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ESO Live - Introducing Loremaster Leamon Tuttle

Librarian Comment: 

This is a transcript of the interview portion of the March 15th ESO Live show. It has been was transcribed by Lady Nerevar and has been lightly edited for clarity. The original show can be seen here.

Gina: So...We have a new loremaster.

Jessica: What!

Gina: It's Leamon.

Jessica: Hi Leamon!

Leamon: Hi, how's it going.

Gina: Leamon Tuttle. You've been on the show a couple times before, but as a writer.

Leamon: Yeah.

Jessica: And now this new role. How do you feel?

Leamon: Uh, you know, intimidated? Nah, it's good, I'm excited about it.

Gina: You need more beard.

Leamon: I can't do that.

Gina: It just stops there.

Leamon: Genetics. It's not going to get any longer than this. I'm sorry everyone.

Gina: You know, give it time. When he starts graying out --

Leamon: We'll see.

Gina: He'll look more like Gandalf. It's going to happen.

Leamon: Don't hold your breath.

Gina: So, what um… you've been on the show a little bit before, kind of talking about what you do, but for anyone who isn't familiar with you, what did you do here at ZOS before you were Loremaster?

Leamon: So, I did a lot here. I started in QA, moved to be a senior in QA, and then I transitioned to associate content designer for a while, moved up to a regular content designer, and then made the transition from content design to writing.

Gina: Now, content design, you make all the quests and stuff essentially.

Leamon: Right. Exactly. That's more hands on with the tools in terms of creating the quest steps, how everything works, nuts and bolts.

Leamon: Then I transitioned to the writing team, I was senior writer there, and then they saw fit to promote me to Loremaster, which you know, hopefully was the right decision. We'll find out.

Gina: We'll find out soon enough, right?

Jessica: So, who are some of your favorite characters that you created, or helped create in ESO.

Leamon: Oh man. I think we might have some queued up, I don't know. One of my favorites was probably one of the first ones that I did, which was the Drake of Blades. I don't know how many people have interacted with her, she's in the Imperial City, there's kind of a smaller player base there. But she was cool, she's like an assassin who is also on the spectrum, so she's a neat type of character that we hadn't seen before, I thought. I really dug her, she's fun.

Jessica: Do we have a photo of her? The Drake of Blades?

Leamon: I don't know.

Gina: Now, when you say you kind of created her, what parts of that? Is it just her lines in the game, or do you also have a hand in what she looks like? What her personality is?

Leamon: Yeah, I mean, the writers, we get to, along with the content designers, make those determinations about what they should look like. The content designers are probably more really responsible for what the actual quest activity is. But dialog, that's mostly the writers. She was a lot of fun to write for, for sure.

Leamon: And then, gosh, who else. Revus Demnavani, the wacky walking disaster Telvanni guy.

Jessica: I just did some quests with him last night.

Leamon: Yeah, he's a lot of fun. Actually, Jess' husband and I worked together on that, which was cool. He's a lot of fun, he's a goofball. I like funny characters, so.

Gina: You're a pretty funny guy yourself.

Leamon: Thank you. Funny looking.

Gina: Haha, you said it.

Leamon: And then, who are we talking about after that?

Jessica: Xukas?

Leamon: Xukas! That's right. Xukas is one of your buddies in Murkmire, he's a Bright-Throat, he was a lot of fun to write for as well. He's kind of laid back in a way that most of the heroes aren't, which, you know, he's kind of a lazy lizard. The interplay between him and Jaxsik-Orrn, who is the Naga… both of those characters are really fun to write for.  

Leamon: Actually, before Xukas, on Summerset, I also wrote for the Augur of the Obscure, which is another kind of like goofy fan favorite. He was --

Jessica: Talking crystal skull.

Leamon: Yeah! Yeah. He was just fun to write. Cause he's just silly and says stuff that's just complete nonsense. That's fun to write.

Gina: Kinda like me.

Leamon: Yeah.

Jessica: And then of course there's the one everyone knows you for…

Leamon: Yeah, Sotha Sil man.

Gina: Yeah, big deal.

Leamon: Clockwork guy. Yeah, he was fun to write. Sotha Sil is like, you know, is a perfect example of everybody kind of credits me with "oh, Leamon developed Sotha Sil," but it was, everything in game design and in life, generally, is a team effort. A lot of people contributed to Sotha Sil, particularly Andrew Young, one of our senior content designers, the two of us would knock our heads around in conference rooms for hours talking about "what's his deal" and whatever. I got to write the Truth in Sequence stuff, which is all the crazy deep lore for Sotha Sil and everything. We had a blast with him, and people seem to really dig him, so that's rewarding for sure.

Jessica: He's definitely a fan favorite.

Gina: A lot of people really dig you right now, cause they're like "oh my god, you did all these things "and you did even more things too!

Jessica: Those are just the favorites.

Gina: But we don't have all night. So, what was sort of the process of you becoming Loremaster? Like, that's a pretty big deal, right? Did Lawrence do any crazy rituals?

Leamon: Yeah, no, I wasn't summoned to a throne room or anything.

Gina: Someone put you in an office and was like, "you're it."

Leamon: Honestly, I was shocked when I heard that he was leaving, cause he's like a mainstay of ZOS. So that was, just getting over that initial shock, took a while. But yeah, they thought that the work that I'd been doing so far was cool, and they thought that I had a really firm grip on the lore, so they offered me the gig and I took it.

Gina: You're like hm, do I want this? Yes.

Leamon: Haha. You can always screw up, right?

Gina: It's a big deal position!

Leamon: It really, really is. People really care about this stuff. And I really care about it too. I remember I went home and I talked to my wife and I was like, "I don't know, what if I screw up?" And she was like, "Leamon, you know what you're doing, if you think you can do it, you can do it." So full speed ahead.

[A "lemon turtle"appears on the screen. It's a colored pencil drawing of a turtle with the body of a lemon, wearing a wizard hat and a big beard.]

Leamon: Hey, it's the lemon turtle!

Jessica: So this was actually, I've got to give a shout out to one of our players, MDJessup4906.

Leamon: Put it back up. There it is!

Jessica:That is Loremaster Lemon Turtle.

Gina: Can we pat his little head?

[Gina, Leamon, and Jess all attempt to pet and prod the digital overlay of the turtle]

Leamon: You'll be surprised to hear, I know people that started the lemon turtle thing… you'll be surprised to hear, I'm sure, that I've been called that for a really long time.

Gina: You don't say!

Leamon: Yeah, that is not new.

Jessica: Doesn't bother you?

Leamon: No, when you grow up with a name like Leamon Tuttle, after a while --

Gina: I just call him Tuts.

Leamon: -- it all rolls off. It's weird.

Gina: Loremaster Tuts.

Jessica: Walk us through a day in the life of a loremaster for ESO. What is it like?

Leamon: I'm still figuring that out, to be honest. I've been on the job for what, like two weeks? So there's a lot of transitions in terms of, you know… Lawrence was a force of nature, and he was taking care of like a billion different things.

Jessica:And he could pronounce *everything*

Leamon: Yes.

Gina: Yees. Can you do that?

Leamon: In that ridiculous voice of his. No, I can try. If we just had like a vocab quiz…

Gina: I'm sure you'd do better than the rest of us.

Leamon: I don't know. Maybe. Lawrence was crazy too, because he had that like voice where he could like --

Jessica: The theater voice.

Leamon: -- read the phonebook and make it sound like a Homeric epic. I can't do that. I'm slightly less entertaining than he is, I'm sorry.

Gina: Have you always kind of been into Elder Scrolls lore and Elder Scrolls games?

Leamon: Yeah, for sure! I remember my buddy Ben, who may or may not be watching, I'm not sure.

Gina: Hi, Ben.

Leamon: We used to go, I used to go over to his house -- we didn't have a computer at my house -- and we used to boot up Arena and stare at --

Gina: You didn't have a computer?

Leamon: No, not at that time. Arena was what, like 94? 94 I think?

Gina: Yeah, ok. You get a pass.

Leamon: Buncha luddites man, we were still banging rocks together.

Gina: Go outside and play with sticks.

Leamon: So I used to go over there and we used to play Arena together. And I played all the titles after that. Sunk a ton of time into Skyrim and obviously, you know, got a lot of experience with our game too. I've always loved the lore. The stuff that I'm really excited about -- I love the Alessian slave rebellion stuff, for those of you who are into that, the Tribunal lore, obviously, goes without saying, and Argonians, man! Argonians. I'm bound, I'm like totally trying to get everybody on board with the Argonians, because they're absolutely the best race in the game.

Gina: How do you feel about the word "moist."

Leamon: You gotta get with moist if you're going to write for Argonians. Part of the deal. I love Argonians, and I'm so glad I got to write for Murkmire, that was like a dream come true.

Jessica: Awesome. Our audio guy is losing it.

Gina: He's just shaking his head, like, "really? You had to go there?"

Jessica: So how do you work with the other teams, as a loremaster?

Leamon: It's a lot more working with diverse teams than I was working with before. As a writer, you work with your content designers, and that's a very, you know -- that relationship is all the time. You're always talking to them. And with art to a lesser extent. But as loremaster, I'm talking to art, I'm talking to marketing, you guys, I'm talking to obviously content, writers… basically, I've got my fingers in everything. Because everything that we put out has to be verified.

Gina: [laughing in the background]

Jessica: I think it's reached that time of night that everything is giggle-worthy.

[Everyone laughs]

Gina: Trying to hold it together.

Jessica: So, do you essentially make sure that every team is adhering not only to the lore so it's all consistent in ESO, but also across the other Elder Scrolls titles.

Leamon: Oh yeah, everything. You've gotta know all the way back to Arena, because we're all in the same…

Jessica:That's a lot to know.

Leamon: Yeah, there's a lot. Lucky we've got all the books in the game, there's some very, very smart people out there like Lady Nerevar and the folks over at UESP and stuff.

Jessica: And Imperial Library.

Leamon: And Imperial Library with Lady N, which is a great resource, I encourage all of you to use it. But yeah, there's a lot. The community is really, really awesome, and everybody is really invested, and there's a lot to it. So, a lot of opportunity to make mistakes. But, you know, I love it. I know it really well. So, hopefully, you know, everything will turn out great. [Thumbs up.]

Gina: No pressure. You're doing great. It'll be fine.

Jessica: We've actually already gotten a couple interviews for you that we're working on right now. Written interviews. So those should come out in the next couple weeks.

Gina: Yeah, the news came out and everybody came running out of the woodwork.

Leamon: People have been super, super cool. It's tough - someone like Lawrence leaves, I think that, you know--

Jessica: The response was great!

Leamon: Well, I--

Jessica: To you, yeah!

Leamon: I expected whoever got named, it was gonna be like a chopping block. "You're not Lawrence!" Which is true, but like… so yeah, it was really, really cool to hear everybody was super supportive.

Gina: Well, you know your shit. So what more can you ask?

Leamon: I think so. I think we're gonna do great. And the other thing is, it's not just me. Everybody here, particularly people in the content department, they know their stuff too. Like I said, Andrew Young, he knows this stuff inside and out, he's one of our senior content designers. Everybody's been working on this stuff for a while now. It's not like I have to walk around like the principal, bang on people's desks, and say "no!"

Jessica: You've got your loremaster ruler.

Gina: So that was actually kind of a similar question that we saw on the forums. They were kind of asking if, let's say, devs wanted to do something that was sort of against lore. Do you essentially have a veto power, or can you say, "oh, this needs to change, it's not right”?

Leamon: Yeah. And, you know, that's not something that you want to swing around like a hammer all the time, saying, "no, you can't do that!" Lawrence, one of the things he told me before he left, was, "our job is not to say ‘no,' our job is to say ‘I hear what you're looking for,' let's try to get you there." In a way that is going to make sense in the lore. So that's part of the gig. Ultimately, I'm not here to scold people, I'm here to say, "alright, let's try it this way." To make it work. And people have been super receptive to that. Like eerily receptive. I remember I went to a meeting, one of the first meetings I went to, and they were saying things that I was like [negative noise], and they were like, "yes, we defer, what you said, let's not do that." And I was like "ok," [throws hands up].

Gina: You have the power now.

Leamon: So yeah, that's pretty wild.

Jessica: Are you looking forward to Elsweyr?

Leamon: I am! So Elsweyr, I got to actually write on Elsweyr. I was senior writer, I wasn't a loremaster.

Gina: You were still kind of transitioning.

Leamon: Yeah. So I got to do some objectives there, and some independent content, and I got to write a few books and stuff. It's cool.

Jessica: Exciting!

Leamon: It's weird, kind of like passing a baton. As Elsweyr launches, I'm kind of moving in this other direction. It's really cool.

Gina: It's exciting.

Leamon: Yeah, it is.

Jessica:Has the fez come out yet?

Gina: I was just gonna ask about that!

Leamon: So the fez is on my desk. One thing that people, I don't know if they know this, Lawrence had this like Batcave-like collection of fezes…

Jessica: And monocles.

Gina: Because why wouldn't you, right?

Leamon: I mean, every shape and size. So I wound up with one of them. And it just appeared on my desk one day. I don't think I have the regal bearing, the gravitas to wear something like that… yet!

Gina: Not yet! Maybe the next show.

Leamon: Maybe one day.

Jessica:It'll happen.

Gina: Maybe he'll just have it with him.

Leamon: Sacrifice a crab on camera or something.

Gina: That happened!

Leamon: It did happen.

Gina: Years ago. Ask us about that.

Gina: Kind of an interesting question, that also got posted on the forums… I guess from a lore perspective, would we ever consider community written, or community inspired, lore. Like having them be part of the process in a way, or do we strictly keep it pretty in house.

Leamon: We keep it in house, for the most part, because we don't want to, you know, step on anybody's toes. We don't want to steal things from people. And I think we've got a lot of really great ideas now. That said, one of the cool things is that when we create something, there's a response to that. And that response is almost never what we expect. Which is really neat. When I did Truth in Sequence, which is the Sotha Sil sermons or whatever, I had a very clear idea of what I was getting across. "This is obvious," whatever. And then it made it out into the world, and all the folks out there in the lore community were picking it to pieces and saying "it could mean this, or it could mean this," and I was just blown away. I was like, "oh my god, it totally could mean that!"

Jessica: That's so cool.

Leamon: It's amazing. It's this weird, kind of miraculous thing that happens, where you create something, and you send it off into the world, and it lives its own life, and people look at it and they interpret it one way or they interpret it another.

Jessica:It's very in line with Elder Scrolls lore as a whole, right?

Leamon: Absolutely. That's basically what it's all about, right? As writers, it's our job to create things that people can debate. If we create something, and we say, you know, "this is absolutely how it is," and we write this solid, irrefutable thing, then we failed. Because then people say, "that's clearly the truth," and the debate is over.

Jessica: And that's not Elder Scrolls.

Leamon: No. Not at all. That's the death of Elder Scrolls when you do that. It's a fine line. You want to provide lore that's interesting and that people can really think about, but you also want to use a light touch and let people come to their own conclusions. When somebody sees something in a way that's fundamentally different from a way that I see it, but I wrote it, that's really encouraging. That means that we've done something right. So cool. And I love reading that stuff. Like, I mentioned on -- I think I poked my head into the Elder Scrolls reddit and said, "hey guys, keep it up," the stuff that you're producing is really interesting and it's fun to read, and it's really rewarding for us as writers that we're prompting these kinds of discussions.

Jessica: And fan art!

Leamon: The fan art, man! The stuff is crazy. I follow some artists on twitter and stuff, which is really cool. Serpentwined_, and LucianaPullo, met her as Maria I think. There's some tremendously talented people out there. Making amazing stuff. It's awesome. It's the ultimate compliment.

Gina: Do you have any advice for people that are either looking to get into the industry, or writing, or, I don't know how many Loremasters there are…

Leamon: So there's three big things, I would say. The first thing, the most important thing, a writer can do is write. So you need to be writing, as much as possible.

Jessica: Practice your craft.

Leamon: Yeah, exactly. And also don't be shy about it. Don't write something and then throw it away and never show it to anybody. You want to write something and show it to somebody and have them give you honest critique. Take that critique to heart. Don't go in expecting--

Gina: Hard not to get defensive.

Leamon: Yeah, exactly! Praise is great, but praise is not ultimately going to make you get better. Critique is. So yeah, do that. Second: read. Read a lot. And read nonfiction. Read nonfiction. Because, you know, everybody says "I want to write fantasy, I'm going to read fantasy," and that's fine, you can do that, but if you're trying to create an authentic world, that people could actually live in, I think the most important thing you can do is read about the world that we actually live in. So, you know, biographies, philosophy books, newspaper articles, any number of things you can do.

Leamon: And then third is: play games. Play games as much as possible, when you're not writing or reading. Try to imagine what the challenges that game you love -- what challenges they had to overcome in order to create it, because games, like any medium, there are restrictions on how you can write for them. Writing for a game is not like writing a novel. Narrative is provided in a very specific way, so, you know, if you can get into that headspace, you'll do better.

Jessica: I've heard from some of our writers, and even designers, that writing for dialog -- the VO that we do in the game -- is very different than writing for a novel.

Leamon: Oh, totally.

Gina: It's gotta be, yeah.

Jessica: Both are useful, but they're different skill sets. Writing for VO, in this day and age with videogames, is really needed.

Leamon: Yeah. The biggest tip I can tell you about that, if you're trying to do that, is just read your stuff out loud. Because it can get kind of "forsooth-y" if you're not actually saying that.

Jessica: "Do people really talk like this?" Yeah.

Leamon: Exactly. We also have the added benefit from just the experience of sitting in with actors and stuff, you can see what trips them up and what works well. Using a ton of crazy lore words right one after the other is agony for an actor. So you don't want to do that to them.

Gina: Are you going to do what Lawrence used to do and kind of record, you know, "these are some of the more difficult things…"

Leamon: I don't know.

Gina: "... this is how to pronounce it."

Leamon: I don't know. Our lead writer, Bill Slavicsek, he might be doing it. I might be doing it. I don't know. But that is like a really weird thing.

Jessica: Maybe this is the real reason we don't have a Dwemer, like, anything in Elder Scrolls.

Leamon: Yeah, because no one wants to actually pronounce the names. I'm a fierce defender of the removing vowels thing. Anytime we put out a Dwarven thing, it's like, "ugh, this is impossible!" I'm like, "no, it doesn't matter, doesn't matter, take those E's out, they don't belong there."

Gina: How do you come up with Dwarven names to begin with. Cause, I'll be honest, it seems like [keyboard mashing motions].

Leamon: There's a formula. You break out a calculator, look at the stars… No, it's insane. I mean, most of the things that we've gone to, in terms of Dwemer places are places that already existed or whatever. I don't want to get into the nitty gritty. It's complicated. Too complicated.

Gina: Your job sounds complicated.

Leamon: It's fun! It's cool. It's kinda… there's nuts-and-bolts-y stuff about it, but it's also pure creation. I mean, right? Taking this thing that's existed for decades at this point and there's so much to work with, and so much to mine, and being able to riff off of that, and look back on -- it's a legacy, right? I mean, people have been working on this series, all these designers, some designers that are still here, who I would like to meet at some point, some of the guys down at BethSoft. There's just so much there. And being able to take that and create something new, but something that riffs off of something that exists already, it's an honor and a privilege and it's very very cool.

Gina: It's a big F-ing deal.

Leamon: It's really, really fun. And like I said before, I'm the loremaster, but it's not a solo endeavor. AAA game development is absolutely a team sport, and everybody is in this together from art to writing to content to you guys [gestures at Gina and Jess]. We're all contributing in important ways. It's not just me with a crown on my head, proclaiming, "it shall be thus." It's not like that. We're all one team.

Gina: That's so sweet! That was so nice.

Leamon: It's true, man. I'm not telling you anything that isn't true.

Jessica: Can I put you on the spot for a second and ask you a loremaster question?

Gina: No. Haha.

Jessica: It's an Elsweyr one. It's something I'm dying to know. How do Alfiq put their clothes on?

Leamon: Oh man.

Gina: Yeah, they don't even have thumbs.

Leamon: They don't have thumbs, that's true.

Jessica: Is it magic?  

Leamon: So. Alfiq are one of the most magically adept furstocks in the Khajiiti world. So, yes, either they're probably wealthy and have other people do it for them, or they use spells to clothe themselves.

Jessica: Or they're just really agile.

Leamon: You've ever thrown a T-shirt in the air and then dive into it?

Gina: Isn't that how everyone puts their shirts on?

Leamon: That's how I do it. I don't know how you guys do it.

Gina: Well. Leamon. I think everybody loves you now.

Leamon: Wow, thanks.

Gina: Not that they didn't before, but… you are clearly passionate. You're a good man for the role.

Leamon: Seriously, it's a huge, huge honor. I never in a million years thought that I would be doing this when I was sitting playing Arena in Ben's basement. It's really really cool, thank you guys for the vote of confidence. Really appreciate it.