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Skyrim?

Skyrim?
« on: November 13, 2011, 11:52:27 pm »

So I have recently read a lot about SKyrim and the things that people talk about make the game sound really exciting. Beatiful places to visit, encountering wild mammoths, hidden civilizations to be found, dragons that can pop out of no where, giants that roam the world, conspiracies, etc. All this sort of makes me think of China Mievilles's Bas-Lag novels that took me to such a strange and wonderful place that is still stuck in my mind. Hearing about Skyrim it seems to emulate this kind of experience but really make ME be there and explore.

However, thinking back on my other forays into Bethesdas game worlds I think of hours of mindless violence, grinding, looting, lots of stale dialog, endless dungeons, the shopping-list-like quest system, item management, etc. All of these pure game like things that fill up 95% (if not more) of the experience. All of this makes not so keen to trying the game out. And this brings me to two questions:

- Is there any way I can play the game (or similar ones) and get a way from this somehow, ie making it to a proper adventure?

- Do the players that enjoy skyrim and talk about the fascinating events they encountered (positive user stories are almost never of the game elements), really want the gamey elements? Is it just something that they have learned to live with, or is it really an essential role? I am sure what kind of answer I would get if I asked, but unsure what the reality behind it really is.
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2011, 09:53:32 am »

Every week a new Best Game Ever. It's funny how that works. It'll be gone next week. Like all the others.

I'm sure I'll try it at some point, after that "next week". Wink

I've played Oblivion and people were saying the same thing about it then. But all I found was a rigid ugly game set in a fantasy-type world that I don't care about. Skyrim is set in the same world, it seems. I'm sorry. But I don't care about dragons.

- Do the players that enjoy skyrim and talk about the fascinating events they encountered (positive user stories are almost never of the game elements), really want the gamey elements? Is it just something that they have learned to live with, or is it really an essential role?

I wonder about that too. All. The. Time!
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2011, 11:01:06 pm »

I enjoy Bethesda games (mostly) both the settings and the gameplay. It is a very good game. Gameplay isn't a bad thing.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2011, 03:00:25 am by ghostwheel »
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2011, 08:55:51 am »

I also like gameplay although I found that it is mostly around stats management that all go towards be being able to kill stuff better. And I am not finding the killing as fun as I do in other games (say God of War), and that its pleasure comes more from knowing that you because of the stat management is able to kill better. I am finding this a big hurdle towards getting into the game because I have to see the world as a system of stats. For example, I played Fallout 3 and made the character I would like to play and just put stats in that way. This character sucked and I ended up running from scorpions for an hour and then quit. I tried again and made a character that I based around the Stats thinking, and then the game was much more enjoyable. But not in the same way that I tried to initially play, but with me seeing the world as a stats machine with some apocalyptic clothing. It lost appeal after a few hours of playing like this.

I also had similar problems in Oblivion, for example when I was in shop and simply wanted to check some stuff out I was accused of stealing, and thus had to learn a very mechanical system in order to survive. This kinda stuff continued, with me having to give up my expectations and imaginations of the world in order to learn the system behind it. This not makes the game impossible to play by any means, and I can still make myself feel somewhat present in a world in this state. I had no problem playing these kind of games when younger, but nowadays I feel that this added burden of having to look behind the facade of the game makes me lose my interest really fast and the stat management only feels like meaningless grinding.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2011, 08:58:34 am by Thomas »
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2011, 10:40:58 am »

Well, stats juggling is a carry over from the inspiration for all computer RPGs, pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons. It touches on Auriea's comments in that recent interview about her confusion about not understanding that some of these things gamers and developers actually enjoy. She was looking at it from an a very arty artists point of view. I am a geek. I grew up playing D&D. I really do like some of these gameplay tropes and think they add to the experience. Would a pure exploration game or "experience" be cool? Of course. That's what I'm doing with Zlythy. That's what you did with Amnesia. But that isn't an RPG. I went to art school as well so I understand the other side. But tropes and conventions are what make a genre what it is.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 12:43:55 pm by ghostwheel »
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2011, 11:54:48 am »

Also being into Warhammer and what not I can totally relate Smiley So I am guessing I am just expecting too much and not enjoying what is in there.

I am guessing part of the frustration is that RPG is a sort of a standardized way of creating an open world and use mechanics created because of the limitations of pen & paper. That not said that RPG elements as they are now are bad, and I do not despise them in any way myself. But I just have this nagging feeling that what they really try and deliver could have been made into a better way, but has not done so because of historical baggage. Because it is not the abstract notion of number crunching that is the most engaging part of the experience, but the feeling of connection to world and character.

At least for myself, the fact that a creature has a certain damage as such is the most interesting because it gives me deep insight into the world. It gives a framework that I can put myself into and feel as if I am part of the world, in the way that I can understand relationships in it (wraiths are invulnerable to normal weaponry because they have the stat of being magical creatures, etc).

This then leads to all kinds of (for geeks at least) interesting discussions of what can happen in this world, eg "How many goblins does it require to take down a Demon". Only using vague descriptions it is not possible to discuss these sort of things in a way that stats do. You can also get a  sense of what your character is capable of doing simply by looking at certain numbers and having a basic knowledge of how these number are distributed in the world (how hard locks are to pick, etc). Again using prose alone, these sort of things makes things harder.

At least, this is the most potent reason for having stats myself* and I think that there might be some other way to digitally and without explicit numbers do the same thing that. Would be interesting to hear what all else thought about this.

*along with the human need to gaining status of course, but that is not realted to this discussion.
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2011, 06:25:39 pm »

This is a great line of thought.  I also grew up with D&D & Warhammer.  Obviously the advantage those have is that you and your friends are still able to gather around and bring the human element into it, which the computer is wholly incapable of doing.  The quality of a D&D session is directly tied to the skill of your DM.  If your DM is a bunch of binary logic gates, you don't get humanly meaninful interaction.  Still, how many times do you remember just sitting around rolling the dice, and just re-rolling and re-rolling to see how buff you can make your guy?  That was fun, at the time anyway.

An interesting development in role-playing games has been the move away from stats and number crunching (now that computers do that better) and a move towards play-acting/improv with a very loose rule structure as a framework.  I've seen these called story games - an example here: http://bleedingplay.wordpress.com/geiger/.  I don't do pen and paper role playing any more, so I haven't tried any of these systems, but I do find them intriguing, and I often think about how the essence of these experiences could be wrangled into computer game form.
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2011, 07:05:55 pm »

I very recently was at a talk about the decline of Nordic roleplaying at conventions. Nordic roleplaying (with a variety of sub-forms) brought up extremely interesting conceptions about how to get rid of rules and pen-paper systems in various ways. I guess 'story games' are the contemporary American version.

These sorts of ideas are essentially the same that seem to be grounded in not-games and other alternative ways of looking at digital games. I have already in the past argued that there is significant overlap in the challenges they (the Nordic RPG avantgarde in the late 90's-early 00's) faced and those we are facing.
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2011, 07:16:55 pm »

I never really played role playing games but I've heard from many play-groups how they gradually stopped using the rulebook and just started improvising.

This thread + walking around a mountain today made me think of LARPs (which I have tried participating in twice) and how they succeed in so many ways where videogames (including our not-kind) fail, almost without even trying. Nowadays there are even more mature themes (not only elves and vampires) that can be quite amazing and possibly life-changing. One of my experiences was as a war refugee, sleeping a whole night in a tent with guards around us. Of course it's also very much work to arrange and play, but it's a very neat solution for making a game with awesome graphics, control-system, AI and level design Smiley
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2011, 08:54:39 pm »

LARPs are very interesting because in some ways they sort of simulate the perfect videogaming tech (as mentioned above, human-like AI, real-life graphics, etc), so it is sort of gives us a glance how far development in these areas can take us.

A problem that I see with LARPs, is those of knowledge and boundaries. Erik, I am interested in how these were handled in the larp you participated in. How much background did you have to read up on and what happened when you did not know stuff your character should know? And how were boundaries set up without making it forced, in terms of what you could do, where you could go, etc.

Also interesting in how your subjective immersion / feeling of presence was compared to a videogame?

I have only particpated in very non-serious larps when younger, so would be very interested to get more info on this.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2011, 08:56:49 pm by Thomas »
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2011, 12:57:40 pm »

Sure, the rules and stats are there as a framework. And honestly, I always found them to be a burden and as a DM would just pretend to make rolls and check charts and just tell the players whatever moved the story along. BUT as you also pointed out, they are an easy way to gauge your character's abilities. I'll be honest, they can and do make a clunky fit in an open world computer game, from a gameplay standpoint. You can see that Bethesda put a lot of thought into how to streamline, minimize and "hide" them to an extent. One of the things they did is seriously simplify the UI to increase the immersion, which I appreciate most of the time. Other times, I just want to see the raw stats so I can decide whether a Dwemer Sphere Guardian will be greasing it's cogs with my character's gooey insides.
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2011, 01:41:11 pm »

Quote
Other times, I just want to see the raw stats so I can decide whether a Dwemer Sphere Guardian will be greasing it's cogs with my character's gooey insides.

I guess this is the reason why stats are very hard to skip in gamey videogames like this. I might believe that the The Golden Dagger is best weapon ever, but it might then turn out to not do any damage at all. And because there is a lot of gameplay involving inventory management and shopping, I need to know what works and what does not. The alternative would be to have some hundreds of page tome that describe all details of creatures, crafting, etc so that I can learn how to make proper choices. But with stats I get that knowledge in a much simpler and easier to grasp way.
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Re: Skyrim?
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2011, 12:34:56 am »

Because it is not the abstract notion of number crunching that is the most engaging part of the experience, but the feeling of connection to world and character.

At least for myself, the fact that a creature has a certain damage as such is the most interesting because it gives me deep insight into the world. It gives a framework that I can put myself into and feel as if I am part of the world, in the way that I can understand relationships in it (wraiths are invulnerable to normal weaponry because they have the stat of being magical creatures, etc).

This is a fascinating line of thought. I like where you're going with this. I'm not sure where it leads either, but I'll be thinking about it. Thanks. Smiley
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