Gordo’s Gaming Blog

My adventures in the many worlds of gaming.

Posts Tagged ‘Morrowind

Theorycrafting – Immersion

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Naked Mailbox Dancing...

 

Naked Mailbox Dancing...

 

I was interested a few weeks ago to read this article at Massively. But I guess what was more interesting were the comments. It seems the majority of people (well, Massively readers at least) don’t feel that attached to their characters. Most simply, when they’ve had enough of a game, log out when they get bored, and if they don’t log back in again, well, no sleep will be lost over it.

But I got thinking. Recently, I’ve dabbled in Morrowind and Oblivion (two of the finest games I’ve ever played) and I found myself, as I approached the end of a gaming session, riding to a city to close the game down in my house, or an inn. Of course, there’s no benefit of this. No benefit at all, except maybe the peace of mind of knowing that I won’t boot up straight into a fight. But, most areas would guarentee that. Then I thought of MMOs again. The only time I’ve ever felt the need to log out in a certain area is for the rested XP bonus for logging out in an inn or a city in WoW, and similar things in other games. That in turn, got me thinking. In some ways, it’s a bribe for immersion. You act “immersed” and you get rewarded. So why do MMOs feel the need to bribe you to do something that CRPGs provide naturally?

MMO developers like to have the buzzword “immersive” attached to their products. It’s a neat little word that conveys a lot of positive emotions about that product. If something is described as immersive, I think;

  1. There’s lots to do – you become a part of the world
  2. Character progression is good – you develop alongside the character you play
  3. Once you play, you want to keep on playing – it’s the “can’t put it down” effect that you get with books, or “can’t switch it off” effect with a TV show
  4. You’ll play lots, so you’ll get good value for money – even more important these days
  5. Most importantly, it’s fun – that, after all, is the reason we play games

The thing is – if I’m being bribed into feel immersed, I don’t feel immersed. It’s simply min-maxing – making the best of the time I play the game. But, am I an average gamer? I have an awful tendency to overthink things, and to attempt to simplify things. Does that mean, that, even though I don’t feel immersed, most players do? I’d love to hear your opinions. Do you feel immersed in MMOs? How about single players games?

Part of the reason why I think I feel immersed in single player games is, they feel more realistic. There’s no addons, and often a minimal UI. There’s no leetspeak in the chatbox, no goldspam. The graphics are invariably better, the world is quieter. Monsters don’t respawn after two minutes. People behave like people – they don’t sprint everywhere (except me), in good games, they eat, they drink, they gossip, they live like people. There’s nobody standing on the mailbox dancing naked. I think, ultimately, that’s the reason I feel immersed in single player games. I don’t have to worry about guild politics. I don’t have to worry if I make a huge cock-up – there’s nobody to laugh at how noobish I am. I can simply relax and enjoy the game. I can concentrate on the dialogue, often I have choices (as opposed to MMOs where questing simply involves running through dialogue boxes, which all end up at the Accept/Decline screen). I guess that, at a basic level, immersion is simply feeling a connection with the game you’re playing. And if I can concentrate on the game, as opposed to what’s going on behind the scenes, it’s easier to be immersed.

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Written by Gordo

April 11, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Posted in MMO, PC

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The Classics: Morrowind

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This is the first of a series of posts I’ve planned about some of my all-time favourite games from years gone by. I’m gonna kick it off with Morrowind.

How can I describe Morrowind? I guess, it’s the closest thing to the perfect RPG I’ve experienced. Yes, I liked it. A lot. Before I played Morrowind, I was definetly a console gamer. I remember a friend let me borrow it, and the PC I played it on I hadn’t played a game on since The Sims. It struggled. I hMorrowindad to play it on 640 by 480 minimum detail. And still, every 200 yards or so a loading box would pop up. Did I care? Not in the slightest. This world gripped me immediately. After a couple of days playing it on my friend’s CDs, I bought my own copy. I pored over the manual and map that came included for hours. The island of Vvardenfell was so massive and so rich. So much to do; every little settlement had its story. I remember, I’d been given a quest to collect some eggs from a mine (yes, in Morrowind, they have egg mines!) when I took a wrong turning, and ended up at the wrong mine. But I spoke to someone outside, and they explained to me that someone had been stealing their eggs. He asked me to investiage so I did. I came across a shady looking figure, and when I confronted him, he attacked me. I killed him, looted and took the egg back to the man outside. My point? It was so easy to go off the beaten track, and get caught up in a whole different storyline.

It’s strange. Before I played Morrowind, if you asked me to name my perfect RPG setting, I’d immediately think of a Tolkien-esque medieval England setting. Yet Morrowind was so different. This was a volanic island, with huge barren areas, and the majority of foliage consisting of giant mushrooms and moss or lichen. A land where humans weren’t the dominant race. This was the land of the Dark Elf, the Dunmer.

I got hooked on Morrowind from the start. Seyda Neen, the first town you visit was enough for me. It was a ‘damp little squat’ as one of the locals called it. Still, I spent an hour or two simply exploring, doing little tasks that people gave me. I fetched a ring for someone, only to find he owed money to someone else, so, after spying on him at night-time I saw he’d hidden something in a treestump. I inspected the treestump and found some money, and a lockpick. Then I had the choice – did I keep the money, or do the honest thing and return it to its rightful owner? From there, I never looked back.

See, that’s the true beauty of Morrowind. You choose. I’ve played so many games that claim to be open-ended. Oblivion, Morrowind’s sequel is a prime example. Yet Oblivion pushed me in the direction it wanted to be played, Morrowind just gave me the choices. Throughout the whole game, there were so many choices. I remember stumbling across a traveller; I had the choice to help him, or kill him (he possessed some very nice boots that increased runspeed). And yet Morrowind didn’t judge you. Where some games tally up your moral decisions, and hold them against you when you complete the game, Morrowind didn’t do that. There’s no karma in Vvardenfell. If someone saw you robbing them, you got punished. Unless you decided to kill them. But if you were seen killing, you’d be in even more trouble. You could spend the rest of the game avoiding guards – sneaking into towns only at night time, and lurking in the shadows. Or you could do your time, or pay a fine.

The main quest was so long and rich, it was 10 times the amount of content some full RPGs have; and yet that was only the very tip of the iceberg in Morrowind. Each town had dozens of quests for you to do, as well as the dozens more found in the wilderness, and of course, you could spend time in other ways. With such a beautiful world, I could spend hours just exploring, tracking creatures, plants and people. There were hundreds of dungeons to brave, camps to explore, and ruins to loot (or simple explore, if you’re playing a priest or something!). It even contained storylines that allowed you to become a vampire, and then back into a human again, and with an expansion, a werewolf too!

The music in Morrowind was haunting, and fitted oh so well. I never got tired of it, as wherever it was, it seemed appropriate. The sound effects weren’t the best, but I didn’t care!

MorrowindIt contained readable books. The amount of fiction put in those books is more than 6 whole novels I read somewhere. Some you can pick up anywhere, some are extremely rare, and you have to search for them to complete your collection.

It was the height of immersion for me. This was partly due to the fact that it forced you to decide what to do in quests, it forced you to find out where to go, and go there yourself, so you always remained in the game (bar the few fast travel routes between major cities). The world was beautifully crafted, the story was top-class, and while it had its flaws (combat system and some models), I doubt I’ll see such a good game again.

If you’ve not tried it, go and pick it up. I just checked Amazon and you can pick up a second hand copy of the GOTY edition (including the 2 expansions) for under a fiver including postage. Honestly, if you’ve not tried it before, I really recommend it. If you have the patience to put up with some bad models (which, to an extent can be upgraded – try Planet Elder Scrolls for mods – there are literally thousands) and what might be an alien world, you will enjoy it. It may take some perseverence for the modern gamer, to whom the game is an instant hit. It’s not an instant hit, but a definite slow burner. It kept me enticed for months.

Written by Gordo

May 31, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Posted in The Classics

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