The Elder Scrolls

The Elder Scrolls
The Elder Scrolls
ElderScrolls Logo.png
The Elder Scrolls series logo
Genres First person, action role-playing, sandbox
Developers Bethesda Game Studios
Publishers Bethesda Softworks
2K Games
Platforms MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
First release The Elder Scrolls: Arena
Latest release The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
November 11, 2011
Official website

The Elder Scrolls (abbreviated as TES) is a role-playing video game series developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.



The first product – The Elder Scrolls: Arena – was released in 1994 for DOS PC systems. The game was intended for players to assume the role of an arena combatant, but development shifted the game into a role-playing game (RPG).[1] This game began the tradition based on this principle, "[being] who you want and [doing] what you want"[1] that persisted throughout the series' history.

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall was published in 1996. Fueled by the modest success of The Elder Scrolls: Arena, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall was even more ambitious than its predecessor. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall featured one of the first true 3D worlds on a large scale, a game world claimed to be twice the size of Great Britain.[2] Glitches were experienced by players.[3] A game critic commented the game as "tortuously buggy".[3] Despite Daggerfall's commercial success, the game critic remarked, "the game still bears the mark of bad code".[3]

The Elder Scrolls release timeline
1994 The Elder Scrolls: Arena
1996 The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
1997 An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
1998 The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
2002 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
2002 The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal
2003 The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon
2003 The Elder Scrolls Travels: Stormhold
2004 The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey
2004 The Elder Scrolls Travels: Dawnstar
2006 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
2006 The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine
2007 The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
2011 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
v · d · e

Following the release of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, Bethesda Softworks ceased development of the numbered title of the series until 2002 to develop in the interim An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire and The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard, which were released in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Both games had a smaller focus than the numbered series titles: An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire limited itself to dungeon-romping and The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard was a linear third-person action-adventure game.

The release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in 2002 saw a return to the old-style expansive and non-linear gameplay, and a shift towards individually-detailed landscapes and items, with a smaller game-world than past titles. It was released on PC and later ported to the Xbox. The game achieved commercial success, and sold over four million units by mid-2005.[4] Two expansions were released between late 2002 and early 2003: The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal and The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon. A Game of the Year Edition encompassing the original game plus both expansions packs, as well as the latest patch and modding tools was released later exclusively for PC.

Development of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion began in 2002, and focused on artificial intelligence (AI) improvements that interact dynamically with the game-world, proprietary radiant AI, implementation of Havok (physics) engine, and improved graphics. The game was released on PC and Xbox 360 in early 2006, and for PlayStation 3 in early 2007. Bethesda Softworks released one content collection and expansion pack in late 2006 and early 2007: The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine and The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, respectively. A Game of the Year Edition was later released, featuring the original game, plus all expansion packs and updates for all three platforms, with the PC version getting exclusive mod tools and other bonuses.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was announced on December 11, 2010, at the Spike Video Game Awards 2010. [5] The game is not a direct sequel to its predecessor, Oblivion, but instead takes place 200 years later, in the land called Skyrim, in Tamriel. Skyrim also makes use of an entirely new graphics engine.[6][7][8] It was released on November 11, 2011.

Game mechanics

The Elder Scrolls games can be safely categorized as role-playing games (RPG), although they do include elements taken from action and adventure games. In Arena, as in many RPGs, players advance by killing monsters (and thereby gaining experience points) until a preset value is met, whereupon they level-up. However, in Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, the series took a skill-based approach to character advancement. Players develop their characters' skills by applying them, and only level-up when a certain set of skills have been developed. The flexibility of the games' engines has facilitated the release of game extensions (or mods) through The Elder Scrolls Construction Set.

The Elder Scrolls main series of games emphasizes different aspects of the gaming experience than most computer role-playing games. A brief article by Joystiq in early November 2006 compared BioWare's creations to Bethesda's by noting a difference in emphasis. Bethesda's creations focused on "aesthetic presentation and open-ended adventuring"; BioWare's on a combat system and modular architecture.[9] This overarching aim has been noted by their designers as well. Bethesda has described their motivations in creating the first series game, Arena, as those of any good pen-and-paper RPG: creating an environment in which the player could be what the player wants and do what the player wants.[10] Daggerfall's manual begins with a sort of design manifesto, declaring the developers' intention to "create a book with blank pages", and "a game designed to encourage exploration and reward curiosity". Choices, in the form of paths taken by the player, to do good, to chase after evil, are left open to the player, "just like in real life".[11] This design trend continued with Morrowind, following the hiatus of similarly epic games in the interim, though Joystiq's previously noted insistence on graphics came again to the fore. During the development of Morrowind, Bethesda tripled its staff, so as to perfectly color its newly hand-made world. In their own words, "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."[12]


The world of The Elder Scrolls is known for its attention to detail, attempted realism, and the vast number of names, dates, and places that constitute its history and the interconnected structure of its various societies, cultures, and religions. There is no one compilation of all information pertaining to the Elder Scrolls world, and, within the games, historical references are often vague or unclear. Players are encouraged to draw their own conclusions about situations and events for which the records are sparse, contradictory, or incomplete.

The Elder Scrolls games take place on the fantasy world of Nirn, on the continent of Tamriel, a large landmass divided into nine provinces. The exceptions are The Elder Scrolls Legends: Battlespire, and parts of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which take place between the realm of Oblivion (one of several alternate dimensions ruled by immortal god-like beings known as Daedra Princes) and the mortal realm of Mundus. There are other continents besides Tamriel on Nirn (such as Akavir or Yokuda), but there has yet to be an official game that takes place upon one of them.

Tamriel itself is an empire divided into nine provinces, each with its own native race. Those provinces are as follows: Cyrodiil, Morrowind, High Rock, the Summerset Isles, Hammerfell, Black Marsh, Skyrim, Valenwood, and Elsweyr. The native races of the provinces are as follows: Imperials in Cyrodiil, Dunmer (also known as Dark Elves) in Morrowind, Bretons and Orsimer (also known as Orcs) in High Rock, Altmer (also known as High Elves) in the Summerset Isles, Redguards in Hammerfell, Argonians in Black Marsh, Nords in Skyrim, Bosmer (also known as Wood Elves) in Valenwood, and Khajiit in Elsweyr. The emperor resides in the capital province of Cyrodiil. The ruling dynasty throughout the Third Era consisted entirely of the descendants of Tiber Septim. His line, frequently called the Dragonborn, ended at the conclusion of the Third Era, with the death of Martin Septim, the last living heir of Uriel Septim. Several years later, a Colovian warlord named Titus Mede assumed the throne of the Empire, reigning through at least the first forty years of the Fourth Era.[citation needed]

Elder Scrolls

The physical Elder Scrolls play a very limited role in the storyline of the series, serving only as framing plot device (i.e., "[the events in this game] were foretold in the Elder Scrolls..."). The Elder Scrolls themselves are rarely referred to in-game, or even in the in-game literature. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion marked the first actual appearance of the scrolls, as a MacGuffin in the final quest of the thieves guild story line.

In the game series, a sect of monks devote their lives to the reading and interpreting of the Elder Scrolls.[13] Advanced members who read the scrolls wear blindfolds at all times when they are not divining the scrolls' content. Retired Moth Priests are completely blind, and continue to wear blindfolds for ceremonial purposes. However, cosmically-important individuals, or individuals that are the subject of prophecy, have been able to see writing on the Elder Scrolls without the associated rituals. A book entitled "Lost Histories of Tamriel" provides further insight on the Elder Scrolls, stating that when any event has actually occurred, it sets itself unchangeably into the scrolls, and no action, magical or otherwise, can alter this.[14]

In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the Elder Scrolls themselves are the object of the final Thieves' Guild questline, in which the player has to steal an Elder Scroll.[13] The scroll itself appears as an incomprehensible chart, containing glyphs.[13]

In Skyrim, the scrolls are described as "pieces of creation", and play a very vital part of the storyline. They are said to be very descriptive works of writing and without vast knowledge of the arts, one may go insane trying to decipher them. During gameplay, if the player tries to read the Elder Scroll they will temporarily go blind. In the storyline, one of the scrolls was used in ancient times to cast off Alduin, the evil dragon, to the future, although not intentionally. Also, the scrolls cause a stop in time, meaning that ever since it was used on Alduin, time has essentially stopped to the era the game takes place in.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Arena - Behind the Scenes", Bethesda Softworks (ZeniMax Media), 2004,, retrieved June 8, 2007 
  2. ^ "Daggerfall - Behind The Scenes", Bethesda Softworks (ZeniMax Media),, retrieved July 5, 2010 
  3. ^ a b c Blancato, Joe (February 6, 2007), "Bethesda: The Right Direction", The Escapist (Themis Group),, retrieved June 1, 2007 
  4. ^ Bethesda Softworks (ZeniMax Media). August 17, 2005. Retrieved July 5, 2010. 
  5. ^ Christopher Grant (11 December 2010). "Skyrim: Elder Scrolls 5 coming 11/11/11". Joystiq. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  6. ^ Nick Breckon (12 December 2010). "The Elder Scrolls V engine built internally". Retrieved 12 December 2010. "It's a new graphics/gameplay engine built internally. We'll have more details down the road." 
  7. ^ Jim Reilley (13 August 2010). "Rage Tech Being Kept Inside Bethesda Family". IGN. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  8. ^ Francis, Tom (12 December 2010). "Confirmed: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim uses an entirely new engine". PC Gamer. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  9. ^ Rose, Alan (Nov. 3, 2006). "Neverwinter Nights 2, Metareview". Joystiq. 
  10. ^ "Arena, Behind the Scenes". The Elder Scrolls Tenth Anniversary. Bethesda Softworks. 2004. 
  11. ^ (1996) Bethesda Softworks Daggerfall Instruction Manual Bethesda Softworks, 1-2.
  12. ^ "Morrowind, Behind the Scenes". The Elder Scrolls Tenth Anniversary. Bethesda Softworks. 2004. 
  13. ^ a b c Bethesda Game Studios. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. (Bethesda Softworks, 2K Games). (April 30, 2007)
  14. ^ "Lost Histories of Tamriel". UESP. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 

Further reading

External links

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