Friday, April 21, 2006

More Oblivion

I've stopped playing Oblivion.


It's a killer game. I've already put forty hours into it and I haven't been bored for one second. But I really, really want to see this game in all its graphical glory. And my system just can't handle it. I had already decided to upgrade this year, and I'll be building a new system when AMD releases processors using the AM2 socket (which looks like late May). So late last week, I stopped playing. I'm going to wait, grind my teeth for a month, then start the game again with an SLI system.

This puts Oblivion into the special Hall of Fame reserved for games I wanted to play so badly that I bought a computer for them. It joins original inductees TV Sports Football (Amiga 500), Mean 18 (Apple IIGS), and Front Page Sports Football (I didn't actually buy a computer to play that, but I convinced my boss that I absolutely needed a work system at home, then upgraded the hell out of it).

Plus, in another month I'm hoping that the first patch will have been released, many more mods will be available, and the downloadable content pricing will have sorted itself out. Look, I want Bethesda to succeed with the downloadable content. I want them to be able to keep making these great games. I wrote yesterday's column because I believed they were missing a huge opportunity to both increase their sales and increase our satisfaction level.

As it was released, Oblivion certainly represents one of the best gaming values I've ever seen, a 100+ hour game in a rich, vibrant world. Does anyone think this won't be the PC game of the year? Just hand that award out now.

So if I bust Bethesda's chops over something, it's in that context. I hold them to a very high standard because of what they've accomplished. They've earned that standard.

In the meantime, here's another story, this one from James Blair. This has some information that might be a spoiler on a minor quest, so please consider that before continuing (but it's a great story):
I have a thief/assassin character in the game, going through the quest lines for both. I accomplish a job in Bruma, where I dropped a stuffed head on a homeowner while he was sitting in his easy chair below. He had a servant (Gromm I believe). After the job, I collect my commission, and be-bop along doing whatever. Since my thief fence is in Bruma, I was back in town some point later. My fence hangs out in a local bar there, and apparently, so did Gromm after the loss of his employer. The first time back in the bar, Gromm is going nuts and attacks some NPC, who beats a path out of the pub, and Gromm follows him outside. Curious, I follow them both out. Well, the NPC goes away (home I suppose) and Gromm is outside the bar. In a short conversation, Gromm is disconsolate about failing to protect his boss, and appears agitated. I fence my goods inside, and leave with Gromm still sulking outside, but he is no longer attacking anyone, and his weapon is put away.

After some further period, I'm back in town. Back to the bar to meet my fence, and guess who's there? Gromm! This time Gromm goes berserk, and starts wailing on a patron. People take cover, someone goes invisible, the bar owner draws a weapon. Then some guard comes inside. Then it gets interesting. The guard and Gromm take it outside. I guess Gromm has friends, because the fracas quickly becomes Gromm and two friends, and about 3 guards (the bar is near a gate). Then people start running down the street, picking up guards and others along the way. From what I could tell, some were pro-guards and some against. Some people bailed out and ran into buildings. Some came out of buildings and joined the fray.

At the end, there appeared to be a dead guard, no sign of Gromm, and several dead civilians, one of which Gromm killed, some of which were killed by the guards. Now, the most amazing thing of all (to me) beyond this whole affair was that both the owner, and the owner's wife, of a shop called Novorama (or something close) were killed. There is now NO SHOP called Novorama operating. The world was completely and permanently changed by actions I had only remotely been involved in. I've been at this hobby about as long as you, and I've never experienced something like this. My mind is simply blown.

There will be a game released someday without a pre-defined story line, in a world like Oblivion's, and the A.I. will spontaneously generate stories based on character interactions. Maybe that won't happen for ten years--maybe longer--but the day that game gets released, we'll all look back and talk about Oblivion.

Here are links to a couple of resoures that are very useful. First is a link from Vahur Teller to an Oblivion tweak guide.
Tweak Guide.

Second is a mod created by Overlord which assembles a large number of the best mods into one package. Lots to choose from here, and be sure to check out the readme file.
Overlord's Mod Pack.

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