A Lesson in World-Building: the Books of Skyrim

Brian G Turner

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An interesting video commentary by someone who says they've read every book in the computer game Skyrim. Although it's mainly for entertainment, I think he makes some interesting observations on world-building done well, and badly, by the example of these books:

 

Artoriarius

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One of the things I like about the books in the Elder Scrolls games is that they're not necessarily info-dumps. Some of them are, of course. But some of them conflict with each other (The Real Barenziah vs. Biography of Barenziah, for instance) while others have the same facts, but are highly politicised (War of Betony - now in Daggerfall and Sentinel flavours!). Some are in-universe historical fiction (2920), while others are admitted forgeries (Ancient Tales of the Dwemer). Some of them are just out and out nonsense - Mysterious Akavir is as good a source on Akavir as the History Channel is on history, and it's the best - I think maybe the only - work about that entire continent.

All in all, they're just as reliable as real books, which in my opinion is better world-building than having all of them be trustworthy background material would be.
 

olive

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I think they put some of those books in the game so fans could create their own material, subcultures and extend the lore themselves, so they could create new material, mods, quests...etc. I don't think they've strictly thought in terms of just world-building. Somebody will make use of it. It's become quite a lore. Esp. if they are conflicting and realistic as @Artoriarius said. It's a perfect source to keep the game alive and it's worked so far.

I've read just a few of them when I first started to play but it makes me happy they all exist. :giggle:
 

Toby Frost

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I remember "ABC for Barbarians" and a bawdy play about lizard-people.

There was a mission in Thief 2 in which you ended up stealing blueprints from an engineer's safe. They were pretty much incomprehensible, and included what were supposed to be unreadable scribbling or runic letters. If you looked really closely, one set of scribbling read "I don't know what the **** this is".
 

olive

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Maybe you need this.
I know there are books. But books are published years after the game, aren't they? I meant maybe they thought that way while designing the game at the very beginning.

E: @Vladd67 Wait, did you mean I should read them? I think I got you wrong.
 
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Venusian Broon

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I did a 100% run for Oblivion years ago - unfortunately the book stat doesn't record how many individual books you've actually opened (it records all books you've opened, so loads of identicals), so I'm not sure if I came close to reading them all. But I read a lot!

As @Artoriarius put it, it was the diverse nature of all the books, 'manuals', histories, 'histories' :) , recipe books, tall tales, diaries etc. that was wonderful, and it did more to flesh out the world of Tamriel for me than a fan fic or tie-in novel. Also more than the 'revolutionary' NPC system. (Which tended to feel half-broken!)

Near the end of the run I was so totally OP against the monsters and bad guys, and so rich with loot and gold, that I was completing the last of the dungeons and quests just to find books I hadn't read, to add to my library chest.

Ah good times. I left my 100% character at the end, when everything had been done, on top of the lighthouse at Anvil, forever watching a beautiful sunset over the Western sea.
 

Toby Frost

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I think some of the books in Skyrim use the same text as those in Morrowind, which must be from the early 2000s.
 

The Big Peat

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I did a 100% run for Oblivion years ago - unfortunately the book stat doesn't record how many individual books you've actually opened (it records all books you've opened, so loads of identicals), so I'm not sure if I came close to reading them all. But I read a lot!

As @Artoriarius put it, it was the diverse nature of all the books, 'manuals', histories, 'histories' :) , recipe books, tall tales, diaries etc. that was wonderful, and it did more to flesh out the world of Tamriel for me than a fan fic or tie-in novel. Also more than the 'revolutionary' NPC system. (Which tended to feel half-broken!)

Near the end of the run I was so totally OP against the monsters and bad guys, and so rich with loot and gold, that I was completing the last of the dungeons and quests just to find books I hadn't read, to add to my library chest.

Ah good times. I left my 100% character at the end, when everything had been done, on top of the lighthouse at Anvil, forever watching a beautiful sunset over the Western sea.
Today you are my hero.
 

Venusian Broon

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For those that don't know the game, my final scene was a bit like this:
Obliv.jpg


Except in my memory, a lot better ;)


Oh, and it was only at that point, right at the end of doing everything, that I found out you could actually switch off the lighthouse beacon.
 
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