The Elder Scrolls game universe was created by Bethesda Softworks, beginning with the release of Arena (1994), then Daggerfall (1996), Morrowind (2002), Oblivion (2006), Skyrim (2011), before passing the torch to Zenimax Online for the MMO Elder Scrolls Online (2014), with a number of expansion packs released in the spaces between development of numbered titles. All of the games take place in the land of Tamriel with its nine regions united (at times contentiously) under the flag of the Septim (aka Third) Empire: Skyrim, High Rock, Hammerfell, Summerset Isle, Valenwood, Elsweyr, Black Marsh, Morrowind, and Cyrodiil.

The first Emperor of that Third Empire is Tiber Septim, a Dragonborn, who upon his death was deified as the god Talos, one of the Nine Divines. As in the real world where the busts of political figures often grace currency, so it is with the coin of the realm, the Septim (obverse pictured below).

Skyrim Septim Obverse

Skyrim Septim Obverse

The bust of the Emperor faces right, sports a goatee and medium-length hair. The bust is set atop a starburst flanked roughly to the left and right with a diamond lozenge set on a circular band separating the field from a crenelated border. A motto runs top and bottom in all caps: “The Empire is Law” and “The Law is Sacred”. Turn the coin over:

Skyrim Septim Reverse

Skyrim Septim Reverse

The reverse of the Septim shows the stylized dragon familiar to visitors of Tamriel. It is the Seal of Akatosh, the symbol placed over a starburst surrounded by a circular border and crenelated edge. A single diamond lozenge is at the top of the circle. The seal is flanked left and right with another inscription: “Praise be, Akatosh” and “All the Divines”. The dragon symbol gives Septims their nickname: “Drakes”. Compare this to the Canadian dollar coin with the loon, affectionately called “loonies”.

The Septim is literally the coin of the realm. It has the appearance of either gold or electrum, but is considered to be gold in Tamriel. Its value is of one gold piece. Absent from these coins is the mint stamp or mark of manufacture. For a world as large as Tamriel, there are no mints to be found, not even in each region’s capital cities. The coins are theoretically limitless, and they weigh nothing in a player’s inventory, not taking up space in the adventurer’s pack (or that of his/her carl (i.e., valet)). There are no other denominations of currency, and change cannot be made. Despite the intersection of multiple cultures from regions, at least one of which joined the Empire by treaty (Morrowind), the Septim rules as currency.

Septims are found throughout the Empire, and are acquired by the player as a reward for completing a quest. Players can also loot corpses for varying amounts of gold, and have the ability to pickpocket. Septims can often be found in coin purses and loose on furniture in homes and hideouts as well as in tombs. It is curious that coins bearing the image of Tiber Septim can also be found in Nordic Tombs and on Draugr (undead, entombed warriors in Skyrim), both of which predate the Empire’s foundation.

As mentioned above, there are no mints, but there are a scant handful of treasuries scattered throughout the games: Markarth, Redoran, and Hlaalu. The gold used to mint the coins apparently comes from the hundreds of mines scattered throughout Tamriel, but playthrough demonstrates that none of these are explicitly dedicated to the mining of gold for Imperial coinage. The mines merely serve as spaces in which to have adventures and complete quests, and have nothing to do with the in-world economy or the creation of coinage to fuel the engines of the Empire itself.

For such a vast world as Tamriel, I personally would have expected a diversity of currency. On further exploration, I found that there are actually two other forms outside of the Septim: moon sugar and Dwemer coins.

Below is an image of moon sugar crystals taken from Morrowind:

Moon Sugar

Moon Sugar

Moon sugar makes its first appearance in  Elder Scrolls III, and is the ingredient from which the illegal drug skooma is made. In the impossibly vast world of Morrowind, 24 samples of moon sugar can be recovered from various locations (by looting boxes and barrels) and non-player characters (NPCs): Sarys Ancestral Tomb, Addamasartus, Yasamsi, Zanabi, Unexplored Shipwreck, Panat, and as quest rewards for “Blades Trainer” and “Inner Beauty”. Moon sugar is the underground currency of bandits and in later games by some members of the Khajiit race. Players who acquire moon sugar may opt to use it as an ingredient for alchemy, in which it has the following properties: Fortify Speed, Dispel, Drain Attribute, Drain Luck. Players may also sell moon sugar for Septims. Moon sugar in and of itself cannot be used directly to purchase goods.

The other non-Septim currency found in the Elder Scrolls universe is the Dwemer coin (pictured below).

Dwemer Coin

Dwemer Coin

Found exclusively in Morrowind, the Dwemer coin can be found in only one of the 15,000 places that can be explored in the game: Ald Sotha, a Daedric shrine for the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon, located NE of Vivec City within the region of the Ascadian Isles, once the Home of House Sotha.

The coin appears to be of silver and only the obverse is rendered in the game and sports a “Celtic” knot pattern inside a double-ring, dotted border. The coin, unlike Septims, does have a weight of 0.05 in a player’s inventory. It cannot be used in the game as currency, but can be kept as a curiosity or vended for gold. There are two denominations of Dwemer coins, one valued at 50 gold, and the other at 125 gold. Nothing more is known of these coins, and little is known of the Dwemer race that created them long before the Third Empire.

As described in the Elder Scrolls Wiki, the Dwemer were “an advanced race and civilization, and were far ahead of other races and civilizations. They were well known for their revolutionary developments, skills and achievements in technology, engineering, crafting methods, metalwork, stonework, architecture, city-planning, science, mathematics, magic, and the academic arts.” The Dwemer disappeared in 1E 700 without explanation, leaving behind the remains of their technology, and also scant examples of their currency.

It remains to be seen (for me anyway) if Elder Scrolls Online continues the tradition of a single-currency realm, or if other coins (as real money or as artifacts) will appear. Thinking on that, I was curious to see how the appearance of these Septims changed from game to game. In Oblivion, players don’t really see coins at all, and instead add numeric gold to inventory, which is flagged with a Septim icon, a stylized version of the bust on the coin so well rendered in Skyrim:

Oblivion Coin Inventory

Oblivion Coin Inventory

Going further back to Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, the graphics were such that gold coins could only be rendered in yellow and brown bits, usually in piles of loot (see below):

Daggerfall Gold

Daggerfall Gold

With Skyrim, and now with Elder Scrolls Online, the photorealistic graphics make showing detailed designs easy, which in turn drives the need for graphic design when it comes to even the most everyday thing found in the gaming world: money. For such an omnipresent object, it’s exceedingly rare for gamers to take screencaptures of the currency they find, but for those who play Skyrim and ESO, they are rewarded with something so well realized that the coins have jumped from the games and into real-world production (see below):

Ebay Septim

Ebay Septim

Several Septims are currently on auction at Ebay going for nearly US$40, most from the collector’s edition of Oblivion. With sweetroll recipes and Skyrim helmets being crafted in the real world, it is no surprise that Septims have also followed suit and arguably command their own value in a strange kind of real/virtual currency exchange.

This post is my first foray into exploring the use and appearance of coins and currency in games. Please send comments, questions, and corrections to me via the Comments, or to archaeogaming at gmail dot com.

-Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods. Economic and historical studies of money’s use and development are an integral part of the numismatists’ study of money’s physical embodiment.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Septim

Source: The Elder Scrolls Wiki

Gamers take coins for granted. We didn’t use to. In the ’80s we spent plenty of coins in the arcades, but in contemporary video games, we collect them, hoard them, exchange them, spend them. As players, though, how often do we pause to consider something as everyday as a gold piece, taking a moment to look at its design, and to consider where it came from?

Over the next few months, I do plan on embarking upon a serious research project concerning the numismatics of video games, studying the currency used to drive in-game economies, but also those coins and other media of trade/value collected for points or prizes from everything from Mario to Grand Theft Auto to Destiny. Questions that I will attempt to answer, and things to explore will include:

  1. What are the earliest appearances of coins/money in video games, and when are the earliest instances of coins being used as currency within those games?
  2. Catalogue every type of currency used in every game published.
  3. For currency found in-game, document its material of composition (e.g., gold, crystal, paper, etc.), findspot or location of a “drop”, place of production (i.e., mint or town), denomination, era (old v. new coins), image/design, if the currency is to be used as such, or if it is treated in a game as an artifact.
  4. Create a history of currency used in game series (e.g., Elder Scrolls), exploring how the currency changes from game to game.
  5. Record drops of currency as well as types and amounts retrieved from looted corpses (and from successful pickpocketing attempts). Use this information to learn about cross-cultural trade and inter-city (and/or regional) commerce.
  6. For coins with busts on them, research the history of the person depicted. For those with symbols, report on their use and interpretation. Look for mint stamps. Translate inscriptions.
  7. Can coins found in-game be used archaeologically (e.g., for establishing a secure date for something)?
  8. Are there in-game coin collectors, numismatists, and numismatic achievements that are deliberately part of the game?
  9. Do modding communities create their own currency?

There will be plenty more to do as I explore. I do plan on consolidating currency wikis from various games into a single hub, and will work with user groups, communities, and official game websites/publishers to work with their data.

The hardest part of a major project like this is to determine how and where to start? I seem to be in an Elder Scrolls rut, but at least I can start with a series I love and work outwards from there. As I consider the to-do list, I’ll likely settle into themes that draw information from dozens of different games, but in the beginning, starting simply with a series might be easiest as I work out how to apply methods from real-world numismatics into game environments. As I go, I’ll blog about what I find, refining my approach.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has taken a systematic approach to the study of currency in video games of any type or time period, from side-scrollers to RPGs to MMOs (other than creating game-wiki pages). How is gaming currency used, by whom, for what purpose, and how was it acquired, and from where? Is the currency purely functional, or is there history as well? As I publish here, feel free to comment, make suggestions, criticize, ask questions, or suggest questions that I should be asking.

ADDENDUM (Sept. 9, 2014)

I thought of some other things as I showered this morning to explore/document when it comes to currency in games:

  1. How often does currency appear in a funerary context in a game, and in what other contexts can currency be found? What purpose(s) might the currency have in such contexts?
  2. What drives a games designer’s decisions for including currency, and also for spending time on its graphic design? How do game developers consider currency within a particular title?

-Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

 

First, apologies for the long silence here at Archaeogaming! You can expect good things from AG HQ this summer as I play Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar MMOs in anticipation of Destiny and ultimately No Man’s Sky, all of which offer massive environments to explore while documenting the archaeology in them.

I’ve been looking for an archaeology-centered game, something with archaeology and archaeologists as the focal point and not just a random non-player character, side-skill/profession, or excuse to find “treasure” and “magic” by way of looting ancient monuments and artifacts. I was (pleasantly) surprised by what I found: Buried. You can play it here for free.

Buried Splash ScreenBuried was created by Tara Copplestone and Luke Botham as part of the July 2014 Heritage Jam, an event “bringing heritage, visualisation & media specialists together to collaborate, curate & create new imagery.” Copplestone (concept, writing, coding art) is part of the world-class talent vortex in York and describes herself as an “archaeological information systems person, VR enthusiast, and video-gamer devloping interactive archaeology games in VR.” Felixstowe-based (UK) Botham (coding, game elements, art) is a junior game designer at Guerrilla Games Amsterdam.

Created using Twine, an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories, Copplestone and Botham built Buried is a proof-of-concept game for “using ergodic literature for archaeology”. “Ergodic” is a fancy way of saying “choose-your-own-adventure” (remember those, kids?), where the reader can follow many different paths during the course of a story, following a thread wherever might lead, where re-readings of the story can lead to alternate endings.

Buried is intentionally lo-fi. It is text-centric and populated by charmingly Old Skool ASCII graphics, occasionally animated. The player clicks through the splash screen and learns that s/he is a field archaeologist, one concerned with death and burial of humans and human material. After a warning about potentially macabre scenarios (none of which are gratuitous), the player continues. We learn about the framework of the story, where Buried becomes a teaching game, story-based, using player engagement to instruct about archaeological theory, methods, and research. Even though the game is a “proof-of-concept”, there are 248 choices to be made, 17 conclusions, and 50 outcome modifiers. The game as it is has a robust, clever narrative structure, some intriguing storytelling twists, and a complex sense of humor. Just like in real life (and unlike most modern games), there is no backtracking or reverting to a previously saved version. You are committed until the story ends. Replay is encouraged. The archaeology is well researched and clearly presented.

tara15There is a brief tutorial instructing players about the user interface. Some of the text is interactive in occasionally unexpected and delightful ways (e.g., waving your pointer over text on one frame make text bold, and you can watch it fade back to normal — and this happens for a reason!). Click on white text for definitions or options to progress in the story.

You then enter your name (real or fictitious), select a title (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Miss, Lord), a drink (water, scotch, soda, coffee), and the location of your fieldwork (Frankfurt, Rome, York, Atlantis), and off you go. You are immediately beset with choices including procrastination. In fact, procrastination features heavily in many of the story’s threads. Such is archaeology research and writing. You get email and opt to read or ignore, reply or not. You can choose theory or practice. You can be drawn in to your work, or drawn away by personal issues. You can accept or pass on projects. As playful as the story is, it does strike close to home to practicing archaeologists, and could serve as a warning to those considering the field.

Human death, burial, and human and material remains form the second act of the story, and as you play, emotions resonate, something many professionally produced games attempt to capture, yet often fail to do so. The humor masks deeper feelings surrounding death and loss in some scenarios, and also highlights professional successes in others. We play and feel, and we learn.

I have played the game several times, all to different outcomes. Some threads are longer and more complex than others, and as if to mimic real science, the more work the player puts into the story, the more one gets out of it. In this case, we learn about archaeology, theory, and practice (Michael Shanks is invoked at one point). In other cases procrastination wins. It’s neither good nor bad. The outcomes just are, and we move on.

tara19Buried is both a game and not a game. It is a playable book, and one with exceptional replay value. Archaeologists and archaeology are both portrayed realistically, and at the same time are neither boring nor sterile, proof that archaeology can stand on its own without resorting to gimmicks or stereotypes.

Once finished, click on the “Paradata” link to read more about the underpinnings of the game and concept. It is extraordinarily interesting. Copplestone writes, “the overall goal of the project was to explore the extent to which text (including hyper-text, ascii and text generated images) could be considered a visualisation media, whilst also exploring the impact player agency and choice has on the development, understanding and personal visualisation of a narrative.” There is more to the story than the story. It explores how readers “see”, text as visual tool as opposed to mere words on a screen. The story itself is an allegory for burial, something I had missed until reading the Paradata section. Buried is playful, but also provides plenty to discuss regarding what is a game, and how our personal experiences are brought to bear on choices made within this kind of media, and on this story specifically.

If more gaming companies and developers would spend as much time on story as they did on graphics and audio, the entire gaming community would be better served. This is why indie games are succeeding where their juggernaut cousins fail. Buried is deceptively complex in rendering the visual, and does so in subtle, clever ways. I find myself wondering what kind of data Buried collects from its users, namely choices made, threads followed, drinks chosen, time taken between choices, time spent with media in the game, time spent reading, etc. What patterns appear, and what does that say about us as gamers, as archaeologists (real or imagined)? I’m eager to see Copplestone’s results when they are ready to share.

Now stop reading, and go play Buried for yourself.

-Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

 

 

 

Image

I am extraordinarily happy to announce that the Xbox Wire published its press release today about the April 26th excavation of the Atari Landfill (aka Atari Dump Site, E.T. Burial Ground, etc.) in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

I’m part of the team of archaeologists referenced in the press release, and will be joined by archaeologists Richard Rothaus, Bill Caraher, and Lindsay Eaves, with support from historians Bret Weber, Raiford Guins, and others. I’ll post more information later, but if you find yourself in southern New Mexico on April 26th, the public are invited to watch as the team uncovers what Atari buried in the desert in 1983.

-Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

Below is a post that I was told to take down by Zenimax Online during the beta testing of Elder Scrolls Online earlier this year. I am reposting it now, but unfortunately the original images are no longer available. Hopefully the text is enough for now. I am looking forward to joining the full game soon for months of archaeogaming. -Andrew

 

I had the opportunity to participate in two full weekends of beta testing of the upcoming Elder Scrolls Online (ESO), the MMO slotted for release on 4.4.14 by ZeniMax Online based on the hugely entertaining, lore-heavy Elder Scrolls series by Bethesda Softworks. This post details my archaeological experience in playing the beta over the weekend of January 11th and 12th, and is not intended to be a review of the game (which I thought was quite fun to play for the short time I had access to it). I shot images of my display with my iPhone, so apologies for the dubious quality, but there should be enough detail to show you a bit of what I saw. Although I do not think that this post violates the Terms of Service for the beta, readers might want to copy/paste for later reading.

Going into the ESO beta, I wanted to accomplish a few things, in no particular order: 1) explore the world to see if there were ruins, 2) identify threads of lore connecting this world of the past with the world of Skyrim set 1,000 in the future, 3) learn if archaeology was part of the game, and if so, to what extent, 4) perform actual archaeology (both real and experimental). In my brief hours in Tamriel, I was not disappointed in meeting every goal, even if some of what I found was disappointing. More on that later.

Players start off in the dark, otherworldly Oblivion as part of a massive jailbreak. All are in either rags or the uniforms of veteran soldiers. Rags in one century pretty much look like rags in another. As we fled down torchlit corridors pursued by skeletons, we armed ourselves with rusty weapons typical of Level 1 in any dungeon crawler. Crappy bladed or staff weapons change little over time, too. Ultimately the player emerges into a great hall to assist “The Prophet” (voiced I believe by Michael Gambon . . . really) rematerialize into human flesh and then escape to Tamriel. The Deadric Hall was gloomy and gear-filled, but not overtly dwarvish/Dwemer, window-dressing for fast action into the guts of the game.

I followed the Prophet’s lead and emerged aboard a ship moored on the Redguard island of Stros M’Kai and its Port Hunding. It would appear that the technology of wooden ships changed little over 1,000 years. The same could be said of, erm, crate-and-barrel technology. But as soon as I stepped off the boat, I was gobsmacked by an architecture alien to me and likely to the rest of the Elder Scrolls games.

I was in a palm desert, and set among the trees were walls and buildings resembling Arabia with curves and peaks, towers, and the rich colors of red and gold. The port looked new, hardly lived in, and having lived in Phoenix for a time, I know that even if something was built decades ago, it still looks new in the desert light. A palace, a bazaar, shops, and inns, the port bustles. Having limited experience with the Redguard from my time playing Oblivion and Skyrim, I was unsure what to expect regarding architecture and design.

I half-expected to hear a muezzin make the call to worship, and to see lines of Arabic-looking script wrap around each building’s walls. As I explored Port Hunding, I noticed that there was no writing anywhere. I began to suspect Redguard illiteracy until I began finding books and letters.

One letter looted from a corpse led me directly to archaeology in ESO: “A reward is hereby offered for all Dwarven relics delivered in good working order. Monies paid depend on condition, rarity, and usefulness of said relic. Pieces of relics are also accepted, depending on condition. –Rulorn”

This note was found with a gear of Dwarven manufacture. I took both from the body and set off to find Rulorn, no doubt a shady dealer in Dwarven antiquities. I already had a sinking feeling that the archaeology in ESO would mirror that of other games: relics equate to money, and stealing relics makes for good quests. But this is a virtual world, and I am looting from a fictitious race. And because this is an MMO, the relic I just looted returns to its findspot for the next player to discover. And steal. And so on. The ethics of this kind of iterative looting has me quite confused and a bit conflicted on what it is I’m doing with these artifacts.

In any case, I collect three other gears and return to Rulorn in the port. Already I feel dirty as the dialogue with him begins:

Rulorn: “Yes? Do you have something for me?”

Me: “I found something you might be interested in.”

And so it goes until I give him the goods, and he gives me the cash. In a wrinkle, though, he turns out to be a scientist who needs these ancient parts to create an automaton that he’s built from other artifacts he’s collected. I pull the lever and the machine activates. Rulorn and I have a partnership now, not unlike Indiana Jones and his various handlers. It’s time to discover more ruins, and the island of Stros M’Kai is dotted them, mostly Dwemer, a dwarven race, master machine-builders and miners.

On my way, I pass by discarded astrolabes half-buried in the sand and elevated roads with the appearance of Roman aqueducts. I meet up with another non-player character (NPC), Noramo, who gives me my marching orders: “Despite the age of these ruins, I suspect the usual defenses are in place. As I am averse to danger, would you explore the ruins to locate any Dwemer generators inside?”

Of course I agree. He unlocks the doors into the Dwemer tomb, and I, like so many other gamers before me, enter to avoid traps to find the loot, stealing it for my handler so that I can have a payday, and so that Noramo (in this case) can have his generators for science. It’s a familiar trope in science fiction film, fiction, and games: scientists stealing unknown technology to reverse-engineer it for their own ends. But who am I to argue? I’m just the gopher in this quest. Along the way I see ancient halls crowded with pipes and ducts and machinery. I fight and destroy clockwork beetles. I discover the mundanity of a smoking pipe, a quill pen, an ink pot. Later I find a table topped with the tools of a blacksmith, left behind and looking brand new.

I complete the quest and then decide to just explore the island. My time is limited. One of the best things about the Elder Scrolls games is that one can choose to just walk around in the world stumbling upon things. I treated this rambling as an archaeological surface survey. I found more Dwarven artifacts, made a note of them, and then decided to either collect a diagnostic piece, or to leave it in situ, photographing it only, moving on. I came to the realization that I was actively role-playing an archaeologist, which is strange, because I am one in real life. Very meta.

As I explored, I continued to look for evidence of writing outside of books and papers. I wanted to find markers and monuments and was not disappointed. I found the Tower of the Singing Sun, and next to it the skeleton of a looter, his pickaxe nearby, and his journal in his tent where he’d written about breaking into the monument to find treasure. I sighed again.

As I traveled on the island, I did find several luminescent cairns which contained runestones within them. Digging them up revealed the quality of each rune. The runes are likely used for crafting arms and armor, and require translation, something I was unable to do or find over my weekend of play.

Ultimately I had an inventory of the runes Ta, Okori, Okoma, Jora, Jode, and Dekeipa, but was unable to discern anything of linguistic merit. I’ll have to wait to buy the real game to go further there.

Farther along into the central desert stood stone markers taller than I was, incised with repetitive design elements, an attempt at art, but communicating little (to me anyway). On occasion, I discovered large amphoras buried in the sand and decorated in various geometric patterns. These could not be collected, but their contents were available for the taking, mainly grains.

After taking a break from study to kill a bunch of mobs and complete some quests to level up my toon, I hopped aboard a ship for another island, Betnikh, home of Orcs, and ancient home to a race new to me (and perhaps to the Elder Scrolls lore): Ayleids, the Wild Elves. The Orcs I met in Skyrim were largely confined to enclaves of primitive huts and camps walled with logs. Entering the Orc city in ESO, I was overwhelmed by the Cyclopean walls and massive stone buildings befitting this brawny, proud warrior race.

I was in for a surprise, however, as I stepped out of town.

I met my first “orcheologist” — an Orc archaeologist. Azlakha told me the following: “The Ayleids–Wild Elves as some call them–have always fascinated me. They are long gone but their ruins remain on Betnikh. From these we glean how they lived and died, so many years ago.”

My response (chosen from a list of two things, one being “Goodbye”): “Isn’t research a strange occupation for an Orc?”

She laughed off my condescension and gave me some quests to do, namely to explore ruins. The good news: I did not have to loot anything as I learned about the Wild Elves. The bad news? The ruins were populated by ghosts and monsters and contained evil magic. So archaeology-as-gateway-to-evil-stuff rears its head in this game as it has in so many others. I went off to find the ruins anyway, curious about this new culture, its art, and architecture. Along the way I found the skeleton of another dead looter and his shovel.

I dropped down into an underground tomb and photographed the bones of the warrior-king Targoth. He was laid on a bier surrounded by grave goods of weapons and armor and a sack of grain.

His ghost asked me to return his warhorn to him if I wished, to restore some dignity to his death, and the deaths of his people. I did so and was left with a good feeling having repatriated the artifact. Had I kept it, I could have sold it for money.

Later in the day, I came across a series of pyres. I’d met a priestess earlier who had told me how to activate these to see visions. I cared more about their location in the world, and what these pyres would look like. In my real-world job, I just published a book on saucer pyres from the Athenian Agora. What would ESO‘s look like? Upon arrival, I noticed a stone platform holding a bowl of fire, and next to it some nautilus shells. I’m not sure why these shells were chosen or what purpose they served, but the universal fire-in-a-bowl was present. I received my vision. It had something to do with werewolves.

I spent my remaining moments in the game searching for plants, performing a kind of palaeobotany. I wanted to see if I could find plants similar to those found in Skyrim, to compare properties as well as shape. Then I kicked myself when all of the plants on these two islands were wholly different from Skyrim: different ecosystems. That was a satisfying feeling.

I was also keen to see what would happen to the trash items I discovered and no longer needed (e.g., rags, poor-quality weapons, etc.). In World of Warcraft, players can discard items and collect them later if they have not yet logged out of the game. Players can keep items on their person, can share them with others directly, or can keep items in the bank. In ESO, I could carry items or could store them in places that I owned, and could trade directly with others, but to drop something to the ground was to destroy it. There will be no in-world trash middens and rubbish heaps. This also puts a damper on my hope of crafting something unique and then tracking it as it moves across the game. I was also hoping to identify real trade patterns in ESO, but that looks doubtful.

At the conclusion of my two days (maybe 10 total hours of play total out of the 48 I could have had in theory), I am keen to explore the full world from an archaeologist’s perspective. There are still ruins, but largely Dwemer, and now Ayleids. There is archaeology actually in the game, but trending towards looting, traps, and magic. I found that there is a lot to study as I compare cultures then and now, and that there is a new language to learn in the runes that I find. I’m also curious to see if players can complete quests and level up while being respectful towards in-world cultural heritage. I’ll blog more about this starting in April 2014.

And I am looking forward to doing the same once the new MMO from Bungee, Destiny, launches. As of January 13, 2014, people who pre-order the game are eligible to selection into the beta there.

-Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

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