Commentary: This is my fourth article for TESO-RP.com. It seems to be getting a pretty good response from some of my favorite posters over there. I was expecting a little bit of hate for it actually. If you’ve been involved in a roleplay community before you know that people can be very touchy about what they consider ‘acceptable’ or ‘good RP’. But I really dig the community over at TESO-RP, they seem to generally be a very chill crowd. It’s funny how you can get attached to a group of people you don’t even know and hardly communicate with directly. But anyway, onto the RP!
Original Link: http://teso-rp.com/home/m/9324622/article/1762940
The Spaces Between
by The Human Floyd
There are a lot of reasons, actually. First and most obvious is the audiovisual stimulation that comes with playing a video game. I mean, who doesn’t want to actually see their character represented in a beautifully rendered game world? A world they can fully explore with other players. The control a game master has in a tabletop game can make for some awesome stories, however, you have other limitations such as the amount of people who can play, how many scenes can be occurring simultaneously and how much content the game master can pump out. Not to mention the fact that you have to get everyone together to play.
In an MMO you can jump into the game at any time and get as immersed into it as you want. Once ESO comes out Tamriel will always be there, a world that exists even when you aren’t playing in it. However, there are still a few things in MMOs which roleplayers have to suspend our disbelief of. After all, the developers can’t include everything.
Some of these are simple, like the food and drink. Obviously they aren’t going to include every single type of food a person living in Tamriel could eat. When you consider how much variety of food and drink there is in real life the seemingly large amount of tasty consumables in lore seems tiny. It’s common sense to assume that there are other meads out there besides the handful of examples we have from the TES games. Likewise, just because they don’t include bananas as an item in the game doesn’t mean they don’t exist in Tamriel.
People figure out small things like that pretty quickly. Most of us have been into gaming long enough to know that suspension of disbelief is necessary. In-game books, for example. I’ve seen several Elder Scrolls books which indicate they only show a segment of the ‘actual’ book. I don’t think Tamriel is full of leather bound, six page pamphlets on Imperial history and the bookstores probably don’t sell short stories one chapter per volume. In my opinion, this is a space our imaginations are required to fill. I always imagine that I’m just getting a snippit of the actual volume when I read an in-game book.
The amount of books in the TES games is so impressive. You could spend as much time reading as you could adventuring if you wanted to. I love it! It’s one of the things things that really made me fall in love with these games. But I always try to make my fantasy as realistic as possible, and while 300-400 books is really impressive for a video game, it would be meager if Tamriel was a real place.
To me, this means it is up to the RPers to fill the spaces between. Like emoting that your character is eating a banana (despite them not being in the game) I see it as not only okay, but expected for us to RP that other books exist. My character might be sitting under the shade of a tree reading a novel about the Dwemer returning to conquer Tamriel, even though no such fiction exists in the game. I don’t see that as a problem, after all the imaginations of the mortals of Tamriel are just as vibrant as our own, right?
I can’t imagine anyone would oppose such small additions of our own little flavor to the universe as long as it’s realistic and doesn’t break lore.
What about something bigger than food and books? Something that actually affects your gameplay experience? I’m talking about distance, the true size of Tamriel. Skyrim the game is sixteen square miles and it’s huge! As an aside, this is actually something I’m kind of concerned about as we anticipate ESO’s release. That’s a lot of space to fill with content. Even recreating that sixteen square miles seems like an undertaking, much less the rest of the continent.
But even as big that is for a video game, some people don’t realize how small sixteen square miles is in real life. I live in a town that’s 23 square miles with a population of some 67,000. Are you telling me that the entire province of Skyrim and most of the Nord race can fit into a region smaller than an average American town? I don’t think so, but the developers obviously can’t build a whole continent.
Because of this I feel RPers should be justified in referencing villages, towns and other small locations in their backstories and RP that don’t necessarily appear in the game or lore. Making up a lake in the Jerall Mountains that your character likes to go fishing in that isn’t actually from lore isn’t going to break anyone’s immersion. At least I hope their imagination isn’t that flimsy. Now, making up a major city or province of your own is probably a little too far. Balance, my friends.
So far, my examples have all been pretty easy fixes that most RPers do naturally. However, there is one aspect of the space issue that could potentially cause some controversy among RPers. And that’s the literal spaces between locations in the game world. I’m talking about one of my favorite activities in MMOs… Journey RP!
Roleplaying the adventure from one location to another can be so much fun, especially if you face real threats along the way like appropriately leveled monsters to fight or enemy players to ambush you. You can take it a step further and consider other elements like having to eat and rest, heat exhaustion, illness, etc. In some games, the world is literally too small to do this because you arrive at a new location before your RP has time to get anywhere. I really hope that ESO transcends this, being a world with enough space between quest locations and towns that we can roleplay a journey from one place to another and actually feel like it takes some time.
But even if they manage to create the swaths of wilderness necessary for that to be possible, the distances will never be completely realistic. That’s where your suspension of disbelief comes in. It’s all about communicating with the folks you’re playing with. You can send an OOC message saying, “Should we say some time has passed and we’ve been traveling for awhile?” or something of that matter to make the journey feel longer. Splitting up the journey into multiple RP sessions can help make it seem longer too.
Zenimax says the days in ESO will be roughly four hours. This should help, allowing RPers an excuse to say more time has passed than it actually has.
Now, not everyone will agree with me here. A lot of people prefer to keep it simple and use the game world as it is. This is where you see some small conflict of realities, when one character says, “I just came from Stros M’Kai by boat, it was a long and arduous journey, the days seemed to pass so slowly” where another PC arriving from the island will say,”We rode over this morning after breakfast on Stros M’Kai and are both looking for whatever the rabble around here consider food.”
This is a small conflict, of course. Nothing worth getting bent out of shape about. After all, your roleplay is whatever you make of it and no one can tell you you’re wrong. But at the same time one of the reasons we play in an MMO is to feel like we’re part of a greater, larger world. It’s easier to feel part of that if you’re on the same page as other RPers. Unless someone in the lore department decides to tell us the ‘real’ dimensions of Tamriel though, it’s up to speculation and opinion.
There are a lot of gaps that the creators of the Elder Scrolls universe haven’t covered, and may never cover but we don’t have to cry over that. In fact, we should rejoice! The door is open and the canvas blank, awaiting our input. The best way to keep everyone in your group of fellow RPers happy is to keep open communication about what you consider ‘real’ and ‘not real’ in the game world versus what’s actually happening in your story. So don’t be afraid to think a little outside the box that game mechanics put us in!
I know there are other examples of times when roleplayers have to suspend our disbelief or go into the realm of OOC to modify the world to be more realistic or fit the story better. Let us know your experiences and opinions in the comments! As always, it’s great to get different perspectives on these things. Thanks for reading and until I see you again, take it easy and stay sexy TESO-RP!