The world in Oblivion is really big:
Click for ginormous view.
Well, it’s big for a computer game world, anyway. It’s portrayed as a continent. The map makes it look like one, and the inhabitants talk about it as if it was one. There is a mountain range to the north, swamps in the south, and a costal region to the west. There are different cutures and climates within Cyrodiil and the game does a pretty good job of pulling the player in and getting them to think of the place as a large country.
But it obviously isn’t. It couldn’t be. The game would be hopelessly dull if the world was realized to scale. It would take the player hours or days of real-time travel to get from one city to another, which wouldn’t be any fun at all. So, they took all the features of a continent and jammed them into about 16 square miles. It’s only a ten minute walk from most of the outlying cities to the Imperial City in the Center. Even allowing for the fact that you can run much faster than a real human in the game, that’s just not very far.
But things are spaced out just right for the purposes of gameplay. I looks right and feels right while still being fun, which is a lot more important than realisim.
The game has a feature where you can “fast travel” to anywhere you’ve already visited. Between these cities are literally hundreds of little ruins, villages, camps, forts, caves, and other dungeons and diversions. Once you find one, a little marker appears on your map and you can jump to that location at any time. The game advances time a bit for the journey, but otherwise it’s basically a teleport. This is good. It’s fun to explore the terrain for the first time, but the novelty wears off on subsequent trips and the player is usually anxious to get where they are going once they’ve seen it. So the fast travel is a good feature.
Except, at the start of the game you already have map markers for all of the cities. There are roads connecting the towns, but there is no reason to use them since you can jump from one town to another at will. I didn’t like this aspect of the game. It’s a nice reward to get someplace for the first time and earn the map marker, and the town markers are arguably the most valuable in the game. It doesn’t seem right to start with them already available. You can finish a lot of the quests in the game without ever seeing outside of one of the cities. It seems to me the player should have to make the trip at least once.
So, I made a mod: UnLocateCities. The mod simply makes all of the city map markers act like the other map marker in the game, so that the player must walk to each city at least once.
The game comes with the same tools used by the people who made the game, which means users have a lot of power to make some pretty extensive mods. (Although my mod is quite simple.) It took me almost three hours to do it, although most of that time was spent learning how to use the tools and figuring out how to do what I wanted to do. I think it would be a fifteen-minute job for someone who knew what they were doing.
Once I finished I hopped on the site here to check the comments as is my custom, and noticed that in the comments of this post Bogan let me know that someone had already released a plugin that does what I want.
In Defense of Crunch
Crunch-mode game development isn't good, but sometimes it happens for good reasons.
What did web browsers look like 20 years ago, and what kind of crazy features did they have?
A look back at Star Trek, from the Original Series to the Abrams Reboot.
Mass Effect Retrospective
A novel-sized analysis of the Mass Effect series that explains where it all went wrong. Spoiler: It was long before the ending.
Silent Hill 2 Plot Analysis
A long-form analysis on one of the greatest horror games ever made.