Thursday, September 01, 2011


There's a rash of new previews out today for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

As I read these previews, I noticed that I was very interested. Excited, even.

Then I thought: why is that?

I don't think I've bought one big-budget game this year. If I did, it disappointed the hell out of me to such a degree that I don't even remember it. So why are the Elder Scrolls an exception?

I'm not going to list the obvious reason: the games are great.

No, it's not that, because to some degree, it can be argued that the Call Of Duty games are "great", and they bore the hell out of me.

The difference, I think, is timing.

Morrowind came out in 2002. Oblivion came out in 2006. Skyrim gets released in November, and that will be three games in the series in nine years, plus 5 years since the last entry in the series.

I can get excited about that.

I can't get excited about games that get released every year. I used to-- there were at least four or five series that were a big deal-- but my attitude has changed over time.

I received the new edition of NCAA from Gamefly the day after it was released. It sat on my desk for two months. Last week, I sent it back--unopened.

Look, it didn't work last year, and it's not going to work this year. What's the point, really? Plus, there will be a new version out in another 10 months!

I think it boils down to this: I can't continuously care. That's what the big companies want from me now. They want me to buy the annual or semi-annual release, then buy new DLC every two months.

They want a continuous, monthly revenue stream.

Sorry, but I can't do that. I want to play a game, then forget about it for months. Years, preferably. Then, when the new version does come out, I can be excited again.

I just realized this is like farming. Well, my imaginary understanding of farming, anyway.

I want to have a game be like a crop. I harvest it, eat, and then I want the field to lie fallow. I want the earth (creativity) to have time to renew its resources.

That's not how it works these days. Every franchise is a mine, and these bastards are strip-mining as fast as they can. And when that mine is eventually dry, they're done.

That's exactly what Bethesda hasn't done.

Can you imagine what it would be like if Activision was in charge of this series? Every province in Tamriel would have had its own game and four expansion packs by now. We would all be so sick of this world that it would be ruined forever.

I'm awfully glad that isn't happening.

I think this is how it works when it comes to gaming--for me, at least. I'm very much gravitating toward franchises where each release can make a significant addition to the canon. Franchises that don't do that don't interest me anymore.

[Exception: NHL.]

That's also related to the reason why I play more indie games now--much more, actually. For those games, there is no canon, so it feels like I'm exploring something new when I play them. I'm still capable of being surprised.

Here's an example, and I know I keep referring to Dungeons of Dredmor, but that's because it's my game of the year so far. I had this tremendously strong character build, so strong that I could take out monster closets on Level 6 of the dungeon in less than 5 minutes with 0 health loss.

That's invulnerable, really.

So I know, at this point, I'm going to finish the game. I've got this kick-ass character and 200,000+ gold, and I am practically printing money as I walk.

One of the spells I used to clean out the monster closet was a Thaumite Swarm spell. Here's the description from the game's Wiki:
A cloud of thaumaturgons come alive and consumes any being it touches with thoughtless voracity until sated, at which point it exits the body to await a new host.

They basically look like a swarm of purple mosquitoes, and damn, they can be deadly.

So I'm cruising through this dungeon, enjoying world domination, and I run over a trap. A thaumite swarm trap.

I was speeding through the dungeon, so I didn't even notice for three or four steps, and by that point, I'd lost 2/3 of my health. One of my skills was Vampirism, so I couldn't eat food to regain health. I had one potion, drank it, kept losing health with every step, and in three more steps I was dead.


I'd put at least five hours into this game, and in 10 seconds, it was over.

Pissed? For about ten seconds. Then I wanted to stand up and cheer. It was so incredibly ironic that my superhuman character was laid low by glorified insects. Totally brilliant, really, and I entirely appreciated the deviance of design that allowed that to happen.

If I was playing Dungeons of Dredmor VI, I wouldn't have been surprised.

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