First Person: Skyrim is Soulless

SonicWaffle

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Dennis Scimeca said:
Everyone is so impressed with Skyrim, but I can't help thinking about another open-world role-playing game published by Bethesda last year, Fallout: New Vegas. By the time I had logged as many hours into New Vegas as I have in Skyrim, I felt like I had big decisions to make that were really going to change the world of New Vegas.
While I don't entirely agree with your conclusions, I can't help but agree with this point. In Skyrim you never really feel like your decisions are making any differences. With my current character I've won the civil war for the Empire, and nobody seems that fussed. One or two NPCs have additional lines of dialogue and there are more Legion soldiers around the place, but considering that a major event has been resolved there's been remarkably little fanfare. The same goes for the destruction of the Dark Brotherhood. The guy who asked me to do it seemed pleased and gave me a fat wedge of cash, but beyond that nobody seems to give a shit that an ancient and once greatly feared society of assassins has been destroyed.

I think some kind of faction mechanic like Fallout:NV had would have worked well in Skyrim. Maybe not in major towns, but in villages and forts it'd be nice to be associated with a certain group and hated, feared or loved because of it.

Dennis Scimeca said:
Perhaps I haven't arrived at that point yet in Skyrim, but I'm finding it difficult to continue caring about a world that feels completely indifferent to me and what I'm doing.
And here's where we disagree. I still care about the world even if it doesn't care too much for me or my mighty deeds. I don't know why, but I have certain NPCs I like and others who annoy me. Favoured shopkeepers, a preferred house, although I'm much less a roleplayer and more a "play the game as a game" type of guy.
 

SonicWaffle

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Zachary Amaranth said:
Isn't open and without consequence exactly what gamers want out of Skyrim, though?
Without consequences, what is the point of options? A lack of consequences for your actions would make said actions feel meaningless. The fun comes from finding out what the consequences are, and the thought that's been in my head the entire time I've been playing has been "I wonder what happens when I do this?"

If you make big, world-changing decisions and the world fails to change notably, it can be an immersion-breaker to say the least.
 

Jezzascmezza

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For me, the Elder Scroll games have never really been about "moral choices," and how they change the world. So the lack of influence my character has on the world doesn't bother me too much.
 

Nazrel

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I always hate free roaming western RPG's. They give you all these "choices" that have no real impact and mean nothing.

Ogre Tactics I always thought had one of the best choice systems ever.
 

StriderShinryu

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While I get the general point of teh article, I can't help but think that part of the problem was the author's own expectations and approach. It may be true that the Agnis situation is odd, and I felt the same thing when I ran into her, but there is some responsibility on the part of the player to put themselves in the role rather than have it be handed them entirely by the game. Also, while there are characters like Agnis that are perhaps more vacant than they could be, there's also other characters that have a surprising level of emotion attached to them like the blind half crazy man in one of the town's who is only clinging to some semblance of life because he's waiting for his sister to come home. There are also the times when guards or those around you do react to something you've done or accomplished.

Basically, I suppose that I feel it's both hit and miss, and that while some active suspension of disbelief on the part of the player, it's not as cut and dried as this article makes it sound. Skyrim doesn't let the player role play as much as I wish it would either, but even a table top DnD game with other live people can be pretty soulless if you approach it by expecting everyone else to do all the work for you.
 

PhantomEcho

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See, when I met Agnis... I had the complete opposite reaction.


Here was the perfect character to exemplify how the game has a soul. It's self aware. She knew even before the bandits were killed at her feet that someone else was going to come along anyways, and it didn't matter in the least. She'd seen it before. She'd see it again.

What this story is describing? That's the limitations of a game that strives to be massive.

You can't have it both ways. You can't have a world TEEMING with infinite dialogue and interesting characters while also being enormous and filled with random interesting things to do. It's just one of the many little signs that say:

"Even though we were busy designing this big, beautiful world... we haven't forgotten the people who make it up."

She has a personality. It's a limited personality, because Agnis is NOBODY... but it's a personality. It's a mindset. It's a character. You can't develop EVERY character, but you -can- give minor set-piece characters a little flair.

Agnis is the perfect example of this.

If you just plain don't care about the story, well... I can't help you. If you don't care about the plot, or the characters, then there's not really a lot to be done. But I loved them. I loved meeting folks in Skyrim. Even folks who didn't have anything useful to say.

I've played the hell out of every Elder Scrolls game ever made. This is the most alive a world has ever felt for me.
 

Woodsey

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"One of the lovely things about Skyrim is there is no doubt whatsoever if a human being is an enemy or not."

Tell that to all the Imperial guards I've accidentally nailed to the ground with an arrow from 200 feet away.
 

Errnor

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Skyrim is Elder Scrolls game. Its all about scenery, freedom and old misteries. Living people, NPC, are there only to give quests or to carry loot and be killed. Remember Morrowind? Any shopkeeper would just stand there, no matter what. And dialogues in prior Elder Scrolls games? They didn't exist. At all.

New Vegas on the other had is all about people and their stories. Parts of it did come to Skyrim - like every bandit chief now has a diary with some backstory, and in every dwemer ruin there are traces of some exploring party unlucky enought to venture there before Dragonborn.

And what worries me - I don't really like elements of New Vegas been dragged into Skyrim. They just don't belong there. Its Elder Scrolls - I want to be a Hero, not a Lone Wanderer in daedric armor.
 

Something Amyss

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SonicWaffle said:
If you make big, world-changing decisions and the world fails to change notably, it can be an immersion-breaker to say the least.
Honey, EVERYTHING is an immersion breaker.

The sooner you learn how useless the word "immersion" is, the better.

"First person breaks my immersion!"

"Third person breaks my immersion!"

"Health packs break my immersion!"

"Regenerating health breaks my immersion!"

"Lens flare breaks my immersion!"

"HUDs break my immersion!"

"The inability to see my status breaks my immersion!"

"Immortal kids in a fantasy game break my immersion!"

Lack of consequence may be an immersion breaker, but I'm sure not being able to roleplay out a consequence-free murder fantasy breaks a few thousand other people's immersion.
 

scw55

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Woodsey said:
"One of the lovely things about Skyrim is there is no doubt whatsoever if a human being is an enemy or not."

Tell that to all the Imperial guards I've accidentally nailed to the ground with an arrow from 200 feet away.
Play as an evil character and you won't have morale remorse for those accidents.

It's quite realistic. You don't walk outside and see the name of living organisms in red/yellow/green text above their head.
 

Tiamat666

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There are plenty of occations where NPCs DO react to their surroundings. But in a game with as many possibilities as Skyrim, you can't expect them to react to everything. That would require tremendous amount of AI code and dialog. You might as well complain why people don't react to putting cauldrons over their heads or why they don't start limping if you put an arrow into their knee. There is only so many situations you can handle in a world of unlimited possibilities.

Still, I suppose you are right that the specific situation you describe -could- have been put in and would have made perfect sense. The thing is that in Skyrim there are probably hundreds if not thousands of these little situations that could have been put in, and that's just not feasible.

I think the problem with Skyrim is that it makes a very realistic impression in some parts, and that raises the overall expectations, which then are not delivered half of the time.
 

Woodsey

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scw55 said:
Woodsey said:
"One of the lovely things about Skyrim is there is no doubt whatsoever if a human being is an enemy or not."

Tell that to all the Imperial guards I've accidentally nailed to the ground with an arrow from 200 feet away.
Play as an evil character and you won't have morale remorse for those accidents.

It's quite realistic. You don't walk outside and see the name of living organisms in red/yellow/green text above their head.
I do (reppin' the Dark Brotherhood); its just a waste of arrows.
 

unoleian

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I find the New Vegas comparison suspect.

All this talk about changing the world, but nothing changes.

A slideshow doesn't count as making a change in the world. Just like the very thing you're arguing against, New Vegas is static and stale. You make decisions, but their impacts are nil. You never see those pan out, you never see those change the world. You make a decision, and hours down the line, a narrator tells you the scope of that decision. Where does the game experience change? Where do the populace react to what you do, any more or less than Skyrim?

It doesn't. They don't.


All the same, like others have pointed out, Skyrim is dotted with moments where your actions have direct consequences on the world around it. NPCs note your actions and will comment on them often. Cities reflect the ravage of warfare you may bring to their gates. Revive an old symbol of religion, and you'll start meeting people on a pilgrimage to see it again. Convince a Jarl to resume her town's own burning man festival, and then you can see it hosted weekly from then on. Meeting certain conditions can sometimes alter the very appearance of a place or objects. These moments are everywhere! They're just not....everywhere. You can't see these moments in everything, because it's simply impossible to account for all player's tastes and actions, and have everything respond accordingly.

Could it be better?

Sure. Couldn't everything?

But to say that the world is completely static and non-responsive, that's simnply not true. And to also look to New Vegas as a source of inspiration for choices that matter, well, that's just not right either.
 

Smooth Operator

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Well it's sort of true but it's soulless just like Minecraft is, i.e. you fill in the gaps with your imagination and you do need a pretty good one.
 

D. Ein

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The problem is voice acting.

I don't want to sound like a disillusioned hipster from a different gaming era, but look at Fallout 1 and 2. Those games had a living, breathing world, which was also -- I dare say -- more dramatic than anything GTA comes up with and funnier than anything Saints Row comes up with.

The game had ridiculous amounts of text written for it, and it showed. If you played as a character with an intelligence level less than 4, I think, then you spoke like a caveman, and everybody reacted to you as if you were a caveman. Choices you made which involved a faction changed what all members of that faction said to you. There was consequence for killing innocents, and -- while we're on the subject -- you could totally kill children. It wasn't a six-gigabyte beast like Skyrim, but it felt much bigger.

In Skyrim, you have to take voice acting into account. Sure, you can write books and books of dialogue, but who's going to pay the voice actors to say it? Especially when Max von Sydow or whatever his name is is on the bill. In their quest for a more realistic game -- which they hoped to achieve by adding voice acting -- Beth essentially diminished the soul of the game.

But hey, why go far for comparisons? Compare Morrowind to Oblivion and Skyrim. Very little voice acting; such a big world.

That being said, I'm not going to stop playing Skyrim. We've only got to wait for strong content as long as we have to wait for the Creation Kit. When the game's given over to the hands of the community, I'm sure the community will know best.
 

Kopikatsu

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Nazrel said:
I always hate free roaming western RPG's. They give you all these "choices" that have no real impact and mean nothing.

Ogre Tactics I always thought had one of the best choice systems ever.
Er...what choice was there in Ogre Tactics? I only remember 'Don't try to dump all the EXP to one unit, because then you'll always be fighting weaker enemies, which means your karma will plummet, and everyone will hate you. Also, you can't recruit most people at low karma. Or take over cities...which is...strange.

Edit: I was thinking of Ogre Battle. Nevermind.