To Game or not to Game: A parent’s guide to WoW introduction

Age Requirement

“Mommy! I want to see the spider pet!” My seven year old asks this often. I don’t know if it’s because it’s blue, sparkly, or multi-legged. Whatever the reason I oblige and pull it up on my Night Elf Hunter. She laughs hysterically and tries to take control. Eventually, I know she’s going to be playing all on her own just like the sixteen-year-old who is sighing at the desk across the room. She’s fresh in Outlands and decided she wanted to take on a Fel Reaver. Maniacally, I grin at her. I know a lot of parents who let their kids play at an early age. That didn’t happen in this house. I waited until last year. And before you ask why she’s only just now in Outlands when she started last year, she wasn’t sure at first if she liked it. She got bitten with the gaming bug again two weeks ago and has now been inseparable from it since. So then, why did I introduce it last year and not when she was thirteen? Well, I wouldn’t call thirteen age appropriate honestly. In my opinion there are factors to consider before you put your child in a Multi-player Universe, let them create a character, and say have it. And that’s after they establish an interest.

For starters, there is the basic control of the components. In today’s age our kids know how to work a keyboard and a mouse by two. Wonderful, now teach them how to control both at the same time. If you can manage that, we can move on to the second requirement. I toss how well they read both words and mapping in to this too, since you have to pay attention to the quests and the maps. Toss in math skills for the auction house here as well.

Do they understand the difference between a game and reality? I wish I could just unequivocally say across board, SURE! But I know adults who seem to not be able to tell master this. That really has nothing to do with the game as much as it does the person playing it. And this feeds directly into my third requirement.

Can they exercise self-control? Let’s face it, people in these games range from wonderfully friendly to outright cruel. So when your child comes across a stranger in chat who is ranting about how their DPS rate sucks, are they going to get all butt-hurt and escalate the fight? Are they going to get off the computer and throw things? If the answer is yes, an MMO is maybe not the smartest way to go yet. I can see some parent now on the other side of this screen going, “Well I just let him log in and mine for me.” You would be totally right, if nodes and herbs weren’t constantly under attack from other gatherers. If you have herbing or mining, at some point you’re going to have your chosen target snatched away without any warning, and on any shard. It doesn’t just happen in a PvP environment.

And finally, are you the parent going to keep an eye on your child? This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Letting your kid or teen, have freedom in game is fine. But be responsible about it. Inform them that they cannot give out any personal information. Make them check in with you before they add someone to their friends list. Be there for help with quests and questions. Put them in your guild or a guild you trust. Check the language settings for guild chat. Make use of in game filters. Do not just accept that they are fine because they are playing something on computer. On the other side of the screen from them are actual people with completely different agendas, just like any other online system.

If you can look at this list and say, “I will be watching my child regularly. They are mature for their age. They won’t throw a tantrum when insulted by a stranger across the screen. They are in a guild I trust. They can handle the controls.” Then sure, by all means let your child play at thirteen. If you have to answer no to any of the above, then wait a year and re-examine where your child is at. Doing so will save you a lot of hassle from your second-generation gamer and a lot of bad feedback from the people who come into contact with your child.

While it boils down to each parents personal choices on what is best for their child, remember that in an MMO your choices affect others too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shards Online: Q&A With Citadel Studios

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Stratics has a long history with Tim “Draconi” Cotten and Derek “Supreem” Brinkmann as current Stratics VIP forum members and co-founders of Citadel Studios, the studio behind the exciting development of Shards Online. The Ultima Online community will always have fond memories of their contributions with past expansions and publishes that added years of content they enjoy to this day. Who could ever forget the, “burning in effigy” stakes of dropped houses, highlighting another cheater gone from game? Or the Halloween pvp events on Shard of the Undead? As a former staff member of Stratics, Draconi has a long history of supporting us and it is our honor to show support of Shards Online.

We know who Tim and Derek are to us from times past, but who are they now? What have they been up to? Let’s ask them!

· What made you decide to create a new studio?

Tim: It all began back at the “UO Frat House” in San Francisco where a bunch of us Ultima Online developers roomed together. We had a lot of late night game design discussions, and okay, sure… some nights we’d debate the merits of setting cheaters’ houses on fire, but mostly we talked about how lucky we were with UO – we could do things that other games just couldn’t do.

We could burn entire cities to the ground and let players loot the rubble in real time. At one point, we created an alternate dimension where players could even freeze time. The feeling of power was absolutely unreal – and we loved every minute of it.

We promised ourselves back then that, no matter what, we would eventually build a game ourselves that captured the same feeling UO gave us.

When Derek and I moved cross-country to Virginia to join the Mythic team, we met our rockstar artist Chris. It wasn’t long before we knew we were all on the same wavelength. The three of us got together and hit on the big idea for Shards Online: give players the power that we had with UO.

· Did you start with this concept or did it evolve from something else?

Derek: Shards has evolved rather organically over the project’s lifetime.

One of the things we heard over and over while working on Ultima Online was “I wish there were more games like UO.” So the project initially started with that goal in mind. We wanted to bring back that old school feeling in a modern online game.

We aren’t aiming to create a spiritual successor to the Ultima franchise; we believe that right belongs to its once and future king, Lord British himself Richard Garriott. We have no doubt he’s going to hit it out of the park with Shroud of the Avatar.

Instead, we wanted to take the years of inspirations and insight we gained from working on UO and apply it towards something that could be totally new and different.

The concept of allowing players to run their own servers emerged as we attempted to solve the problems associated with maintaining a traditional MMO on an indie budget. We fell in love with the idea of allowing the players to customize and moderate their own game worlds as a supported feature, so we ran with it.

· What is your team like and how did they bring their own experiences into the development of Shards?

Derek: For starters, there are the three founders (Tim, Chris and I) who worked together in the past at the big studios. Then we have our awesome project contributors, who vary in experience and the time they can commit, but are all extremely passionate about what we are doing.

We’re proud to have former Ultima Online devs, great artists from Warhammer Online, and new talent from George Mason University’s game design program. Some of you might recognize a few names on our team like Supreem, Draconi, Logrus, and Phoenix!

The team is still growing and evolving. We’re focused on making the game right now, but will definitely start sharing more about the development team in the coming weeks – what they’ve done in the past, what they’re doing now, and what they’re bringing to the table to make Shards something special.

You can learn a little bit more about us on the Citadel Studios Team page.

· Will Shards develop with community input along the way or do you have a set progression in mind?

Tim: As a company, even outside of Shards, we’re focused on our community first and foremost. Our mission is to build a community of dedicated players around the next generation of multiplayer sandbox role-playing games. But how do we build a great community? More importantly, how do we help players build their own great communities?

Our answer is Shards.

At launch, we’re binding several completely different shards together (from swords and sorcery to steampunk) in the game’s official cluster. Every shard will have live events that involve – and evolve with – the community. They’ll feature branching storylines, shard-altering consequences, and unique items and rewards that can take back home with you.

The best part is we’re also giving players the ability to mod our existing content and create their own. You can run private or public clusters with your own rulesets, and choose how and with whom you interact. In your shard you can be a king, a god, or even a humble street sweeper. Be careful playing the grim reaper though, you might not keep players for long!

We’re making the power to build incredible communities accessible to every player.

· The game will run in Unity? Does this mean browser based, standalone client, both? What platforms can we expect to find the game on?

Tim: Unity has been an amazing partner for us, and we’re targeting a standalone client running Shards on PC/Windows at launch. We also happen to be fluent Linux developers and some of us rely heavily on Macs, so rest assured we’re looking at both Mac and Linux as platforms as well.

· Do you have any sort of timeframe for alpha/beta testing, or is it still to early to think about that?

Derek: It’s still a bit too early for specific dates. We’ve been running closed internal playtests on a weekly basis, and we expect to start inviting more and more testers as we finalize more features. Be sure to sign up for our mailing list on the Shards Online website for opportunities to participate.

· Can you share anything about the business model? Your website seems to hint at buy/free to play?

Tim: We plan to sell the client and standalone server as a bundle. That’s all you need to play the game. We’re also planning some premium services in addition to the base game. We’ll get into details about those as we get closer to launch.

We’re definitely not exploring a freemium model; we’d rather give players as much as we can up front instead of nickel-and-diming our community.

· Tell us one of your favorite moments from your time as developers on Ultima Online.

Derek: I always had the most fun interacting with players on Test Center where we could use our god powers without worrying about upsetting the GMs. We used to do all sorts of crazy things – unleashing immortal fire breathing purple llamas on the players at Yew moongate, for example.

One time, I found a player AFK all alone in the woods and decided to have some fun with him. I created a dinner table with chairs and a nice feast and sat him down at the head of the table. I replaced his weapon with a feather duster and placed NPCs in all the other chairs. I still don’t know what that player thought when he came back to his keyboard!

Tim: My favorite moment isn’t even something I did or someone I set on fire! Wilki was working hard on some Valentine’s Day content and accidentally used the wrong Object ID for a ‘rose in a vase’. It was instead a ‘slice of bacon’, and it appeared in every player’s holiday gift box.

Stratics U.Hall lit up the moment the update hit Test Center. There was a lot of good natured ribbing both inside and outside the team, but it became a beloved inside joke overnight. We made the decision to keep the bug as-is and roll it out to the production servers, because the community loved how we could make very human and very amusing mistakes.

To this day I believe Valentine’s Day gift boxes in UO contain ‘a slice of bacon’ in tribute to Wilki. It really cemented for me the kind of relationship I wanted to have with players and set a great example for what we want for Shards Online, too.

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Draconi is up to no good again!” 


Stratics would like to thank Derek and Tim for their time. Now it’s time to get the word out, and you can help! Head over to Stratics.com, click the Sites With Benefits banner on the right side and complete the missions. Not only will you help out Citadel Studios, but you also get a shot at winning a $20 Steam gift card!
We’ll draw a winner Saturday 3/29/2104 at 9am EST.

Discuss This Post on Stratics Forums!

Stuck In A Bar (and Other Stories)

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For the first multiplayer test of Portalarium’s Shroud of the Avatar (SotA), some of the Stratics team did some live streaming.  You can watch and listen to our adventures by going to the Stratics’ Twitch Channel (just look for the past broadcasts).  I am going to give a short overview of my two days spent enjoying and exploring SotA Pre-Alpha Release 3 and seeing  real people for the first time!

I arrived in New Britannia for with my cohort Kirthag also from Stratics (and inconsequentially my boss).  Kirthag immediately whisked me off to do some crafting, something I hadn’t really worked on during the earlier Pre-alpha tests.  It was interesting and overwhelming to see how detailed the crafting system already is.  I think it’s going to be fun and probably the way I earn my way in the world. To start off, I made some bolts of cloth and sold them to earn my first few coins!

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Kirthag is very adventurous and she showed me some cool things she had already discovered, including the new village of Braemar that just opened with this release.  We even had the opportunity to experience a bug in which the doors of the bar and other buildings in Braemar shut (they had been fixed open and unclickable) and locked people in or out of the buildings. Apparently Kirthag was one of the few who could go in and out of the buildings and she had fun laughing at me being stuck in the bar.  Note that there are a lot of fun emotes in the game already and we’re vying for more!  The door bug was promptly fixed and we ventured on.

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One of my highlights was shortly before we ended our first day of R3: I had the honor of meeting Lord British!  He was hanging out in Owl’s Head and stopped to chat for a bit.  A small crowd grew and lots of comments were made to him, mostly good.  A few people tried to engage him in some of the hot topics from the forums but I think he was mostly just wanting to visit with the citizens of the world he and his amazing team are creating. For me, it was an honor to be seen on screen with the man who made all this possible!

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Two days later, we ventured into the world again. We were joined by another lady of Stratics: Luka. This time, we people-watched more than anything else.  We enjoyed seeing folks discover the world, look for bugs, figure out ways to make gold quickly, answered some questions, gave directions.

Then we had an amazing experience near the graveyard outside of Braemar.  You can watch the recording of the live stream here of that very special moment with Holt Ironfell who is writing some of the music that will be used in Shroud of the Avatar.  I anticipate more of these type of adventures of an unexpected nature.  Take a REAL close look at the wisps.  Kirthag noticed something inside them. What do you see? (Click the image for full version.)

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There have been lots of articles written about problems in the game (hey – it’s still PRE-alpha!).  I see no real need to go on about that. One pet peeve of mine is that while walking, my character looks like she is swaggering like a guy.  I hope they change that animation so I am walking more like a female.  Overall, I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing. And we are still NINE MONTHS away from launch!

As I experienced my time in this third Pre-alpha test run, I spent a lot of time just watching people.  I looked at the names that people gave their characters.  I looked at the detail some people gave to their clothing (what’s with the “Red Dress Brigade” with the guys???).  I realized that each person’s experience is just that: it is what you want it to be.  Some people want to role play and immerse themselves in the experience. They put thought and much time into creating their character to look how they want him/her to.  They have meaning behind their names. I could write a two paragraph explanation on how I came to my current preferred character name.  Other people choose default characters and throw a name on there get in the game as fast as they can to see what there is to do.

Shroud of the Avatar supports all kinds of players and what they want to get out of a game. All play styles are welcome.  I personally am excited to meet role players from around the world and experience the wonder of New Britannia.

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For me, the third Pre-alpha was a huge success.  Yes there were some lag problems.  With my 7-year-old machine, that’s not a huge surprise.  I had a couple of crashes but I’ve had MUCH worse from games that have been released and my computer was well within the system requirements.  The graphics are already quite beautiful. The music is amazing.  The game promises to be very immersive and never lacking in things to do. We could have played for weeks and that’s only three towns with no quests!  The next Pre-alpha test will be March 27-30.  See you in New Britannia!

Multi-Player Finally Available

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The third release of Shroud of the Avatar’s Pre-Alpha phase started at 10:30am CST and it is an exciting one as Multi-Player is ON! You get to meet up with other people in SotA – finally! Kirthag and Rhiannon decided to meet up in the new village of Braemar and interview players. Kirthag logged in as soon as the server opened up and found that her character made for the previous day’s Dev+ Happy Hour was still in Braemar! Rhiannon had to create a character and would appear in Owlshead – but with  the rush of so many others attempting to do the same, the lag was horrendous! Stress test indeed! So Kirthag gives everyone a brief peek at the Village of Braemar…

After about an hour, Rhiannon finally made her way into the game, but jumping the portals (switching maps) caused even more lag! It also doesn’t help that Rhiannon’s computer is well past its prime (it is 7 years old!). When the women finally got together, they went into Braemar and visited with players in the small tavern. Rhiannon interviewed Ghost Heretic for a bit and when attempting to leave, wound up stuck in the bar!

This Pre-Alpha release runs until Saturday, February 22 at 10pm CST. There has already been a couple of patches to fix things (like people getting stuck in buildings) and a dastardly memory-leak with map jumping. This is what the game needs – people to help find all the little issues so that Portalarium can produce a wonderfully awesome game for us all!

Talk about YOUR experiences during this release on the Stratics forum!

Creepiest Places in World Of Warcraft!

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We all have had that feeling, it’s a huge world, people everywhere, NPC´s, other players, Mobs both good and bad, but the feeling in these places is just shudder. Look over your shoulder creepy. And I’m not talking scary places, just places you don’t want to be in more than you have to or has some event that will creep the hell out of you.

Karazhan and Karazhan crypts

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This place is just horrifying. The first time you walk in, there are ghosts everywhere, song and dance, everything looks happy and joyful, well, it ain’t, it´s a creepfest from the start to the end. Everything is dead, yet still go about like normal and the deeper you go in Kara the creepier it gets, until you find the jewel: Karazhan Crypts and the lovely underwater grave of the Upside Down Sinners. Lovely place and a fitting end to the Karazhan exploration.

Duskwood

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Not any place in particular here. To me, the whole zone is just creepy and depressing, it has no light, no sun, no nothing, just darkness and long distances where one’s mind can wander and see things in the night. One of the places in WoW, where you just want to go and quest and get out of there as fast as humanly possible. And to top it off, there is one house, where there are voices and a ghostly figure called The Unseen. It´s a good place to quest, but the creepiness and the gloom of it all has made me change zones many times.

Deathknight starting area

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You might be thinking: Wot? But let me explain. Everything in this place is about death and dying. This place and Duskwood have the same effect on me. I just want to get away as fast as possible. You kill innocent townsfolk, for the fun of it. There is the one quest that epitomizes the whole ordeal. You have to go and kill your friend, it doesn’t matter what race you choose, there is an old friend to kill for everyone, but this also brings home what the whole area is all about and how Lich King is a douche and how the things you do are so very wrong.

Elwynn Forest

Creepy kids

And not only on RP servers. The only reason this gets mentioned here, is the CC, World Of Warcraft version of Children Of The Corn. The creepy kids, who move in a pentagram formation. And when you follow them into the house you hear the creepy sounds and voices. It would be less creepy with adults or ghouls, but when it´s kids involved, it ups the creep factor to 10. Just follow them around ans see it for yourself.

Barbershop in Stormwind

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This one is not that creepy, but it´s more of an Easter Egg if you will.  Have you heard the tale of  Sweeney Todd. Blizzard has, because, when you go to the barbershop in Stormwind, nothing seems out of place, sure the heads on the table are Goblin, but thats understandable. But when you go upstairs and check the right side of the table, you can clearly see that the former owners were retired, and I’m not that sure they had any say about it.

The Elder Scrolls Online – How Skyshards will Work

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Hey Guys and Girls Chris here and today im going to go over some of the information that we have for Skyshards in ESO and how they will work, how to find them and how and what you will benefit from them.

 

First off all this information is given to us from information gathered from news interviews, tweets and post that Zenimax online has given to the public.

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Skyshards can be found all over ESO’s world! They can be found in OPEN WORLD Only and not dungeons. This is try to get players to run around and explore to find them and have a better experiance. With that said we do know Skyshards are player instanced which means if ”Bob” Takes it, ”Larry” Can still take it and claim it. Here is a little video that you guys might enjoy and help you understand them a bit better! Make sure to follow and Tweet us here at stratics with questions!

 

 

 

 

 

World of Warcraft Starting new (1-10)

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As this is a new start for World Of Warcraft section of Stratics, I thought it would be suitable to make an article by starting a new character. This is by no means my first character, I have played since Wrath Of The Lich King, yes, I know, Wrathbaby and all that. I have no heirlooms, not even a bow, I’m trying to make the few hours leveling as authentic as possible. So I went to my home realm of Draenor EU, made a new hunter, an Orc hunter, called him Straticshot, cause I’m clever like that, and clicked Enter World.
So there I was, fresh noob from the The School Of Orc Hunters, ready to take on the World Of Warcraft, or at least Durotar for now, with my trusty boar. Will rename him later, until then, he is simply known as Boar. I haven’t started a new character in ages, so I was a bit excited to do this. The Orc starting area is still the same, first quest is to kill my pet’s relatives. Sad, but there is xp to be earned, no time for moral dilemmas. I returned the quest and just as I dinged level 2, I was invited to a guild, level 11 guild and that means I get a few of the perks, lovely perks, 10% xp bonus perks. That is a lot of xp in the long run. I informed my new guild who I am and what I do and that this character is only there for a few hours. It was met with complete silence, which I took as a nod of the head on the other side of the screen. I did all the starting area quests, got lost in the cave like a newbie, didn’t loot the Medallion and had to run back, you know, all the things that a new player might do… or even experienced player who is rusty at leveling.

After 24 minutes played time, I was level 5 and ready to take on the aforementioned Durotar. I went to Senjin Village and picked up the quests there. Met a few players along the way, asked how is their day and got no answers back, for an MMO players, they weren’t that social I must say. Anyway, I was again on my way, this time I was hunting Crawler Mucus, yes, because it is still there and it still takes 10 minutes to get them all. When I was coming back I saw a message in General chat about a level 90 Alliance DK, if you don’t know, Draenor EU is 99.9% Horde, well maybe not that much, but you get the idea. I had to see the 8th wonder of the world and went to take a look. As I got there, he was already dead and about 14 level 90 Horde players were also there, along with 10 level 5-10 newbies. I asked where they sell the tickets, but only got laughter.

As I was continuing my quests after multiple distractions, I finally had a chat with Raider whatshisname and his Dog and they kindly gave me a ride to Razor Hill. Now, I have not been there in a while and when I got there I was amazed by the amount of NPC´s that had landed there. Makes the place feel more alive and gives you a feeling that something is up. Even if you are lowbie! Again I went on my way to glory and fame and as I was killing LT. Palliter in the castle, I had my first answer from a player, two people actually accepted my group invite so we can all get the kill. Small victory in social gameplay.

The rest of the leveling in Razor Hill was rather uneventful, didn’t see many other players and it all started to feel like a grind, just going from quest to quest. But once I hit level 9 and headed towards Orgrimmar, my spirits picked up, mainly because of the Orc and his Cat who walks the road between Orgrimmar and Razor Hill. For the younger players, their names are just names, but for an older gamer like myself who was a kid in the 80´s and a teen in the 90´s Tednug and Scratcfever will always give a laugh.

When I got to the gates of Orgrimmar, I was only one level away from the magical level 10. So I returned the quest I got from Razor Hill and picked up new ones. Anyone who quested in Durotar before Cataclysm will remember the annoying little Goblin and his Orb. I will always do this quest with joy, I will get the orb from his cold, dead hands; well, in this case I will get his cold dead hand that is holding the orb. Grim, yes, but after the many many times the little goblin killed me, I don’t mind at all.

I returned all the quests and got my first green items, items with stats on them, the gloves with +1 intellect won’t do much for me, but it’s green! And I hit the magical level 10!! So I also got to pick my spec and as a non heirloomed hunter, I will put my boar to work and pick Beast Mastery, mind you, even if I had looms I would pick Beast Mastery, the proper way of leveling.

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SpartanJesters Share Melee Weapons Breakdown

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With permission from SpartanJesters (@spartanjesters), here’s a video breakdown on melee weapons in The Elder Scrolls Online. This highly anticipated game by Bethesda has many chomping at the bit wanting into the Beta. Any peek at the game is well worth watching, especially when it comes to fighting.

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Video Peek & Commentary from Stratics Friend

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Gamer-dude and video-blogger GhostlyTuna (@GhostlyTuna) gave us permission to share with our community his thoughts on WildStar. GhostlyTuna was lucky enough to check out the new game while attending the Eurogamer Expo recently, not just watching a demo but actually playing!

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Fans Create Art, Fiction, Music

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The Elder Scrolls Online’s (TESO) weekly community blog, The Tamriel Chronicle, publishes fan-created art, fiction, podcasts, and music on a weekly basis.  Issue #29, published Tuesday, features a wallpaper by Marc Konings, fan fiction by Harlwystyr, and music by Proxenos Papias.

Why do players do this? “They don’t do it for money,”  said best-selling fantasy author Lev Grossman (The Magicians). “That’s not what it’s about. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.”

TESO fans may submit their creations to: community@elderscrollsonline.com. Visit tumblr to see more creations by the TESO community.

– DeadBob
aka GD Deckard