The Altered Scrolls: Q&A, Part I

By Rutskarn Posted Wednesday Feb 24, 2016

Filed under: Elder Scrolls 75 comments

For those of you just tuning in: I wrote twenty posts of Elder Scrolls retrospective, then turned around and asked people to prompt even more of it. Some of these questions expand on points I’d brought up before; some ask me to predict where the franchise is going. There are plenty of both kinds. Expect these twice a week until we’re across the finish line.

Mr Guy asked:

If you were the design lead for the next game, what are the top 5 things you'd add, remove, or change?

My own biases are going to be kept at arm’s length from my answer. If Bethesda gave me the role of lead designer I’d aim for their identified market and respect their core methods–I’d settle for pruning away outright dysfunctional elements while leaving controversial evolutions, like unkillable NPCs, intact.

My list would run down like this:

  1. Assuming I could find a workaround to the technical obstacles, I’d work on implementing flying mounts and magics. I maintain that’s the next killer app for TES games–it adds a literal new dimension to the open world, speaks to a common empowerment fantasy, and looks fantastic in trailers and screenshots. It’ll serve as a rallying point for journalistic and fan coverage the same way dragons centered coverage of Skyrim.
  2. I’d add events to gathering places like inns and taverns–say a dozen very minor scripted events apiece, plus a half-dozen slightly more involved events, plus a few more dozen radiant happenstances not tied to location. These wouldn’t happen incredibly often; maybe every third time the player enters a tavern for the first time that day. Taverns are narratively places to unwind, catch some drama, and have interesting conversations with semi-drunk strangers–but in practice, beyond your first visit, they’re socially dead and bankrupt of amusement. The only reason to go there is if you need to find an NPC for a quest and they’re not at home. I’m always disappointed there aren’t more reasons to go out on the town in RPGs, and this would be a good place to start experimenting.
  3. Not in the game, but in reality, I would add signs over every dialogue writer’s computer asking: How is the player going to feel about this conversation and what can they IMMEDIATELY do about it? The first time I catch someone writing an NPC who’s an abusive threatening jerk that can’t be verbally or physically rebuffed, that writer gets transferred to close-captioning ogre belches.
  4. Very early in development I would set up a team to brainstorm ideas for new, technologically feasible avenues of noncombat magic that unlock within combat magic tracks as mastery increases (see my thoughts on what’s probably going to happen with magic below). Some thoughts: being able to look through walls, jam all doors for monsters and NPCs in an area while the spell button is held down, teleport short distances Dishonored style, make NPCs walk to selected points and stand there for a moment. The game is past the point where you can afford to specialize in things besides fighting, but it’s intrinsic to an immersive, rewarding fantasy experience to provide distinctions between sorcerers and howitzers…especially when they turn out not to be very good howitzers.
  5. I would add a more involved and widespread system of diagetic fast-travel that there is incentive to use as well as the standard click-the-map method. I understand the player needs to be able to click a map point and teleport instantly, but there’s a nice frisson of immersion that comes from heading down to the caravan depot or whatever that’s worth preserving. Perhaps taking rides gives “leads” on whatever radiant quests (bandits, hauntings, etc) that’s happening around your destination.

James asked:

Do you think that Bethesda will continue [removing limits on player behavior], removing things like mana restrictions on high class spells? or similar decisions

Yes and no. They will absolutely continue consolidating mechanics, but it’s going to go further than that.

To be honest–I don’t think we’re going to have skills next time around.

I think the days of having a half-dozen kinds of magic to specialize in are as dead as the days of having a half-dozen kinds of weapons to specialize in. Oh, you certainly can favor axes or swords in Skyrim, but only as offshoots of your One Handed and Two Handed disciplines. In previous entries skills existed to define what your character could and could not do, which was basically the same as defining who your character was. Bethesda’s current target audience doesn’t care as strongly about that; they feel no satisfaction in narrowing their build that compensates for the frustration of gear and spells and factions becoming inaccessible. This is in large part because most non-hardcore RPG nerds have no interest in creating a dozen characters to experience content a dozen different ways if they can create one supercharacter and experience everything the first time. Bearing this in mind, ask yourself honestly–what’s the point in having a wall between Restoration and Destruction? Because it “make sense?” It’s a fantastical gameworld structured to deliver exploration-based power fantasies. What “makes sense” is what works best for the player.

My earnest, rock-solid, definitely-not-going-to-date-this-series prediction is that by TES 6 you’re going to open your character sheet to see something on the order of Magic, Stealth, and Weapons. Each will have a tree letting you buy perks/specialties, because people like those little choices and it’ll help make the character feel unique–but at the core of the experience a character who is proficient in Magic will be able to do all the magic stuff, no problem. Nobody will be left out of anything even related to their character build.


John asked:

A silly question: why are people so worked up about spears?

You know, people gave a lot of reasons for this one, but I think a big part of it boils down to: spears used to be in the game. They used to define a playable race. Now they’re gone, nothing’s replacing them, and it’s symbolic of the overall streamlining process the series has been going through since Daggerfall where something can get cut just because it’s not iconic or essential to the experience.

Dragmire asked:

How much do you think the happenings in Skyrim will affect the next game? Do you think dragons will be said to have traveled around the world so they show up in all the sequels?

Here we come around to another one of my “Skyrim changed everything” predictions. I think we’re going to see more direct continuity next time than we have before–we certainly won’t get a direct sequel, and I doubt it’ll have dragons, but either the Thalmor are the villains next time around or modern Bethesda is even worse about setting up bullies you can’t take down than I thought they were.



From The Archives:

75 thoughts on “The Altered Scrolls: Q&A, Part I

  1. Da Mage says:

    The Thalmor have to be the big bad next time, you don’t set up an entire game with a sub-plot about how they want to ‘destroy the world’ (or rather, use magic to kill everyone not a Thalmor and ascend to energy beings), and then write them out before the next game…or worse, string them along through another game.

    I assume they have done some series writing between Oblivion and Skyrim, similar to how they seem to have done writing for Oblivion, pre-Morrowind.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Skyrim being my first Elder Scrolls game, I was so furious when it turned out that the DLC didn’t include two things.

      1) A way to deal with the Maven/Thieves Guild/Riften situation other than toadying up to them (i.e. help Mjoll do what she was originally there to do).


      2) Kill the fucking Thalmor.

      I used to make a point of stopping by their stronghold each game and slaughtering them. It was ridiculous that they were set up the way they were and you could so nothing about them. Both of those two really. It just doesn’t fit with the way the rest of the game works (kind of like Rutskarn’s complaint about abusive jerks in dialog).

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I’m kinda happy about 2 actually? When I played vanilla I was actually worried they would cover it in a DLC and this was way too big of a plot for a DLC to properly handle. Unless you mean locally in Skyrim? Than yes, there really should have been some kind of questline where you break their powerbase in the land, and I mean explicitly not just “implying that the Stormcloaks will deal with them”.

    2. Jokerman says:

      “you don't set up an entire game with a sub-plot about how they want to “˜destroy the world'”

      But if anyone might do that… it would be Bethesda.

    3. DjordjBernardChaw says:

      I’m not sure they do but I would agree that they should play a major role at least in the setup, if not in actually being the villain.

      For example, it wouldn’t be completely crazy to have the Thalmor pull off some sort of cataclysmic event, and when you enter is to clean up the aftermath. I could see a story like that, even with no direct conflict with the Thalmor ending up satisfying that narrative arc with a compelling resolution.

      I don’t think it’s likely, but I’m not sure they just have to be the villain. There are a lot of other compelling stories that could keep the story going without you having to murder loads of Altmer. Summerset is one of the locations I am least curious to see. Hammerfell, Black Marsh, Elseweyr, Valenwood, and even High Rock sound a lot more interesting to me.

  2. Majikkani_Hand says:

    What do you think the game might look like if the game was set in the Summerset Isles AND the Thalmor were the Big Bad?

    (Personally, I’d love a game like that, if somebody other than Bethesda wrote it, but I think if Bethesda’s writing it the better combo would be Thalmor and Hammerfell, since they’ve already established some of that conflict. Sort of a you’re-the-last-ones-standing type thing.)

  3. Dragmire says:

    Well, in hindsight, those dragons didn’t really like being very far away from their nests anyway…

    Too lazy to fly off the island nation.

  4. Khizan says:

    Flying mounts would be an awful idea, imo, for all the reasons that WoW has gone against them in Warlords of Draenor.

    The end result of flying mounts is that when I want to go someplace I jump on the mount, shoot 500 feet straight up, then straight-line it to where I’m going and go 500 feet straight down. While a single player wouldn’t have the problem of “You never see any other players in this MMO”, it would retain the problems caused by the player flying over all the lovingly detailed environments, all the interactions/resources/quests/etc that you have on the ground, and it generally breaks everything outdoors up into direct A to B hops. Granted, that’s not that different from instant travel, but instant travel at least demands that I run there first; flying mounts, on the other hand, I just straightline it until I’m above the quest marker.

    You’d have to design the game entirely around flying to counter all those problems and in the end it wouldn’t really feel like a TES game.

    1. Bespectacled Gentleman says:

      They already did flying mounts. In the Dragonborn DLC. And it sucked.

      1. acronix says:

        It was a very lame attempt at it, though. Not that I blame them. I don’t think their engine was designed for flying capabilities and collision in mind.

        1. Richard says:

          What TES needs isn’t flying mounts. It needs the cape from Super Mario World.

    2. acronix says:

      That’s a very MMOish problem, because in those games you are expected to repeat content ad nauseam. So of course the players cut corners to make it all faster. I don’t think WOW has airborne combat, either, which just makes flying into a ‘no combat’ immunity zone. You can fix that in TES by having airborne or anti-air enemies that are capable of fighting you even if you are fliyng around. You can also design locations to make flying inconvenient. Just how in real life you wouldn’t drive a helicopter into a thick forest.

      Plus, Fallout 4 already gives you a flying mount after you get enough perks and levels: the power armor with a jetpack. And that one I think worked pretty well.

      1. Khizan says:

        Sure, you can do all that stuff, but that’s part of the problem. When you introduce flying mounts you have to introduce a non-trivial amount of content just to stop them from trivializing content. No fly zones to prevent you from just airdropping into quests. Flying guards/mobs/encounters to prevent the ’empty world’ feeling.

        Flying adds a ton of problems that require a lot of work to fix, and and all of that work just adds something that’s basically just a replacement for fast travel.

        1. Ambitious Sloth says:

          As a counter point though, all those things you described players doing do fit pretty much within the “Do Anything” power fantasy Bethesda seems to want to make. The process of: get on your mount, fly through the air, land directly onto conflict is pretty in line with how the design their games. It doesn’t work perfectly, and there would be the problem of missing content on the ground. But it’s not functionally different instant fast travel and it would make the players feel empowered. Even if there was nothing up there.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            I also don’t see too many complaints that levitation spells in Morrowind detracted from the game.

            1. Khizan says:

              Everything broke Morrowind, as I understand it.

          2. Khizan says:

            There’s a huge functional difference between a flying mount and fast travel, and that’s that fast travel can’t take you anywhere new.

            If you can fast travel to somewhere, you’ve walked there first. With fast travel you can give me a quest for a mountain keep that’s only accessible by a trail and be confident that I have to run up that trail at least once, so that you know that I’ll pass by the escaped prisoner telling me that the Count’s gone mad or the guards who arrest me as a spy or whatever.

            Give me the same quest with a flying mount and you either have to use some sort of anti-flight plot device or deal with the fact that I might miss all the content on the trail. The former ends up being lame and cheapening the flying mount concept. The latter is lame because you either just go “welp, then you miss it” or you put all the content right at the front door so I can’t miss it, which makes it too predictable.

            1. Syal says:

              Put the fort key on the path, make it so you have to escort someone up there, just put the important stuff indoors.

              Alternately, and better in my opinion, make the content something to seek out rather than something that happens to you while you’re busy doing other stuff. Get to the fort and have a guard tell you about the prisoner who escaped and is likely somewhere on the path, and now you have a reason to walk down there and find them.

              1. LCF says:

                Likewise, don’t give the ending of the quest in the quest presentation.
                Rather than saying “Walk all the way to the mad viscount and kill him”, say “Things have been strange lately at Summerborough. You might want to investigate”.
                This way, one can either walk, ride or fly to [quest zone], hear tall tales of terror, discover hidden stuff, political agendas, intrigues, monsters, and so on, without the possibility of flying hurting the game.
                Now, I know, it means actual quest writing and storytelling instead of the usual MMO “kill 25 Flaming Penguins”, but I’m pretty sure it’s feasible.
                Also, content will be missed, kindly get over it. If your choices are meaningful, doing one thing often will prevent you doing the contrary. Satisfying one party will bring you the opponents’ hatred. Strife and conflict make for good stories.

    3. flyguy says:

      I mostly disagree with this, but almost entirely due to difference of opinion. I think flying mounts could be awesome, and if Beth put some quests/content into the flying aspect it could be amazing. Floating islands or something. Before you go off and tell me that there isnt anything like that in tamriel, beth can always go to akavir and just make stuff up. I hope they dont, because akavir should just sit and stay weird.

      Regardless, i was one of those people that walked everywhere in skyrim. Never used fast travel, never even used the cart system. Let me say, that game was not at all designed for this approach. It immersed me as i played, but the quests threw me out everytime. Being able to fly around, rather than just fast travel about, would be awesome. Even moreso if they let you have full Z-axis control. Doubt they’ll implement it well though.

  5. stratigo says:

    Being a history nerd, the lack of spears bothers me because it eliminates the single most common weapon pre modern era. I’d literally rather see them get rid of swords :P

    1. Kamfrenchie says:

      Not having spears in a medieval fantasy game is like not having rifles for a ww2 games. Or stugs/panzer4/t34

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        Well, not exactly. World War II occurred in the history of the real world. Tamriel doesn’t actually exist.

        1. Halceon says:

          That… is not how metaphors work.

          Anyway, spears aren’t some cultural artifact that only occurs in history by chance. Long stick with pointy end ““ the production cost/combat effectiveness ratio is phenomenal. As long as they’re using an approximation of realworld physics an economics, which TES are, it really doesn’t make sense that the people would choose to not have any.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          The argument “maybe it’s a reality where they didn’t develop spears” is obviously something of a lampshade. Spears (and pikes, and javelins…) are the application of the simplest concept in armaments: the pointy thing. The lack of spears is actually more of literary tradition/memetics argument than alternative history argument. A big part of it is the same as for the omnipresent platemail, this is the image of “the knight/hero” that has been passed down additionally warped by hundreds of years of cultural mutation past when this kind of gear was actually in use.

          A lot of the spear’s best features do not translate well into modern fantasy (and pre-modern-fantasy heroic literature in general, though I think they show up in some ancient works, I’m pretty sure there are spears in use in the Iliad): spears are relatively cheap and relatively easy to mass produce, they are fairly usable with a minimum of training, they gain a big advantage when used by a large number of people… all of which hardly matters when we’re dealing with a singular hero from either a noble background or in a heroic fantasy setting*. The basic tactic for someone armed with a spear would also be to take advantage of the range and basically make it impossible for the opponent to even attempt a blow, something which does not translate well into a narrative, especially in the day of visual media, to the viewer who is more interested in the drama than an accurate depiction of combat it may even appear “unsportsmanlike”. Not to mention the reasonable way to use a spear is less visually appealing to the clashing of the blades and doing “flashy combat” with a spear (or other polearm) is both way harder and requires more room (I’m pretty sure it’s more common in anime but they don’t have to bother with laws of physics, the actor’s abilities or the set).

          In games spears offer an additional challenge in term of being “weird” mechanically (extra reach but relatively pinpoint attacks), you can bet that if people had spears they’d like to throw them, which again the game could not be balanced for, they are carried and used in a completely different way than a sword, axe or mace requiring extra animations (in terms of games those other weapons tend to be treated interchangeably, a swing is a swing, let’s please not get into actual difference in their use or we’ll be here all day).

          *Do note that, if we’re talking polearms, the “pike wall” is present in a lot of mass combat modern fantasy battles, and virtually omnipresent in fantasy or pre-industrially set strategy games.

          edit: and this is what I get for typing a comment for something close to an hour, beat to the punch.

          1. Dork Angel says:

            I was thinking alone the same line. Spears were cheap and were used mainly for hunting. if someone attacked you though they were a handy pointy object. Tactically they were generally either used on mass (Phalanx/shield wall) or throw and follow up with sword and shield (Roman legionnaire). They never really came across as a “heroic” weapon bar perhaps in Kung Fu movies.

            Game wise they would require much different animations when attacking (as you stab rather than swing) and also to block against (unless using a shield you parry rather than block). That would also mean a parry animation for every creature you stabbed at as opposed to the generic block. Even blocking with a spear would be weird as you watch the two handed sword bounces off the wooden halt of your spear. Unless with spears you couldn’t actually block, just dodge instead. Or if you did block, it broke the spear.

          2. stratigo says:

            This still fails if you expand spear to polearms of all shades. A polearm of some sort is by far the most common weapon of the plate armored men at arms.

  6. some random dood says:

    “Mr Guy asked:

    If you were the design lead for the next game, what are the top 5 things you'd add, remove, or change?”

    Now you make me want ask “If you were the design lead for the next game and allowed a completely free hand to make the game you want in the TES setting, what would you do?”

    I would really like to know what type of game you’d try to create unshackled by the expectations of others. (Though maybe tempered by the reality of hardware limitations. Or not. Your call :) )

    1. Matt Downie says:

      Elder Scrolls RTS?
      Elder Scrolls Kart Racing?

      1. Da Mage says:

        Elder Scrolls Racing:
        Can you beat Emperor Septim around the Imperial Palace Track?
        Try to avoid hitting the Ministry of Truth as you race around Vivec.
        The ghost of King Lysandus will pester you as you look to get the fastest time in the Daggerfall after-dark map.

        I dunno, doesn’t seem too bad an idea.

      2. Xapi says:

        Unrest: Skyrim Edition?

      3. MrGuy says:

        Elder Scrolls Pachinko Machine

        1. mhoff12358 says:

          You /monster/.

      4. Syal says:

        Elder Scrolls Teaches Typing.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Elder Scrolls teaches how to write dialogue. That would be quite a stretch!

          1. Blackbird71 says:

            Easily fixed.

            “Elder scrolls teaches how not to write dialogue.”

            1. MrGuy says:

              The Elder Scrolls Center for Kids who Can’t Read Good.

              1. LCF says:

                He he.
                You miswrote “Centre” in a literacy joke.
                Nice one!

  7. MrGuy says:

    Mr Guy asked:

    If you were the design lead for the next game, what are the top 5 things you'd add, remove, or change?

    Woo! First Post!

  8. Orillion says:

    Re: Spears
    Another thing that bothers me about spears is that they’ve kept maces and warhammers in their early-period fantasy setting despite them historically not being commonly used until the age of thick breastplates and full-plate armour.

    Now, this is obviously down to maces and warhammers being able to share animations with regular one- and two-handed weapons, but Bethesda is now a company with a practically unlimited budget, yet they seem less willing to have a wide variety of combat animations. Compare Morrowind (with its wide AND close two-handed weapons and thrusting attacks for all types) and Skyrim (one universal set of animations for each weapon skill, all of it slashes, with a couple of animations different between greatswords and warhammers/axes).

    And almost any other bit of streamlining *can* be fixed via modding, from levitation magic to even thrown weapons (sort of. The mods for that didn’t work great, but they worked) but adding a new set of first- and third-person melee animations, linking them to weapons, and having it all not look like complete trash is completely out of the scope of what modders can reasonably do. Even tying a new animation set to a melee weapon is insanely hard to do without breaking stuff.

    This is also why spears haven’t been modded. Not because of a lack of interest, but because it’s impossible for someone without the source code and a motion capture studio.

    1. MrGuy says:

      I think it’s less about needing different combat animations and more about needing different combat mechanics and tactics.

      A spear can be a melee weapon. You can thrust with the point of it. Sometimes, you can also use the shaft of it in close combat (depending on the spear’s length). A spear can also be a missile weapon if thrown. Some particular spears are optimized to one use or the other, but just by their nature, introducing spears means a melee weapon that you can also throw. Witness the somewhat ham-handed approach in FO:NV, where there were some throws you could fight with but not throw, and other spears you could throw but not fight with (both of which were called “knife spears,” because why not?)

      And then there’s a question of if it breaks, can you recover it, etc. What happens if you risk throwing your legendary spear of awesome at a foe, and it disappears into a crack in the level geometry? Tough luck?

      Spears have awkward aspects to how they can be used in combat. If the foe is at a distance, they’re effective weapons. Heck, they should in theory knock back a foe (yet another combat difference to model). Ideally, you make it that you need to keep the point of the spear aiming at the foe, and they can’t close without impaling themselves. Making that work is tricky (And making AI that WON’T impale themselves is tricky).

      If the foe has closed to within the point, they’re problematic, because they really SHOULDN’T hit. Do you model this (and so have players complain about not being able to fight in close combat)? Or do you add some non-realistic “swipe attack” to the spear (and here other players complain about how unrealistic that is)?

      Spears (at least, realistic ones) don’t work with a “just keep spamming attack” approach. Spears aren’t slashing weapons, or finesse weapons. They’re designed for a single properly aimed thrust at the right moment. Which likely means they won’t work like other weapons, and so be frustrating.

      You could get around this to some extent by making spears be ONLY thrown weapons, and ignore any “that’s not realistic!” complaints, but it’s not clear if that will satisfy the people who really want spears.

    2. Incunabulum says:

      The thing is – Bethesda is *not* in a position of having a ‘nearly unlimited’ budget.

      This isn’t funded like a Kickstarter where people pour in money and get a copy of the game back, they’re *investors*. 99% couldn’t care less about the game, only the ROI. So the vast majority of the money Bethesda makes off a game goes right back out the door to pay off the people who loaned them the working capital (with interest).

      Given their tack record at success, they probably don’t have a lot of trouble getting investors but that also depends on what the expected rate of return is.

      EA tosses a cheap game out every two years but the budget is (relatively) small and the ROR is high.

      Bethesda may be turning out a good game every 4-5 and though it sells well, it costs so much to do that the actual ROR is much smaller in addition to having to wait longer to see the money.

      Its not like all the profit goes back to the company and is then sitting in an account waiting to be spent on the next game.

      1. flyguy says:

        Yeah, yeah, this seems right. You definitely cant say Bethesda has unlimited funds. But comparing them to EA seems wrong. EA is a publisher, and beth is a developer (for zenimax) and while they dont turn out a title that often, you can sure see that, seemingly, Skyrim and TES-online must have made them some money, or at least, as i believe, have made the cash flow easy. They really seem to be stepping up production lately!

        My guess is that the ROR for skyrim was pretty great, and that it enjoyed a nice long tail of sales helped by repeated DLC expansions. They put a lot of that money back into TES-online and i have no idea how that’s doing for them. Cash flow must be nice though, seeing as they have just pushed out FO4 and have dishonored 2 coming up. So yeah, 3 games (and dlc) in 5 years. Not bad.

        1. Incunabulum says:

          Well, Bethesda is a developer *and* a publisher – just depends on which subsidiary we’re talking about at the time. Everyone tends to just assume there’s one company named ‘Bethesda’ rather than two with slightly different names that include ‘Bethesda’.

          But, whoever ended up with the profit – BGS, BS, Zenimax Media, a good chunk of it went to whoever fronted the money in Skyrim. Same with FO4.

          And instead of tossing out another clone every two years (as soon as people drop off playing the MP) they seem to be working on getting a stable income stream through over the course of a couple years post-release. It looks like there’ll be a shorter gap between the end of FO4 content and the release of their next game (*probably* TES VI) than between Skyrim and FO4 or any of the earlier games.

          1. Da Mage says:

            If I remember correctly it was Oblivion’s success that pushed them to self-publish Fallout 3 and ZeniMax was formed. And ZeniMax at that point was a bunch of Bethesda employees who just had their job name change.

            Pete Hines used to be head of marking/press stuff or something at Bethesda, but then went to run “ZeniMax” once it was started. Since then ZeniMax has grown into it’s own thing, but I still reckon its pretty blurry between Bethesda Softworks the Publisher and Bethesda Game Studios the Developer.

            And they banked on that confusion for years, with silly marketing ploys like “From the people that brought you Fallout 3” when selling Brink.

      2. Tizzy says:

        Also, the cost of extra animations in Skyrim vs Morrowind. Not the same, I imagine…

  9. Vermander says:

    The one feature I’d really like to see is NPCs/Factions who treat your character differently based on your status/fame/level of power. Once you’ve become the head of a guild or lord of a hold ordinary people should start treating you with more respect, or at the very least not feel comfortable asking you to run errands or minor quests for them. Maybe after a certain level you start acquiring squires/apprentices/disciples who you can send to take care of the simple “fetch” quests.

    By the time you’re killing dragons and banishing demons in front of a dozen witnesses you should be held in awe by most of the populace. Simple bandits and thugs should flee from you and even more powerful or dangerous bad guy factions like the Dark Brotherhood should approach you with extreme caution.

    On the other hand, if a demon lord hears that you’ve been steadily taking out all of the other evil powers one-by-one maybe he’ll decide to be proactive and come after you before you decide he’s your next target.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      I think that idea would make Bethesda’s head explode. “You mean the peasant wouldn’t ask the Lord High Wizard to find her missing wedding ring? But then the player could miss out on quests!”

      1. ? says:

        That even makes sense in a “you are the only one who gets shit done around here, worth a try” kinda way. What would really be hard is stoping guards from mocking you when you clearly outrank them. Or those god-damn Companions questioning your skill after you single-handedly defend their home town from stormcloak assault. I didn’t see any of those werewolf bastards on the barricades!

    2. Falterfire says:

      I’d settle for what I consider the bare minimum – In addition to adding more dialog options to the ambient pool, doing further quests should remove ones that are no longer relevant. If you can add a flag to include the “So you’re a companion now, do you just fetch sweet rolls for them?” dialog when you complete the first few Companion quests, you can add one to remove it once you complete a few more quests.

    3. guy says:

      I really don’t like the idea of progressing locking out unrelated quests; if the quests aren’t entertaining they shouldn’t exist in the first place. Getting a higher status could swap the dialogue to be more respectful but shouldn’t stop you from helping people with their problems if you want.

      1. flyguy says:

        What if you get like a steward. Or a paige, or, as in skyrim when you because a thane, any type of loyal follower and you could get THEM to do the quests. Kinda like in the earlier Assassin creed titles, where you sent disciples to do stuff, but obviously more impactful and not boring and spreadsheet like, as it was in those games.

        Maybe your follower(s) could chime in on receiving these little quests, “My lord/thane/holiness/liege, send me to perform this task!” or you could elect to go along with them. Loyalty/affection/trust system? Unlocking follower quests this way? FO:NV and FO4 have something akin to this. it could be GREAT.

        1. Matt Downie says:

          If the quest is interesting, I want to do it. If it isn’t, they shouldn’t have included it in the first place.

          1. Cinebeast says:

            But some quests will be interesting to different people. You might prefer a dialogue-heavy quest to a fairly standard kill-the-thing quest, but you wouldn’t want to cut that second quest out completely if it appealed to some players (and vice versa).

          2. IFS says:

            This is Bethesda we’re talking about, they included a lot of boring quests in Skyrim.

        2. guy says:

          I wouldn’t mind being able to assign the quest to a subordinate, but if the quest is worth being in the game I want to have the option to do it myself.

      2. IFS says:

        I really like the idea of people getting more respectful (and eventually awed) as you gain reputation throughout the game. Fallout NV kinda did that in places with certain people according you more or less respect based on your reputation in their faction.

    4. Cuthalion says:

      Morrowind had greetings that changed based on how famous you were. So they’ve done at least the easy part before.

  10. Neil W says:

    Oh man, I’m going to have to raise my ogre belching closed captions game.





    1. Syal says:




      [ (JOLLY GOOD) ]

  11. Tizzy says:

    Fast travel in Skyrim has empowered Bethesda to write amazingly dull and pointless shit in their quest, and I hope they can grow out of that real fast.

    I imagine they have been guilty of it in other games too, but the one case that infuriated me so much that it’s still in my mind to this day is when the Greybeards ask you to organize the peace talks, and you have to run around the map to secure the belligerents assent.

    If there was anything at all at stake in dialogue, if you could somehow fail to convince them, this could be an important mission. As it is, it’s yet another pointless errand to pad things out. No one would put up with this shit if it wasn’t for fast travel. But why would you write such pointless errands in your quest chains in the first place? To reward players with your stellar writing?

    1. flyguy says:

      Ah ha. Did you ever play through morrowind? the final lead up to the end game is essentially the same thing as the greybeards peacetalks, but you are talking to even MORE people and the fast travel in that game was not point-click-go. It had specific routes and specific cities, many of which were NOT connected to the places you had to run to and talk to.

      1. Wray says:

        That seems better to me. At least there’s some weight to running around on foot and gathering a bunch of people. Fast travel just makes it seem stupid.

        1. guy says:

          Eh, I like the Elder Scrolls system as it is. I am not generally fond of being forced to retrace my steps repeatedly, and you do need to go somewhere on foot to unlock it. I do not think that having to do additional generic walking would make the peace talks quest more interesting to set up.

    2. Incunabulum says:

      I think its hurt FO4. The Power Armor is designed under the assumption that fast travel is the default choice. You don’t walk anywhere in it or you’ll run through a half dozen FC’s just getting to where you’re going.

      Its also an assumption for all the ‘Hey, General’ quests. The time limits are short and you’re not expected to walk over to the conflict zone but to jump over in FT, deal with the problem, then FT back to get the reward.

      Its why I think they’ve spent so little effort and actively oppose any sort of vehicle in-game – even a bicycle. As far as they’re concerned its extra work for too little pay off. This despite decently working vehicle mods in FNV and Skyrim (XRE Cars/Vertibird and there’s a neat wagon mod and an airship mod -Dev Aveza – in Skyrim).

  12. Neko says:

    So, I’m not convinced that rideable dragons would be a good idea.

    In WoW, they added flying in the Burning Crusade expansion, and ever since they’ve been trying to put the genie back in the bottle. Special zones where you can’t fly for Reasons, not allowing flying in an expansion until you reach max level and are best friends with all the NPCs and have found all the treasures… and as much as I enjoy flying around in the game, I can totally understand why it’s also a bad thing.

    When you can fly, suddenly all those jumping puzzles to get to that shiny thing you see on the hill are obsolete. All the careful detail you’ve put at ground level to make the world feel lived in won’t be visible. The terrifying zombie bears of zombie bear valley? You can just skip right over ’em, they’re big sacks of HP and you just need to get past them for a macguffin anyway. You’ll be back before lunch. And if you’re in a multiplayer game and part of the Hasn’t Got Flying Yet caste? enjoy having all your quest objectives ninja’d before your eyes.

    So you can design a bigger landmass so that when you have flying, the world doesn’t seem so tiny… but at the cost of detail when you’re walking. Or you can have a rich, detailed world at eye level… and fly across the whole thing in a couple of minutes.

    As for other forms of travel, one mod I really enjoyed in Skyrim was the one that made carts actually slowly move to their destination. I could go get a snack, or just enjoy the scenery. And if you need fast travel in a game, I like the kinds of teleportation magic where you have to have visited an area previously before it’s unlocked, or obtained some item – the Serpent Gates in Ultima 7 part 2 were nice, and didn’t feel unbalanced.

    1. LCF says:

      As stated above, you can add a social and roleplay dimension to solve the possible negative aspects of flying. Also, buildings/caves/etc to go into, which can’t be flown into. There are ways, we just need to get rid of the “everything is an MMO, always” mindset.
      And again, content will be missed. If people don’t feel like grinding through Zombears Valley of Agony today, they can come back later. Or they may grind XP somewhere else. Or not at all. Even in Super Mario, you can miss content. Why force the player to experience Everything or Else? What about roleplaying? What about freedom?

      (“Why do you hate our freedom?”)

  13. Grimwear says:

    I have a question for anyone who cares to answer. Now I know there’s always been the debate between Imperials and Stormcloaks (Skyrim was the first elder scrolls game I really played and actually beat) and I know each side has their reasons and beliefs. Now this has been dealt with on a diecast many moons ago and I missed my chance there but the Nords want their country back and are racists while the Imperial are pretty much silencing religion. I’m ok with that but what surprises me is that so many people continue to go Imperial. I realize the defense is that the Imperial Legion is the only thing able to keep the Altmer from full on invasion but my problem (and I’m assuming you do a “full” playthrough where you do all guild quests) is that when doing the Dark Brotherhood you assassinate the Emperor. I don’t know much about Elder Scrolls lore but wouldn’t killing the Emperor make the Imperials incredibly weak? I think that in Oblivion the line of special king people was ended so this new guy is just holding the title? I always assumed that by doing this I crippled the Empire as there would then be a conflict at home about who the new Emperor would be. Possibly even a civil war. Just by educated guesses minus a “that isn’t canon” or a “there was a seamless transition with no issues whatsoever” why would people choose that route?

    I do realize that you can choose Imperial before finishing Dark Brotherhood, or just refuse to finish the Dark Brotherhood questline entirely. Did Bethesda assume players would go Stormcloak and wouldn’t have a problem killing the Emperor then?

    1. Da Mage says:

      If you read the background notes in the MQ, you’ll see that the Thalmor “trained” and then planted Ulfric back into Skyrim in order for him to start a rebellion against the Imperials. According to the Thalmor, everything is going as planned in order to weaken the Imperial army by removing the Nords.

      Now about the Emperor, because of what Martin (why the hell does he have such a common name like Martin, there aren’t any Freds or Toms.) did in Oblivion by sealing the gates of Oblivion…..which was previously only sealed thanks to having a Septim on the Throne. Now the position is more ceremonial, and the High Chancellor of the Elder Council seems to have as much power as the Emperor.

      From what I’ve read, I think his death is just another catalyst for the upcoming second war with the Thalmor, along with the Nord and Redguard rebellions. Assuming Ulfric winning is cannon, it would leave only the Orcs as the fighting specific race loyal to the Empire.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I always point out to this. The imperials are the people who try to execute you in the prologue while the Stormcloaks are your fellow prisoners, they are the people who help (admittedly under duress) in stripping Talos of his divinity, which in a world of actual deities and magic could have all sorts of crazy consequences (and one theory supported by some in game notes actually suggests those consequences are exactly what some in the Aldmeri Dominion are hoping for), they are also, technically speaking, “the empire” while Stormcloaks are, technically speaking, “the rebel underdog” (the impact of this is lessened somewhat by adding Thalmor to the mix as the real villains)… and a lot of people still side with the empire. For anyone who hasn’t played think of how insanely obnoxious the Stormcloaks come off if, holding all of these narrative cards, they are not a default choice for some 90% of the players…

      1. modus0 says:

        To be fair, you were in a “wrong place, wrong time” position, and the woman in charge of the prisoners couldn’t care less about whether you were a Stormcloak or not.

        The Imperials weren’t explicitly trying to execute YOU, more that one Imperial officer didn’t care to take the time to sort out that you were A) Not a Stormcloack, and B) Innocent (maybe) of any crime other than trying to cross the Cyrodiil/Skyrim border at a point other than a designated crossing.

        You were sentenced to death due to laziness rather than true malice.

        1. Felblood says:

          Except that this actually makes them worse.

          The Empire has no compunctions about executing a few extra people who happened to be standing around, without trial, just in case they might be enemies. That’s not exactly their best foot to put forward, in the first 5 minutes of the game.

          A few of the other Imperial loyalists seem to try to imply that the camp commander there was a particularly hotheaded hanging judge, but the Stormcloaks seem to be the one who are concerned about things like a person’s right to a trial, even if Ulfric himself is a jerk and a pawn of the Thalmor. It would have been so much more satisfying if we got to confront her about that later (Stormcloaks could assassinate her, or Imperials could bring her up on charges), but Aldouin roasts her to ashes in the tutorial, instead. It’s a very Bethesda resolution to the first major character conflict of the game.

      2. Dork Angel says:

        I held off choosing a side for a long time because I could see both sides of the argument. I think was swung me to Imperial was the big picture (what is the best outcome for fighting the real bad guys) and hearing the Queen talk about Ulfric’s murder of her husband in a rather unfair duel.

  14. Tektotherriggen says:

    I have yet to play a Bethesda game, but it seems like crafting (of items, homes and towns) is getting more important over time. Do you see this trend continuing? How far could crafting systems go in games like this?

  15. Sylvan says:

    You know what would make the world more immersive? More interaction between zones, expansive patrols by NPC factions that can result in changing control of locations, and the ability of enemies to pursue the PC past doors.

    How many tense situations are resolved by going outside, and how little sense does that make?

    How messed up would it be for you to be picking potato plants when suddenly the farm you’re working is attacked by a patrol from a nearby Falmer den?

    What if you or other NPCs could be kidnapped, held hostage, ransomed, all organically without being randomly generated out of thin air by a quickly boring quest? What if you could make nice with a specific bandit faction, and be free to hang out at their respective dens and strongholds so long as their disposition remains up? What if you could actually see a war happening around you, and be able to sit to the side and watch it play out?

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