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Examples of What Could Have Been in The Elder Scrolls series:


Arena

  • Arena was originally to be, about, well, arenas and gladiators. Then the developers put it into their home-brew Dungeons & Dragons setting and fell in love with the Wide Open Sandbox gameplay. The result was the epic role-playing series The Elder Scrolls. Promotional materials had already been made using the "Arena" name, so it was kept and Retconned to refer to the setting as a whole, in a metaphysical "arena of the gods" fashion.
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Daggerfall

  • Daggerfall was originally going to have a lot more content, including more guilds. Such as a necromancer guild, prostitute guild, and a guild called "Order of the Lamp"note . The wilderness was going to have more detail, such as roads and objects, NPCs as "Rival Heroes", furnishable houses (which could be robbed) and twice as many spells. And Bethesda planned on setting The Elder Scrolls II in the province of Morrowind. When this proved unfeasible, the setting was shifted to the High Rock and Hammerfell regions. However, Morrowind was eventually used for the third game.
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Morrowind

  • The blight was to originally be an expanding threat, and Dagoth Ur was originally to be joinable. Technical limitations axed the former, and time limitations axed the latter.
  • In very early planning, the game was almost called Tribunal and would have taken place in the Summerset Isles, homeland of the Altmer. Some preliminary artwork including cover art were produced in 1996 after Daggerfall's completion.
  • Original plans for the game had it taking place within the entire province of Morrowind, rather than just the island of Vvardenfell. The decision to also release the game for Xbox purportedly was the main reason for this, as the console probably couldn't have rendered that large a world. Notably, the ambitious mod project Tamriel Rebuilt is an attempt at actually realising this idea.
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  • There were plans for the game to feature every major Great House in Morrowind involved in a Mêlée à Trois against each other, with the Player Character eventually being asked to put an end to the conflict by allying with one of the houses and bring it to victory over the others. This idea would be scrapped in the early development phase.

Oblivion

  • Originally, there was going to be an arena in every city instead of just the one in the Imperial City. Most of the writing and scripting for this had already been done when the developers realised they instead needed to focus on a single arena and make that one better. As a result, 800 lines of dialogue were cut.
  • The amount of dialogue that had been written for the game was 60,000 to 70,000 lines. However, due to shipping on the Xbox 360 and thus having to fit the game onto a single DVD, this was cut down to 40,000 to 50,000 lines.
  • The original plan was to have one voice actor per race and gender. But again due to disc space limitations, the lines for some races had to be merged. Judging from the early gameplay trailers shown with Jeff Baker voicing both an Imperial and a Dunmer in their Morrowind voice, all of the voice actors from the previous game would reprise their roles for their respective races. Baker since voiced Haskill in the Shivering Isles expansion.
  • Oblivion is known for the awkwardness of its conversations. Some of this may be explained by the fact that – due to technical limitations with Bethesda's systems – the lines of dialogue in the scripts handed to the voice actors were sorted alphabetically instead of on a per-quest basis.
  • The initial descriptions of Cyrodiil in Redguard and Morrowind were much stranger and more fanciful than what ended up in the game, featuring river dragons, singing priests covered in robes made of moths, and living topiaries of the dead emperors that could speak and move their bodies with the help of birds. The retcon was only vaguely alluded to within the byzantine Mythic Dawn Commentaries, though it's more explicit in the more lore-savvy Skyrim, which turns an extracanonical explanation written by the writer who had described much of the original Cyrodiil into a Canon Immigrant.
  • There was going to be a PSP port, but it was cancelled.

Skyrim

  • If the file names seen in the editor for their equipment are any indication, the Stormcloaks were originally going to be called the Sons of Skyrim, with their officers being called the Sons of Talos.
  • It seems that the Civil War was originally going to have several new features, such as all five main holds being attacked by their opposing side, as well as new radiant quests, several more city sieges, the possibility of losing holds and having to recapture them, quests to recruit giants to your side, etc. Some of these features were Dummied Out rather than cut, and modders have attempted to put them back in, but fair warning, the results are buggy. At least some of these features were restored with apollodown's popular Civil War Overhaul mod. Sadly, this mod was taken down by the creator out of irritation that some people complained about making both armies more diverse.
  • According to rumors, there was going to be a Dark Brotherhood sidequest where Erikur commissions you to assassinate Elisif so he can become Jarl of Solitude. Thankfully, it never made it past the cutting board. An alternate take on that sidequest, "Boethiah's Bidding," was supposed to be a sequel to "Boethiah's Calling" and involved the same task. Some of the code is actually in the game, but the fact that it was never fully implemented makes the quest Unwinnable even if you force-start it with the console.
  • According to Todd Howard, shortly before working on Skyrim, Bethesda were in talks to make titles based on A Song of Ice and Fire; but, despite some heavy interest, they ultimately turned it down in order to continue developing The Elder Scrolls and their own lore. The return of the dragons and the Civil War (plots that feature heavily in both works) may also have been partially inspired by this, although this has yet to be confirmed by any official sources.
  • Miraak, from the Dragonborn DLC, had a bunch of lines cut from the final game. These lines make him more of an Anti-Villain (such as regretting having to kill you), and even hint that he was originally slated to live at the end of the main quest.
  • Mephala's Daedric Quest has some cut content that implies that Jarl Balgruuf would have been killed by his own children, with his brother Hrongar taking over as Jarl. Remnants of this are still hinted at within the quest, and the plot of Balgruuf's son having been corrupted by Mephala is never resolved.
  • Considering the dropped Balgruuf and Elisif murders in game, Skyrim as originally written would have been much more pro-Stormcloak, ultimately leaving the Empire with only one Reasonable Authority Figure Jarlnote , who's probably going to die of old age soon, with the remainder being scheming backstabbers. While Elisif's murder was dropped early in development, Balgruuf's made it all the way to early beta testing. It was ultimately the beta testers who pointed out that killing off reasonable authority figures on the Imperial side, especially the one who trusts the Dragonborn from the start of the game, made choosing to go Imperial a Shoot The Shaggy Dog Story and would ruin the moral ambiguity of the Civil War storyline that's loved today.
  • Mjoll the Lioness was going to have a lengthy questline in which the Dragonborn helped her take down the Thieves' Guild, along the lines of "Destroy the Dark Brotherhood," but this was scrapped for time. This is probably the reason that Mjoll has an essential flag - like many quest-giving NPCs, she was to remain unkillable until after the completion of her quest, and you can't complete her quest because you can't ever begin it.
  • There is an absolute metric ton of lines and dialogue cut from the game, and it's not just a case they were taken out as they are all still there and easily modded back in. Instead of the standard "arrow in the knee" and Welcome to Corneria comments followers and NPCs can have full on conversations with you, and each other.
  • For unknown reasons, if you no-clip past the borders of Skyrim, you'll find you can walk all the way to Morrowind and Cyrodiil. They're not at all detailed, just height maps with generic textures and a few landmarks (like the White Gold Tower), but they're still there... even though you'll never be able to reach them without cheats or, theoretically, Game Mods. Much of it is there for those instances when you can see beyond Skyrim from within the game's proper map. There are plenty of places inside Skyrim that do this, too. If you no clip through the walls of a city, you'll see a partially detailed map of the city again to provide the detail you'd see from certain vantage points even though the city interior is a different map. Likewise, when you're within a city, the exterior of Tamriel is all detailed this way, again to provide what you'd be able to see from within city walls. There's a mod called "Open Cities" that moves some of those cities into the Tamriel map. The Dragonborn DLC takes place in Solstheim, the island just north of Vvardenfell, where the events of Morrowind took place.
  • Michael Kirkbride said in a Reddit post that the banning of Talos would have a very devastating cosmic effect on Nirn. Namely, any attempt to depict the Red Diamond emblem in any form will have horrific consequences. A painter who paints it will have his painting turned into that of a 2D explosion. A blacksmith who forges it will have his work crumble after a while. A singer who describes the symbol in a song will cause anyone who listens to it to have their head exploded. Apparently, this was going to become a minor plot point, with Talos worshippers trying to figure out how to safely depict his emblem. Though the effect didn't make it into the game, the cracked Red Dragon symbol is a nod to this, and Kirkbride confirmed that the effect might appear in future titles.
  • Serana's voiceset includes a dying scream, despite Serana being forever flagged essential, even after full completion of the Dawnguard questline. It hints that, at some point in the game development, her death was possible.
  • One loading screen mentions users of the Lady Stone "regenerate their health and stamina much faster for awhile", implying the Lady Stone was initially planned to grant an active ability instead of a passive, permanent buff.

Spin-Offs

  • In the earliest stages, An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire was conceived as an expansion to Daggerfall, although it quickly became its own game spinning off from the main series.
  • A sequel to the spin-off game The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard entitled The Eye of Argonia was in early production. However low sales of Redguard and a desire by the developers to produce a true sequel to Daggerfall put an end to that game.
  • In The Elder Scrolls Online, Murkmire was supposed to be an Adventure Zone much like Craglorn but due to removing the Veteran format as well as retiring the Adventure Zones due to unpopularity, it was reformatted into a DLC story zone.
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