The Elder Scrolls
Elder Scrolls Cartography - page containing versatile maps of Elder Scrolls world.
The Elder Scrolls Games
Compilation materials about history of The Elder Scrolls games, released by Bethesda due to 10th anniversary of The Elder Scrolls.
Arena started, as the name might suggest, as a medieval-style gladiator game. You had a team of fighters and went around the world fighting other teams in each city's arena until you became grand champion in the Imperial City.
The world used for Arena was Tamriel, the fantasy world created by a few members of the staff for use in their weekly D&D campaign. During development of Arena, more and more RPG elements were added -- what if you could walk around these cities? What if you could take your team into a dungeon? And soon it was clear what Arena needed to be -- a full-blown RPG.
Arena was to be the first chapter in an ongoing series of games, so the series took its name from Tamriel's mystical tomes of knowledge that told of its past, present, and future - The Elder Scrolls.
Originally titled Mournhold and set in the land of Morrowind, the game was eventually moved to the provinces High Rock and Hammerfell, with the events centered on the city of Daggerfall. With this second game, the role-playing experience would get even deeper. Gone was Arena's experience-points-based leveling system that rewarded you for simply killing things, and in its place was a new skill-based system that rewarded you for actually role-playing your character.
Daggerfall initially was developed using an updated Arena raycast engine similar to Doom's, where the world is really 2D and drawn to look 3D. We then decided to begin development of one of the very first true 3D engines in computer games -- the XnGine. This engine provided unparalleled 3D visuals and would go on to power other titles such as The Terminator: Future Shock, SkyNET, X-Car, Battlespire, and Redguard.
Daggerfall featured one of the first true 3D worlds on a massive scale, with a game world the size of Great Britain. The game had twice as many features as Arena, a deeper role-playing system, and helped usher in an RPG renaissance in 1996.
After Daggerfall, it was clear that The Elder Scrolls had reached a large audience that wanted more games, more often. Work began on three separate projects -- Morrowind, Redguard, and Battlespire.
Originally titled Dungeon of Daggerfall: Battlespire, the game was created to be an expansion pack for Daggerfall. The game would focus on the best part of Daggerfall -- romping through a dungeon and battling creatures. It would be much smaller in scope and feature intense level design. It was the only Elder Scrolls game to offer multiplayer as well, where you could play death-match against other player's characters.
With the extra staff, Battlespire became more than a simple dungeon romp. Characters, story, voice, and other dimensions were added to it. It had grown out of its expansion pack roots, and became a standalone game - An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire.
Developed along with Battlespire, Redguard was our first attempt at a mass-market action adventure game. Inspired by Tomb Raider, Prince of Persia, and the Ultima series, it was put under the series of The Elder Scrolls Adventures; Redguard was developed to be a new breed - a pure action-adventure game. You would talk to people through keywords, use items to solve puzzles, all progressing an epic story with the hallmarks of a classic adventure game. At the same time, you would explore dungeons, sword fight, swing and leap across chasms with all the flair of an action game.
One of the goals in Redguard was to focus our art time on one area and to see how detailed we could really make something with the XnGine. The island and town Stros M'kai, complete with its Dwarven Ruins, were a new landmark in real-time 3D environments.
Morrowind was originally conceived during development of Daggerfall. It was to be called Tribunal and set in Summerset Isle. It was then redesigned after Daggerfall to use a new SVGA version of the XnGine (later used in Battlespire) and feature the entire province of Morrowind, not just the subsection of Vvardenfell where the final game actually takes place. The original story featured all 5 houses of the Dark Elves, including your ability to join House Indoril and House Dres. The original design also featured the progressive expansion of the Blight, cities being destroyed, armies marching, along with the return of Dagoth-Ur. Overall, it was much closer to Daggerfall in scope, setup, and gameplay style. We decided it was simply too much to create and that the technology was too akin to Daggerfall, so the project was put on hold in 1997.
With the completion of Redguard at the end of 1998, it was clear to us that we needed to return to Morrowind, and that our audience wanted the grandeur and scope of the main Elder Scrolls' chapters. It had been several years since we had developed one of our big RPGs, and technology and gameplay in the market had grown by leaps and bounds with the arrival of 3D acceleration and the proliferation of first-person games. We knew we had to exceed the visual polish of the other games on the market, and we made it our goal to put The Elder Scrolls back into the forefront of game innovation.
We immediately focused the game on the story of Dagoth-Ur's return and on a much smaller land area than the original design. We had the goal of creating it all by hand, using similar techniques that we used on Redguard, which most of the team had just finished. Both Arena and Daggerfall had been created using algorithms that randomly built the world's areas. Doing this by hand was an enormous task that took us close to 100 man-years to create. Two things were needed to accomplish this.
First, we tripled our staff by hiring many new faces. Morrowind for us was not just about building a game, but building a new development team. Second, we spent the first full year of the project creating The Elder Scrolls Construction Set. It's often said amongst our team that The Construction Set is the best product we ever made, and it just may be. This tool made Morrowind possible, not just for creating it, but playing and modifying it. The file system, which stores any change to the game in small plug-ins, allowed us to rebalance the game and really make it fun. The Construction Set shipped with the PC version of Morrowind and has spawned thousands of mods and millions of plug-in downloads - giving Morrowind never-ending life.
Tribunal, the first Morrowind expansion pack, was released half a year after Morrowind. Tribunal was set in a capital city of Morrowind province, Mournhold.
Unlike Tribunal, Bloodmoon was an expansion pack that added a large new territory to explore - the isle of Solstheim in the north-west of Vvardenfell, largely covered with snow and ice. Released a year after original TES III: Morrowind, Bloodmoon became the last addon for The Elder Scrolls III. Since then, Bethesda entirely focused on the development of The Elder Scrolls IV - Oblivion.