Turning the 4th wall in to guar-steaks
November 16, 2011 12:07 PM   Subscribe

The Metaphysics of Morrowind: an essay series that looks at the deceptively deep lore that surrounds one of the best-loved open world games ever made, and incorporates not only the plot elements of the game world, and the supplementary books scattered for the player to find, but also the meta-narrative of the gameplay itself, including the player character and the construction kit. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4.
posted by codacorolla (92 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember reading these off of GameFilter. There is a lot of bean plating going on here, but it was interesting to see how actually working the multiple endings of Daggerfall into the lore had an effect on the world overall. Also more reasons for Morrowind being the best of the Elder Scroll games in terms of story and setting. I'm really hoping that feeling returns if/when they set a game in the Summerset Isles.
posted by charred husk at 12:21 PM on November 16, 2011


This isn't really fair, since I can't read this at work, and when I'm at home I'm just going to be playing Skyrim.

That said, I never got into Morrowind as much as some people, and I think it's because I found the landscape so uninviting. It gets points for "not typical high fantasy," but loses them for "everything is a blasted desert." Skyrim is very, very typical, but so fucking beautiful.

Personally, I'm hoping for a game set among the migatory tree cities of Valenwood.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:35 PM on November 16, 2011


Oh hai, is this the Skyrim thread?

Never played morrowind so I will definitely be reading these, thanks for the links.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:39 PM on November 16, 2011


Goddamn. I put like 200 hours into Morrowind and had no idea the lore and texts (enough to fill up multiple novels' worth, from what I understand) could lead down endless rabbit holes of esoteric talmudic research and debate. All the more reason to love the game without reservation.

I know Oblivion was criticized for greatly toning down the lore aspects of the series - anyone know how Skyrim fares?
posted by naju at 12:40 PM on November 16, 2011


I know Oblivion was criticized for greatly toning down the lore aspects of the series - anyone know how Skyrim fares?

I haven't had a chance to read any of the new books, so I can't speak to the lore specifically, but the setting at least feels less generic Tolkien than Oblivion. One off-hand example that I can give is that the game has Giants. Typically the player associates Giants with being a tough enemy that gives them a lot of loot. However, in Skyrim, Giants are mostly non-hostile and will only attack if provoked. They're shepherds who just want to avoid trouble and protect their mammoths. This (so far as I know) has no gameplay function, but acts as a way to increase the depth of the world.

I've come around on Skyrim the more I play it, and it's definitely the most mechanically sound game in the series, comes in a close second in terms of immersion and world building compared to Morrowind, and hasn't made any great strides in writing and quest design compared to Oblivion.

I'm pretty sure that all of the clever meta-game stuff in TES lore was created by one member of the writing staff who left between MW and Oblivion, but I'm not 100% on that.
posted by codacorolla at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Speaking of giants in Skyrim.
posted by kmz at 12:50 PM on November 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I've been reading all the lore, and have been greatly impressed by how well thought out it is. I love that they've included something like the Asura/Deva split in the pantheon (or Aesir/Vanir or Titan/Olympian). It feels like you're in a world with a real history.

I really wish they could find a way to make the populations of the towns larger, though. You've got all this epic history and every city has like 50 people living in it. Even if you can't talk to all of them, something to make the cities feel like complete cities rather than Epcot Center attractions.
posted by empath at 12:52 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really wish they could find a way to make the populations of the towns larger, though. You've got all this epic history and every city has like 50 people living in it.

For all it's faults (and they are legion), Daggerfall had enormous cities. Full of cookie cutter people, to be sure, but huge. They were also full of all these stores that sold items that were mostly useless to actual game play, like having three different clothing shops(one cheap, one medium and one expensive). I've always found Daggerfall to be the most immersive of the games, (excluding the crashing, obviously) and I think the huge cities were one of the reasons why.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:56 PM on November 16, 2011


In my mind, there are a few contributing factors to the current city size limitations:

1) You have to design for both modern day gaming rigs, which could conceivably handle bigger cities and also five year old console hardware which could not.

2) If you want your NPCs to have unique dialog and roles (and Bethesda seems hell bent on this, despite Obsidian demonstrating it wasn't necessary with New Vegas) then you have to voice act everyone you place in to the game and make them worthwhile in some way. This is expensive.

3) Bethesda's scenario designers seem content to design cities that are big enough to hold as many quest nodes as they need, and nothing more. This is evident in what is supposedly the capital city of Vivec, which is really just six barren pyramids in the middle of the ocean.

All three issues are at the heart of what frustrates me with Bethesda as a developer, but I won't get in to that at the moment.
posted by codacorolla at 1:04 PM on November 16, 2011


No time to read this, too busy playing Skyrim!
posted by unigolyn at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Regarding the biomes of Morrowind:
There were swamps in the Southwest, grasslands in the North, rocky mountainous land in the center, verdant fields in the central southern areas, and at least one major inland body of water that I can recall. There was a lot of variety in the environments if you spent time wandering, but the 'blasted desert' region encompassed a disproportionate number of the cities.

So far in Skyrim I've seen: forest, snowy forest, mountains, and snowy mountains.
posted by tylermoody at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not certain I agree with how far the author is taking his analysis into Vivec, but one of the things I loved about Morrowind was the willingness foster skepticism and doubt about its own backstory. As you read into Nerevarine prophesies you are confronted with both other Nerevars and a quest-linked book which says something to the effect of, "It's mystical, so it doesn't make a lot of sense." You're led on a wild goose chase to figure out the mystery of the Dwemer, only to get conflicting stories. And of course, Vivec responds to your question by giving you two more conflicting stories.

This is in contrast to most other works of speculative fiction where you either get the "objective" truth or only the protagonist's perspective.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:19 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Love the idea that save-games might have tangible effects on NPCs (or players!) in the game world. Part of me is surprised that no one (that I know of, anyway) has ever really played with this as a game mechanic. Prince of Persia took a stab at it with non-linear plotline if you got yourself killed ("No, that's not how it happened..."), and you see a little of the interacting-with-players-in-other-eigenstates conceit with bones files in Nethack, but I would love to see an RPG where your failure to kill the boss in the first dungeon (after which you reloaded, of course) affected the state of the world or even the narrative in some unpredictable way.
posted by Mayor West at 1:28 PM on November 16, 2011


I've been reading up on Elder Scrolls lore recently as preparation for Skyrim. It's remarkably interesting, multi-faceted and nuanced. I love how bits are self contradictory, books arguing different positions. I just read The Dragon Break Re-Examined about an hour ago in Skyrim and while I won't read quite as much into it as the linked blog posts do, I was struck by its similarity to the theory that the Dark Ages never happened.

One thing that's fun about the TES lore is they never hit you over the head with it. The big themes are in the game itself, the struggles between Daedra and Aedra, Men and Mer. But there's a lot of details hidden in the books in the game, books you can entirely skip if you want, or you can read them and enjoy WTF moments. Like this particularly florid bit, from Pension of the Ancestor Moth
The higher order Monks of the cult are able to forego the magical ritual needed to enchant the silk and instead merely wear the moths themselves. They are able to attract the ancestor-moths through the application of ground bark from the moth's favorite tree, and through chanting inaudible mantras which they must constantly maintain to keep the moths in contact with them.
If you're of a mind to enjoy light fantasy, the two Elder Scrolls novels are surprisingly good for game tie-in fiction.
posted by Nelson at 1:29 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Part of me is surprised that no one (that I know of, anyway) has ever really played with this as a game mechanic.

Planescape: Torment did entertaining and clever things with the death/reloading mechanic.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:30 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mayor West: "I would love to see an RPG where your failure to kill the boss in the first dungeon (after which you reloaded, of course) affected the state of the world or even the narrative in some unpredictable way."

All of your failed characters in Morrowind were false incarnates.
Someone needs to make a mod where old characters who made it past a certain point are added to the Cave the Incarnate and give a piece of their old equipment.
posted by charred husk at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2011


Bioshock tried to iincorporate reloads into the game fiction, too...
posted by empath at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


All of your failed characters in Morrowind were false incarnates.
Someone needs to make a mod where old characters who made it past a certain point are added to the Cave the Incarnate and give a piece of their old equipment.


A whole cavern of characters who just sort of roll their eyes and go "You're the messiah huh? Well, whatever, asshole I built a big mushroom tower out in the ash desert. Here, have a chitin sparksword."
posted by codacorolla at 1:37 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fantastic. I'm glad to see there's so much thought and effort going into those books. I never read many of them in Morrowind, but I've been collecting a library in Skyrim with the intention to go read them sometime.

You know, when I'm done slaying the dragons.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 1:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Planescape: Torment did entertaining and clever things with the death/reloading mechanic.

Planescape was a game about RPGs and Game Playing on so many fun levels that I constantly surprised by it.
posted by The Whelk at 1:40 PM on November 16, 2011


On the subject of lore, I was reading up on the timeline of events leading up to Skyrim and it includes all sorts of crazy, world changing stuff. For those playing Skyrim, how much of that is communicated in the game itself?

Also, I fucking save Vvardenfell and they go and blow it up off screen. Screw you, Bethesda.
posted by charred husk at 1:47 PM on November 16, 2011


All of your failed characters in Morrowind were false incarnates.

This was my favorite thing about Portal 1, because, at the time, it wasn't clear if you WERE a clone/android, and being run through the tests, over and over. It was way more horrifying to see the Ratman hideouts and think it was yet another incarnation of you, gone crazy over the years.
posted by yeloson at 1:52 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Buriednexttoyou I've been collecting books like mad as well. If its lying around and I can take it I do if I think I don't have a copy already. There are some stolen volumes as well. One day I'm gonna curl up under the blankets and get lost in books. In a video game.
posted by Phantomx at 1:52 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speaking of giants in Skyrim.

Oh, I thought you were going to link to this.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


On the subject of lore, I was reading up on the timeline of events leading up to Skyrim and it includes all sorts of crazy, world changing stuff. For those playing Skyrim, how much of that is communicated in the game itself?

The empire is very much in decline when your PC enters the gameworld. NPC banter revolves around a deep distrust of imperial forces, there are various points where you see maps divided between imperial and nationalist factions, individual towns have their own loyalties, and you can choose to join the rebellion or the empire.

The guilds (one of the central pieces of every TES game) are pretty much gone due to what's happened in Oblivion. The mage's guild has disbanded, and you join a facsimilie which has only survived by being independent of the now defunct official institution. The thief's guild is a bare shadow of its former self, and instead of being noble and Robin-Hood-esque, is a petty criminal organization. The fighter's guild is replaced by a local equivalent.

Everything has a very dark age feel to it. As much as I dislike the dragons as a gameplay mechanic (at least in part because of the time that I fast traveled to a city and found a dragon conflict already mostly over, with the dragon cinematically swooping down so I could hit it once with a sword and have it keel over, the townsfolk who'd just killed it congratulating me for saving their village) they do present an omnipresent threat in a way that Oblivion gates never did.

So even if you have no idea about TES lore outside of skipping every dialog box in Oblivion, you get a real sense of a society that's pretty much on its last legs.
posted by codacorolla at 1:58 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I had many lives to live, I would live one of them inside Morrowind.
posted by 3FLryan at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


I loved Morrowind on the X-Box. Absolutely loved it. I put countless hours into that game. And I'm still bitter that, when I tried to do one of the crucial elf quests late in the game, the game would crash and lose my progress because there was a scratch on the game CD.

I would love for that original game to be made compatible for the iPad.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:19 PM on November 16, 2011


I hated all of the other Elder Scrolls games, but I cannot stop fucking playing Skyrim. I'm on my third level 10+ character (I was helpfully sick the weekend this came out), finally settling on a thief archer. It is amazing.

I only read the books to find the ones that give you skillpoints. I cannot stand "lore" inside of games. WOW has tons of "lore" and the game is now horrible. Lord of the Rings games have the OG fantasy "lore" and they have all been bad. Ever play a good Star Wars game? Give me a well made game that you do cool things in that matter. Write a book series if you want to create "lore." To me, being able to make your own unscripted events is what makes it amazing. That giant hitting a sabrecat like a golf ball over the horizon? That's fucking epic lore right there.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:32 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have been spending my time in Skyrim collecting books. Since I am an egregious console command abuser, I store all my lovely, lovely books in my Archmage suite which I received by charging through a bunch of dungeons killing glowy blue zombies. In addition to books we saw in the previous two games, there are a lot more books dealing with the mythology of the world, some plays, and some really bad epic poetry. I found a whole set of books on the Dwemer the other day but haven't read them yet.

I love Morrowind best of all and still think fondly back to the first time I played it (I spent about an hour just walking around looking at the sky) but thus far Skyrim is a solid second. The inventory interface is deeply dumb, but the feel of a unique world is back, whereas Oblivion was cookiecutter to the max.

There are some really disturbing quests with no apparent way to not be a really bad person in Skyrim. Not to spoil things, but House of Horrors in particular ended in a very creepy way for me. You can't drop quests from your menu, either, so it's either finish a quest that gives you the screaming heebie jeebies or have it sit there forever.

I'm also not au fait with the latest games, but one of the things that I find disturbing about combat is that when you hit a combo or power action it does this cinematically brutal slaying as if my Imperial mage had suddenly been a member of the cast of 300. It brings the violence home in a way that previous games did not. This might be a common trope of games these days, though, since I haven't played any real games since Oblivion and the earth has moved on since then.

Also the ponies are still as fragile as before and they have some very weird pathing issues. You can scale vertical cliffs with a pony, but if you do it wrong the pony falls off and dies and you can't buy another from that vendor. Also it is kind of traumatic to me to kill a horse with that kind of carelessness, so I use the console to bring it back. My spotty pony is worse than Doctor Who for being reincarnated at this point.
posted by winna at 2:37 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love Morrowind best of all and still think fondly back to the first time I played it (I spent about an hour just walking around looking at the sky)

So true. There was a lot to love in Oblivion and I'm digging Skyrim so far, but neither has had any moment that matches the first time I saw the Ghostfence in Morrowind.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:40 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


you know what's fun in nethack is killing the Mail Daemon

that'll teach you to deliver letters, jerk
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:47 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was thinking the other day that the main conceit of Morrowind put Oblivion and many other rpgs to shame. There is a prophecy, in tried and true fashion, but you have to actively try to fit the phophecied events either to make other people trust you or to move the plotline forward. The execution led to some busywork-quests, but I loved the idea. You don't just fulfill the prophecy, but you exploit it.
posted by ersatz at 2:51 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


So far in Skyrim I've seen: forest, snowy forest, mountains, and snowy mountains.

There's an extensive misty swamp in the Southeast, frozen over seas with glaciers in the North, hidden alternate dimensions, and a stupidly long Thieves' Guild plot arc that's filled with nothing but stupid fetch quests that only get you a stupidly small amount of gold and are generally pointless and poorly designed. And stupid. Eat a toad, Delvin and Vex, that's the twentieth and absolutely last jeweled vase I steal for you.

Also glitches, glitches galore. I know everybody's playing it now because it's out now but like with most TES games, they're best enjoyed following five or so patches and with a few crucial mods, in this case regarding the menu system, buggy textures, and stupidly long fetch quests.
posted by dubusadus at 2:56 PM on November 16, 2011


There are some really disturbing quests with no apparent way to not be a really bad person in Skyrim.

Yeah, that one really bothered me.

I'm also thinking that there's something fundamentally wrong with how the game handles morality. If you want to be a 'good' character, there's a pile of content in the game that's just flat out inaccessible to you. If you choose to be evil or amoral, though, you can pretty much do everything and be fairly consistent as a character.

The game encourages and rewards depravity, but doesn't have anything meaningful to say about it. I hate to say it about a game that has so much content, but it strikes me as intellectually lazy. I'm trying to figure out what the game 'means' as a whole and it's coming across as really nihilistic. You're a thief and a murderer, but you have power, so that justifies everything that you do in the eyes of basically all the NPC's in the game.

It's like GTA IV without the sense of humor. It's actually starting to wear me down and reduce my enjoyment of it.

I'm still thinking about this, though, and I'm only maybe a third of the way through the game at this point, and I've barely touched the main quests, so maybe I'm missing some subtleties that come up later.
posted by empath at 2:59 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


a stupidly long Thieves' Guild plot arc that's filled with nothing but stupid fetch quests that only get you a stupidly small amount of gold and are generally pointless and poorly designed. Eat a toad, Delvin and Vex, that's the twentieth and absolutely last jeweled vase I steal for you.

HAHAHA. Those aren't part of the thieves guild quest line. They're generated infinitely and will never stop.
posted by empath at 3:00 PM on November 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


@dubusadus Huh, I just checked my stats on Steam and I've played Skyrim for 36 hours now. During that time I've had only one crash, dunno if I'm just extremely lucky or what.
posted by sotonohito at 3:00 PM on November 16, 2011


Also, the giants are so totally not peaceful. Get anywhere near them and they'll send you into orbit.
posted by sotonohito at 3:01 PM on November 16, 2011


HAHAHA. Those aren't part of the thieves guild quest line. They're generated infinitely and will never stop.

I know! But you have to complete a certain number of them in order to unlock further Theives' Guild quests, the actual ones that bring in real money? Right? RIGHT?

So true. There was a lot to love in Oblivion and I'm digging Skyrim so far, but neither has had any moment that matches the first time I saw the Ghostfence in Morrowind.


I got that the first time I saw an aurora while I was hiking way high up in the mountains.
posted by dubusadus at 3:05 PM on November 16, 2011


The aurora was pretty magical.

Also the birch tree forests are beautiful rain or shine.
posted by winna at 3:11 PM on November 16, 2011


I know! But you have to complete a certain number of them in order to unlock further Theives' Guild quests, the actual ones that bring in real money? Right? RIGHT?

Maybe? For that one and the companion ones, I just talk to them and get quests every time I see them and then just do them when I'm in town. It's usually a five minute detour and a nice change of pace. I think they do it to pace out the quest line so you don't do the whole thing in one go.
posted by empath at 3:15 PM on November 16, 2011


If I had many lives to live, I would live one of them inside Morrowind.

It’s odd and perhaps a little sad that whenever I am playing through a technologically remarkable fantasy CRGP, from whatever age of computing we are talking about, I can be exploring the world and find myself saying (inside my brain, of course) “Holy cow, I want to live here!”

There have been plenty of such places in the Elder Scrolls games. Skyrim is dotted with crumbling towers, generally with bandits or Forsaken (see: crazy bandits) squatting in them. After butchering the squatters you find nice little nooks, sometimes with nothing more than a pile of hay and a sack of cabbages. Sometimes it is a proper bed with fur blankets, atop the tower, protected from the elements, with beautiful vistas, a shelf full of books and a chest full of hooch.

Dungeons and tombs and caverns with running water, natural and artificial light, modest ecosystems, and tables and chairs and fireplaces and somewhere to mix up a potion or two. I’ve even found a couple of underground forests. All of them beautiful and, despite the Nordic theme, very cosy seeming. Not too far from civilization but far enough for you to be left alone, because nobody ever walks more than a minute out of town.

To survive, all I would need to do is take a walk in the woods from time to time, murder a few bad guys, and take all their tomatoes and goat legs. I could start collecting stuff, maybe fur shoes. I would have Tamriel's largest collection of fur shoes and people would travel from every corner of the world to see them, all piled up into a smelly fur cairn, and it would become the stuff of legend and leave mountain flowers in a bronze bowl. Meanwhile I would retire to my little bunker, with the candles that never go out, and knock back six wheels of cheese and a dozen bottles of wine and I would be the world's greatest novelist, though I only wrote vignettes.

Some nights, drunk, I would enter one of the palaces, and leap up on the banquet table, charging forward and scattering tankards and apples. "What did you do THAT for?" asks the haggard old cleaning lady. "BOOSH!" says I, propelling her backwards.

I would have a pet sabretooth, and I would enchant him with the ability to speak: "OH HAI I CATCHED YOU A DRAGONFLY...BUT I ATED IT." "And what did it taste like, friend sabretooth?" "IT TASTED LIEK WEAKNESS TO FROST."

Sometimes a fox might wander in, but that’s okay. I like the foxes.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:23 PM on November 16, 2011 [31 favorites]


I'm also thinking that there's something fundamentally wrong with how the game handles morality. If you want to be a 'good' character, there's a pile of content in the game that's just flat out inaccessible to you. If you choose to be evil or amoral, though, you can pretty much do everything and be fairly consistent as a character.

So... like life? I mean the bank robber and serial killer quests are pretty much closed to me.

I kinda like that they make you stop and think about what you're agreeing to. Kinda like that Penny Arcade panel with the brooms, I've been trained by video games that you accept quests. That's what you do. But Skyrim seems to offer far more choice than I remember other games giving me in whether or not I want to help anybody out. Not that you always know what you're getting into. Also kinda like life.

re: myriad useless items in Daggerfall. I feel like Skyrim follows Fallout 3 essentially (huge surprise) in having a fair amount of trivial goods so that not everything feels completely gamified. The tiny, tiny populations of towns and "cities", though, really is an issue.

And I understand there are neutral, peaceable giants out there, but so far they've all hated my guts on sight. Racial mod?

Very cool fpp, btw, and not just because we get to talk Skyrim. (is everyone collecting books this time around? Yes, I am, too.)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:36 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


It’s odd and perhaps a little sad that whenever I am playing through a technologically remarkable fantasy CRGP, from whatever age of computing we are talking about, I can be exploring the world and find myself saying (inside my brain, of course) “Holy cow, I want to live here!”

YES. The Wizard's Tower in upper northwest Oblivion. My Sanctuary!

PS I was thinking in my head "this person should be a writer", then I looked at your profile. HA!
posted by 3FLryan at 3:46 PM on November 16, 2011


er....upper northeast
posted by 3FLryan at 3:46 PM on November 16, 2011


errrr north northeastern...errr go away im very tired and overworked
posted by 3FLryan at 3:46 PM on November 16, 2011


Good thing my profile is a lie then, your opinion doesn't count for much! :P
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:47 PM on November 16, 2011


Personally, I'm hoping for a game set among the migatory tree cities of Valenwood.

FWIW, what was true for Morrowind has turned out to be true for Oblivion, too: after the game comes out, a ton of different groups of modders set out to create insanely ambitious additions to the worldspace. Most of them don't make it, and the tiny few that do, well, they finish and release their massive mods right about the time the next Bethesda game comes out to steal their thunder and everyone forgets about the game they were making the massive mod for.

I mention this because while I wait around for Skyrim (I have been informed my Christmas list is "too short" and forbidden from getting it for myself) I have been entertaining myself in Oblivion with Valenwood Improved and Elsweyr the Deserts of Anequina, which add big chunks of the neighboring Valenwood and Elsweyr to explore down south. They aren't amazing quest-wise (though Elsweyr is better than Valenwood in that respect, IMO) but they have some really gorgeous views and fun landscapes, if you like exploration mods and just wandering around.

Anyways, I've always gotten a kick out of reading the books in the Elder Scrolls games, and the games' lore is one of the best examples of how lore can be done and made awesome (yet non-essential) in games. I love that it is rife with errors, inconsistencies, arguing scholars, and all the sorts of crap that plagues real-life academia. I have definitely never beanplated any of it as hard as this guy, though, and it's interesting to see that it actually holds up under that kind of scrutiny.

I bet Skyrim didn't do this, but I'd love it if they'd done with the post-Morrowind, post-Oblivion lore the same kind of stuff they did with the post-Daggerfall lore...I'd love to read a book where a scholar discusses how the "commonly accepted" Nerevarine is a fraud, and discusses the evidence that the actual Nerevarine did it all in a 5-minute speedrun and the fraudster came along later and picked up the pieces, or something like that.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I kinda like that they make you stop and think about what you're agreeing to. Kinda like that Penny Arcade panel with the brooms, I've been trained by video games that you accept quests. That's what you do. But Skyrim seems to offer far more choice than I remember other games giving me in whether or not I want to help anybody out. Not that you always know what you're getting into. Also kinda like life.


In real life, the choices you make have consequences beyond whether you feel good about yourself. In skyrim, the only consequence for being evil is getting a bunch of cool items and experience points.
posted by empath at 3:52 PM on November 16, 2011


If I had many lives to live, I would live one of them inside Morrowind.

It’s odd and perhaps a little sad that whenever I am playing through a technologically remarkable fantasy CRGP, from whatever age of computing we are talking about, I can be exploring the world and find myself saying (inside my brain, of course) “Holy cow, I want to live here!”


That's only happened to me (I think) with Minecraft. Maybe it's a testament to the game world atmosphere, but fantasy games have never been doom-free enough for me to want to live in even a corner of one.

My programmed response to wondrous new games is always to imagine somehow stumbling on the game when I was a teen (leaving aside, of course, the much more important issue of the miraculous equipment running it) and how it would blow my freaking mind.

This is aided by my crystal clear recollection of going to the university with a friend from high school and trying to get this Terminator game working in the computer lab, circa 1990. We weren't able to make it work. Which was a huge disappointment, because had we managed to get it working, we would have been treated to, well... this.

Every game I play now I inescapably compare to (Bethesda Softworks'!) Terminator from 1990.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:54 PM on November 16, 2011


In real life, the choices you make have consequences beyond whether you feel good about yourself. In skyrim, the only consequence for being evil is getting a bunch of cool items and experience points.

Which is why there is zero problem with having evil-only accessible content.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:55 PM on November 16, 2011


In real life, the choices you make have consequences beyond whether you feel good about yourself.

ARE WE SO SURE?!
posted by 3FLryan at 3:55 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


None of the Elder Scrolls games have ever been that great at offering player choice, in my opinion. This is especially true when you consider what Obsidian did with the exact same engine in New Vegas. Part of this has to do with the way that the developers treat speech. If you don't have a good speech statistic in NV then much of the game world is closed off to you (although other stat-checks are available to get similar or different options).

This ties back in to the learn-by-doing mechanic, which I think should be scrapped forever in any game that will ever be developed. Nehrim had possibly the best compromise between the two, which had you level up and gain training points (like the Gothic series) which you could assign by paying trainers.

Anyway, by having stat-checks you offer the player the ability to do a lot of different things, which gives many different options to complete a quest. Skyrim's system does not allow this, and it's not something that Bethesda has ever seemed interested in offering.
posted by codacorolla at 4:00 PM on November 16, 2011


Well Skyrim has granted that other great boon upon gaming humanity by erasing the need for countless Elder Scrolls fans to endlessly attempt to justify the level-by-doing mechanic. Yes, I know it makes sense. It isn't fun.

All I mean for choice is that I'm surprised to be (again and again) asked if I want to help out with (sometimes questionable) tasks, instead of making it a necessary part of loyalties to characters or guilds with whom I've aligned myself. It's quite a stark difference in that way, if you ask me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:07 PM on November 16, 2011


I actually like the learn-by-doing system a lot, it feels really natural to me, and I think it offers a lot more meaningful choices and freedom than the actual 'open world' part of it, because the choices you make in combat actually have permanent, meaningful consequences to your character.

To be interesting, a choice has to be meaningful. It has to have consequences. Choosing one thing means you don't choose another thing. If someone asks you if you want to go to California or New York on vacation, that's a more interesting choice than asking you if you want to visit California or New York first on vacation.

A great deal of Skyrim is kind of making meaningless, random choices about where on the map you want to walk to next. It doesn't matter what order you do quests in. It doesn't particularly matter which quests you do. Choosing to leave an NPC hanging out at the entrance to a dungeon for a month and a half while you go rob houses doesn't have any consequences. Murdering people in cold blood doesn't make you any less welcome in the house of the Jarl. If you use the rational, most efficient play-style in terms of character progression -- simply doing whichever quests happen to be nearby you on the map, the story line becomes almost incoherent, and your character is essentially a madman, one minute helping poor townsfolk in need, the next, robbing them blind.

I don't mind that the game gives you the choice to do some of those things, what I mind is that the game gives you the ability, and indeed encourages you to do all of these things with it's reward system. To me, a more interesting game would be one in which joining the thieves guild prevents you from being welcome in polite society, at least until you've redeemed yourself somehow. Other quests should close off other options. The choices you make should gradually constrict you onto a single path, which drives the narrative and pushes the story to the conclusion. As it is now, the games options multiply and multiply until they become exhausting. There are so many things to do that you can't even remember why you're doing half of them. They're just a mark on a map, and you're like Billy in that family circus comic. The game ends when you literally have just done everything there is to do. With a whimper rather than a bang.

It would perhaps be frustrating to not be able to see everything in the game on the first run through, but it would reward multiple play throughs playing different kinds of characters more than the current design does.

I'm just kind of thinking out loud here. It's been bugging me a bit while playing. For some reason, this bothered me a lot less in Fallout, but I did a lot fewer of the side quests in Fallout, I think.
posted by empath at 4:21 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Now that I think about it, it's a lot closer, as a game, to Super Mario Galaxy than it is to The Witcher.
posted by empath at 4:28 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every game I play now I inescapably compare to (Bethesda Softworks'!) Terminator from 1990.

Oh, are you talking about Rampage? With the Simon Bisley (or Bisley-analogue) box art? Man. I memmaker'd the CRAP out of my machine trying to get that thing to run, I think it was some kind of 486 with like 4MB RAM. I forget what it was called exactly but that upper memory/lower memory bullshit, or extended memory, whatever, the 640K you got and you needed to squeeze as much room out of that to even get stuff like Doom to run, deciding if you wanted a mouse driver or a SoundBlaster driver for your gaming experience? Whoo, boy. I sure don't miss those days.

I managed to get Rampage running on a Pentium-something with 16MB a couple of years later, installing it from a bunch of floppies. It was actually...a pretty good game, all told. I remember really enjoying it. And I also remember thinking that Bethesda (which I misread as Bethedesa and continue to call it to this day) was a sweet name for a gaming company. Who knew it was actually a place?
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:39 PM on November 16, 2011


This is especially true when you consider what Obsidian did with the exact same engine in New Vegas.

I'll be honest, though it'll probably get me branded a heretic: I've yet to make it all the way through New Vegas's main quest line. Part of that is my distaste for the fact that you can't keep wandering around afterwards, doing stuff. (In my mind, having the ultimate "reward" for completing the main questline be this giant, beautiful sandbox that you get to wander around in is something Bethesda has always done exactly right.) But another part of it is that New Vegas was such an intricate, fragile web of quests and choices and decisions, and after a while, constantly running to check the wiki to make sure that siding with person A against person B in quest X wouldn't prevent me from getting or completing quests Y and Z from person C later on down the road, just became too much of a chore for me. In theory, I would say "I like choice", but in practice, when I'm playing a game I don't want to spend a ton of time worrying about the consequences of those choices. And I get that it's tough to find the sweet spot between "your choices have no impact on the gameworld" and choices that let you screw yourself over, but in my mind Obsidian tends more towards the latter and Bethesda more towards the former, and I generally prefer to err on the side of the former, myself.

on preview, I guess what I'm saying is I'm exactly the opposite of empath; I want to be able to do every quest, master every skill, explore every nook and cranny of the map, and (as past experience has taught me) I'm not going to roll up a new character to do so. A game like Oblivion or Fallout, you're sinking in a hundred+ hours on playthrough; even if a more limiting-choice game would cut that down to 50 or 60 per runthrough, I don't want to sink in 50 hours and then find out I can't do the Dark Brotherhood quests and my friends say they're awesome. That just leaves me frustrated. And even moreso, when I come back two years later to throw in some new mod, I'm not gonna want to roll up a new character and replay a bunch of stuff just so I can explore the new mod.

If you use the rational, most efficient play-style in terms of character progression -- simply doing whichever quests happen to be nearby you on the map, the story line becomes almost incoherent, and your character is essentially a madman, one minute helping poor townsfolk in need, the next, robbing them blind.

And yet, if you used the most rational, sensible play-style in New Vegas, in terms of story line and making your character seem sane, you'd rush right through the main quest, hot on Benny's heels all the way to Vegas and then quickly up to and through the fight at the dam and then *boom* game over, credits roll, congratulations, you've missed like 80% of the content of the game. In order to see most, let alone all, of the content the game offers, your character has to be incredibly and bizarrely unconcerned with the person that tried to murder you and the impending war. On the other hand, make a game where following the main plot all the way leads you past 100% of the game's content (hey, Half Life!) and watch folks complain about being "on rails" the whole time.

I'm not sure what the answer is; I think maybe it's a "different games for different folks" kind of thing. I do think that trying to be all things to everyone tends not to do a game much good, though the endless moddability of Bethesda's games helps them out massively in that regard.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:41 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


To me, a more interesting game would be one in which joining the thieves guild prevents you from being welcome in polite society, at least until you've redeemed yourself somehow. Other quests should close off other options.

I haven't gotten far enough to have learned if this was or was not the case, and I would welcome that kind of self-guided restriction. I think this is probably overcompensation. The guiding principle behind development of Skyrim appears to be to maximize freedom of choice even at the cost of some realism. (which is always at least partly the case, but here moreso than usual)

But another reason I suspect I haven't found this to be the case is that I'm role-playing. Yes, I could have joined the thieves guild, Dark Brotherhood, mage college, and Companions, with wildly schizophrenic character and plot development, but I didn't do this. At first, again, I took my quest indicators very seriously. "Talk to the head of the Companions" it said, or some such (just like it now says join the Imperial Army, another thing I don't think I'm going to do) So I did so, and hey, I'm in if I want to be in! So still in that mindset, I joined up. And everything I experienced, every conversation I had, told me "This is so not you." So I reloaded the game to before joining and I ignored that quest indicator, as I now ignore others (with no need to again reload, because now I know it's not a DO EVERYTHING game).

So yeah, max freedom. Choices left up to you. Still not a problem for characterization, if you're playing a character.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:42 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It really bugged me in fallout that I could lose faction support by doing something where no one could possible see it. If I stole some mentats from an empty bunker, that shouldn't have any bearing on my acceptance in polite society. It also bugged me that if I helped one faction, some other non-present faction would hate me for it. I can see reputation dropping if I'd attacked them, or done something in their presence, but not on the other side of the 'world'

However, I like the idea that you can play an amoral madman and save the town, then rob it, if you want to squeeze the world dry and toss the husk. For me the RP part of RPGs is pretty important, and I tend to consider what quests I take, and how I treat people in game. But then I also compulsively make many character and try and complete different plot lines by playing to my characters personality. But I don't need areas of the game locked off for me to maintain it.
posted by gofargogo at 4:45 PM on November 16, 2011


Oh, are you talking about Rampage?

No, that came later, says the wiki:

It is the third game based on the Terminator film series that was made by Bethesda, following The Terminator and The Terminator 2029.

This was "The Terminator".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:46 PM on November 16, 2011


I don't really get what the fpp is selling - someone beanplating one possible interpretation of one particular set of books in TES? It doesn't strike me as being indicative of anything else than a designer shouting out down the hall "You there, writer person, write me some mind screw and have it to me by Friday. Be sure to include a few meta in-jokes". Great that the lore of TES is that such a thing can work, but you could write an equally detailed 4 part post about the magic talking crab vendor.

I am really enjoying Skyrim. The game mechanics are passable (no more jumping to level up or potions of +10000 strength) and the world-building is stunning. Badly needs modding to remove consolitis, but once you figure out how to assign inventory hotkeys it is bearable.

empath, I agree on the problem with non-exclusivity of paths. But isn't the descent of your character in to madman territory by doing random factors just another expression of the open world? If you want to play a character focused only on the prize, you can. If you want to play a coldly rational mercenary, that's an option too. Maybe if the game world reacted better to your choices with a (not broken and easily gamed) system like a New Vegas' faction reputation, and then give you options to redeem yourself, as you suggested. There'll probably be a mod for it.
posted by kithrater at 4:47 PM on November 16, 2011


Also the ponies are still as fragile as before and they have some very weird pathing issues.

So far my intentionally ugly (to humans - who knows, maybe elves are really into giant chins and noses) elf thief has owned (well, found) two horses. Of these two horses, one took the opportunity while he was distracted by a bandit to accelerate to lightspeed, sideways, straight through a bridge and over the horizon. I like to think it's okay out there in space. Like Nyan Cat. The other started to levitate slowly upwards just outside Whiterun. Sensing there was no way this could end well, my character hops off while the fall is still survivable. The horse gives him this long, slow, dismissive look as he stands twenty feet below it, then simply vanishes. He assumes its home planet had need of it.

What has he learned from this? He's just not meant to own a horse. Also they have control over space and possibly time.
posted by emmtee at 4:49 PM on November 16, 2011 [25 favorites]


I'm with mstokes650 on the subject of choice in gaming: I want to be able to do everything in one playthrough. Sure, it makes it less realistic, which is a problem that can be easily and sarcastically dismissed, and it makes it more consequenceless, which I agree is a problem for some, but it isn't a problem for me. I'm still engaged. I'm still having a good time. I'm just a crazy man wandering around Skyrim, alternating between being a nice guy and being a bludegony sort of guy. Witcher seems like a better better game for more compelling and consequential gameplay, I think (I love them both).
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:50 PM on November 16, 2011


This was "The Terminator".

Ahh. Never tried it, though I've certainly heard of the second one, 2029.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:51 PM on November 16, 2011


Wow. I can guarantee that's not always the case with horses that are not yours, as the only horse I've used was one that came running into a battle I was having and kicked the hell out of some bandits. It then proceeded to stand there, and on inspection, revealed that I had only the option to steal it. Which I did.

So there I am, riding the thing around, and hopping off to fight and interact with NPCs, but as soon as I'm off it, it starts wandering back where it came from (at wandering speed; no flying). So when I'm done I run back and get it, but after a few times this gets to just be too much of a pain, so I let him go, walking back to wherever he lost his previous owner, I guess. (I did try to trap him in a corral, but that didn't work, just in case you think I'm nicer than I am)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:53 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's doubly weird because those are really the only bugs I've seen so far (I can't believe I'm saying that less than a week after the launch of a Bethesda game!) - there's been the odd bit of dumb pathing by enemies, walking over physics objects sometimes pings them off at speed and hurts me and I've had to reload once or twice because a river's turned invisible, but considering the sheer amount of stuff in Skyrim, I'm blown away by the solidity of it. I just have bad luck with horses.
posted by emmtee at 4:58 PM on November 16, 2011


Witcher seems like a better better game for more compelling and consequential gameplay, I think (I love them both).

Witcher is in no way an open world, but I felt like the choices I did make mattered a hell of a lot more.
posted by empath at 5:05 PM on November 16, 2011


The scenery in Skyrim is beautiful, the best I've seen, hands down. And the backstory of the world is full and rich.

But everything else 3 out of 5, or worse. So many bugs. I'm playing on the PC, and the menus are just terrible... it feels like there was zero QA. (See the nearly-unnavigable Skills / Perks menu). The whole thing with Giants shooting you into orbit? I mean, they SHIPPED with that? Are you kidding? Did no one notice?

And while the game looks great--truly exceeding all precedent--some of it doesn't make sense. Go into the Bleak Falls Barrow near the top of a barren, snowy mountain... and there are tree roots everywhere. It looks good unless you're bothered that there, you know, aren't any trees at all up above. And the building interiors--seriously, who thought it's a good idea to have big, open firepits in the floors of bars? Are there no building codes? And what kind of restaurant keeps every table loaded with food, 24/365, that no one ever touches? It's a stiff facade, not an immersive world.

Food in the game is such a joke, anyway. Wounded in the middle of a fight? Well, just instantly eat fifteen apples and three servings of soup. All better! This is a missed opportunity that is underscored by the contrast with, e.g., with Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup where food is such an interesting element.

And don't even get me started on the outrageously broken horse AI, or the very prominent, tried-and-false "go forth and vacuum this world because spending half your time running to merchants is so much fun" mechanic.

They did so much that it's all spread thin. It's a veneer, a painted corpse of a world. A bit disappointing, because it's such a high-budget AAA title and when someone is finally able to execute a game like this well it will be amazing.

I know I'm not exactly the intended audience, since I care so much more about game play mechanics than I do about story or role-playing. Eh. And all this said, despite my gnashing of teeth, I'm looking forward to playing it when I get home tonight.
posted by kprincehouse at 5:20 PM on November 16, 2011


Beautiful. I've often wished that I could go back and play Morrowind again for the first time. Reading these essays is probably the closest I'll be able to come to it. They reminded me of why I sunk hundreds of hours into the game. Navigating the strange terrain of Vvardenfell, full of unfriendly natives with their own argot, reading every book I could find, wandering far and wide and investigating every scrap of gossip no matter how trivial it sounded... it was like being a character in a novel.

Oblivion was kind of like being a desiccated dog turd in a shoe box, by comparison.
posted by trunk muffins at 8:38 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


And don't even get me started on the outrageously broken horse AI, or the very prominent, tried-and-false "go forth and vacuum this world because spending half your time running to merchants is so much fun" mechanic.

I agree with everything you say, and wanted to add something of my own: mountains. Ever since Morrowind we have had some seriously messed up mountain situations. I can see on my map that there's a, like, special tree or something, just SW of me, so let me just head in that direc-OH LOOK AN ENORMOUS MOUNTAIN. Scouting to the left and right we find out that not only is this mountain very tall, it's also very wide. Well, I guess there's nothing for it but to HOP UP THE MOUNTAIN. Pushing your character left, pressing "jump" constantly, until you bounce up a virtual foot and then push your character to the right, pressing "jump", and on and on it goes, clickclickclick jumping up a huge mountain. We've been doing that for three games now. Couldn't Bethesda just introduce a MOUNTAINEERING skillset, or a grappling kit or something? Look, I don't want to fly up the mountain like Batman or JustCauseMan, and I get that the game is about exploring and checking out the environment, but sometimes you just want to get up the mountain. Bethesda knows this. Right now there are one hundred thousand people playing Skyrim and what they are doing is hopping up mountains to get to a map marker. The developers KNOW that this happens! Fix it!

Though, at least we're no longer living in the time where there were mountains, and so we hopped up the mountains, and then there were god-damn CLIFF RACERS, so we've made SOME progress.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:54 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oblivion was kind of like being a desiccated dog turd in a shoe box, by comparison.

Man, y'all are pretty harsh on Oblivion, huh? I thought it was great, I had massive fun playing that thing. I even liked closing the gate thingies. Well, the first, y'know, twenty or so.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:55 PM on November 16, 2011


Food in the game is such a joke, anyway. Wounded in the middle of a fight? Well, just instantly eat fifteen apples and three servings of soup. All better!

I seem to remember doing exactly the same thing in The Hobbit, the text adventure on the C64. Middle Earth would have been lost had Gollum not politely refrained from cleaving my skull for the time it took me to eat five sandwiches.

Good to see how far we've come all these many years and millions and millions of dollars later.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 9:51 PM on November 16, 2011


kprincehouse: The whole thing with Giants shooting you into orbit? I mean, they SHIPPED with that? Are you kidding? Did no one notice?

Heh. See, this was the thing that actually sold me on Skyrim.

I'd not played Morrowind or Oblivion (though i'd idly seen Mr Pseudonymph playing them) but I was obsessed with Fallout 3 and New Vegas. So when all my gamer friends started talking about Skyrim earlier this year I was tentatively interested and when the release turned into An Event, I found the whole brouhaha pretty enjoyable.
But I still wasn't sure whether i'd actually enjoy the game.

So release day arrives, Mr Pseudo returns home with it and throws it in. After roughly 8 hours in the character creator, he finally begins to play and i'm sort of wondering when the story actually starts or whether the whole thing is wandering around (pretty, pretty!) mountains.

And then, then he sees something in the distance and says to me 'Is that..a mammoth?!'

On my advice, he gets a bit closer to verify and then out of nowhere appears an angry giant hellbent on, seemingly, babysitting this enormous mammoth. I was beginning to warm up to Skyrim at this point since it clearly had a nice sense of the ridiculous and I appreciate that sort of thing.

And it was then that the giant punched poor Mr Pseudo's character. All I heard was an outraged squawk from Mr Pseudo before his toon was launched into the clouds and died.

In between my gales of laughter at this improbable and fantastic turn of events, I told Mr P that any game where giants punch you into the stratosphere and you apparently die from lack of oxygen was my kinda game, so he could kindly cancel his plans to play it uninterrupted for the next week since we would be sharing from now on.

And so it was.

(I'm sending Bethesda an email begging them not to fix that bug, obviously.)
posted by pseudonymph at 10:12 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Todd Howard (lead developer), and you should never believe a word out of the man's mouth, said that they kept the 'funny' bugs in for release date.
posted by codacorolla at 10:22 PM on November 16, 2011


Just popped in to say: It's stuff like this which reminds me why I loved (and love) Morrowind. I never got all that much into the lore, but I love that it exists and people can nerd out on it.

I think part of the reason Morrowind was so neat was all the nooks and crannies an island can have, especially along the coast. I went and circumnavigated Vvardenfell last year, took me a few hours with only a couple of detours for smiting. Really great. (and see, now I'm talking about it as if it were a real place...)

I haven't gotten to play Skyrim yet- don't have the hardware for it- but I'm hoping it manages to pull off something similar with fjords or whatever.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:45 PM on November 16, 2011


Ok after another evening of playing I'm willing to admit getting launched into the stratosphere by a giant is pretty funny.
posted by kprincehouse at 5:32 AM on November 17, 2011


Murdering people in cold blood doesn't make you any less welcome in the house of the Jarl.

Thing is, when they do try to make your anti-social acts have consequences, they get it wrong. As seen in the bit of the Yogscast playthrough where he kills a chicken, the chicken is witness to its own murder and puts a bounty on his head. Murdering people in cold blood shouldn't affect your relationship with the Jarl unless you were caught at it, he is aware of that, and he cares. There aren't many NPCs. It couldn't possibly take all that many CPU cycles to keep track of which ones know what facts.

So it would be nice if they handled that better. Witnesses to your crime ought to need to have the opportunity to report your crime before the guards and everyone else know about it. But it's not only theft and murder where the problem shows up. I bought a Dwarven Bow of Weariness (I think) from a merchant somewhere, and ten seconds later a courier runs up to me with a letter supposedly sent by someone on the far side of Skyrim who's interested in this item. I can only conclude that whoever it was that sent it, in addition to having access to an amazing high-speed communications network, has been using some strange magic to watch my every move, and I'd better go find out who they are and why they're stalking me. Unless it turns out to be a trick set up by the merchant to get me out of town for some reason. Anyway it is quite an impressive game.
posted by sfenders at 6:45 AM on November 17, 2011


I don't want to sink in 50 hours and then find out I can't do the Dark Brotherhood quests and my friends say they're awesome. That just leaves me frustrated. And even moreso, when I come back two years later to throw in some new mod, I'm not gonna want to roll up a new character and replay a bunch of stuff just so I can explore the new mod.

You can use console commands to change your reputation with factions, create a higher-level character or "sell" your items. Back to playing.
posted by ersatz at 7:42 AM on November 17, 2011


I don't want to sink in 50 hours and then find out I can't do the Dark Brotherhood quests and my friends say they're awesome.

Sort of see both sides here. On the one hand, I find it annoying when main-quest challenges are set up in such a way that they're trivial to one "build" and impossible for another without any foreshadowing about what you need.

On the other hand, the results of creating content that's accessible to every character are often linear games with a lot of bland and uninspired challenges that you can just brute-force your way through if you have a big enough sword or make friends with the right companions.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2011


As seen in the bit of the Yogscast playthrough where he kills a chicken, the chicken is witness to its own murder and puts a bounty on his head

A farmyard in Skyrim. A Guardsman is ambling along the road. He stops in his tracks, thunderstruck. There is a maimed chicken lying by the fence, in a pool of blood and feathers, coughing weakly. The guard leaps the fence and rushes to the wounded bird, cradling it in his arms.

Guard:(Shocked) Mrs. Cluckington!

Chicken:(weakly) I'm afraid it's too late for me, dear boy...

Guard: Who did this to you? Was it the Johansen's dog? That damn mutt!

Chicken: No...no...it was...it was.....Dovahkiin

The chicken give a final cough and goes limp.

Guard: Nooooooooooooooooooo!

Guard: (weeping) Sweet Mrs. Cluckington! By Shor's Hammer, thou shalt be avenged!

Anyway, there was something similar in Oblivion: an NPC's "responsibility" score determined how likely they were to to report crimes to the authorities. Horses had a high resposibility so if you jumped on a horse that didn't belong to you that horse would magically report it's own theft. So someone came up with a mod called "Irresponsible Horses" that made horses less responsible so that horse thieving was possible. I was disappointed that it didn't also made horses more likely to get drunk, wander off in search of wild mares, or sell all your stuff for sugar cubes and apples.
posted by gamera at 9:29 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Couldn't Bethesda just introduce a MOUNTAINEERING skillset, or a grappling kit or something?

Daggerfall had a "climbing" skill (which was buggy as heck and mainly applied to walls). And in both Daggerfall and Morrowind once you got good enough at Alteration you could levitate as high up as you wanted. But then the Tribunal expansion came along, where the city had some kind of magical "levitation" dampening field and the spell's days were numbered from there. I understand why they did away with it, but man do I miss floating over the game world (legitmately, without noclip I mean).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2011


Empath, I think the thing that would make things more bearable for you in terms of the quests would probably be a wider variety of actions being available for handling them. I haven't played Skyrim yet, but Morrowind was really good about this. Get orders to screw over a fellow Hlaalu noble? You could follow orders or just get bought out. Ordered to go murder someone? You had the option to let them go and lie about it. Hell, most of the "go kill this dude" quests allowed you to bullshit your way through them if you wanted to. The best ones, like some of the Hlaalu intrigue quests, allowed you take a quest and say, "this is sketchy, I think I should tell someone about it." Those are the ones that really shined and I with they did more with it.

Probably why I hated the main quest in Tribunal. The reason was that there were so many points where many types of characters would have just said, "Uh uh, no way." Up to this point you've been given the impression that the goddess Almalexia has become unstable and probably know her and the rest of the Tribunal's dirty secret. So when she orders you to go and retrieve this powerful artifact that everyone is saying you shouldn't touch - you have the choice of giving it to her or abandoning the expansion. When she tells you to rain hell down upon her people you have the choice to do it or... abandon the expansion. I was playing an Imperial Cult paladin, dammit, why should I help some false god be a jerk? After each of those quests I went around and talked to everyone I could to see if there was a "this is sketchy, I need to tell someone" option. It wasn't there.

Anyways, yeah. If it is more unidirectional then I understand.
posted by charred husk at 10:54 AM on November 17, 2011


Coming from the extremely low expectations of "climbing" in Fallout 3 (and don't get me wrong; I love that game) I am conent with the improvement in Skyrim. Which is to say that I don't need to wonder, and spend five minutes attempting little jumps, if a given ridge is scalable. I can just go do it, as ungainly and game-ily as it might be accomplished. In F3, there was a built-in resistance to jumping if not already on the ground, that could sometimes be overcome with care. So you could spend minutes trying to get to another ledge, get there, and only then find out you can't go any further. Skyrim lets you know pretty quickly whether a given rise can be scaled or not, so I really don't care whether it does so elegantly.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:54 AM on November 17, 2011


Content, even.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:54 AM on November 17, 2011


Just imagine the barbarian choir singing "Dovahkiin! Dovahkiin!" as you read this story: Child (dragon) born on 11/11/11 named Dovahkiin, bullies cower in fear.
posted by kmz at 12:19 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't played Skyrim yet, but Morrowind was really good about this. Get orders to screw over a fellow Hlaalu noble? You could follow orders or just get bought out. Ordered to go murder someone? You had the option to let them go and lie about it. Hell, most of the "go kill this dude" quests allowed you to bullshit your way through them if you wanted to. The best ones, like some of the Hlaalu intrigue quests, allowed you take a quest and say, "this is sketchy, I think I should tell someone about it." Those are the ones that really shined and I with they did more with it.


This is what I was expecting in a number of quests in Skyrim and it is conspicuously absent. I was used to being able to say to the noble/mage/necromancer whom I was currently cozening 'Sure yah I'll go kill Joe Redoran for you, crazy Telvanni lady! No thing!' and then trot off to Joe Redoran and say 'Yah, you might want to hide for a while because some weird Telvanni lady wants you to die.' I LOVED that I could play that kind of character. But in all the quests I've run thus far in Skyrim I have had the unhappy experience of saying to crazy Jarl Xenophobepants 'Yah, I'll go stab Joe OtherJarlsThane in the face for you, no problemo!' and then go up to Joe OtherJarlsThane and have no other option but stabbing him in the face. Since I still carry a minor load of guilt from the time I massacred a village of cat people in EverQuest in like 2000 I prefer not to kill totally innocent people who don't attack me first, so I have a whole lot of quests that I started and then abruptly stopped following in Skyrim because I can't play the duplicitous yes-winn that I enjoy.

I am sure a mod will come along to fix this, hopefully.
posted by winna at 3:20 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ok after another evening of playing I'm willing to admit getting launched into the stratosphere by a giant is pretty funny.

It's even better when they do it to a passing bear!
posted by emmtee at 3:57 PM on November 17, 2011


Actually in retrospect the giant sky catapult effect explains why, the first time I went for a walk outside Whiterun, a mammoth just fell out of the sky and died.
posted by emmtee at 3:58 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm going to take a break from Skyrim for a day or two and then start over on the difficulty level below Master. I've been playing on Master difficulty from the minute I started and, while it's certainly doable, it just isn't fun. Random bandit trash are hugely more difficult to fight than dragons. Maybe not one on one but you don't fight the bandits one on one. It just breaks my suspension of disbelief when I'm a super powerful hero with the power of dragons and Thiefy McRobber the dirty loser bandit living in squalor can one hit me with his cheap-ass iron greatsword while my 15x damage sneak attack with the enchanted magical elven dagger of dragonslaying causes him to lose like 20% of his health.

I love a challenge; I play the Bioware games on Nightmare from the get-go and generally love it. But this isn't a challenge, it's pure boredom. Playing, say, Dragon Age 2 on Nightmare means you have to have a good grasp of the game mechanics and make good use of tactics and appropriate talents. Playing Skyrim on Nightmare means you have to run around kiting the enemy while drinking 15 potions in the middle of battle while a mudcrab possessing the might of a thousand exploding suns chases you with his earth shattering claws of doom clacking behind you.

Skyrim is a very good game but Master difficulty is just horribly tedious. Don't do it unless your idea of fun is figure out how to exploit the game system rather than test your grasp of it.

Now to decide whether to make another sneaky cat dude, a pure magic high elf, or a two-handed wielding son of Skyrim dedicated to defeating the Empire and keeping Skyrim pure!
posted by Justinian at 6:08 PM on November 17, 2011



I'm going to take a break from Skyrim for a day or two and then start over on the difficulty level below Master. I've been playing on Master difficulty from the minute I started and, while it's certainly doable, it just isn't fun. Random bandit trash are hugely more difficult to fight than dragons.


I hate to break it to you, but the dragon implementation is poorly done, and while dragons are damage sponges, they are ultimately very, very easy to fight on any difficulty.
posted by codacorolla at 8:13 PM on November 17, 2011


What are the over/under odds on when someone's PhD thesis is on the lore from The Elder Scrolls series? (I'd imagine that it'd be about modern literature creation, maybe apply classical analytical methods to narratives produced for contemporary entertainment, and examination of the medium-derived differences.)

I remember Terminator 2029!! It was so freaking dope. 1992, I was 14, picked it up at a software chopshop at this incredibly dense market complex in Hong Kong. The entire manual was photocopied, it's a little over an inch thick with pages folded in half, since there were codes printed on each of the pages as a copy-protection paradigm. Ran it on a 486DX2 66 with 4Mbs of RAM and a VESA compatible VGA card on a 14" CRT.

I don't miss having to mess around with EMS and Extended Memory and IRQs anymore but DOS4GW came along and worked pretty well until Win95 came along, and games being written exclusively in Windows at the expense of DOS.

posted by porpoise at 8:40 PM on November 17, 2011


Argh, this is making me want to play Morrowind again. I don't have time would think that two complete (all main quests, anyway) playthroughs would be enough!
posted by saveyoursanity at 9:50 AM on November 18, 2011


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