Skyrim EP5: You’re Making a Mistake…

By Shamus
on Feb 13, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

We talked a bit about guards and solving crime in this episode, which reminds me of one of my ancient Oblivion posts. The way the game handles crime is a perfect illustration of how the game makes itself seem dumber by making the AI “smarter”. (Or at least, more sophisticated.)

Lots of people have complained about the flaws in the system where stolen items can’t be sold to any reputable shopkeeper. After all, if I steal an apple and go to the next town, certainly I shouldn’t need to fence the apple! This is an understandable complaint, although truly solving this problem is more difficult than it seems at first glance. It requires a lot of AI to figure out if an NPC should be able to spot an item as stolen.

So in an ideal world, what would determine if someone could spot a hot item?

  1. The value of the item. It should be easy to sell a stolen wooden plate, or some blank parchment. Some items are of such little value that they shouldn’t be missed as long as you lifted it unseen. On the other hand, a golden nicknack should be very hard to sell.
  2. How distinctive it is. You can’t tell a stolen apple from an apple purchased at the store or plucked from a tree, and the NPC’s shouldn’t be able to tell the difference either. On the other hand, a famous ring should be almost impossible to sell.
  3. The relationship / proximity of the buyer to the original owner. If I steal Bob’s longsword, I shouldn’t be surprised when I can’t sell it to Bob. Perhaps the rest of his family would have heard of the theft and be able to spot his sword as well, so I can’t sell to them either. If Bob is an important man, then perhaps I need to go to another town to find a buyer. If Bob is famous, then perhaps I need to go several towns away.
  4. The time elapsed since the theft. Right after I take something valuable I would expect lots of people to be on the lookout for the missing item, depending on the fame and influence of the owner. However, as time passes I would expect most of them to forget about it, with the sphere of people shrinking until only the original owner remembers or cares about it.
  5. How much the owner valued the item and was aware of it. If I take Bob’s longsword from over his fireplace, it should be hard to sell. If he had a whole box of them in his basement, much less so.
  6. If the theft was noticed. As above, if an item is sitting unused and forgotten in a basement somewhere, then it should be easier to find a buyer because the original owner probably won’t miss it right away.
  7. How trustworthy the player is. If a silver fork goes missing and the next day a famous hero and champion of the people shows up trying to pawn one, the buyer is not going to be eager to accuse him of petty theft. On the other hand, if my character is some shiftless unknown who just rolled into town last night (right before the item went missing) and appears in the shop the next morning with the same item for sale, it should at least raise some eyebrows.
  8. How much theft is going on. If there has been a crime wave recently and lots of stuff is missing, then people should be much more suspect of what I have to sell.

I would not want to try to write the AI code for all of this. Each time you add another item on this list to the AI (no small task, some of it) you will just move the stupid from one part of the game to another. You would eventually find yourself trying to write AI capable of gathering clues and evidence and solving crimes before the system was free of idiocy.

In some ways making NPC’s “smarter” makes them seem dumber. I don’t expect much out of a lifeless NPC who stands behind a counter 24/7/365, who has no life, no family, nothing to do and nothing really to say. He’s just an animated vending machine to the player. However, once you give him a little voice acting, a bit of personality, make some of the other people in town his relatives, give him a daily routine of closing up shop and going home, then the player starts thinking of him as a character or even a person. They might say, “I love Henry the shopkeeper. He’s so crabby and pretends to hate his job so much, but the guys at the pub say he’s rich and he could really quit whenever he wanted.”

But all of this is self-defeating in a way, because when Henry starts to seem real to the player then the player starts to expect Henry to behave rationally. Then when Henry does something very stupid (like refusing to buy a stolen potato, or being willing to buy an item you just lifted out of his pocket a second ago, like his own house key) then the illusion is broken and he seems even dumber than the NPC who never did anything and had no personality.

This reminds me of the Uncanny Valley. Up to a certain point making the AI better and better makes the NPC seem more real, until they become too convincing and then their shortcomings suddenly become glaring and overshadow everything else.

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A Hundred!A Hundred!2010230 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. hborrgg says:

    When I was doing my NPC playthrough I came across those revelers walking along the road, and then a short time later I found them again hanging out on the front porch of my wife’s house. They were still there a week later.

  2. TheAngryMongoose says:

    A very quick improvement to the Oblivion system would be to have items mark as, say, generic, fencable, and recognisable. Potatos and wooden forks are random items indistinguishable from many others, so you can sell to everyone (except possibly the owner; just to prevent selling items immediately after picking up in the store), things worth stealing, like jewellery, valuable swords, perhaps high value potions, need to be properly fenced, and items that are named and legendary simply aren’t considered saleable. Combined, perhaps with a timer, this would create an acceptably realistic simulation without any deep AI required; just a couple of flags on each item.

    • Tizzy says:

      This has to be the most realistic proposal that I’ve met so far. And I don’t think it would be that hard to implement. But it’s yet one more bloody thing to initialize for every single freaking object class that the game designer create.

      If you have to set the values for each object, it won’t be fun. How many different item types does Skyrim have? And all this for a very minor aspect of gameplay, too. (Although maybe not so minor in this season of SW…)

      • ET says:

        Just don’t make it mandatory for the level creators to manually set this attribute for each item.
        Every item you place in the game defaults to generic/fenceable/recognizable based on it’s cost, or how many copies of that item exist in the game world, or if that item exists in any of the lists for random loot.

        • Kerin says:

          Except then a specific mug from a house is arbitrarily unfence-able because it uses an old item ID and wasn’t updated during the engine change.

          Or the “how many copies in the gameworld” counter counts developer maps and artificially inflates how fence-able some items are.

          Or it counts copies of items in whiterun_inside_shop02.lvl.bak2.DELETELATER.

          Or an expansion comes out and changes the number of an item, causing them all to spontaneously stop being fence-able. Worse yet, maybe this only happens when you have certain DLCs, because one DLC has a fix for this and the rest don’t.

          You have to consider the surface area of any AI improvement: not just how many system it affects, but how many systems affect it.

          • Ciennas says:

            If the item was flagged at the start- placed on a table for lookup on how to respond to being stolen- would that cause interaction between systems?

            three categories ‘don’t care’ ‘need fenced’ ‘epic quest to fence’ decided at the item’s creation?

            • Thomas says:

              I think ‘Don’t care’ ‘Can’t be sold in city of origin’ ‘needs fencing’
              might be a good set of three, and then you make fencing a lot more difficult/epic. Because the world’s still kind of rough in terms of travel and communication I think people would easily accept that shopkeepers in other settlements don’t get told about random stolen swords etc.

              So mugs and spoons can be sold to anyone, swords and armour can’t be sold to someone in the same town and unique items need difficult fencing.

              And if you have the default labelling system only label things ‘don’t care’ or ‘not same town’ and they do that based on item value, then the worst that happens when a designer forgets to label an item is that it’s easier to sell some epic artifact than it should be. (or a shopkeeper is oddly sentimental about a specific spoon)

              *This might be harder to automatically do I gues.

          • Felblood says:

            There’s a simpler way to handle this.

            Give every item a “Heat” value, at the time it is stolen. Items that are common and industinguishable have 0 heat, and you can assign base heat values to anything that might turn up stolen, just like you assign every item a gold and a weight value.

            This value depletes over time, and once it hits zero, you can safely sell the item (though perhaps not to the original owner).

            This is intuitive for players and provides mechanics you can build gameplay and quests around. For example players will want to cache stolen goods in their attics or bury them in caves, until the heat depletes enough to sell them.

            It also gives you a good foundation where you can add other features later, if you want more complexity.

            Suspicious actions, like getting caught pickpocketing or running from the guard, increace the heat value of any held items with nonzero heat signatures. Likewise, a smooth theft of an object that isn’t missed right away could provide a bonus that divides the starting heat value of the item (or if a guard immediately notices one of his charges has vanished, multiplies it). You could even add heat to a murder weapon, to aid the guard in catching player murderers, though looting an NPC murderer might become complicated (do items taken from dead bodies gain or lose heat?).

            To make fencing rare goods interesting, you could add minimum heat values, or make heat diminish by a half-life (never reaches 0). In this scenario, a given merchant has a minimum heat value he will buy at, based on his level of suspicion and his own lack of scruples. If there is a noteworthy NPC fence who will buy anything, but is considered dangerous and hard to locate, lesser fences might direct you toward the quest, whenever you present an item that is too hot for them to handle.

            Another (fun?) possiblitity would be black market shopkeepers who sell discount items with unexplained heat signatures.

            Noteworthy drawbacks: Stackable items that carry heat are potentially problematic.

            • Peter H. Coffin says:

              Heat counters would address about five or six of the concerns Shamus brings up. And they’re really easy to assign, given the idea that you have a base heat value for every item that reflects how valuable it is, both materially and to the original owner, and if it’s not a special object, the heat value from your template item is fine. We also add a “stolen” flag that gets set when the player steals it. Gamewise, we decrease the positive (non-zero) heat value of every stolen item in the universe (stupidly easy and fast if we’re using anything resembling a database to store our objects). I think we can simplify a lot of player action consequence and fencing interactions by giving the player a “heat value” as well, that burns off with time and at a rate reputation/level/whatever. high level paragon characters burn off heat much faster than low-level nobodys or notorious baddies. Heat value too high for the vendor/fence, they won’t deal with you at all. Attempting to sell a non-zero item to a vendor applies the heat value to the player (maybe only after the second too-hot item offered to a vendor). Being caught stealing applies heat value to player. Etc.

              Distance from place a thing was stolen from we can handwave a bit in that we’re walking goods from place to place and I think it’s enough of an improvement over how things are now that we can stare down anyone trying to make an issue of “but I ran all the way across the map immediately! how could news of the theft have gotten this far already!?!”

              • Felblood says:

                The beauty of it is that by the time the player gets to the far side of the map, time will have reduced the heat on most small merchandise to palatable levels, especially if the time progression from fast ravel applies normally to heat (which should b the norm).

                If we really want to compensate for things like Icaran Flight, we could make heat dissipate based on distance traveled, as well, but that introduces even weirder behaviors when the payer runs in a circles, so I doubt it would be worthwhile.

    • ET says:

      I too thought of this, although with a scale of 1-10 for a couple attributes, instead of simple flags.
      Essentially the same, just finer-grained control for people making the maps/levels/etc.
      Just like graphics, making “true” AI is friggin’ hard, but you can get a lot of mileage out of cheap hacks.

    • Alex says:

      I was thinking about #7 myself. A quick bodge would be to let the player sell any stolen item with a value less than their level, perhaps with a per-hold bonus for being Thane.

    • Nyctef says:

      The way I’d want to fix it is to tag each stolen item with the hold it was stolen in (the same way bounties work) so that it only counts as stolen in that hold. I feel like this would be simple but effective, and understandable for the player since bounties already work this way (which is awesome by itself)

  3. SyrusRayne says:

    Now that Rutskarn says it, I really want to know if there’s any mention of Talos’ ascension.

    There appear to be members of this community that know Everything Elder Scrolls. Anyone have any interesting information or theories?

    (One thing I’ve noticed; In Morrowind the worship of Talos seems to be rather underground. There’s that whole questline when you join the Imperial Legion with the hidden shrine and whatnot. Some people still refer to him as Tiber Septim, as well. What changes between then and Oblivion? It doesn’t seem to be because of location; the ‘Imperial cult’ has shrines in the forts. But Talos isn’t a part of that?)

    • Ira says:

      The Talos Cult in Morrowind wasn’t banned because it worshipped Talos. It was banned because they were political extremists conspiring to assassinate the emperor. The Imperial Cult openly worshipped Talos/Tiber Septim as a god. It’s mentioned in their handbook, for a start.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Wouldn’t the Knights of the Nine DLC be consistent with Talos being a deity now? Since the prophet seems very insistent that you’d be unable to beat Umaril without Talos’s divine help.

      • TheHokeyPokey says:

        In the Oblivion main quest, Martin needs “the blood of an Aedra” in order to open a portal. You end up using Tiber Septim’s armor, which proves that he at least has Aedric properties.

        • swenson says:

          That’s what I kept thinking throughout Skyrim. “Talos must be an Aedra or something akin to that because I needed the blood of an Aedra in Oblivion.” But considering this is Elder Scrolls, I guess you could make the argument that Martin was wrong or Talos wasn’t an Aedra but was something else powerful enough to work or there was some other interpretation.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Yes, people refer to him as both Talos and Tiber Septim, but don’t read too much into that. At most, it’s a way to distinguish between Tiber Septim, the mortal conqueror that he was, and Talos, the god he became. For most, it’s just interchangeable: Tiber Septim (who became Talos), or Talos (who was Tiber Septim).

    • Ryan says:

      The Arcturian Heresy is the most interesting and plausible account besides the orthodox “Talos was so awesome the Aedra let him join”.

      • The Rocketeer says:

        The Arcturian Heresy is, indeed, an awesome bit of lore, as is everything involving Wulfharth. But it doesn’t mention Talos, the god, in any capacity. It doesn’t ascribe divinity to Tiber Septim, nor Zurin Arctus, nor even Wulfharth beyond his status as an unkillable Shezarrine badass Thu’um master, which is and has been well-documented since around the sixth century 1E.

  4. I feel like a few of these things could be reduced into a “stealability” variable, like a number from 1 to 100 that indicates how easy it is to sell a stolen item. An apple could be 100% stealable, a shiny sword around 50% and a super-famous ring at 1 or 2%.

    But there’s no way I’m even going to try implementing that.

  5. Ira says:

    Regarding Talos and possibly being a god: in addition to Wulf in Morrowind, doesn’t Knights of the Nine pretty much directly confirm that Talos is divine? You don’t meet him, but you get a divine blessing directly from him which you use to deal with the central villain.

    Come to think of it, in vanilla Oblivion you need the blood of an Aedra to open the portal to Camoran’s Paradise, and you achieve that by getting a scraping of Talos’ blood.

    I think on balance the game evidence is firmly in favour of Talos being a god, isn’t it?

    • Thomas says:

      I would also argue for oblivion quests are evidence for talos’ godhood. I also think the other gods refer to themselves as the nine but I’m not certain.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Yeah. I forgot the main quest in Oblivion makes you get Talos’s blood because you need the blood of a god.

    • hborrgg says:

      The sense I got in Skyrim, since talos’ blessing only really helps the dragonborn, was that he is real but it might be tricky to convince most people of that.

      “Oh yeah? If Talos isn’t real then WHYAMISHOUTINGFASTER?!”

      • Microwaviblerabbit says:

        I wish that instead of Talos worship being outright banned, he had been relegated to being a daedric prince. That would have meant his shrines and amulets would still logically have power. Considering that the Oblivion Crisis occurred due to his bloodline failing, and the Thalmor came out of this event, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for them to blame Talos. After all it was Akatosh, not Talos who defeated Mehrunes Dagon.

        Of course this would bring some depth to the Nazi Elves, rather than just painting them as completely wrong which was the intent.

        • The Rocketeer says:

          That… doesn’t really make sense. Daedra, especially the Princes, aren’t just ‘lesser Aedra,’ they’re more like cousins to the Aedra. And while it might even make more logical sense that Talos would identify more with Padomaic qualities, rather than Anuic qualities, the Aedra themselves aren’t totally Anuic either; they each exist somewhere on a spectrum between the two extremes.

          Furthermore, becoming a Daedra, especially a prince, wouldn’t be a lesser achievement than becoming an Aedra, and it isn’t the idea that Tiber Septim became an Aedra that bugs the Thalmor. It’s the idea that an Imperial, a stinking human, became anything at all. Mer descended from the true Aedra, and men are base creatures born of Nirn, a tragic and abortive realm. No one that believes in this dichotomy, and truly believes that Nirn is anything other than a nightmarish farce, could ever accept the sting of seeing a mere man aspire to or achieve anything beyond it, at least not until the mer got to do it first, and better.

          The Altmer, and particularly the Thalmor, consider themselves the true heirs of Aldmeris, the Ehlnofey, and the et’Ada, and Ari-el, and Anuiel, from whom Lorkhan and Nirn robbed them of everything out of sheer cruelty. The idea of Talos existing isn’t just a racial issue to them, it’s a violation of everything they believe about physics, metaphysics, theology, biology, and common sense. Accepting Talos means giving up their identity, and admitting that they really don’t know anything and are just as stuck and hopeless as everyone else.

          • Corpital says:

            I agree. With all of it. I’m actually impressed, well done.

          • MadHiro says:

            Men and Mer are both descended from the same original spirits. That they’re able to create viable offspring with each other suggests this is so, even if there isn’t too much accurate documentation of the pre-historical descent of the the separation of the Ehlnofey and the ‘Wandering’ of some of them.

            Though, its important to repeat that the Aldmer didn’t descend from the Aedra who are worshiped as gods. They descended from ‘lesser’ Aedra. I forget the source, and the exact wording, but I remember a particular phrase that they are the descendants of the servants, worshiping their old masters. They aren’t the sons and daughters of Auri-El, they’re the sons and daughters of The Idea Of The Color Purple #79.

            • The Rocketeer says:

              Right you are! But that’s not really how the Altmer, especially the Thalmor, feel about it, and the truth is less important than the opinion of the well-armed. In their eyes, they descended to mortality from the Aurbis, and the races of men arose from the dirt of Nirn. The fact that men and mer can interbreed (though with difficulty; “The Real Barenziah” mentions that it usually doesn’t take) is probably something they regard with a great deal of horror, a mixing of wine and vinegar.

              Even at that, though, it seems as though men were indeed changed much by their time in Mundus, and became much closer to Nirn, while elves remain much more similar to the Ehlnofey, to varying degrees, and given the elven opinion of Nirn and the nature of Mundus, this makes the races of men lesser than mer.

              I think the reference to ‘wandering’ you mention is from “The Annotated Anuad,” which would certainly confirm this:

              “A large fragment of the Ehlnofey world landed on Nirn relatively intact, and the Ehlnofey living there were the ancestors of the Mer. These Ehlnofey fortified their borders from the chaos outside, hid their pocket of calm, and attempted to live on as before. Other Ehlnofey arrived on Nirn scattered amid the confused jumble of the shattered worlds, wandering and finding each other over the years. Eventually, the wandering Ehlnofey found the hidden land of Old Ehlnofey, and were amazed and joyful to find their kin living amid the splendor of ages past. The wandering Ehlnofey expected to be welcomed into the peaceful realm, but the Old Ehlnofey looked on them as degenerates, fallen from their former glory. For whatever reason, war broke out, and raged across the whole of Nirn. The Old Ehlnofey retained their ancient power and knowledge, but the Wanderers were more numerous, and toughened by their long struggle to survive on Nirn.”

              • MadHiro says:

                I’m not sure I can get on the wagon of Men being changed ‘more’ than Mer. Differently changed, obviously and definitely. But more? When you look at Men, Mer, and disembodied esoteric memetic spirit thing, the apparant differences between the two M’s pretty much vanish. It comes down to Star Trek biology, really. Two arms, two legs, two eyes, bilateral symmetry. Pretty much identical. When you consider what they came from, and what other sort of potential morphologies we’re talking about (I’m looking at you, the Hist). What’s really sort of interesting to me is that the Altmer’s ‘racial’ trait in Skyrim is More Magicka, that resource being generally associated with Magnus, who is most definitely Not An Aedra (despite his role in the creation of NIRN, an act which should have the Altmer hating on him regardless).

                Do the High Elves say they’re less changed, more true, more pure? Sure. I’m just not buying it.

                I also pretty much exclusively play Dunmer characters in these games, so I’ve got an obvious ax in the fire.

                … stupid Altmer.

                • The Rocketeer says:

                  Magnus, not an Aedroth? Magnus is certainly one of the Aedra, and an et’Ada, just not one of the Divines- although he is greatly revered by anyone that reveres magic. The Aedra are simply the beings that arose from the Aurbis- like Magnus, Akatosh, Lorkhan, etc- as opposed to the Daedra, which are purely Padomaic. Beyond that, elves only hold the creation of Mundus against Lorkhan, who willed it; they maintain that the other et’Ada were tricked into helping him. In particular, it’s said that Akatosh’s only failing, ever, was being tricked once by Lorkhan, and their reverence for Akatosh and their other gods- Magnus certainly among them- is undiminished.

                  Magicka being the fundamental motive force of creation, we can indeed infer that elves, and especially the Altmer, are closer to Nirn’s origin as a much less metaphysically stable place. The Altmer don’t just excel in terms of Magicka; before Skyrim did away with it, all of their bonus skills were magical. We can observe that typically, the more changed a race is from Altmer, the less magical they tend to be, not counting the beast races, which seem to have no lineage from the Ehlnofey. The Bosmer rejected High Elf doctrine and embraced Nirn wholeheartedly. Consequently, they are the most non-magical of the mer, receiving bonuses to only the quasi-magic skill of Alchemy in Morrowind, and to Alchemy and Alteration in Oblivion. The Dunmer also rejected the Altmer, but in favor of their own beliefs, not of Nirn itself. It’s difficult to guess at the nature of the Chimer, since the Dunmer of today were, of course, transfigured by Azura, and have lived in the harsh environment of Resdayn/Morrowind for millennia. Ultimately, the Dunmer receive bonuses to Destruction and Mysticism in both Morrowind and Oblivion, as well as being able to summon Ancestor spirits. By contrast, the Orsimer were irreparably transfigured when Trinimac was devoured by Beothiah and became Malacath, and have no magical skill whatsoever.

                  We can also attempt to speculate about the Ayleids, which were essentially Altmer with a culture fixated on Astronomy. Luckily for them, the stars- and especially the sun, thanks to Magnus as mentioned above- is the source of all Magicka in Nirn, and the Ayleids therefore gained a greater understanding of magic than any other race. Well, aside from perhaps the Dwemer, who understood magic and the gods a bit too well, and blinked themselves right out of speculation.

                  In contrast to mer, Imperials, Redguards, and Nords have no bonus to magic use whatsoever. Bretons certainly do, though, conveniently because the Breton race was produced from the interbreeding of the ancient Altmer with the Nedes.

                  Of course, this really only matters if magical affinity is an indicator of a primordial, Dawn Era atavism. I think it is, to a great extent, but of course that’s just an idea.

          • Microwaviblerabbit says:

            I was more thinking about it from the other end. Talos, who is worshiped as a god is really a daedric prince. Tiber Septim could be his hero, an incarnation of him, or anything in-between.

            It could even be argued that Tiber Septim became godlike through use of an artifact, like the Tribunal. Considering his ability to use Numidium, that theory would have some merit. Actually this makes more sense in context, since Tiber Septim used Numidium to destroy the Second Aldmeri Dominion, combined with the relegation of the Tribunal to sainthood in Morrowind following the Red Year.

            • SyrusRayne says:

              Interesting. I wonder; Does Shivering Isles add anything to that theory? It at least /seems/ that the Oblivion Crisis hero did indeed become Sheogorath. Though the original personality seems to remain the same?

    • MadHiro says:

      Technically, Talos isn’t an Aedra. He might be a God (well, he is a God), but he wasn’t one of the creative forces that made NIRN and the creatures on it.

      • The Rocketeer says:

        There isn’t really anything to suggest this, but it’s possible that Tiber Septim always was Aedric, and merely reassumed or came into his true nature after his mortal life concluded. Aedra taking mortal form and meddling in Tamrielic affairs isn’t unheard of, although the largest example of this is Shor, who doesn’t really have too many other options.

        Or perhaps his extraordinary life managed to alter or inspire a number of pre-existing lesser Aedra to twist together into a new Divine, that, regardless of whether or not it incorporates the spirit of the man himself, “is” Tiber Septim, or considers itself to be.

        I freely admit this is grasping at straws, but then again, it isn’t necessarily counter to what the game suggests, since the game doesn’t really suggest anything at all about how he achieved apotheosis; it just seems to have happened, and the mechanism is conveniently omitted.

        • MadHiro says:

          The question of continuity of consciousness in the apotheosis of Tiber Septim is an interesting one. Given that most interpretations of the creation of Talos involve the ‘combination’ of Tiber Septim, Wulfharth, and Arctus into one being, it isn’t likely that any one man’s ‘self’ (whatever that is) has remained in the God Talos. What sort of gestalt results from this will, appropriately, have little chance of resembling a human viewpoint. A God, especially in TES, shouldn’t just be a bro with a lot of power.

          The fact that one of the potential sub-components of Talos was a Shezzarine suggests that there might be enough ‘divine’ flavoring in the Oversoul to count as Aedric for the purpose of a ‘key’ in Oblivion. Though, whether Lorkhan/Shor is an Aedroth himself is an entirely other question.

          • The Rocketeer says:

            You know, I’ve seen this idea once or twice, but I’ve never seen anything in the games to back it up. In fact, the only references I can find to the idea of Talos being a mix of Septim/Wulfharth/Arctus are: on Wuflharth’s UESP page, which is accompanied by a fat [citation needed] tag; on the ‘Shezarrine’ page, in which this ‘Oversoul’ is mentioned in passing as part of a speculative list of Shezarrines; and on the Underking’s page, which isn’t accompanied by an sort of reference.

            In fact, since every reference to this contains this same ridiculously obtuse phrase, ” the same enantiomorphic Oversoul that makes up the deity known as Talos,” I’m inclined to believe that this is the idea of one overzealous editor of UESP, with no firm basis in really anything at all.

            • MadHiro says:

              I’m mostly drawing it from interpreting the Arcturian Heresy. That the recorded histories of Tiber Septim’s past got mixed up, that the deed’s of Ysmir, Hjalti and Arctus got all transposed is so. That Talos is a god is self-evident, at least to us as players (his shrines work, his avatars do things, yadda yadda). Which leaves us with the question of “How’d he do that, exactly?” What I see that makes the most sense to me is that conflating himself with a bit of Shor metaphorically had literal results. It certainly feels more solid to me than the mystic Enlightenment CHIM retro-active terraforming of Cyrodil.

              And, yeah, I hear your sentiment. The number of times I’ve had to bite my tongue when people are tossing around the world ‘mantled’ on teslore is non-zero.

              • The Rocketeer says:

                This is certainly possible; I’ve entertained the idea that Talos might indeed be Lorkhan, or empowered by Lorkhan somehow, yet I freely admit this is just my obsession with Shor talking over my reason.

                I think the strongest reasoning for this is the idea that, if Lorkhan did indeed envision the world as an Arena, a place for mortals, lessened by their place in Mundus, to struggle and earn their way out of it, then Tiber Septim might certainly qualify as a success in this regard; if Lorkhan was in a position to empower Talos, he might have chosen to do so.

                Yet I don’t think Lorkhan is in a position to do so, having long been separated from his own Aedric power; if the spirit of Shor was the power behind the entity Talos, then it would be a very weak Aedra indeed, even if it qualified as one. Furthermore, Lorkhan’s motives and desires are famously inscrutable, and shouldn’t be used as the foundation for any theory, much less one based on this much speculation. And while Tiber Septim did indeed control Anumidium, and therefore the Mantella housing the soul of the Shezarrine Wulfharth, it is confirmed in “The Arcturian Heresy” that the spirit of a Shezarrine does not possess true divinity, is not the true spirit of Shor, and does not possess its power. Hence, Anumidium being “merely” and unstoppable doom-golem rather than a created god, as Akulakhan presumably would have been, since it was to incorporate the Heart of Lorkhan itself. And I sincerely doubt that Wulfharth would be very enthusiastic about lending Tiber Septim his power, to masquerade as a god in Lorkhan’s place. No, I think this would upset a Shezarrine very much.

                And while I tend to agree with your aversion to just attribute it to CHIM and be done with it, as CHIM is yet another concept that there is perilously little direct reference to or explanation of, and seems to exist more in Kirkbride’s personal writings than in the game lore itself. However, it probably shouldn’t be discounted completely; remember that the Amulet of Kings, in Aldmeris, is called “Chim-el Adabal.” I wish I knew what “Adabal” truly meant; Morihaus’ alleged memoirs are called the “Adabal-a,” yet they don’t make any reference to the Amulet of Kings, though they do speak mostly of Alessia, who was of course the recipient of the Amulet. Therefore, CHIM might well be related to the Imperial bloodline in some fashion, especially given that “Where Were You When the Dragon Broke?” is the single reference I can find to the idea of an ‘oversoul,’ when it states that the Amulet of Kings possesses “it’s oversoul of emperors.”

                Ugh, it’s all a headache. I know that one source attributed the blessing of the Amulet to Lorkhan, but I can’t find it. The UESP page on the Amulet mentions it as well, but doesn’t reference it. The idea of Talos’ divinity incorporates so many things that are themselves beyond real understanding, like the Warp in the West, and CHIM, and the Dragon Break of the First Era (if it even happened!), and Lorkhan’s spirit and mind, and the true facts behind Tiber Septim’s mortal life… It’s all speculative. There’s no foothold for anything. Maybe that’s how it should be, though.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    A direction in the right place would be to replace the generic “stolen” flag every item has with a flag that would say which merchants it cant be sold to.For example,bobs sword would get just bob flagged as a person it cant be sold to.A generic sword would not get flagged at all.And jarls sword would get the whole town(or maybe a few towns)flagged.You could even tweak it for unique and very distinct items as well.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      That might cause many more complication because of all the lists of merchants the game would need to keep track of for every single item in the game. That’d be a lot of extra data to store for not a lot of payoff.

      You might make some progress by limiting it to factions instead, but that still has a somewhat lesser version of the same problem.

      • See below for an idea I had. But a “stolen” flag that takes into account where it was stolen from and then reduces the effect of the flag (as a value vs. how much it can be sold for and/or whether or not guards get involved) depending on how far from its point of origin you are.

      • mac says:

        But would it be a lot of extra data? How many merchants are there? If there are 500, in the worst case that’s 500 bits you need to set – 63ish bytes. Even per item, that’s not a big deal. And it could very easily be compressed.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Even if you would hold a list of all the merchants,it would still not be that much data.What would be huge is the job for the developer to customize that list for all the items.

        However,there are ways to trim down that work.For example,by making the flag target an area,town or specific merchants.So if you were to flag Kingdom,every merchant would be flagged.If you were to flag City,every merchant in that city would be flagged.You can even group them by guilds then,or in any other fashion.

        Though it still would be some extra work,it wouldnt be that much.Biggest effort would go into thinking about which item should be flagged where.

        • Michael says:

          Honestly, you could hardcode it to work the way the normal ownership tags do. If the item has a value over X then it’s handled one way, below X and it’s handled another. If this is only processed when you’re actually trying to sell stuff, it shouldn’t be that much more intensive than the normal vendor window.

    • Ciennas says:

      Or maybe…. I dunno. Instead of flags, just place items in categories along the lines you described in the level editor. That would make it less work for the coders, right?

      And the three levels of ‘hard to fence’ would require three different levels of shenanigans to get rid of. Generics could get resold anywhere, all ‘Fenceable’ items require the services of that guy who owns the van things just fall off of, and the super recognizable unique items would require a quest of their own.

      Hm. Code it as a quest that starts on stealing the object, but let it be droppable- hideable. Then the game spawns ‘investigators’ who will be actively hunting for it from the town of origin. They’ll interview the player, and how they do so determines how under suspicion the player is. The more people saw him enter or leave the building after the theft, the higher the suspicion. Upon bluffing them, the player just has to stay one step ahead of them to the guy who will either buy it outright or fence it properly.

      Until fenced, fast travel would be disabled until the object is fenced, or if used, the investigation team would already be there.

      Maybe you could recruit a guy to lay down a false trail, but then he has to like you or your money enough not to spill if he gets caught.

      (Or not. Just coding the Investigators and the Drop Points would be interesting in and of itself. With enough forethought, you could make an entire game of ‘Open World heist simulating’ by itself. Also, I’m playing Dead Money for the first time. Heists spring to mind.)

      The best part though- it would be entirely possible the whole time, but optional. Hidden, not mentioned as more than rumor. the game would be a lot more freeform with it.

      How feasible is any of this? In a game like Oblivion, how much extra work does this system put on the dev team?

    • Humanoid says:

      If this ‘problem’ had been solved, then my favourite ever episode of Spoiler Warning wouldn’t have existed, and that thought makes me sad.

      But that aside, I’d back the simple ‘requires fence’ optional flag for each item, I don’t feel it needs to be more complicated than that.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        As long as all the content is being created by hand, I agree with you. As long as the designer is generating lists of objects, deciding whether each object requires a fence should be a trivial extra burden. When we move into the realm of procedural content, a more procedural technique will be required.

        One could even make the “requires a fence” value an integer instead of a boolean, where higher values indicate progressive increases in difficulty of locating a fence, and the fence’s fee for their services. A value of 1, for example, could mean simply “any character other than the one you stole it from”. A 2 might be “anyone not from the town it was stolen from”. A 3 could require moving districts, etc.

        Then progressivly more criminal characters could provide a reduction in the effective rating for goods they are willing to accept. A shady pawn-broker might reduce the rating by 1, and a professional fence by 2. In such a way you’d have to go further afield, or rely on more criminal figures (which would offer a lower price). Some vendors may even increase the effective rating, indicating they are particularly well informed, well traveled, or reputable.

        Then I would suggest that each individual item’s rating be sometimes shifted +- 1, and that the player character is unable to percieve this number without “theif training” or some similar trained skill. That, and if you try to sell stolen goods to the wrong person, they immediately call the guards, or blacklist you, or something. This should keep the player guessing as to when and where it is safe to take stolen goods, and at the same time reward thieves who sink skill points into more criminal skills.

        Oh! And then you could “deface” items, which would allow you to lower their “requires a fence” rating (by making them harder to identify), while at the same time reducing the value of the item. It might be worth taking the hit to price if you need to unload a valuable item quickly, or if you don’t want to lug it a long ways.

        Man! There are so many mechanically simple ways to deal with this! If only the budget was going toward developing interesting mechanics instead of voice acting and bling shaders!

  7. Amnestic says:

    On the “religion” thing, I liked the two inclusion of the two books “Akatosh Dichotomy” (in which a High Priest of Akatosh asserts that Alduin and Akatosh are one and the same) and “Alduin is Real, and He Ent Akatosh” (in which a poorly literate Nord explains how they’re not one and the same).

    I forget if the game outright indicates one way or the other, though I think it leans towards them being separate? Regardless, for much of the game it wasn’t clear if they were the same and that did colour my approach to Alduin somewhat. What if the World Eater really was Akatosh, the God of Time, and I’m trying to kill him/it?

    • guy says:

      Since the Dragonborn is the chosen of Akatosh, and Alduin attempted to kill him/her, they are not the same. QED.

      • Supahewok says:

        I dunno. I can go to the super market and “chose” a lobster for dinner. Maybe furnishing a mortal with dragon shouts is like adding hot sauce.

        • Ira says:

          I would be more inclined to argue that there’s no evidence that Alduin is anything more than a big dragon with delusions of grandeur, and is also a tyrant who eats people, while Akatosh showed up in person in Oblivion and conspicuously failed to eat people or otherwise be evil.

          • Supahewok says:

            I was just being facetious to that Guy. I honestly am inclined to think that both Akatosh and Alduin are different earthly manifestations representing different aspects of the same concept, Akatosh being the force propelling time and Alduin being the force that brings time’s end. Sort of like a force of the cosmos with multiple personality disorder.

            My own, personal, completely unsupported speculation is that a great act by one will be met by a reciprocal great act by the other. Akatosh possessing an earthly avatar in Oblivion was met by the return of Alduin in Skyrim. Akatosh, knowing of the pattern, seeded some of his power into a something that will cause a something that becomes Dragonborn or something, I dunno. Probably some lore in a dusty corner that refutes this, as I have said I got nothing to support this other than I think it gives satisfactory answers to the questions “why is Alduin here now” and “why does there just happen to be an average dude born with the potential to be Dragonborn who ends up at the right place at the right time to disrupt Alduin.”

            Of course, all of this may be a projection of my own religious and philosophical biases. The cynic in me also thinks that there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that any of this was at all Bethesda’s intention. Most of the subtleties and intricacies of their lore happen in hindsight, as the newest game tries to connect and explain some of the last one. I doubt that that’s planned in advance.

            • guy says:

              I’m pretty confident that’s not the case, but we are talking time gods here so anything could go.

              However, it appears that Alduin got thrown out of the timestream by an Elder Scroll and did absolutely nothing until the cosmic deadline that brought him back because he didn’t exist in the interim

          • Disc says:

            He’s still significantly different from other dragons in that the Dragonborn can’t absorb his soul when he dies. Instead his whole body, bones and all, disintegrates and gets beamed up the Sovngarde sky.

            • Michael says:

              That could just indicate that Alduin is too powerful to be eaten by you. Remember, Miraak can hijack Dragon Souls off your kills. So, someplace between Paarthurnax and Alduin is the limit of what you can haul off the buffet line, before the dragon goes, “screw this s—, I’m going home.”

              EDIT: Which would actually turn the end of the game into the various Dragonborn of Legend spoon feeding you Alduin in Sovngarde, so there’s that…

      • Amnestic says:

        At the very start, Alduin ‘saves’ you from execution at Helgen. And what do you do with your newfound life? Starting eating dragon souls and hunting for ways to kill Alduin.

        I mean, don’t get me wrong, Alduin is all “rargh evil bad guy” by the end of it, but at the start…eh, not so much. Sure, talk about the Imperials planning to execute you and Stormcloaks not caring, but Alduin stepped in and saved your Dragonborn butt!

        • IFS says:

          I think the intent of Alduin there was to show up and kill the dragonborn before they could realize their destiny. Unfortunately he didn’t know the dragonborn was about to be executed, and his timely intervention wound up doing the opposite of what he wanted and let the dragonborn slip away.

          • Tizzy says:

            That’s an interesting hypothesis, and I really wish the game had injected it somewhere, instead of taking the position that Alduin’s just-in-time and first-ever appearance had no need to be explained.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Information on Alduin is actually fairly scarce. Alduin was, as far as I can tell, never mentioned before Morrowind, with no additional references being made in Oblivion and nearly all references being made in Skyrim itself.

      The two reference I can find in Morrowind, however, seem to indicate even that far back that Alduin was indeed either not the same entity as Akatosh, or that he was for some reason a very, very different version of the Aedra. The first, in the Five Songs of King Wulfharth (This book is a damn treasure!) recounts when, in Atmora, Orkey (a Nordic name for the Daedric Prince Malacath, for the Orcs have always been enemies of the Nords) summoned “Alduin Time-Eater” to help defeat the Nords. Assuming this is true, of course, I can’t really fathom Malacath being able to summon freakin’ Akatosh, especially not to make war on the Nords; in the very, very rare cases when the Aedra intercede in mortal affairs, they typically do so on the side of men, not mer.

      This song also alleges that Wulfharth pleaded with Shor (Lorkhan) to save them, and that Lorkhan did so in Aetherius, and had done so once before at the beginning of the world. Now, at the beginning of the world, I could understand framing the conflict between Lorkhan and the other Aedra as having “done battle” with Akatosh, but in 1E ~500, he would not have been in any shape to do so, or even to try. However, we do not know when Alduin was born from Akatosh; it could well have been in the Dawn Era, before Mundus was quite formed. Seeing as how Akatosh defining time was perhaps the most important factor in establishing Mundus and Nirn, destroying Alduin- a being who devours time itself- would have been very high among Lorkhan’s priorities, and it is possible that the Lunar himself might indeed have battled Alduin. If this was so, it is far more believable that Lorkhan, even stripped of his Heart, could have battled Alduin again on behalf of the Atmorans. Even without his full Aedric might, Lorkhan is still as or more powerful as even the mightiest of Mundane entities.

      The only other reference to Alduin in Morrowind is in the book Varieties of Faith, written by one “Brother Mikhael Karkuxor,” a name I assume to be either Breton or Imperial. This is worth pointing out, as other cultures of men misunderstanding or writing off the Nordic conception of Alduin becomes rather common in Skyrim. In Varieties of Faith, Alduin is indeed identified as the Nordic conception of Akatosh, but admits in the description of this entity that it seems to be entirely unlike every other culture’s perception of the Aedra: a violent, destructive being who heralds an ultimate doom, rather than Akatosh’s popular conception as a benevolent, heroic, and eternal entity. The author extrapolates that the Nords must see Akatosh as both sides of the coin, the Creator as well as the Destroyer. But nowhere can I find any reference to a Nord attributing any good or creative qualities to Alduin; even when the Nords served the dragons as rulers, they did so only out of fear of their own destruction.

      Skyrim presents more information, yet there is still surprisingly little, given Alduin’s role in the game’s story. One of two books, as mentioned by Amnestic, is “Alduin is Real, and He Ent Akatosh,” in which a simple-minded but earnest Nord clarifies that, no, the Nords think of Akatosh much like every other race does, and that Alduin is an entirely different being. Despite the hyperbolic stupidity of the author, he actually manages to raise a very good question: how could Akatosh, mightiest of all the Aedra, an empyreal being who can trounce Mehrunes Dagon whenever he gets a notion to do so, be the same being as Alduin, who has tried to take over the Nords, repeatedly, and failed to do so, repeatedly? Shouldn’t the Akatosh we know be on a whole different order of magnitude than the lizard who sacked Helgen? Furthermore, he makes the insightful point that Akatosh is likely not a dragon himself, merely choosing to appear in this form, and that the true dragons, which Alduin undeniably is, were created in this image after the fact.

      The counterpoint, “The Alduin/Akatosh Dichotomy,” written by one Alexandre Simon, a Breton and a priest of Akatosh. In the book, he recounts how he, intrigued by stories of Alduin, consulted with many Nords of Skyrim and was told just the same as above, in plain terms. However, he ultimately decided that it must be rubbish, since they hadn’t written it down, and what would some dumb Nords know about gods or history anyway? Case closed!

      The only other reference I can find describing Alduin is in the book “The Tale of Dro’Zira,” written by a Sonia Vette, who I assume yet again to be a Breton. The story itself is a Khajiit folk legend about the Battle of Red Mountain (Ysmir. Riding. A Tiger-Man.), and Alduin is mentioned only parenthetically, clarifying that it is simply the Nordic name for Akatosh. This, even though the story concerns Wulfharth, who certainly would have told her otherwise, and loudly at that.

      Given the events of Skyrim and the evidence presented by the lore, I never believed for a moment that Alduin could really be Akatosh. The very idea of it seemed ridiculous to me at the time, and having looked into it more thoroughly now, I am more sure than ever. Every case contra-indicating this is a non-Nord source assuming they know more about Nord beliefs than the Nords themselves, and every Nord source clearly depicts Alduin as its own entity, separate from and antithetical to Akatosh. Whatsmore, the events of the game itself and the very nature of the two beings should really leave no room for confusion. Alduin doesn’t act like Akatosh, doesn’t claim to be Akatosh, and is never spoken of as Akatosh by Paarthurnax, who allegedly communicated with Kyne/Kynareth, and would probably have mentioned if Alduin was the invincible Aedric god of time and creation.

      I mean, does anyone really believe the two are the same? What are you, some kind of Breton?

      • Michael says:

        My money’s on Karkuxor being a Breton over an Imperial, based on the name. It also creates a consistent theme where it’s Bretons that think they understand the Nords better than the Nords do, or understand Akatosh and Alduin better than the Nords, which can’t be coincidental.

      • Axe Armor says:

        Reading this comment increased my level.

      • Roll-A-Die says:

        I think the biggest indication of him not being Akatosh, is Helgen, as you mentioned.

        Akatosh is the Eternal Lord of Time. He’s the one who turns up to solve any issues with time. See the concept of the Dragon Break. If Alkosh wanted to fuck up a Dragonborn before the being had a chance to murder him. It wouldn’t fly there, interrupt an execution and murder some fuckwits above ground. It would write that being out of existence. Just, boop, dead, unborn, undone, unmade.

  8. newdarkcloud says:

    Is it not strange that a city is closed due to dragon sightings when the Jarl is supposedly unaware that dragons are a thing?

    • Raygereio says:

      Is it not strange that a city is closed due to dragon sightings when the Jarl is supposedly unaware that dragons are a thing?
      I suppose from a design view, that particular dialogue was meant to introduce you to persuasion and intimidation checks?

      But yeah, this sequence is a bit odd. Farengar also says “… when the stories about dragons began to circulate, many dismissed them as mere fantasies…”.
      It feels like the writers couldn’t decide at this point if Helgen was the first “public” reappearance of dragons in this age, or if dragons have been flying around for some time now.

      • Hal says:

        Probably more due to the fact that, while most players probably go straight from Riverwood to Whiterun, not everybody does. If you have several adventures before you head to Whiterun for the first time, it would make some sense.

        • guy says:

          I think the idea is that the dragon who attacked Helgan proceeded to fly straight up the river past Whiterun, so they’ve had some warning. But no one credible got a very good look at him, so they’re not entirely convinced. So they lock down the city for… some reason… while they debate whether to believe this and how to respond. Then you show up and convince them there’s definitely dragons about, at which point the Jarl points out that the walls won’t help much against dragons and instructs his court wizard to figure something out.

          • Neruz says:

            This is correct; if you chat to people in Riverwood and around Whiterun you’ll come across a couple who say they saw a dragon fly past. Basically after Alduin finished destroying Helgen he flew off over Riverwood and past Whiterun (you see him flying off towards both after you come out of the cave) and made all the silly peasants run around in circles panicing. But all the important people were up in the Jarl’s keep doing important things and so none of them saw the dragon fly past. Presumably he then headed into the mountains and ressurected the Dragon you fight at the watchtower who then flies down and obliterates said watchtower right before you arrive.

        • newdarkcloud says:

          Right, but dragon attacks don’t start until after you get far enough in the main quest.

          Which you can’t do until you talk to the Jarl.

    • TMTVL says:

      Well, leaving the obvious problem aside, IF they believed dragons to be real, it might make sense to lock down the city, as having everyone inside means that the guards would have more problems getting everyone away from a potential attack zone AND an attack would cause more casualties.

      That being said, yeah an intro to speech skills makes sense.

      • Hitchmeister says:

        The thing is, city walls and a locked gate keep some troublesome things out of the city, but rather significant not in the class of things hindered by city walls is that class of creatures broadly defined as flying, which unfortunately includes dragons. So locking the gate offers virtually no protection from the threat they don’t even believe in at the moment.

        • Ciennas says:

          A case could be made here for the gate being an adequate response to the populace’s fears. A scary beastie is roaming the countryside? Close the nigh impenetrable stone walls!

          It makes them feel safer, even if they’re not- once dragons are proven as real, they immediately start discussing things like evacuating the countryside, posting archers, etc.

          I’d say it’s the perfect response to a threat deemed imaginary- a response is required, but not a huge one. Posting extra guards and locking the door’s about all Whiterun could’ve done anyway…. except maybe see to recovering some dwarven Balistea from Markarth….

          Somebody please mod this. It sounds awesome.

        • ? says:

          I think locking the gates isn’t supposed to keep the dragon out, but to deny entry to refugees and panicked peasants. After all they try to stop player character who clearly isn’t a dragon. It’s not even that cold hearted – city wall will not protect you from a dragon and tightly packed wooden buildings are an additional fire hazard, so don’t look for shelter there. Sadly game engine cannot handle showing hundreds of refugees camped trying to get in or something, so we get a guard guarding an empty road…

  9. Raygereio says:

    It requires a lot of AI to figure out if an NPC should be able to spot an item as stolen.
    I think an acceptable shortcut would have been to allow you to sell stolen items freely in other cities.

    Also Rutskarn asked if anyone succesfully intimidated a guard. I will use that as an excuse to sperg a bit about Skyrim’s mechanics.
    Persuasions are simple speechcraft skill checks and work similarly to New Vegas’ dialogue skill checks, with the difference that Skyrim hides the skill level required to pass the check.
    Intimidation checks use the GetIntimidateSuccess function. There’s no real documentation about how this function determines succes or failure, but it from ingame testing it seems to take your speechcraft skillevel, your character level and the level of the NPC you’re trying to intimidate into account. Guards tend to be tough NPCs to intimidate since they have a max level 50.

    • swenson says:

      And some Persuade/Intimidate options always fail, if I’m reading the wiki correctly, they’re basically just there to give what G-man would call the illusion of free choice.

      And this works pretty well from the perspective of faking better AI… there are some things that you simply should not be able to convince people to do or ignore.

  10. TMTVL says:

    Wait, did Rutskarn say “a dragon in de skies”? Was that… a stealth pun?

  11. Hawk says:

    Speaking of stealing, I find pickpocketing amusing.

    You can stick your hands in the mark’s pockets, rustle around, and figure out what they are carrying … but it’s not until you take something that they get offended! The NPCs must all like getting felt up, or something.

  12. Paul Spooner says:

    A game built around believable AI, problems of perception, and an open world, all in a graphically simplistic world? I’d like that too! I’d like it quite a lot.

    “The college is filled of people that are incredibly boring and obtuse and insufferable.” So… like real life college then? It’s just even more fantastical than real life!

    “City’s closed with dragons about.” Indeed. At least if the dragons were unable to fly it would make an ounce of sense. As it is, wouldn’t you want to leave the city open so that people could escape more easily in the case of a dragon attack? Maybe the guards are secretly paid by the dragons to keep the people contained, corralled, prepared to be terrorized.

    “…and that’s impressive until you come in here and realize that this guy give terrible advice!” Yeah, a lot of stuff in real life are like that too. We tend to accentuate our own impressive attributes while leaving out the unfortunate details. I believe it’s called marketing when companies do it. It is pretty cool that they put that kind of behavior in the game though, even if it’s totally scripted.

    “What is their fantasy like? … What are their myths like? No one wants to answer that question.” I’d love to answer that question! It would be difficult (for Silmarillion values of “difficult”) but very likely rewarding for the right person. The problem is one of authority. No one who has the authority to answer those questions has the latitude/budget to do so. My example of fantasy mythos was made a hundred years ago by an academic who studied almost nothing else. It also took him forty years, which is way outside the game development time-frame. I’d hope that we’ve developed better methods of producing believable myth systems… but maybe we haven’t?

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Speaking of that, I always thought it was funny in Lord of the Rings, when Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas run into Eomer, they tell Eomer that they’re looking for some hobbits, and Eomer basically replies, “Hobbits are something from a fantasy novel.”

      And Gimli replies, “We live in a fantasy novel, idiot.”

  13. Here’s an idea for fencing stolen goods that might work without altering NPC AI in the slightest: Make one’s ability to sell stolen goods effectively a function of something derived from speech and barter (depending on the game system. Fallout has a barter skill, Skyrim has a “fortify barter” blessing), or maybe a separate skill you have to pump points into.

    If I’ve got a stolen item and I roll up on a merchant, the game takes a look at my speech/barter/whatever and assigns a “trust” value to the item that’s then checked against whatever system is usually at play for how much I can sell something for. Items of a unique nature might carry a negative trust value that the player has to overcome to even get one coin for the item, and a sufficiently negative value results in the guards being called in. From a role-playing standpoint, this could allow your highly skilled character to seem “smooth” enough to sell a merchant his own stolen goods successfully as opposed to running into the “you must join the thieves guild” or “that smells stolen” brick walls we currently do.

    This makes raising certain skills a must to make thievery lucrative, and it could make any fences in the game that much more valuable if you have low speech/barter/whatever skills.

    • modus0 says:

      To be fair, Skyrim already has that capability, through the Fence perk of Speech; though it does require you to get the skill to 90 to take it.

      And you can only sell stolen items to merchants you’ve invested in, but given the absurdly low gold amounts they have, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t invest in every merchant they encounter.

      • Destrustor says:

        Fun fact: In all my playthroughs, I’ve never gotten speechcraft high enough to be able to invest in merchants.
        Ever.
        So that’s one reason why I wouldn’t invest in every merchant I encounter.

        • swenson says:

          Sell stuff one at a time, if you haven’t been trying that. Selling high-value stuff levels Speech more than low-value items–but if you sell an entire stack of something at once, you get the same experience as if you sold only one of that item.

          Also, never use Fortify Speech potions or gear and don’t give money to beggars; fortifying any skill makes it harder to level it.

          • Tizzy says:

            I’m still not convinced by any of this. Spending perks in the Speech tree strikes me as frivolous, when there are so many other cool perks to try (and some which you can’t go without…)

            • aldowyn says:

              Which is why I like my system I made up better! I should figure out how to make a mod that does this..

              Anyway, I think it’d be cool if you got a perk in a tree every time you got 10 skill levels in that tree. So you can’t use the level to get a perk in some skill you haven’t been using.

            • newdarkcloud says:

              Did anyone ever manage to get Speech past level 50 without using the Oghma Infinium glitch or console commands?

              And aside from that, did anyone actually waste perks in the Speech tree? I never put perks into that or Alchemy because they never really seemed all that useful.

              Every perk you put into those trees is one less you can put into a more useful tree like Smithing, Enchanting, etc..

  14. Octapode says:

    At a guess, the way to do this would be for items to generate a “notoriety” value when stolen, and for the PC to have various persistent reputation values for various locations, and the comparison of the two determines whether a merchant will be willing to buy an item off you (and modified by speechcraft etc.). Which has the possible additional consequence that if you go to a town where you have a bad enough reputation, even legitimate goods may be refused by the trader.

    • Sleeping_Dragon says:

      I can imagine some issues with that too. For example, why should the PC get notoriety for stealing that nobody witnessed? And if we assume stealing without wintesses generates no notoriety than, the way steatlh and stealing are handled we’re effecitvely bordering on just “sell stolen anywhere” (which is perhaps not a bad system).

      • Octapode says:

        The idea is that the NPC realises the item is missing and tells other people, or some such thing (which then implies notoriety should only apply in the region it was stolen, which doesn’t actually seem like a terrible idea, given that all the holds have separate judicial systems anyway…) so if you steal an item without being seen, you get less notoriety or perhaps a delay on the notoriety being applied, so you can snatch a ring out of someones pocket without them noticing, pawn it the same day and no one will stop you.

        I think a more detailed reputation system might be interesting in general, or perhaps some kind of positive/negative reputation and renown system (renown being how well known you are and reputation being whether you are seen as a good guy or a scumbag, sort of thing). And to extend that, perhaps having things you do generate different faction opinions, and each action has a corresponding renown and reputation per faction, say if you kill a dragon and are seen killing the dragon, that gets you a lot of good opinion in nearby places, some good opinion in further away places, etc. And then when you talk to an NPC, they react based on your reputation with their faction, modified by the renown of your recent acts. (The renown would decay over time, as well, towards a baseline).

  15. Adrianne (the woman who teaches Josh blacksmithing) was voiced by Claudia Christian (aka Babylon 5’s Susan Ivonova). They must’ve put her on a contract for a minimum number of lines if they were going to “waste” her on a tutorial NPC like that.

    I wonder if she knows she has a sister in the Imperial military that almost had Josh executed?

  16. Viktor says:

    I’m not sure all those checks for saleability are needed. IMO the keys are value(more expensive means the theft was a bigger deal), uniqueness(makes it hard to sell), time passed(people forget), and distance from the theft(how far news traveled).
    Uniqueness is binary and set by the item type, while you can account for the fact that rings and the like are probably distinctive, I think it’s too fuzzy a line to care about in a setting where everything is hand-crafted anyway. Every item in the game is likely unique, but we can just assume that only named items are memorable. No difficulty adding that to item data.
    Value is already stored, so no worries there.
    Distance can be binary, like bounties, use the hold system. This is simple and intuitive, with only major thefts being national news. We might also flag for “original owner” but that might be extra work that isn’t worth it.
    Time would then be a reduction to the total value of the other three.
    I’d also include an overflow, where if an item is valuable enough(less value needed if unique) distance and time modifiers don’t apply, you simply can’t sell it.
    The problem with this is stacking. The best solution might be going back to separate stacks for stolen and non-stolen goods, and then every time you steal a bottle of wine it updates time and adds the most recent hold to the list of locations for distance. Which creates a flaw in that if you stole wine in Markearth and never sold all your wine, after stealing in Whiterun you can’t sell it in Markearth anymore, but that’s an edge case.

  17. Phantos says:

    Shamus’ poking fun at the Warmadien blacksmith and her father is fair, but to be honest, in a game that felt so empty of characterization she kind of grew on me.

    Heck, I even made fan art of her. I was also a little bummed that she’s taken, so I had to settle for Lydia as my Battle Wife.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Honestly, since I got so much money through Alchemy, Arcadia from the alchemy shop in Whiterun grew on me more.

      I was disappointed that I couldn’t marry her.

      • The Rocketeer says:

        I have to admit I could not stand that woman, solely because I tended to use the Alchemy table in her shop to make my potions. Since I would make many, many potions at once, I would be in the shop, a few steps from her, for quite a while at a stretch.

        And she would just. Not. SHUT. UP. UUUUUUUUURGHHH. I got so sick of hearing her four or five canned lines, over and over, every few moments, that I was driven quite mad, and haven’t really ever recovered.

        • IFS says:

          Especially annoying is how she asks if you might be sick every time you talk to her, which when other NPCs do that its a pretty good indication you have a disease to treat. So for a while my attempts to sell things to her would go like this: “You look rather pale…” I leave the conversation and check my diseases, seeing I have none and go back into the conversation, at which point she would say the same line again. It was rather annoying after a while.

      • Phantos says:

        Skyrim kinda makes me wonder about real relationships.

        Is it really about an immediate attraction, or more about proximity and how much time you spend with someone? Because that’s pretty much the only reason I could think of to wed Lydia. She was nearby the longest and useful to me.

        Maybe it’s best I not think too hard on relationships in a game where you can shout people to death.

        • SyrusRayne says:

          I think probably the Internet’s love of Lydia has something to do with how subservient she is, not due to any real attraction to the character. :/

          • guy says:

            Actually, the internet loves her slightly snarky attitude whenever you ask her to carry your piles of random junk. Plus it’s kinda nice to have someone who fights effectively and doesn’t have any annoying voice cues.

        • IFS says:

          I think it has something to do with how people make stories for their own characters in a game. The more time you have your character spend with a character in the game the more the player will make up stories or interactions in their head, and so the more attachment they’ll develop to that character.

    • Hal says:

      Mjoll the Lionness is the best Battle Wife.

  18. Warrax says:

    re: Balgruuf’s Children,

    They’re shitheads because the Ebony Blade is stored in the basement of Dragonsreach, and they’re being influenced by the daedric prince Mephala.

    The quest to get the blade is brief and not very interesting. It’s also really easy to miss, since the only way to start it is by asking the innkeeper in Whiterun about “rumors” after you’ve met the level requirement (20).

    What’s weird is that the construction set apparently has a bunch of resources indicating that the quest was originally going to be a lot different. You were supposed help the children murder their own father to earn the blade; there’s even voiced dialog for Balgruuf’s brother to take over as Jarl afterwards.

    There are quite a few fragments in the construction set that would seem to indicate that a lot of quests and features were supposed to be way more complex and intricate than they ended up being. They probably cut stuff for time and bugs, but I would bet this one was also cut to avoid ending up on Fox News.

    • acronix says:

      You can also miss it if the innkeeper refuses to give you the proper rumor. There seems to be a hierarchy of which one she will tell. For me, she always mentions the Companions recruiting people, the face-changer in Riften (I think that comes with Dawnguard?) and that tree in fron of Jorvaskar. Until you don’t go and do those things (as in, get their quests) you can’t get the rumor. Or at least that’s how it always works for me.

  19. Kamica says:

    Funny that you guys mentioned how fantasy games (and worlds in general) don’t seem to have fantasy/imaginary/fake stuff themselves.

    This actually sort of annoyed me in games, as an NPC would tell me “There’s a legend/myth/rumour of this [BIG BAD MONSTER], but it’s totally just a myth. My thought at that point is “I’m totally going to have to fight that thing”. The all-knowingness of people gets annoying, there’s no myth, no wonder of “Would this be true?” as soon as an npc mentions something, it exists.

    So with that thought (And a bunch of other thoughts) I started making a world of my own mostly for fun (but I have other plans for it in the future =P) in which there ARE mythical things and fake things.

    For example there’s actual magic, but there’s also people who say they know a new form of magic, and then turns out that it doesn’t exist. I also plan to add divinities, monsters and other kinds of things, some of which are real, some of which aren’t =P.

    If you’re interested, check it out here: http://shechilushoeathu.wikia.com/wiki/Shechilushoeathu_Wiki (I know the name is long and hard to remember, but meh =P)

    • syal says:

      I think the reason you don’t see a lot of fantasy mythology is that most fantasy is wish fulfillment, something people read to see cool things that don’t exist. Mythology in a fantasy setting plays against that; it’s saying “I came up with this cool thing, don’t you wish it existed?” and then not making it exist.

      …My fantasy stories have mythical creatures too, but it’s usually cats or pigs, or parrots (multicolored birds that can talk like humans! So cool!)

      • Kamica says:

        That makes sense, and I do find myself, when I want to add something that is an actual myth in the world, wanting to ACTUALLY put it in the world, so I have to restrain myself, it’s all better in the long run, if/when I make some form of game about it… And people get surprised…. I hope… It’s worth it for my own sense of realism though, so I guess that’s good enough =P.

        • Sleeping_Dragon says:

          I think this is part of the reason why pretty much every time there is a bit of lore or legend in TES (primarily in the form of in-game books) gets a mod that covers it.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I think part of the reason that all myths end up being true is that you don’t want to bog the audience down with extraneous information. It comes down to Chekhov’s Gun. If you talk about a myth or legend, than it really should become relevant at some point in the game. Otherwise, why would you bother to bring it up?

      • Kamica says:

        For me; because I’m making a world, not a story =P.
        Besides, you could totally make a myth, and have people act based on that myth, and then throw a twist in of for example the mythical creature (or whatever) actually being a man in a suit, Zoinks!

        • Sleeping_Dragon says:

          I can tell this would likely surprise your average (pen and paper) RP players, especially in a more freeroaming sandboxy campaign. In most cases when there are rumours of some great treasure, legendary artifact or strange beast they turn out to be true if players pursue them. A notable exception would be rumours pertinent to a given scenario that are meant to mislead (say, the point of the adventure is that a gang is masquerading as werewolves, or there are rumours that someone is secretely a demonologist while they’re in fact just having an affair, or the other way around, and the idea is for the players to figure it out). It would be sort of fun to have completely false “fantasy” rumours/myths in a setting and watch players chase after them (getting into all sorts of adventures, and possibly perpetuating and reinforcing said rumours, along the way). I mean, we’ve been coming up with some pretty ridiculous stuff in a world limited to our physics and biology, I can hardly begin to imagine what people would think of in worlds where people actually shapeshifted, gave birth to dragons, altered reality with the power of their minds or could meet divinities on the road…

      • hborrgg says:

        And then there’s Skyrim’s version of Checkov’s gun:
        Some NPC will say something like “Be cautious friend, over yonder is the Swamp of Doom, folk have reported strange happening and believe it might be haunted!” So you take literally 10 steps in that direction and come across a pile of bloody human skulls.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Oddly enough, I always thought, starting back in Morrowind, that dragons really were just a myth in the Elder Scrolls universe, a fantastical symbol of power that the Imperials used for the same reason real-world organizations use dragons and griffons and whatever. Maybe dragons were real at the dawn of the world, but they certainly weren’t around anymore, at any rate.

      And then Skyrim came, and it turned out, holy crap, there really are dragons! And! They’re! Totally! Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame!

      • TMC_Sherpa says:

        It goes back farther than Morrowind. Heck in Daggerfall you could take dragonish as a skill. Not that there were any dragons to talk to

      • Kamica says:

        Dragons, especially intelligent dragons are hellishly difficult to do (I’m not going to argue that they’re overused because I like dragons =P), because in people’s minds, dragons are almost always far more epic than anyone could possibly portray I reckon.

        Anyway, I do believe that several books in Morrowind mention that dragons used to roam the world. Actually, dragons had apparently been featured even before Morrowind, in Redguard, a dragon called Nafaalilargus

        • The Rocketeer says:

          Very cool! Especially if Redguard is considered TES canon, which I think it is?

          The idea that a dragon accompanied Tiber Septim’s army actually makes a ton of sense, although I bet that dragon was super pissed when Septim got his hands on an unstoppable doom-golem that largely invalidated anyone else’s contribution.

          • Kamica says:

            If he can at all remember it, A Dragon-Break is an awesome and incredibly weird event, which almost everybody remembers differently, and the Numidium caused one… actually, it caused two =P.

            I love how the Elder Scrolls lore can be as deep as you want it to be, you can play an Elder Scrolls game, and just gloss over the surface lore and go “That’s cool” But you can go far deeper, to the point where some people even theorise that the game allows for every action you do in the game, including cheating to be actually part of Canon (This too relates to an interpretation of Dragon Break and CHIM.)

            • The Rocketeer says:

              I’ve been fighting for the throne of King TES Nerd pretty hard lately, but I’ll immediately admit I don’t understand the First-Era Dragon Break at all.

              Finding information on Marukh, and what exactly happened at the Adamantine Tower, is very, very difficult. The main source for information on that time, “Where Were You When the Dragon Broke?” is, err… about as “Kirkbride-an” as it could be: outrageously obtuse, references to dozens of terms and events being made as obliquely as possible, and with no other point of reference to interpret them with any reliability, couched in thick metaphor and blatant nonsense-phrases specifically to convey the semblance, but not the substance, of thought and information… It boldly defies meaningful interpretation.

              In fact, seeing as how nothing more about it has been written since Morrowind (that is, since Kirkbride departed Bethesda), and since Kirkbride seemed to be the sole manufacturer of whatever high-proof mouthwash it takes to understand his thoughts on the Dragon Break (and CHIM, for that matter), I think the folks in charge of the current state of the lore have elected to just leave it alone as it stands. Actually, since “Where Were You” hasn’t even existed in the games since Morrowind (except for a single copy in the Dragonborn expansion for Skyrim!), and the book “The Dragon Break Re-Examined,” (which alleges that the Dragon Break of the First Era was only a myth and a misunderstanding) has been a fairly common text ever since its introduction- also in Morrowind- it might even suggest that they’ve simply decided to dismiss the idea of the Alessian Dragon Break from their internal canon, or at least to keep it far on the back burner until they’re given reason to bring it back into the fore. And if appearances by both the God of Time and the Devourer of Time on Nirn didn’t prompt them to do so, I’m not sure what could.

              The Expulsion of Alduin and the Warp in the West, by comparison, are very easy to understand, even if the latter’s effects on the lore is a bit, uh, “complex.”

              • Kamica says:

                Well, The Warp in the West apparently was a Dragon-break.

                Basically how I understand it, is that time just F’s up (Breaking the Dragon/Akatosh/Time). As a result, many things happen at the same time, many people have different memories of the same event when a Dragon Break happens, because they all do happen at the same time, but differently for everyone. See it sort of like all these parallel but alternate dimensions being crammed into one world and people just randomly experiencing different ones. Then by the end of the Dragon Break, time restores itself and some sort of a decision is made.
                Then people retain their memories of the Dragon Break, but there’s no physical evidence left because time restored itself, and chose one path to take (Or several in the case of the Warp in the West).
                Which confuses the hell out of the local peoples, which explains why people are dismissing the Dragon Break.

                I seriously do hope that Bethesda doesn’t actually work the Dragon Break stuff away, but instead learns to work with it, because it’s an awesome concept and VERY powerful.
                Actually, they made the possibility for both factions to win in Skyrim (Stormcloaks and Imperials)… I wonder how they’ll solve that in ES:IV… Dragon Break anyone? XD. Choosing one as the truth and the other as being non canon would be a horrible choice, because that would completely ruin the sense of players that they are part of the world. Many people love to, when they hear about the past heroes (Nerevarine, Oblivion dude etc.), to think that that’s their own character. If you then suddenly make one choice non canon and the other canon, well that would ruin that sense of continuity if that person chose to go with the non-canon choice =P.

                • The Rocketeer says:

                  Elder Scrolls IV was Oblivion, so I doubt it will clear up the events of Elder Scrolls V… well, unless there’s a massive Dragon Break! Aww, I know what you meant, though. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Stormcloak Revolution will likely be handled by introducing some sort of massive catastrophe that invalidates the outcome either way. It happened in Daggerfall with the Warp in the West, followed Morrowind with the Red Year, and… Well, I guess Oblivion didn’t really have any road cones to deal with, other than the main character.

                  Thus far, all of the player characters have been dealt with by shunting them out of Tamriel. The fate of the Agent, as far as I know, was simply too obscured by the Warp in the West to make any heads or tails of afterward; the Nerevarine was said to have sailed to Akavir and hasn’t returned (yet!); and the Champion of Cyrodiil simply became Sheogorath. I have no idea how they’ll handle the Dragonborn, but, well, I wouldn’t plan on meeting him at the pub in TES VI.

                  I understand the idea of what a Dragon Break is, just not what really happened in the first alleged instance, in the First Era. In the case of Alduin’s Expulsion, what happened is simple: Alduin got shotgunned out of existence for a while, and then returned one day. The Warp in the West was much more complicated, but we have the benefit of knowing exactly why it happened, and what events it confabulated into a single history, and what the outcome of that Dragon Break was.

                  But for the “1008 Years of the Alessian Order,” there’s only the scantest, vaguest notions of what caused it, and what occurred in it, and what it actually mattered to Tamriel once it was concluded. In-universe because records from the days of Alessia are extremely scarce, and out of universe because its author hasn’t worked for Bethesda since 2000. Besides, it seems odd that Morrowind would introduce both the idea of the Dragon Break (which was also new in-universe, having been theorized only in the late Third Era, millennia after the facts in question) and its rather comprehensive refutation in “Re-Examined.”

                  I tend to hold “Where Were You” in the same mental headspace as “The Five Songs of King Wulfharth,” “The Arcturian Heresy,” and “The Annotated Anuad”: a tantalizing specter of hidden truth couched in the outrageously unverifiable and a few outright lies, for good measure. It’s worth keeping in mind, but not something to rely on in itself.

                  • Kamica says:

                    Ugh, how could I screw up Roman numerals? I never screw up Roman numerals XD. (Hmm, quite fitting for the Elder Scrolls to use Roman numerals, since you know, the Empire is partially based off of the Roman Empire).

                    Anyway, I’m a person who doesn’t like to think about what happens behind the scenes, as in, I don’t really care who makes what or who is in what team, or what voice actor does what voice, it breaks my immersion and I don’t like it =P, so I’ll just blissfully expect the Elder Scrolls lore to not say “Oh no, that never was canon”, but rather wave it away in lore.

                    Back on topic: Well, from what I read between this post and my last, is that the Marukh Selectives were literally dancing on a tower, not sure what kind of a tower, it could indeed be the adamantine tower, it could be the White Gold tower(Is that right? I’m working fully off of memory here, don’t feel like looking up everything), however unlikely that is, or it could be a tower that doesn’t exist anymore…. Wait a moment…
                    The tower broke into six parts according to a source, There are apparently Six Walking Ways, each is a way to achieve divinity, each way requires some knowledge of the “wheel”, the structure of the Aurbis. Lorkhan actually managed to get outside of the boundary of this wheel and discover the name of god yadayadayada, then he built a tower in the centre of the wheel together with the divines.
                    Note that this tower is at the centre of what is practically a wheel with 6 spokes.
                    Anyway… not that that explains anything much.. but yea…
                    I read that apparently the Alessian Order wasn’t happy with the fact that Akatosh, the dragon god of time, was also the Head god of the Elven pantheon. As such, apparently they tried to pluck apart Akatosh’s powers. Now if they would be doing stuff like this, and they would keep at it, obviously they would eventually pluck away the linearity of time and Break the Dragon.
                    That they were dancing on the tower, which was possibly the one that Lorkhan built for the understanding of CHIM (And thus to reach divinity) would allow this, as divinity can touch divinity. (Just look at what the divines did to Lorkhan, poor sod, I always feel sorry for Lorkhan =P, to me he really seems like the best god around)

        • burningdragoon says:

          because in people’s minds, dragons are almost always far more epic than anyone could possibly portray I reckon.

          I’d agree with that, in games at least. Though I think the problem is more likely to do with the types of games that tend to have dragons than anything else. I like Skyrim’s combat but it’s basically just keep hitting the whack button until dead. Even the Souls games couldn’t really nail an epic dragon fight until Kalameet in the Dark Souls expansion.

          Sufficiently epic boss battles are totally doable outside of RPGs (Shadow of the Collosus, stuff Platinum makes).

          • Kamica says:

            Ooh, fighting dragons Shadow of the Colossus style would be pretty epic =P.

            • Ciennas says:

              This.

              See, I was watching the second Hobbit film when it came out, and was thinking to myself ‘oh, how fun it would be to throw the Dovahkiin into this story, see how well Smaug-‘

              Then they showed him, and that thought kinda crumbled a little. I suppose Marked for Death, Slow Time, and abusing Ethereal would let the Dragonborn at least do a little bit, but….

              Eh. How well do you guys think the Dragonborn’d fare?

          • Amnestic says:

            The way to make dragon battles truly “epic” in my mind would be to have them all playing the Xorvintaal game from D&D. http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Xorvintaal It’s essentially a huge proxy battle between the dragons manipulating and coercing people into doing their bidding and building power.

            I like my dragons best when they’re intelligent, powerful and ruthless. The dragons you meet in Skyrim, with the exception of a bare few, act barely different to common beasts. I want my dragons to be behind multiple scenes pulling a puppetmaster’s strings, and when they do fight? They fight smart. If I can’t pull a dragon out of the air and keep it on the ground, it should fly away out of reach when its life is clearly in real danger.

            • Kamica says:

              I believe the biggest mistake Skyrim made in terms of Dragons being epic, is making it a main gameplay mechanic that you need to kill them to progress certain things. If they were only a few very difficult boss battles, then they could’ve made dragon way stronger and harder to kill.

  20. guy says:

    The Wheel Of Time series did have some fun with in-universe myths. Two forms, actually.

    First, there totally are legendary heroes who keep getting reincarnated and will ride forth to save the world. But most of the stories about them are complete nonsense like individually dueling every member of an enemy army in one day.

    There’s also some old myths that are little winks at the reader but also fit with the setting’s conceit, like the giants Mosk and Merk and their lances of fire that could reach around the world or Lenn who rode to the moon in the belly of an eagle made of fire.

    Also, there’s a lot of myths about things that do exist in the setting but are often very, very different from how the myths describe them, and one guy who spins pretty implausible tales about distant lands, although admittedly he apparently actually went to those places. But he’s probably exaggerating.

  21. Alex says:

    On bounties: Perhaps it would be good if, after the first time you receive a bounty, there was a lingering “taint” each time you committed another crime, that could only be seen by people who knew about the first bounty.

    Using the crimes from last episode as an example:
    – Catbert steals the woman’s ring and is caught, accruing a bounty. Knowledge of this bounty is spread to other NPCs, presumably first her brother and then to the guards. (To help enable this, make the AI respond to small crimes by running to the guards rather than immediately attacking the thief.)
    – Catbert kills the woman. This spawns an invisible “Catbert is committing a crime here!” token on her corpse. Anyone who doesn’t know about the previous bounty can’t see it, but anyone who does sees it as if it was a crime being committed, and reacts appropriately. (adding bounty, running over, running away to tell the guards, etc.)

    This keeps the mechanic of killing all witnesses so that nobody knows what you did, and makes it a bit more difficult by having non-combatants more likely to run away and spread the word than stand and die, while making it more likely for a crime spree to cascade out of control once someone picks up the first clue.

    • IFS says:

      It might also make some sense to make it so that past a certain level of bounty you can no longer do business with shopkeepers in a hold. After all if all the guards can tell you have a five gold bounty from accidentally stealing an apple why can’t the shopkeepers? The threshold would have to be below the one that has all guards recognize you on sight (as opposed to when you talk to them) otherwise it would probably never get noticed. Would give an extra penalty to getting a bounty and would make some sense too as most shopkeepers wouldn’t want to deal with a known criminal, though some might be shady enough to not care one way or the other.

  22. This was my first Elder Scrolls game, so maybe one of the vets who suffer–er, played all of Oblivion can tell me what they thought about the Daedric Princes. By the time I “met” the first one, I’d heard all about how evil they were and how you’d basically be damned if you worshipped or even came close to them or what have you. They were set up as this kind of “turn to the Dark Side, Luke” force in the universe, so I actually avoided their quests, thinking this would put some kind of “evil” marker on my character.

    Then I got locked in that haunted house and discovered agreeing to the quest was the only way to escape. I went through with it, and found that the Daedric Princes were basically just another quest giver. You didn’t even earn their ire for working for another prince.

    I was kind of disappointed in that.

    • Mersadeon says:

      It’s been always like that, gameplay wise – no questgiver recognizes that you have worked for another unless it is specifically important to that quest.

      Lore-wise, the Daedra aren’t so much evil and corrupting – it depends on which culture you are in. While the people in the Imperial Heartland really like to paint Daedra worshippers as evil and worship the Nine Divines, most other cultures accept some Daedra Princes as good or neutral. In Dunmer culture, for example, only four of the Princes are regarded as wholly bad or chaotic. Ancient Nord culture actually worships some versions of Daedra in their pantheon. It’s kinda like with actual religions.

    • Ciennas says:

      To be fair, the Daedric Princes don’t generally give a darn if you work for them all for a couple of reasons:

      1. They’re timeless immortal Beings who death does not effect. The Oblivion Crisis is just a minor inconvenience at worst for any of them- even Mehrune Dagon was only incovenienced by having his throat torn out. They’ll work with everyone for their amusement, and to further their intrigues against one another.

      2. If you could only choose one or two (Or a faction) the players would be irritated because they’d either have to start over or revert to a previous save to see all the content, which is anathema to the games design philosophy.

      • I don’t mind if a game withholds content based on your choices. In fact, I wish it did it more often (see previous rants on how a brute swordsman can become arch-mage and a wizard can become a legend in the thieves’ guild).

        At the very least, I’d like to see something Rutskarn talked about in a previous Spoiler Warning: Players love it when the NPCs call you on your BS. If I go to work for, let’s say, my third Daedric Prince, a mention that I’ve been “seeing other Princes” would be nice. Maybe if some NPC somewhere could sense I’d done the bidding of Daedric forces or that I had an accursed weapon/artifact that meant I might not be the best person to run into after dark would be cool.

        It’s all of the setup that let me down, I think. It’s like being told rock music is going to ruin your life by your parents, and when they finally catch you listening to death metal, they just shrug and say, “It’s okay, but you really should hear it live in concert.”

        • Ciennas says:

          Oh, I understand. I’m just saying they built the game with the idea that one playthrough could let you see everything, if you wanted… with the exception of the Dark Brotherhood and the Civil War quest chains.

          Personally, I thought it would have been fun to reveal how the Princes view each other. Every quest resolved that directly steps on the toes of a different Prince has them either power their artifact down until apologized to somehow, or they snark at you and make their quest much tougher than it had to be, depending on whether or not you’d finished their quest yet.

          I’d have also liked the Vigilants of Stendarr to be more active in the world, and react appropriately to your equipment, maybe even be a minor joinable faction that you help cleanse deadric shenanigans from an area.

        • Sleeping_Dragon says:

          I think the point is that, other than the main questline of Oblivion and The Shivering Isles, you very rarely get much notice from them. Yes, they will assign you quests because you are conveniently willing and capable, but of what exact importance are those quests to them? I always figured a lot of this stuff was pretty much doing the Princess laundry, and in a few cases just them messing up with you for giggles. Sure they’d prefer to have it done, but a lot of the “great quest” and “you will earn my ire” is just posturing of sorts (or assumption that you should be bloody hohored to be allowed to do their laundry you insignificant mortal speck).

          Personally I’m kinda glad they weren’t allowed to take center stage too often because that seems to be when they’re at their weakest (Oblivion) largely because the writers are tempted to just drop a bunch of generic fantasy archetypes on them and call it a day. As it is you’re mostly getting lore (written largely by Daedric cultists or Aedric clergy, often anecdotal, incomplete or conflicting) or brushing against the perriferies of their influence letting them remain somewhat nebulous and undefined.

      • Mephane says:

        I think the problem with permanently choosing which faction to join or support is not the permanent choice, but that more often than not there is no way to gauge the consequences beforehand. Like, what kinds of equipment do I get access to if I join order X instead of brotherhood Y? If I help NPC A instead of B, what will be the effects on my main quest?

        It’s not necessary to tell the player in every detail, and an element of surpise can be refreshing, but usually you have to make a decision based on their name and the looks of the NPC trying to recruit you. This is the #1 reason for me to look for a wiki about a game for the first time, especially since the consequences are regularly imbalanced to heavily reward one decision while shafting you with the other.

    • czhah says:

      To be fair, a lot of their quests do require you to do some pretty evil stuff. Then again I tend to play rather amorally in games like this in contrast to my usual goody two shoes playstyle in, say, bioware games.

    • Neko says:

      I resented that quest so much.

    • acronix says:

      My problem with their quests is that there’s no alternative. You do what they say or you avoid the quest, leaving it forever gathering dust in your log. But that’s hardly something only Bethesda does.
      The only exception is for Azura’s Star, in which there’s only two options: the smart one, which allows you to capture only souls of player character races, which are very common thanks to banditry (meaning there’s no moral problem with killing them) and they give you the best souls, or the dumb one where you can capture only the souls of beasts and monsters, whose size differs so much you should have picked the other option, you silly man!

      • Sleeping_Dragon says:

        I seem to recall at least several of the Daedric quests in Skyrim (if not most of them) had some sort of “pseudomoral” choice, typically kill an NPC to get the Daedric item or spare the NPC to get another (useless) companion or their family bauble.

        And yes, most of the Daedric quests are relatively evil or amoral.

        • Michael says:

          Something that keeps me coming back to the Elder Scrolls franchise, actually…

          There’s morality, to a point. But, there’s no hard defining line of “you’re doing something evil.” Unless you’re committing a crime, and there are witnesses, the games never turn around and tells you, “you did a bad thing, here’s an evil point.”

          Oblivion and Morrowind did have fame and infamy stats that would advance simultaneously.

          The one I really remember was the Morag Tong in Morrowind, where it took me a while to step back and realize, “wait, this is really supposed to be an evil faction.”

          The Dark Brotherhood’s presentation as kill crazy undermines that a lot, obviously. And the Daedra are supposed to be unambiguously evil.

          But, when it comes to the morality of your quests, the game just sits there, letting you do whatever you want. I remember someone describing Far Cry 2 as, “silently asking you why you’re doing this with lidless reptilian eyes.” And, that kinda fits with TES. You do bad things, but it’s on you.

          Also, no, Alex, the Hircine one really is that bad, because ultimately, he’s the one that cursed the ring in the first place.

          • It’s not so much the morality as the sort of pseudo-religious fantasy trope where having made a choice involving a supernatural entity affects how others relate to you.

            Again, it was mostly how the game set up the Daedra as being these things to be avoided if you didn’t want to run afoul of some people. Even if you had an outcome that was distinctly moral (not sacrificing someone or doing what appears to be the “better” option), that would be beside the point: You trafficked in the taboo and someone, somewhere would act based on that. I’m not calling for a Skyrim version of the Regulators or Talon Company, who were karma-based spawns, but a faction that you could develop a reputation with.

            I suppose the Vigilants of Stendarr are KIND of a consequence, since they can actually detect Daedric artifacts and will attack if you’re wearing Daedric armor, but they’re such pushovers it hardly matters. I would’ve liked to have seen a Jarl or a town that was anti-Daedra in some way that made doing their quests/having them as allies a major consideration before one went off and started running Daedric errands.

            • Michael says:

              Going into Morrowind, my prior experience had been Neverwinter Nights, KOTOR, and some of the Infinity engine games, so the entire absence of the “do a good thing, get some good points, do an evil thing, here’s an evil cookie” was kind of novel.

              I never knew the Vigilants would actually attack you for wearing Daedric armor. I always found it odd that they wouldn’t go after you for being a Werewolf… I could swear I’ve run into them with Dawnbreaker equipped, though.

              EDIT: There is some nice interactivity with the artifacts, or other alignments at times. Nothing that blocks progress. Harkon will comment if you’re a Vampire or Werewolf on meeting him. Ambjorn has special dialog for Werewolves. (Remember, both of these are Daedric in origin.) Mora has additional dialog in Dragonborn if you finished his quest in the main game. Though, Sheogorath did the exact same thing in Shivering Isles, if you’d gotten the Wabbajack.

              I want to say I’ve seen some of the court mages notice artifacts, but I’m not sure if that’s my memory being weird.

              Also, there’s a few weird ones, like Meridia not caring if you’re a vampire.

      • Alex says:

        “My problem with their quests is that there’s no alternative.”

        Four of the fifteen quests have alternate methods to finish the quest: Azura, Clavicus Vile, Hircine, Vaermina

        And in a few of the quests, the Daedric Lords are the good guys: Azura (wanting an evil artifact cleansed), Meridia (cleansing a temple infested with undead)

        …or at least not too bad: Hircine (wanting a murderer and thief killed), Malacath (overthrowing a corrupt Orc chieftain), Sanguine (getting up to shenanigans while drunk and making amends), Mehrunes Dagon (killing an admirer of an evil cult), Sheogorath (curing a madman’s insanity)

        • swenson says:

          I will forever be a Sheogorath fan (especially considering that he basically is me now–or at least Oblivion-me), but Sanguine is a pretty fun guy too.

        • Michael says:

          Vaermina’s actually kind of interesting, because you’re actually working against Vaermina for most of the quest. You have the option of breaking down and double crossing Erandur, but the “default” conclusion is non-evil.

          EDIT: Holy crap, editing is back! :D

        • newdarkcloud says:

          Hircine is an interesting one because if you do it right, you can get both rewards.

          First, kill of all the other werewolves hunting the one, and Hircine will give you the purified ring. If you then kill the one werewolf afterwards, you can trick the game into thinking you took that ending to the quest, and also get the Savior’s Hide.

    • Hal says:

      If you go back as far as Morrowind, it gets even more complicated. The Daedra are worshipped out there, while the Nine Divines are referred to as the “Imperial Cult.”

      I think part of what makes this confusing, besides daedra (the minor ones) generally being monsters and Mehrunes Dagon’s role in Oblivion, is that the Daedra are very active in the world. You do quests for them, you get artifacts, they have personalities. Sometimes those things are good, sometimes those things aren’t, but they’re out there doing stuff.

      The Nine Divines, on the other hand, rarely intervene in the mortal plane (again, Oblivion being an exception.) You get speculation from in-game books on why this is the case, but the fact is that it’s pretty easy to see the Nines as being the “good guys” when they don’t ever do anything. You get blessings from their altars, people say nice things about them, and their amulets have nifty bonuses. There’s just not much involvement there.

      • Michael says:

        Neat trivia: You can actually run into every member of the Nine in Morrowind. It’s part of the issue with Wulf (the character Rutskarn was mentioning, who might be Talos). If you’ve encountered the others (as part of the Imperial Cult quests) you’re supposed to know how to recognize Wulf. But, that information isn’t something I ever had. I only actually encountered Talos and Mara.

        (EDIT: The Strategy Guide seems to think Wulf is Tiber Septum, for whatever that’s worth. There’s also a member of the Cult that will identify Wulf as Tiber Septum if you ask them (Varian), but only if you’re actually a member of that faction.)

        It’s kind of worth remembering that the Daedric Princes are active, but because of the way the games work, we get an oversampling of their behavior. They mess with mortals from time to time, but players have the opportunity to participate in most of that. Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim allow the player to interact with every single Daedric Prince. Obviously, that’s not something that happens to… really, anyone. Outside of the players, the Princes are homicidally possessive, if I’m remembering the lore books I’ve read correctly.

  23. Mersadeon says:

    I always felt that the worst one is the “worthless stuff has to be fenced” – just make it so that anything worth less than 75 Septims doesn’t get the stolen flag unless it is a unique item (with its own item class). This would be TRIVIAL to do.

  24. GTRichey says:

    It seems to me like each class of item could be labeled with a default difficulty to selling it if stolen. Food and ingredients would be trivial in >90% of cases so have that default to being able to sell immediately (even to the person stolen from if the crime isn’t reported because really he’s not going to be able to tell if it’s his potato you’re trying to sell him). Jewellery, clothing, armour, weapons, and misc household things would most likely require a fence because we can assume that at some point the owner will recognise that it has gone missing and report it (some of these items are common enough it may be trivial to sell, but having a default behaviour like this is realistic in most cases). Unique items would have to be sold to an unscrupulous wealthy inhabitant (much like in our world no seller would deal with these, but people with wealth may not care about such things and want the item anyway… maybe they even send you on a quest to steal it?).

    This system would require a singe tag for each item in game with the vast majority set by the item’s type and only rare/unique items specified at creation as being more difficult. It’s by no means as realistic as what Shamus has outlined, but would be fairly trivial to implement (and for the player to understand) and be realistic enough that it’d be easier to gloss over.

  25. Mailbox says:

    Nothing to really comment about this episode today. I’m feeling really tired. So watch this video. This youtuber took Skyrim, with a few mods and some clever audio splicing came up with these hilarious mashups. This is the first one use his youtube home page to view all the others he has done.
    Funny Skyrim

  26. thebob288 says:

    I actually think he 3 dudes are payed advertisers for homning brew Meadery they always mention that brand mead specifically and they always leave once you accept a mead they’re out in random places to spread branding among travelers. At least thats how I always saw it.

  27. Confanity says:

    A thought: why not just give every item a rating, call it “notoriety,” and give every shopkeep or potential buyer a notoriety bar above which they won’t purchase stuff on the off chance (or suspicion) that it’s stolen?

    (“Because it’s work; that’s why not!” I hear someone say. Well, sure, but let’s assume that there’s someone somewhere willing to do some amount of work to tighten up this particular issue.)

    First, everything salable has a notoriety value. (To keep things simple, if there’s currently a value that keeps players from picking up and selling random sticks and rocks etc., this could replace it?) This value is modified by its price and by some other number assigned to it based on its fame or any other factor the programmer desires. This covers points (1), (2), and (5).

    Second, each time there’s a theft (or a theft is noticed, if the game has a function; otherwise perhaps some sort of built-in delay?) the notoriety of all things is treated as higher: the more theft is going on, the more people are likely to suspect any item being pawned off for quick cash. Steal enough apples, and people will hear about it and start wondering if even random apples are stolen property that they should ethically refuse to buy. On the other hand, time will slowly allow notoriety to drop back to its base level, or maybe even below, as out-of-sight becomes out-of-mind. Just each time the sun rises,or whatever, all the notoriety counters for goods the PC carries tick down by one. Together, this takes care of (4), (6), and (8).

    Third, each shopkeep can have a notoriety tolerance. Perhaps criminal fences will ignore mundane stuff as beneath them and only deal in stolen goods; they have a minimum notoriety tolerance. If the player character has some sort of reputation stat, this can be applied positively or negatively: PCs with sterling reputations can sell off goods that a nobody wouldn’t be able to get rid of; different stores can have different feels to them; underworld contacts can grow more willing to move the PC’s stuff if they feel the PC is one of them, or require greater potential profits before being tempted to do business with a goody-two-shoes PC. This covers (7) and allows for, essentially, some more interesting systemic variations to arise for free. Oh, and law-abiding characters witnessing the PC stealing would of course impact the reputation stat pretty dramatically.

    Some things you could play around with:
    -Give things with high notoriety to bandits, and watch PCs run around trying to sell rightfully-won loot only to discover that it’s stolen property that people recognize.
    -Allow stolen goods, occasionally, to be returned to their owner, or some proper authority, for boosts to the the PC’s reputation, or even a reward, proportional to their notoriety. (As with shopkeeps, this should be refused if the PC’s reputation adjustment implies they would be suspected of being the thief!) So PCs can still turn their bandit-loot into cash without just selling it off. Players could have some sadistic fun stealing stuff and then returning it, pretending to have “recovered” it during the course of their heroics.

    It’s not perfect, of course. A quick-traveling PC might find NPCs in one small town reacting to a crime wave in another small town a hundred miles away, and the personalization of (3) doesn’t seem to fit in without making the simplified mechanic I’m trying to propose far more cumbersome. But I feel like, done right, you could get a lot of mileage out of a pretty simple system.

    I’m hardly a programmer, though. What do the more tech-savvy people on here think?

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Ooh, yeah. All very doable! I made a comment in response to Humanoid (above) which suggests a very similar single-rating system. The main addition I suggest is a fall-off in noteriety as one gets further from the “origin” of the stolen item, both spatially (simple geographical distance) and “personally” (going to unrelated individuals, families, organizations, and cultures).

      I really like your idea of “returning” stolen items for a boost in social standing, or even a small reward. I hadn’t thought of that at all, but it’s a great addition, and shouldn’t be too hard to implement. Just goes to show how much can be done with a simple clever system with a little thought behind it.

      • Confanity says:

        Thanks for your thoughts! I also like the idea of the system attenuating with distance, but I’m not sure how it would be implemented.

        Is it possible to have the computer know, say, the “social map” of the NPCs in the game without it getting too complicated? Some way of knowing whether Alan talks to Bob, and is cousins with Carrie in the next town over. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon and all that.

        If so, maybe the best system would be to plug non-generic items into that map. So Bob is only one step from Bob’s Sword or Bob’s Golden Goblet (and so uses their full notoriety score), but three steps from Carrie’s Crystal Inkwell (Bob – Andy – Carrie – Inkwell) and so uses ((x-3)/x)% of its notoriety when deciding whether to buy an inkwell the PC is selling?

        I like that this seems to combine both the recognition factor and the physical-distance factor. People socially close to the owner of an item are more likely to have seen it before or to hear about its specifically having been stolen; people farther away will tend to be less socially connected, essentially making the physical-distance aspect a side effect.

        More thoughts:

        -You could fiddle with the numbers by making the formula more complex, of course. Maybe one step of separation uses 10X the notoriety score, and the multiplier drops off logarithmically?

        -Something would have to be done with fences, though, to prevent them from being even more enthusiastic about buying stuff from you when you’d stolen it off of them! I guess that could be handwaved by saying they’re all impressed at your amazing skills, but still…. Maybe make the formula so that one-step separation gives infinite notoriety, and give even fences an upper cap at, say, 100x the notoriety of the greatest treasure in the game.

        -Make national treasures famous, not by giving them an arbitrary high “fame” modifier to their notoriety, but rather making them only one or two steps of social separation away from everyone in the country. Local treasures would similarly be connected by only a couple steps to everyone in the town. Generic items simply aren’t socially connected.

        -If there isn’t already some sort of social-connection mechanic in place, there are lots of other things you could have it do for you, I suspect. Heck, you could plug the PC into it and have that influence their reputation and so on. Then you’d have the PC wandering around, possibly obsessively befriending everyone they meet, and in the process making it harder for themselves to sell stolen goods. Maybe it would cut down on the sort of schizophrenic “try every option and befriend everyone during just one playthrough” play some people engage in?

        Again, I have to ask — is this something that could be done without getting clunky?

        • guy says:

          A relationship map of that sort would be pretty computationally expensive. Graph traversal gets slower as you add items and connections between items. I’m not sure how much of a problem that would actually be, though. As I understand it, modern games use the same class of algorithms for pathfinding, so it should be implementable, but could necessitate cutting corners elsewhere.

        • Paul Spooner says:

          Yes! Excellent! Indeed, social “space” would need to be no different than physical “space”, nor more difficult to find distances. It might have higher dimensional vectors, but that doesn’t mean that it need have anything approaching n^n complexity as is normally assumed. Especially combined with character nesting, this could all be done fairly trivially.

          In your example you have a “flat” map of characters. All individuals, Bob, Andy, Carrie. I would suggest instead a nested system. Everyone in the town is part of the “Bobton” character, which “owns” or “knows of” the more important items inside it, even if they are owned by individuals. That way, when Bob checks what items he recognizes, he simply checks his own posessions, and then the “stuff the town knows about” item. Two checks, not a problem. Perhaps there is a regional character, and a national one as well. In the case of national treasures, it would be only four checks (personal, town, region, and national) instead of checking the relationships with everyone in the country.

          Once this nested “membership” system is in place, individuals might be members of multiple groups, so that Bob would know about things from the town, and also things from his guild, or group of friends. This allows more complicated social structures, while still maintaining the computational simplicity of a nested tree, instead of trying to traverse a true social web of individuals.

  28. Mephane says:

    Not sure if mentioned in the other comments, I did not read every single one, but there is another elephant in the room:

    In almost all games where there is loot and shops that sell and buy stuff, any shop will buy anything from you. Even apparent junk. An innkeeper will buy all of your 10 dull and rusty swords, the blacksmith will happily pay for a carriage load full of tomatoes, and that magic trinket of awesome that also happens to be worth 10,000 GP? The guy with the market stand selling cheap pottery will fork over the money without hesitation. And the travelling merchant bringing exotic spices and riches from distant country will gladly part with all his earnings for a heap of lumber you just collected a few meters further into the forest.

    There are just so many points how all of this is wrong:
    – What do these people want to do with random stuff that they obviously have no need for?
    – Where do they store the stuff?
    – Where the items go afterwards? Why do the items magically vanish after you’ve left their shop. (Averted in some games, but usually this is the case.)
    – Where do they have the money from to buy all my stuff? (Partially averted in the Elder Scrolls series, thought simple tricks like quicksave&reload usually just refills they purses.)
    – Why does no one ever ask questions about the random dude selling random crap to everyone and their grandmother?
    – Why does everything I sell usually net me an order of magnitude (or two) less than if they were selling the very same item?
    – And if I have a genuine and quite large gold ingot, why do I only get a few pieces of silver selling that, even from a blacksmith or jeweler?

    • Sleeping_Dragon says:

      I’m going to go with the argument Shamus often quotes when talking about Steam: convenience. Yes, it makes sense that the alchemist would have no use for a broadsword and, in turn, a librarian would have little use for fifty thousand wooden spoons… but it’s just so convenient. It sure beats travelling all over town looking for that one merchant who would be willing to take some butterfly wings (especially when some of them are spread to various locations within the city rather than parked at one, easily reachable marketplace).

      For that matter TES games tend to have merchants with limited (though refreshed with time) cash reserves, which is meant to prevent players from getting rich quick (it doesn’t) and while it is realistic is also a pain for most players.

    • swenson says:

      Except you can’t do this in Skyrim at the beginning. There’s a perk for it once you level Speech enough, but at the beginning, you can only sell specific categories of items to specific merchants. The sole exception is “general” merchants, who’ll take anything.

      Presumably the idea is once you get high enough Speech, you’re a smooth enough talker to convince a blacksmith that no, you really DO need all those tomatoes.

    • syal says:

      It’s entirely possible they’re turning around and selling that stuff to people they know that do deal with it, at a profit to themselves (that’s what the real-life folks I know would do).

    • Humanoid says:

      One of the few SWTOR features I genuinely liked* was the ability to send your companion off to sell your junk for you. A version of this system, handled well, is not only convenient but also eliminates the “everyone is a general merchant” issue.

      * It’s a good idea in context of progressing the MMO genre and easing on one of its chief chores, but the problem could have been avoided in the first place by not having enemies drop vendor trash in the first place. A thoroughly archaic design practice which I despise.

      Verisimilitude be damned, I liked Dishonored’s system of instantly melting all valuables you gained into their monetary value equivalent. In a game with a proper inventory it’s a bit more of a stretch, but the solution is to just move the conversion forward. Level designers, stop and think before you place that gem worth 100 coins in that chest, and put 100 coins in it instead.

    • If convenience and verisimilitude can have some compromise, perhaps a selling mechanic like the one in the old spacefaring game “Elite” could work. Merchants will buy anything, but only so much of it before the value starts to drop, as you’re flooding the market with whatever the item is. Then you have to find someone else to sell the rest of your vendor trash to or you have to wait until the game algorithm decides the vendor “wants” the item again.

      As a bonus for the inconvenience, some items could be more valuable in more places. One town might always be predisposed to paying more for armor, another for food, etc.

  29. Valthek says:

    Reminds me of the hilarious result of me following the assasin’s guild quest line. At a certain point, you’re required to assasinate the emperor during a dinner. I was sort of fed up with the quest at the time, so I ran up to him, stabbed him in the face with a greatsword and ran for it. I barely make it down the stairs before I’m stopped by a guard.

    “Stop, you’ve violated the law, pay the fine or go to jail”
    “Here’s 1000 gold”
    “Okay, we’re good now”

    I KILLED the EMPEROR (as far as he knows) 1000 Gp for TREASON???

    Feels good to vent that.

  30. Neko says:

    Since many of us are designing our ideal Stealing Simulator 2014 here in the comments, I feel compelled to join in – this is something I’ve often considered while playing RPGs as well. Warning, wall of text, I got carried away:-

    Several people are talking about adding additional fields to the data of all in-game items; this is no good, because there are a lot of items in Elder Scrolls games – there’s a even a large number of unique classes of items. Instead, what we want to do is only keep track of items that the player has actually stolen.

    We make a “Theft Event” class, and a list of Theft Events is maintained by each small community plus one for The World. If we want more granularity, we can keep lists for individuals; less, then keep them for each hold only. When an item is stolen, it gets an event pushed onto the list for that community that contains a reference to that object, a “Time to Live” for the event, and a “Notability” value representing the crime.

    Time to Live simply represents how long it will be in game time before this crime in this community is forgotten. Conceptually, it gets decremented as time progresses but implementation-wise it’s easier to just say “expires on the 10th of Frostfall”. It gets set high if this was a high-value item (and that ‘value’ may need to consider item uniqueness, or whether it’s well-known).

    Notability doesn’t simply use the innate value or uniqueness of the item, but the modified {value,uniqueness,badassery} of the item at the moment the player grabbed it. For Shamus’ #5 and #6, Bob’s Box o’ Longswords when snatched unnoticed from his basement gets a tiny fraction of their value as Notability. The same box snatched from outside his store in front of witnesses gets a heavy multiplier.

    The innate value or uniqueness or whatever does still need to be counted somehow – Bob’s Longsword of the famous Bob’s Longsword Inn down in Bobtown should get a higher initial value before we consider how the crime was comitted, and we could do that with either item attributes or some heuristic about uniqueness. I’m tempted to go with an approach from Machine Learning and use the ‘TF/IDF’ (Term Frequency – Inverse Document Frequency) where we consider how many Longswords are in Bob’s house compared to the world. If it’s the only one, then the level creator must have made it specially for Bob – but if there are many others in the world, or many others in that same location, it’s not going to be as obviously stolen.

    To address #3 and #4 (Distance and Time), we get the game’s actors to copy Theft Event items from one list to another when they interact or travel between towns. Ideally, the new events would simply point back to the original so dialogue could take advantage of that metadata (“I heard of a great Longsword heist over in Whiterun, I’m not buying that”) but if fencing items is going to be a simple ‘yes/no’ affair we can skip it. The main idea is that the copied event gets only a fractional value of the Time-to-Live and Notability fields from the original – people further divorced from the area don’t care as much.

    Your upstanding model citizen of a merchant will not buy items that are on theft lists that are known to them if their Notability is greater than than the “apple” threshold. The player will have to either race across the country to a merchant where the event has not propagated yet, or wait for the event to expire naturally. Obviously if the PC is known to be especially trustworthy (#7) or the NPC especially shady, we can bend the rules a bit – presumably up to some limit of Notability. And that limit might be related to the mean or median value of all the thefts on the list, to account for the PC going on a “crime spree” (#8).

    Events get removed from the lists periodically if their TTL expires or their Notability is sufficiently low, so after the news initially spreads, it should die out again. Shopkeepers still shouldn’t buy items that were once their cherished possessions, so we’d need to tune the TTL/Notability values such that the community where something was originally stolen from will have an exceptionally long TTL…

    This is all me just toying with the idea before dinner, though, so there’s plenty of edge-cases that need to be considered and many refinements that could be made.

    • swenson says:

      The biggest problem that comes immediately to mind with this is the same one mentioned for somebody’s suggestion earlier… the number of longswords in the game might not actually be equal to the number of longswords in the world that the player could actually get to. There could be leftover test data, etc., for example. Looking at the number of other longswords in the same cell could be useful, though.

      But honestly, I’m not sure if you’d even have to implement something for that. There’s already a rarity associated with items to determine how frequently merchants have them available for sale, so you could probably extrapolate something off that.

      In general, though, I like the idea of having a TTL. It makes sense for non-unique, non-notable items. (a “notable” item to me is something especially recognizable, like anything enchanted)

      • Neko says:

        You’re right, it’s an unreliable heuristic to use. We could try and work with the probabilities you get from the levelled items lists for levelled container loot… although if it’s any item the game generates as procedural clutter, it’s probably not particularly notable. Items that never show up on the levelled item lists, those are probably recognisable to their owners, describable to guards… yeah.

        I had another thought or twenty about this list of theft events: a) we could concatenate multiple thefts that occur in a short timespan or in the same area, to further recognise that a theft of an entire blacksmith’s shop is kind of a big deal to the owner and b) it might be feasible to expose this list to the player somehow, via in-game documents that show up in guard towers and such; it’d be handy for debugging the system but it’d also add much-needed feedback to the player about what items are still ‘hot’, if they’re willing to snoop through investigator’s documents to do so. Or perhaps a list of stolen items that gets posted to merchant districts?

  31. kdansky says:

    I don’t agree that writing AI that can deal with stolen items isn’t worthwhile, because it could be expanded into so much more. I have an unfinished design document lying around for a game that is all about this. Imagine Dwarf Fortress, but instead of managing digging holes, you manage the relationships of a dozen people. I think it works best by having discrete pieces of information, which the characters can pass around.

    If you steal something from someone, they get the information “my stuff got stolen”, which might be important to them (if the item is valuable), so they pass it on to guards and their friends. You could even add something like distortion.

    The same system can then be used for fame, for favours, for bounties, romance, and a ton of other things that Skyrim lacks so much, and would make it from a cave-crawler into an actually open world game. Imagine a game where you could actually lie to people after having gained their trust, commit crimes and accuse others of it. It would be great!

    The big problem isn’t even the simulation, the big problem is that this is very hard to communicate to the player. But just the AI part should be fairly doable for a big studio like Bethesda.

  32. silver Harloe says:

    I’d be amused if they made it so when you rob a store blind, the store closes later because the guy can’t afford the place anymore. Perhaps the players might develop morality out of self interest (needing places to fence dungeon loots)

  33. Nytzschy says:

    Reading all the discussion of the Hard Problem Of Stealin’ Stuff, I can’t help being impressed by the fact that the ability to steal things and have one’s theft of things be investigated by NPCs is both a planned feature of Dwarf Fortress development and a minor feature in the grande scheme of things.

  34. RTBones says:

    Yeah…crime AI…yeah.

    So, in a recent play through, I had done multiple quests for a town and was asked to assist with a dragon as I am the hero of choice. Said dragon attacks town. I shout at dragon, grounding him. I launch fireball at dragon. Idiottownguard rushes dragon directly ahead of the fireball I just launched just as I launch it. Idiottownguard dies. I defeat dragon, turn around, only to be met by the very testy town guard and told that I was scum and had committed a crime and needed to pay fine or go to jail. I pay fine, and suddenly am hero again.

    If you ask me to help, and I lob fireballs in the direction of the beast you asked me to help you against, DONT GET IN THE WAY OF THE LAUNCHED FIREBALL.

    • guy says:

      Friendly fire is one of the more difficult problems to resolve, because there’s no simple way to tell whether or not it was intentional. I generally think the system should give lots of latitude.

      • kdansky says:

        I think this is one of the few things that Skyrim does well!

        Don’t give the player much leeway. If they hit an ally, then the ally will be pissed. Put the burden onto the player, because for once, that’s not unreasonable. If you get a fireball in the back from some self-proclaimed hero while you are doing your duty as a guard, well then that’s probably his fault, and obviously the town will side with their own people instead of some foreigner.

        • Ciennas says:

          Clever in universe justifications don’t do much good in the face of a long running problem.

          I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had to reload a Fallout 3 save because some dunderhead charged in after I’d lined up four plasma rifle shots in VATS, watching in horror as the guy I tried to protect from supermutants eats it because of stupid.

          Morrowind had Escort Missions where the NPC being escorted suffered from Suicidal Overconfidence- running directly down the throat of whatever horrific monster had chosen to wander into our path- often armed with nothing but their fists, and shielded from harm by their handsomeness and thin cloth shirts.

          Halo has had a dodge roll mechanic since the beginning. Bethesda should code a similar ‘dodge friendly fire’ system.

      • Humanoid says:

        I had no problem with Wing Commander’s implementation of it, nearly a quarter of a century ago.

        Yikes, it’s been 24 years since that game, a sobering thought.

        • I seem to recall you didn’t get much of a reprimand for killing Maniac, so I made it a point to blast him into atoms every time I played.

          That’s a mechanic I’d like to see: Killing an NPC and having other NPCs either shrug and be indifferent or backhandedly congratulate you for doing such an awful job of preserving the lives of bystanders (wink-wink).

  35. swenson says:

    Regarding the Companions, at least Aela being a jerk when you first show up is in line with her later characterization. I just could not stand that woman. She never stops being condescending. The rest of the Companions are mostly okay IMO. Especially Farkas, who is basically like a puppy. (not an intentional werewolf joke, but it might as well be)

    • Michael says:

      Kinda makes me wonder if she has some history with Arnbjorn…

    • Amnestic says:

      At least she doesn’t throw a hissy fit when you get made Big Boss of the Companions.

      Which in itself is a potential problem with the Skyrim/Oblivion (and possibly Morrowind and before – I honestly don’t remember). I understand that some players want to do a faction’s quests and become the big boss person at the end of it, but giving us the option not to be would be nice.

      In the (Skyrim) Dark Brotherhood’s case it sort of made sense given who you ended up being, but the (Skyrim) Thieves Guild, Companions and College of Winterhold really should’ve given you the option to refuse leadership and let someone else take over. In all three cases there were NPCs who would be arguably better suited to taking over leadership of the factions while you’re off gallivanting around tombs and whatnot.

      • Humanoid says:

        I don’t know, given the level of competence displayed by the collective membership of those guilds throughout their questlines, a cardboard cutout of the player character would probably do a better job leading them.

      • The Rocketeer says:

        I know one exception to the rule exists in Morrowind: you can either challenge Trebonius Artorius to a duel to the death to become Archmage of the Guild of Mages, or you can simply both serve as co-Archmages together (presumably with you doing the real work, and the daft Trebonius being alternately humored and ignored.

  36. Nyctef says:

    With regards to “You’re making a mistake ..”, that’s not the only option. You can also just tab out of the conversation and walk away at that point

    • Michael says:

      I love the mental image of Skyrim guards though. They have a very specific level of what they’re willing to enforce the law over. If they go, “you’re that criminal!”, and you wander off, they just shrug and go on with their day. But, if they go, “you’re that notorious criminal!”, and the Dragonborn goes, “no… I just got here.” “You can’t fool me, your salt pile stealing, chicken punching days are over, pond scum!”

  37. Traiden says:

    There are story reasons for why the children of the Jarl of Whiterun are so messed up. they are sitting on-top of a high level deadric artifact. On if I remember correctly is powered by killing those close to the wielder. It has lore about is whispering to those close to it to commit treachery.

    It is the Ebony Blade, and you get it by entering the room of Nelkir after getting the quest from the inn Bannered Mare by asking about Whiterun.

  38. Just Passing Through says:

    I think the companions just suffer from a case of bad voice acting. On paper their story shouldn’t be THAT bad. It’s not about being the chosen one and saving the world, it’s about a small group of characters who all feel different about what they are. Plus werewolves, which are super awesome. But then you give the most prevalent and visually unique member of the group disinterested and monotone voice acting and it all just kind of crumbles. It would also help if they had toned down the merc angle, but that’s minor. All that said there is no way in hell the Companions are more boring than the Oblivion fighters guild, that thought is almost offensive.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      It sucks that the Oblivion Fighter’s Guild was as lame as it was, since they actually had a pretty good hook: growing a Hist tree and using its sap as a drug to make its fighters into unstoppable berserkers. There’s so many places they could have gone with that premise, but they didn’t. Typical of Oblivion, really. :(

    • newdarkcloud says:

      While I generally feel that Oblivion was better written than Skyrim, I have to be honest in that I thought the Fighter’s Guild questline was the least interesting of the questlines.

      I consider the Companions to be better simply because I wanted to be a werewolf. Otherwise, they’re about equal.

  39. Nick Powell says:

    You know what would be fun? A skyrim LP with all the craziest mods on the nexus installed at once. The thing is, the person playing doesn’t know which mods are installed and has to discover them while everyone else watches.

  40. They could actually make a huge step toward increasing the stolen-item AI just by making worthless junk items completely un-salable. Nobody’s going to buy some chipped dishes you’ve been lugging across the countryside. For reals. They could also alternatively program it so that the NPC’s don’t really care if you steal all of their worthless junk, because what are you going to do with it? You can’t sell it!

    So, that just leaves valuable items for the NPC’s to care about. Now you just need two stepped systems: 1. for how well NPC’s know each other (you automate this by creating “networks” of associations–the more associations an NPC has in common with another NPC, the higher their number–this is a lot of stuff to check so you make selling a stolen item into its own little dialog so the game has time to check on an item-by-item basis without creating some huge slowdown because you have 75 items all stolen from different people and it has to check all of them vs. the trader every time you open a trade window) and 2. for how “unique” a given item is. Assign the uniqueness a numerical value and to determine whether you can safely sell an item, multiply that by the associations number. If the result is above a threshhold, the NPC calls the guards on you. Your Speechcraft score reduces the threat value and also can warn you of whether trying to sell something risks counting as a “Crime”.

    Very simple system, makes the AI look somewhat aware of what’s going on, and all your level designers have to do is to assign uniqueness values to items and associations to NPC’s. They probably already assign factions to NPC’s anyway, so this system has multiple global uses.

    • You could actually add a TON of interactivity to the game just via this system. Some thoughts:

      1. Have a “Larceny” association that is a measure of how larcenous a given person is. This is a NEGATIVE number that potentially cancels out other factional relationships.
      2. Now that random NPC chatter can actually have a value, because you can insert “so and so is a real cheat!” or “so and so is such an old stick-in-the mud, reported me for jaywalking!” type barks that help potential thieves figure out what vendors might have a big larceny value and be easier to sell to.
      3. Add the PC as a potential item owner and also make it possible for NPC’s to steal from the PC. Not only does this make you think twice about popping a rest in the middle of a town, that NPC can then have a simple AI where they either keep the item, sell the item to a vendor (and the PC can then attempt to retrieve it either by buying it back or by calling the guards) or maybe they’ll even get CAUGHT selling the item and the next time you visit that town a guard comes up and says “we found this that was stolen from you”.
      4. Applying that “I own this” to an item (and also scrubbing ownership) can be uses for skills. For instance, you can scrub ownership by breaking an item down for raw materials–the mats aren’t worth as much as the item, but now you can sell them freely. But you need X amount of smithing or enchanting or alchemy or whatever before you can break down an item. Some items just can’t be broken down profitably because the parts are basically worthless.

      Heck, you could build a pretty fun game just from that system ALONE.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        I would play that game, though “alone” is a pretty spartan qualifier.

        Your point about nearly value-less items is well taken. At best, one might barter such items for other similar items, but that would be with peasants, not with merchants who trade in coin.

        Breaking items down for their raw materials could be an awesome mechanic. One of the values of gold is that it’s so easy to reclaim and re-use. Wood and stone, not so much. Gemstones might be broken by trying to reclaim them, unless the artisan’s skill was high enough.

        This system might work best with a semi-procedural item generation system, which could allow you to freely mix and match items and materials. Of course, getting something like this to work right could be a real headache, but the possibilities are profound.

        The NPC “network” concept is a sound one as well. To avoid repeating myself, I refer you to my other comments above.

  41. topazwolf says:

    One thing about Talos that has always bugged me is how vague he is in the mythology. Do we even know for a fact that Talos ever was really mortal? Maybe he just manifested an avatar for a while that was called Tiber Septim.

    • aldowyn says:

      someone didn’t read the pages and pages of comments discussing this very issue :D

      • topazwolf says:

        Technically incorrect. There are few pages on Talos in this comment thread, but about 95% of them are about programming/looting/stealing/AI while the few pages about Talos are mostly about evidence proving he is a god. I believe it was mentioned once that Talos might be a preexisting Aedra.

        I just wanted to post my thought on the matter away from the large bodies of text.

  42. Neko says:

    As for Tiber Septim attaining godhood as Talos, I’d like to link my friend’s 4-part series on The Metaphysics of Morrowind. Basically, he probably discovered CHIM like Vivec did.

  43. Zak McKracken says:

    I sadly don’t remember where I read about a paper that showed the “uncanny Valley” does not exist. I found it hard to believe but it made sense.

    I’ve started to think that the effect is probably not about being almost-but-not-quite realistic but about the viewer’s assumption about what the author was aiming for, and whether this is consistent across the game/movie/story.

    The Legolas move caught many people’s eyes because it was completely out of place and out of touch with what we intuit about mass, momentum and forces. The same thing in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” would barely have raised an eyebrow because it is established that in that movie the laws of physics have a very weak influence on what happens during fight scenes.

    In the same way, if you’d set up a game that is selling it’s AI as “totally realistic” and is marketed as such, it will fail, no matter how good the AI. (Actually, even if you had real people acting on the player’s input, many would probably complain about how unrealistic this was — people aren’t as rational as they think)
    But if you’d hide the mechanism well, and managed the player’s expectations, I think any level of implementation of the above ideas could work pretty well.

    The problem is of course that if a developer goes through such an opulent implementation of this mechanism (and maybe others as well to make it consistent), they _will_ want to market it, announce it, make the player aware of how awesome the simulation is. And in turn force the player to find the limits, whether they want to or not.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      “…a paper that showed the “uncanny Valley” does not exist… the effect is probably not about being almost-but-not-quite realistic but about the viewer’s assumption about what the author was aiming for, and whether this is consistent across the game/movie/story.”

      While this is interesting, it’s not very helpful or descriptive. The “uncanny valley” is basically a location on a chart; A chart with two axies, both of which are subjective. I wouldn’t even call it a theory because there are no measurable objective qualities you can test. It’s a descriptive conjecture based on anecdote and bald-faced speculation.

      So, while it’s not surprising that someone may have found evidence against it, until we know what we’re talking about it’s impossible to prove or disprove.

      I agree with your cognition that it is about perception of intent rather than a scale of “absolute creepiness”. But that’s the whole premise of the uncanny valley as well. It only applies for portrayals of humans. That is to say, it applies to things that are perceived as being created with an intent of resembling humans.

      I also agree that games generally over-sell themselves, to their own ruin. Prudent and modest claims coupled with matching performance would nearly certainly sell better in the long run. Sadly, short-term returns accompanied with a media blitz seems the order of the day.

  44. RCN says:

    I think the stolen item problem should’t be too hard to solve by just adding a few variables to the game.

    Variable 1 – Importance, how much the owner of the item values it.

    Variable 2 – Complexity, how unique the item is.

    Variable 3 – Location, from where the item is.

    Variable 4 – Fame, how liked the player is.

    Importance pretty much means how easy it is for the owner to notice it was stolen. If this rating is high enough then any merchant from it’s original town should be able to recognize it.

    Complexity is how likely anyone is to tell if the item was stolen or not. So stuff like potatoes and wooden dinnerware will never raise any eyebrows because of how low their level of complexity is, but if you’re trying to sell silverware, equipment or jewels, the merchant should be able to tell the item is stolen if he is from the area you stole it from, regardless of anyone noticing it went missing.

    Location is just to keep track if the merchants are able to notice the item as stolen or not. At certain thresholds the neighboring towns should also refuse to buy particularly hot items.

    Finally, if each town has its own track of the character’s fame, with high enough fame you mitigate the other factors.

    The problem, of course, is that is a fair amount of extra work for something that very few players will actually care about.

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