Skyrim EP18: King Catbert

By Shamus
on Mar 21, 2014
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Let the record show that at the eight minute mark the cast of Spoiler Warning said something that might be construed as mildly positive about Fallout 3. Not sure how that happened, but there it is.

On the subject of making the game more comical, let me point you to this video by Anthony Burch: Dying is Funny, Comedy is Easy. Burch is half of the bother-sister team that does Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’ and the guy behind the best parts of Borderlands 2. He makes the case that games with inherently silly mechanics (and Skyrim is about as silly as they come) should consider making the tone of the game match the mechanics.

I wouldn’t want all games to be comedies, but I would love it if a few more of them embraced their inner murderclown and stopped trying to be so angsty serious grimdark all the time. I have no idea what that would look like in the context of a Bethesda game (and I’m not really suggesting that Elder Scrolls should become a comedy series) but it’s an interesting thing to consider. I think I’d rather comedy than this ultra-bland boilerplate Medieval fantasy. Later in the game we get to some bits of the main quest that I do care about, and the shallow dialog and lack of roleplaying really infuriates me. Comedy would be better than that, for sure.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!



A Hundred!20209We've got 149 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.

From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Who is catbert?He is a luchador.

    • Bartendelous says:

      I have a dream. A dream where Suda51, a Lucha Libre lover, makes a game like Skyrim where all classes are different Luchadores that suplex and wrestle Dragons in different ways.

      Make it happen.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        If he let his imagination go, I’d almost be scared to explore Skyrim for fear of what effed up thing he could come up with next. I think Sheogorath would feel threatened by Suda51.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Skyrim is not an rpg.At least not in the sense of playing a role.Its a sandbox with some rpg elements.

    • Kana says:

      You know, this really does feel like the case. I’ve not really found anything that lets you really *play* a character. It’s like Rutskarn said episodes ago: It’s like the game devs don’t want you to mess with their setting. Do it the way *We* want you to.

      There are a lots of places to go role-play, but none of them carry any weight. Like, you don’t lose *anything* for doing anything* (that I know of), no one will acknowledge what you do. I feel like the decisions carry a lot less weight when it doesn’t matter.

      (minus the whole Imperial v Stormcloaks)

      • Ambitious Sloth says:

        If role-playing is making decisions based off of an idea of a character then yeah, none of the choices in the game carry any heavy weight. And the whole experience feels emptier for it.

        Even then the Imperial/Stormcloak situation only really affects what npcs you can talk to. Whether it’s the soldiers themselves who are all vague and similar or which ever jarl your team puts in power. Whichever side you chose, they are both mechanically the same. But really I think it’s the fact that you can be completely indifferent to the results after completing the war that ruins its meaningfulness.

        Sometimes it feels like the most meaningful effect you can have on the world is to abandon the main quest early enough that dragons never start appearing. Which also removes one of the larger aspects of the game. But it’s the only time I’ve found where role-playing and letting your character make a choice has any lasting effect that is carried throughout the other systems in the game. Even then you’ll still hear people complaining about all the dragon attacks despite that they don’t happen.

        • Trix2000 says:

          I dunno, I think there’s some room to do roleplaying when it comes to the actions you take. Like, what equipment you use and how you travel and what quests you decide to take up.

          But even considering that, it does become apparent to me that there really isn’t a lot the game itself provides to facilitate this.

          • Thomas says:

            And is that really any different than what you can do in Saints Row 2 and 3? I think DL nailed it, if you think of your GTA and Just Cause’s they offer pretty much exactly the same sort of level of flexibility. you have a main quest which you can follow, but the fun of the game comes from being able to not follow it at will. You can customise your character, where they go and how they kill people but not much else.

            They’re games which arrived in the same place through different doors. So instead of getting rid of your ability to attack necessary NPCs, Skyrim has the NPCs auto revive. It has the same levelling structure as GTAV but Skyrim’s is more obviously from RPG routes… and so on

            And heck the writing is _better_ in the Saints Rows and GTAs. The only thing Skyrim has that those games don’t, is inventory management

        • newdarkcloud says:

          I can think of exactly one place where you can make a choice that feels at all meaningful.

          The initiation of the Dark Brotherhood, where you can kill Astrid and get the quest to eradicate the Dark Brotherhood instead.

          • ET says:

            Can that be initiated at any time?
            How do I get that? :O
            I don’t hate assassins at all, but the voice acting is wooden and unskippable!

            • newdarkcloud says:

              It can only be done at the very start of the quest. When Astrid kidnaps you and says “You don’t leave until someone dies. Instead of killing one of the three people she tied up, you can instead kill her. After all, SHE’S in the room. Once you do that, you can loot her body and unlock the quest to help the Emperor’s Pentilus Octulatus eradicate the Dark Brotherhood.

          • Grudgeal says:

            The ending of the Cannibalism quest also gives you a similar option, with an acknowledgement if you decide to kill all the cannibals once they’ve assembled instead of killing that nice priest. Since it ends up depopulating a significant portion of Markarth you’ll even see some consequences for it. Provided you don’t just go on to murder all of Markarth for being an iredeemable heckhole.

    • Raygereio says:

      Let’s not do the “this game does not conform to my personal definition of genre X, therefore I will declare that it does not fall under genre X and I will fight anyone who says the game does conform to their own personal definition of genre X”-thing.
      I can pretty much guarantee someone will take issue with you calling Skyrim a sandbox for example.

      The problem with this topic is that the definitions of videogame genre are very vague and broad and aren’t properly defined by any sort of authority or tradition. Before you can declare that Skyrim is or isn’t a RPG, you will first have to come up with a definition of RPG that we all can agree on. Good luck with that.

      • Let’s put it this way: The game doesn’t acknowledge any role-playing all that much. You can do things to level your stats, but other than perhaps who winds up killing you, there’s no real difference in the outcome of the game based on how you play that the game itself acknowledges.

        You can role-play a character you have in mind in Skyrim. You can play a pacifist, you can act like a Lawful Good Paladin or a Chaotic Evil Thief, etc. but you’re the only one who really notices at the end of the day, not the game. It’s like imagining you’re an X-Wing pilot in the Death Star trench when you’re driving down the interstate: You had to bring that “fun” to your actions, and in the end, you drove the same way all the other cars did.

        • Bubble181 says:

          As Raygereio said: let’s not do this all over again. My definition of an RPG seems the exact opposite of yours. At least TES games let you actually play any way you want to – most other “RPGs” – especially jRPGs – force way more of how and where you have to go, what you have to do, and who you have to kill.

          • ET says:

            Daemian clearly defined the scope of his definition of “RPG”, for the purposes of his comment:
            “At least not in the sense of playing a role”
            If your definition of “RPG” differs, then that’s totally legitimate.
            What it means is that we need more words, or sub-types of RPG, to better label videogames.

          • I wasn’t trying to define an RPG per se, I was noting that the game doesn’t give two rips if you decide to role-play a character in your head. The game lets you wander around and kill stuff, but in pretty much all instances, you’ll get the same ending as everyone else and the NPCs won’t behave all that differently (with only a few exceptions, which given the plot, are rather dumb, see: The Blades).

            I can role-play that I’m a cursed king whose gluttony doomed him to forever wander the afterlife, always eating and never full, pursued by demons, but Pac-Man doesn’t really change if I do.

            I’m not saying role-play always has to change the game world or even have choices that matter. I’m saying Skyrim doesn’t provide that no matter what your play style is, for the most part.

      • Corpital says:

        I take offense to Skyrim being called a sandbox. Gravelbox would be so much more fitting.

    • JackTheStripper says:

      There are 2 roles to play in the game though: Nameless, mute, dragon born who follows the Imperial’s orders without question or comment; and Nameless, mute, dragon born who follows the Storm Cloak’s orders without question or comment.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        Wrong. You can also play Nameless, mute, dragon born who gives no shits and doesn’t do that questline.

        Really, it seems like the “role-playing” mostly only comes in the form of what you choose NOT to do, rather than what you choose to do.

        • Kavonde says:

          Nail, head.

          I’ve been playing through the main questline as a warrior-type character. I joined the Companions, then had to go out of my way and rely on prior knowledge to avoid being forced into the Thieves’ Guild or the College. I also decided that my character didn’t have any particular interest in the civil war, so I avoided both sides of that until I could call a peace conference at Hrothgar.

          I’ve created my character and his personality in my head, but in the game, but aside from choosing to join the Companions, the only choices I’ve been allowed to make to define my character were to jump off the railroad tracks for a bit to avoid unwanted content.

          • newdarkcloud says:

            Another thing that pisses me off.

            Unless you know what you’re doing, the main quest nearly requires you to join the Thieves’ Guild and the College.

            This is stupid.

            • Can you defeat (that is, murder) the Thieves’ Guild? I never tried, not having the time to go back through and muck about with it. The wiki doesn’t seem to indicate that you can decide that thieving isn’t kosher and wreck the guild.

              At first, I thought the description they gave about the guild being seen as “crime management” was a kind of homage to Terry Pratchett, but now I think they used the concept so it would be a quasi-legitimate business like any other, and therefore as indestructible as the College.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      It’s a first person looter, obviously.

      • ET says:

        I was actually thinking up a cute little game where you play some kind of burglar, who has three main things to manage:
        Weight, volume, and value.
        Maybe have the numbers for each item randomized a bit for each level/round, and/or hide the exact numbers, so you can’t perfectly optimize the loot you get.
        Obviously, there would need to be a time limit, so the player can’t just harvest everything in the level. :)

        • Tizzy says:

          Oh great! Yet another NP-complete problem turned into a video game…

          • Have any such games ever had a mechanic where you can’t carry all the loot at once, but you can put it somewhere for retrieval later?

            Just off the top of my head, perhaps you could set a dumpster outside of one side of a building with some kind of cushioning material inside (trash bags, dead bodies, whatever) and throughout your burglary, you have the option of dropping/lowering your loot out of the windows on that side so that once you’re done, you can escape the premises and stagger off with the heavy load at leisure.

            • Bryan says:

              Arx Fatalis had the ability to dump lots of the random crap that you can find into any barrel or chest that isn’t tagged as a merchant’s. (If it’s tagged as a merchant’s, then when you put something in your money goes up, and when you take something out it goes down. *Almost* always by more than it goes up when putting the same thing back in. Of course, when the merchant isn’t merchanting, and you break into their shop, the chest isn’t tagged, so you can take out anything for free.)

              You could also dump all your crap on the ground, if you wanted to run the risk of the game crashing the next time you reloaded that level because it used a static array for … something that I don’t recall anymore, having to do with the interactive-object class. Getting too many things on the ground overflowed that array, but only when loading a level. I only hit that once; had to restore an older save and keep the ~300-cooked-rat-rib stack or the ~100-cooked-fish stack in the backpack instead of on the ground.

              Anyway, it only mattered once or twice in the game — early on, when I was finding lots of junk but hadn’t gotten to the first town yet, so there were no shops to unload it into, and mid-to-late in the game, when the merchants all disappear because the town gets overrun with baddies, who I proceed to murder. Then I get into the shops and steal back all the stuff that I had sold to them previously. Then I keep going on the main quest until the merchants all show up again, at which point I sell them everything a second time.

              But hey, when I sell it to them a second time I reorganize their chests for them too. (Seriously, who keeps health potions in two different chests? That’s just a waste of space when you can stack them into one of the chest’s 30 slots, instead of using 2!) So I feel perfectly justified. :-P

          • ET says:

            It’s part of the reason I thought of it for a game. ;)

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          I would so love a video game that gives items numerical volume as well as weight.And something sensible,so that you cant just carry around 7 full plate mail.

          • So an inventory grid that can also be limited by a weight-based carrying capacity?

            While that’s more realistic, it might cause a lot of player rage just managing both systems at once.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              No,not an inventory grid.We have those,and they are usually pretty silly(having a piece of paper take up as much volume as either a ring,or a short sword,for example).Just a numerical value,like with the weight.And such an abstraction would make the system easier to manage than the inventory grid as well.

          • Evilmrhenry says:

            I know Castle of the Winds did this: items had size and weight. It was pretty lenient, though, at least after you upgraded to magic backpacks, which were bigger and lighter on the inside than the out.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        True story, we learned about the “Knapsack algorithm” the other day is Intro to Algorithms. The algorithm is the if you have a sack that can only hold weight W, and all items have a value v and weight w, how do you get the best value.

        All my friends and I immediately started calling it the “Skyrim algorithm”. I thought “Yep, I played Skyrim, I know how this works.”

  3. Thor says:

    “In the Original Fallout” in an Elder Scrolls game. How many drinks is that again?

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      All of them….just all of them.

      RIP. Thor

      • ET says:

        The mighty Thor cannot be killed by mortal alcohols!

        • Duneyrr says:

          “Next, Útgarda-Loki asked Thor what feats there were which he might desire to show before them: such great tales as men have made of his mighty works. Then Thor answered that he would most willingly undertake to contend with any in drinking. Útgarda-Loki said that might well be; he went into the hall and called his serving-boy, and bade him bring the sconce-horn which the henchmen were wont to drink off. Straightway the serving-lad came forward with the horn and put it into Thor’s hand. Then said Útgarda-Loki: ‘It is held that this horn is well drained if it is drunk off in one drink, but some drink it off in two; but no one is so poor a man at drinking that it fails to drain off in three.’ Thor looked upon the horn, and it did not seem big to him; and yet it was somewhat long. Still he was very thirsty; he took and drank, and swallowed enormously, and thought that he should not need to bend oftener to the horn. But when his breath failed, and he raised his head from the horn and looked to see how it had gone with the drinking, it seemed to him that there was very little space by which the drink was lower now in the horn than before. Then said Útgarda-Loki: ‘It is well drunk, and not too much; I should not have believed, if it had been told me, that Ása-Thor could not drink a greater draught. But I know that thou wilt wish to drink it off in another draught.’ Thor answered nothing; he set the horn to his mouth, thinking now that he should drink a greater drink, and struggled with the draught until his breath gave out; and yet he saw that the tip of the horn would not come up so much as he liked. When he took the horn from his mouth and looked into it, it seemed to him then as if it had decreased less than the former time; but now there was a clearly apparent lowering in the horn. Then said Útgarda-Loki: ‘How now, Thor? Thou wilt not shrink from one more drink than may he well for thee? If thou now drink the third draught from the horn, it seems to me as if this must he esteemed the greatest; but thou canst not be called so great a man here among us as the Æsir call thee, if thou give not a better account of thyself in the other games than it seems to me may come of this.’ Then Thor became angry, set the horn to his mouth, and drank with all his might, and struggled with the drink as much as he could; and when he looked into the horn, at least some space had been made. Then he gave up the horn and would drink no more.”

    • Bartendelous says:

      A drink with the volume of a liver.

    • Apropos of Fallout, I just found out that New Vegas has a cut room the devs used for messing about with the game’s various murder-tools. It’s actually called “TestJoshWeapons.”

      I’ll let everyone make of that what they will.

  4. Wide And Nerdy says:

    These are Nordic Hjorgses. Made from the mane of Ysgrammor himself. They’ve been bred to scale steep mountain slopes, carry unlimited amounts of weight, track their masters across vast distances and do battle.

    Its all there in the Mass Effect codex.

  5. lucky7 says:

    Hail Catbert!

  6. My alma mater was in the same town as an all-women (living on campus, that is) college with an Equestrian Science program. I was taking some art classes there and talked to a young woman about how much people romanticize horses. She rolled her eyes, saying that those who think they’re all like Black Beauty often don’t have to deal directly with the care and upkeep of horses along with the fact that having a walnut-sized brain gives them just enough gray matter to develop annoying quirks.

    On the flip side, there was this one horse that was always standing with its muzzle in the watering trough near where I usually parked. The horse often had its face in the water, making motorboat noises.

    • Aitch says:

      Though, as animals go, horses are very easy to have a friendly relationship with. Especially if you’re there to raise them from birth.

      The key is that they’re social creatures, and exist in packs. Most animals that exist that way tend to at least have the the option of reaching out to form a bond.

      Romantic? Eh, no. But certainly on the scale of a hunting dog – master relationship or somesuch. IE they’re bright enough to be predictable, and have emotions developed enough to do things like mourn death.

      Though I do get a sneaking suspicion most of these notions of romance and love come less from the intelligence of the animal, and more from the repetitive rhythmic saddle contact… erm…

      Very cool animals nonetheless.

  7. I think the difference between Fallout 3/New Vegas choices and Skyrim is that while the karma meter wasn’t the greatest thing in the world (factions are much better, I think), it gave the game a way to have NPCs react to you. Even if the quests don’t change, having an NPC give you a worthless gift or cursing your name as you walk by is great!

    Here, I think the only difference you get is the NPCs comment on whatever guild you’ve just BSed your way into. I think there are other flags (like being a vampire, having daedric armor, etc.) that make some NPCs go hostile to you, but that’s about it.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      The thing is, since the game is built with Oblivion and Fallout’s engine (though further modified) every NPC still has a Disposition value that affects how well/poorly they treat you. It’s just under-the-hood now instead of being blatant.

      So they really could have made it feel like NPCs are reacting to you, they just chose not to.

      • Is there a place where that happens and it’s not a binary thing? I know there’s a guy in a tavern that wants you to help him romance someone, and you can mess that up by intimidating him for another quest, but that’s like flipping a switch.

        In Fallout, I can make the NCR my pals, indifferent, more likely to be hostile, and openly hostile, but I can’t think of any faction in Skyrim that I can influence like that.

        And I don’t mind it being under the hood. I figure if someone is trying to kill me, I probably deserved it. :)

        • newdarkcloud says:

          Theoretically, it should still be on a scale from 1 to 100.

          But I honestly don’t know how your actions affect the disposition of other characters.

          When Josh’s carriage driver gave him an item for being friends, his Disposition has just made high enough. I have no idea why that is though.

    • straymute says:

      I think another element is that there is a lot more characterization in Fallout’s dialogue. You can’t be reluctant, disrespectful, or conniving in Skyrim. Your character is either proud or stoic and that really limits how relationships in the game can develop before we even get to NPC reactions.

      For example when you start the civil war plotline they give you a lot of reasons to doubt both factions, but the only real way to show reluctance in game is to walk away from the quest.

      In New Vegas there was the appropriate dialogue to add some nuance though. You didn’t have to agree to everything House wanted you to do or even do things the way he wanted you to. You could be rebellious without cutting ties and conniving while appearing subservient.

  8. somniorum says:

    I gather that humans do have better endurance than horses, generally speaking. That is to say, horses are certainly FASTER than humans, but humans have fairly remarkable endurance and are able to catch most animals through sheer perseverance… eventually these other, faster creatures tire themselves out, allowing human pursuers to overtake them.

    Soooo, technically speaking, horses shouldn’t be able to sprint as long as humans.

    I have no idea how they’d compare in sprinting endurance to khajiit, though.

    • krellen says:

      Humans are at or near the top of all animal endurance rankings, actually. It’s really ridiculous how long a (healthy) human can keep going. (We’re also super hard to kill, comparatively speaking.)

      • Tizzy says:

        Apparently, many specialists think that’s the kind hunting techniques that our ancestors developed at the dawn of humankind.

        Funny, because I sure don’t identify with this description.

        • krellen says:

          Most modern first-world humans don’t qualify as “healthy”, frankly.

        • Grudgeal says:

          Persistence Hunting is a fairly well-documented thing: At least one native African tribe still practices it.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=826HMLoiE_o

          The temperate zones of Europe and northern US is generally badly suited to this sort of hunting, though. The woods are denser, the terrain more uneven, what wild herbivores are left are larger and generally nastier (or domesticated and therefore illegal to hunt), and nowadays you’d be liable to lose your prey to traffic accidents. It could probably work out in the midwest US during spring and summer, but I don’t think the bison would be up for it.

      • Michael says:

        Humans really do embody “you can run, but you’ll only die tired.”

      • William Newman says:

        “(We’re also super hard to kill, comparatively speaking.)”

        As I have heard it, there is at least one exception to that: the human skull is more fragile than average. I don’t know how to check this, but it seems plausible given the bulginess of the human brain. If true, then given the fraction of quick-kill-the-human tactics that target the skull, it seems like a reasonably important exception in practice.

    • syal says:

      Depends how fast a “sprint” is. If it’s at the upper limits of human speed, then a horse can probably keep it going longer.

    • Sabredance (MatthewH) says:

      Back when I was doing research for a side-project, I read that the rule of thumb from about AD 1200 to 1650 was that over any period longer than 3 days, the infantry would get there before the cavalry, even with fresh mounts. But over the distances we are talking about here in Skyrim, I think a horse ought be able to cut substantial time off the trip.

  9. Re: The term “stack” in video game parlance.

    I always think of “stack” meaning “this bonus/effect adds to the other bonuses/effects.” Like, saying a ring that gives you protection from fire stacks with your antiperspirant, making you even more unlikely to sweat when you get torched.

  10. Arven says:

    If you guys decided to continue with the war questline then I hope you give the crown to Ulfric. Because he’ll have dialogue about how he suspects that you’re an Imperial spy and that the crown might be poisoned but still accepts it anyway.

  11. imtoolazy says:

    Does anyone know why the crown can be equipped in the first place? Shouldn’t the people with you be telling you to knock that shit off?

    (Edit) And did I miss the joke about why Rutskarn ‘is starring in the new Clue remake’?

  12. hborrgg says:

    The other thing about this quest is that, aside from basically being the exact same quest no matter who you joined, you can also finish it by bringing the crown to either Ulfric or Tulius no matter which side you joined originally.

  13. Kavonde says:

    I know why the invader/defender dynamic in that dungeon flips depending on whether you’re an Imperial or a Stormcloak, guys. It’s actually pretty simple: whichever faction you join just spent a small eternity boring you out of your mind with exposition about the war, which gave the other team a big head start.

  14. krellen says:

    Oh my grav. This might be the best episode of Spoiler Warning ever. I could not stop laughing. Shamus puns. Mumbles voice acting. Campster camping. Josh trolling. It was everything that was great.

    This is the first time I yelled at the video. (I yelled “JUST DROP THE DAGGERS, JOSH”, in case you’re curious.)

  15. MichaelGC says:

    I guess the likes of M’aiq are a clue to how it might go if they were to do comedy. A very small clue, I guess!

    They do show (for me) a nice dry humour when they’re doing some of their best writing, though, so if they were to play on that I imagine it could work quite well.

    • Tizzy says:

      Some of the books are very funny. But how would that translate into funny plots?

      • MichaelGC says:

        Oh indeed: they’d need to ramp things up hugely, and there’s no direct and obvious path from little sprinklings of humour to a full-blown comedy, so there’d be ample opportunity for it all to go horribly wrong. But the little almost-Easter-Eggs do suggest to me that they might be able to pull it off.

        I think more of the sort of thing that they do already would be the way to go – e.g. having NPCs saying amusing things during a quest,* rather than having the questlines themselves as the main source of humour. I also don’t know how funny plots or quests would work! – beyond the odd one like the one following the drinking competition. During the show they mentioned Saints Row-ifying the game: I think that might work in small doses, but for me – and it doesn’t get more idiosyncratic than taste in comedy! – that’s unlikely to be a game I’d sink 100s of hours into.

        (*Edit: The main example which comes immediately to mind is the things Dark Brothers say if you talk to them – which, er, doesn’t happen during a quest. Oh well – I suspect my drift is catchable! Basically adding humour to flavour their story rather than making the story itself a barrel of laughs.)

        A side benefit might be that making the NPCs wittier could paper over some of the cracks in what can be quite a bland experience, at times. Again from the episode: Chris mentioned that he was really struggling to care about what on Earth they were supposed to be achieving in the dungeon. If e.g. Hadvar had been a constant stream of (good!) gags the whole time, it wouldn’t make the Tug O’ War For Lincoln’s Stovepipe make any additional sense, but it could well help us buy in to things just a little more.

        • MichaelGC says:

          Actually, thinking about it, some of the Daedric quests already, let’s say, share a spectrum with the Saints Row style of things, so maybe I’m wrong and ramping up that aspect could work well too.

  16. Alan says:

    What would a Bethesda game that embraced the inherent goofiness be? Fallout 3, featuring the Republic of Dave, among much other goofiness.

    Perhaps tellingly, the most memorable part of Oblivion for me was the quest chain featuring the clueless identical twin brothers.

    • I loved the Republic of Dave until I found out that fixing the election required a split-second click on the ballot box. Nothing else in the game required timing like that, and I thought it would’ve been nice if either another path was available to fix the election or that other things in the game needed the same touch so you’d suspect it might be needed.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I remember that quest. That was actually pretty amusing.

  17. Henson says:

    I actually think Skyrim does let players express themselves and create a distinct character. Let me explain (forgive me, this is going to be a lot of text).

    I’ve played (am playing) three characters in Skyrim. My first was a sneak archer, an Imperial who had a grudge against the Empire, but could see that Ulfric wasn’t any better. She was a lone wolf, an explorer, one who wanted to help out but didn’t like to be tied down. My time was mostly spent trekking across the entirety of Skyrim’s landmass, exploring caves and ruins without any particular quest behind it. I didn’t take a side in the war, and the only guild I joined, the College, was simply so I could get into Saarthal.

    Compare this with my second character, a brutish two-hander (Breton) who embraces his impulses and baser nature. He’s beastial, violent. He lives without joy and kills because people tell him to. He doesn’t think about right and wrong. My time was spent solely doing quest objectives and fast travelling across Skyrim. I’m a member of the Companions and I’m helping the Stormcloaks. I’ve killed because a Daedra told me to, I’ve become a cannibal, and I like it.

    And the third character is a sneak pickpocket, a weakling Argonian who just can’t handle a straight fight. He’s come from being stranded on the side of the road to becoming a master fingersmith. He likes the thrill of taking what doesn’t belong to him; it’s his way of overcoming his very meager beginnings. My time has been spent almost entirely in towns, finding marks and breaking & entering. I’m a member of the Dark Brotherhood and intend to join the Thieves’ guild. When travelling on foot, I only take the main roads, though I usually hire a cart. I haven’t gone into a single cave, bandit hideout, ruin, dragon roost, or any place where they might be hostiles.

    These three characters are very distinct, both mechanically and personally. The game, for all its problems, allowed me to play such a wide range of characters, not because it gave me these specific character options, but because it didn’t tell me how to react. It doesn’t supply great writing or story choices (understatement of the year), but it gives me a great sandbox on which I can paint all sorts of things.

    In order to make this possible, though, there are two things I need to do: (1) Don’t feel obligated to do everything with every character. This is a common misstep people make with RPGs. They feel obligated to do every quest they find, the result of which is a shapeless, undefined player character. What you don’t do defines you as much as what you do do.
    (2) Be aware that you may have to fight the game. Skyrim does have some problems with this, and occasionally, I butt heads with how the game wants me to play (the way it wants you to unthinkingly follow quest arrows, the way quest NPCs can’t be killed…).

    Now, I realize that my characters are basically ‘headcanon’ and Bethesda didn’t provide me with any of my creative material, but that’s not my point. They gave me a game that doesn’t get in my way, where I have the ability to roleplay in my mind, if not on paper. It’s a blank slate character in a completely open world. The only other game I can think of like that offhand is Mount & Blade.

    • It’s the “headcanon” part being exclusively the player’s that bugs me.

      If I behave like a jerkface, I want consequences to being a jerkface if I’m caught at it or if I intentionally screw someone over. I want to be able to make friends and enemies beyond “quest/merchant NPC” vs “walking XP trove.”

      I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun, since that’s the point of gaming, after all. I’m wishing the game had more interaction and events based on one’s actions instead of it being a pit full of toys for you to play with that don’t care how you play with or break them.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      While I really liked the companions from Fallout: New Vegas, I always found their quests and storylines underwhelming. What I envisioned in my head about Veronica or the Enclave Remnant was always much more impressive than what the game delivered. Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II had the same problem, but worse. Mass Effect did better, but they did worse and worse in 2 and 3.

      While I was annoyed at taking so long to get the first companion in Fallout 3, ultimately I think the approach of Skyrim and Fallout 3 is better for this kind of open-world experience. Give me some basic characterization for the world and the closest NPCs, let them do what they want to do, and let me choose my reaction.

      As for reactions by NPCs, their reactions based on things like joining the Companions seem fairly realistic with a large open world. “Who is that guy? Oh, he’s one of the Companions.” Makes more sense than “Who is that guy? Oh, he’s the guy runs around investigating the old tombs that most of us never even think about except when we’re telling ghost stories to the kids.”

      I guess, in the end, for an open world story like this -I rather like that the world goes as it does and the Dragonborn is just there -doing whatever he or she wants. It’s almost certainly better than the story they would have told if they forced me to go along with certain companions in certain story missions.

  18. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Chris just will not stop talking about how he wants Skyrim to have less combat and more other stuff to do. It feels like he’s said it about every way he can say it over the last few episodes.

    I can’t really think of anything other than the couple of things covered in their favored mods Frostfall and Realistic Needs and Diseases.

    The only thing I’ve felt was missing was the option to take up a leadership position like Jarl. But then what would you do with that? Your skillset is delving into ruins and killing and possibly crafting gear. And they would have to introduce a bunch of mechanics to make it work.

    • Microwaviblerabbit says:

      To be a Jarl in Skyrim you need: 1. An set of guards/army – completing either civil war quest line would give the player this. 2. A steward – Hearthfire does this, with the steward of your estate so the mechanics are there. The player character would make an alright Jarl. Not for any of the major cities, but anyone would be better than the Imperial Jarl of Falkreath or the stormcloak Jarl of Winterhold.

      In terms of mechanics, it would need something relating to the economy of that hold, and a set of radiant quests. If the game kept track of how much you bought/sold in the hold, any sort of crime you committed, and the quests completed there, it could create an economic ‘rating’. Your steward would then give you a bunch of gold/items based on it, similar to your spouse’s store. Examples of radiant quests would be; ‘kill the bandit leader terrorizing your people’, ‘solve a dispute between citizens’ which would have speech and brawling options, and ‘army building’ where you induct a follower into your guard.

      The oblivion mod Nehrim did this concept really well. In the main quest you became the lord of a small village and improved it, and it had a bank system where you collected property deeds to earn more gold. You could also deposit gold in the bank, and the rate of interest was tied to the civil war (which was part of the main quest). This had the side advantage that you wouldn’t be walking around with a hundred thousand gold plus in your pockets, since it made sense to keep most of it in the bank.

      • Also, you’d be a great hero-king. Unless you were personally involved with your hold on a day-to-day basis, having a leader who left things in competent hands to go do kick-butt stuff would probably be seen as pretty cool.

        Not to mention if there was a mechanic that made some usurper decide to take over if you were gone too long, that would be fun to have to deal with. Imagine if you were an assassin-type. Some dude steals your throne, and you just ghost your way in, kill them, drop their corpse in the moat, and the next morning, something’s different about the new Jarl. :)

        It’d also be cool if you had relations with other holds. Steal a horse from Whiterun and start a small war!

      • Grudgeal says:

        Alternatively, you would need 1) The Bend Will Shout. Hey, it would have worked for Miraak.

    • Trix2000 says:

      Actually being able to utilize things like speech and pickpocketing for more than getting loot/selling stuff might be nice. Things that would encourage players to consider playing non-combat characters.

      Of course, given the normal core mechanics for Elder Scrolls games, I don’t think we can expect too much focus away from the combat.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      What’s weird is that even in Oblivion you could have mild success being a character who never laid a hand on anybody. There were also quite a few quests that didn’t involve combat in any way.

      I mean, you’d eventually have to do some fighting, but not every friggin’ quest was “Go here, kill stuff.”

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I’d have to review the quest chain but I believe you can get through the entire Thieves Guild quest chain killing only one guy (and he really has it coming). It would be pretty hard but you could do it.

        I find a lot of the quests are more “go here and get this thing” than “go here kill this guy” but I’d have to review the radiant quests to be sure. You sure don’t have to kill as much as Reginald does.

  19. Viktor says:

    For proof that games are far better with some degree of comedy than with DRAMA, compare any Saint’s Row game to any Grand Theft Auto game. Comedy works.

    • Ciennas says:

      Actually, comedy is easy. we recognize the game is working on an abstraction of the ‘real world’ rules, especially with devs trying to highlight the realism of their works.

      Drama is hard because the inherent limitations in the engine and hardware the game is built for don’t allow for the proper sweeping epic feeling that they are clearly trying to invoke.

      For an example, gather the army at Oblivion and fend off the siege of Bruma. Thirty guys are an army, these days.

      Of course, that game had everything compressed by a factor of thirty or so.

      So, we can invoke proper drama, we just need a more compact cast and setting to do so.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        It depends on the type of comedy you’re talking about. If its the comedy created by the player goofing around, you’re right, that is easy comedy.

        Its akin to conversational humor which is also easy because your ‘audience’ is already invested in the discussion and all you’re doing is waiting for the right set up to deliver a punchline. Surprise is also easier to achieve in this situation.

        Contrast stand up comedy where the comedian has to deliver very tightly crafted jokes because she’s not going to hold interest if she can’t deliver a laugh quickly. She has to engage you, do the set up, AND deliver the punchline from scratch on her own and she has to find a way to surprise you with it when you’re already expecting a punchline.

        Games that have scripted humor will have still a third problem. You’re going to probably be hearing the jokes over and over again (unless they write lots of jokes in which case joke quality may suffer). And comedy that fails or goes stale from repetition is much more obnoxious than drama that fails. Drama that fails tends to end up being funny (but lest you think this is proof that comedy is easier, this laugh comes at the expense of the creator, the creator loses credibility instead of gaining it as they would with intentional humor.) Comedy that fails is sad or annoying (it is the rare joke that funny for its unintentional badness).

        The only thing thats easier about comedy in games is that you’re there to play the game, not to be told a joke, which makes surprise easier. And unless you’re creating, say, a Deadpool game, your jokes don’t have to carry the entire game. But thats true of the drama as well. We gamers are accustomed to having extremely sparse plots that justify shooting lots and lots of things.

        Drama also benefits from what came before. We get better and better at figuring out what we care about and what will resonate with the audience. As long as you avoid excessive repetition, you can use the same basic plot devices and characterization tricks in different combinations. Drama is even easier in games because you’re fighting to achieve the goal yourself and the gameplay adds to the investment. You just have to make sure that the gameplay and story line up. Thats not easy but its not as hard as comedy.

    • Zukhramm says:

      Given that there might be differences in developer skills involved, that’s hardly proof.

  20. I agree that Skyrim is boring in that as a player you can’t really stray from the pre-planned path.

    Take old Knights Of the Old Republic, the whole last chapter is split in two (Dark Side and Light Side paths) and both are equally good, actually I find the DarkSide path better even. (love playing evil in games).

    Imagine how awesome it would be if in Skyrim you could follow two different paths, Dragonborn (Good) and Dragonborn (Evil).
    Heck the Greybeards even kind of hints at the Dragonborn choose themselves how to use their power.

    But there is no way to become you known Emperor Dragonborn of Skyrim.

    This is similar to my only issue with the Mass Effect 3 extended ending, I wish there had been a possibility to do “Evil Shepard” and end up with some of the companions siding with you or against you (knowing full well this won’t be the canon ending the franchise continues on).

    Although in the case of Knights of The Old Republic 2 the gang at Obsidian actually managed to continue the sequel with both the canon and the non-canon ending actually making sense/working. True gamedev magic there folks.

    I do understand why radically different (or even slightly different endings) is so rare, it costs extra to do. But in KOTOR it worked so damn well.

    I missed being able to do this in Dragon Age Origins. A non-canon ending where I conquer it all, taking the throne for myself. (Although you can become king consort (or queen consort), it’s not really the same.

    I want more (especially RPG) games with a canon ending and one or more wildly diverging endings (especially a “evil” ending as a contrast to the “heroic” ending.

    Oh and on the subject of humor. Deus Ex Invisible War has a secret non-canon ending that is pretty funny.

    • Tizzy says:

      From that point of view, Skyrim doesn’t even have an ending, canon or not. What I find most frustrating is simply how indifferent the gameworld is to your actions.

  21. guvnorium says:

    I guess Rutskarn’s powers are like Highlander powers: you kill him and you absorb them. With Rutskarn gone, Shamus has absorbed his powers. There can be only pun.

  22. Jokerman says:

    What you said about the crown deciding an election is exactly how one of the questlines in the first Dragon Age goes… With no evidence bar a drunk dwarf you crown a new king with a crown that could of come from just about anywhere.

    • Viktor says:

      The crown being a useful symbol, though not definitive, makes perfect sense to me. If it comes to the moot(which it doesn’t, because the Imperials are law-breaking jackasses), the crown could persuade one or two of the more traditionalist Jarls, which is all you need.

      Even IRL stuff like that happens all the time. Which Bible the POTUS gets sworn in on is a big deal, with many of them opting for George Washington’s Bible. If there was a civil war going on, which President’s inauguration had that touch of legitimacy would likely be a news story.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I don’t know that Washington’s Bible has that kind of power, but there is some historical precedence for this kind of thing. Being crowned on the right stone is very important for Scotland, being crowned in the right church is very important for England and for France. Harold’s claim to the throne basically consisted of “I was the first one to Westminster.”

        • Microwaviblerabbit says:

          In all those cases though, the symbolic thing has been in near constant use and thus stayed relevant. A better example would be if someone found the ‘crown of King Arthur’. On one hand it would be a potent populist symbol, but on the other you would be doing a lot of explaining.

          Considering the Jagged Crown was lost for thousands of years, it is amazing everyone just accepts it. A church is hard to fake. Even the legitimacy of Stone of Scone currently in use has been raised many times, and that is a boulder whose history is entirely (or close to entirely) known and agreed on. While the Jagged Crown is made of exotic materials, i.e. dragon parts, those aren’t exactly rare anymore. I am sure a skilled blacksmith (such as the Dragonborn) could easily produce a new one. This seems like a case of NPC omniscience.

  23. Ayden Kinchla says:

    I think it would be hilariously fitting if Josh back-stabbed the Imperials and gave the crown to the Stormcloaks (which is one of those rare non-marked options you have). The trolling will be palpable.

  24. Wulfgar says:

    I would love to “Play a Role” of sarcastic asshole in Skyrim. Man, that would be awesome. But game doesn’t allow it.
    But you can improve shitty story of Skyrim just by changing the way NPC talk about what is happening. I feel like devs want gamers to feel like in epic story, but they don’t make you feel that. They tell you that this epic story and you should feel awesome now. People in game talk like world leaders giving speeches through radio during World War II and in reality you have snowball fight. South Park Stick of Truth got it right.

  25. Phantos says:

    I have some unsolicited voice acting advice, regarding Shamus’ comment that Mumbles could voice act:

    The most important part of voice acting is the acting. That should be really obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand that. There has to be that drive, that NEED to perform, to understand performance first. It’s about the delivery and the music of the performance more than “I can do a bugs bunny voice!”.

    Imitation is not necessarily going to translate into acting. If you can “do voices” but can’t act, that’s being an impressionist.

    Granted, Mumbles does have a few voices she could exploit, regardless of whether she pursues acting. Prank calls at least.

  26. In case Shamus was still wondering, a billboard is kinda pricy. Here in Missouri, where we have one of the highest billboard densities on the planet (when we had enough they were an eyesore, a bill was proposed to limit them, so people went out and built even more…), this interstate billboard near a major city will cost $500 in rent for somewhere between 1 and 3 years (according to the text).

    That doesn’t include the graphics, so that’s another cost. But what price butts?

    • Zukhramm says:

      What? $500 for THREE YEARS seems incredibly cheap to me.

      • Muspel says:

        Well… $500 for three years is certainly a good value, but that’s not the same as being cheap, especially not for an individual as opposed to a business.

      • Evilmrhenry says:

        That’s almost certainly $500/month, just with a 1-3 year lease.

        • Yeah, I wasn’t sure, so I left the range the ad specified.

          I’m betting there are cheaper boards. I never really notice how many of the ding-dang things we have in Missouri until I travel out of the state. Probably the most famous example of our billboard density is that the University of Missouri was able to put a syllable of its sports cheer on three consecutive boards: MIZ-ZOU-RAH. There was another one (gone now, though the billboards are still there) where some gas station advertised its coffee special with four or five boards. The last one had the actual ad, while the previous ones were the ad run through the Photoshop “twirl” filter, so it seemed to start out as a spiral and then got less and less twisted as you approached the final ad.

          It’s like giant-sized “Burma Shave” signs, but less amusing.

    • Humanoid says:

      Just have Rutskarn wear one of those human billboard things and wander up and down the side of the road. The only cost is materials (and Rutskarn’s dignity).

  27. Tharias says:

    Well thanks Mumbles. Now I can’t stop imagining Twilight having a psychotic breakdown and murdering everyone. (Granted, it wouldn’t be entirely out of character, based on ‘Lesson Zero’)

  28. spades says:

    It’d be cool if you could do something like the Wild Card or Independent questline from NV in Skyrim. Betray all sides and make Skyrim a completely autonomous region with no High King.

  29. There’s an idea I thought of for a video on my show of the Gameplay-Narrative Uncanny Valley, where as gameplay and narrative choice for a player grows, eventually there’s a point where you get just enough freedom that you start seeing the bars in the gameplay cage, where the technical or time limitations in the design of the game reign in your gameplay experience, and which keeps something like Skyrim from feeling like a “real” (by which I mean Tabletop) RPG.

    For example, Alakabeth gave you a dungeon to explore, but you only had one character, with limited selection in how you could develop that character, and you had only one real objective. Wizardry gave you a party of characters that you customize as you wished, but you were still stuck with “Kill The Wizard Down The Hole” as a plot, and you were still descending down the dungeon.

    Ultima IV gave you a big world to explore and a revolutionary degree of choices that you could make in role-playing your characters, though your camera and interface perspective is limited, and breaks immersion some. Might and Magic, and later the earlier Elder Scroll games gave you a more immersive perspective, but less narrative choice.

    Skyrim lets the player exist in the world and see things more closely than you ever could as the Avatar in the Ultima series, but the degree of choice that you have available is dramatically less, because the resources went to making that big expansive world (with HD Assets) to explore in the first person.

    I think the other side of that valley is when we reach a point where designers can create immersive stories that give players agency, like Ultima that still look good on modern tech, with the option of letting players also create, tell, and share their own stories with the same tech, through mods and other tools, as with the Skyrim mod kit, or as with Neverwinter Nights.

    EDIT: One other thing I should say. While humor has a place in games, I disagree that if a game has mechanics that are “silly”, the one of the game should become silly – especially if the game is trying to be an immersive RPG, which Bethesda clearly tried (and failed) to make in Skyrim. At best, you’re taking yet more choice away from your player, because now they can’t even pretend they’re in a serious dramatic story. If I want to play New Vegas as if it were serious, I can. I don’t have to have Wild Wasteland turned on. All of the “And Now For Something Completely Different” lunacy is optional. If it was on by default, with no way to turn it off (short of mods or messing around with the console), I’d think less of the game.

    At worst, if Bethesda decided to play up the wacky and silly in future TES games, it could end up taking the route of “Video Games, amiright?! Only an idiot would take this medium for conveying narrative and entertainment in an interactive fashion seriously.” I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for intentional comedy in games, and I’m also not saying we can’t laugh at the moments of unintentional comedy (like getting knocked into the stratosphere by a Giant in Skyrim).

    What I am saying, if we’re wanting to give players agency over the story in their CRPGs, then the players need agency with the tone, whether it’s having the option to have Wild Wasteland turned on or off in New Vegas, or having Agent Thornton in Alpha Protocol be a serious professional or a smartass. Certainly, having silly options is good (and lets the player inject levity when they feel they need it in the story). However, not taking the game or its story puts you at risk of making the video game equivalent of Batman & Robin – if it’s clear that nobody involved in making this took it seriously (assuming they even cared at all), why should I fork over my $60 to buy a copy, as opposed to spending my money with someone who gave a damn.

  30. Grudgeal says:

    You should give the crown to Ulfric when you’re sick of it (yes, you can do that with no consequences at all). Just to spite the whole quest.

  31. kdansky says:

    Please make Josh stop looting random pieces of armour. Looting enemies and containers is pointless even when you only pick up gold coins (what are you going to buy anyway?), but every single piece of hide armor? It makes the video so much more boring to watch.

  32. Dromer says:

    It’s actually fairly easy to make really poweful fists. If you max enchanting and armorsmithing and make daedric or dragon fists, and then enchant those with the the boost melee damage enchantment (you can find the enchantment on the gloves from a guy who attacks you in the sewers during the thief’s guild quest) and a very large or black soul gem, you can reach into the low-100s without the bonus from being an argonian/khajit. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about recharging the gloves.

    Nothing beats playing the game about manly vikings like killing the dragon-god with your fists.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>