Gordo’s Gaming Blog

My adventures in the many worlds of gaming.

Posts Tagged ‘RPG

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.

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Written by Gordo

May 31, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Posted in The Classics

Tagged with , ,

Quests, quests, quests.

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Have posted about Age of Conan recently, and currently playing it, and also discussing it a bit on Keen & Graev’s blog, it got me thinking – what is my ideal questing system?

First of all, it’d have to be engaging – properly engaging. I mean when I see someone standing, bolt upright like a board, with an exclamation mark above their head, I have no empathy for them. Even if they they go one to tell me how their son was killed by bandits from a nearby pirate camp, I’m just thinking – ‘What the hell are you standing there like that for then!?!’. No, for a quest to be truly engaging, the person I get the quest from, I must be able to empathise with. By that I mean, if I see a drunken man with eyes that haunt you as you look into them, due to the pure sadness they convey. If I saw that quest giver, I’d talk to him. First of all he wouldn’t want to talk about it, being a man and all, but then, as I probe deeper, he gives away the story, but doesn’t ask for help. Something I hate about quests in RPGs (MMOs specifically) is how all these NPCs stand around all day, demanding help. Life just isn’t like that! So, you, being the kind and heroic protagonist decide to help – or, alternatively, in a game like Age of Conan, you see a benefit for yourself, so you help.

Secondly, the storyline should be non-linear. By that I mean, at each stage of the quest, you have choices. You are told what has happened, and your action is your choice. Take the man with the son killed by bandits example I gave above. OK, well, you see this guy has had his son killed by bandits. What do you do now? Depending on how you play the game, it’s your choice. You could charge into the camp, and slay them all, and bring back a portion of the spoils for the grieving father as compensation. You could go to the leader of the town he resides in, and ask his advice on what to do. You could explore a completely different line and simply try to take the mans’ mind off it, maybe (if you were playing Age of Conan), by hiring him a prostitute, or if you were playing a more morally centric game, by finding him a nicer woman for companionship in his time of need. Now, I’m sure many players, given these choices, would choose to raid the camp – there’s profit in it for them, as well as killing. But, my ideal questing system would give players free choice to act how they see fit, and in the process, getting different rewards and outcomes. E.g. you get monetary rewards for raiding the camp, but if you set this man up with a woman, he might give you his prized possession for making him happy again. Or if you spoke to the town’s leader, you might be given the authority to raid the camp, and although your monetary rewards would be fewer, you might be awarded a title of the saviour of ‘Mmosville’.

Thirdly, although this sort of ties in with the second point, the objectives should vary. Killing stuff all the time is just as repetitive as running, and the quests I hate most are those which command you to kill 50 of the same creature. Quests with a true storyline should evade this point, and by giving you the option, you can do as you choose. Sometimes you might feel diplomatic, others, you might prefer to let your weapon do the talking – but variety is good, and simply grinding killing quests is just as bad as grinding mobs in the first place.

Fourthly, there should be minimum ‘downtime’ that is, time when the quest storyline is not being advanced. Running miles ruins a quest for me, I feel bored by the time I get there, and have lost the urge to act that I got when I left the NPC. I guess it ruins the empathy I felt, as I zone out, I lose immersion from the game when it happens. And in RPGs, when you’re playing a role, you need to stay in that role – you need to be immersed. Hence immersion!

Finally, your actions should affect the world as a whole – this point is fairly self-explanatory. You should leave a town after having quested there for a while, with citizens now saluting you as you walk past, and thanking you. Not standing stiff as a board as you leave, in the same way as they did on your way in.

Written by Gordo

May 28, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Posted in General, MMO

Tagged with , , ,