols, while others were suitable only for cannon fodder, or times when the meta was entirely about swords, but the type of sword you used could say a lot about you.

            For many decades the British Navy used two types of swords. The cutlass was cheap to make, and required very little training to achieve competence. By contrast, a master swordsman could use an expensive straightsword to hold off several cutlass users, but it was supposedly useless without extensive training and practice.* Thus cutlasses were issued to common sailors, and officers were issued straightswords (and fencing training). As with many such decisions, this had as much to do with ensuring that the conscript crews didn’t mutiny on their officers, as it did with maximizing their ability to kill French people.

            *This might have just been propaganda, due to the mutiny problem. Lots of mutineers went on to become straightsword masters.

    8. Mephane says:

      Whose power fantasy involves a spear?

      Mine. :)

      It started with interest in quarterstaffs for actual fighting, not just as passive-stat sticks for magic wielders. This comes directly from me watching Xena in childhood, her sidekick Gabrielle wielded a quarterstaff as a weapon and it was the raddest and most bad-ass thing for me.

      Eventually that expanded to glaives, the naginata, and ultimately most kinds of polearms in general. There are some particular types which I find kind of boring; for example halberds to me are like axes with longer handles (and I am not a fan of axes); tridents, which in my mind exist in a schrà¶dinger-like state of both being meant for bearded fishpeople to throw lightning, and gladiators in a roman arena; lances because they were used in jousting tournaments which I find a somewhat silly and mostly boring type of sport.

      And considering how ubiquitous polearms have been throughout history, it is a shame that they are not included as a default option alongside swords and axes in games. And when they do exist in a game, they often are limited to throwing spears, or one-handed spear and shield, neither of which sparks any kind of interest in me.

      Heck, if For Honor will include proper polearm fighting, it may become the first game ever to get me to put up with uPlay…

    9. Audun says:

      Spears would be awesome in a co-op game, but being a lonely spearman is no fun at all.

      That being said, my power fantasy would involve a good polearm, something like a halberd or naginata. The Skyrim setting is perfect for daneaxes (two handed axes with long shafts).

      I do re-enactment fighting, so maybe i’m biased. But there is a lot more variety and depth in medieaval weapons than what you see in videogames.

      1. Felblood says:

        Would sir care for the Glave-Garisume or the Glave-Glave-Garisume today?

        That is to say, I blame Gygax for his exhaustive, yet nearly unreadable polearm tables.

        1. Mike says:

          I personally prefer the glaive-glaive-glaive-guisarme-glaive.

    10. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Kind of depends on what kind of spear. Watch a wushu martial arts movie, and yeah, being an expert at spear combat seems incredibly awesome.

  4. Tizzy says:

    Sometimes, I feel sorry for Bethesda. Imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end of all these fan demands. E.g., I didn’t really care about dual wielding, and I imagine that it takes many hundreds of man-hours to implement and balance correctly. If I had to do that knowing that there are other problems I’d rather solve, with payoffs that I deemed better, I would feel a bit frustrated giving in to fan demand.

    1. Humanoid says:

      Well they might have spent hundreds of hours implementing it, but likely they spent about 5 minutes balancing it. :P

      Personally I’m actively opposed to it, because it almost inevitably becomes the only choice, if only because of the raw stats advantage of the second item. Personally I liked how Divinity: Original Sin handled it: if your off-hand was holding nothing, you attack twice with the mainhand. Same-ish result but without the crazy stat inflation.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        You could also make the individual weapons less accurate (if accuracy is a thing) or reduce the damage (to represent being able to put less force into each individual swing, or another abstraction of accuracy). Maybe make a single weapon more defensive (increased parry chance?) or otherwise increase the opportunity cost for choosing a second weapon as opposed to an empty hand (or shield).

        Really depends on the specific mechanics, since there’s a lot of ways to balance/abstract dual-wielding.

  5. Content Consumer says:

    Not really a question, more of a whiny, self-entitled complaint:
    Where’s Cahmel?
    This is said AFTER reading the “Where’s Cahmel” post, btw, so I feel kind of guilty about bringing it up after you’ve already fully explained why there won’t be any more…
    But I waaaaaaaaaaant it! *sniff sniff cry*

  6. Phantos says:

    You know, it never occurred to me that there are no spears in Skyrim. Obviously that game had bigger problems, but I suppose it is a little weird now that I’m aware of it. If only because they show up so often in every other fantasy property.

    It’s kind of like how there are no dwarves left in the Elder Scrolls. I don’t consciously think about it until it’s blatantly pointed out that They Done Dead. It’s such a common staple of these types of games, maybe I just figure it’s only a matter of time before they do show up.

    And then they can be as underwhelming as when they finally put in dragons.

    1. Nidokoenig says:

      No dwarves, ever. They’d have to rig up new skeletons and animations, and that shit ain’t happening, or it would be utterly terrible.

      1. Ilseroth says:

        While it would mean more effort, I hope the reason they don’t do it is purely thematic. Dwarves (Dwemer), their technology and their mystery is one of the few things that are still sort of… more imagined then explored.

        They talk about the,, but it’s all a mystery, it’s all speculative.

        You put dwarves in and it’s like “Oh yeah this happened because X.” It just becomes exposition instead of a mystery, which is just kinda boring.

      2. Humanoid says:

        It’d also add a whole new dimension (er, pun not intended) to the complexity of sex mods.

        P.S. Obviously Oglaf dwarves are best fukken dwarves.

      3. Phantos says:

        When has something being “utterly terrible” ever stopped Bethesda?

      4. The Rocketeer says:

        This is an easy detail to overlook, but Dwarves in the the Elder Scrolls mythos are actually the same approximate size as other races. They actually got the “dwarf” monicker from giants, who were said to have been friends with the Dwemer. Which is doubly odd, since neither giants nor Dwemer seemed to have been on friendly terms with anyone else, at any point in history.

        It also implies giants once had language, which they don’t seem to have in by the time Skyrim occurs. Maybe giants have language in The Elder Scrolls Online, but, well, no one cares.

        There are Dwemer specters in Morrowind, so you can observe their (apparent) size in person. And elsewhere, you can observe the size of their chairs and beds, which are sized for a race of similar stature to any other playable race. Maybe they liked to build big, but there it is.

  7. Dragmire says:

    How much do you think the happenings in Skyrim will affect the next game? Do you think dragons will be said to have traveled around the world so they show up in all the sequels?

    1. Da Mage says:

      I would not be surprised if it has no effect. Morrowind’s events did not impact on Oblivion (only mentioned in a single comment) and Oblivion’s impacts did not impact on Skyrim (though a 200 year time gap does smooth that over). In fact the books published that take place shortly after Oblivion had a much bigger impact on Skyrim and it’s storyline.

      I was really expecting to see the long overgrown remains of a great gate or something in Skyrim, but there is no mention of it.

      1. Dragmire says:

        I do recall people saying that but I figured that dragons are such an easy marketing angle that Bethesda may be tempted keep them in future installments.

  8. Gilfareth says:

    What I’d like to know is how you think Bethesda approached dual-wielding when they finally put it in, given they weren’t too excited about it by your reckoning. I’m also curious how else they might’ve implemented dual-wielding if they’d have added it at other points in the franchise (what would dual-wielding in Morrowind have looked like without a janky mod to do it?)

  9. Da Mage says:

    Unlike almost most RPG series, The Elder Scrolls has never really had a morality scale, and apart from quests in Morrowind, most quests only ever have a single solution. Would the next Elder Scrolls game benefit from such a system? Even if it was just a system that forced some player-choice to be designed in quests.


    Has Bethesda starting using their combat as a crutch to avoid making content? As the combat systems as gotten better, more and more quests have devolved into dungeon slogs. Will this trend continue, or do you think they will move back towards more dialogue based quests again?

  10. Ardis Meade says:

    I like to imagine that when Rutskarn says “assuming I cut this series off before the next presidential election” he doesn’t mean the one going on now, he means the next presidential election in 2020 because he has that much he can say.

  11. Christopher says:

    Okay so, the nice thing about Tamriel as a setting is that you can jump all over the place and do all sorts of different fantasy settings while still maintaining the central, core setting.

    That being said, where do you think the next one is going to be set? People have been clamoring for Blackmarsh for awhile.

    1. swenson says:

      I desperately want one set in Valenwood, with all of the weirdness of the Bosmer intact (by which I mean walking trees, cities BUILT in walking trees, ritual cannibalism, guards attacking you for picking a flower, the Wild Hunt (not that Wild Hunt, I mean the Bosmer version), ritual cannibalism, carnivorous elves, aaaaand the ritual cannibalism).

      Unfortunately, it’s probably too weird for modern Bethesda.

      1. Hector says:

        I had a half-formed concept of a dual Valenwood/Elswyr game, with the bonus of having four distinct cultures to deal with: High Elf (though mostly in the form of Thalmoor rulers), traditionalist Wood Elves of the Greenpact philosophy, more modernist urban Wood Elves (who get mentioned a lot in the games), and the Khajit. Even if they weren’t playable, it’d be interesting to have the various multi-formed Kjajit strolling around cities without a care.

        Very little chance they’d do it, though.

      2. The Rocketeer says:

        Cyrodiil and Skyrim were both too weird for Bethesda. Their solution was to do it anyway and retcon the weird parts out.

        1. BRDE says:

          Can you give an example of something retconned out of Skyrim?

    2. Viktor says:

      Blackmarsh and Valenwood are out. Both are very 3D worlds, with either swimming or climbing being key movement modes, and that’s just way too difficult to get right. I’d expect Orsinium or Hammerfell if Bethesda is feeling boring, the Summerset Isles if they want to try something more difficult.

      If I were pitching, I’d suggest setting an entire game in Oblivion, with the player being a trapped mortal going through realms belonging to all the Daedra Princes, working for and against communities of Daedra, and encountering other mortals trying to survive there. Think Shivering Isles with a dozen realms instead of one.

    3. Ysen says:

      Like Viktor, I think Summerset Isles, Orsinium and Hammerfall are the most likely options.

      Bethseda has gone for rather generic Western fantasy settings in the last two games in hopes that they would appeal to the mass market, and it seems to have worked. Humans, Orcs, and Elves (Snobby Magic Editionâ„¢) are all familiar fantasy tropes which can be sold to the masses.

      Elsweyr and Black Marsh seem unlikely because they’re a bit too weird. The Khajiit in particular are just bonkers and changing that at this point would be difficult from a lore perspective.

      Valenwood has more chance because it has Elves (Hippy Nature Editionâ„¢), but again there are problems with canonical weirdness. Also all the foliage could be technically challenging.

    4. Cinebeast says:

      I feel kind of horrible for saying this, but I think there’s a fair chance it could just take place in Skyrim again. They’ll probably push it another couple hundred years into the future, of course, and probably introduce new factions to spice up the environment.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        I might eat my words someday, but the company’s method of avoiding plot road cones makes another game set in Skyrim- however removed in time- less likely than setting it elsewhere. Setting the game in Skyrim again forces them to directly confront the resolution (or lack of resolution) to the Imperial/Stormcloak war.

        I predict that they aren’t eager to do so, and that they’ll address this open question the way they dealt with the two previous games: by relating whatever outcome the writers dictate via NPC barks, far, far away in Black Marsh or Summurset Isle or wherever. The plot of the game will be set in motion to some extent by the previous game, but not a direct, close-quarters response to it.

        Now the timer’s started for Skyrim 2 to become more than an unsusbstantiated speculation and redden my cheeks.

        1. Mike says:

          “Setting the game in Skyrim again forces them to directly confront the resolution (or lack of resolution) to the Imperial/Stormcloak war”

          No it doesn’t. Not at all. The Empire v the Stormcloaks could easily be a long forgotten blip in history, overshadowed by the return of the dragons and the invasion of the Thalmor (or somebody else) and nobody remembers who won because moments after the war ended another war that was much much worse started.

          Or you resolve it the way they resolved Daggerfall’s 8 different endings: just have another Dragon Break where all possible outcomes happened and everybody remembered them because you this time you literally had a Dragon Break with the return and defeat of Alduin.

    5. MrGuy says:

      Since it’s Bethesda, I’d look at what they did with their own recent previous games as a likely guide.

      Working from Fallout 3, there were two occasions where they chose to follow up the story in “remote” worlds that were designed to be outward geographical expansions from the original game. These were The Pitt (Pittsburg) in one of the DLC modules for the original FO3, and The Institute (Boston) in Fallout 4. Note: I’m not counting Andrews AFB, or the Virginia state park area, or (god help me) Mothership Zeta, since they were intended deliberately to be adjacent to the FO3 gameworld – Boston and Pittsburg were deliberately “somewhere else that’s far away.” I’m also not counting FO:NV, since it was written by a different team.

      In both cases, they jumped off from an area mentioned by a minor character in optional content – The Institute is only mentioned in the optional Replicated Man quest. I guess you could argue Zimmer shows up at Rivet City in the course of the main plot, but you don’t really have to talk to him. The Pitt is mentioned in what I believe is optional dialogue by one of the BoS named peeps as part of his “how I got here” backstory – you didn’t have to ask for details about it if you didn’t want to.

      In both cases, they’re picking up something that’s only sketched in flavor text, which gives them a lot of freedom in what that place looks like. In both cases, there’s one aspect of the place that’s mentioned clearly in the original game (Slavers for The Pitt, Androids for The Institute) that they pick up and run with as “the theme” of that place, on top of which they layer whatever they want in terms of gameplay.

      I suspect the next TES game will follow a similar patterns – pick pick up a location that was thinly mentioned, that was new to the lore in the previous game, and which we know only one interesting thing about. As opposed to somewhere with a lot of lore/expectations built up like Blackmarsh or Valenwood.

      Note that I do not trust them to do this WELL (The Pitt, for example, was awful.) Just seems like what they’re more likely to do.

  12. acronix says:

    I forgot if this was asked in any previous instalment, but my question is this: what’s the deal with the Akaviri? The wiki tells me (or I vaguely remember it telling me, anyway) they are from a whole different continent, that they are somehow vampires and maybe snake-people who at some point reached the game continent and…did important stuff there before they were kicked out or left. But I always had the impression their real purpose in the story was to justify having katanas, seeing how I don’t remember them being mentioned in Skyrim and Oblivion much at all.

    1. Hector says:

      Depends on what you mean, exactly. The Akaviri invasion has a lot of implications from the lore perspective, but obviously this doesn’t affect gameplay since it happened centuries ago.

    2. The Rocketeer says:

      The main legacy of the Akavir in the games is how the Blades organization was founded out of the remnants of their invasion; Skyrim touches on this a bit, and you can certainly see it in the Blades’ Japanese- er, I mean Akaviri-style temples in Oblivion and Skyrim.

      There’s also a quest at Pale Pass in Oblivion that recalls the last days of the rout of the Akavir. It’s boring.

  13. falselordzalzabar says:

    Ruts: you get the lead position and $100 million budget (just for nice round numbers) to remake/upgrade 1 Elder Scrolls game for the current console generation/computer level. Which game to you remake, and how do you spend your money?

  14. Ysen says:

    Destruction magic – or magic in general, some might say – was a bit rubbish in Skyrim. What do you think Bethesda could do to improve it in the next installment, without having to deviate too far from their design goals?

  15. Matt Downie says:

    Stormcloaks or Imperials?

    (I think what Bethesda did there was make both sides horrible, and then wait for confirmation bias to kick in so the player overlooks the massive flaws of the side they picked.)

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      The right answer from considering Skyrim per se is the Imperials. The right answer considering the broader tendencies of the lore of the series is Stormcloaks. The right answer as a spectator of Bethesda Softworks is that it doesn’t matter.

      1. Raygereio says:

        The right answer from considering Skyrim per se is the Imperials. The right answer considering the broader tendencies of the lore of the series is Stormcloaks

        I’m curious: Please defend this position. Because in my opinion it’s the other way around with Skyrim itself initially pointing you towards the Stormcloaks. But the Empire being presented as the best choice by the rest of the lore.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          Well, it still comes down to my personal interest, of course.

          Basically, I think most players of Skyrim are justifiably more influenced by how the game personally glorifies or vilifies either faction, rather than by the general portrayal of these groups throughout the series, in person and in writing and in legend. In Skyrim, I felt like the portrayals tended to make a better case for the Empire, that it generally makes a stronger case that a unified Empire, even if it were worse for Skyrim in particular, would be better for all the provinces taken together and a better match for the Aldmeri Dominion. The game so transparently hammers the “Stormcloaks are racist” thing in Windhelm that you can’t help but wonder who Skyrim might make war on next if they become independent. They try to make the Imperials’ main fault a sort of cold, bureaucratic mindset, but they never put any teeth in that portrayal, to the game’s detriment. Executing a single man for largely spurious reasons is hardly admirable, but it’s really meaningless measured against a segment of ghettoized Dunmer. I think if Bethesda wanted to follow through on their portrayal of the Empire, it shouldn’t have been in their being overeager in chopping off a grand total of two heads, and succeeding only once at it. It should have been in their actual war strategy, which is indistinguishable from the Stormcloaks. If the Empire had been fighting a more total war, eager to return Skyrim to its yoke regardless of how many torched cottages or dissenting civilians had to swing from gallow-trees, that would have been a substantive portrayal of a distant and indifferent Empire treating its war as a business transaction, rather than as a heartfelt struggle, like the Nords themselves.

          It’s also somewhat influenced by how the Blades and the Greybeards treat you in your quest to deal with the immediate, larger threat of Alduin. Initially, the Greybeards are reverent and helpful towards you, but later on, they start getting really pissy and standoffish for no reason. I attribute this more to bad writing than substantive philosophical differences. Meanwhile, the Blades are guilty of sending you on a couple of goose chases, but ultimately end up being just as supportive and deferential to you as the Dragonborn, and much more helpful in your quest to destroy Alduin.

          The Greybeards and the Blades act as proxies for the Nords and the Empire thematically. Although the Greybeards have no affiliation with any governmental entity of Skyrim, they serve to contrast the culture and history of the Nords and their dragon lore against that of the Imperial Blades. I think it makes a big difference to the player, as the Dovahkiin, that the Blades are ultimately much more active and helpful, especially since, unlike the Greybeards and Nords, the Blades actually are an official and active arm of the Imperial war pavilion, however estranged they may have become.

          Really, as one can easily gather from all the debate it triggers and the inconclusive nature of those arguments, it can easily go one way or the other. This is just my take on Skyrim’s portrayal. But there are a few things outside of Skyrim’s portrayal in particular that swing the pendulum the other way for me.

          First is the significance of a unified Empire. Digging back into the history of the Empire in Tamriel, it quickly becomes apparent that “unified Empire” has hardly ever been a fitting description of the continent. The Empire itself has always been plagued by disastrous campaigns, wars of succession and internecine conflicts, and unrest between its various peoples. It’s easy to take Skyrim’s portrait of the times at face value: an era in which the glorious, redoubtable Empire of old is fractured and bleeding for the first time, with the player situated at the fulcrum of either its return to glory or its death. But looking back over the eras, it becomes clear that powers in Tamriel come and go. The Empire wasn’t all bad, sure. It was great for trade, and mainly kept the peace. But the reality was fairly mundane. It was a convenient, often precarious political and military arrangement that finally wore out its welcome in Tamriel.

          There is no Empire to be reforged. If there is to be another, regardless of who wins, it must be rebuilt totally, from scratch. The choice in Skyrim isn’t between restoring an ancient and hallowed dynasty to its deserved station and empowering a new, upstart dynasty to write a new destiny. It’s between two rival, upstart factions. The Empire is already gone. It’s been gone for a long while by the time Skyrim‘s events take place. The old bloodline and whatever mystical power had been endowed to it by Akatosh or fate or whatever has been gone since the end of the previous game centuries ago now, and the new heredity is truly lackluster in comparison. The real question of Skyrim’s civil war isn’t a question between Ulfric Stormcloak and Tiber Septim. It’s a question between Ulfric Stormcloak and Titus Mede II, which is a drastically unlike comparison. If an empire is what it will take to defeat the Thalmor, then Tamriel’s want is a new emperor. And in every respect, Ulfric Stormcloak far more closely resembles Hjalti Early-Beard, the man who would become Tiber Septim, Ysmir, Talos of Atmora. Take whatever significance you want from that, if any.

          But reforging an Empire from scratch in the days of the Thalmor begs an examination of how the Empire was forged in the first place. And the answer to that is as simple as it is unimpeachable: a bronze colossus forged by the Dwemer crushed Tiber Septim’s foes into chunky paste. The fact that there was ever a Septim Dynasty is owed to Numidium. Well, no one has a Numidium today. And even those many ages ago, Numidium was insuffucient to totally conquer Tamriel; the Tribunal in Morrowind kept Septim out. There’s no Tribunal any longer, but the Thalmor represent that same sort of entrenched threat to the men of the Fourth Era. The whole of the Thalmor’s capabilities, military and magical, is wisely left mostly unknown to the player. They are whatever looming threat the writers need them to be, once they need to be dealt with at last.

          What’s more, I think the Stormcloaks, and Ulfric himself, more closely represent the values the series has tended to reward, especially in the races of man, throughout the lore. Man, and especially Tiber Septim himself, embodied the spirit of rising up against forces natural and supernatural alike that would chain you, that would determine your destiny for you. The nature of man in Nirn is to make of your fate all that you want of it, and nothing less, as opposed the the mer, the elves, that tend to represent the stoic and stolid forces of supremacy and unchanging order. The Thalmor certainly embrace this interpretation of elvenkind’s place in Mundus. They embrace with fanatical passion the idea of mer as the descendants of the Aedra, the gods themselves, tricked into the horrifying trap of mortality by Lorkhan. Everything the Thalmor do is informed by this hardline philosophy, especially their hatred of Talos. Even if for no other reason but the spirit of drama in narrative, the Stormcloaks, champions of the spirit of mankind, rising from the dust of Nirn to grasp at divinity itself, to let not one motion of their hand be ruled by a fate not of their own choosing, make the only fitting nemesis for the Thalmor, the ones who fell from divine grace, who despise the cruel chains of mortality, who long for their lost Aetherial glory and dominion, who not only accept and love the order and unity of fate but see themselves as the rightful soul and arbiter of doom, lamentably deprived of their long-lost birthright. This is, naturally, the primary driver of their hatred of Talos. It isn’t merely a pedantic clerical legalism on the Aldmeri’s part; Talos’ very existence, its very concept is a blade in the heart of their dogma. The clash between the rabidly orthodox Dominion and Talos’ champions, embodied by the Stormcloaks and in the person of Ulfric, seems an encounter demanded by doom.

          In light of a more circumspect and historical view of the factions, I think Skyrim‘s characterizations of both factions takes on very different lights. The husk of the Empire is totally disadvantaged by its forcible subservience to the dominant Aldmeri. The working theory for Imperial support is that the Empire recognizes and resents the contemptful control of Imperial affairs exercised by the Thalmor, which I believe, and that if the Empire is freed from its internecine conflict and unified, it will be able to overcome the Aldmeri infection unrestrained, which I do not believe to any extent. The Thalmor plowed the Empire, tactically and politically. They already fought once at full strength, and lost. By this time, the Thalmor have free rein of the (former) Imperial provinces, and their agents have insinuated themselves into these territories. Their ability to exercise their peerless command of espionage and inquisition has spread and prospered all but unopposed. They have ossified their control over their own captured territories, while the Empire has lost Hammerfell. If Skyrim gave up all resistance overnight, the Thalmor would still command an embarrassing territorial and military lead over the Empire. Even if they were at equal strength, the game gives the impression that the Aldmeri’s espionage has been aggressively inculcating itself into the Imperial military and political machine. Merely being free of the Aldmeri’s supreme impunity from which to exercise their talent for sabotage and intelligence makes a coalition of independent, hardline anti-Thalmor provinces a better bet than the envenomated “unified” Empire.

          I also believe that a defeat for the Empire would immediately free resistors like Hammerfell and Skyrim to work at their full capacity, while a defeat of the Stormcloaks would still leave the province of Skyrim plagued by stubborn resistance for years to come. The Stormcloak rebellion is a grassroots ideological insurgence. The game attributes their unity to Ulfric Stormcloak’s charisma, but I can’t believe that the defeat of the Rebellion’s leadership would summarily conclude Skyrim’s hostilities, especially with Ulfric’s perceived martyrdom upon an Imperial investiture of Windhelm. We see how the Nords fiercely revere their dead. Ulfric will never be slain; he will merely be watching from Sovngarde.

          Furthermore, I find accusations of Stormcloak intolerance unpersuasive, and a bit narrow-minded. Taken at their face value, Windhelm’s oppression of black peop- I MEAN the Dunmer is a big black mark on the Stormcloak’s ideology, but I want to dispel this slight misconception about the Stormcloaks once and for all: Stormcloaks don’t hate Dunmer. Nords hate Dunmer. Nords everywhere and of every affiliation hate Dunmer. Nords have hated Dunmer for thousands of years. Actually, Nords hate all elves. But they especially hate the Dunmer, because they were neighbors, and because they hated not being able to conquer Morrowind for so many ages. Nords revere the Atmoran legacy of conquest, and of genocide; before Skyrim, it was apparent that Nords had driven the Falmer to extinction. Since Skyrim, it has become apparent that they drove the Falmer to even worse. Wuuthrad, the axe with which Ysgramor conquered Tamriel’s northern territories, is more deadly to elves in honor of the Nord’s legacy of warfare with elves. Their hatred of and war with elves even has significant implications for the Alessian Empire that predated Talos’ conquest, but that’s a story for another day.

          The idea that tension between elves- specifically Dunmer- and Nords is a new trait, one unique to Stormcloaks and attributed to an especially intolerant streak within them, is misguided. The only thing unique about Windhelm is its geography. Once everything went to shit for the province of Morrowind (and boy did it ever), many Dunmer were displaced from Morrowind and fled over the Moesring Mountains to Skyrim. Windhelm took the brunt of this exodus, and has been dealing with its ramifications ever since. I’m not saying Windhelm is right to resent its Dunmer population. I’m saying only Windhelm has a Dunmer population to resent. There’s no persuasive evidence that any other city in Skyrim would react more amiably to dedicating a significant proportion of its real estate to displaced refugees of an ethnic group they have hated since time immemorial. The tension between the historical occupants of Windhelm and its large resettled population of those people’s historical enemies, cannot be attributable to the Stormcloaks without the broadest blinders on.

          A small thing, but it’s also worth pointing out the plight of the Khajiiti. The caravans are not allowed into any city, regardless of who’s in charge, due to the Nord’s total mistrust of the Khajiits. We may not like Windhelm’s reaction to its Dunmer problem, but every city’s response, Imperial and Stormcloak alike, to the Khajiiti problem is not any more encouraging.

          However, since the Stormcloaks inherited this racial tension, it’s certainly fair to question how Ulfric himself regards it, and how he regards the Dunmer. I don’t think there’s a clear answer to this question. Brunwulf Free-Winter, who becomes Jarl if Windhelm is conquered, alleges that Ulfric is indifferent to Dunmer troubles, relative to similar troubles experience by his Nord citizens. Cold though it may sound, this may stem from pragmatic concerns moreso than ideological biases. Unique among the cities of Skyrim, Windhelm’s guard retinue is composed of Stormcloaks, who are also a standing army. Given the demands on that army, there are probably few men to spare for duties beyond fighting the Empire directly. Even if what Free-Winter alleges is totally true and Ulfric is generous with his troops in defending Nords from monsters and bandits and the like, and ignorant of similar concerns for resettled Dunmer, the fact is that Ulfric’s popular support and his body of troops itself is Nordic. Sparing troops that could be fighting the Empire for bandit-fighting and peacekeeping is a difficult choice, but one far easier to make when doing so ensures that that army and the mandate that supports it will continue to exist and grow. That the war in Skyrim is a war of Nords against the Empire, rather than of all people of Skyrim against the Empire, is not a distinction of Ulfric’s explicit desires, but one created by the roots of the conflict itself.

          Personally, Ulfric himself seems not to express any antipathy for other races, in contrast to General Tullius rather naked contempt for the unruly character of the Nords. When his second-in-command, Galmar Stone-Fist, says that he won’t let elves dictate the fate of men, Ulfric demurs somewhat in expressing his own motivation, making no mention of elves and remarking instead on Skyrim’s oppression by the Empire it had served. I hope I’m remembering this correctly, because I failed to find the exact lines, but I remember looking in the past specifically to see if Ulfric ever made any mention of the player’s own race when expressing interest in the Stormcloaks. While he does want to know why you want to serve the Stormcloaks, and asks you to prove your devotion, your race seems to be of no consequence to Ulfric, even if you are a Dunmer or (probably worse) an Altmer.

          My point is that one of the primary arguments against the Stormcloaks, and the one that the game presents early and bluntly- that the Stormcloaks are characterized by xenophobia- is a very narrow and presentist view of things. I’d certainly accept that many who join the Stormcloaks carry a hatred or mistrust of elves, but I deny this characterization of Ulfric or his intentions for the organization. Furthermore, I disbelieve that Nords anywhere in Skyrim, regardless of political affiliation, are not colored by the Nordic legacy of eleven hatred. My contention is that the war’s outcome will mean nothing for the treatment of elves either way, that Skyrim will always be a difficult and untrusting province for mer, and that the specter of some looming inquisition or deportation of elves in the event of a Stormcloak victory is imagined- although, unfortunately, likely one imagined by at least some who join the Stormcloaks, and with this end in mind.

          But it’s because of this long hereditary prejudice against elves that I don’t think an Imperial victory in Skyrim will improve the lot of elves in the province. The Septim Imperium prevented Skyrim from making war on Morrowind as it had so many times in the past… except when it was the Empire itself invading Morrowind with Nord legionaries. But just as I don’t think a defeat of Ulfric will do anything to quell the unrest in Skyrim for the foreseeable future, neither do I think it would ease the racial tensions between Nords and elves, in Windhelm or anywhere else. I will say that Brunwulf Free-Winter personally would focus on the hostility currently reigning in Windhelm, as it is clearly a personal cause if his, this means ultimately little. It might be giving Ulfric a bit too much good faith to assume that he would address this himself with the civil war out of the way (especially since it would merely mean war with the Dominion is next on the agenda), I find myself equally skeptical that Free-Winter, no matter how well-intentioned, can truly heal thousands of years of cultural enmity, nor fix the intractable crisis presented by the unfortunate refugees currently giving vent to that enmity. While it’s not unreasonable to fear that Stormcloak victory will do nothing to improve the lot of elves in Windhelm particularly and throughout Skyrim, and might even worsen those relations for a time, I don’t believe Imperial victory will mean anything positive for them, either. The Empire does not care for the Nords themselves, nor for the cultural or economic concerns presented by the prevening century or more, nor are they convincingly able to do anything about it even if they did care. That they would both care for the plight of ethnic minorities within Skyrim, hit all the harder by those same concerns and more, or that they would be able to address it, is an incredible suggestion.

          Really, if the end goal of the player is to drive the Thalmor out of Skyrim and the other provinces they’ve infiltrated with their totalitarian aims in mind, a victory for either side in the Skyrim civil war will likely see an unfortunate backlash against all Altmer once the aims of the war throughout Tamriel turn to focus on them. And furthermore, as long as the Empire is dominated all but openly by the ruthlessly xenophobic and fascist Aldmeri Dominion, that Dominion is free to enact their brutal inquisition of their own territories and the Empire’s until they are forced out. Even the most caustic accusations against the Stormcloaks pales in comparison against the undisguised objectives of the Thalmor, and given that I’ve come to believe, in the final analysis, that a Stormcloak victory is necessary for a Thalmor defeat, concerns about ethnic pogrom in Tamriel still push in favor of the Stormcloaks for me, regardless of its constituency’s traditions.

          In sum, support for the Empire over the Stormcloaks on the basis of ethnic concerns is a toss-up at best, far from the cut-and-dry portrayal of the cosmopolitan Empire versus the insular Stormcloak regime.

          Last, I think Morrowind left us with a rather damning appraisal of the Empire, from someone whose opinion really matters: Talos. Near the finale of Morrowind, on the way to confront Dagoth Ur himself, the player meets an old legionary name Wulf, who the game states in fairly clear terms is Talos, in the flesh, who appeared to wish the Nerevarine well. There’s some room to argue that Wulf wasn’t actually the god itself, of course, but the appearance of a Divine in mortal guise is not unprecedented in itself for Morrowind; if the player participates in the Imperial Cult, multiple Divines appear personally to the Nerevarine, in reward of their devotion.

          If once accepts Wulf’s words as the words of Talos, what he has to say is a very telling sign of the times. It largely speaks to being old, being tired, being no longer fit to command the winds of change personally. Wulf is eager to pass the rein (and the reign) of fate to a younger, more ambitious generation. His lines are relatively few, but he manages to say a lot with them, and fortunately for the purposes of this discussion, the player may ask him about the Emperor- and the Empire- itself:

          “The Emperor is getting old. Don’t know how much longer he’ll hang on. So is the whole Empire, for that matter. Getting old, that is. The Emperor and the legions have held the Empire together for hundreds of years. It’s been a good thing, by and large. But maybe it’s time for a change. Time for something young and new. What? No idea. Because I’m old. Old dog doesn’t get new ideas. But maybe young folks like you should try some new ideas. I don’t know. Could be messy. But change is never pretty.”

          The Nerevarine made that long walk to Red Mountain in 3E 427. Six years later, the last of the Septims’ bloodline gave their life to drive Mehrunes Dagon out of Mundus. By the time the Last Dragonborn ascended the Throat of the World, the writing had been on the wall for two hundred years. The Thalmor read it easily. Ulfric was forced to accept it after suffering bitterly for his failure to do so. The husk of the long-gone Empire languishes for being abandoned by fate.

          As for why I believe that it ultimately won’t matter… well, call me cynical. Yet, I do think it’s logical that a third answer to the conflict is necessitated by the demands of writing a game that satisfies two irreconcilable outcomes. It’s certainly not as crazy as how they resolve the plot of Daggerfall.

          And I do have a totally unsubstantiated theory that satisfies another undercurrent of the lore. To put it bluntly, I believe Talos is, by the time of 4E 201, a dead god, literally and figuratively. Talos is the god of man, of mortalkind. The world changed too drastically for Talos to be of use to it. Wulf appeared as a symbol of a dying empire, a legionary too old to fight any longer and too bewildered to make sense of a world moving on without him. As it is man’s place in Mundus to fight fate, to embody change, to extend his infinite grasp and write his own destiny, so is it man’s inescapable nature to grow old, to die, to be forgotten, and for his works to be eclipsed and replaced. As the god of mortals, so too is it the nature of Talos to rise, to champion his cause, and to grow old and die… and then to re-emerge and do it all again.

          The Thalmor very deliberately represent everything that Talos is not. They are inimical to Talos, to mankind, to mortality, and perhaps to the existence of Mundus itself. They stand ready to impose their will on the world once and for all. Meanwhile, Tiber Septim’s embodiment in Talos left his seat open of his own accord, anticipating an as-yet-unseen successor that even he, though a god, could not conceive of. In Skyrim, the legion fights for a dead, outdated Empire and the Stormcloaks fight for a dead, outdated god. I speculate that whether the Thalmor and whatever plans they have will be fought by the Empire or by the Stormcloaks is a red herring; the Thalmor must be fought by Talos. What that means is a question for Mundus to choose for itself.

          1. Raygereio says:

            Interesting read. Thanks for indulging me with the effortpost.

    2. Viktor says:

      The Altmer want to unmake the world. Therefore, stopping them is key. The Empire had their chance and royally screwed it up. Stormcloaks just because they are at least going to try to fight the main threat.

      Plus, religious oppression matters more to me personally than racism does. I’d love to drive out the Thalmor and their lackeys as an anti-authoritarian Dunmer who proceeds to kick Ulfrics bigoted ass, but since I can only do one of those two things, I’m picking freedom of religion before universal equality.

      Also also, the Empire tried to KILL ME. Because NOT KILLING ME would have taken EFFORT. Why would I ever risk talking to one of them again?

      1. Matt Downie says:

        Hey, the Empire might execute without trial anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant, but at least they aren’t racist!

  16. Neko says:

    I’d argue the crafting itch started earlier, with Daggerfall’s spellcrafting. (It did have spellcrafting, right? I’m pretty sure it did, although I may be confusing it with the uber-versatile chargen). Then Oblivion attempted to tame it, and Skyrim did away with it entirely.

    Did you like the spellcrafting mechanic? I loved it, it made me feel I was doing actual wizardry, attempting to break the rules of the world using magic. Having to use off-the-shelf magic felt too restrictive – all the really cool magic was done by NPCs only.

    1. TMC_Sherpa says:

      Daggerfall had a sliding scale for mana cost which I really enjoyed.
      If a spell was too expensive you could:
      Raise your level in that school
      Increase your mana when you leveled (Was it tied to Int? I don’t remember how that worked)
      I *think* there were potions that raised your mana cap

      If you had to get a big spell off you had choices on how to make it happen

      My primary interaction with the spell maker in Morrowind was making super cheap healing spells to raise my Restoration skill so there was a snowballs chance in oblivion that I could cast something, anything, successfully.

  17. Duoae says:


    Where do you stand on levitation? Was it worth being removed because it broke the game or do you view TES games as fundamentally broken (like me) and that’s why they’re fun?

    Also, do you think they’ll fix magic to make it as fun as melee combat in skyrim in the next game?

  18. Raygereio says:

    [re: spears]And yet…there aren't many good mods out there for spears, are there? Plenty of people are willing to complain, but how many people pass the ultimate acid test”“actually doing something about it? So again, probably not worth it.

    Either I’m not following what you’re trying get across here, or you don’t fully understand what would be involved with implementing spears.
    The fact that there haven’t been good spear mods isn’t because modders don’t want to do it enough. It’s because implementing a brand new weapon type with its own animation type is straight up impossible for modders. That stuff is hardcoded. Even if modders could implement new animation types, there would still be a pretty large (though admittedly not insurmountable) hurdle to overcome in creating all the required new models, textures & animations. And expecting that anyone can simply pick the required tools & knowledge for creating said models, textures & animations is not realistic.

    Also “bring back spears” in my experience isn’t really about just spears. It’s shorthand for “bring back the separate weapon skills”.

    On the topic of spears though: They were featured in the Skyrim Game Jam(*) video. So at least one Bethesda dev still cares about spears enough to create a quick mock-up.
    *: This was an internal Bethesda project back in 2011 where the devs were given the task of creating something – anything they wanted to – for Skyrim within one week.

  19. baseless_research says:

    So uh, about that Questions and Answers…?

    Here’s one, what feature from Arena or Daggerfall (positively) surprised you and makes you wish they include it in the next game?

    Also out of all their characters across all the series (excluding Skyrim because it is freshest in mind) do you like the most and why?

    And which one is most hateful (not forgetful, hateful) and why?

    Answer all or some of these questions, I just spitballed a few to get this ball rolling.

  20. NoneCallMeTim says:

    So, I tried to play Morrowind, and gave up because of the janky controls (Click on all the things!!!1!).

    I have about 60 hours played with Skyrim, spent much of the early time just wandering around, did some of the main quests, then just… stopped.

    I don’t feel any compulsion to go back to it.

    Even when I was playing it, it felt like a chore. I don’t remember any other game being like that. I either stopped playing pretty quickly, or enjoyed putting a lot of hours into it.

    I guess the whole thing just felt really bland.

    I just realised, that I can’t remember any of the names of people in the game, and only one or two of the places. Just very little about the game stuck out to me.

    I am not sure how to formulate this into a question, other than:

    How could Bethesda take their bland sword and sorcery stab-fest, and turn it into something with a bit more character?

  21. James Porter says:

    Here is a weird question that I doubt is in the scope of these essays. Has anyone tried to compare/contrast the Elder Scrolls evolution with the evolution of From Software’s Kings Field up to Souls?
    Both started in 1994, and were a really clunky first person attempt at creating an interconnected fantasy worlds. While TES has been constantly been reinventing itself, it seems to be working under the assumption that they are going to simulate an actual world, where as From kinda suck with their really obtuse controls and weird storytelling techniques until they were refined into what we have today. That is a really interesting split in rpg design, and unfortunately i am really not the guy to make that comparison. Im pretty sure the weird hostilities of Morrowind’s design are a part of the reason I love that game, so it doesnt seem that they are mutually exclusive

  22. baseless_research says:

    @rutskarn, are there any character concepts you are so enamored by that you want to copy them out of TES and into your own works (rpg characters, pc characters, plotline characters)

    which ones and what is it about them?

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