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New computer, new danger (pt2) - Oblivion
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 1:55 pm    Post subject: New computer, new danger (pt2) - Oblivion Reply with quote

I happened upon a shop selling Oblivion for $25 which seemed like a bargain, so I now have a new next-gen game. Note - I've only just got a decent cpu and graphics card (3.4GIntel + 7600GT) so games like Quake4, HalfLife2 and Oblivion are next-gen to me Smile

The problem I have with rpgs like the Elder Scrolls series is very similar to the problem I have with space sims like Elite and X. The idea behind them is extremely attractive - this isn't a game, it's an alternate reality where you can go where you want and do what you want. Usually the reality is a bit different:

1. complex user interfaces.

2. complex simulations that are difficult to master as they usually don't quite capture common sense reality i.e. you cannot actually do what you want or what might make sense.

3. unfocussed - you have too much freedom and it isn't clear what you're actually supposed to be doing.

4. very complex games taking years to develop that are so open ended and sophisticated they expose big cracks in our ability model the world at large. By that I mean they can feel clunky and rough round the edges. There's so much game here that little bits and pieces either weren't properly polished / user-tested or the developer never quite got them to work as you might have expected.

5. the player starts as a nobody and spends many hours either doing nothing of great importance (killing rats) or grinding his stats so he can get to the next exciting bit. It's interesting that the "next exciting bit" in this open ended extravaganza is usually a hand crafted pre-defined encounter that furthers the story.

For example, I was very excited by X3:Reunion - the ultimate space sim, but it was extremely complicated. I couldn't shoot anything, the interface was daunting and I didn't even make it to the end of the tutorial Embarassed . Ok, I could have read the manual again, printed out the keyboard layout chart and read a few online guides, but the Simpsons is on in 5mins and my dinner is nearly ready Smile Then there was the predecessor to Oblivion, called Morrowind. I had a little more success here, but within an hour or two I was lost in the wilderness with a long list of unfinished quests and little idea of how to proceed.

So it is with some trepidation that I installed Oblivion Smile

I've only been playing an hour, so we're definitely still in "the honeymoon" period. A friend of mine told me I simply had to install some of the more popular mods which clean up the user interface, redo the maps and change how vegetation is displayed. Installing unofficial mods, apparently to fix short comings in the game, seems a little ominous to me. The process of downloading and setting them up didn't quite work, the game only "saw" one of them so we'll forget about that for now.

This is the first game that is obviously pushing my new computer bits very hard. It's running at 1024x768 with almost everything on full and it's struggling a bit. The game starts in a dungeon and apparently the cpu/gpu overhead is much higher outside which is worrying. I can certainly see there are a lot of pixel shader type effects running. It's very nice, but it does seem a little fuzzy and I'd have to say HL2:E1 ran smoother and looked a tiny bit nicer to my eyes.

Anyway...

The game starts with some lovely in game cut scenes and a voice over by Patrick Stewart - wow, very nice Smile

As usual for an elder scrolls game I'm in a dungeon and can't remember who I am. Cue some dungeon exploring and rat bashing. I wince at this realization - when will someone make an rpg or mmorpg where you don't start by bashing rats! Couldn't the developer just hide the fact a little, I mean why does it always have to be rats! If I'm going to be god-of-the-world by the end of the game, couldn't I start by becoming god-of-this-remote-tiny-hamlet?

The tutorial's quite good in as much as I haven't strayed off it and got lost yet Smile The game's controls, menu systems and inventory are as confusing as I was expecting. I want to walk around with my torch out so I can see what's coming, then switch to bow as an enemy comes in before finally switching to sword and shield at close range. I think I can do this with hot keys, but it took a while for the game to explain this and I'm not sure I can put a sword and shield under one hot key - or maybe I can Confused Why is there no on screen map option? Or maybe there is? So far I haven't got lost, but it's very dark and confusing down here - come on people they sorted this out in Diablo1!

Picking locks makes no sense at all. A lock is represented by a set of tumblers or rods. Push forward on the mouse to disengage them and then press space to lock them out of the way. It doesn't work. Not once. Luckily there is an "auto attempt" option. Repeatedly pushing the button just breaks lock picks until the lock randomly opens. The fact they've added an "auto unlock" button screams "dodgy feature!". This must have come up as a problem in final testing and there was no real solution other than letting people bypass the system all together. I can only assume I'm not doing it correctly, reminds of Thief3 which had the same problem.

As I picked up a mortar and pestle the tutorial happily informed me I could use natural ingredients to make my own potions. Alarm bell rings! As is the case with most game players, I've learned over the years that whenever the mouse icon shows I can search/steal something that I must take everything that isn't nailed down. It seems my backpack is filled to bursting with a variety of plants and mushrooms whose only purpose is in alchemy. I'm sure some people find that very entertaining, but it's something i've always found extremely dull in previous games. I just hope it isn't absolutely necessary, I doubt it will be, fingers crossed. Or perhaps it's really fun in Oblivion <snigger>.

This leads into another "feature". All of a sudden I'm over encumbered and cannot move. Oh dear. How many rpgs have I played, how many times have I been killed trying to drag myself away with one gold coin too many. Luckily the tutorial knows I cannot move and doesn't let anyone kill me until I throw some of this alleged treasure away. I really hate dumping things - I mean surely this "cracked pot jug" and "worn out ragged trousers" will come in handy won't they?

Now we come to the really exciting feature I've been waiting for. I've heard the game supports stealth which has always been an intriguing possibility. The only game I've played that pulled it off well was Thief3, but even that had issues. I enter a new area of the dungeon, a wide open room with at least 4 goblins. Two of them suspiciously different, I bet they're more powerful. Time for some stealth. Pressing CTRL I go into stealth mode and my cursor changes into a faint "eye". When this becomes more solid it means I'm becoming more visible. Seems a little clunky, why can't they just have a percentage indicator or bar graph, judging grades of opacity is a little vague. Oh well, I creep forwards bow at the ready.

Suddenly the eye switches to being completely solid - what! Did someone see me? Is it because I'm wearing armour and I shouldn't be? Did I make a noise? Who knows. Goblins are shouting and running. What was the hot key to switch weapons again? Hang on, what was the key to fire off a magic spell? Oh wait, which spell have I got active - oh no that's the wrong one. Eek - this goblins almost on top of me, I'll put an arrow into him to slow him down. Oh dear, he's got an arrow poking out of his arm but it doesn't seem to have slowed him down. What was that explosion? Oh right, those two weird looking goblins are magic users and they're pummelling me with lightning bolts. Oops, now I've backed off and fallen over a ledge into a shallow pit.

I'm dead.

Oh well. Try again later. It seems like Oblivion has a lot of potential, but the portents of doom are everywhere. I'll read the manual again before I have another go I think. I really hope this isn't going to be Morrowind all over again.
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Sergenth



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was a threaded history of games that one might play before entering into Morrowind or Oblivion... Ultima Underworld, any of the cruddy 3d Dungeons and Dragons games from the mid 90s, System Shock 2, Deus Ex, Arx Fatalis, and some others that I've missed (like Gothic). Playing these games as they came out would soften the blow of Oblivion's complexity.

I'd like to know what you think about the actual content of the game when you get past the learning curve and halfway into just one of the many quest trees, or when you've gotten one of the "powerful" daedric artifacts from one of the daedric worshipper shrines.

This is the type of game that I play up to 20%, and then start over to do better, not because I strictly need to because I've screwed up (oh yeah... I do screw up), but because I want to take my knowledge of the world I've built up and then apply that to a fresh character sooner than later (like after having beaten the game 40-60 hours later). I like the feeling of knowing I can game the world with my foresight.
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Konedima
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's damn good once you get used to it. The hotkey system isn't very good, because you can't have many different things on hotkey at any time. You can have a few spells/equipment/etc. that you want to put on hotkey. WoW's action bar is the best way I've seen to do this.
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SethP



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oblivion's stealth system is actually very well thought out (speaking as someone who beat the game with a bow and light armor), but you have to be really careful in the beginning (rat bashing mode). A few hints:

If it makes sense, do it. Keep to dark places. Don't approach someone from the front, come at them from behind. Casting spells makes a bright glow, so it's probably noticable to the enemy.

The thing that might not be so immediately obvious is that, at least at low levels, you shouldn't wear shoes. If you think about it, it makes sense -- bare feet make a lot less noise than heavy iron boots, but the game should do a better job of informing you of that.

A word of warning, though: I personally found playing as a stealth character a little unsatisfying. The bows never seem to do a whole lot of damage once you're discovered, so items that prevent you from being noticed are really, really helpful. Unfortunately, it's not exactly difficult to achieve 100% chameleon (you can enchant any equippable item to give you a constant 20% chameleon, and there's 7 different items you can wear), and once you do it totally breaks the game. 100% chameleon means you're invisible, which for some reason means you cannot make enemies aware of your presence. You can run into them, shoot them with a bow, stab them with a knife, and they will NEVER respond to you.

Anyway, good luck finding something you can enjoy in the vast world of Oblivion!
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Day 2 - out of the citadel and into the world

The graphical fuzzyness I was complaining about is actually a style the developers appear to have purposefully pursued. A better description is "painterly", a phrase that Fost coined. It's more obvious outside and it gives everything a slightly surreal look that fits well with the theme. Anyway, the bottom line is it looks gorgeous outside. I was worried it would kill my cheap-o computer, but it's handling it quite well, still perfectly playable. I actually just stood for 5mins and watched the sun come down over the lake, it was that lovely.

I'm supposed to be off on my main quest but I couldn't help wandering around. The first thing you see is a small ruin called Vilverin. I wandered over and walked straight into a small camp with two people. Just as I was wondering how you tell if they are friendly they both attacked and almost killed me. I still don't understand why?

They were using a tent and just inside was a book - hurrah! - the game has books to pick up and read. The story was ok, but it had a few grammar errors which spoiled it a little. Now the story was all about vampires and the tent had garlic hanging from it. Interesting. Did they attack me because they thought I was a vampire? Is this area overrun with vampires?

I clicked on a bed roll, thinking I'd sleep until nightfall and find out. The game wouldn't let me as there were monsters nearby. Ooh! It must be the vampires. I stalked around the ruin and eventually found a couple of oversized crabs scuttling around. By the time they were dispatched it was dark and I was ready for my vampire encounter.

Nothing happened...

Eventually a horseman approached out of the gloom. This must be it. I readied my weapons.

"Evening" said the imperial guardsman as he rode past.

Doh!!

I scouted around the area trying to locate those cunning vampires. No sign of them.

Was this some level designers idea of a joke? Are there vampires infesting these hills? Does anything make sense?

???

I gave in and started off towards my mission objective. Shortly after a tiger headed highway man asked me for money I didn't have and then proceeded to kill me.

I hadn't saved since leaving the citadel Sad

**** game !!!!!!!!!
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Inane



Joined: 06 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haha.
You can enter the ruins there, although I found no vampires, I did find a few secret tunnels, which means there might be more Smile.

Anyway, lockpicking is pretty easy once you learn how to do it. I don't remember the exact mechanics, but you have to umm... tap the tumblers, to test them, and they all use a specific pattern, like, in some random measure of time, they stay at the top for 3-1-2-1, but anyway, you have to hit them again while they're at the top, so it's easiest on the part of the pattern where the tumbler is up the longest.
Lockpick level just changes how many tumblers are involved in the process, and makes the patterns more complex.

But yeah, knowing that, I got to the point where I could unlock a level 4 lock using up just 2 or 3 lockpicks in the process.

Anyway, I never liked the game that much. Some points of it were sweet, but, eh, the whole "monsters, including bosses, ALWAYS same level as you" thing was annoying.
I quit playing a tiny bit after I learned that the items you can find also scales to your level, so after exploring ruins for 2 hours at level 4 or so, I felt like I was scammed when the big chest guarded by 2 goblin shaman gave me boots, gloves, and a silver short sword.
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Siber



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I play oblivion some, and here is a tip. In the wilderness basically everyone is hostile. If they're not a guard, and you're not in sight of an inn or town, chances are good they will attack you on sight. It's just how things work.

There are no vampires in that area that I know of, but chances are the campers are simply scared of vampires. They do exist in the world, and some people are fairly paranoid about them.

Inane is right about levels. The whole game is scaled to your level. If you fight the final boss of the game and are level 1, you have a chance of killing him because he is leveled to match you. And at level 30, the bandits and rats are all leveled up too. It's really silly, and I hate it. There are a few mods out there that put caps on this leveling nonsense, making the game perform a bit more like a traditional RPG with hard levels on all enemies. I much prefer this arrangement. Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul is the mod I use, but there are a few others. They tend to do more than just alter the leveling, like add content or adjust some prices, so you might want to do some looking around, but I highly recommend getting one of these mods. It has made the game much more satisfying for me.[/url]
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is bringing back fond memories of Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall. It's odd that I have no memory of Elder Scrolls 1? I didn't get anywhere with Morrowind either.

Looking back, Daggerfall at its core was a reasonably fun rpg, but nothing really special or stand out other than its sheer scale. However, what I do lovingly remember are all the bugs and strange quirks which luckily were never a problem and always made me smile:

1. you could trap particularly nasty enemies behind dungeon doors which let you take a breather and heal yourself, plus you could have a laugh at the flailing beasty.

2. in town at night every street corner with a lamp had a prostitue next to it. That doesn't seem that funny, but there were hundreds of them in every town. The sprite was ridicullously camp too.

3. in town you could enter any house, they usually had a couple of innocent civilians in them. If you were in that house or any other as night turned to dusk you got a nasty shock. Every house in every town suddenly contained monsters - ???

4. you could go see the king/mayor of a town and kill him. Immediately his bodyguards and the town guards would come chasing after you. Maybe it was just my character, but I could run faster than them for some reason. So I just ran around town with this conga line of guards following me.

Can anyone remember anything else humorous or weird about any elder scrolls games?
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Fost
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone know if there's a "No tiger-headed men" patch for Oblivion?
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Siber



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not that I've seen. Are they really that much worse than the pointy eared people, or the lizardmen? Fantasy is full of such silliness, but out of the whole elder scrolls world, I do believe the Khajiit are my favorite people, short of the Argonians. In a world filled with all manner of elves and humans, they stand out. But to each his own.
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Fost
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Siber wrote:
Are they really that much worse than the pointy eared people, or the lizardmen?

Yes.

Unless by "pointy eared people" you mean gnomes, gnomes are pretty bad too. Not that fond of Hobbits either come to think of it - they're just like scruffy children.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Day 3:

When I said my computer (P4:3.4G+7600GT) could handle the outdoors scenes I was a little premature. The area I was wandering around in, which I thought was wooded, was in fact very sparsely populated. Most areas seem heavily wooded and by heavily I mean - WOW - tall thick grass, huge trees, dense foliage, cannot see the sky. The game is just about playable in these areas. I've never seen anything like it. It really feels like being stuck in the middle of a thick dense forest, you get disorientated and when monsters show up it's chaos. I wish I had a better rig so I could properly enjoy it Smile

I've been playing for about 6 hours now and I'm still walking around marvelling at how beautiful everything looks.

I've been in lots of little villages and ruins and they all have small dungeons underneath them and some even try and develop a little story around the dungeon. They started out quite enjoyable. The dungeons are very pretty and sneaking around with a bow is fun. However, I'm starting to get a bit bored of them now.

They feel a little pointless considering there is no need to level up (the game auto-levels the monsters to match the player). In some ways I'm glad I don't need to grind up my stats, but these dungeons feel a little random. If you don't need to grind up stats and there is no real story or plot or purpose to them then what's the point?

I made some progress on the main quest and found my first Oblivion gate. Over in the Oblivion dimension things don't look anywhere near as nice which seemed a bit odd. So far the main quest seems a little thick with cliche too.

Traveling through the countryside this really does feel like a solid well put together world - beautiful countryside, birds singing, day/night cycle, random encounters with wild animals and highwaymen. Great stuff. Then I reallised you could just click on the map and go wherever you want instantly. Eek! I'm trying to resist the temptation because I know as soon as I start doing it I'll stop travelling all together and take the easy (but dull) way out.

Is the honeymoon period coming to an end? Have Bethesda put too much work into the graphics and not enough into the story? Are they trying to help the player too much (auto-levelling monsters, teleporting). Time will tell.

Full marks to them for not getting me lost or stuck so far - can't say the same for 99% of other rpgs.
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SethP



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Poo Bear wrote:
4. you could go see the king/mayor of a town and kill him. Immediately his bodyguards and the town guards would come chasing after you. Maybe it was just my character, but I could run faster than them for some reason. So I just ran around town with this conga line of guards following me.


Yeah, that's how I cheated in Daggerfall; the trick is that you run the same speed forwards as well as backwards. First thing I did in the game was punch a random civilian, that got all the guards coming my way. Then all you do is run backwards (as long as there's nothing behind you) throwing punches for a while. It takes forever, but eventually you will kill all the guards, and you can take their (really nice) weapons and armor. The downside is that the townspeople don't like you so much any more, but what do you care? You've got a shiny new sword Razz
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure what happened to the auto levelling thing - perhaps it is overridden on the main quest to some extent. I was ordered into a building filled with enemies and for the first time the challenge seemed extremely high i.e. there is no way I can do this.

Then I discovered a nice little exploit similar to the old Daggerfall - "trap the bad guy behind a door" trick. I jumped up onto some furniture that got me out of reach of the bad guys. Then I simply dodged incoming fire while filling their heads with arrows.

Oh dear - not good.
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Sergenth



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The "Ordered to Go into the building quest"... that's after you've closed the gate and rescued Martin, right?

It's an optional add-on quest for Kvatch, and yes, it's always harder than the initial re-sieging of the city, where the guards will do most of the work for you. If there aren't Fire Elementals in the Palace, then there are a mess of Clanfears. The guards seem to all die right after the main gate is opened too. I think there is a sweet spot for what your level should be and what type of equipment you should have -- keeping your level low, useful secondary skills high and equipment higher is of course, better.

I always end up using the head guard to fight the fire elementals for me, and then he invariably "falls unconscious" and comes back a minute later to act as a meat shield again.
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