This is a summary of the Skype meeting that took place on Sunday; March 16, 2014 based on my notes. The topic of the discussion was the themes of Morrowind.
Some main themes suggested during the meeting:
- Immersion in an unknown land. Getting lost in an environment that gradually reveals itself to the player as they uncover secrets and information about the world, meeting bizarre, inexplicable things along the way.
- An end of an era. A general feeling of pessimism in the tone of dialogue and events. There's the feeling society is being shaken from its foundations, and that the player is boarding a ship that is sinking.
- Flawed leadership. Authority figures across the province, both Imperial and Dunmer, are not the pinnacles of virtue they are made out to be. A major part of the game, including the whole story arc of the Tribunal, is discovering their imperfections, flaws and betrayals.
- Moral ambiguity. Morrowind allows the player to take different ideological stances before forcing them to take sides. The best stories build up both sides, causing the player to grow attachments and see the pros and cons of every conflict.
- Role-Playability. The player should be able to roleplay who their characters are, and what they stand for within the framework of the game. This includes accommodating for the multiple different in-game reasons a character might join a particular faction.
- A clash between Imperial and native interests. This one is rather self-explanatory.
- Colonialism. The Imperials are occupying and exploiting the natural resources of a province they don't understand and are not suited for. At the same time, Imperial society is decaying. The Empire is falling apart, even before the opening of the Oblvion gates in the years to come.
- Hostile environment; hostile people. The Dunmer's xenophobia should be expanded on, especially in areas where Dunmer culture is unbroken, such as the Dres heartland.
- Going native. The player is becoming enveloped in Morrowind's culture and fate as they go through the game, eventually becoming a cultural hero for the entire province. In the words of Caius Cosades, the player should focus on local matters and making the situation in the province better.
- Modernity vs. Tradition. Conservative and progressive forces are in conflict across the province, a case in point being the Dissident Priest movement. Each Great House also has a more progressive councilor, for both narrative and gameplay purposes.
Some other points:
- Morrowind is made up of key players at various points in society, including God-level, King-level and Farmer-level characters.
- Each Great House represents a Dunmer stereotype played to its extremes. They represent a piecemeal sketch of deeply rooted and complex society.
- Dunmer culture should be more built up on the mainland, compared to Vvardenfell, where Imperial colonialists have a greater presence.
- The nature of the Nine Divines should be explored further in the mainlands Imperial Cult questline.
- The Imperial Archaeological Society should represent the non-magic side of the Imperial's scholarly efforts. The natives should view their antics with suspicion, thinking it best to leave well enough alone, but won't mind as long as the Society doesn't tamper with their ancestral tombs. This naturally could be a source of conflict.
- There should be a St. Veloth pilgrimage questline on the mainland. The player will go from shrine to shrine following his path eastward, discovering the story of Veloth's initial crossing of the Dunmer's new homeland.