Skip to main content

Mocking Success / Killing The Grind

Following up on my discussing restarting a character in Oblivion, I fell off the suspension of disbelief train and straight into realizing that even a 94/100 game has something worth mocking.

The worst failing of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is that, on the most basic level, it's a role playing game.

Now, I probably know what you're thinking: Hey, I've enjoyed RPGs before. Sure, there's something uber kewl about a game where you can play somebody else and have more fun than you do in real life. However, somewhere along the line it became all about the power. The ph4t l00tz and m4d st4tz, comparing your e-peen to the rest of humanity's because, lets face it, you need that kind reassurance when you're being subconsciously reminded that you didn't achieve much in real life while you were filling your leveling bar with pixels.

This is an old story because the smart game developers realized this problem and started to design away from it. World of Warcraft's accelerated grind, zero to sixty in 500 hours is a whole lot less than EverQuest demands.

Oblivion did a pretty good job of keeping the grind to a minimum, so much so that players came out with mods that slowed down the leveling process. Yet, the grind still exists, even in Oblivion. Where does the beast live? How do we slay it for good?

Well, I had waxed reflective about this extensively on a certain discontinued think tank, and came to realize exactly where the grind exists. It exists when you stop having fun and the developers are dangling something that you believe should make the game fun just out of reach. So, you mentally injure yourself trying to get that foozle and, just like that, grind city includes population you.

So, anyway, what does this have to do with Oblivion? Just this: I've been trying to play Shivering Isles for over several weeks now. It's a well acclaimed new expansion with uber graphical effects and content, maybe a little buggy, but unfortunately a strange kind of grind has been getting in the way. It's not the character progression that's been the problem: Oblivion scales; you can wander wherever you want. It's the content.

It makes for a weird grind - usually the problem is that the grind is keeping the content away, but Oblivion gluts you with content. It drops you in the game with a main quest line that consumes maybe 20+ hours. If you want to benefit fully from cooperation with the Mage's guild (perhaps to flesh out those needed spells) there's another 20ish hours. If you have Knights of the Nine installed, there's another 15+ hours. Those are small potatoes: the side quests and temptation to explore every ruin can take up hundreds of hours. Basically, what we have here is a story grind, a non-linear game that hits you with linear-feeling obligations.

Now, I realize this is partly having to do with my competionist attitude, but that's really nothing new. Which sounds more arbitrary to you: [Spoilers:]
  1. "I want my character to act like he believes Daedra invasions and rampaging long-dead Alyeid murders are higher prioritizes than becoming a disciple to a mad god."
  2. "I want my character to act like he believes he needs the vorpal axe of slaying badly enough to spend 72 hours camping mobs that aren't worth experience to him for that added +5% damage boost."
They're both pretty ridiculous, and reflect the overall limitations of many RPGs to spin a compellingly realistic tale.

Oblivion is not a perfect game, despite its acclaim. Still, I look forward to seeing Bethsoft's next efforts, including Fallout 3 (now that they've bought the rights). They may not be perfect gamesmiths, but they've improved a lot since Redguard and Terminator: Future Shock.


Popular posts from this blog

Resonant Induction Really Grinds My Gears... In A Good Way

From about 2pm yesterday until 8pm today, I've been dabbling with my latest custom mod mix for Minecraft 1.6.4, which is this time very much Universal Electricity focused.
Aside from the usual GUI enhancers and Somnia, the primary contenders in this mix were:
Calclavia Core - Of course: this is the base of the Universal Electricity system.Resonant Induction - This seems to be largely focused on increasingly more advanced methods of refining ores divided across 4 ages of technological progression.  It also includes some really cool things such as assembly lines.  I'll primarily be talking about just a few blocks out of this mod today.Atomic Science - A mod dedicated to generating more of those lovely universal electricity volts via the power of splitting the atom.  Build your own nuclear reactor!  Deal with nuclear meltdowns!  You maniac!ICBM - A mod dedicated to generating more destruction using those lovely universal electricity volts (and more than a little gunpowder), it cer…

Empyrion Vrs Space Engineers: A Different Kind Of Space Race

In my quest for more compelling virtual worlds, I have been watching Empyrion: Galactic Survival a lot this bizarro weekend, mostly via the Angry Joe Show twitch stream.  What I have concluded from my observations is Empyrion is following in Space Engineers' shadow, but it is nevertheless threatening the elder game due to a greater feature set (the modding scene notwithstanding).

Empyrion is made in Unity, whereas Space Engineers is built on a custom engine.  While this does put Empyrion at a disadvantage when it comes to conceptual flexibility, its developers nevertheless have a substantial advantage when it comes to adding features due to a savings of time spent that would have gone into developing their own engine.  Examples include:
Planets.  Empyrion already has planets and space to explore between them, whereas in Space Engineers planets are in the works but still awhile away (so you just have asteroid fields to scavenge).Enemies.  Space Engineers' survival mode boasts onl…

Greasing The Grind: Adding Lasting Appeal To Virtual World Sandboxes

Game design, being about entertainment, is not as much science as art.  We're coming up with interesting things that the human mind likes to chew on that "taste" good to it.  Different people find different things, "Fun," and a game designer is tasked with coming up with fun, appealing things.  As pertains to virtual world sandboxes, I identified three of them.

Challenge Appeal.

Dwarf Fortress and Fortresscraft Evolved have the same end game appeal preservation mechanic: wealth equals threat.  The more money your Dwarf Fortress is worth, the bigger the baddies who will come for you, including a bunch of snobby useless nobles who do nothing but push dwarves around and eat.  The more energy you make in Fortresscraft Evolved, the more and bigger bugs come to shut down your base.  Rimworld does something a little different based off of which AI Storyteller you choose, but it generally adds time to your wealth accumulation when deciding what kind of threats to throw a…