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And just like that, I can read my copy of The Lusty Argonian Maid on-the-go!
November 29, 2011 4:55 PM   Subscribe

"Skyrim is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to Skyrim. [...] Lately, one of my favorite parts of Skyrim are the in-game books. At any time, you can pull a book off the shelf, and get a nice fresh slice of lore to go along with your hearty adventures. I’ve even gone so far as to break into houses in the middle of the night just to read their books." — So says the blogger who decided to extract all 1000+ pages of text contained in the books of Skyrim and format them for EPUB and Kindle. (Skyrim previously)
posted by 256 (95 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
So big you need a 9MB image for the map (spoilers).

For more Elder Scrolls books, see The Imperial Library which has online collections of the books from all the games.
posted by Nelson at 5:00 PM on November 29, 2011


Reminds me of "The Neverhood". At one point you walk down an incredible hallway, with the wall covered with writing. It's 38 screens to reach the end of it.

It turns out to be the entire cosmology of the place, stories of all the gods and how the multiverse got created.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:01 PM on November 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


1000+ pages
So... about 1/10th as much as has been written about it all over the internet lately...
posted by delmoi at 5:03 PM on November 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Where does all this content come from? How many authors were devoted to creating this? Are they credited separately somewhere?
posted by heathkit at 5:06 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Plenty of time, my sweet. Plenty of time.
posted by Sand at 5:13 PM on November 29, 2011


I just don't get Bethesda games. It's like they do everything amazingly well and then forget the gameplay. Thankfully the modders are already hard at work.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:14 PM on November 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Where does all this content come from? How many authors were devoted to creating this? Are they credited separately somewhere?

Games like this have a sizable writing staff. Alternatively, the producers might choose to farm out secondary content like this to independent writers, or they might farm out worldbuilding stuff to a company like Starlight Runner, which did a bunch of extra content development for the Halo franchise.

The further down the chain you go, the more buried in the credits the names will be.
posted by pts at 5:16 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


They reused a lot of books from previous games, too.
posted by empath at 5:19 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love the in game books, I pick up every one I find and cart them around till I get a chance to drop them off in my room.

In skyrim there are in-game bookshelves in the purchasable homes for your book collections, I am an itinerant Mage so thus far have had to make due with dumping them in a chest. Books have been the only items I have been tempted to steal, there is one book in particular I just might snag when nobody is looking.

This guy typeset and hand bound a volume of all the books in oblivion.

I might pay a couple bucks for a volume of books from Skyrim.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:20 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


A lot of the in-game books aren't very well written. It's easier to churn out a lot of volume if you don't care about the quality so much.
posted by Justinian at 5:24 PM on November 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


1000 pages is like 3 books, y'all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:29 PM on November 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


Reminds me of "The Neverhood". At one point you walk down an incredible hallway, with the wall covered with writing. It's 38 screens to reach the end of it.

The sound of the main character's footsteps echoing as you walk down that hallway will be with me until the day I die. I half-expect to hear it after my soul leaves my body, as I go towards the light.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 5:30 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Clomp climp clomp climp clomp climp clomp climp... for screen after screen after screen, to get that one little disk.

My personal favorite part was about Bertbert, particularly Bredbad's fine lectures.

What a classic game. Inspired to play it again... and it is a great comparison to the little nuggets of goodness that you find in Skyrim's books.
posted by Old Man McKay at 5:36 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


A lot of the in-game books aren't very well written. It's easier to churn out a lot of volume if you don't care about the quality so much.
If you're referring to The Lusty Argonian Maid or Alduin is Real!, I feel that I should mention that this is on purpose.

room317 - I don't really get what you're trying to say. 900-1,000 pages is about the length of three genre fiction paperbacks, sure. Maybe 4-5 licensed fiction books. One volume of Proust. A great number of Chekhov's short stories.

I mean really if we want to talk about stuff like that, it would make more sense to describe it in terms of number of words, since formatting changes page number so much.

The point that people are trying to get across is "hey look, someone wrote a lot of fiction for this videogame." Or perhaps "this is getting close to what it would be like wandering through a real world". In a standard videogame, if you see a book on the nightstand next to a bed, you can maybe pick it up and throw it somewhere if the physics system is deeper than normal. You certainly can't read the damn thing to find out that the bed's owner likes to read dry intellectual treatises regarding calendrical systems or whatever.

It's a neat atmospheric touch, and someone made it convenient to read all of them.
posted by kavasa at 5:38 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


n-ing neverhood love
posted by victors at 5:50 PM on November 29, 2011


I just don't get Bethesda games. It's like they do everything amazingly well and then forget the gameplay. Thankfully the modders are already hard at work.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:14 PM on November 29 [3 favorites +] [!]


This is wrong in two ways - Bethesda don't do everything amazingly well, they're notorious for bizarre bugs and glitches. And Skyrim is just life-swallowingly fun.

You're right about the modders, though!
posted by Sebmojo at 6:06 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Where's the fan fic chapter about Master Chief's hot affair with Gravemind?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:06 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Skyrim is big? It's barely quarter the size of WoW.

/prepares flame retardant suit/
posted by xdvesper at 6:09 PM on November 29, 2011


So 1,000 pages is "vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big" now?
posted by Fnarf at 6:12 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Alright internet.
You win and I am exhausted.
I will play the god damned Sky Rim Game 3D Kart.

This is part of a series right?
Do previous installments matter to me?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:14 PM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


And still no readable books in Minecraft...
posted by Jimbob at 6:21 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I gave in to Skyrim a couple days ago (after I realized it was a game and that it was "sky-rim" not "skry-im")...but it's for Windows, PS3 and Xbox 360, none of which I own.

I don't know if that's good news or bad news.
posted by DU at 6:22 PM on November 29, 2011


Hearing about this game while reading Reamde by Stephenson is a singularly odd experience.

I'm still going no where near this game, mostly because I think RPGs are mind-numbingly boring.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:25 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some of the in-game books are really poorly written. Others are quite nice. It's very clear that there are a lot of different people doing independent worldbuilding for the game, which is a) good, because it leads to a much richer and deeper world, and b) bad, because it seems like not a lot of oversight is being exercised, and that leads to a lot of bugs, poorly-tested quests, etc.
posted by jiawen at 6:27 PM on November 29, 2011


UESP.net is also useful for all your Elder Scrolls needs.
posted by radiosilents at 6:30 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some of the in-game books are really poorly written. Others are quite nice.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that this is fine, desirable even. You can quibble about the proportion of books that are poorly written versus the ones that aren't, but it makes sense from a verisimilitude standpoint that some of them are going to be bad, a small proportion even atrociously so. I reckon a lot of them aren't even supposed to have been written by dedicated scribes or scholars and are just supposed to be the journals of soldiers, explorers or adventurers. Folks who aren't necessarily going to be any good at writing.
posted by juv3nal at 6:36 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


So 1,000 pages is "vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big" now?
Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

1. That was a quote from Douglas Adams.
2. The thousand pages are window dressing. That is the point. This much time does not typically go into the window dressing. This much time goes into the landscaping outside the window that almost everyone is looking at, not into the frilly little doo-dads around the window that very few people look at.
Do previous installments matter to me?
Not really, IMO. I think it's probably worthwhile to take a look at an out-of-game source that summarizes the world's timeline WRT to what happened in the other games. I never played Daggerfall past the demo and never get very far in Morrowind or Oblivion either.
posted by kavasa at 6:37 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered how long it would take for one of these game designers to finally go all in and just download a few hundred books from Gutenberg and toss them in a game. Sure, it's not "part of the immersive experience" or whatever, but it'd give you a chance to have some nice touches with selection of books and such.
posted by koeselitz at 6:52 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jimbob: "And still no readable books in Minecraft.."

Yet again, modders are hard at work.
posted by brundlefly at 6:53 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered how long it would take for one of these game designers to finally go all in and just download a few hundred books from Gutenberg and toss them in a game.

It wasn't a few hundred, but the original Deus Ex has some extremely pretentious snippets of books lying around.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 6:55 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't help but think every time I pick up a book in Skyrim (then immediately close it, because I'm only looking for hidden skill bonuses) that such an impressively literate society would've figured out the amazing benefits of long, pointy sticks, known on Earth as spears and very likely humanity's oldest martial implement next to the bone club. Yet for some inexplicable reason, they never have.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 7:06 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bandwidth is cheap these days, and you need an internet connection for steam drm anyway, so why not just have the game download the book from gutenberg if you ever open it? Then you could fill your game with every book in the project gutenberg library for only the cost of storing their titles and URLs.
posted by Pyry at 7:06 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Kandarp, that's just the kind of thing that occurs when you have an entire dimension full of right-handed folks like on Nirn.
posted by Edogy at 7:10 PM on November 29, 2011


Wabbajack? Wabbajack. Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack Wabbajack.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:13 PM on November 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


And still no readable books in Minecraft...

I've just been writing my in universe minecraft novel spread burmashave-style across a long string of signs. The chickens and cows seem not to like it, but that's because they're a bunch of philistines.
posted by drezdn at 7:17 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oooh, Minecraft books!
posted by darkstar at 7:25 PM on November 29, 2011


Metafilter: It's easier to churn out a lot of volume if you don't care about the quality so much.

sorry
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:29 PM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Do previous installments matter to me?

Not at all. The magic & combat systems are recognizably similar, there's occasional references to people, places & events from the previous games (I know that sound. Nirnroot!) that you won't appreciate as much but for playability it's entirely self contained.
posted by scalefree at 7:30 PM on November 29, 2011


Just fyi, rpg.stackexchange.com and gaming.stackexchange.com exist.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:43 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


So for someone who hasn't played Skyrim, how does all of this square with Grantland's claim that the storytelling and dialogue has been written incompetently?
posted by barnacles at 7:44 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pyry: They used to have spears in Vvardenfell but they were all destroyed in the eruption of Red Mountain and nobody thought to make more since. Same thing with Medium armor. ;-)
posted by Scientist at 7:44 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unnecessary Censorship - Skyrim
posted by homunculus at 7:46 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was somewhat shocked to find myself reading about Elf abortions and racial discrimination in one of the books I found, The Life of Berenziah Volume 2. I almost had to double check that i was understanding the text correctly at 2am after hours of dungeon trawling and potion brewing.

The quality of fiction (I'm trying not being excessively critical) is not particularly high, and much of the fiction is complete duff. Some of it is amusing or interesting though, and if you start to read enough you begin to unpick a more complex tapestry of back-story, sly meta-gaming commentary and in-game mythology than the quality of the prose would initially suggest.

There is an excellent article on the meta-fiction and metaphysics in the Elder Scrolls, which relates more to the previous games than Skyrim but is still an amusing and interesting read. The Dragonbreak stuff about resolving the reality of multiple gaming-narratives into a coherent ongoing time-line is particularly intriguing.

I personally love playing the game, it has been a massive timesink but very enjoyable thus far. One brief anecdote: I wanted to marry one NPC (the first vaguely attractive character model I encountered, although to my shame it was probably her revealing dress) but by the time that I returned wearing the relevant marrying-amulet to facilitate our nuptials, I was shocked to discover that she had been brutally murdered by a stalking serial killer roaming the snow-swept city streets. Wandering away from her mutilated corpse in the fresh snow, I forgot to remove the amulet and accidentally agreed to marry a bald homeless alcoholic man on the way out of town.

*He asked "am I interested in him? To which I guilelessly replied, Yes.
(I am interested in everybody I suppose) The little quest-undertaken drum-roll came in, and lo, I was engaged to the village idiot. My game has been full of strange and amusing accidental moments like this.
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 7:56 PM on November 29, 2011 [29 favorites]


After a serious amount of whining and bugging, my husband convinced me that we should get the game.

I have regret, and I hope we finish it soon, I'd like life to start again.
posted by Malice at 9:11 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


1000 pages = 1 Stephenson.
posted by zippy at 9:11 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


...but it's for Windows, PS3 and Xbox 360, none of which I own.

Don't worry, I'm sure the Intellivision port will be out soon!
posted by trunk muffins at 9:17 PM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have yet to start the Dark Brotherhood quest line, but when I do, I plan to leave a carrot on the bodies of all my victims.

Because I like to imagine a befuddled, overworked captain of the watch scratching his head at the cold-blooded audacity of the Carrot Killer.

Also: one of the books I stumbled across is a choose-your-own-adventure story, which made me go "awwwww!"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:43 PM on November 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


After over a hundred hours of play I have noticed many flaws in this game, and I am confident that over the next few hundred I will discover almost all of them. I shall not desist from playing it until I decide that it is the worst game ever.
posted by vanar sena at 9:50 PM on November 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


So for someone who hasn't played Skyrim, how does all of this square with Grantland's claim that the storytelling and dialogue has been written incompetently?

There is a lot of mediocre drivel you have to sit through in skyrim, and a lot more filler. I think they could probably take a lesson from valve in how to tell a story with incidental detail rather than bogging you down with tons and tons of exposition.
posted by empath at 10:01 PM on November 29, 2011


Hm? Every Valve game I've played has had no end of AsYouKnowBobs.
posted by vanar sena at 10:16 PM on November 29, 2011


Yeah, but you're not sitting there hitting dialogue options. You're generally doing stuff while people are talking.
posted by empath at 10:21 PM on November 29, 2011



There is a lot of mediocre drivel you have to sit through in skyrim, and a lot more filler. I think they could probably take a lesson from valve in how to tell a story with incidental detail rather than bogging you down with tons and tons of exposition.


I'd describe it as cheesy rather than mediocre - I mean sure, you've been there a hundred times before but even when you compare it to the golden age of rpgs when baldurs gate and planescape:torment ruled the roost the dialogue holds up. They don't really explore new ground much but I'm sure more people would whine if they changed it all up instead of making a classic fantasy rpg world.

The elder scrolls probably isn't the right franchise to make a cyberpunk mmo racing simulator.
posted by gronkpan at 10:22 PM on November 29, 2011


but even when you compare it to the golden age of rpgs when baldurs gate and planescape:torment ruled the roost the dialogue holds up

I think I'm having a parsing fail. Surely you're not asserting that the dialogue in Skyrim holds up to that in Planescape: Torment. Inconceivable!
posted by Justinian at 10:27 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh no trunk muffins, you might have just aggro'd the Mac users. That is worse than pissing off a mammoth.
posted by Drumhellz at 10:36 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I'm having a parsing fail. Surely you're not asserting that the dialogue in Skyrim holds up to that in Planescape: Torment. Inconceivable!

OH SHIT, GRONKPAN JUST WENT THERE
posted by gronkpan at 10:37 PM on November 29, 2011


Toms point in Grantland is more that video game writing and dialogue is uniformly atrocious. Skyrim measures up very well by comparison with say Oblivion and pretty well by comparison with most games. But that's not a high bar.

That said I've been pleasantly surprised more often than not. Could just be lowered standards ofc.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:42 PM on November 29, 2011


I've been playing for weeks, now... albeit split between two or three separate playthroughs, and I still have yet to make a serious attempt at starting the main quest. Among other things, this means that I have yet to encounter dragons. I've devoted my time to exploring the game world, completing dungeons, and learning a bit about its lore by reading books and talking to NPCs.

So I can't judge the game's story... but I can say that the world seems morally ambiguous in a way that sometimes reminds me of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Tellingly, I've yet to even decide whether to side with the Empire or the Stormcloaks in Skyrim's civil war.

Although the game opens with a scripted scenario that places the player at odds with the Empire and naturally sympathetic to the Stormcloaks, a tour of the game world reveals the native Nords to be a xenophobic people, distrustful not only of elves (for which they have some reason), but also of the feline Khajiit and lacertine Argonians. A detour to Markath reveals a situation where invading Nords (aided at one point by Ulfric Stormcloak) have subjugated the native peoples, and a trip to Stormcloak capital Windhelm reveals the movement's antipathy even for neutral Elven peoples.

One thing that I am certain of, however, is that no Thalmor or others directly associated with the Aldmeri Dominion will reside in Skyrim once I've finished; I'll ethnically cleanse their asses off the continent. Humanity doesn't live as long as elvenkind; they don't get the cool magical aptitudes, but they do have one point of pride: one of their number, in distant memory, ascended to godhood... and those high-Elven sons of bitches won't even let humanity have that. Well, fuck 'em.
posted by The Confessor at 10:55 PM on November 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Aside on Minecraft: Books are not directly readable, but they do serve an in-game purpose now. They can be crafted with wood into bookshelves, then placed around an enchantment table to increase the number of enchantments that are available. Minecraft Wiki documentation.
posted by JHarris at 10:59 PM on November 29, 2011


I hate to be a douche, and that guy will have to wrestle with his own ethics, but I'm not sure MetaFilter should link to copyrighted material that wasn't approved to be distributed by its owner. I love MetaFilter, I don't want anything to happen. How about letting him take the risk with his links, and MeFites can discover the links on his site?
posted by CarlRossi at 11:09 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of the books in Skyrim were taken from previous games in the series as has been mentioned previously. This can make the books a little confusing at times - all those books on Barenziah came from when she was an NPC you could talk to, a large number of the books discussing Morrowind, Vivec and the like came from the Morrowind game. The details they mention don't apply to Skyrim, the lore they share has no real anchor in the game. I find that a little frustrating.

There is a definite theme to the books from the different games as well - read the story books created for Morrowind (note that some books in Morrowind came from Daggerfall and other games) and count how many have a theme of betrayal or ambush - this ties in with the plot background. Note the prominence of Daedra in the Oblivion books. Maybe it's a case of observational bias though.

What I find interesting is where they've bowdlerised books from Daggerfall for the later series. I have to wonder why they made the changes.
posted by YAMWAK at 11:47 PM on November 29, 2011


Uh - forgot to put a NSWF (naughty text) next to that 'books' link. Sorry
posted by YAMWAK at 11:49 PM on November 29, 2011


I hate to be a douche, and that guy will have to wrestle with his own ethics, but I'm not sure MetaFilter should link to copyrighted material that wasn't approved to be distributed by its owner.

So never link to any Wikia for any game series ever?

This is nonsense. Bethesda makes and sells games. They are not in the 300 word short story publishing business. Collecting such a tiny portion of the game and putting it into an epub is no different than writing down all the cool things someone said in a movie.
posted by unigolyn at 11:55 PM on November 29, 2011


So I can't judge the game's story... but I can say that the world seems morally ambiguous in a way that sometimes reminds me of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Tellingly, I've yet to even decide whether to side with the Empire or the Stormcloaks in Skyrim's civil war.

Yeah, pretty much. It's clear the game leans toward the Stormcloaks (all the way to the marm of the orphanage having an expose on the evils of the Stormcloaks -- written in breathless Jerome Corsi style), but there is a lot of moral ambiguity about whether the Stormcloaks really are an improvement over the Empire or perhaps even a step down.

Skyrim is deep and long in content, and its universe is well thought through. But it's almost oversaturated in info. Where it works for Valve is they are very taut and crisp about their story-telling. Their sidelines are things like Ratman -- whose story is mostly NOT told in Portal 1 and 2, only hinted at along the edges of the test chambers.
posted by dw at 12:27 AM on November 30, 2011


The best book in Skyrim is the one which details the main questline of Oblivion, ascribing many actions to "an unknown wanderer" who keeps turning up at the right time and performing actions, "the details of which are lost to history", to help bring the world to where it is 200 years later.

It's okay, author, I don't remember how I did some of that stuff either
posted by Spatch at 4:23 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Funny how in any discussion of Elder Scrolls games, Morrowind is held to be the ne plus ultra of the series, with later games (and particularly Skyrim) held in lower esteem.

Join me, for a moment, in wiping away the halo of perfection that has grown around Morrowind in the nine years since its release, and dig into the game as it truly existed when you unwrapped it and launched it on your PC or console.

The first five hours or so were a relentless, slogging level grind. Kill rat, repeat. Kill another rat, repeat. Fast travel was non-existent; the game forced you to travel via boats and a creature known as a Stilt Strider--for a fee! Walking existed as an alternative to these forms of travel, but Morrowind reduced walking to a molasses-slow trod until a speed attribute was leveled up. (Ample time to enjoy the scenery.) Making matters more exciting, as you slowly, painfully strolled through the game, were the Cliff Riders, a pterodactyl-like creature that would swoop from above and destroy low-level characters in moments.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the game, prior to its first patch, was the fact that its designers eschewed life meters for all enemies--man, dwarf, beast, everybody--making it nearly impossible to tactically battle against anything in the game.

And, getting back to the gist of this thread, the multitude of books were vastly uneven in quality. Some were brilliant and engaging; others appeared to be written with one eye glued to "Seinfeld."

Oblivion put an end to most of these deficiencies; from what I've seen, not a single one of them exists in Skyrim. But the Internet is a much more talkative, quibbly, snarky environment now, and negativity reigns (as it should). Take heart that most of the game's faults will fade into obscurity in a year or two, as the next wave of mediocre games adds a halo to Skyrim, just as it did with Morrowind.
posted by Gordion Knott at 4:49 AM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure MetaFilter should link to copyrighted material that wasn't approved to be distributed by its owner. Point taken. Metafilter, the hyperlink system, and the World Wide Web will now quietly leave the building. Thank you for your attention..
posted by Gordion Knott at 4:55 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


List of books in Ultima VII get thee off my lawn
posted by yoHighness at 6:04 AM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Fast travel" is an abomination. You have a horse? Big deal, I am a living TARDIS.
posted by bonecrusher at 6:11 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tellingly, I've yet to even decide whether to side with the Empire or the Stormcloaks in Skyrim's civil war.

Yeah, pretty much. It's clear the game leans toward the Stormcloaks (all the way to the marm of the orphanage having an expose on the evils of the Stormcloaks -- written in breathless Jerome Corsi style), but there is a lot of moral ambiguity about whether the Stormcloaks really are an improvement over the Empire or perhaps even a step down.


It's pretty ambiguous, and instead of being a moral conundrum both sides kinda suck from what I've gleamed so far. The empire is a homogenizing but largely benevolent force that trample freedom of religion a smidge, but the stormcloaks are racist isolationists. I'm pretty apathetic about either side, and haven't affiliated myself yet due to my own indifference. New Vegas suffered from this a little bit, although the Legion were murderous nutjobs NCR was annoying as well. Investing for a faction is impossible when I can't muster enthusiasm or sympathy for either, and it really hurts my ability to be truly into the game.

That and the fact that I spend 1/4 of my time dealing with my inventory...I can't believe such an archaic, cumbersome system is still in such a triple A game.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 6:11 AM on November 30, 2011


Yeah, I was thinking the in game books were cool. You guys convinced me I was wrong. They suck,and so few of them too.

Man metafilter is negative.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:20 AM on November 30, 2011


Here's a little spoiler for people who are agonizing over the civil war questline, hover over: here.
posted by codacorolla at 6:31 AM on November 30, 2011


Tellingly, I've yet to even decide whether to side with the Empire or the Stormcloaks in Skyrim's civil war.

Part of the fun in such an open game is deciding what your character is like as a person. I'm not sure the game actually prevents you from playing as a mage character married to an elf while still joining the Stormcloaks, but I think that'd be kind of an infelicitous choice.
posted by atrazine at 6:32 AM on November 30, 2011


The main quest in Skyrim is pretty interesting. I'm only through Diplomatic Immunity, about halfway through, so we'll see if there's a payoff. But it's an interesting setup. And the Diplomatic Immunity quest was really pretty great.

The Stormcloaks vs Empire story is also well told. Early on you of course sympathize with the Stormcloaks: the game begins with the Empire about to execute you along with some Stormcloaks they arrested. But depending on how you explore the game and what quests you do where, you get a very different view of the Stormcloaks. It's interesting.

The TES games have a very challenging form of storytelling. The real strength of the game is a rich world you can wander and explore in any order, so it's hard to do linear fantasy storytelling that's the backbone of so many RPGs. I think they do a pretty good job. I agree with the comment above that they could do a little more show and less tell; Fallout 3 was better at that, IMHO. But Skyrim is still quite good.

I find the varying quality of the books a bit frustrating; I often avoid reading books for fear it's one of the badly written ones. One series I do enjoy reading is the Eslaf Erol Series from Oblivion (Beggar, Thief, Warrior, King). It's a bit of a let-down just reading it on a web page. But finding the books in game, out of order, and wondering how this serial adventure novel is going to turn out was fun for me.
posted by Nelson at 6:35 AM on November 30, 2011


Hmm, I only sided with the Empire for about ten minutes. I'm playing a Dunmer mage as my main character, and there's a lot of snide shit directed at both elves and wizards by the Stormcloaks. Then I got to Windhelm and a guy offered to beat me up because I was a greyskin. The Empire may be a cheerful cultural steamroller, but at least no one tried to beat me up on the basis of my skin colour.

These are details that make me personally angry, but they are frikkin good storytelling.
posted by Jilder at 6:41 AM on November 30, 2011


The best book I read in Skyrim was a guy's personal journal that mentioned my character. By name. Just seeing my Orc's actual name in print in someone's journal was cool. NPCs often comment on your exploits and talk about you, but (obviously) never by name. So that was a great touch.
posted by notmydesk at 7:23 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Empire is having so many problems right now. I feel bad, because it would probably have been in much better shape if I had given the totem to the Emperor instead of the King of Worms.
posted by charred husk at 7:24 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am hoping I'll be able to find the time and discipline to get heavily into modding this time. After a little playthrough as a High Elf I abandoned that character because it seemed there was no way to get the Thalmor onside.

Also: one of the books I stumbled across is a choose-your-own-adventure story, which made me go "awwwww!"

Imagine how my Aldmer felt. First I was all "aww", until the story ended with the hero being poisoned by dirty Elvish market traders.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:28 AM on November 30, 2011


Skyrim is big? It's barely quarter the size of WoW.

Well, sure, but WoW has been in development for, what, eight years? Being funded by tens of millions of subscribers? That pays for a LOT of content.

It's been said many times that they should do a single-player version of WoW. They've got all that amazing content that single players can't ordinarily see. All the graphics and such are done, and that's the expensive part of making a game. If they re-used all that content, they could make a truly epic single player game for pennies on the dollar.

Oh, and another thought: remember that a great deal of the content in WoW is mostly obsolete. A lot of players will never even see most of the dungeons, if they level 'normally', because above-ground questing is so fast that organizing a group to do low level dungeons isn't very time-efficient.

It's also obsolete in the sense of not being very graphically impressive anymore. There are some absolutely stunning visuals in Skyrim, and even the routine stuff is oustanding if you crank all the graphic levels up. WoW is visually appealing, and very functional, but I can't think of any vistas you could confuse with a real landscape.
posted by Malor at 8:32 AM on November 30, 2011


I hate to be a douche, and that guy will have to wrestle with his own ethics, but I'm not sure MetaFilter should link to copyrighted material that wasn't approved to be distributed by its owner. I love MetaFilter, I don't want anything to happen. How about letting him take the risk with his links, and MeFites can discover the links on his site?

The IP policies of MetaFilter (or general lack of) boggle me as well. Sometimes linking to unauthorized copyrighted content is OK; sometimes it's not. Dunno. All I know is that comments linking to music and movie downloads are generally censored.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:38 AM on November 30, 2011


I'm just concerned for MetaFilter. Other commenters may have varying opinions over the legality of what the e-book guy is doing, but there's no question that the text in the books, AKA game text/story, is the property of Bethesda, regardless of what their business is.
posted by CarlRossi at 10:03 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, one thing I dislike about the game is how static the world is.

I have defeated the Big Main Scary Dragon Dude! Hurrah! Citizens of Skyrim, you may once again sleep peacefully, knowing that you are safe from the draconic menace. Um, except for that one there. And those. And the ones that seem to appear every time I'm out in the hinterlands. But please, continue to shower me with accolades about my heroic victory, even as you run out to fight the dragons that continue to menace your town.

I guess I'd be even more upset if dragons stopped appearing, because the fights are fun and I like harvesting their very souls in a fiery vortex of awesomeness, but still... nothing changes.

That hasn't stopped me from putting more than 100 hours into the game, though.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:28 AM on November 30, 2011


A lot of the in-game books aren't very well written.

So unrealistic. When I wander around the neighborhood, sneaking into my neighbors houses, the books lying on their nightstands are always very well written. And the bookstores! Every single volume for sale, a masterpiece worth reading.
posted by straight at 12:20 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have to admit I joined the Empire at once. I was slightly vexed that I was a +1 for execution, but then again I have killed a significant % of Vvardenfell and Cyrodiil, so who am I to judge? Not to mention that I saved the bloody Empire single-handedly and I won't stand for it (until my second playthrough as Conan the Adventurer - I'm Palpatine this time apparently).
posted by ersatz at 12:37 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


No true son of Skyrim would side with those Talos-banning Thalmar lickspittles.
posted by Justinian at 12:40 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


No true son of Skyrim would side with those Talos-banning Thalmar lickspittles.

I totally heard that in my head in the Nord accent.
posted by mrgoat at 12:56 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Regarding the size of skyrim, seems like it is the size it is supposed to be.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:06 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's been mentioned in the handful of other threads, but the other provinces of Tamriel are included in the world map, seemingly to scale. I would assume the reason for this is to give an accurate sense of size and scope compared to other games.
posted by codacorolla at 2:14 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I am unequivocally one of Tom Bissell's lore addicts. The more unnecessary, nonintegral gameworld writing to read, the better. I spent more time in Metroid Prime scanning things and reading their database entries than shooting people, and around the time I've scanned everything is when I start to lose interest. I don't know why, I'm just like that.

I therefore have no idea how easy or hard it is to avoid the copious amounts of exposition in Skyrim, because I don't. Every time I see an unselected dialogue option, I get excited. Every time I see a bookshelf, I stop everything and spend ten minutes carefully scanning the shelves to see if there's one I haven't read yet. (There usually isn't.)

So my question for people who aren't me is: is it very hard to not read the books or click on the dialogues? The skill books are obvious, they're the ones that cost 50g or so, and the quest books are usually 10-20g, so if they don't cost that much they're just extraneous, and anyway you get the benefit just by opening the book, you don't have to read it. I guess if you want miscellaneous quests you have to cycle through some dialogue, but it goes pretty quick, doesn't it? The only unskippable dialogues are the conversations between NPCs, but then you can just wander away and come back later if it's boring you. It seems like it'd be easy to experience minimal exposition if that's your thing, but I can't tell because I'm all the way on the other side of the spectrum.

As for the quality of the writing: it's not great. Atrocious? I don't know, it's videogame stuff. Everyone tells you their problems for no good reason and then you get them a potion or stab someone. I don't really have a problem with it, or at least I haven't run into anything where I hated what I was reading aesthetically. There are NPCs whose voices I hate, but I'm supposed to hate them, so that's cool. I am also fairly unmoved by the plight of various characters in Skyrim, but then I'm also unmoved by the plight of just about everyone in Star Wars or Gladiator. I don't really expect Skyrim to play subtly upon me. This is a game where an ancient barbarian chorus explodes into life every time you come across something vaguely draconic. It's not exactly Lost in Translation, you know?

I suppose the game is somewhat repetitive. There's a core mechanic from which the game doesn't deviate really. Every time I read someone complaining about going into yet another cave to kill more bandits or skeletons or whatever, I'm reminded of Erik Wolpaw's line from a review of Majesty: if you don't like watching stat bars rise, it might be time to find a new hobby. I like making and selling stuff and managing my inventory. I like constructing a gold-to-weight ratio in my head to decide what to graverob and what to leave behind. I guess it sucks if you don't like that, but there are a lot of games where you don't have to do it. I wonder about these people who play this enormous game and then say, "is this all there is?" It's like the people who read in a day a novel that took years to write and then say, "when's the next one, I want more". If you're tired of what you're doing in Skyrim, stop. There's a lot of other games doing different stuff; this one is big, but it's not trying to be all things to all people.

The other Erik Wolpaw line I enjoy (well, there's a few) is about how being a videogame writer is sort of like being the DJ at a strip club. If your banter is really good, it may elevate the experience, but I'm sure most people wish you would shut up and bring out the next dancer. If your banter is really bad, no one's going to care, because they're not here for you. As much as I love Planescape: Torment, and I do love it very much, I'm uncomfortable with how much of it is just a book I have to walk around to read some more, in the same way as I am uncomfortable with how much of Final Fantasy or Xenosaga is a movie I have to sit through instead of play. You're never not playing in Skyrim, and that makes a lot of these things more tolerable.

The answer to Tom Bissell's question, "why is this stuff here", is "because a lot of people like it and most other people ignore it", which is a fairly unsatisfying answer for people who don't and can't. But I find it hard to take him very seriously; apparently, the 11-year-old resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons is new to him, never mind that D&D has never not been the tabletop industry's bestselling game. Skyrim is D&D. It's big, broad, not incredibly smart or nuanced, basically a series of rooms with a thin glaze of character, viscerally exciting, and at the end of the day it makes you feel like you're the strongest/wisest/sneakiest/coolest person around, just by letting you see how you have come to bestride the world. The bigger that world is, the more awesome you are for conquering it. That's why this stuff is here. It doesn't have to be any good; there just has to be a lot of it in order to generate the desired effect.
posted by Errant at 2:56 PM on November 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Eslaf Erol"

I JUST NOW GOT THAT.

I should drink some intelligence potions or something.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:11 PM on November 30, 2011


I suppose the game is somewhat repetitive. There's a core mechanic from which the game doesn't deviate really. Every time I read someone complaining about going into yet another cave to kill more bandits or skeletons or whatever, I'm reminded of Erik Wolpaw's line from a review of Majesty: if you don't like watching stat bars rise, it might be time to find a new hobby. I like making and selling stuff and managing my inventory. I like constructing a gold-to-weight ratio in my head to decide what to graverob and what to leave behind. I guess it sucks if you don't like that, but there are a lot of games where you don't have to do it. I wonder about these people who play this enormous game and then say, "is this all there is?" It's like the people who read in a day a novel that took years to write and then say, "when's the next one, I want more". If you're tired of what you're doing in Skyrim, stop. There's a lot of other games doing different stuff; this one is big, but it's not trying to be all things to all people.

This is just a really convoluted way of asking people not to criticize anything. If you don't like Star Wars, stop watching it. If you don't like reality TV, turn of the television. If you don't like pop music, don't listen to the radio, etc.. A lot of people like to engage with their on a deeper level than just being passive receptacles for entertainment.

Skyrim is a gorgeous bit of world creation. Just seeing what's around the next corner, a lot of the incidental detail, the background history, and so on. The amount of hours put into creating it has got to be astounding. That by itself is incredibly compelling and carried me through the first 20 hours or so of playing. That doesn't excuse tedious, uninspired gameplay, terrible writing and voice acting and endless quasi-skippable dialogue and tons of meaningless filler quests. It doesn't excuse terrible glitchy physics, it doesn't excuse ridiculous crap like horses that run slower than you do, climb of vertical slopes and that kill dragons by themselves. And it's purely a matter of taste, I think, but I'd have much preferred a smaller, more focused and narratively coherent experience instead of endlessly puking generic fetch quests all over my map with barely any motivation for why a sane character would do any of it.

It's possible to enjoy a game like Skyrim (or to enjoy anything) and still find many, many things to criticize about it. Criticism (and a discerning audience) makes art better.
posted by empath at 5:53 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


No true son of Skyrim would side with those Talos-banning Thalmar lickspittles.

Don't see anything about Bretons there.

My one encounter with Thalmar so far has been... unfortunate. After a few level ups perhaps.
posted by ersatz at 4:13 AM on December 1, 2011


empath: "And it's purely a matter of taste, I think, but I'd have much preferred a smaller, more focused and narratively coherent experience instead of endlessly puking generic fetch quests all over my map with barely any motivation for why a sane character would do any of it. "

I just recently caught up with Nondrick's non-adventures in Oblivion and it probably captures the other side of your coin for "endlessly puking generic fetch quests". For many people like myself, the Elder Scrolls games are all about creating your own storyline in your head that occurs between the written lines. In Morrowind, for example, I had my Dunmer pilgrim from the Imperial Provinces who joined the Temple in order to get back his ancestral roots, only to find out his living gods were full of lies. I had him Kill Vivec and take the back door route to winning the game.

I think the ES games are kind of caught in the middle right now. They want to become more what you want, I think - more focused and immersive. But the tradition of open ended gameplay tends to lead away from that because that leaves way to many options open that they have to cover with recorded speech and scripted scenes. I think the Radiant Story stuff is their attempt to make the procedural stuff more interesting, but funnily enough it makes it more like Daggerfall. (In Daggerfall, if you just randomly killed some dude aside from getting offers from the Dark Brotherhood you could get bounty hunters sent from family members.)

It is almost like the Elder Scroll franchise could split off in two directions at this point - they could tighten down and focus on narrative or they could go nuts with Radiant Story and make an awesome procedurally generated Daggerfall-like experience. I want the latter, you want the former. I have a feeling you'll win, though, as that route is safer and the ES games are a big money maker. Who knows, maybe they'll do something genius to combine the two in a way that works.
posted by charred husk at 9:54 AM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that it's perfectly reasonable to say, as you do, that you would prefer a smaller, more narrative-focused game. It's entirely useful to analyze what it is about Skyrim that you don't like. It isn't terribly useful to take Skyrim to task for not being a game it never tried to be. There's a difference between saying "After watching Shaun of the Dead, I realized I wanted a more straight contemporary take on the horror genre" and saying "Shaun of the Dead sucks because it wasn't scary enough."

That's my point: not that criticism is bad, of course it isn't, but there has to be a common starting point and set of assumptions. For instance, you can say no to every fetch quest and miscellaneous objective if you want. You know you won't be missing anything, because you don't like that part of the game. So how tedious can they really be, when they're completely and easily avoidable?

The physics engine is quite ridiculous, and melee combat is as shitty as in every Elder Scrolls game; Skyrim should be rightly taken to task for those things, because they're things Skyrim is trying to do and failing. What it isn't trying to do is present a subtle emotionally-gripping experience. It's a Christmas blockbuster, not an indie movie.
posted by Errant at 10:14 AM on December 1, 2011


Yahtzee reviews Skyrim on this week's Zero Punctuation.
posted by Justinian at 8:06 PM on December 1, 2011


Not familiar with game industry process - what is the rough workflow for a single custom line of quest dialog? How many different people does it involve, and what would be the ballpark cost at a studio like Bethesda? My gut feel is it would be in the high three digits.
posted by vanar sena at 11:40 PM on December 2, 2011


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