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30 min vid about the dumbing down of The Elder Scrolls franchise


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Here is a 30 min video which very eloquently states the reasons and how T.E.S. franchise was dumbed down.

Even though PoE is an exclusively PC game and the target audience is different, I wonder at what degree PoE will try to avoid the 7 points the author underlines in the video and those are:

 

1. you can't fail

2. no consequences for faction membership

3. you make little impact on the world

4. quest and journal system

5. NPC conversations are heavily reduced

6. massively simplified puzzles

7. the value of items have been reduced

 

Even thought point 5 I guess will not be an issue for PoE, I recommend watching the video to understand the pitfalls a RPG nowadays faces and implicitly Pillars of Eternity too.  

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  After my realization that White March has the same XP reward problem, I don't even have the drive to launch game anymore because I hated so much reaching Twin Elms with a level cap in vanilla PoE that I don't wish to relive that experience.

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Yeah... *shrug*. I think Skyrim's a fun game, but not really a great RPG.

 

A little too much of trying to "improve" a cake, and just ending up with a mountain of frosting. Which is still tasty, but it's no longer a cake.

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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I think Ludris posts something similar in C&C about every 6 months.

 

Still, have to agree with everything but 6. Puzzles in RPGs are generally pretty damn awful IMO.

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I agree with every thing he said.  He got all my complaints listed.  Very nice video and thanks for posting it.

 

Morrowind is one of my favorite RPGs.  Oblivion was disappointing and needed a lot of modding to be really enjoyable.  Skyrim was fun but I played the main quest if it was the main quest tongue in cheek.  "Dragonborn, who me?  What's that I get to shout you to death?"  My favorite quest line was the Civil War as it did have choices and some consequences.

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 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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I would like to see Obsidian do the writing for the next fallout game, it seems to be what they're best at. It won't happen through.

 

The thing is modern AAA games don't want to include content that some players will never see or can't complete. That means limited choice and consequences and a 'we can't let them fail' attitude.

 

Who can blame Bethesda really as skyrim has absolutely raked in the money. The thing is through, that games used to be made by people excited to realise their vision. Now its all by the numbers and market demographics, we see it in movies, games, music etc. Its basically why everything sucks to put it mildly. The only exception to that are cable tv shows where creative risks are more the norm.

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The Elder Scrolls has always been a pain for me. As much as I love the scope and the sense that alot of work has been placed into everything, I just feel, that it would be so much better to play with a party. It gets too lonely for me I suppose without the companion comments, banter and remarks on quests and everything else. Dumbed down or not, I don't think we should worry about PoE falling into the same pitfalls.

 

The backer beta itself answers for me atleast, that point 1-5 and 7 won't be a problem. And I never saw IE games as big puzzle games anyways.

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It's always funny to listen to RPG fans talking about Skyrim. "The game is utterly dumb! I played it for %over9000% hours and absolutely despise this game."

The joke has dose of bitterness in it, though, since I tend to say something like that myself pretty often. Shame on me.

 

Anyway, complains are fair enough, but PoE hardly have something to do with it. The games are different by default. Different size, different scope, different devs, different motives behind development, different everything. Only genre they have in common, but "RPG" is awfully vague definition.

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1-5 won't be a problem as they are story related things. Obsidian are pretty good at that stuff and have pre-addressed most of those problems in the design.

 

6 is debatable, but IE puzzles weren't difficult. The Watcher's Keep one with the different rooms was cool. It won't be hard to be on par with IE puzzles.

 

7 could be a problem, but if it is it will be a minor one, and there'll be stacks of loot anyway.

 

Never played Skyrim. Don't like any of Bethesda's games.

Edited by Sensuki
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I whole heartedly agree with everything in the OP's video.... except for the tirade about the puzzles. He's definitely stating his personal tastes here. Making puzzles easy is NOT an example of dumbing down a game, unless you judge RPGs on how close they come to recreating the Myst experience. Which I don't. For people like myself who were never huge fans of having Gordian Knots and Rubik's Cubes thrown at them in every dungeon, the omission of such atmosphere-killing activities is welcome.

 

I don't play the ES games for their puzzles. Never did. Morrowind is a great game in spite of its puzzles, not because of them. So when Bethesda rendered Skyrim's puzzles trivial, I applauded the focus shift.

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I don't play RPGs because of their puzzles but I do enjoy having a few really challenging puzzles included.   Let me rephrase that.  I love puzzles and for me and for me a really good RPG is a puzzle which is one reason I stay away from walkthroughs or spoilers until I have played a game all the way through.

 

I had a lot of fun with the TES games, even Oblivion and Skyrim once I caught on to the way to play was just explore, do what ever I wanted to do.  There is a freedom in the games with its open world and the fact that nothing you do will have any real consequence.  Bethesda does support modding (halfheartedly) and there are some really great modders out there.

 

If PoE has a few good puzzles that will be a bonus for me but not the game itself.

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 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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That video is a load of horse****.

 

Thankfully I don't have to waste my time arguing with it, 'cause some dude has already did it.

 

 

Couldn't go beyond the first point he makes. First, racionalizating a really dumb design decision like essential NPCs is ridiculous. Second, he's factually wrong. Even if we accept that they did this because of the radiant AI, which absolutely isn't (Fallout New Vegas anyone?), Skyrim itself presents a solution to his racionalization. The companions can't die if hurt by enemies, but you can kill them, so, why not use this system with the quest givers? Because that's not why they did it, they did it preciselly for handholding purposes. They don't want you to miss any of their "majestic" content.

 

I don't like the way Morrowind dealt with this issue either, having a message pop up saying you ****ed it up. The game must respond and provide a new way of doing things. Closing one gate means that another should open (I'm refering to main quest related NPCs), again, like New Vegas did. But that requires actual talent and actual understanding of RPGs mechanics, something Bethesda doesn't have at all.

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Couldn't go beyond the first point he makes. First, racionalizating a really dumb design decision like essential NPCs is ridiculous. Second, he's factually wrong. Even if we accept that they did this because of the radiant AI, which absolutely isn't (Fallout New Vegas anyone?), Skyrim itself presents a solution to his racionalization. The companions can't die if hurt by enemies, but you can kill them, so, why not use this system with the quest givers? Because that's not why they did it, they did it preciselly for handholding purposes. They don't want you to miss any of their "majestic" content.

I think both sides present silly arguments on this one. First, as you point out, the rebuttal is nothing more than an absurd rationalization that does not actually explain the design decision. (the radiant quest system is designed to specifically take into account the potential death of a quest giver, so why in the world is it being cited as a reason why NPCs are immortal??)

 

Second, the guy in the OP's video is exaggerating. You'd be surprised at how FEW NPCs in Skyrim are actually flagged as 'essential' and thus cannot be killed. The vast majority can be slaughtered. Anyone who's installed the Dawnguard expansion has seen, first hand, how fast a village can be emptied out after a few of those random vampire attacks.

Edited by Stun
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Second, the guy in the OP's video is exaggerating. You'd be surprised at how FEW NPCs in Skyrim are actually flagged as 'essential' and thus cannot be killed. The vast majority can be slaughtered. Anyone who's installed the Dawnguard expansion has seen, first hand, how fast a village can be emptied out after a few of those random vampire attacks.

 

I do not agree. Essential NPCs, if used, should be something really minimum in open world RPGs, like 4-5 guys that are absolutely necessary for plot purposes in the entire game. 

In Skyrim is really notorious that a lot of NPCs are essential, sometimes without making any sense at all (like when you try to clean the camps of stormcloaks/imperials, and the leader of the camp is inmortal), and I believe all quest givers (actual quests, not "tasks") have this same plot armour. 

Yes, a lot of them are killable, but far too many aren't in my opinion.

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4. quest and journal system.

 

I like journal system for example when i play a game a week later i know where i let things last time. I'm not a big fan (not at all) of game that requires me to scribe down on paper to be able to play it normally.

 

How the journal system is a way to dumb down a RPG (genuine question) ? I agree with the rest though and the cake metaphor too (gotta love or hate these metaphors...)

Edited by Sir Newbie
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Jingles has made a good video with good points however it does not change my mind.  Why?  First I admit I picked up Oblivion after playing the IE games for several years.  It was a shock to me.  After listening to my complaints for a while a friend told me to play Morrowind which I picked up cheap as it was now "old".  He had played it about 25 times and loved it.  So did I.  Maybe the break from IE games trying to play Oblivion helped.

 

I will also say this for Bethesda or whoever makes the decisions after the multitude of complaints about Oblivion they did listen to the players, checked out popular mods and included some of those features in Skyrim.  So what is my biggest complaint about Oblivion and Skyrim?  Let me deal with Skyrim first as that is simpler.  In my opinion there is no main story.  Who the hell cares if you are the Dragonborn?  The dragons are pretty uninteresting and more of a nuisance as you go about other things.  I never even felt they where a real threat to Skyrim much less Tamriel.  

 

Oblivion is a little more complected as I love the Main Quest maybe because Sean Bean voices Martin.  I fell in love with Mart and actually crien, well had tears in my eyes, when he became the avatar and vanished from Cyrodil.  But when the quest is over what does it really matter?  You get a fancy suit of armour and the Imperial soldiers will hail you.  Come on you should now be the most famous person in the country, people should be talking about you some should recognize you especially if you are wearing that armour worn only by Emperors and champions.

 

Outside of becoming the Grey Fox it didn't seem to matter if you became the Arch Mage, or head of an other faction.  The city of Kvatch just sat there a ruin without anyone trying to fix it until some modders made some mods to rebuild it.  Mods are what has given Oblivion its long running life and made it fun to play.  Thousands of them.  

 

My other serious complaint is that even after Oblivion and Skyrim are given official patches you have to turn to a modder and get the unofficial patches in order to fix some serious things.

 

The games are fun to play but they do have in my opinion some serious design flaws.  

 

At least we know we will get a good story from Obsidian and the fact that we know the names of at least the major leads was a big selling point for  me to back them.  All I had to be told was that Chris Avalone was going to write the story. :)

 

Very personal note:  Ihated Delphine and added a mod that shut up and told her off.   Happiest day of my Skyrim life.

Edited by Nakia

 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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4. quest and journal system.

 

I like journal system for example when i play a game a week later i know where i let things last time. I'm not a big fan (not at all) of game that requires me to scribe down on paper to be able to play it normally.

 

How the journal system is a way to dumb down a RPG (genuine question) ? I agree with the rest though and the cake metaphor too (gotta love or hate these metaphors...)

Don't even remember the journal in Oblivion but I did not care for the one in Skyrim.  I came late to Morrowind and got the three disk set so I had the updated journal and I liked it.  You could access all kinds of information much more like the one OE is making for PoE.

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 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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4. quest and journal system.

 

I like journal system for example when i play a game a week later i know where i let things last time. I'm not a big fan (not at all) of game that requires me to scribe down on paper to be able to play it normally.

 

How the journal system is a way to dumb down a RPG (genuine question) ? I agree with the rest though and the cake metaphor too (gotta love or hate these metaphors...)

It's not "journal systems" in general that are being condemned here, it's the specific way they're designed in many modern games. Skyrim's does away with the written details and instead, relies on quest markers. I most definitely see this as both "dumbing down" and plain old developer laziness. By contrast, Older RPGs (not just Morrowind) tended to treat their journal systems as a labor of love. Details and creativity went into them, and therefore, there was no real NEED for stuff like quest markers. If you needed to jog your memory you could read your journal and get the who, where, why and what of the quest. Baldurs Gate 2 is a terrific example of how to correctly design a journal system. Edited by Stun
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I don't like the chapter divides with BG's journal, but otherwise it works very well.

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"To be fair, if I was married to Milla Jovovich, I would also be happy just making movies that show off her butt." - Hurlsnot

"I originally just wanted to ignore this, but I can't sleep, so why not." - majestic

"I murdered my entire family as well as the police and priests investigating me for murdering my entire family in the name of Satan. Good times." - Bartimaeus

"I will undoubtedly cave and buy this since Nintendo has me by the balls with Shin Megami Tensei V." - Keyrock

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Couldn't go beyond the first point he makes. First, racionalizating a really dumb design decision like essential NPCs is ridiculous. Second, he's factually wrong. Even if we accept that they did this because of the radiant AI, which absolutely isn't (Fallout New Vegas anyone?), Skyrim itself presents a solution to his racionalization. The companions can't die if hurt by enemies, but you can kill them, so, why not use this system with the quest givers? Because that's not why they did it, they did it preciselly for handholding purposes. They don't want you to miss any of their "majestic" content.

 

I think both sides present silly arguments on this one. First, as you point out, the rebuttal is nothing more than an absurd rationalization that does not actually explain the design decision. (the radiant quest system is designed to specifically take into account the potential death of a quest giver, so why in the world is it being cited as a reason why NPCs are immortal??)

 

Second, the guy in the OP's video is exaggerating. You'd be surprised at how FEW NPCs in Skyrim are actually flagged as 'essential' and thus cannot be killed. The vast majority can be slaughtered. Anyone who's installed the Dawnguard expansion has seen, first hand, how fast a village can be emptied out after a few of those random vampire attacks.

 

Yeah, it's a fairly dumb explanation to a fairly dumb complaint. It's pretty much the weakest point of the video, by necessity of the weak complaint it's responding to.

 

 

Edit: to make my position clearer on the issue, I think a well-made RPG shouldn't even need to discuss whether to make plot-essential characters immortal or not. Did Planescape: Torment have many players boasting about how they totally shot themselves in the foot by killing characters essential to the advancement of the main story? None that I know of. When the greatest amount of fun the players of your game can wring out from your product is "derail the entire storyline by killing off important characters", that is a failure state of design in itself. It's not solved by allowing or not allowing them to kill important NPCs, it's solved by making the player care enough about the story and the characters to not want to kill them.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Although Ultima 9 Ascension is very much disliked amongst old ultima fans, i absolutely loved that game and finished it several times. The only letdown was the final confrontation against the guardian. I liked the controls in that game, you could exactly jump to where you pointed the cursor. U9 didn’t take itself too seriously and didn’t have that simulationistic feel of the elder scrolls. Ahh, that was fun in U9, building towers from everything you could find in your rucksack, whether it was potions, scrolls or whatever. And the dungeons were a blast, jumping on moving platforms, pulling levers, pressing buttons, using spells to advance in a dungeon, just great stuff! And there was actually a story in the game and when you progressed in the story by cleaning the shrines your character would also level-up/progress which kept me motivated. Unlike the Elder scrolls where i stopped midway through the games because i lost interest. I think the real problem in the elder scrolls games is that you don’t really feel the progress of your character, again i think that was better handled in U9 with levelling up by finishing parts of the main story while your character of course would also in the meantime find better weapons/equipment.

 

PoE won’t be a dumbed down game, the Obsidian guys are gamers like us and they play complicated oldschool games like Darklands. If anything i think the ‘problem’ is that they didn’t want to buy the d&d license and simply copy combat from BG2. Unfortunately for me they also applied a system that cuts into free movement and thus cut player’s freedom which is not a good choice imo. Freedom should come naturally and not by having to invest for it imo.

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