Spirit Tracks: The Elder Scrolls Chapter I

(9 comments)

Just in time to see out the year, it's the debut of Yet Another Eruditorum Press Podcast! A show I have tentatively decided to entitle Spirit Tracks, because reasons. I'm really excited to be able to share this new series with all of you: It's a project I've been working on for a great deal of time and it's gone through a number of different conceptual phases and incarnations. In its current form, I expect to be mainly doing commentary tracks on assorted bits of visual media, but I also hope to build a stable of regular guests and topics as the show evolves. I've already got a great series of co-hosts lined up for the first block of episodes, and I can't wait to introduce you to each of them.

Tonight, for our first regular broadcast, I'm joined by friend of the blog, and my own personal friend, Ben Knaak, to talk about something that has been almost indescribably important and formative to both of our lives: The Elder Scrolls series. Because this is such a broad (and rather inaccessible) topic and Ben and I can (and have, as you are welcome to see) talk about it for hours on end, this particular episode is going to be Part 1 of at least two shows, looking at The Elder Scrolls from two different angles. In this part we take a more straightforward games journalism/video game historian approach to the series: We examine each major series entry to date in chronological order, talking about what made them historically important, what these games meant for us personally and what they contributed to the unfolding lore that makes The Elder Scrolls so utterly unique among large-scale video game franchises. Next time, we'll go into more detail about precisely what that lore is, what ramifications it has for the act of reading narrative fiction and perhaps, expose a little of the lineage-magicka that is The Elder Scrolls' biggest open secret.

Check out the episode here, over at the Pex Lives Libsyn site. The show clocks in at just over three and a half hours, average length for a standard radio talk show, but there are plenty of places to pause, take a break and come back to should you feel the need to do so. Also, do please note we had some issues first recording and then editing the myriad of audio files we generated: In particular, I ran into a series of rather gnarly audio sync problems. I did my best to get everything flowing together properly and, while it's not perfect, I remain quite proud of my first official podcast editing job. Thanks in advance for listening, and hope you enjoy!

A few liner notes to keep in mind as you go through the show-Just some things I neglected to mention during the recording, or slightly misquoted to the point it made me feel like a bit of an idiot when I went back and edited it...

 

  • It was Ken Rolston, lead designer on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, who stated that he started The Elder Scrolls I: Arena “at least 20 times”, and only managed to get out of the first dungeon *once*.
  • The full quote for what Michael Kirkbride had to say about Tamriel's Redguard people, and his experience writing and casting directing for The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard, from an old forum post:
    “No, I was actually referring to The Black Panthers and their radicalism.
     
    As some people know I'm not really a fan of the United Colors of Beneton approach to Tamrielicreation, which smacks of white guilt and offensery rather than some holistic form of beautiful inclusion. Thus, it's my fault that the Asian analogues got eaten. Oops. Looks like others are bringing 'em back, though. But I promise my choice had nothing to do with Yellow Peril, it had to do with co-opting 'coolness of color' without thinking about it intelligently and compassionately.
     
    (Hunkers down for the flame.)
     
    That said, when I started writing Redguard I really thought about how unique the black people of Tamriel were: they came in and kicked ass and slaughtered the indigenes while doing so. They invaded. It was the first time I had encountered the idea of 'black imperialism'...and it struck me big time, as something 1) new, 2) potentially dangerous if taken as commentary, and 3) potentially rad if taken as commentary.
     
    Who knows. AVault did say it had a story worthy of being on stage, and Michael Mack (Cyrus) once thanked me for giving him words that 'Black folks don't get to say' (referring to Cyrus' speech and the reversal of Son to the Father)... which broke my heart and made me puff my chest all at the same time.
     
    Which is a long way of saying: panther-love.”
  • According to prominent community member Lady Nerevar, Michael Kirkbride, Kurt Kuhlman and Todd Howard all cite Redguard as their favourite Elder Scrolls game.
  • Bethesda forum user Brash once stated that “It is impossible to cheat in a single-player game”, in the context of the command line console present in TES games since Morrowind.
 
And finally, here's a whole bunch of external links you may find of interest if for some bizarre reason you managed to sit through all four hours of this and still managed to remain interested in the series:

 

  • There is a selection of TES games available to download DRM-free on Good Old Games. Each comes with the necessary open-source emulation environment to run them on modern hardware, as well as a free copy each of The Elder Scrolls I: Arena and The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall!
  • The more recent TES games are also on Steam, the biggest distribution platform for PC games:
  • If you prefer physical copies of games, a great option is The Elder Scrolls Anthology, a nine-disc set collecting The Elder Scrolls I: Arena, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (along with Tribunal, Bloodmoon and the Construction Set for modding), The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (along with Hearthfire, Dawnguard and Dragonborn) along with world maps of Tamriel and every featured province all in a gorgeous gatefold collector's album. It does not, however, include The Elder Scrolls Online or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, as its release predates those two games.
  • If you're on consoles, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is out now for the XBOX One, PlayStation 4 and (hopefully) coming soon, the Nintendo Switch. The Elder Scrolls Online is also available on the Microsoft and Sony machines.
  • Daggerfall Workshop is the homepage for Daggerfall Unity and Daggerfall Tools for Unity, a project to port the entirety of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall and its assets into the free Unity game engine.
  • Tamriel Rebuilt is the most famous TES mod project due to its staggering ambition. Originally intended to create all of Tamriel in the game engine of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the project eventually downscaled to “just” finishing the original game by building the rest of the Morrowind province. It has a partner effort in Project Tamriel, which actually is trying to build all of the other Tamrielic provinces.
  • OpenMW is a project to build a new, more modern game engine based on open-source technology specifically for playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and its related mod projects, like Tamriel Rebuilt and Project Tamriel. The original game engine is very old and was limited in scope as to what it could do even then, and OpenMW seeks to correct that.
  • The TES Renewal Project is best known for Skywind, an ambitious attempt to remake The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind from scratch within the engine of first The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and now The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition. They also want to do the same thing for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, with the “Skyblivion” project.
  • Lastly, this is the most important thing you need to know about The Elder Scrolls and its metaphysical cosmology.

Comments

Jack Graham 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Congratulations on the new podcast. I'm a good way in and enjoying it very much, even though I know nothing about games.

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Josh Marsfelder 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Thanks for the well wishes, Jack! You're exactly the kind of person Ben and I recorded this for, so I'm really glad you're enjoying it!

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John G. Wood 5 months, 3 weeks ago

For me, that exchange is probably the most enticing bit of advertising you've done for this podcast...

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Sean Dillon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

...There's a Lord of Rape in the Elder Scrolls? That just sounds like a thing that would pop out of the peak of grim dark that is Vampire the Masquerade.

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Josh Marsfelder 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Well I mean he's the Lord of a lot of other things too, just like all the Daedric Princes. Apart from "King of Rape", he's also called "The God of Schemes", "The Harvester of Souls", "The Lord of Brutality" and "The Prince of Rage". But his sphere generally revolves around domination and enslavement, yes, and rape is one big way that manifests. See the backstory of the Volikar clan in Dawnguard.

Also, this is the second time you've compared TES to Vampire the Masquerade to me. I don't play tabletop RPGs so I have no idea what you're getting at, TBH.

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Ben Knaak 5 months, 3 weeks ago

He is also, funnily enough, the father of all vampires.

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Sean Dillon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Well, it's very much a tabletop game you play to see which of your friends is evil, and both of the things that I brought it up with scream "EVERYONE IS EVIL HERE!" in the blend of Vampire the Masquerade (as with most of the things I get angry at, this is not so much based on my experiences with the game (I'm more of a board game person than a tabletop gamer), but rather accounts made about it and some research I've done on it confirming those accounts).

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Kit Power 5 months, 1 week ago

REALLY enjoyed this podcast, and getting my vicarious gaming fix through it. More please.

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Comment deleted 3 months, 1 week ago

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