The Altered Scrolls, Part 11: Song and Dance

By Rutskarn Posted Saturday Oct 17, 2015

Filed under: Elder Scrolls 106 comments

Morrowind and Oblivion drew their storytelling cues from media besides videogames, because that is, by and large, what videogames do. It’s too hard for most games with ambitions of epic scope and narrative content to convey these elements entirely through gameplay; they instead use gameplay as an aid to transport players into storytelling grounded in traditional methods. Which, with roleplaying videogames, is generally what the player wants: to have a story that could be a book or a movie improved by interactivity. And that’s just the point where RPG fans get into the biggest slap-fightiest arguments: book or movie.

Morrowind was literary; it told its story through context and history and shovelfuls of dialogue. most of the story happened when you were standing still somewhere reading something. Oblivion was cinematic–an active, moving, speaking story in which you were the primary character–and it sacrificed a lot to get there.

It had voice-acting for all its dialogue, which forced a thousand compromises from shortening dialogue length to limiting dialogue scope to homogenizing the voices for various races and characters. It seized control of the player to allow cutscenes to occur uninterrupted. It filled a large portion of its campaign with rinse-and-repeat prefab dungeons to allow the other missions the maximum scripting and dialogue budget. Not all of the cuts were logistical, either; some of them were more abstract and philosophical. For example, the increased value and vitality of actors (plus a few other technical reasons not worth getting into yet) meant the developers put stricter regulations on who could be killed. Any NPC who would become relevant to a quest was invincible until they had discharged a necessary portion of their scripting. Technically neither of the first two games gave you leeway to kill random people either, quite possibly for engine reasons, but Morrowind was so bold in making everyone killable that it didn’t seem the developers would retract the privilege. It seems fair, doesn’t it? Your input in the game is very limited. You can’t arrest NPCs, be meaningfully rude to them, spread gossip about them, ask them to stay away from you, fire them if they’re part of your guild, or give them wet willies. Your choices for expressing your opinion on or judgment of an NPC amount to murdering them or not murdering them, and taking away the choice of murdering them is nontrivial. It feels like a fussy exercise of power–a storyteller convinced whatever they’ve got planned is much better than what you’re trying to come up with.

All these cuts and constraints could have easily amounted to a net loss for the franchise. In the eyes of some, they certainly do. But it’s also fair to say that as long as Bethesda was trying to make the best of their scripting and create a broad adventuring simulator, they did a pretty good job of it. It all came down to working with their limitations.

This is the inventory. The icons take up approximately 800% of the space they did in Morrowind and are balkanized into tabs. This is useful if you've got a controller and a headsplitting aggravation if you've got anything else.
This is the inventory. The icons take up approximately 800% of the space they did in Morrowind and are balkanized into tabs. This is useful if you've got a controller and a headsplitting aggravation if you've got anything else.

Bethesda knew that if quests were going to be linear for the sake of being more narratively focused, they should have a few components. Firstly, they should be logically linear–there should not be any obvious third choices or alternatives to tantalize the player. Secondly, general-purpose quests should be ethically neutral, or else good and evil characters are going to demand alternate routes the developers don’t want to put in. Thirdly, the resources used to present a story with each quest shouldn’t be wasted–as long as voice actors are collecting paychecks and scripters are making flowcharts there should be some mystery, novelty, humor, juicy twists. These tenets are all important, and Bethesda did a pretty good job of remembering them.

There are more memorable general quests in Oblivion than any other ES title. The woman who’s followed by scamps all the time. The guy trapped in his painting. The invisible town. The cultist yokels. The fake vampire hunter. The fake vampire murders. The ghost mountain. These aren’t particularly special quests and aren’t associated with any of the obligatory features, like the guilds or shrines or main quest. They’re just random mini-stories you bump into. Any one of them could be a worthwhile one-off episode of a fantasy TV series. Clearing your quest log feels a lot less like a chore than it did in previous games.

As for the obligatory factions, they’re the best in the franchise. It’s true that there’s half as many guilds in Oblivion as Morrowind, but Morrowind had half the guilds of Daggerfall and that was to everyone’s benefit. The principle remains broadly true here. The Thieves’ Guild quests actually ask you to perform interesting heists with an overarching story of corruption and Robin Hood heroics, the Dark Brotherhood is a deliciously evil and creative murderfest with some ghoulish and even chilling moments, the Mage’s Guild has a basic but fun story of warfare against a returning character from Daggerfall, and even the Fighter’s Guild throws a few interesting right-hooks and twists in. The Daedric shrine quests are pretty fun too–they offer a good range of evil and virtuous one-offs with the occasional descent into madness, just to remind you who you’re dealing with.

And the main storyline…


This is the map. It's given a small window of fixed size, it's zoomed in at a fixed and next-to-useless level, and it doesn't update itself or fill in to show the territory you've explored. It's complete shit and there's no excuse.
This is the map. It's given a small window of fixed size, it's zoomed in at a fixed and next-to-useless level, and it doesn't update itself or fill in to show the territory you've explored. It's complete shit and there's no excuse.

Here’s where things get complicated. You’ll note the language I’ve used to praise the game’s storytelling falls within a limited range. Fun. Creative. Twists. Moments. Episodes. This is part of the game knowing its limitations as a storyteller. If it can create a lurid memorable character and have something strange happen to them, it can capture your attention long enough for you to have a good time. The guilds, which are more long-term, sink or swim based on how interesting you find the gameplay niche being targeted and how clever you find the little hooks they scatter around the disposable narratives. So what happens when the developers can’t rely on those?

The answer depends very much on who you are and a hundred variables that follow. How long do you want to listen to Sean Bean muse on his emotional journey without getting to guide or advise him? How interesting do you think the end of the world due to a mad prophet really is? Is jumping into another Oblivion gate a dangerous but familiar task or a tedious chore? Will you enjoy Oblivion‘s quests and combats without the context changing up every fifteen minutes to keep things interesting?

I find that most people finish Oblivion‘s main quest–eventually. They do the quests in fits and starts between fistfuls of the more digestible, dynamic, novel sidequests. The main quest is fine, but it might well be the least interesting part of the game. And that’s arguably the first time in the series this has happened.

These are the loading screens. They are very produced and yet surprisingly ugly. One can pretty clearly identify the relevant Photoshop filters.
These are the loading screens. They are very produced and yet surprisingly ugly. One can pretty clearly identify the relevant Photoshop filters.

It’s more complicated than it sounds. Morrowind had some real hit-or-miss quests in its main storyline–it was about one-third pure dungeon crawls and one-third grinding with factions you might or might not like very much. What makes its main storyline memorable and interesting was that it was tied so strongly to the greater context of the world. Everything in Morrowind spoke to the core struggle against Dagoth Ur: the red skies, the blight storms, the hatred locals feel towards you–an outsider–the guilds seizing advantage of Vvardenfel’s corruption and nepotism. Playing the main quest put so much into perspective that to those who’ve finished the game it rates an essential part of the experience. The same can’t really be said about the main quest of Oblivion. Despite the fact that the game’s storyline centers around the succession of the Empire, and that it destroys a whole city (before the game begins, of course) to put the conflict in perspective, nothing about Cyrodiil’s culture feels imperiled or informed or central to the main quest.

Which is fine. That’s my opinion; the main story is fine. It’s got some good moments and it’s got some real slogs. But I wouldn’t put much blame for the slogs on the quest structure; no, there’s a deeper mechanical reason for that. Let’s talk about Oblivion’s designnext week.


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106 thoughts on “The Altered Scrolls, Part 11: Song and Dance

  1. Rutskarn says:

    Can I also point out an interesting feature of TES games here:

    Swords in Elder Scrolls games are frequently plausibly rendered by the standards of fantasy RPGs. Thin blades, historically-modeled grips and crossguards, decent balance. And then every OTHER weapon in the game is clownpants looneybusiness. Take this axe here, which looks like an inflatable Halloween prop more than any human tool ever invented. Just uploading that screenshot made my back hurt.

    So why the split? Who knows. Just thought I’d bring it up.

    1. manofsteles says:

      Perhaps the asset developers themselves simply prefer swords, and thus paid more attention to them. When comparing the unique weapons, the good unique swords such as Chillrend and Goldbrand seem to outnumber the unique non-sword weapons. I have a hard time imagining the easter egg that was Eltonbrand being a non-sword weapon given the Elder Scrolls history of neglecting non-sword weapons.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        Off the top of my head, Skyrim had exactly one truly good non-sword unique weapon, which was the Longhammer. Wuuthrad ALMOST counts too, except you only get it for one mission, and not against an enemy that leverages its unique ability.

        1. manofsteles says:

          And going back to Rutskarn’s original point, both of those axes look garish and “clownpants looneybusiness.” The Longhammer seems to use the exact textures as a generic orcish warhammer, and all of the orcish non-sword weapons look ridiculous.

          BTW, my favorite weapon from Morrowind was Skull Crusher, since it was stupidly big and it was so much fun to watch such a ginormous hammer get swung so effortlessly.

        2. Andy says:

          You can take Wuuthrad back immediately atter putting it in the pedestal.

    2. Bropocalypse says:

      I might be misremembering, but I distinctly recall Oblivion’s swords looking very not-bladey. The iron weapons in particular were reminiscent of chain link fence posts.

      If I’m wrong, then there’s a funnier answer: Axes in Oblivion are blunt weapons.

      1. Rob says:

        IIRC, axes being under the blunt skill is handwaved as them requiring the same skillset as swinging a hammer. You know, because apparently there’s no subtlety or style to using an axe in combat whatsoever…

        1. Ringwraith says:

          Also condensing the skills in general.
          After all, Skyrim mostly considers all two-handed or one-handed weapons the same!

          1. Retlaw says:

            Morrowind does this as well though. So you can hardly say that it’s because of skill condensing.

            1. Ringwraith says:

              I meant that all one-handed weapons are considered the same, and all two-handed weapons are considered the same.
              The skills are actually called “One-Handed” and “Two-Handed”, axe/sword/large blunt object be damned!

              Morrowind had Long Blade, Short Blade, Axe, Blunt Weapon, Spear, and Hand-to-Hand.
              Oblivion dropped polearms entirely, and merged the other weapon skills into Blade/Blunt while keeping Hand-to-Hand.
              Skyrim reworked Blade/Blunt into One/Two-Handed and dropped Hand-to-Hand.

              Meanwhile Marksman/Archery has always been a single thing by itself.

              1. Agamo says:

                In fairness to Skyrim, the perk system did allow for specialization in swords, axes, or blunt weapons, which is more than Oblivion can say.

                1. Ringwraith says:

                  Yeah, mostly the same except if you get specialisations in the perks.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              True,they share the same foundational techniques,but specialization is where they differ.And if you are a warrior,it is generally assumed that you have mastered the foundations,and now you are learning the specialized techniques(unless you are playing d&d,that is).

              1. GloatingSwine says:

                On the other hand, the skill system in Elder Scrolls games makes subdividing the weapons into seperate skills monumentally tedious because you are basically locked into the first choice you make unless you want to spend another few hours of your life being shit at fighting again until the skill builds up.

                (See also: Why spears got chucked after Morrowind)

                1. manofsteles says:

                  Subdividing weapon skills was actually much less tedious in Morrowind if only because Morrowind did away with the arbitrary limit of 5 training sessions per level.

                  Just like in every Elder Scrolls game since Morrowind, money would quickly become meaningless, with the player’s supply of money far outstripping the ability to buy goods. On the other hand, unlimited training services not only gave the player an incentive to continue accumulating money, but the training services coupled with the relative lack of level-scaling reinforced the empowerment of the player as Nerevarine.

                  The tedium of levelling skills has only gotten worse since Morrowind, and it seems to have less to do with the amount of skills, and more to do with the deliberate decision to slow levelling to a crawl for many skills. The level-scaling adds to the tedium since as you point out, Oblivion encourages the player to keep sticking with their first choices of combat skills, since those are most likely to be raised; using a Destruction skill of 15 against high level enemies quickly becomes untenable without lower level enemies to grind against.

                  I grant that Skyrim at least allowed the player to pickpocket the money back and potentially create an indefinite loop of training and pickpocketing to quickly level combat skills, but that is a tedious exploit to work around an annoyingly arbitrary limitation on player training.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          They’re more similar than not. They’re both hafted weapons with most of the weight at the business end. One is not more subtle than the other, as they’re both situational weapons. Battle axes tend to be favoured in the early medieval period by cultures where metal was more expensive. Maces and warhammers are primarily anti-armour weapons, especially plate armour, so they rarely appear before the High Middle Ages.

    3. Da Mage says:

      As with the previous comments section on why there aren’t many spears. Blame Tolkien and then DnD for the oversized weapons (mainly axes and warhammers).

      1. Ringwraith says:

        Also requiring fairly different animations and mechanics (due to the longer reach).
        Probably why they don’t show up so much.

        1. Bropocalypse says:

          Spears are too hard for game designers to handle :P

          1. Ringwraith says:

            Also generally not that interesting unless you’ve invested heavily into the mechanics of how different weapons operate.
            Bethesda doesn’t do that.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            That pun stabs right into the heart of the problem.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        In fairness to Tolkien, scholarship on medieval weaponry wasn’t very good and largely based on the writings of much later people, who were usually projecting some kind of bias on the Middle Ages (usually some variation of “medieval people were dumb, dirty brutes”). Rigorous investigation into actual medieval weaponry doesn’t really start until Ewart Oakeshott’s work in the 1960s, about half a decade after The Lord of the Rings was published. Gygax probably wouldn’t have been aware of most scholarly challenges to assumptions of medieval society when D&D was first published, either.

      3. Menegil says:

        How, exactly, is Tolkien to blame? He didn’t depict any weapons innacurately, as far as I know – indeed, he mostly seemed to shy away from describing weapons in any detail.

    4. dp says:

      I would agree that in the Elder Scrolls swords are fairly conservatively designed at the concept art stage. Many of them look like things a healthy human could efficiently use to make some else unhealthy. And generally the designs survive through to production.

      That said I remember Oblivions swords looking like repainted nerf weapons with ridiculously round cutting edges.

    5. muelnet says:

      I will defend exactly four axes in Skyrim, the Iron Battle Axe, the Iron War Axe, the Steel Battle Axe and the Steel War Axe. All four seemed plausible and were somewhat based on historical axe designs. They were also the 4 worst axes in the game…

      With those four as an exception, I completely agree, which makes me sad. I love having an axe + shield combo in games and a lot of games have completely goofy looking axes.

  2. Ian says:

    With Oblivions main quest I almost missed it. What I did on clawing my way out of the sewers under the Imperial city was to start exploring ruins on my way to hand in the necklace. But then I spent more and time doing what was actually the side quests.

    This meant no Oblivion gates spawned anywhere and I was left with a fantasy kingdom to explore and play in.

    It was only after a few weeks of playing and talking with friends where they kept mentioning these Oblivion gates that I realised I might be missing something.

    I managed to do the same thing in Skyrim by not going to tell the Jarl about the dragons which ironically meant there were no dragons, though NPCs did keep mentioning them. By the time I finally got around to it I had a huge bag of shouts memorised but no dragon souls to power them.

    In both cases I enjoyed myself immensely despite not following the game to its conclusion. I’ve still never finished the main plot in either.

    1. Michael says:

      I remember, with Oblivion, I actually deliberately followed the instructions to turn in the Amulet, because, coming from Morrowind, I figured that would be absolutely necessary for survival, first time out.

      But, with a lot of later playthroughs, I did the same thing you did, ignored the amulet, and just ran off and derpped around.

    2. Incunabulum says:

      I’ve honestly thought that bethesda could do themselves a huuuuge favor by ‘streamlining’ their next game and dropping the MQ.

      Just have a huge world, lot’s of interesting side-quests, factions to join and work with, etc, and have all the big ‘world-shaking’ stuff just be background action that *influences* what the player can and can not do – but he only moves on the periphery of this stuff at best and never gets to be a major influence in the big show.

      Instead it looks like we’re getting another ‘but though must’ style ‘savior of the world’ questline in the next game.

      1. flyguy says:

        i couldnt really find any relevant news on TES 6 other that its not happening now, but your point is interesting. While I wouldnt call it “streamlining”, to have the sole focus on ‘side content’ and general freedom of adventure would be pretty cool. But only if you’re the sort that really likes an unguided narrative.

        I feel that many players are drawn in the middle. They like having some direction, but not too much, and would like some impetus as to what to do. Main quests do that, and can help introduce them too all the side content. I think most everyone scurries off to do their own thing after awhile, whether that be the first couple of hours or 40 hours in, but also that most people like a little push out the gates.

        Main quests can also tie the whole game together. Cool idea though.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          But only if you're the sort that really likes an unguided narrative.

          Id say thats a majority of people who like tes games.

        2. Incunabulum says:

          I think having the sidequests being the main action would be a great middle ground between truly unguided narrative (such as, say, Minecraft – where you make the narrative up completely) and mainstream gaming like Batman or CoD (where the narrative is completely linear).

          You’d have a wide degree of latitude to make your own story but there’s enough of a world narrative there to give context to your actions – especially when comparing experiences with other players.

          And it’d add in a level of verisimilitude that the vast majority of games lack – how many games are there where you can actually just be a drifter doing what’s needed to get from day to day rather than the CHOSEN ONE!!!!!111!!1

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well,thats basically new vegas.Also original fallout*drink*.

        3. I don’t really like a completely undirected game, but I’d rather have a “meta-quest” than a “main quest” in a Bethesda-style game. I’d like to have a reason to “do stuff” but not have the main quest line be a discrete series of quests with a beginning, middle, end, etc. Particularly the end, because then I’m like “so what do I do now?!”

          Instead, I’d rather have a system where everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that you do somehow works toward an overall goal. Looting, questing, crafting, buying houses, gathering artifacts, EVERYTHING ties in to this goal.

          Now, I well realize that if they just put in some sort of “DO ALL TEH THINGS!!!” game meter, it’ll be idiotic. But, to me, they kind of need SOMETHING like that, only actually neat and well-designed and tied into the gameplay and story.

          Like, say, for a Fallout 3 style game, a great meta-goal would be to create your own settlement basically from scratch. You’d have to do things like:

          a.) find a location
          b.) find some people to live there
          c.) build shelters for those people
          d.) get them food
          e.) get them weapons/armor so they can defend themselves
          f.) bring in lots of resources so they can start some kind of farming operation to continually feed themselves
          g.) get a doctor
          h.) establish industries
          i.) establish a reputation to bring in trade
          j.) get equipment for trade caravans
          k.) find people elsewhere worth trading with
          l.) help those people with their issues so that trade picks up even more
          m.) deal with politics
          n.) upgrades to cottage industries
          o.) endlessly bringing in more people and upgrading the facilities
          p.) declare yourself god-emperor

          I mean, at least it would delay the inevitable “break the economy beyond all hope” stage substantially.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            Aye, I like this idea. Witcher 3 sorta did this in a way with the end of this sentence delivered in an almost comically high pitch? In that it’s at least possible to view the overall goal of that game to be: “I dunno, just Witcher stuff I guess.”

            It did have a well-defined Main Quest along the way too, of course, so if another player were to focus on that and thus were to tell me I’m talking nonsense I’d not have much in the way of a comeback! But to me at least, the main plot felt like a particularly intricate and well-developed strand of Stuff Wot Geralt Got Up To, rather than there being a fairly bright line between Main and Side, as with Skyrim or similar.

            One thing I’d say is that if a game were to pull off what you’re suggesting, it wouldn’t have to be 100% focused on the overall goal. 99% would be sufficient! There’d still be room for the odd … oddity – like the Quest to Recover the Soot-Blackened Frying Pan in W3. (Which I guess actually was sneakily part of the tutorial, so may not be the best example.) But this is an addendum to your point rather than any contradiction: you’d obviously need to set things up properly first and get the overall goal right before you could start finessing it a little.

          2. Will It Work says:


            I’m hoping that parts of this make it to Fallout 4. Since you can build your own base, how much of a stretch would it be to do something about the local economy?

            If not, I’m sure there’ll be a mod. After all, children got shoved into Morrowind, didn’t they?

    3. King Marth says:

      You saved the world through inaction! Best hero, danger didn’t even bother attacking.

      The suspension of disbelief towards saving the world requires that you think bad things would happen if you did nothing. Otherwise you’re just some random citizen/mercenary, not a hero. Link may spend his time chasing Cuccos or playing shooting galleries, but there’s always something ominous on the horizon that might conquer/destroy the world if he actually gave up being the hero. Open worlds are dangerous here if certain critical events gate the overarching stakes but not your exploration. The framing story of Assassin’s Creed seems to address this well, even if the relived memories didn’t have calls to action you’re still presented with someone who needs simulated assassin experience so there’s always background danger you can be a hero about.

    4. evileeyore says:

      Ditto. It wasn’t until after my third play-through that I was wondering what the main quest was supposed to be and deliberately looked it up in a walkthrough that I found out about Oblivion Gates.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        This is the one TES game where I have actually never finished the main quest (though I did check how it ends). That place where Rutskarn says people finish the MQ eventually? Yeaaaah… I played Oblivion quite some time after it came out and, as a side effect, my first experience of it was with mods. Lots of mods. Basically by the time I was done with the guilds, and daedric quests, and Shivering Isles, and most of the mods I was also largely satiated far as the game was concerned and the main quest wasn’t interesting enough to keep me playing.

  3. Matt Downie says:

    One thing I like about Oblivion and Skyrim is how the main quests don’t feel that urgent. When I’m role-playing a character, I feel bad about fooling around breeding chocobos when an asteroid is supposedly going to destroy the world at any moment. But having a few dragons flying around, or a few demon gates that seem to pose no danger to anyone who stays away – these are things I can safely ignore while I focus on decorating my house.

    1. manofsteles says:

      The main quests in Oblivion and Skyrim were written to feel much more urgent than Morrowind’s.

      You’d hear about Kvatch all the time from random strangers, and once the Oblivion gates opened, there were dozens (or more than a hundred?) until you either closed them or finished the main quest. Skyrim’s quest was in a way more insistent since the dragon shouts couldn’t be used until you killed the first dragon outside of Whiterun (which also used constant dragon attacks to just nag you).

      Morrowind told you up front that you may or may not even be the Nerevarine; that you should just try and see anyway. But Caius Cosades and even ole Tiber Septim himself seemed resigned to the Empire falling into decay anyway.

      1. Michael says:

        There were actually only about 7 gates. It might be a little higher, but not much. If you run through the main quest you’ll have seen all of them.

        That said, they spawn all over the place. There’s something like 100 Oblivion gate spawn locations. Nine or ten of those are fixed, and will spawn in every playthrough. The other ninety will spawn randomly based on where you are in the main quest. And there’s a hard cap for how many can spawn during a playthrough, which gradually goes up as the main quest progresses. So you can’t start grinding them immediately. But, all of them will point you back towards one of those seven gate worlds.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          According to the wiki,there are 10 fixed gates and 50 random ones that appear in any of the 100 locations.

          1. SyrusRayne says:

            This confused me as well at first, but I think he means there are only 7 unique gate ‘dungeons’.

            1. Michael says:

              Yeah, I phrased that poorly. I can’t remember if two copies of the same gate actually link to the same world space, or if they’re just copy pasted, (I think it’s the latter), but, this is Oblivion we’re talking about.

              Either way, with gates, if you run a bunch of them, you’re going to be seeing the same over, and over, and over… :\

            2. Damien says:

              And given all you have to do for any of them is touch the stone at the top,

              You can either:
              Spend forever grinding your way upwards, ruining durability on your gear.

              Nude up for maximum speed, have a couple of options handy and dash all the way to the top ignoring everything on the way up and have each gate done in 2 minutes

              1. manofsteles says:

                You make a good point about simply dashing to the end of the Oblivion gate as a way of mitigating their monotonous design. It is quite unfortunate that crawling through them is so tedious, since they were clearly designed to contrast Cyrodiil itself.

                The tedium of crawling through those dungeons could have been severely mitigated by retaining the traversal spells of Morrowind, which would have added to the player empowerment that was so severely lacking due to the game’s level-scaling and narrative focus on Martin (at the expense of the player character).

                Many players lamented the expansion of fast travel in Oblivion and Skyrim, but unfortunately they were necessary given the much larger scope of the game worlds combined with the lack of traversal spells and the additional tedium of exploring those worlds. With Morrowind, at least the game world was unique enough to spur the player on to explore it and traversal spells were available largely before tedium set in; the worlds of Oblivion and Skyrim were of higher fidelity, but much lower interest.

      2. flyguy says:

        i hear you on this. They certainly are written to be more urgent out the gates, but the absolutely don’t feel like it. You hear about kvatch, and everyone is talking abotu dragons, but in general the world seems to be okay with it. Oblivion gates for me were more of a nuisance than a reminder that the world needs saving.

        The whole feel of Morrowind gets darker and more absurd as it draws you in. Those dungeons were horrible, but as ruts puts it up top, everything about the world is tied into the main quest. Its integral to the playthrough. Oblivions is not. Skyrims is mostly tied until near the end.

        1. manofsteles says:

          I agree that the feeling of the Oblivion gates is much less urgent than the developers seemingly intended, because they not only serve as the main motivation for finishing the main quest, but because their minimal effects on the game world are quite underwhelming.

          When I tried to immerse myself in the game world, the low threat level of the Oblivion gates themselves severely undermined the urgency of the main quest, and that is ultimately to the games detriment. Unfortunately, the use of dragons in Skyrim was not much better, and ended up merely as annoying as the Oblivion gates were.

          It’s too bad, because the feeling of impending doom could have made an otherwise monotonous dungeon crawl feel much more exciting and impactful. We know that dragon attacks occasionally achieved that when NPC lives were at stake. Although, I found practically every vampire attack to simply be even more annoying than dragons, and thus I felt driven to deactivate Dawnguard from my load order.

      3. Hermocrates says:

        I think one of the important differences is that some of Morrowind’s main quest objectives are literally “go out and see the world, join a guild, freelance, whatever”. By gating quests to your level, and making early levelling take so long, you actually have to check out the guilds and side quests. And add on to that the lack of a compass, and you’re bound to come across random quest givers and dungeons to explore while hunting for your next location, so the exploration just felt really natural to me while playing Morrowind.

        In Oblivion, on the other hand, I felt like I had to explicitly ignore any main quest objectives if I wanted to get any side questing done, which meant either losing my immersion or feeling like my player was really lax about their duties.

    2. KatN says:

      Huh, I feel opposite way, actually. Morrowind was the least urgent of all, I think. When you first meet Caius, he straight-up tells you “hey you might not be up for this yet, maybe go join a guild or do some odd jobs until you’re less of a schlub.” Even as you progress, there are lots of opportunities to meander around. There is very little that must be done IMMEDIATELY. Oblivion and Skyrim might not actually be urgent, but they constantly nag that you’re a hero and you have a job to do dammit! Stop slacking!

      It’s something I always appreciated about Morrowind, because it always felt more appropriate to approach the main quests after becoming a more fully-formed, well-equipped character. Finishing it, being acknowledged as the hero of the land, and then going around to apply for guild toadie feels very bizarre, but it’s how my first playthrough of Skyrim went because that was the way the game pointed and the level scaling meant that there wasn’t anything to stop me.

      In Morrowind, my meanderings felt completely natural. When I play Skyrim, I’m constantly occupied rewriting details in my head about why some diversion is excusable for all but my most apathetic characters. Or at least it did before I installed the alt start mod that lets you disable being dragonborn. (I haven’t played oblivion in a long time because it occupies this weird space between the strengths of morrowind and skyrim and I don’t find it nearly as enjoyable)

      1. manofsteles says:

        It seems like the urgency (or lack thereof) of the main quests were each very deliberate decisions on Bethesda’s part.

        The lack of urgency in Morrowind seems to reflect the narrative fact that the player may or may not even be the chosen Nerevarine (which is a compelling narrative thread in itself). In addition, the NPCs such as Cauis know that if the player does try to take on Dagoth Ur, he/she needs to powerful; thus the game mechanics facilitate and encourage the player to become ridiculously powerful relative to the environment.

        Whereas in Oblivion and Skyrim, the main quests are written to feel more urgent because level-scaling (in theory) should allow the player to tackle them pretty much at any time. Hell, in Oblivion, making the player feel ridiculously powerful seems to be the opposite of what they want since the last cutscene involves Martin making the ultimate sacrifice to defeat Mehrunes Dagon, with the player just watching.

        Thus, the urgency of the main quests seem to go hand-in-hand with the level-scaling (or relative lack thereof)

      2. Chauzuvoy says:

        I think the difference is less about urgency and more about narrative connectivity. In Morrowind, because your goals are so vague, it’s basically impossible not to feel like you’re advancing them. You’re doing the same basic actions of joining a guild, crawling dungeons and exploring in both games, but in Morrowind it’s written so that screwing around in the world like that is encouraged by the main storyline. In Skyrim and Oblivion, you have a clearly-delineated goal at each step and a quest marker directing you towards it. The quest writing also suggests it’s more urgent, with quest givers urging you to quickly rush to the next plot point before it’s too late (even though those plot points are scripted to happen the second you arrive and not a moment sooner). When you do side quests under those circumstances, you’re choosing to delay the important business of stopping whatever world-ending catastrophe in order to play something more interesting. And that’s a really easy way to break the connection between player and character for the sort of player who thinks about it.

        I’ve always liked the obligatory area in more linear RPGs where you have to earn someone’s respect or get enough money or whatever before you can advance to the next plot point. In Shadowrun: Dragonfall, for example, the bulk of the game is set up like this. You need to buy information about your objective. And the way to get the money to do that is by taking side jobs. They’re still side quests. There’s a whole collection of different options and you can pick and choose which ones to do or turn down, and they’re all pretty smartly written and build the wider world but aren’t related to the events of the main story. If you choose to do side quests instead of the main story, it creates a disconnect. If the story is written such that you do side quests to advance it, then those disconnected side quests are at least tangentially related to the main plot, and completing them is in alignment with your character’s wider goal, rather than in opposition to it.

    3. RanDomino says:

      Oblivion’s MQ story is literally “The barrier holding back Hell just evaporated and they’re invading”. It seems like a bigger deal than “a half-dozen mooks standing around a couple portals waiting for an adventurer to come and kill them” but that’s all they do absent MQ scripted events. There’s a mod to make things a little more dynamic (demon squads randomly attacking cities, imperial squads randomly attacking gates) but it was released in an unfinished state with some very amateurish and unnecessary faff and it seemed to conflict pretty badly with my other 180 mods.

  4. Da Mage says:

    You did not just say the Mage Guild questline was good. They took a character that had achieved godlike status from Daggerfall and turned him into a squishy High Elf with a staff. Sure the beats were fun (ring from the well, the various necromancer investigations), but the ending was terrible.

    I think this is where Oblivion (and later Skyrim) started to go wrong with their storylines. Every Elder Scrolls game re-writes parts of the lore from the previous, but Oblivion was the first game that re-wrote things to make it simpler.

    By the time Oblivion rolled around we had a huge amount of lore to work with, and the writers only used the most basic aspects. They also re-wrote aspects, but the never explained any of it to make up for the deep lore they were replacing. Take for example the Shivering Isles gate. In the base game all gates are closed at the end of the main quest, so with the expansion they just hand-wave away the rule they had JUST made.

    They continued on with that into Skyrim, never let existing lore restrict your cool story twist or set-piece moment. Especially if you can do a single line hand-wave or just ignore it completely. (A prime example is Keening in Skyrim, which in Morrowind would kill if handled without Wraithguard, an important plot element, but can be used just fine in Skyrim).

    1. Flip says:

      He said it was fun.

      Yes, it’s not perfect lore-wise. But the quests are good.

      There is a quest where you have to find an invisible guild member.
      One where you have to go down a well to find a useless ring and a dead former guild member.
      One where you are sent to get wood for your own mage’s staff.
      One where you search for one of the guild’s undercover spies.
      One where you have to get rid of a group of vampire hunters and a group of vampires. And you can choose how to do it.

      The same is true for the other guilds. This is the reason why I prefer Oblivion over Skyrim. Skyrim has a good world. Oblivion has good content.

  5. Neko says:

    Is jumping into another Oblivion gate a dangerous but familiar task or a tedious chore?

    The second one. Oh gods, the second one.

    1. manofsteles says:

      It really didn’t help that the environment design of the Oblivion gates was so bland. Sure, they were really cool the first couple of times (especially if your graphics card was new and shiny), but the dozens of gates ended up as tedious and boring as Skyrim’s dozens of draugr ruins. It didn’t help that they tended to be much longer than Morrowind’s boring dungeons.

      1. Gabriel says:

        Don’t forget your armor breaking halfway through. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

      2. Couscous says:

        They were easy and quick enough once you realized you could quickly run through them without fighting any enemies as you ran for the key that ended the dungeon. If you cared about loot from whatever those Oblivion loot containers were called, you could also just grab those while running through as the game pauses when you open a container. This was aided by there being only a few Oblivion gate maps.

        I recall there being closed gates in some of the Oblivion gate maps that you could easily get past by just jumping around the gates. You were in the air enough usually that you could just run and jump to the side of the gate and then back onto the other side of the gate without even needing really high acrobatics.

        I can’t imagine anybody actually going through all of them the normal way without going insane.

  6. Henson says:

    I never finished the main quest. I was playing a sneaky thief character in a game system that clearly did not support it, got to the secret cultist cave where I had to steal a secret book, had all my equipment taken away, and told to get out without dying. Which I invariably failed to do. Worse, I didn’t even know how to get out; the game wanted me to figure out how to escape while dodging (and failing to dodge) a dozen cultists’ lightning bolts. With a character not designed for combat. I gave up.

    1. Ilseroth says:

      Actually I did the same thing. I played my Khajiit the same way I played him in morrowind, which is to put absolutely 0 points into endurance. As a result, I had extremely low health maximum when I decided to take on the main quest. In addition I wore light armor and only used daggers.

      Oh and should I mention that I was level 30 when I decided to take on the main quest? Anyone who knows the daedric monster pool at level 30+ it consists of enemies that have absolutely ludicrously high HP values, that I was killing with a little pokey knife.

      1. GloatingSwine says:

        The HP pools are so vast at high levels that killing anything is tedious and the best strategy is to stack damage reflect so that everything that hits you beats itself to death.

        Best bit was that damage reflect and damage resistance were applied seperately, so you reflected 80% of the enemy’s damage and then resisted 85% of whatever was left.

        Bethesda are not good at balance.

    2. Hal says:

      The dynamic leveling of the world means you have to make a combat-focused character, or else the world will become too dangerous for you to go out into it. I remember the exact moment this became clear to me with my first character.

      I, also, had made a sneaky, thief-like character. I’d taken to travelling the roads because the wilderness was too difficult to sneak through. The roads are supposed to be safe, right? Except, as I was on my way between two cities, I ran across a troll sitting right in the middle of the dang road. It’s attacks took me down way too quickly in melee; not that it mattered, because my attacks did too little damage to overtake its natural regeneration, and I had no source of fire damage to counter that.

      I bashed my head on that for a while before realizing I needed to start over and carefully consider my skill usage and stat allocation.

  7. Raygereio says:

    This in the inventory [snip] This is useful if you’ve got a controller and a headsplitting aggravation if you’ve got anything else.

    I don’t know if you’re going for the “this aspect of the game sucks, surely this is because it was made for the console-tards”-thing.
    But Oblivion’s GUI (and Skyrim’s for that matter) does not suck on the PC because it was primarily designed for the consoles. It also sucks on the consoles.
    Bethesda is just terrible at designing usable GUIs and seems to prefer form over function (and generally fails at the “form” bit as well).

    1. Ilseroth says:

      He isn’t jumping to this conclusion, this aspect was specifically mentioned by the developers in interviews. Morrowind was released on Xbox due to it’s success on PC and the menus on it were even worse then Oblivion. Because of this they specifically made sure to tell everyone that they made the menus more reasonable for console…

      Now granted you are right, they suck on console AND pc… but at least PC can mod it away.

      1. Destrustor says:

        I was introduced to the franchise with Morrowind on the Xbox, and I think Oblivion’s interface was absolutely worse in every possible aspect.

        I really wish they’d go back to the gridlike menu one day. At least you could see more than five items at once.

      2. Raygereio says:

        Because of this they specifically made sure to tell everyone that they made the menus more reasonable for console…

        That in no way implies that Bethesda designed the GUI for consoles first and foremost and usability on the PC suffered as a result.
        All that marketing line said was “we made sure you could use a controller”.

    2. dp says:

      The only decent UI “form” Bethesda ever achieved was the zoom-out effect when opening Skyrim’s map. Of course on the functional side Skyrim’s map is only superior to Oblivion’s terrible map by virtue of actually using the entire screen.

    3. Piflik says:

      The inventory interface was even worse in localized copies of the game. I can only speak for the German version, but the small boxes lead to horrendous abbreviations. A ‘Minor Healing Potion’ was translated to ‘Schw. Tr. d. Le. En. W.’ (not kidding), which was short for ‘Schwacher Trank der Lebensenergie-Wiederherstellung’. This is the worst item I remember, but others were bad, too.

      Incidentally, Oblivion was also the last BethSoft game I ever purchased in a local store, since BethSoft insited on only including German and French in these copies. I was forced to import the (cheaper) UK version in order to get English text and voices (still don’t understandy why…I can get behind having just the English language in the UK version, but cutting it from the editions sold on the more expensive German and French markets is stupid…to add insult to injury they still had a big ‘100% Uncut’ sticker on the DVD-case despite missing the original language…).

      1. Raygereio says:

        Let’s be honest here: No mortal can design an interface that’s ready for contact with German.

        Bethesda does seem to be doing odd things with their localization. The North American physical release of FO4 will apparently include English & French.
        I get that Canada is a thing that exists. But wouldn’t Spanish speakers be a non-insignificant market?

        In case you didn’t know though: Bethesda has given Steam access to all localisations for their games. So you could just pick up a local copy and set the language to English in your Steam library.

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          Well, by “North America”, does Bethesda mean the actual geographic continent that stretches from the Arctic Circle to the Panama-Columbia border and including the Caribbean countries? Or do they mean the “North America” market of global business, which often means “Canada, the United States, territories and possessions”, whereupon Mexico and Central America usually get lumped into a “Latin America” market? I still agree it’s dumb not to offer a Spanish-language option, considering there are more Spanish-speakers in the USA than the entire population of Canada, and they’re already producing Spanish-language localizations for other markets anyway.

          1. Jeff says:

            From what I’ve gathered off conversations with folks in South America, the “Latin-American” software market is absolute shit. Things end up so massively overpriced that piracy is impossible to avoid if you don’t want to spend a month’s wages on a game.

  8. Christopher says:

    The mention of cutscenes surprised me. I have barely played Oblivion(tried it last year on PS3, it felt and looked like a worse Skyrim, quit before I was out of the cell), but one of the things with Skyrim is that I can’t remember a single “cutscene”. Instead it’s all NPCs talking to one another while you’re free to move around and toss their stuff around, or alternatively being frozen while someone talks at you, which are both Half-Life 2 stuff. Did Oblivion seriously have a lot of cinematic cutscenes? With below Skyrim-level character models and animation? Sorry if I’m reading too much into a sentence, I get it if it’s just more cinematic compared to Morrowind.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I think before Skyrim the entire gameworld would freeze whenever you entered a conversation – so for example if you managed to select an NPC whilst in mid-air, you’d spend the rest of the conversation just hovering there! And you certainly couldn’t wander around trying to put buckets on their heads to pass the time.

      I’m a little shaky on the terminology to be honest, but I’d guess when this happens and you have NPCs talking to each other (and not just one guy talking to you) these are what you’d call ‘in-engine cutscenes’ rather than ‘cinematic’ ones. And I don’t know Oblivion very well, but I don’t think there are many/any of the latter.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        There aren’t. But the in-engine cutscenes were still a big change to the dynamic aesthetic of the game, the NPC were, at least occasionally, doing stuff r elated to the conversation!

        On that note I did have one amusing experience with these. I was going to mention it when Skarn first wrote about scripting in Oblivion but ultimately forgot. I think it was during the mage’s guild questline, though it’s been a while so I could be misremembering, I was supposed to talk to an NPC, easy enough seeing how we now had quest markers. Well as it turned out for some odd reason (I’m willing to blame mods since my first experience of the game was already heavy modded) he was taking a walk along the riverbank with a nice view of the Imperial Capital rather than, as I learner later, hanging around in his proscribed place within the city. I talked to him, he told me some stuff afterwards he turned away from me and continued on his merry way… leaving me frozen in place. I killed the game, reloaded my last save and repeated the conversation again, with the same result. Eventually turning to a walkthrough/wiki I learned he was supposed to walk over to a cupboard, or into another room, or somewhere and come back to give me an item but because he was so far away from the location he was supposed to be at the walk there and back took him forever (especially at his leisurely pace). Eventually I just did the talk, watched him leave and then went on to do something else, checking on the game every 5 minutes or so till he eventually found his way back to me*.

        *Yes, right now I would probably just check the NPC code and use the console to port him to me at the spot near to where he was supposed to be but it was a more innocent age for me.

  9. Bropocalypse says:

    I think there is room for compromise between console and PC inventory interfaces. It would require more than the bear minimum of effort though, so it would never ever happen.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So no more having nice things in pictures to balance the stuff said in the text?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      A fair bit of niceness in the text, though, so thus the balance is maintained?

  11. James says:

    So because of how Bethesda games work, i recently booted up oblivion for the first time in like 3-4 years, and ofc i have the GOTY Edition because it was probably £2 in a steam sale.

    I’m in the process of escaping the prison after the opening, after ofc making a character that’s not completely horrifically ugly and suddenly some of the DLC’s begin activating i get somehow “told” about a lady that sells horse armor, at this point i’m still in the dungeons next to the prison, who told me this!

    A little later i’m in the goblin caves before the Emperor died and someone delivers a “note” telling me i own Forstag Spire and then a few steps later Dunbarrow Cove ect ect.

    Finally im about to enter the sewers and i get a “rumor” about Mehrunes Razor.

    It’s like getting informed about the outcasts while im 10

    Oh Bethesda you so stupid

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Aye – I had similar with Fallout 3, although at the time I didn’t realise they were DLC quests, so I just got progressively more baffled. “Do what? Where? Radio station? I have a radio, do I? Aargh! Slow down! Which of this stuff do you want me to do first?!?”

      All became clear pretty quickly, of course, but it did spoil that emerging-from-the-vault moment just a tad.

    2. swenson says:

      Every game does this. I just started a new ME2 playthrough (due to Shamus’ series on the games) and you get bombarded with like eighty emails immediately about all this stuff to do and armor to wear.

      Can’t they spread it out a little?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Or put it somewhere else.For example in the main menu.Where you can pick and choose which dlc to activate and when.And then not pester you in game with it at all.

        Incidentally,that is how witcher 3 does it.I think you can find some info about it in the lore book,but nowhere else.The dlc quests do exist as markers on the map,but they dont autostart.

      2. James says:

        this is actually most annoying with the arrival DLC which i want to tackle later but it triggers after horizen and while you can ignore it after the convo with hacket the convo makes it feel important and urgent and it feels wrong putting it off.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Oh how I wish the SW crew did a special on the Arrival DLC. That thing was such a mess of epic proportions in virtually every aspect…

      3. Raygereio says:

        The problem is that if you hide the DLCs’ action in a options menu somewhere, people will bitch and moan about not being able to find the DLC, or how much effort it is to go to the options menu. And yes, that is something people will actually do.
        This is one of those things where there is no real right way to do it and a lot of it depends on what sort of infrastructure the DLC works. Generally the simplest sollution of just activating all the DLC at a set point tends to be the best way to go as it causes the least amount of headache for the devs and support.

        I think what most people here are forgetting though is that the DLC is being made with the assumption that those buying it are still playing the game. Meaning they will have an ongoing game where they will add the DLC to it.
        For example ME2’s Arrival was released at the end of ME2’s support cycle and was clearly intended to be installed on a post-finalmission save.

    3. RanDomino says:

      This is the mod you’re looking for

  12. Benjamin Hilton says:

    One thing I really like about the main quest in Oblivion is that for once you are not The Chosen One. You’re a guy helping The Chosen One to succeed. I thought that was a nice change of pace.

    1. Ciennas says:

      Ugh. I suppose knowing that you’re not supposed to be the chosen one is alright, but narratively I always felt like I was Alan Rickman’s character in Galaxy Quest.

      After running through all of Mundus and Oblivion and Mankar’s Paradise in pursuit of Martin’s goals, I became irritated that Martin never left Cloud Ruler Temple.

      But ya know fine, I thought. Only so much Sean Bean they could afford.

      And then after having single handedly fought off entire armies and continents worth of dudes, retrieving artifacts of eldritch horrors and mortal remains of gods and whatever else have you….

      He has saved us. Martin Septim has saaaaaved us.

      I felt really underappreciated for my contributions. I was honestly a lot like Shamus felt when dealing with Reaver, back in Fable 2.

      It only felt better when Sheogorath offered you the keys to the Shivering Isles, as he didn’t need them anymore.

  13. SharpeRifle says:

    Wait….Martin was Sean Bean…..HOW DID I NOT FRAGGIN’ REALISE THIS!?!?!

    I am a horrible horrible fan…..
    *locks self in closet in shame*

    *opens it briefly*

    He really DOES die in everything doesn’t he?

    *locks back up*

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Non-figuratively (this is what it has come to) LOL. I’m sure he won’t stay mad at you for long with a name like that.

    2. squiddlefits says:

      You haven’t watched The Martian by any chance?

      1. Chauzuvoy says:

        I mean, his career dies, right?

  14. SyrusRayne says:

    So I’ve noticed this a couple of times, both here and elsewhere, and it got me to wondering…

    Some people say “player” when referring to their in-game avatar. As in, “my player died”, that sort of thing. Why is that? This isn’t meant as a judgement of anyone, believe me, I’m just genuinely curious. Where does it come from?

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m betting it’s a shortening of “player character”. Your name never appears in the game, so you can’t say “Carth died” or “Emperor Picard died”. The player might not even remember their character’s name. And everyone in the world has a different name for you: Recruit, apprentice, acolyte, commander, guildmaster, archmage, etc.

      So if you can’t remember a proper name for your avatar, you default to calling them “player character”, but then that’s long so it gets chopped off.

      That’s my guess.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      For me,it depends on how defined of a character I am playing.If its a well defined character,like shepard or geralt,I usually say my NAME OF CHARACTER.If its a character that I basically get to built up from scratch,like in baldurs gate or in saints row,then I usually say just I.Its not a solid rule however,and I often swap.

      Perspective also plays an important role here,because Ill rarely say “my freeman”.

    3. Joe Informatico says:

      Shamus’ theory sounds plausible. I’d wager it might even date back to early 80s arcade games, when someone playing a game was identified by the game as “Player 1” or “Player 2”.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Often it were “1UP” & “2UP,” etc. – which always mildly bugged me for no very sensible reason. Certainly nothing I can put my finger on. And it was presumably for good reasons to begin with: saving the extra bytes for something more important, perhaps. Still, it irrationally bugged me anyway! – just a tad.

  15. Phantos says:

    I recently played through Oblivion just for the ‘cheevos on the Xbox. That game’s main quest is like the Fade from Dragon Age mixed with the Deep Roads from Dragon Age… and then another Fade, and then two more Deep Roads, and then a Deep Road and three Fades, a Deep Road and another Deep Road.

    Also, the interface is absolute garbage, I agree. Especially the map. I can confirm that the inventory/quest log stuff is mind-numbing and unwieldy even with a controller. Which is pretty sad, considering this game was clearly designed around using a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard, so I can’t imagine how annoying it to play this on the PC.

    And yet I still enjoyed playing this game more than Skyrim. I don’t know if that says more about me or about the Elder Scrolls series.

  16. TheVictorian says:

    If one is talking about unmodded games, then Skyrim is easily superior to Oblivion, simply by virtue of having a level-scaling system that isn’t nearly as absurd.

    But with the right mods, it’s possible to beat Oblivion into the shape of something approaching quality. Skyrim, however, is so shallow and dumbed-down, and features such exceedingly dull quests, that no amount of modding can do anything to save it. Maybe that’s why so many mods are dedicated to turning female characters into plastic Barbie dolls with H-cup breasts and anime hair. (I think the moment that defined Skyrim’s modding scene was when I strolled into the Skyrim Nexus one day and saw that one of the featured mods was titled “Schlongs of Skyim” and described as “framework for customized, animated and dynamic assignment and management of male genitalia.”)

    1. Sartharina says:

      Oblivion’s modding scene is just as ‘bad’.

      That said, I find it amusing that Skyrim had working dick physics before it got working boob jiggle (Of which there was no end of in Oblivion).

      In fact… I found Oblivion to be infinitely worse in the “Anime + Big Boob Characters” mods, given how every custom race ever tended to be dependent on that goddamn Anime Hair mod, and HGEC was the dominant female body replacer.

  17. Gordon says:

    Oh, god, rutskarn, can you please explain your title image for this oblivion leg? Because holy hell do I despise that smug friggin face. Who even is that? Why are they the title image? Is that just your means of reestablishing how awful oblivion’s faces are?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I think that’s Brother Jauffre – he’s the guy you go and see to really get the main plot rolling … and as such probably deserves any and all criticism! :p

      He does look particularly freakish above due to the titlecard overlay – he looks a bit cooler here, for e.g…

    2. Hal says:

      Unfortunately, the faces remain one of the worst elements of Oblivion. Although graphics were improving, facial animations were really in a bad “Uncanny Valley” for Oblivion. This wouldn’t have been so bad, but when you entered a conversation with an NPC, the game grabbed the camera and zoomed right in there. Eesh. The worst graphical element of the game was constantly shoved in your face; bad choice on the part of the dev team.

  18. General Karthos says:

    My major problem with Oblivion was the scaling of the enemies to levels and the levels themselves. If you focused on more diplomatic skills like speechcraft and mercantile skills you would wind up utterly DESTROYED in every fight after just a few levels, and if you put a single point a level towards speechcraft and mercantile, you would wind up utterly DESTROYED in every fight after 10 levels or so. The only successful build was one that focused on fighting skills 100% and ignoring any of the non-fighting skills. Magic worked okay, but when you ran out of mana (and you ALWAYS did) you were completely screwed. So you had to be a fighting build and you had to focus only on fighting, or else you got whomped.

    (Or you could spend half an hour running from a troll, hitting it with arrow after arrow after arrow as you ran until it FINALLY died, then repeating the process 19 times until you managed to clear the dungeon enough that you could barely avoid dying as you went through the rest of it for a handful of gold pieces and an artifact too valuable for anyone else in the world to afford. Not my idea of fun.)

    I enjoyed Oblivion up until you hit the mid levels, and then it became a pointless slog. And the difficulty of the main quest ramped up just like the rest of the game as you gained levels…. A friend of mine used the “orbs” or whatever they were in every Oblivion dungeon thing to gain 100% chameleon by reloading. So after a point he was totally invisible to everyone, even while he was in combat, but then, Oblivion, like all the games could be broken.

    In Morrowind, it was potions. Your ability to make potions was based on intelligence. So you drank an intelligence potion, and while your intelligence was boosted made another one and another one, etc. My brother eventually made potions that gave you 1,326,205 strength for 127,349,296 seconds, or something like that. You could kill EVERY enemy with a single swing. You just had to remember not to jump or you’d clip entirely out of the game world.

    1. RanDomino says:

      Oblivion XP and OOO/FCOM absolutely save Oblivion. Oblivion XP gets rid of Do X = Improve X and replaces it with generic XP for doing things (killing things, completing quests, alchemy, reading a book for the first time (which necessitates the Book Tracker mod), etc); get enough XP and you gain a level and get to assign attribute and skill points. FCOM replaces most levelled content with mostly static encounters (i.e. a given bandit will always be level 5 and always have rat-gnawed leather armor and a rusty sword rather than Daedric armor and glass weapons worth more than most small villages).

      If they ever release Oblivion Enhanced Edition it will just be FCOM.

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I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

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

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