Tamriel Infinium: Stuff it, naysayers, this is the perfect time for dragons in Elder Scrolls Online

    
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I admit that I was one of the first people on board with the original idea that there would be no dragons in the main part of Elder Scrolls Online. I liked that the story of the Vestage was more about the Daedra and Molag Bal. I had some trouble with other things that drove me from the game originally, but the story didn’t even make it to the top 10 reasons why.

Don’t get me wrong: I like dragons, and I enjoyed the way that Skyrim made them into nuanced creatures not just evil terrifying beasts. We’ve come a long way since Smaug. Of course, Elder Scrolls has always had a way of taking an established fantasy trope and spinning it sideways. Maybe that’s why I can put up with it when other fantasy games have turned me away.

There is still a problem with dragons being in ESO because in-lore, dragons haven’t existed for a thousand years, and Creative Director Rich Lambert said they wouldn’t be in ESO. As with many of the lore in Elder Scrolls, these two issues are a bit more nuanced than they appear on the surface. And that is exactly why I believe they are important enough to tackle in this article today.

Unreliable narrator

The biggest controversy is the lore surrounding dragons. According to multiple statements by NPCs in the Elder Scrolls games, dragons haven’t been around for thousands of years. The Atlas of Dragons in Skyrim says that Grahkrindrog was slain in the 184th year of the second era. ESO takes place 398 years later. So it’s not thousands of years from ESO, but is it thousands of years from Skyrim? After the slaying of Grahkrindrog, there are 712 years left in the era, and the third era is 433 years. Add that to the 201 years into the fourth era for Skyrim, and you have 1,346 years. So, a thousand years, for sure, but thousands? Not quite. Since Oblivion and Morrowind take place 200 years before Skyrim, similar math can be applied. Using that math, the statements — given some exaggeration — are correct.

Now, I don’t want to upset anyone, but the NPCs in Elder Scrolls games have never been the most reliable when it comes to historical events, even books aren’t reliable. Consult Vivec’s writings on the events of Red Mountain and compare it to the truth we learned in Morrowind. I don’t know of any stronger evidence that the written word in Elder Scrolls is unreliable.

Like people in real life, many NPCs — and writers of texts — tend to paint themselves and their beliefs in the best light, but as we learn over and over in Elder Scrolls the truth is usually a lot darker. There is a name for this kind of storytelling, and it’s called the Unreliable Narrator. This keeps things interesting for the players and allows the game designers to say one thing, then spin it a different way later down the line.

Making fiscal sense

I’m not attempting to be an apologist for creators of ESO, but at the time Rich Lambert was asked about dragons in ESO, the game hadn’t launched yet, and most of the other questions during that time were centered around what the game would have at launch. Could the ESO developers have known that we would eventually see dragons in ESO? I don’t think it was ever completely off the table, but I will give Lambert the benefit of the doubt and say that there weren’t plans for dragons before launch.

We know that Wrothgar and the Orsinium expansion changed a lot of the plans for ESO because many mechanics were introduced at that time that led to the success of additions like the Dark Brotherhood and Morrowind. It’s possible that dragons were on some wall of possible directions to take the timeline, but I don’t believe it was pulled off that wall until later in game production.

We also have to remember that the game is a business. Yes, while creating a game is one of the more exciting and fun businesses to be in, the ultimate goal of a game like ESO is to make its owners money.

When ESO launched, Skyrim was still fresh on players’ minds, and if ESO had immediately turned to dragons as a selling point, it would seem cheap to its audience. I would go so far as to say that ZeniMax couldn’t even release its first expansion with dragons. Its second expansion could have probably used a dragon-like boost because of its lukewarm reception. But adding dragons to the third expansion will probably make up for the dip.

I would also recommend looking at the expansive future of the game. ZeniMax painted itself into a corner by naming its expansions after the region that it takes place. I blame Daggerfall for starting that trend (although we suppose Oblivion was an anomaly). That also means that the MMO doesn’t have a lot of places to expand after this next expansion. If Elder Scrolls VI is indeed Hammerfell, then Skyrim might be the only candidate for the next expansion. The single-player game for Skyrim will be far enough away at that point that I believe they can name an expansion after it. But it can’t have dragons or players will revolt.

The developers had to introduce dragons in Elsweyr or just never have dragons in the game at all. Dragons are far too popular in the Elder Scrolls franchise to not ever include them. So dragons in Elsweyr was the only answer.

You can agree with me or not: I believe that not only are dragons appropriate at this time, they are necessary for ESO to be a continued success. What are your thoughts? I’d like to read them all in the comments below. Do you think that dragons are needed in ESO? Could ZeniMax release them at a different time? And what are your thoughts about dragon lore? Do they fit into the timeline? I look forward to reading what you think.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.

 

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John Mclain

There was some point in the early MMO years where fighting a dragon was something epic to do. Now killing dragons has become the “kill 10 rats” of laughably overused and uninteresting game design.

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Weilan

Dragons are so overrated.

Ironically it was Skyrim, another TES game that made dragons lame for me. It was the overabundance of them and how you killed hundreds of them like mere cockroaches that made them so lame and despised to me.

I’ve always regarded dragons to be some rare, mythical creatures with immense powers, kinda like Smaug in The Hobbit or how dragons were depicted in EverQuest and Dungeons & Dragons series – very rare, very scary and very powerful.

I don’t know how ESO will handle them, but since I quit because I couldn’t take anymore of the horrible combat and the linear and boring WoW clone-like progression, I guess I will never find out. xD

Somehow I hope they do it right and redeem dragons and start fix this broken mess of a game so that one day I can go back to it.

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Fenrir Wolf

Not that they’re technically dragons in the first place, even. Nor wyverns, really. Just some kind of sadly amputated, lobotomised beast that scrambles desperately around on its stomach whilst trying to steady itself with its wings.

Frankly, there are plenty of reasons to dislike dragons like this (not least of which is toxic masculinity) before even contending with the point of the article.

Just so we’re on the same page, though, since these aren’t actually dragons in the first place… we’ll need a common descriptor. I’m not sure what to use and, still feeling wiped after having dealt with visa nonsense, I’ll settle on derpon. It’s apt enough.

The biggest issue with derpons in Wrathstone has nothing to do with the lore. Anyone worth their salt already realises that lore is subjective. I’ve said that many times myself on this site alone, it’s subjective, from the perspective of whichever fictional historian happens to be documenting these events. They even make that clear within a number of texts within the game itself.

I feel it’s a straw-man to say that anyone against derpons in Wrathstone is that way because they see lore in an objective sense. I can’t think that I’ve actually heard anyone say that regarding the lore. In fact, even with Redguard necromancers, it’s not so much the lore that’s cited in opposition, but rather the culture of the Redguard people, alongside the real world cultures that Redguard fiction draws from.

No, the issue with derpons in Wrathstone is that it’s simply jumping the shark. ESO has run its course, it’s alienated a lot of players with bad balance patches, and instead of trying to rectify that (like ArenaNet), they instead attempted to put together a populist expansion pack filled with everything different facets of the community had said they’d wanted.

Some wanted derpons, others Elsweyr, and yet others sought necromancers. They threw it all into one pot to stew. The managerial reasons behind the decision are readily transparent.

With a setting as rich in culture as Elsweyr, they could’ve opted to tell any number of stories related to the khajiiti peoples.

Instead, they went with retelling the story of fine examples of white toxic masculinity going up against creatures designed from the ground up to reinforce their insecurities. And they co-opted the khajiiti homelands to do so. This is made obvious in the trailer which uses the old racist trope of the white scholar accompanied by the native minority tour guide, as apparently the native peoples never have their own scholars.

Drawing upon khajiiti culture, and the cultures that the khajiiti peoples themselves are fashioned from, many more interesting, exotic, and less obviously white stories could’ve been told.

There were so many interesting story options for Elsweyr, so many choices, so many novel, interesting, and unusual paths they could’ve travelled down. They could’ve done something challenging, strange, and wonderful. Instead, they just went down the staid, tried, safe, and steady old path of appealing to white toxic masculinity. In Elsweyr. Of all places.

So I wholeheartedly disagree. Elsweyr was not the place for more white toxic masculinity. Not because of the lore, but because it was the laziest, safest thing they could’ve done. And it cements whom they intend their primary demographic to be. Which, I’ll point out again, was also made painfully clear by the trailer.

And, yes, the khajiiti are a representative of non-white peoples. I hope I don’t have to explain why that is.

Sorry to have to disagree, but this is just my position. ESO was a game that started off promising to be as progressive as possible. Wrathstone feels like the very wrost kind of bait and switch.

~~ Futnote ~~

Just to note a few little titbits that could’ve been used to offer a far more compelling tale than derpons vs. insecure white guys…

Azurah, and the khajiiti pantheon.
The Moons, the Lunar Lattice.
The Site of the Numidium.
The Japanese influences added by ESO (they could’ve done something with a Shinto/Bushido variant).
How the khajiit were aware of the time breaks.

There’s plenty enough there for a far more fully formed and enjoyable storyline, without co-opting.

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Fenrir Wolf

Welp. I think I stepped on the feet of some MRA types. Hooray. I got hit with an automated takedown due to a single complaint. I really don’t like that kind of system, they run the same sort of thing on YouTube and it assumes good faith when there just are not a lot of good people out there. In fact, most people are absolutely awful.

I’m talking with WordPress about it, now. Until I get my site back up, though, I’ve created an interim blog to host the articles that I’d wanted to share. This is the world we live in, and it’s why I don’t have much faith in humanity as an autistic person. There really isn’t much to have faith in.

I mean, I live in a world where neurotypicals think the Judge Rotenberg Center is completely okay, you know? I really can’t shore up that much faith, I don’t have it in me. Neurotypicals, naturally, often have way too much faith in their own, and it’s undeserved. Still… I get knocked down, I get up again. You know how the song goes.

You know, the only reason I post here is because I see some promise in the people who run the site. Maybe I won’t get kicked to the curb again over someone’s ego, maybe I will. Okay, maybe I do have a little bit of faith. It just isn’t very much.

Honestly, can you blame me?

Mewmew
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Mewmew

So the dragons are awoken, are taken care of in some manner in the ESO expansion, and at the end they need to make people forget that they were able to wake them, as a kind of protection to prevent more people from doing the same thing. So all the mage guilds that exist get together and cast the biggest most massive spell ever to make all the minds of the people forget the dragon incident at Elswyr. So nobody remembers that there was a breakout at this time. There, lore taken care of :P

Not really of course, but that’s off the top of my head, I’m sure they could come up with some type of excuses such as that to make having them fit with the lore.

They could always do the Star Trek or Marvel thing and say this isn’t the prime Elder Scrolls Universe so things are different here too :D

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Castagere Shaikura

Yeah, Skyrim Online. Its what everybody wanted. Just remember how annoying they became in Skyrim. They were the cliff racers of Skyrim.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I’m with Castagere on this one. Dragons are the first thing I mod out of Skyrim when I play. Fight me. :D

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JoeCreoterra

I can hardly wait for dragons!

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Dean Greenhoe

They evolved here once before so I see no reason why they could not do it again. Just think about earth around the year 1,200. They thought they new the entire globe but they were not even close. The massive continents in the Americas had many hidden treasures and creatures.

Lore only explains current knowledge that we all know changes with increased knowledge.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

we don’t need no stinkin’ lore, bring on the dragons!

the everchanging story.jpg
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Alex Willis

I am not looking forward to the part where your favourite horse Bartax drowns in Murkmire.

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starbuck1771

Shouldn’t the title be Stuff it naysayers it’s the perfect time for Larry Everett in Star Wars Galaxies Legends? The Ewoks are waiting 🐶

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Fenrir Wolf

What I find amusing is that this is said in the article that’s supporting what’s effectively ESO’s NGE. It’s poetic, in a way.

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starbuck1771

I knew Bree would like that.

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Alex Willis

Well, not to be pedantic (OK, to be pedantic), but anything after 1,000 technically becomes “thousands”, in common parlance. So 1,001 years would be “thousands”. (All of which is to say, I still agree with you.)

But I generally think your concept of the Unreliable Narrator is spot-on. I like how the Elder Scrolls game give us insight into how how underhanded history-making can be. Politics and war and history are some of TES best contributions to fantasy gaming, and the ways in which these things move “truth” around in a shell game should be seen as a strength, not a weakness.

Having witnessed the upheavals in canon when Star Trek and Star Wars make paradigm shifts, it is refreshing to see lore being taken with a little less orthodoxy. Gamers/nerds/fans tend to get VERY PRECIOUS when it comes to the “truth” of invented histories. I’m very interested in the history of history — historiography, as the academic subject is called. When things get slippery and some things appear/reappear/disappear, it’s an opportunity for greater intrigue. I think that when it is handled appropriately, as it can be in some IPs, it adds a lot to the depth of a world.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

‘Thousands of Arabian Nights’ just doesn’t sound right.

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Alex Willis

Title was probably written by an accountant.

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Maggie May

Yea, as long as an alternate timeline doesn’t come into it or the it was all a dream theory I’m ok, and if we can blame it on Abnar even better still.