My first World of Warcraft experience

The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) was the title I chose for my contribution towards last month’s post about the best games to play at Christmas. It’s easy to get into, and you can do a couple of quests before getting down the controller and grabbing more chocolate.

I can’t say I booted it up during my time off work though. My two-week holiday began with the sort release I wouldn’t normally pick up but was inspired to try after watching a blogger-friend stream part of it recently: Yakuza 0. It won’t be one I’m likely to end up finishing due to its long length but I’m having fun with it for the time-being at least. This was followed by several days of World of Warcraft (WoW), my first real experience with this MMORPG and only my third online game.

It probably sounds strange that I’ve been gaming for over 30 years now and have never played it before. MMOs weren’t on my radar growing up in the 1990s because I was more interested in my beloved adventure genre; and this meant I didn’t have the opportunity to really learn how to use a keyboard-and-mouse outside of clicking. It’s caused me to always feel a little comfortable with team-based games due to my lack of coordination and so I tend to stay away from them.

Saying that though, I’ve sunk way too many hours into ESO over the years. I started off playing by myself in 2015 then roped my other-half into joining me, and we started playing on a weekly basis with Tim from Timlah’s Texts & Unity3D Tech and his partner Jake during our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20. Although they ran us through some dungeons and I was clearly the weakest player on our team, it wasn’t something taken too seriously so I never felt I had to worry about my performance.

When I first met Pete and started discussing video games with him, he told me he’d had a long history and many late nights with WoW although he hadn’t touched it since 2009. His brother still played however and whenever we went to see him, the pair would talk about his current adventures. I asked my other-half if he’d like to get back into it after one such visit and he declined, saying he didn’t have the time; but I think this had more to do with his worry that I’d get frustrated with trying to play with him due to my lack of skill with a keyboard-and-mouse.

In mid-November though, Ellen from Ace Asunder began streaming and several mornings were spent watching her work her way through battlegrounds in the MMO on Twitch. Seeing how much fun she was having made Pete feel the WoW itch again and we somehow ended up organising to play with her and friend-of-the-blog Phil. I made an account and the four of us spent New Year’s Eve jumping from quest to quest until 01:30 in the morning, then making it up to level 37 after a few more sessions in the following week.

World of Warcraft, WoW, woman, warrior, Paladin, mountains, sky, view

Are the keyboard-and-mouse controls frustrating me? Yes, and I’ll have a tantrum about them occasionally. But after several restarts to find a character I feel comfortable with and making use of Pete’s old keypad, I’m doing a lot better than I was initially. I’ve finally settled on a Paladin named ‘Laterlevels’ (how original) because this fits in with the odd way I like to play RPGs: I always want to do a bit of everything rather than being confined to a single role so here I’m able to tank, heal and do damage.

Before you say anything, I know you’re not supposed to play like this; you’re meant to pick your class and stick with it so you become an expert at what you do. But I’m lucky enough to be playing with a group of friends who accept my quirk and are more interested in hanging out than me gitting gud. Whenever I’m not sure what I’m meant to do be doing or make a mistake in-game, they don’t criticise me for it or make me feel like a bad player – they give advice or lend a helping hand.

It makes me feel like I’m a part of the team and that’s what makes it fun. We’ll follow Phil as we head towards the next quest, take on rare spawns when they appear in the hope that Ellen will get another pet to add to her collection, and watching Pete regularly fall off cliffs. And while we’re doing all that, we’ll chat about our day and what’s going on in the world. This social interaction is the lockdown equivalent of hanging out with colleagues at lunch-time or meeting with friends in the pub after work.

There are only two things bothering me slightly, the first being that I’m not paying any attention to what the quests involve. We tend not to read the descriptions and simply head off to the next adventure after the last one. I think this would be different if I were playing WoW on my own, because I’d be doing it for the story; but being with a group means the social aspect has replaced this need and become more important than the narrative. I feel a little sorry for the writers and know I should be paying more attention to the effort they’ve put into the game.

World of Warcraft, video game, WoW, Phil, Pete, Kim, Ellen, witch

And then there are stairs – especially those damn spiral staircases in confined spaces. I can guarantee I’ll fall off every single one of them at some point upwards and if they have a bannister, you know my character will get caught on it coming down. I’m getting better at movement with more practice over time but I always seem to struggle with stairs, so I’m grateful to Ellen for letting me hitch a ride on one of her dragons or Mekgineer’s Chopper whenever I’m getting particularly frustrated.

It’s hard to say whether I’m preferring WoW to ESO right now; I think it would be more correct to say that it’s different. I do find the latter easier though because it’s possible to play with a controller and I’m used to how certain things work, like the camera and movement directions, after having sunk over 240 hours into it. But I’m sure this will come in time with WoW too and eventually I won’t need my teammates to give me a lift (although I’ll probably still accept because who doesn’t want to ride a dragon).

We’ve chosen not to stream our escapades so far. I’m not sure I’d feel entirely comfortable with the game being shown from my point-of-view while I’m still learning the ropes as I’d be too conscious about what I was doing onscreen to enjoy playing. I guess it could be something we consider in the future though once the controls feel natural. Who knows, WoW might become part of our #DaysForDonations challenge for GameBlast21 if we keep up our aim of playing at least once a week.

Being able to play with friends might encourage me to branch out into other MMOs in the future but I’m not sure I’d want to go it alone with strangers. Right now, I’m going to stick with hanging out with Pete, Ellen and Phil in Wow and seeing if we can increase Ellen’s pet collection.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

Competition and curses: a parents’ responsibility

Video games have been a positive force during the COVID-19 lockdown here in the UK. As well as being entertainment during additional free hours, they’ve given me the chance to keep in touch with friends and hang out with them online.

Because of this, any negative aspects hadn’t crossed my mind and so receiving an email with the subject THESE Gamers Are The Most Antagonistic recently was something of a comedown. Commissioned by a resource for fans of online slot machines (I have absolutely no idea how I ended up on that random distribution list), the report tried to discover which gamers were the most aggressive and unfriendly according to their platform of choice and preferred multiplayer title.

I’m going to point out here that I’m not entirely comfortable with this company’s business or how they collected their data and so I’ve chosen not to link to them. They utilised Google search volume tools to find the number of people looking to report users in connection with the 42 most popular online games over the past 12 months, before asking almost 2,000 gamers around the world a series of somewhat leading questions: for example, ‘Have you had your day ruined by other online gamers?’

Despite my reservations and the fact the findings should be taken with a pinch of salt, they’re interesting. It appears Xbox users are more hostile than PlayStation owners as there are 1,080 more searches annually from them looking to report others for bad behaviour. To quote the report: “There are hundreds of online complaints about users who seek to anger others through Xbox Live chats. On average, each year there are 166,920 searches from players looking to complain or report other Xbox Live accounts.”

The thing that caught my attention though was the list of top-ten titles with the most antagonistic players. Somewhat unsurprisingly thanks to it being free and attracting huge fan-base, in first place was Fortnite: “There are countless stories from innocent users who claim that fellow Fortnite players ruin the game by citing abusive and toxic language. Each month there are 3,750 searches from players looking to report one another for hostile behaviour – that’s equivalent to 45,000 each year!”

Other releases that made the list included Roblox, Overwatch, Minecraft and Rocket League. These are all games either previously or currently played by my teenaged stepson and, according to Ethan, most of the boys in his year at school spend their free time hanging out with each other in them online. Regardless of whether these kids are the ones doing the reporting or contributing to the vitriol, I wonder how involved the parents are in their gaming lives and to what extent they’re aware of what’s going on.

We had a recent experience ourselves, which some people may already know about after we shared the story during a stream. Ethan doesn’t realise how loud he gets when he’s on his Xbox but the bonus of this is that Pete and I can hear everything going on without having to snoop on him. One evening while playing Overwatch with his friends, we caught him using the term ‘slut’ to refer to who he believed to be a female player on the opposite team – and he was busted for it over dinner.

He mentioned their handle when we asked why he thought this other player was female, so we explained to him that judging someone on their name was wrong and could lead to discrimination. Ethan’s excuse for his conduct was that he ‘only said it so his team could hear’ and ‘everyone else was saying it’ but we told him this wasn’t any sort of justification. Saying derogatory things like that wouldn’t only cause others to look at him in a certain light but could also encourage them to adopt or continue the same inappropriate behaviour.

It was when I asked him how he’d feel if someone online called me a slut that the point really hit home and he apologised. We then went on to discuss how trash-talking is often a part of online gaming, but you can be competitive and still be respective of the people you’re playing with. Personal attacks are just a nasty reflection of your own poor skills and, if you see a player struggling with the game, isn’t it better to offer them some friendly advice to help them improve?

Duane from Bar Harikuya published a great post last month which, while being about a different subject, contains a point which is very relevant here. He said: “It only becomes a problem because of poor education, and by that, I don’t mean at school (though there’s still room for improvement there), I mean the education that they receive from the environment they live in… You might say kids will be kids, but if I’d have ever heard any of my kids use homophonic, sexist or racist slurs I would be sure to educate them on why that’s not acceptable.”

If you have young children and decide to let them play video games, it’s your responsibility to educate them on how to use them responsibly. This includes teaching your kids that games don’t always have to be about violence and explosions; that it isn’t necessary to be a ‘perfect gamer’ in terms of skill if you’re having fun; and why inclusivity in gaming can only be a good thing. And it most certainly covers how to behave respectfully towards others in online multiplayer games.

I can’t in good conscience say that the findings of the report above are accurate, but they do show that an awful lot of people have tried to find out how to report others for toxic behaviour over the past year. Whether that’s because they’ve been the subject of hostility themselves or they’re considering making a fake report out of aggression, it doesn’t really matter: what’s important here is that none of us need that kind of negativity in our lives right now.

We’ve been in and out of lockdown for almost nine months in the UK, and our nerves are frayed due to how tired we are with the situation. We’re all looking for ways to pick ourselves back up by bringing positive moments into our lives and for many of us, that involves gaming. Video games should always be a source of entertainment, relaxation, joy and friendship – not an online world someone is afraid to enter because they’re worried about the sort of treatment they’ll find there.

The next time you or your kid pick up the controller for a match, remind them and yourself that it’s within your power to put a smile on the face of someone else online through your behaviour. And if we can all achieve that, then these current times will be a little bit easier for everyone.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)

Eel-ing better: fishing in ESO

I’ve had an on-off addiction to The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) since first trying it during the Christmas holidays in 2015. I’ll go through periods where I’ll play it at every possible moment at the expense of other games, then I won’t touch it for several months.

The last time I properly played was at the start of this year during our streams for GameBlast20. Finding video games to play every evening for 50 days proved to be rather difficult but ESO was our saviour: not only was it easy to dip back into it with the absence of a steep learning curve, we were able to regularly hook up with a few friends who were playing at the same time. You’d often find me joining my other-half, Phil, and Tim and Jake from Timlah’s Texts & Unity3D Tech for a dungeon or two in the evenings.

It wasn’t all just fighting long-dead draugers and killing giant spiders though. Sometimes we’d leave the dungeons behind and do something completely different instead. For example, there was an entire session spent in what was essentially an ESO-version of MTV Cribs: after Tim and Jake showed us around their sprawling mansion and we’d transformed ourselves into monkeys using their Fan of the False-Face, they guided Pete on a tour through the various abodes available to players and then helped him decorate once he’d chosen a home.

After our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 had been completed in February, we put down our controllers and that was it for ESO. Pete had achieved what he’d set out to do and had finally levelled up a character enough to become a Champion; and I was eager to return to my beloved adventure genre, having not played many point-and-clicks over the past two months because they weren’t particularly great for streaming. Although the game was left installed on our laptops, we signed out and didn’t go back to it.

That was until earlier this month. As I wrote at the end of July, lockdown gaming was turning my hobby into a task that felt more like work and it was starting to feel like something I did more to just pass the time than enjoy. Add to this the fact that most of the upcoming releases I’d been looking forward to had been delayed thanks to COVID-19 and there was nothing I was absolutely itching to play; I was just going through the motions, because what sort of video game blogger doesn’t play video games?

A couple of weeks ago, Athena from AmbiGaming published a great post with the title Old Friends and New Adventures: COVID-19 and Comfort Gaming which talked about nostalgia and the exposure effect. She said: “We take comfort in the familiar. Our brains process a familiar event and recognise it as something that it has survived, and therefore it is not something that poses a mortal danger to us, compared to this Unknown Thing that, despite appearances, might not be as satisfying / benign / good for us.”

The Elder Scrolls Online, video game, tankard, inn, drink, woman, barman

I think this explains why I found myself opening ESO once again at the start of August and downloading the latest patches. With uncertainty about my work and concern for my family slowly gnawing away at my sense of stability, I felt as though I was floating and waiting for something to come down (to quote Athena again). I wanted to do something to take my mind off everything happening around me and all these things I couldn’t control, and I needed that thing to be something which felt safe and familiar.

But instead of returning to my old character, I decided to create a new one so I could ease myself in with the early quests. Surely it was just a coincidence that this new Wood Elf rather resembled by old one and even had the same alliance and class! This time was going to be different though, I told myself. This time around I’d complete the areas I’d already covered in my previous playthroughs, then explore new islands with a view to sticking with it and perhaps finally completing all the missions.

However, I found myself still in the starting location of Vvardenfell several days later and not having done much outside of the first few main quests. I was far too busy running around the countryside with the important task of collecting butterflies and netches for fishing bait. If I’d jumped back into ESO yet again, I was going to do it properly – and that meant making sure I had enough suitable bait to be able to catch every single rare fish in each location and earn myself those achievements.

I have a long history with fishing in this game. I’d previously bagged the Morrowind Master Angler achievement during our 50-day challenge but failed to get the Grahtwood Angler title thanks to one lousy creature. I was struggling to get the Thrassian Eel and so, as you’re more likely to catch a rare fish when others join you, I enlisted the help of Phil. The only problem was that he ended up catching that flipping eel for himself every time we fished together while I walked away empty handed.

After a few weeks of hanging around the shores in ESO and wondering just how many insect parts one Wood Elf can carry, I think my time with the game may be drawing to a close once again. The situation right now may still be unsettling; redundancies loom at work although my position isn’t at risk for the time-being, the UK is officially in recession and the number of daily coronavirus cases is on the increase. But my brief break in Vvardenfell I feel a bit more able to deal with these things mentally now.

I’m also starting to feel that familiar itch of desire to play something again, to take on a new challenge and discover a new story. As Athena explained in her post: “…grabbing a new game, playing through it, and completing – or beating – it is a way for us to vanquish a fear of the unknown. After all, that’s exactly what we’ve done: willingly put ourselves into an unknown situation, and survived it, or, dare I say, even thrived in it, if we successfully made it to the end. And isn’t that a nice feeling?”

I recently downloaded Lighthouse: The Dark Being from after hearing about it during the Ages Before Myst talk during Mysterium 2020 at the beginning of the month. I’m surprised I’ve never come across it before; this title was released in October 1996 as was Sierra Online’s response to the success of Myst and I think it might be just what I need right now. It has that comforting nostalgia I get from old adventure games, but it’s a whole new adventure I haven’t yet experienced.

I’m sure I’ll go back to ESO at some point in the future because I always do. And one day, I’m going to catch that damn eel.

Plea of Thieves: peaces of eight

One of my favourite things about video games, other than narratives, is exploration. I love the feeling of being transported to somewhere wonderful and given a new world to discover, not knowing what lies in store around the next corner or over that mountain in the distance.

This is the reason I find myself always returning to The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). I might put the controller down for a while after playing it constantly for several weeks, but you can guarantee I’ll end up going straight back to it after a few months. It’s thanks to Solarayo from Ace Asunder (my gorgeous partner for The Great Blog Crawl event) that I’ve reinstalled it again recently after she decided to try it for herself during the lockdown. It’s amazing how quickly you get back into it and it feels as though you’ve never been away.

video game, The Elder Scrolls Online, Argonian, female, lizard, woman, book, reading, library

There are so many things to enjoy about this game. Find a book and the tales within help create a world which feels living, with its own history and colour. Dungeons provide plenty of action if you’re brave enough. And when you’re tired of slaying monsters, you can head in any direction and simply run because there’s all sorts of other things waiting out there. A villager who’ll reveal some local gossip, a hunter chasing a fox, a clifftop with a beautiful view; all simple events that don’t have any real impact on your journey but ones which add more depth to your adventure.

This partly explains why I’ve always been keen to give Sea of Thieves a go, even though it’s taken me over two years to get around to doing it. I can’t deny that my fondness for the Monkey Island series has helped too: there’s just something about swashbuckling characters who are out to seek their fortune which is attractive. The blue waves, sandy white shores, swaying foliage and shadowy caves of Rare’s 2018 release always appeared as though they were hiding plenty of secrets and buried treasure.

So why such a long delay? Well, as I’ve written before, I’ve never been all that keen on competitive titles. Long workdays, family commitments and adult responsibilities mean I don’t have enough time – or the desire – to improve my skills to an adequate level to be able to compete. The lockdown may have given a lot of us more time to play video games but in my ‘normal’ life, it seems pointless spending the few free hours I have being slated by my teammates for not being good enough.

But when friend-of-the-blog Phil offered to give me an overview, I gratefully accepted. Here was my chance to finally try out Sea of Thieves without being made to feel completely useless by a group of strangers online and I knew he’d be patient with my lack of hand-eye coordination. In preparation for our session, I created a character (a blonde-haired pirate in honour of Guybrush Threepwood) and worked my way through the short tutorial, trying to remember the buttons so I wouldn’t let our small team down. So far, so good.

In fact, the Maiden Voyage section captured exactly what I thought the game would be like in my head. You awake on a dessert island and are greeted by the ghost of the Pirate Lord who kindly guides you through the controls. You’re given the opportunity to explore after finishing with him and this was exactly what I wanted: beautiful beaches, tranquil waterfalls, abandoned caves, secrets notes and the promise of treasure. If the rest of the title was like this, I immediately knew it was going to be one I enjoyed.

And for the first hour, it was. Phil showed me where the Mysterious Stranger was so I could find out more about the three Trading Companies; where the Gold Hoarders were located so I could collect our first voyage from them; and how to loot barrels for food and cannon balls. Less usefully, he also showed me how to drink enough grog to make your character throw up – and then how to catch the vomit in a bucket and throw it over your teammates (that’s just his sense of humour). After spending a short time at the Outpost, it was time to hit the seas.

I’ll admit, he thankfully did most of the work while we sailed but I tried to help where I could and not get in the way. I could see here why playing with a team was beneficial because there were several jobs to take care of at once, including steering the ship and angling the sails. We made it to the spot marked on our map and finally set out to find some treasure on a small island – after I was momentary distracted by how cute the snakes were and became sidetracked with chasing a pig along the beach.

The good news was that we eventually managed to find what we were looking for. The bad news is that we also found other players.

Before we could even make it to our ship with our loot, we were ambushed by a team of four others. Obviously I’d predicted this because Sea of Thieves is a competitive multiplayer; but what I didn’t expect was just how relentless this group would be. They kept knocking me down repeatedly and were waiting for me every time I respawned. They even ignored our white flag once we’d raised it and after my fifth death in a row, I gave up trying to defend myself or attack them back. Was this supposed to be fun?

Sea of Thieves, video games, sea, beach, island, ships, pirates

I was aware we’d eventually end up in battles with other players. But I hadn’t expected it to happen so quickly, and I was hoping I would have been given more time to prepare for it. The initial enjoyment of sailing in our boat, discovering dessert islands and even being crushed by a massive Kraken eventually sunk below the waves, along with my desire to continue playing. That was the one and only time I played Sea of Thieves; I’ve now uninstalled it from our Xbox One and I’m sure I’ll ever bother returning to it.

Don’t get wrong: I completely understand that the cause of my disappointment with the game was me. I’d been focusing on the exploration elements I’d been attracted to and not what the title fundamentally was – an online action-adventure multiplayer where participants strive to become a Pirate Legend. When it became apparent that what I was searching for here wouldn’t be delivered in the way I wanted it to be, and the gameplay was going to be far more competitive than I could ever get into, I couldn’t help but feel short-changed.

I spoke to Phil about this the following day and he mentioned a thread on the Sea of Thieves forum, where someone had posted a suggestion for a peaceful mode for ‘people who just want to complete voyages and not be bothered by other pirates’. I checked it out for myself and was surprised by how many negative responses they’d received. Comments such as ‘I’m pretty sure it says in the name SEA OF THIEVES not sea of peace’ were not only grammatically incorrect, but not very respectful.

I don’t get it. Why would certain players feel so hostile towards the implementation of a new mode which didn’t change anything about the competitive aspect they enjoyed, but had the benefit of welcoming different kinds of players into the community? Rare would expand their customer-base as a result and could potentially use the extra profit earned to implement further improvements to the game, and surely that’s a win-win situation for everybody? If being a pirate means I must deal with scallywags like the people on that forum, it doesn’t seem so appealing any longer.

Have you ever wanted to play a game in a way other than it’s been designed? And how do you feel about exploration or non-competitive modes in new releases? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Book of Travels: choose your own journey

There may be a few more weeks to go before 2019 ends, but it’s a pretty safe bet what my game-of-the-year will be. Unless something comes along next month and absolutely blows me away, Eastshade by Eastshade Studios is the title which is now on my favourites list.

It’s one of the most beautiful releases I’ve ever played, both in terms of feeling and artwork. Imagine picking up an open-world RPG where you can meet colourful characters, do your bit to help them and take in wonderful scenery but without any enemies or fighting to put you on guard. This lack of action won’t appeal to all gamers but for those looking for a calming experience, it means you can fully absorb its atmosphere and bask in Eastshade’s rosy glow.

It was bittersweet when the end credits rolled because I just didn’t want to leave and I’ve been looking for a game with similar feels since. So when I received an email this month about the Kickstarter campaign for Book of Travels, it seemed like just the thing I’d been waiting for. Shelter and Meadow developer Might and Delight is advertising its new project as a ‘serene online RPG’, and there’s something about the description on the Steam page that makes me think of Eastshade.

I’d normally begin posts like this with a description of the title’s storyline but Book of Travels is somewhat unique. As art director and co-founder Jakob Tuchten said himself in the promotional video, this is going to be a very different sort of MMORPG experience. It takes place in a world called Braided Shore inspired by classical fairytales and Eastern mythologies, and focuses on social roleplaying, exploration and non-linear narratives in a beautiful place with darkness at its edges.

Players are encouraged to explore and find their own stories rather than having a plot forced upon them. You’ll encounter random events such as meeting a group of townsfolk, watching a flock of deer or striking up a conversation with a travelling merchant; and these will either require your immediate attention or inspire you to seek out particular places and leads. There’s no overarching goal and no real beginning or end so ultimately you’re in charge of shaping your journey.

There are some traditional RPG elements however including crafting, trading and, unlike Eastshade, combat. You’ll also be able to create your own character and select their skills but what’s new here is that they’ll also be given a unique backstory and personality traits, making them a protagonist with real depth. During their journey they’ll learn how to use physical abilities, passive powers and Knotcraft: a means of communication but also a method of conjuring magical energies.

Might and Delight are calling Book of Travels a ‘tiny multiplayer online’ (TMO) as they’re building a world with a lot of content, but with few players on each server. The aim of this is to make temporary alliances meaningful and turn your encounters into powerful experiences. You won’t miss out if you prefer to wander alone but the game is tailored to be exciting when travelling with a group of new-found friends, because the intention is to create a multiplayer culture based on collaboration rather than PvP.

Your choices and interactions with the world and other players may have effects you wouldn’t usually see an in RPG. Events that are usually trivialised in such releases are instead made into strong emotional moments here. For example, witnessing a death will weigh more heavily on your character for each day that passes; but once you can visit the deceased’s resting place, your grief will transform into a new kind of energy that will spur you forward.

At the time of writing, the campaign for Book of Travels is already 617% funded and six stretch goals have been met – and there’s still around a week left to go on the clock so there’s time to show your support! Head over to the Kickstarter page for more details and follow Might and Delight on Twitter to stay up-to-date on their progress.

Cooking up a Stormcloak

Regular Later Levels visitors will be aware of my on-off obsession with The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). Since being introduced to the game, I’ve had regular bouts of playing it non-stop before calling it quits for several months – only to go back to the MMORPG a short time later.

My addiction resurfaced again this year as a result of receiving a message from Tim at GeekOut UK asking me what ESO was like. After telling him it was Skyrim-but-with-other-people, he purchased the PC version and became hooked himself. He convinced his partner Jake to join him, then persuaded me and my other-half to move away from the PlayStation version, and now we can all be regularly found online chatting away in the guild chat. It’s the first time I’ve actually played for long enough to reach Champion points so the obsession isn’t going away.

For Tim’s birthday it therefore made sense to surprise him with a copy of The Elder Scrolls: The Original Official Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. Pete and I had read a few reviews online and seen photographs that readers had posted of their attempts at the recipes, so we thought it might be something he’d enjoy. Our gift must have gone down well because it wasn’t long after that we received a picture of the Sweetrolls Tim and Jake had made – and they looked so good that I promptly ordered a copy for myself so I could get my bake on.

The book itself is lovely and even if you’re not fond of cooking, it’s a nice purchase. Each chapter contains details about the food preferences of each culture in Tamriel along with notes on the celebrations of each region and the dishes made for these. Over 60 recipes are split between seven sections all the way from starters to desserts, with each being photographed in a typically Elder Scrolls setting. A single Sweetroll upon a metal plate is shown on a crate in a snowy setting with a sleeping bag in the background, for example.

I recently tried the recipe myself and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Quietschisto from RNG had warned me the dishes featured within The Original Official Cookbook catered for a sweet-tooth and it could therefore be wise to reduce any sugary ingredients by around 20%. The Sweetrolls were the opposite however: quite light in texture and more bread-like than cake, and nowhere near as sweet as we expected them to be. My other-half has even asked me to add more honey when I make them next time!

The recipes themselves are easy to follow but the instructions sometimes fall into too-vague territory. For example, being told to ‘cook until soft’ while making Goatherd’s Pie isn’t specific enough for me; I like to be given timings so I’ve got a guideline to base my cooking on. It’s also worth pointing out for those of you in the UK that all the measurements in the book are given in US cups rather than grams so you’ll need to so some converting.

Saying that though, it’s not going to stop me from trying out the Oatmeal Raisin Shortbread. And I’ve had a request from my other-half to make the Orsimer Venison and Juniper Lamb Chops. Below are the photographs from my Sweetroll attempt – feel free to share your own in the comments if you have any!

Sweetroll recipe photo gallery

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