Skyrim EP14: Bad Kitty

By Shamus
on Mar 6, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Rutskarn alluded to this strip from DM of the Rings. Been a while since the ol’ webcomic came up in conversation.

I couldn’t remember which strip had the joke he was talking about, but I did remember it had the phrase “beautiful symbiosis”. I typed the phrase into Google, told it to look on my site, and Google came back with the goods. That’s magical. All the dialog is an image. I never bothered to put the dialog in the alt image text (or somewhere nearby) so that search engines could find it. So how did Google know the phrase appeared in in that comic? My best guess is that Google came up with the result based on people quoting it elsewhere? Maybe? I don’t know.

So this episode is a great example of railroading gone wrong. Personally I’d rather have the freedom to break the game than constantly find myself bumping into ad-hoc rules designed to “protect” me from breaking the quest. But just to play Devil’s Advocate: Do most players want this freedom? I’m honestly curious.

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  1. Humanoid says:

    Oh absolutely, I rarely finish games, even games that I *like* – hell, I’ve never finished Fallout despite being happy to put it in any best-games-of-all-time list. Completeability is therefore pretty low on the list of priorities. Some of the best memories I have of my formative gaming period involved fooling around in Ultimas 7, 7.2 and 8 – I finished absolutely none of those back then but they’re just as memorable as any gaming experience I’ve had since.

    That said, the better solution is that presented by those games’ stablemate in the Wing Commander series. Failure wasn’t just an option, it was an entirely new gameplay path. Some of WC1’s best missions couldn’t be experienced unless you failed the winning conditions in some systems, and WC3 had a long and epic losing, and most notably irrecoverable losing path. You were doomed, Earth was doomed, but it let you play that consequence out to the bitter end.

    A Skyrim where you screw up and Alduin eats the world? Sure, let me see that.

    • Neko says:

      Yesssss, Ultima VII was my first RPG too and I was spoiled rotten and didn’t even realise it. Freedom to kill important quest NPCs (Just ask LB if you need them back). Freedom to take all your important quest objects on a boat, get attacked by pirates, die and wonder where the hell you left them. Freedom to Vas Kal An Mani In Corp Hur Tym. The player has savegames, trust them.

      And I say this having royally screwed over one of my Serpent Isle playthroughs by hitting a bug involving a couple of ghosts you see early on in the game, that doesn’t really demonstrate that everything is broken until late game. Didn’t have a save that was early enough, and it was pretty crappy that I couldn’t complete the game from that playthrough but oh well guess I can continue to roam the world being my usual derpy Avatar self.

    • TMTVL says:

      Ultima? Freedom? There’s as much freedom in Ultima as there is in Skyrim or Oblivion. Only instead of dragging people off to LB for revival, they revive on the spot.

      But I digress. I like freedom as much as anyone else, but I also like breaking games through bugs, glitches, oversights and (my favourite) cheats.

      Nothing is as fun as jumping onto a fence and going for a platforming run backwards through a finished level in Oni.

      Edit: Example

      • Humanoid says:

        Oh I’m not championing it as a form of absolute freedom (indeed Batlin was, outside very specific methods, an essential flagged NPC), but there still is a massive difference between reviving someone on the initiative of the player, and reviving automatically.

        This goes back to what I say about not having to finish games to enjoy them. I can reshape the world to fit my whims, even if it is technically reversible.

        It got pretty silly at times, sure – see the method of robbing the royal mint by murdering the official for the key to the vault, looting all the gold bars, then asking LB to resurrect said official so you could sell the gold bars back to her – but it was a blast regardless.

        One similarity to Fallout 3 though. Murdering guards so you could claim a bounty for ‘finding’ their fallen bodies, much like Cuftbert’s approach to finding fallen Brotherhood members.

        • TMTVL says:

          Doesn’t stuff like that get you in trouble for not sticking to the virtues? I never played Ultima, because I don’t like being forced in the good guy role.

          Especially U7, as you can’t even choose your characters gender, so much for role playing.

          Please overlook spelling or grammatical kerfluffles, I’m trying to type this on a PlayStation Vita, and it is tiring and painful.

          • Micamo says:

            Uhh, you can totally be a chick in Ultima 7. Far as I could tell it didn’t affect anything except your character sprites, but the option was there. Unless that’s supposed to be a crack at how butch she looks.

          • Humanoid says:

            Technically yes, you’re supposed to be a good guy, but that was only ever a check in Ultima 4, which is the game that introduced the system. (Ultimas 0 through 3 were standard kill-everything-loot-everything RPGs, y’know, the genre that none of its competitors from Wizardry through Might and Magic never grew out of.)

            I suppose that introduces an element of ludonarrative dissonance, but what actually tended to happen is that according to Garriott, players trained by Ultima 4 then proceeded to play in the way required by U4 without any actual enforcement by the game itself, which I thought was interesting. Well, mild enforcement, if you stole incorrectly your companions might attack you in U7 for instance (easily bypassed by having *them* steal the items for you), but nothing like the hidden counters in U4 that would track your progress and were required for ‘winning’.

            But yeah, in U7 you got to choose the Avatar’s gender. In U7 Part 2 you got to choose race as well. Unfortunately that feature disappeared in U8 as a result of that sequel’s misguided addition of highly detailed animation and general focus on graphics.

            • TMTVL says:

              Oh, I must’ve gotten them confused, sorry, as I said, I never played them.

              Still, compared to a game like Way of the Samurai where you can join any faction and get like a dozen different endings depending on your actions, it seems kinda scarce (although props are given for having a world that reacts to player action).

      • Neko says:

        I must disagree – Ultima VII part 1 at least had the Mark and Recall spells, allowing arbitrary teleportation to and from almost anywhere. Dungeons were frequently nonlinear. If you decided that someone needed to die, they stayed dead. Locked wooden doors could be bypassed with explosives. Telekinesis could bypass some puzzles. There was a Time Stop spell which would let a high-level mage absolutely destroy any opposition in the blink of an eye.

        I’d accept that it gave you about as much freedom as Morowind, but Oblivion and Skyrim? No. The blandness of magic in those games is especially limiting in comparison, but there’s also an increased prevalence of plot doors, invincible npcs and other crap.

        • Humanoid says:

          Yep, the anti-walkthroughs by Doug the Eagle of the later Ultima games (he also covers Bethesda games amongst others) are a perfect illustration of the flexibility of those games. He manages to simultaneously completely break but somehow finish the games in insane exploitative ways.

          • Bryan says:

            His Arx anti-walkthrough was especially funny, after having played through the game once or twice. Am Shaegar’s Diary was also hilarious…

            • Kreek says:

              my favorite is his system shock 1 anti-walkthrough
              [quoted]
              Totally stoned, he bangs two live frag grenades together.

              Later on some robots come past and wonder why the lift doors are bulging out like that.

              They find your body and give it new life.
              As a cyborg you will serve SHODAN well.

              I wonder how?

              Q: What’s green but turns red at the flick of a switch?
              A: A frog in a blender

              Now imagine the frog was 3 feet long. This is what the lift looks like at the moment. How can we possibly resurrect that?

              They find the pieces and give them new life.
              As a cyborg’s kneecap you will serve SHODAN well.
              [/quote]

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I am very much a completionist but I am also generally a good, obedient player who most of the time follows the rails and doesn’t try to do things like steal the lord’s cutlery or murder questgivers for giggles.

      On the other hand that is for the playthrough, I like making a save and unleashing my most amusing, modded arsenal in the middle of a bunch of people or zap a really annoying, if quest-essential, NPC. So I guess the bottom line is that I’m okay with following the rails as long as I can vent and have my fun every now and then.

      The limitations that the games tend to impose nowadays are really annoying because to me they not only break immersion by being unrealistic. More so they do it because they break a kind of agreement between the devs and me, they show that the devs don’t trust me to trust them with the story. I’m okay with not trolling the game normally but when it’s so in my face about preventing me from doing things it makes me want to.

  2. Deadyawn says:

    Speaking personally, I’m with you on the freedom thing. New Vegas may have had its fair share of problems but it absolutely nailed that aspect. Anything could be killed regardless of importance to any quest, even the main one. It was wonderfully liberating coming from fallout 3 where half the npcs had really terrible plot armour.

    On the one hand I really wish more games afforded that kind of freedom in this day and age but I can definitely see why that wouldn’t be an attractive proposition to the game designers who would have to script around it.

    • ET says:

      I personally don’t care if the devs even try to script around ridiculous player behaviour.
      For me, it breaks immersion very quickly when I run into invisible walls or plot armour, but not when I kill a quest-important NPC and have to reload, because every time, I know I’m doing something stupid, which will probably break the game’s scripted sequences.

      • Abnaxis says:

        True story, about my first run through Dark Souls:

        One of the early bosses in the game is a pair of gargoyles. Now that I’ve run through a couple of times, these guys are easy, but on the first go I died against them A LOT. So when I finally beat them down, and even got my gargoyle-tail axe trophy I was jubilant.

        I went up to the church bell they were guarding rang it, and then I had an “epic” idea. My new weapon looked really neat–I bet it would look cool to do a flying power attack from the top of this ladder…

        …right on top of Oswald of Carim, who spawns at the bottom of the shaft after you ring the bell. This rightly pissed the NPC off, and he started trying to murder me.

        No problem, I thought, surely an easy mistake like this happens enough that they give you a way to placate miffed NPCs, right? I look it up online and find out there is indeed a way to calm down angry NPCs. All you have to do is go to a shop and buy absolution, and you’re kosher.

        Except…the shop is run by none other than Oswald of Carim. The same Oswald who was much more keen on pwning my undead arse than he was on peddling tchochkes.

        After a judicious application of hand-on-face, I rerolled a new character, since the alternative would be playing the rest of the game terrified of angering anyone, and I like to swing weapons at random passersby.

        And yet, despite this loss of progress, I still love DkS for letting me screw myself over like that…

    • Dude says:

      I wonder if it’s possible to do it the way Scribblenauts Unlimited did it. You can kill anyone in it, almost, and wreak havoc, then you can reset the level so everyone’s alive again, and you can finish quests.

      This way they can be bold, so that if you kill the quest giver, you can make the conscious choice to never continue/finish that quest.

      • Humanoid says:

        There’s no real boundary of what a ‘level’ is here though. Take for example Catbert’s manic chase through Whiterun. If you hit reset right at the end when he’s in the Companion’s hall, where’s the reset point? Unlike Scribblenauts, a solution would have to involve the game determining on the fly at which point the game is officially ‘broken’ and do a instant save at that point (which, for example, might be the point at which the Jarl joins in the assault). Given the general glitchiness of the game as it is, something like that is likely only liable to make matters worse.

        We praise Morrowind’s system of a simple pop-up box letting you know when you’ve broken the game, but experienced players (I’ve barely played the game myself) will tell you that message sometimes lies, sometimes through omission.

        Ultimately I think just keeping a reasonably high number, preferrably customisable, of autosaves does the job elegantly enough. High enough not to end up with the trouble at the police station in the DXHR season, let alone the Thief back-to-level-1 bug Shamus tweeted about.

        • Dude says:

          It wouldn’t have to be a “reset level” system. A simple check box inside every quest could do it. So, every quest in your journal, if the quest giver/necessary NPCs for which are dead, will have a little footnote saying so, and a little checkbox allowing you to reset those characters to NOT DEAD. Given how flimsy Skyrim’s character interactions with others are, I don’t think it’ll create much of a problem, while still allowing a lot of player choice.

          I could kill the Dark Brotherhood quest giver if I’m playing a good guy, that way.

          Going the multiple-save/quick-save route is problematic in a game as big as Skyrim. If you killed that quest giver back at level 19, and want to do that questline because you’ve done everything else at level 40, then you have a problem.

          It could potentially break the game, but Bethesda games are shipped broken, anyway.

          • Humanoid says:

            It’d work in a system where every quest is self contained and never conflicting in terms of objectives – otherwise you might end up double dipping in a oddball way. Or more simply, you’d also have issues with non-generic loot from that individual – would there be (exploitable) duplicates? Would the copy in your bags suddenly go poof? That said, you could always code exceptions.

            I guess my main reservation is that if you’re being given the power of life and death over all quest-relevant NPCs at any point in time, then it’d probably be far more elegant to just formalise a resurrection spell in the game and let the player use it on any NPC.

            • Dude says:

              I think when you implement something like that as an in-game mechanic instead of a, let’s call it meta-game mechanic, we tend to criticize it as a part of the milieu and rules of the game world. “If the player can do it, why can’t anyone else? If the player has the power to grant immortality or a second life at least, why would he quest at all?”

              The same way the Clairvoyance spell is berated by some on Skyrim. “Oh, random quest giver, you want 10 Nirnroot and have nothing else to do? Why don’t you use that spell and go hiking instead of bugging me about it?” etc.

              Whereas, map markers in most games are now accepted.

              I would gladly take a resurrection spell over NPCs you can’t kill, though.

              • Octapode says:

                Well in Skyrim at least, you could make it a dragon shout, which goes a long way to justifying why it is just the player who can res people. Or maybe you could have it so you could call up the shade of the dead person or some such, so they can give you the quest, without the problems of actual ressurection.

          • Just Passing Through says:

            You can totally kill the Dark Brotherhood quest giver in Skyrim, just FYI.

            • Humanoid says:

              Only at one specific moment though, if you miss that, you’re committed to finishing the questline (or ignoring it altogether I guess).

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                Yes but think about the way that moment is set up. To get to this point, you first have to kill Grelod the Kind. She’s no immediate threat, but also not the nicest person in the world and probably deserves at least some kind of punishment for how she treats the orphans. Still, you’ve signaled to both Astrid and to the game that you’re willing to kill for reasons other than self defense.

                Astrid and the game want more information about your intentions. So you’re kidnapped. Astrid asks you to kill one of three people standing in front of you. All you’re told is that someone wants one of these three people dead. Both Astrid and the game want to know if you’re willing to commit cold blooded murder for no other reason than that someone told you to do it.

                Whether you think the Brotherhood is abhorrent or simply want to take a player off the field, the time to strike is now. You have Astrid alone. And by now, you know exactly what sort of people you’re dealing with in the form of Astrid and the guild. You know you can’t just walk away from an invitation like this. If you know about these guys but decline membership, it would be foolish to assume you’re going to be left alone.

                So its fair for the game to assume that, if you’re willing to kill innocents and let Astrid leave, you must be interested in actual membership. This is by far the best handled storyline of the guild quests.

                Compare the Thieves Guild where you can’t try to take out the Thieves, can’t try to take out Maven, are forced to work with Karliah after she foolishly and unapologetically poisoned you, unless you simply want to ignore the quest. Compare the Companions where you can’t decline becoming a werewolf (best you can do, if you happen to have Dawnguard, is get Serana to turn you into a Vampire Lord right afterwards and then go to Falion in Morthal for the cure. Thats what I do now because I don’t like being a furry.)

                • Humanoid says:

                  In the only playthrough where I’ve gotten so far as to start doing guild quests, I actually did just end up tabbing out of the key conversations where the stupidity reached their respective climaxes and thus abandoning both the Thieves’ and Companions Guild questlines. I finished the Mage one and never got the Dark Brotherhood one because I never slept (it never occurred to me to do so)…

                  Once I quit Skyrim the first time, I went ahead any spoilered myself for all the game’s plotlines and have no regrets doing so, nor any regrets for not finishing the questlines in the first place. With that information in hand, I’m as distinctly unimpressed with how the DB questline pans out as I am with how the other ones do. The binary choice presented is a positive yes, but beyond that it descends into idiocy just as rapidly, if not moreso, than the Thieves’ Guild quests: both are about helping some idiot guild appease their idiot god. In both cases I sympathised with the so-called villain of each plot more than I did for the faction which you’re forced to help.

                  I admit, however, that being someone who neither knows nor cares about previously established Elder Scrolls legend, that I may have a more negative view of the supernatural rubbish that overtakes each questline. I’m interested in being a professional burglar, or professional assassin, not in being turned into a deranged cultist.

                  • Wide And Nerdy says:

                    I didn’t know Elder Scrolls lore either (I’ve started to go back after falling in love with Skyrim). But on my first playthrough, I did the Companions, Thieves, and Mages quests while opting to destroy the brotherhood. So by the time I got to the Dark Brotherhood quest on my second playthrough, I was comparing it to the other quests and structurally it stands above.

                    My only complaint there is that Astrid talks about moving the DB away from Sithis and more towards a secular mode of operation. I would have my right arm to side with her and try to sever my connection to Sithis. I was not keen on being fantasy Norman Bates.

                    The only thing that makes the Sithis situation better than the Companions werewolf scenario is that the Companions are offering you a choice but the game doesn’t let you say no. At least with Sithis, she started putting thoughts in your head without your consent and the game never makes you say you’re peachy keen with that idea. I just wish there’d been a “I need a thousand showers” dialog option after being stuck in the casket with her.

                    I’m also glad you don’t have to purchase the torture racks. My character is a professional who does his job cleanly for money, he is not a sadist or a necrophile.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Uh, well, yeah, that ‘reset level’ thing? That’s called ‘quicksave/quickload/manual save’. That is *the* reset button where you can control where and when it resets.

  3. Thomas says:

    I think the design should be that all quests can fail but that there’s always an (incredibly hard to find) solution to the main quest that doesn’t involve NPCs. Fight your way through the enemies fortress and trigger the secret entrance to the hall of the gods, whatever. This is what Morrowind did, right?

    Bonus points if it’s something you discover naturally when progressing through the main quest so you can use hindsight to exploit it.

    And in terms of magic, yeah. Stop balancing your game with everything. Have gamebreaking wacky spells, just make them either a) hard to find or b) have crippling disadvantages that require munchkinning to overcome

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      RE: Morrowind

      Sort of, if you killed someone essential to the main questline you’d get a message “the threads of the prophecy have been severed” or something along these lines, which would generally be a signal for the player to reload. Although there was still a way to actually finish the game without going through all the hoops of the prophecy (pretty much as it is done in the speedruns) it was anything but obvious and would either require the player to know the questline already, be pretty late in it, have insane luck or google it. I also think there was a way to break this “backdoor” as well.

      Having said that if you decided to continue faffing around the world after making the game impossible (or nearly) to complete it would let you.

      • Thomas says:

        Googling is fine though. As I said it’s better if a normal playthrough of the game will teach you where the backdoor is on re-runs, but I figure if the game has told you that you’ve broken the storyline and you choose to carry on, then making it so they basically need to google for a solution to complete the game (if they want to) is fine.

        I think I prefer that method slightly over New Vegas’ method because it allows you a shortcut to end the game on re-runs if you have the skill and knowledge. But having the end-game NPCs be elsewhere in the world is okay too, if a little inelegant

  4. Mersadeon says:

    I think the spells I miss most in Elder Scrolls games are spells that have drawbacks. Since the way magic works in Morrowind and Oblivion simply counts how powerful a spell is, not who is targeted by its effect, making a spell with drawbacks is futile. The standard spells are all boring. This system would be easily fixable – take the Oblivion spell system and tell it to, instead of just adding up the “values” of every effect to create the spell cost, deduct half the value of effects that are negative to you if they are aimed at yourself and BOOM you suddenly have a system where you get a spell that can have a drawback and thus cots less magicka without being too broken since drawbacks don’t deduct their full value.

    Like, how about a spell that summons a weapon but takes away magicka over time, forcing you to make a decision between spellcasting or having a good summoned weapon? Or one that parylizes you, but also heals you a lot over time? So many possibilites, and yet the spells in Skyrim are even MORE bland than the ones in Oblivion.
    I am so disappointed with this, and even mods don’t really fix it.

    • Neko says:

      Daggerfall had an awesome system of drawbacks that could be applied to your character at creation which you could use to balance out any perks you wanted, or change the rate that you levelled at. IIRC one way to cheese things was to give yourself a weakness to paralysis, but then be a High Elf and be immune to it anyway, and so on.

      • Mersadeon says:

        Yeah, I miss that. Fallout had something like that, too.
        I think nowerdays companies are too afraid that you might screw yourself during character generation. They think we have to be able to do everything and see all the content with just one character, otherwise we will feel bad. Which is dumb, since the Elder Scrolls games get pretty much every player to do multiple playthroughs.

  5. Blov says:

    I’ve been playing Morrowind and just finished it a few hours ago. I really like the level of freedom in that game.

    Also, because it doesn’t make all your NPCs that are relevant to quests immortal you deliberately avoid acting like a psycho. And you can just levitate anywhere, which is awesome, or use super-jump and featherfall things. And teleporting at all times. So many more tools than Skyrim has.

    It’s a shame the series has lost that sense of having tools and being a real multi-purpose adventurer, even if Skyrim is a massive improvement in every single possible way on Oblivion which was just embarrassing.

    Edit: Although, also, Morrowind’s main quest was so much better integrated into the world and the lore and the stuff. And the characters were way stronger than Skyrim’s. And all the guilds/factions made you feel like a thief/legionary/assassin/specialist herb-gatherer instead of just being dungeon crawls.

    I have an alternative theory to the freedom vs. serious storyline thing Chris proposes. Actually, I think taking away the freedom of killing questgivers and the fairly non-linear faction quest structures makes it easier for the designers not to make the story to be compelling enough for people to want to do it instead of dicking around murdering people. i.e. bringing back the freedom would force them to make the main quest better again probably.

    • Corpital says:

      Don’t forget the designers trusting you to find something in the middle of nowhere just by giving you directions instead of stuffing your face full of questmarkers.

      But to be honest, I’m somewhat torn on that. Tracking (or, you know, levitating) across the landscape to find some hut in the mountains with the often rather vage directions, the questgivers tell you, it really feals like a journey, like you accomplished something. On the other hand, it can be a horrible and frustrating waste of time.

      Lord Fancypants tells you to go north till the big boulder and then head east until you reach the river where a fisher lives. It’s just that there are boulders everywhere and they all look the same. And when he said east, he actually meant west. One of the first quests for House Redoran had me searching for several hours before I just gave up and went home in shame.

      • Blov says:

        I got stuck on that EXACT same Redoran quest, I’m pretty sure… ‘just west of the city’ is not ‘basically on the coast’… it’s a huge double-edged sword for the game. When you’re making progress it feels great. When you’re just getting lost it’s infuriating.

        I think what that really did for me was give me a sense of getting to know all the towns and the areas in a way that I never really felt I did with Skyrim’s fast travel. The quick way between Vivec and Ebonheart – Divine Intervention and Almsivi Intervention; Ghostgate and Pelagiad and smaller towns like Ald Velothi and Tel Fyr are set apart by being relatively inaccessible by fast travel. There’s a genuine feeling of remoteness to them which you get through playing the game rather than through being told somewhere’s remote.

        That said, you also have levitate, water-walking, mark + recall, almsivi/divine intervention, boots of blinding speed etc etc which are all actual tools for mobility, so you also have a lot of really cool traveling tools, and I always felt like I was going on an expedition in Morrowind, stocking up on cure disease potions, bringing along hammers for repairs, getting a couple of emergency scrolls, where in Skyrim I was just having a wander.

        Replaying it now has really made me appreciate a lot of what it got right, and how some of the things it got wrong give it some qualities the slicker more modern games just are never going to have.

        • William Newman says:

          “And when he said east, he actually meant west.”

          Heck, just saying west when it’s much more nearly southwest (in the case of the Blades trainer’s hut the spymaster tells you to go to early in the game) is pretty aggravating, especially if you’re a character type (alchemisty healer, e.g.) that can’t easily swat down the nuisance creatures of the wastes as you try to work around the bad directions.

          “I always felt like I was going on an expedition in Morrowind […] where in Skyrim I was just having a wander.”

          Aye.

  6. Rick C says:

    Regarding the Google search, it’s probably something someone did manually at some point, knowing DMoTR was popular in the day.

    Yesterday I was watching ReBoot on Youtube, and heard a voice I thought was familiar. So I waited for the voice credits, and Googled the name, and it came back with a custom page showing all the people who did voices on My Little Pony (which showed I was right–Backup from the episode Icons was done by the voice of Spike (Cathy Weseluck)) instead of a regular page. Of course now a search returns the regular page.

  7. Jokerman says:

    “beautiful symbiosis” was quoted twice in the comments, probably that.

    • Hamilcar says:

      Yep. I searched “beautiful symbiosis” on Duckduckgo, couldn’t find it. But when I used Startpage (which has Google-esque results) it found the comic as the fourth result. It discovered not the comic, but the comment section where “beautiful symbiosis” was quoted at least twice.

  8. Annikai says:

    I have to say that loved the way New Vegas handled it. Nothing was more satisfying that second time through than blocking myself from half of the game by killing off every npc that so much as looked at me funny. One of the best moments I found was is the airfield when you talk to the doctor with the quest to find that one vault with all the plants. Right after talking to him about it I quickly got into sneak mode behind him and brained him with a pipe. After that I quickly got the quest failed notifications but when I tried to leave his assistant stopped me to try to get me to do the optional part of the quest but of course there was no quest. So every time I tried to leave the room she stopped me and did the annoyed npc “What!?” that a lot of the characters had in that game. So I reloaded got the quest from the guy again, talked to his assistant, then brained both of them for the inconvenience.

    Also I have to say that by linking to DM of the Rings you made it really hard for me to watch the video and no go back through the comic.

  9. AdmiralCheez says:

    Interestingly enough, I once pickpocketed a ghost and the only thing he had on him was… yup. Baked Potatoes. Why was I able to pickpocket it? Don’t know. Why was it only carrying baked potatoes? I think that mystery was just solved.

    • Because manifested ectoplasm has the consistency of baked potatoes. What is heavenly paradise, after all, without fries?

      You can always spot a medium by the large orders they place with their local dairies for butter and sour cream.

      • Humanoid says:

        Now anxiously awaiting the point where Svaknir sends hired thugs after Catbert.

        • AdmiralCheez says:

          Dearest Thugs,

          Please kill the Khajit renegade known to some as “Catbert.” He had the audacity to try and sneak a baked potato into my pants, and must be punished. If behavior like this is allowed to continue, it can only spell the downfall of society. So, for the greater good, I am entrusting you to carry out my wishes and put an end to this pocket-potato madness. I came close to doing it myself, but for reasons that I’m still not sure of, I decided I had better just unlock a magically sealed door for him and let him leave. You must do better.

          Signed,
          Your Ghostly Pal, “S”

        • Neko says:

          Dearest Reginald Catbert,

          You caused a bit of stir in Dead Men's Respite when you demonstrated the power of your Thu’um. Not everyone is anxious for the return of the Dragonborn.

          I for one desire to see you grow and develop your talents. Skyrim needs a true hero these days.

          You should turn your attention to Bleak Falls Barrow. I understand it holds a mysterious source of power that can only be unlocked by the Dragonborn.

          Your bestest buddy, Svaknir

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            My favorite is when I get the inheritance letter and the Jarl can’t be arsed to fill in the name. Its like he grabbed a form letter off his desk and handed it to the Courier.

            • Corpital says:

              I once got three inheritances, all from the same beggar in Whiterun I had talked to once and given one gold. The third inheritance letter arrived while I was on the market in Whiterun while the beggar stood a few meters away. Still alive.

  10. Josh should do the hono(u)rable thing and marry Lydia. It’s an antagonistic romance the likes of which we haven’t seen since “Moonlighting.”

  11. Maekrix Waere says:

    Two things:

    First, Ruts mention Invisibility being terrible. He’s sorta right there. The real problem with Invisibility is that, by default, when its active via spell (dunno about potion) the player projects a noise bubble that the enemies can hear but the game absolutely doesn’t indicate to the player. What you’re supposed to do is take the Illusion perk that makes all your spells and shouts silent, which makes Invisibility ridiculously good as you can just crouch, cast it, and nothing can find you so long as you don’t bump into them. This is especially powerful when combined with dagger sneak attacks, which can do up to 30x damage and are extremely easy and nigh risk-less to pull off with Invis. On one hand, requiring you to take a perk hidden behind two nigh useless other perks to make an Expert level spell useful is unconscionable, but, on the other hand, once you have it, Invis becomes crazy useful and all your other magic and shouts come silent as a bonus.

    Second, to speak on shouts again, I’d say the primary problem with the shouts is that, overall, they all recharge too slowly, and, because of this there are, IMO, 6 decent-or-better shouts in base Skyrim out of the 20 shouts available, so good luck finding the words for them and then recognizing/trying them.

    • top6 says:

      I don’t really see the problem with “hiding” the “silent casting” perk high up the Illusion perk tree. If you want to make Illusion magic ridiculously powerful, it seems only fair that you should have to spend a significant amount of capital on Illusion magic.

      The best part about using Invisibility and Silent Casting as you describe–and I did whole playthrough where that was my primary attack–is the kill animation where your character suddenly appears when slashing someone’s throat with a dagger. I don’t care about Skyrim’s other flaws (and they are many); it was worth every dime I spent just to do that over and over again. (I am a simple man.)

      (Start watching here at the 1:00 mark to see what I’m talking about.)

    • IFS says:

      Silencing your shouts will never not sound ridiculous to me, how exactly does one shout stealthily?

      Anyways I did use a few shouts, Unrelenting force or the freezy one to get out of tight spots, whirlwind sprint all the time because I like speeding about, Become Ethereal so I could jump off really high things and not die from the fall (or walk through traps on occasion), and I think I used fire breath in combat a lot because it felt cool to me. That was about it though.

      As for magic I always like seeing spells that are not combat related, or that really change the game (as you would expect reality bending forces to do) which sadly are in short supply in Skyrim (and most other games really).

      • Humanoid says:

        Shouting above or below the human auditory range, of course! Dovahkiin, the human dog whistle.

      • Maekrix Waere says:

        Hilariously, getting quiet casting actually makes the Throw Voice shout completely worthless. Its use is to create a noise from a target location but, with quiet casting, the noise is completely negated. No special exception considering that, you know, noise is the entire purpose of the shout. It just becomes a sinkhole for 3 Dragon Souls.

  12. Mr Compassionate says:

    Playing Skyrim lowers your standards for RPGs. You think you yourself
    ‘Oh well we say we want all this freedom to do whatever we want and for any NPC to die but that would cost like, LOADS of money to produce and they would have to make the game smaller’.
    So you talk yourself into thinking its totally unreasonable for even a sidequest character to be vulnerable. Then one day you play Dragons Dogma or Dark Souls or State of Decay or S.T.A.L.K.E.R or Dwarf Fortress and you realize that it actually doesn’t force a smaller world at all. All it requires is that the developer not be terrified that the player might miss out on a small questline. Thats it.

    Dark Souls for example goes impressively far for a mainstream RPG and lets you kill or permanently offend any character including main quest givers, merchants, gods and covenant leaders. Watching Skyrim reminds me of how coddling and restrictive it is.

    • IFS says:

      You can make people forgive you in Dark Souls by paying Oswald a potentially (it goes up with your level) massive amount of souls. Doesn’t help if they’re dead for obvious reasons though. Also if you kill or offend Oswald himself, well you’ll have to wait until NG+. Still its very impressive that it lets you kill or offend just about everyone, and in my experience it makes it much more impactful for people who do manage to find and reach the ends of some of the games character related side quests.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      And yet Skyrim sold really well. Probably better than all of those other games combined. I agree with you in principle, but if I were making a living selling computer games, the incentive structure would look pretty skewed.

      Maybe, just maybe, what the public wants at the end of the day is a “coddling and restrictive” system that helps them feel like they are good at something and important, instead of an open and challenging one that forces them to actually grow into their skill and identity.

      • Mr Compassionate says:

        Definitely true, if your game emphasizes how cool and heroic the player is without actually challenging them in any capacity both skill wise and mentally then that is surefire success. Make sure to avoid including such uncomfortable topics as:
        -Consequence/mistakes
        -Lack of heroic narrative
        -Freemdom of choice (beyond evil/good dialogue options)
        -Situations where running in and spamming attacks is not a good idea

        On the other hand enjoying games that do include those things makes smug, PCgamer master race nerds like myself feel really superior so I guess I cant complain.

  13. Heaven Smile says:

    “Do most players want this freedom? I’m honestly curious.”

    According to Jean-Paul Sartre, the answer is “no”. People are afraid of the responsibility of having freedom. Why else would the majority like something like COD that constantly tells them what to do for them?
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ComesGreatResponsibility

  14. Tizzy says:

    “Do most players want this freedom? I’m honestly curious.”

    I think that those of us who started gaming in the 80’s are still conditioned to games breaking and/or punishing us arbitrarily. No patches, little QA, murderous difficulty (think back for instance about the first Prince of Persia that was a race against the clock. You might very well find yourself near the end having to start the game all over again because you have no time left)

    So the idea of that you have only yourself to blame if you break part of the game is one that we can take in stride. We don’t have to like it, but we are more reluctant to blame the game design. We don’t really mind dealing with this kind of consequences.

    • X2Eliah says:

      This sounds like it could be true.
      I’m from one or two generations later (started playing games in mid-00’s, even), and the things you mentioned – “No patches, little QA, murderous difficulty (think back for instance about the first Prince of Persia that was a race against the clock)” – all those are things I’d mark a game down for, heavily. *Especially* the last bit; if a game has an arbitrary timer on it that forces to restart from way back, then – yeah, that’s just plain design BS and I don’t have to bother with such crud. That game would very quickly get uninstalled.

      Let’s check out the “standard” case for a game – from 80’s, I suspect the norm is that you finish it half-way or so, and it’s done through a *lot* of replays, a massive amount of restarts and deaths, there’s a ton of backtracking and almost no guidance at all (because the games are designed, still, with coin-op mentality, and like to waste the player’s time). Conversely, games from mid-00’s seemed (for me) to start pushing a ‘single-playthrough’ attitude, with reasonable save/reload points (e.g. If I fail that bloody hard racing mission for the malibu club in vice city, then I can redo just that mission, not the entire day’s progress / entire playthrough), and with guidance/objective indication being a given.

      This.. This is also why I sort of still don’t get how people can have such ‘rose-tinted’ views whenever talking about retro games, or old-school game design. It was *not* great/flawless! It didn’t even care for the player at all; the games were actively hostile to *being played*, with stupid-hard mechanics, bloody *boss battles* all over the place, and no respect whatsoever for the time invested in a playthrough… And it sort of frustrates me when I see people talking about how ubercool the 80’s/early 90’s visuals were. Or how hardcore and challenging the games were. Um, no. They didn’t look good, and stupid-hard is not a good thing, it’s just broken design. As for rogue-likes – that, imo, is *the* antithesis. Stupid-hard design, paired with bull**** perma-death (what’s up with that? We HAVE storage devices, you know. Saves are not THAT hard to do anymore) time-waste, extremely repetitive systems, balance designed to mess you up unless you metagame and/or are incredibly lucky… Gah. Anyway.

      All of the above is, of course, just an opinion. But it *might* showcase, indeed, a difference in how games are viewed depending on what one’s first exposure to gaming was, and therefore, what was accepted as the norm. Whenever I take a look at 80s/90s games, I don’t see ‘classics’. I see old, aesthetically unpleasing games with broken/hostile design.

      (Disclosure: The first/early games that really influenced me were: GTA3/Vice City, Counter Strike, X2:The Threat, A.I.M.2: Clan Wars, Oblivion.)

      Edit:
      Anyway. That came out a lot more bitter than I’d have thought. With or without this, I do think that there is something worth investigating in this idea – that people accustomed first to 80s/90s (early 90s) games might have very different tolerance limits and expectations from games… I wonder if there’s a way to explore this somehow.

      • Humanoid says:

        As a proportion, sure, I buy that that there’s less DIAS gameplay now than in the past. But it’s really drawing on stereotypes to present something as a single “80s game” and attributing it to everything from that era. I go back to something like 1990’s Railroad Tycoon and it’s perfectly user friendly, with save-anywhere functionality, easy speed controls and all that. Wing Commander, released the same year, had standard save functionality for action games, saving between missions and the ability to retry on death (I assume in the same way as your Vice City example, but I’ve never played that).

        So no, I wouldn’t call it rose-tinted glasses as much as a form of natural selection, in that the good elements of game design existed then and turned into the good design elements in games now. The good games then remain good games now, the bad games then are bad games now.

        EDIT: I’m not denying that there can be irrational defenders of legacy designs – I’ve come across quite a few recently in discussions about this year’s Might and Magic 10 release for example. People that justify various mechanics as being sound because “the old games did it that way” in response to criticism. But the thing is, I’m not criticising those because they’re bad designs for today, they’re the same criticisms I remember levelling at those games back when they were current.

      • Tizzy says:

        I wouldn’t ascribe the DIAS gameplay and user-unfriendliness to coinop. Back then, there was surprisingly little overlap between computer games and coinop games, with the coinop games going more to consoles. (Not that there weren’tany coinop ports to PCs, but even when that happened, the games never looked anything like the coinop original, something that is hard to imagine nowadays.)

        I think the biggest issue was resources. I remember spending hours on a game that all in all spanned four screens. And never solving it. I still don’t even know if there was a way to win. But if four screens is all that technology allows you to do, how could you make the game even remotely fair? Then it would be way too short!

        As for PoP, the first thing they did when they ported it to iOS was lose the timer thingie. (Which, btw, was a plot element too!) I don’t think anyone felt like it was a tragic loss.

      • Cybron says:

        Um, those are some nice opinions you are very angrily stating as facts there.

        Most roguelikes DO let you save. They just delete the save when you die (or after you load, same effect). It has nothing to do it being easy/hard to make a save file – it’s a design decision. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, don’t play it. But they’re very much intentional design decisions that greatly change the way you approach a game and how you experience it. And obviously some people enjoy that.

        • acronix says:

          “Don’t like this annoying feature? Don’t play the game!” is a crappy line of reasoning because, well, maybe I do like the game but not that particular feature. It could work if the problem was mechanical: liking a racing game but not how cars drive, for example, because that’s harder to accomodate for everyone’s tastes. But non-deleting saves? That’s easy to solve: just place a switch for the player to turn it on or off.

          It is indeed a design choice, but it is a crappy one. I’d say it has more to do with the developers imposing how the game should be played to the player rather than conscious, well thought design documents.
          On the other hand, everything evolves, so I’m not particularly angry at those who did make games like that at the time. It was like an age of discovery, and games and players have evolved since.

          • Cybron says:

            No, your example re:driving games is a bad one. This is like you going “I don’t like shooting things as gameplay, so therefore every FPS is poorly designed and a waste of time.” It makes you look more than a little ignorant.

            And I don’t care about ‘at the time’: these games are still being made today, and enjoy an active community. If you hate Don’t Starve, FTL, Binding of Issac, and the other modern descendants of roguelike games, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it, but dismissing every single one of them as poorly designed is really, really dumb.

  15. Wow, what the heck is a hologram doing in Skyrim and why is it not using laser eyebeams to kill Catbert?

    Not a good model reuse, really not a good one.

    Oh, and I don’t really care if I can kill everyone or not, but I tend to play good toons who do what they’re told. I would have liked to off the dad in Fallout to prevent him doing untold damage to the Wasteland through his charismatic insanity though. Also, annoying characters should never be unkillable.

    Oh, and Josh, you offer ghosts cigars and rum, not bread. I thought everyone knew that ;)

  16. Michael says:

    Shamus, given your gripes with bandits, have you looked at Organized Bandits in Skyrim? It breaks up the bandits into a couple dozen different factions with distinct identities and styles.

  17. Tizzy says:

    Lydia trying to kill Josh with a trap? I cannot imagine why she would want to do that…

  18. Ilseroth says:

    The fear that you might miss content due to your aggression on NPCs is what seems to be what Bethesda is afraid of.

    Now the question, does it matter? I mean, really, I have a friend who played morrowind for hundreds of hours loved the game. He couldn’t tell you the main plot line if he tried. Sure he met Vivec, and Dagoth Ur, and killed both of them, but for him the game was a story of conquest. His vampire conquered the land with an iron fist until he was alone.

    Did he miss out on content? I mean he missed the plot, but he still has a story, *his* story, forged from the game and lovingly told to anyone who will listen. Ask the same guy of his skyrim playthrough and he essentially said “yeah its fun.”

    To be fair? In a game that doesnt allow such freedom of saving whenever, I would understand… but you can make however many saves as you’d like, so I don’t see why they don’t just let you kill whomever, or allow your actions to have consequences.

    As for whether or not other people want it? I think most people would prefer it, Even people who don’t want their actions to have consequences, just would reload after they killed someone.

    • Tizzy says:

      Does it matter? Given the quality of story, endless empty dialogues,, etc., I’d say no. If the only attractive thing that Bethesda is goig to offer me is the sandbox aspect, I would really appreciate it if they committed more strongly to the concept and let us do whatever we want,

  19. Nick Powell says:

    The best mod for me is the one that lets you use the enter key on all those fucking mouse-only confirmation windows. If I had to choose just one mod forever, I’d make it that one.

  20. burningdragoon says:

    One smaller spell removal in Skyrim that bugs me was the Open Lock spells. I guess being forced* to put skill points into Lockpick matters less when the stat points are gone, but Alteration needs plenty of help being less lame.

    *or you could not open locked stuff, but come on that’s not happening.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Instead of the dungeons having a back door,why didnt they give you a “exit dungeon” shout once you met with the grey beards?That way,everyone would have a shout to quickly leave the dungeon,while dungeons would be a bit more sensible.

    • Humanoid says:

      Or more simply, just enable the fast travel function indoors.

      • aldowyn says:

        Maybe after the dungeon is ‘cleared’, which there’s already a tag for.

        Or we could have just kept mark and recall from Morrowind

        • Michael says:

          Because then they couldn’t have you ambushed by guys on the way out, like that Thalmor Agent that tracks you down once, and is actually harder than the dragon priest you just murdered.

          • Humanoid says:

            You could just keep from setting the ‘cleared’ flag until the ambush happens though. I guess it would kind of telegraph that something’s still about to happen, but then you could design just a few horseshoe dungeons like that where the player’s natural inclination would be to keep following any available path ‘forward’, setting up the ambush as normal. At any rate, the exceptions are so few that it’d be worth implementing as a baseline to enable less restrictive dungeon designs.

            N.B. I don’t actually remember that ambush, does it happen inside the dungeon, or at the entrance area after you exit?

            • Michael says:

              It’s in the College quest line.

              Honestly, the best way to handle it would be to simply acknowledge the possibility that a player would beam out, and have some dialog to that effect in the cases where it’s relevant.

            • MichaelGC says:

              As you head towards the dungeon exit there are a series of closed, one-way doors that you open. I got the Thalmor ambush in the middle of this sequence. Somehow.

          • Destrustor says:

            But then they still add a spell that can instantly paralyze that guy with no save and let you just waltz right over his mute, frozen ass on your way outside.

            I will never stop loving Ash Shell. For all their precautions to ensure we don’t break quests by murdering NPCs, they had to go and make a spell that can break quests non-lethally, whenever we want.
            Of course I use it on absolutely everything that moves.
            There’s a reason my alteration is in the 90’s with a character that only sometimes remembers the armor spells and uses nothing else of the school.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I heartily agree! That they did nothing of the sort continues to strengthen the case that the top developers of Skyrim were more interested in railroading than world-building.

  22. IFS says:

    Oh that reminds me, I took a class on Christian Themes in Tolkien’s writing and linked the professor (obviously a huge Tolkien fan) to DM of the Rings, he really enjoyed it. Figured I’d pass his appreciation on to you Shamus.

  23. Mike O says:

    Lydia subverting her own trope by elegantly gliding through the swinging bladed death trap bridge was delightfully unexpected.

    She can’t remember that the obvious, giant button on the ground will pin her to the wall via spiked gate, despite her 17 previous failed attempts, only dragging herself through, bloodied and battered, when she gets lucky with the object clipping.

    When it comes to swinging death blades, however, she just saunters through without breaking stride, and then looks at you as if saying: “what?”.

  24. Tizzy says:

    The infiltration mission. Not he embassy one, the one where a poor guy has been kicked out of his fortified farm by bandits. This is the only dungeon that springs to my mind that didn’t feel like a dungeon, despite the fact that it sure LOOKED like one!

    This only makes more frustrating the fact that, once you liberate it, doofus continues to camp outside his own farm, very graciously letting a new crop of bandits move into his house.

    • acronix says:

      I think it’s a castle with a mine, rather than a farm?

      What I would pretty jarring about it was that the dialogue implies his family should have been inside but isn’t, so you expect a follow up quest that never comes.

      • Attercap says:

        I just ran that quest a week ago. There’s actually a stack of civilian bodies inside one of the rooms of the fortress. There’s just no opportunity (or script) for you to inform the guy that his family or cadre of servants is dead.

  25. Thomas says:

    Are you guys sure that you didn’t just need a silver, daedric, or enchanted weapon to hurt that ghost?

    edit: googled it and I’m wrong. Oh well.

  26. I was actually able to get an angle to pick up that trolling coin purse…once.

  27. RTBones says:

    The short answer is yes, absolutely. The idea that the devs don’t want you to miss content seems a bit silly. I would like to be able to finish the game, sure – but I’d also like the ability to essentially ‘break’ it if I do something silly or stupid. Think about it – how many players see every quest, or take every path to the same objective? They haven’t broken the game, but they are still ‘missing’ content just as I would if I killed an NPC (accidentally or on purpose).

    If I really had my wish, though, not only could you break games, but by killing NPC X, NPC Y is allowed to do something, which takes the game in an entirely different direction.

    EDIT: Hadnt seen the whole video when I initially posted. Bread in ghosty’s pants making him angry gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘hot cross buns.’

  28. DIN aDN says:

    With the freedom thing, I have to say that for me it kind of depends on what I’m enjoying about a game in the first place, and how much having free rein of actions really feels like you’re making real decisions, if that makes any sense?

    I mean, I found playing the simcity games felt more railroad-y than skyrim’s dungeons – before you march off in disgust, hear me out.

    OK, so in Skyrim you’ve got these dungeons, yes? And the actions you take in them are dressed up as ‘walk through a mostly linear space, killing things and picking up objects’. But, there are a lot of ways you can go about taking these actions – you’ve got the magic and stealth systems, and there’s generally at least a small 3 dimensional space to navigate while you’re at it. So while you’ve got little input with whether or not you kill the monsters or loot the treasure – which in Skyrim tend to be isolated binary decisions that have little impact on the rest of the game – you do get quite a bit of room to maeuver when it comes to actually navigating those spaces and using skills and weapons. So the part of the game that you have more influence over is also the part of the game that’s a bit more granular and far-reaching.

    Now take the simcity games. I mean the old ones, for which you need to read some thick mauals before you even try to get going in them [this lesson I learned the hard way]. In these, the game is presented as you designing and running an entire city. How it plays out, though, is that you are given a list of doodads to stick together that each cost a certain amount and are required for other doodads to function properly, and a box full of sliders that you need to tweak in order to keep a large enough bank balance to pay for a new power plant every time the bill comes due.

    I think this is largely down to personal preferences, of course – I enjoy the mechanics in skyrim and find the ones in simcity to be taxing and awful, so any freedom I have to explore the mechanics in the former is much more appreciated than in the latter. I don’t know. It’s a video game, so the thing goes as far as its boundaries and then stops; doesn’t it?

    EDIT: Wow, that ended up being longer than I intended.

  29. Raygereio says:

    Protip for mages against dragons using their breath attack: Use ward spells.
    Because of how the game handles the breath attack and wards, even the basic Lesser Ward can easily completely block a dragon’s breath attack.

    Re lockpicking:
    I like the minigame as whole (it’s certainly a huge improvement over the terrible Oblivion incarnation of lockpicking), but the two things I don’t like about it is for starters how ridiculously fast the higher level locks break your lockpick. As we can see in this episode, especially for the Master level lock, it means you can’t “feel” around, but instead just have to get lucky. That could have done with some rebalancing.
    The second thing is that the perk tree for the skill lockpicking is easily the worst designed one. There’s just no reason to ever invest in it unless you’re going for some thematic build.

    • Ilseroth says:

      Funny thing, I actually *liked* the oblivion interpretation of lockpicking, but simultaneously understand why it was taken out. It was mega exploitable once you actually had it down. On any character I could open a master lock on my first try with no points into lockpicking. In order for the skill to actually *mean* something they had to put one in with a bit of random chance and non-technical skill.

      The current interpretation works, and is a hell of a lot less frustrating to players that *dont* invest in he lockpicking tree (as they will not have to hear that loud CLUNK of the tumblers clanking back to their spots on failure.) and it means that those who do invest points will get something for it (easier lockpicking) so while I agree it is a more reasonable interpretations, I can’t help but enjoy oblivions because it is skill based, a bit more accurate and I could exploit the hell out of it.

      • Raygereio says:

        Oblivion’s minigame boiled down to wether you could pick up the slightly different sound, or notice slightly different speed at which the tumbler moved. That is not what I’d call skill based.

        Also the problem with Oblivion’s minigame was not that it was easy to “exploit” for some people.
        The problem was that it was a badly designed miningame: For starters it was very slow. Even if you’re good at picking up the cues, it could still feel slow. FO3’s lockpicking minigame on the other hand – no matter if you succeed or fail – is over very fast. There was also the issue that it had rather wonky controls (with the keyboard & mouse that is). And lastly, if you couldn’t pick up the audio and visual cue for whatever reason, the minigame was flatout impossible to play.

        • Humanoid says:

          Shamus (I think) stated that the lockpicking in Skyrim felt more refined than the Fallout version, but I’m not so sure. Playing Skyrim recently after over a year off, and having played a fair bit of New Vegas in the interim, the Skyrim controls feel way too sensitive when moving the lockpick and I struggled with precision a fair bit.

        • Abnaxis says:

          Hey, didn’t see this up here and already replied below.

          I liked the Oblivion lockpicking better, though it did get to the point where I never broke picks. To me, it was more immersive–any time I wanted to open a lock, I had to listen really close for just the right sound. It felt like I was a safecracker trying to get just the right combination, which fit with the context perfectly.

          I’ll agree that the newer lockpicking games are better from a mechanical gameplay perspective, but when I open a lock from Skyrim I don’t feel like I’m cracking a safe, I feel like I’m playing a Marco-Polo minigame.

      • Destrustor says:

        I never found it exploitable. I found it a chore. The first thing I’d always do upon reaching level ten was to immediately go grab the Skeleton Key.
        And then every lock was a matter of clicking the lock and spamming auto-attempts until it worked. Much better than fiddling with this crappy minigame. I honestly think learning real-life lockpicking would have been faster and easier than mastering it.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      The problem with using Ward spells as a Mage is that they drain your Magicka. Relying on them means that you have less Magicka to cast your other spells. It’s the same problem with using Mage Armor.

      The biggest problem as a Mage is that you absolutely NEED to put so much into Magicka that either you’ll be very squishy or unable to carry much.

      Though it’s possible to reduce Magicka costs through enchantments, that’s not an elegant solution.

      • Raygereio says:

        Ward Absorb can help with the Ward’s magicka cost.
        I do agree though that the fact that any sort of magic using build has to spread its points over 3 atributes, while a pure melee or ranged only has to focus on 2 (or really just 1 once you pick up an absord stamina enchantment for your weapon) is an issue.
        The fact that magic’s damage output is tied to the magicka pool, while melee & ranged have no such restriction is also an issue. And let us not even look at the can of worms that is smithing & enchanting.

        But despite how ridiculously overpowered melee & ranged builds are compared to mage builds. At least the latter can make itself completely immune to breath attacks. That’s something… I guess.

  30. Ilseroth says:

    While this may be a bit of a spoiler, I figured one topic that seems to be under discussion a lot is the dragon shouts. Now I agree there aren’t many with crazy unique abilities, but there are a few good ones you guys haven’t really talked about.
    1)Ice Form: While Frost/Fire breath are both useless (even if you manage to get them early game) This is for all intensive purposes an Cone-AoE Paralyse, which is amazing. Only certain enemies can ignore the effect (dragons) and it is a major lifeline when you are low on health.

    2)Marked for Death: One of the few debuffs that are actually worth it. Most people won’t bother because honestly, the only enemy you will use htis on are dragons and chances are if you have all three of these, you probably already are high level (so can murderize everything anyways)

    3)Slow Time: Honestly, I used this one a billion times in my first playthrough, it feels massively powerful, especially when you have all three. I have killed an entire horde of enemies during a slow time.

    4)Throw Voice: If the games AI wasn’t so brain dead stupid this shout would be invaluable for a thief/sneaking character. As it stands if you dont invest points into sneak this can be a very useful ability. That being said, the level 1 version of the shout is best as it can draw enemies alone (while higher versions increase the area of effect, causing more people to come)

    As for shouts that kinda are useless Id say…

    1) Number 1 has to be storm call… I was so psyched for this one and it wouldnt be half bad. But the recharge time on it is so massive, it only works outdoors and worst of all… attacks friends. The aoe on it is massive so it frequently will attack people not even close to the enemy you are fighting.

    2) Whirlwind Sprint: I want to like it, but the recharge time on it makes it kinda useless for what it would be used for, bouncing around like a crazed maniac. I don’t know why they would include this and simultaneously hinder it with a massive cool down… I suppose it is because combat AI isn’t the greatest and trying to keep up with a dragonborn moving at the speed of wind would be impossible.

    3)Kyne’s Peace + Animal Allegiance: This shouts go together in a 1+2 punch of lameness. Don’t get me wrong, a shout that summoned animals to my bidding? All for it. But both only work on animals nearby when casted. If Kyne’s Peace let me walk unmolested from whiterun to riften? Lovely, sign me up. Not only that ut animal allegiance actively makes nearby enemies allies, which invalidates Kyne’s Peace as a utility skill completely.

    4) Fire / Frost Breath: Probably the shouts that disappointed the most people. They don’t have a unique utility, sheer damage. The worst thing is, the damage they have is rubbish. 50, 70, 90 damage for each of the levels on fire. The problem here is that they arent level scaled (same issue as destruction spells.) This means at level 1? yeah fire breath might actually be useful. But even by level 7 or so (which most people get fire breath fom parthuurnax which means they are probably level 15+) by then 50 damage is nothing. To compound this issue is the massive cooldown timer on them so as to say you can only poke someone with w weak spell once every 100 seconds. I think if you managed to get all three early on, it could be a good AOE spell for clearing out a cone of enemies, but since the levels you would acquire while getting all three shouts would negate the effect of it, there really is no point.

    • Ilseroth says:

      Oh and fun note: Throw Voice has a different sound recording for Khajiits and the “human” races. Apparently they got lazy though, if your character is argonian or an elf, they dont have an audio file play.

      so technically, other then shouts, it is the only time your character says words out loud. those words?
      “Hey, troll bait!”
      “Hey, cheese brain!”
      “Hey, skeever butt!”
      “Hey, slug-breath!”
      “Hey, ugly!”
      “Hey, melon nose!”

    • Hal says:

      Keep in mind, Animal Allegiance works on Chauruses (Chauri?). That, alone, makes it worthwhile to me. Those things are nasty at higher levels.

    • Michael says:

      Whirlwind Sprint is fantastic for breaking the game. Not to gain an advantage (usually), but to get to places that are otherwise inaccessible. Some of these are intentional (like the walkway Josh used it on), others involve passing through walls into empty space. IIRC, there’s a tomb on Solstheim that you can actually bypass 90% of the quest, and collect all the major rewards very early on, if you have no qualms about blasting through walls.

      Conditionally, Kyne’s Peace can be useful. I got it pretty early on in a recent play-through and used it a couple times, when I was confronted with an animal I couldn’t fight.

      Aura Whisper is also fantastic. It’s a long lasting, silent, detect life. Without mods, the actual detect life spell is maintained, and a pain.

      That said, the Dragon Shouts have the nasty side effect of denying you XP. Sure, you could yell at the bandits, but you won’t learn anything, where as you might level up from beating them senseless with a mace.

    • Hal says:

      A thought occurs: Later in the game, you probably have far more dragon souls collected than shouts you wish to unlock. What if they’d made it so that unspent dragon souls actually benefited you?

      Let’s say they boosted the efficacy of a shout, or reduced its cool down, by 5% per soul. I think that would have made some of the “disappointing” shouts much less so.

      • IFS says:

        I haven’t done it but I know they implemented a way to reset maxed out skills to 15 at the cost of a dragon soul, so that you could level the skill again and get more character levels as a result. I believe it refunded any perk points spent in the reset tree as well. Not exactly the best sort of benefit/use for extra dragon souls, but at least there is one.

        Personally I think it would have been cool to have a high level enchanting perk that let you supercharge enchanted items by making them with dragon souls. Or have high level perks for various skills that also cost a dragon soul, but are ridiculously powerful.

        • Destrustor says:

          You’re mixing two systems into one here:
          -The Dragonborn expansion has, as a end-boss reward, a way to get refunded the perks of one skill at the cost of one dragon soul. This does not reset the skill level but is reusable on any skill at any time.
          -The base game has the “legendary” system, where once a skill reaches 100, you can reset it to 15 for free, getting its perk points back in the process . This basically allows theoretical infinite leveling, with the drawback that it can only be used on skills you have maxed out.

          Yeah, the second one is definitely better, unless you decide you don’t like your allocation of perks and don’t want to go through the effort of maxing out a skill you don’t like. Only then does it cost a soul.
          On the other hand, killing Miraak (the Dragonborn end boss) seems to give you a flat 13 dragon souls to use for free, so at the point where this becomes possible you might not much care about wasting a soul to do that.

      • Michael says:

        I keep forgetting that being able to turn dragon shouts into perk points is a mod… >.<

    • acronix says:

      Fire and Frost breath are so useless Bethesda added two unique advantages for it in Dragonborn, with the Black Books. One makes it so targets who die to fire breath summon a fire wyrm for you. The other makes it so frost breath freezes enemies like Ice Form.

      And then they added an advantage for Unrelenting Force to seldomly desintegrate enemies a deal a tiny bit more damage. So of course everyone picks that one instead.

    • Abnaxis says:

      My favorite shout was the expansion shout Soul Tear. It was one of the few times where I went on an epic quest, and actually felt like the reward was suitably epic.

      For me, it went like this:

      Step 1: (optional) get Black Star
      Step 2: get Soul Rend
      Step 3: Profit! Soul Tear can reanimate giants and fill the start on command!

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Personally, I don’t think the shouts need to be balanced against each other. Thats part of the beauty of a single player game is you have a bit of freedom from the tyranny of balance (which IMO, wrecks as many games as it saves as it kills a lot of potentially fun abilities and mechanics).

      You’re going to be fighting lots of dragons. You’re going to accumulate Dragon Souls. You don’t get one shout at the cost of another like with perks. You can have them all.

      Personally, I find the Fire and Frost Breath are of some uses for softening things up and falling back when you’re a melee character and are useful to a mage who’s blown their magicka to get one extra bit of damage while they’re waiting for a recharge (though ice form is probably better purely for recharge time, it doesn’t do damage). It reminds me of the AOE Dragonborn power in DND which does a small amount of damage over an area to soften up mooks and kill minions.

      Whirlwind Sprint, agreed, but it is kind of fun to use against Miraak to match his movements. Makes the combat feel special.

      Storm call. Oh but when you can use it, its awesome. Go to Northwatch sometime and bring the lightning down on some Altmer. I don’t always care about the mechanics personally. I like that you can summon storms and dismiss them at your whim.

      Incidentally, its nice that they just go ahead and give you Clear Skies, all three words and free dragon souls, like they knew you’d be cheesed if you had to earn that one. But Frostfall turns Clear Skies into an amazingly useful shout when you can dismiss rain to limit your exposure. And its helpful when you’re trying to find the sun to shoot it with Auriel’s bow.

      Call Dragon is fun. Though its trumped by Summon Dunhevir later. Still, being able to call two dragons to help you fight is awesome. I like to use these to show off during the Civil War quests (I really like to reinforce as much as possible in that quest that I’m not a scrub like the other recruits).

      Dragonborn and Dawnguard both introduce some great shouts. Bend Will probably takes the cake out of this batch. Anyone who has it, I recommend downloading the Dragon No fast travel mod. Its so much fun to fly across Skyrim on a dragon in real time. This is another way I like to show off during the Civil War quests. I always arrive on the back of a Dragon if I can help it.

  31. Alex says:

    “Personally I’d rather have the freedom to break the game than constantly find myself bumping into ad-hoc rules designed to “protect” me from breaking the quest. But just to play Devil’s Advocate: Do most players want this freedom? I’m honestly curious.”

    I want the freedom to knowingly break the quest. I do not want the freedom to unknowingly break the quest.

    For example, in the Dark Brotherhood questline you can avert the whole questline by killing Astrid instead of any of the prisoners This is a good questline break, because you know what you’re doing – you can work it out from first principles. In Saints Row 2, I accidentally discovered I could smuggle an attack helicopter into one boss fight – which bothered me not a bit, because I didn’t lose anything doing it, and Saints Row 2 is that awesome game that lets you replay your favourite missions. I do not like games which make me feel like I have to play with the Official Guide open on my lap to make sure I don’t render something unobtainable.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      So, if your answer is “I want freedom along with feedback” (as it seems to be) then I’m with you all the way. I would much rather be free to act as I choose, and then quickly grasp the consequences, then be prevented from acting “inappropriately” entirely.

      One of the fundamental foundations of games are that they come with a low cost of failure. I suppose preventing failure entirely is one way to do this, but that undermines another of the foundations of games, which is “play” or the ability to freely experiment with a system to see how it works.

      I would go so far as to say that, even if “most players” are uninterested in freedom, game developers are still best served offering it to them. Otherwise, why make a game at all?

    • McNutcase says:

      Which boss fight? I can’t figure out any that would allow that…

      • Alex says:

        The fight against the leader of the Brotherhood. After I got sick of the angry gangers interrupting my drive to their hideout, I said “Screw it” and flew my attack helicopter there instead. The checkpoint was on the ground floor, so I landed on the roof and climbed down. Then I found out the boss fight was going to be on the roof, and when I got there, my helicopter was still there. Cue one seven foot tall behemoth with a minigun versus one attack helicopter.

        • McNutcase says:

          I always dealt with that one by means of rocket spam. Once you’ve ground the Nuke Plant mayhem to completion, you get the seeking rocket launcher, which is completely broken for anything involving story. It turns the mission to shoot down helicopters while listening to Pierce murder Ne-Yo into something even stupider than it was with the intended weapons. The reason it works with Maero is the thing reloads faster than the non-seeking rocket launcher, so you can literally step out from cover and spam rockets fast enough to keep him permanently flinching. He never gets a shot off at you.

  32. Lame Duck says:

    Ethereal enough to be impossible to damage, but sufficiently corporeal to be able to hurt things. And have bread shoved into his pockets. That is a very specific level of physicalness.

  33. Hal says:

    I liked Oblivion lockpicking. The minigame had cues that would let you solve locks without breaking a pick, at any level, if you were good enough at it. And if you weren’t, you could “auto-pick” the lock; if you had a stack of 200 picks, you wouldn’t have to bother fussing with the mini-game. (Which made the Skeleton Key all the more broken, of course.)

    The lockpicking mini-game for Skyrim on XBox is actually workable. You’re using the analog sticks, so it’s not as responsive as you’d want for those difficult locks, but when you’re not on target, the vibration is great feedback.

  34. MichaelGC says:

    Do most players want this freedom? I’m honestly curious.

    For me it’s a bit like EVE. I like that it exists, and find it fascinating to hear about, but probably wouldn’t actually take advantage of it myself. That someone can finish Morrowind in 3-4 minutes is amazing & entertaining to watch, but it’s not something I’d personally want to attempt.

    It’s a tricky one, as this game is already vastly freer than many are. I think if Bethesda were really hellbent on making sure we all experience their precious content exactly as intended (as several have suggested, although Shamus didn’t do so above), then the game structure would be more like Final Fantasy XIII. Instead, you have overall freedom to choose what to do, but then when you’ve chosen, the thing you chose is going to have to work a certain way.

    It’s a bit like going to McDonald’s, where I have total freedom to select from the menu. However, once I’ve picked, there is very little flexibility. Maybe they’ll make me a cheeseburger without pickles if I ask them nicely, but they’re not going to let me have a four-decker chicken sandwich unless there’s a special promotion. (In contrast, most other games are like a prison canteen undergoing wartime rationing, whilst suffering under a potato famine, and with a militant vegan as warden.)

    Also, they were clearly going for a larger audience with this game (that itself standing as a criticism from certain points of view), and one consideration may have been to avoid hundreds of reviews on Metacritic along the lines of:

    garbidge this game is bugged i killed one guy by mistake and the whole game told me id failed 0/10 sort it out bethesduh

  35. Piflik says:

    I hate how every pickpocket failure in TES Games is always a critical failure. Either you succeed, or you get caught and everyone is pissed. That really makes it impossible to level pickpocket in a viable manner. The player should be able to fail without getting caught…

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Use pickpocket in dungeons where you’re going to need to fight anyway until you get to a high enough level. When you need to steal in town, save scum. Or if you don’t like to save scum, unload your stolen loot on fences regularly. Aside from Tanila in the Thieves Guild, the Khajit merchants will buy your pilfered loot from day one.

      When you get caught, as long as you sheathe your sword, the guards should stand down and let you pay your fine.

  36. Artur CalDazar says:

    I love how Josh has a tone of disapproval as he collects the dead dragur’s nick-nacks, as if he’s the one who has to watch.

    I wonder if the ghost would have accepted a yield, actually is that even something you can do in Skyrim? Because it has never worked in any game it has been in.

    • Hal says:

      I’ll bet the ghost wouldn’t accept a yield, because it doesn’t seem like he can be interacted with in any meaningful manner.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I think the success of surrendering depends on the targets disposition towards you.

      In Oblivion, you could get into a fight, Charm the guard with a spell, and then surrender to guarantee that he leaves you alone.

      Disposition still exists as a stat in Skyrim, except it’s hidden as opposed to being visible to the player in Oblivion.

  37. Benjamin Hilton says:

    That mod that Shamus was talking about reminded me of one I got in oblivion.

    It essentially made items that already existed in game into usable weapons: sickles, boat oars etc.

    Now of course they were horrible weapons, but the genius of the mod was the placement. In this case they were given to skeletons. not the summoned kind, the average ones you find in dungeons.

    And it made so much sense once I saw it. Seeing skeletons walk toward you holding sickles, and gardening hoes, and even tree branches was actually mildly unsettling. Is there an over-turned boat nearby? Then of course they are wielding oars.

    It was one of those situations where it wasn’t until after I saw this that I realized how silly it is to find the skeleton of Joe Nobody wandering around a cave somewhere with steel armor (or better).

    The mod was also fun for situations where your weapon breaks in the middle of a fight and your only recourse is to grab some gardening implement out of a barrel and contemplate just how screwed you are.

    • Hal says:

      That is something I’m glad was removed from the game: Durability and repair. There was nothing more frustrating than to watch your weapon and armor values dwindle to nothing because your gear was dissolving like sugar cubes in the rain from use. Of course, you could alleviate this by carrying around blacksmithing hammers to repair your gear, you know, wherever, but that took up valuable loot space.

      It always ended up making my leveling rather odd. All of my characters would end up with Armorer (tied to repairing) as the first skill to reach 100; consequently, every time I went to level up, I’d have the maximum possible number of points to put into Endurance. I’d rather put it into other stats more valuable for the character, but it felt like a waste to skip such a high Endurance boost.

      Meh, that’s exactly why I started using mods that adjusted the way you leveled.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        I remember carrying 30+ Repair Hammers in my inventory while playing Oblivion. Yeah, that’s one change I appreciate.

        It’s weird b/c in general I like Skyrim’s systems over Oblivion’s. I like that Armorer is more about Strengthening weapons than keeping them in good condition. I like the removal of needless stats in favor of just skills and HP/MP/SP. I like perks giving you more freedom to truly customize your hero.

        But a lot of everything else is just baffling like the writing, the essential flags, and the nearly-worthless magic system.

        • Abnaxis says:

          The thing that annoyed me about the hammers is that even if I carried around thirty, I’d still get burned by the RNG and have them all friggin’ break.

          At the same time, however, I think there’s possibly an interesting mechanic in armor damage/repair, I just don’t think any game has hit on it yet. “Sugar cubes” equipment is not fun, but I wish the whole conceit hadn’t just been completely abandoned.

          • Benjamin Hilron says:

            I agree that there is something to be said for degradation…after all if someone is pounding on me my armor would indeed take damage, as would my sword if I were to hit it on someone else’s armor.

            I think the main complaint is in the implementation. My sword should not be on the verge of breaking after spending a day cleaving rats in twain, nor should a few dents in my armor mean that the entire piece is useless as a defense.

            On the other hand total realism would not work either, keeping in mind that this is a game. People would complain just as much if their sword was useless because they used it to beat a guy in steel armor to death. Running up and hitting a guy is just how most games work, so no one would suddenly want to be punished for it.

            As always it’s a balancing act. I just think that most of us agree the balance in oblivion was …off.

          • IFS says:

            Repair and Mercantile were two skills I would abuse the spellcrafting system to get around, making a buff for them of like 80 points that lasts two seconds solved all my problems as the counter on the spell stops when you enter dialogue or your inventory. Personally I like the idea of having to maintain and repair weapons and armor, though Oblivion’s implementation of it was really bad so I’ll take Skyrim over it any day in that respect.

      • burningdragoon says:

        Won’t say Oblivion had a good implementation of durability, but being able to dissolve other’s armor is very satisfying for me.

  38. Hal says:

    One minor point: It kills me that Josh went to the trouble to give Lydia that hideous helmet, but saw a great one-handed sword on the ground (that Orcish Sword at the start of the dungeon) and decided not to pass that off to her.

    I realize her contributions aren’t that significant anyhow, but it still hit on that part of me that thinks, “Hey, don’t skip that upgrade for your housecarl!”

  39. Abnaxis says:

    Yay, for being late to the discussion.

    I think I’m just going to up and out myself here as the only person who actually enjoyed the lockpicking from Oblivion. While it eventually became immensely game-breaking in that I got good enough to open any lock at any skill level without ever breaking a pick, I found it way more immersive as I strained my ears to listen for just the right tumbler sound, as opposed to the current stem of hot ‘n’ cold.

  40. I personally don’t really mind this kind of “railroading” because I get seriously irked off when shit be broke. I would rather the game railroad me into not accidentally breaking things than have my quest log be full of quests I can’t complete because vital NPC’s are deceased. I’m not really an “off the rails” type in general–I just follow along with the story, I don’t actively seek to screw with it most of the time.

    Skyrim actually has a sequence that I broke ON PURPOSE, though. The Forsworn quest series in Markarth pissed me off because it attempted to force me to choose sides between two sets of total dickheads. So I just waited until they had their epic meeting–thus “completing” the quest. Then I murdered them all as they started to walk away. It was great.

    I also intentionally broke the Brotherhood quest but it turns out Bethesda anticipated that one. It was still fun, though.

  41. @1:50 If Skyrim were the internet, its quests would be Google+.

    @2:40 I had to pause the video for like ten whole minutes after hearing Shamus’ reaction. I couldn’t fucking BREATHE and my sides were in agony and FINALLY after I’d calmed down…fucking Rutz with that comment! I damn near passed out!

    @4:20 (blaze it) I’m going to die. I am literally going to suffocate before I get to the end of this video.

    @5:15 Honestly, I’ll take what Skyrim had for Morrowind any day of the week. I can respect what they were attempting in MW, but without actual characteristics to play off of, it was a meaningless mechanic.

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