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An Elder Scrolls Retrospective 91

Posted by Zonk
from the too-busy-playing-oblivion-to-read-it dept.
With the release of the fourth chapter in the Elder Scrolls saga last week, UGO has put together a piece looking back on the long and successful history of Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series. From the article: "Some RPGs take the restricted world premise so far that they are practically on rails. Thankfully, the team at Bethesda Softworks decided back in 1994 that that wasn't the way things would be for their series The Elder Scrolls. Now at its fourth installment, we have decided it was about time to take a look back at the series that broke the mold on what an RPG should be and that gave players the most important ability of all - the ability to choose how to play the game. So ready your horse, grab your finest set of gauntlets, and prepare to embark on a journey through the history of the series that brought the amazing world of Tamirel to life, and don't be afraid to slay an orc or two in the process."
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An Elder Scrolls Retrospective

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  • <3 TES! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:35PM (#15020994) Journal
    Morrowind was my first TES game. And I loved it. The greatest kick I got out of it wasn't even the game - it was screwing with the system and the dev kit, building my own house, doing crazy superhero-like things in game with my character, fucking with the physics and the game's backend - and, of course, playing through the storyline. It was really cool. The best part of the whole thing was the total freedom. And while I didn't follow this example, I remember seeing a quote from one of the Morrowind devs that summed up how I actually played the game (I must have gone through the main story line half a dozen times with different characters). He said something like "If you want to spend $50 on a game and create yourself an invincible sword and beat it in a few hours, that's your perrogative."

    And I remember thinking YES! Someone gets it!
    • I played the last version on Xbox my own special way: serial killer. Forget the story line, that takes too much reading.

      Basically I went around killing everyone. Sneak into their homes and get them from behind! YEAH!

      This was easist with an archer character as you could perch yourself somewhere and fire away with impunity. I guess this was a bit of a bug. I would take 10 minutes to kill a guard. The only downside is that guards would respawn, spoiling my ability to be the last man standing in the game!

      Get

      • Do that in Ovlivion and next time you take a rest the Dark Brother will offer you membership, not shure if declining is an option they're prepared to accept.

        Mycroft
        • gak, so thats what preview is for.
          I meant Dark Brotherhood, there being more than one 'brother' in the group, just sometimes not more than one active braincell in my head when it comes to typing.

          Mycroft
        • Re:3 TES! (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The "Dark Brotherhood" is a blatantly racist jab, a disgusting attempt by Bethesda to oppress the black man. I never thought it of such a remarkable game development firm, but when I saw an entire segment of the game dedicated to an organization of "dark brothers" who run around "getting people from behind", I was apalled.

          The sheer fact that this game allows you to play a Redguard "Dark Brother" named "T.V. Swipes" is a crushing blow to the respectable African American in contemporary society.

          Join my protes
  • Is the Elder Scrolls story an epic saga that continues through all the sequels, or is each game completely stand-alone? Obviously the "same world" is used, unlike, say, the Final Fantasy series, but do the storylines of the previous "episodes" affect the new games?
    • No, you get references to each past game but they dont affect the current game. Like in oblivion you are told that slavery was ended in the province that morrowind was in, but other than that....
    • by masklinn (823351) <slashdot DOT org AT masklinn DOT net> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:10PM (#15021275)

      Each game stands by itself, but every installment has an impact on the following games (mostly in books, sometimes in quests that are somewhat related to what happened in the past).

      Oblivion, for example, has a lot of references to Daggerfall's storyline. But having played daggerfall isn't a requirement, because the Daggerfall events have become part of Tamriel's history. In a word, when you play oblivion you might realize that some books are talking about what happened to you while you were playing Daggerfall, Arena or Morrowind, but if you haven't played them then it's still part of the world's history, it's just slightly personal. You don't feel like you lost anything though, because you don't actually know that it was part of a game's previous plotline.

      You couldn't say that it's an epic saga, because you don't impersonate twice the same characters, and your characters aren't related, but the world is truly the same and coherent, and the what happened in the previous games stays part of the current game's history.

      The Lore is part of what makes the Elder Scrolls so amazing. These are the only games in which people try to collect and read every single book just for the sake of knowing Tamriel's Lore.

      • What the hell are you talking about?
        There was more to Dagerfall than the 4th door on the left in the second dungeon?

        I thought the resulting clipping was a funny way of displaying the credits!

        The whole game took maybe 35 minutes to get to that door and complete...
  • Daggerfall stank (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dark Paladin (116525) * <jhummel&johnhummel,net> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:49PM (#15021095) Homepage
    Sadly, while Morrowind and so far Oblivion have been filled with goodness (I'm working on an Oblivion quest wiki in my meager spare time), Daggerfall was - blech. Crashes, needed patches, the whole "randomizing" dungeons just made it too hard to go anywhere and know what the hell was going on - and the map system was this 3d thing of horror. Towns were full of people, most of whom were just empty bodies, and there was hardly any way of keeping track of quests.

    Luckily, they learned from their mistakes - the only thing I need in Oblivion to make it "near perfect" is the ability to write notes on the map and in the journal myself, like "to do: check out that little island at location X".
    • > Sadly, while Morrowind and so far Oblivion have been filled with goodness (I'm working on an Oblivion quest wiki in my meager spare time), Daggerfall was - blech. Crashes, needed patches, the whole "randomizing" dungeons just made it too hard to go anywhere and know what the hell was going on - and the map system was this 3d thing of horror. Towns were full of people, most of whom were just empty bodies, and there was hardly any way of keeping track of quests.

      In other words, it's like a MMORPG. But

    • Daggerfall was just way too ambitious, it was unplayable due to bugs and the random dungeons. But that ambition is what makes the TES series great, it just can't necessarily work every time. Daggerfall was even _more_ ambitious than Morrowind or Oblivion, it tested the limits of what you could do with an open ended RPG and made the last two in the series possible.
    • Oblivion is near-perfect. Shift-click the map to make note.
      • Damn it - now I feel like a friggin' moron.

        Thanks!
        • You feel like a moron because you didn't think to shift click on the map? Shift clicking doesn't do anything, else, so why would you have thought to try it? It's not your fault the interface is so poorly designed.
      • by ivan256 (17499) *
        Now all it needs is a way to resize the map, zoom in and out on the map, have the map on the game screen, allow you to drag items out of your inventory without closing the menu, get to your inventory from anywhere with a single button, drop things without having to close and re-open the menu several times because you happen to be standing close to something, have tool-tips or some easy way to figure out what on-screen status icons stand for, not say 'Loading Area...' every six seconds in huge-ass text, have
        • by Vo0k (760020)
          All in mods to come or already present.

          > Now all it needs is a way to resize the map, zoom in and out on the map

          UI improvement mod, already present remedies some problems by making visible area of the map WAY bigger.

          > get to your inventory from anywhere with a single button,

          F2.
          Get to your stats, inventory, spellbook and map with F1-F4 (Read the Release Notes goddamnit!)

          >drop things without having to close and re-open the menu several times

          Shift-click.

          "Loading" sign removal mod available already.

          Hag
          • Haggling is way better than in Morrowind where you had to haggle over every single item. Here you set "haggle level" per shopkeeper.

            You don't have to haggle for every item in Morrowind. You can select a ton of different items to buy and sell, and then haggle over the entire deal in one go. I just started playing Morrowing and this was the first thing I figured out.

          • Haggling is way better than in Morrowind where you had to haggle over every single item. Here you set "haggle level" per shopkeeper.

            That's not how Morrowind worked though... You picked all the stuff you wanted to sell, and then you haggled over the whole lot. And the haggling was all done on the same screen with two clicks.

            The 'haggle level' method is dumb, and the selling of items individually instead of being able to do it in one lot is stupid (and annoying from a voice-acting perspective).
        • Re:Daggerfall stank (Score:3, Informative)

          by masklinn (823351)

          Now all it needs is a way to resize the map

          There is already an interface mod that (among others, like making fonts smaller and displaying 12 items/page instead of 6) gives you a much larger map (map basically takes the whole screen). Not resizable though.

          allow you to drag items out of your inventory without closing the menu

          shift+click item

          get to your inventory from anywhere with a single button

          F2. F1 to access stats, F2 for inventory, F3 for spells and F4 for map & journal.

          drop things witho

          • "Oblivion's interface is way too console-oriented"

            I agree, in fact that's one reason I'm still debating whether to buy it. While you mention some good fixes, the interface feels like it was built for Xbox first and not rebuilt for PC. Compared to the MMOs I've been playing recently it leaves a lot to be desired.
            My friend's copy also seems to crash to the desktop from time to time. Maybe I'll wait for the patching to start before I tackle the game.
            • I agree, in fact that's one reason I'm still debating whether to buy it. While you mention some good fixes, the interface feels like it was built for Xbox first and not rebuilt for PC. Compared to the MMOs I've been playing recently it leaves a lot to be desired.

              Interface mods are already starting to tackle the issue, quite a lot of people have fond memories of the Morrowind interface and we should get a much better and much more PC-oriented interface in a month or so. Unless Bethesda does it's homeworks

            • I've logged 36 hours (at least that's the played time on /save), and haven't had a single crash. This includes (probably obviously) 6+ hour sessions. Damn this game is awesome! That said, there are some bugs that need fixing, but nothing like Daggerfall had.

              Also, I haven't really noticed the "console" feeling of navigating through menus. I actually would think it'd be very annoying on a console.
              • The crash problem may be specific to video card or needed updated drivers. Not my computer, so I didn't get a chance to try to fix it. A couple reviews I read noted that crashing to the desktop was a problem - probably specific to particular hardware I think.

                I guess I'm just used to being able to bring up inventory and map information in windows on the main screen (ala World of Warcraft or Everquest 2). The font size on the interface screen also seems really big (as in for easy viewing on a tv) even though
          • There is already an interface mod that (among others, like making fonts smaller and displaying 12 items/page instead of 6) gives you a much larger map (map basically takes the whole screen). Not resizable though.

            I've seen that particular mod, and it seems sketchy.. It also is an all or nothing deal.

            not say 'Loading Area...' every six seconds in huge-ass text

            There are already, like, 3 mods for that.


            And it kicks ass. Thanks.

            Still... Morrowind worked the way you'd expect. You didn't need to know any tricks
        • I agree that the Morrowind interface was better.

          And they way the implimented level scaling stinks, too.
      • by masklinn (823351)

        Oblivion still has quite a lot of room to improve, and some parts of it are actually worse than Morrowind.

        • The leve system should've been dropped a long time ago. It doesn't really make sense anyway, just grow the stats from the attributes. And because of the redesign, to get the ability to improve the statistics you need enough to not make the game too hard (especially if you're a magicka-oriented character) you have to make primary skills the skills you will NOT use. That is annoying.
        • The interface is mu
        • You summarized what are my (and presumably many others') main problems with Oblivion. It's a fantastic game, but in many ways seems like several steps backwards from Morrowind.
        • Re:Daggerfall stank (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Vo0k (760020)
          # The leve system should've been dropped a long time ago. It doesn't really make sense anyway, just grow the stats from the attributes. And because of the redesign, to get the ability to improve the statistics you need enough to not make the game too hard (especially if you're a magicka-oriented character) you have to make primary skills the skills you will NOT use. That is annoying.

          Or not trying to game the system and just follow on with the standard skills you're going to use most as 'majors', then playin
          • # In Oblivion, the ennemies level with you... completely breaks the immersion.

            Merchants - *shrug*. Enemies - uh well, keeps the game challenging :) Think of it as 'they level with time', the Oblivion gates open, more powerful enemies appear.


            I don't know about this. My level 3 character just wandered into a dungeon and took out a vampire matriarch with a silver dagger. In Morrowind, I would have had the snot beaten out of me.

            It seems kind of pointless to scale all your battles, so that you know your characte
      • Side note - that just lets you place a marker - you can't actually write anything.
      • Shift clicking the map puts a marker there. Putting a marker anywhere else removes the previous marker. That's a far cry from leaving notes anywhere you'd like on the map, which you could do in Morrowind with as much text as you'd like so you could read it at any time in the future, and was clearly what the parent poster was talking about.

        Things like "I've already been in there"...

        At least the world in Oblivion is pathetically tiny when compared to Morrowind, so you're less likely to forget a place without
  • other games (Score:4, Informative)

    by MoreNoiseThanSignal (916548) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @05:53PM (#15021125) Homepage
    Just in case anyone is interested there are 2 other non-RPG TES games:
    battlespire [avault.com]
    Redguard [bethsoft.com]

    I stil maintain that daggerfall was the best, barring it's incredibly nasty habit of eating your saved games every 10 minutes or so. I really liked the ability to buy horses with wagons, houses, and boats (I haven't played Oblivion yet so I'm not sure if they brought those features back).
    • Dunno about the rest, but you can buy houses and horses at least in Oblivion.
    • I really liked the ability to buy horses with wagons, houses, and boats (I haven't played Oblivion yet so I'm not sure if they brought those features back).

      Horses are back, though without wagons, but the fast travel feature makes them pretty much redundant. Houses are also back, though there are only one or two available to purchase per town (unlike a game like Fable, where you could kill the current owner of a house and it would come on the market and rent it out -- the Oblivion houses are more analog

    • TFA includes Battlespire and Redguard.

      And Battlespire is an RPG, but in the dungeoncrawl model rather than the open model of the other Bethesda RPGs.
  • by Vo0k (760020) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:18PM (#15021352) Journal
    So ready your horse, grab your finest set of gauntlets, and get the newest super-mega gfx card.
    The gfx is wonderful, the idea great, the execution of the idea neat, but I'm completely dizzy from riding the horse really fast through the forest during storm at 3 frames per second.
  • by 9mm Censor (705379) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:24PM (#15021393) Homepage
    Oblivion is the first time I have played a TES game. Being someone who loves FPS (hardcore UT and Battlefield player), it takes some thing special for me to play something that doesn't have quad damage and a rocket launcher. I can count the number for non FPSers I own in two hands. A need for speed game that I bought when I got my first car (which I played breifly and haven't touched since) and Oblivion. Having put 30 hours into one character, mostly in 6 hour spurts after work, I am hooked. Who would have though bows and arrows were as cool as rocket launchers?
    • Bow and arrows are about as fun as a sniper rifle. Get some kickass spells through spellmaking and these are as fun as rocket launcher.

      I'm not sure if in Oblivion you can do it but in MW you could make a ranged wide radius fire damage spell. Kaboom! I love nuclear weapons! :D Beats Redeemer from UT, all BFGs from all Quakes and is -somewhat- comparable to the explosion at the very end of Half-Life 2 :)
      • I was bored one time, made a spell that was stacked something like this:

        100 Fire Damage On Target, Radius: 100
        100 Frost Damage on Targe, Radius: 100
        100 Thunder Damage on Target, Radius: 100
        100 Poison Damage on Target, Radius: 100

        Doubled over (You're allowed eight effects per spell). I should have called it "Oops" because the only time I cast it (and it took a good few Fortify Magicka potions just to get the mana pool to manage it), I broke the main quest and several faction chains in one blast.
    • it takes some thing special for me to play something that doesn't have quad damage and a rocket launcher.

      Or you could simply find some trick (or simply create a mod using the insanely easy to use content creator) and create a super enchanted weapon that could kill anything in an area the size of a small town in one shot using the in game weapon Enchanting. It was so bad in the previous game, Morrowind, people figured out how to essentially give themselves god mode without leaving town, leveling up or cheat

      • > Or you could simply find some trick (or simply create a mod using the insanely easy to use content creator) and create a super enchanted weapon that could kill anything in an area the size of a small town in one shot using the in game weapon Enchanting.

        That's no trick. That's the standard gameplay experience! (yeah, scary!)

        > It was so bad in the previous game, Morrowind, people figured out how to essentially give themselves god mode without leaving town, leveling up or cheating/modding all in game.

        W
    • I also love the bow and arrow. Just the fact that the arrow takes time to get to the target and falls to the earth as it goes makes aiming really fun. Lead the target and aim high... adds a bit of challenge, which makes hitting a crit shot from the edge of sight radius really special. Now I'm waiting for an FPS that uses bows and arrows.
  • Some RPGs take the restricted world premise so far that they are practically on rails.

    Yeah, they are more commonly called 'Console RPGs'.
  • I've missed daggerfall but have played the others.. is it me or are you always a criminal in the beginning of the game??? I was experiencing some MAJOR deja-vu in the beginning of Oblivion in the dungeon.
    • You should play Planescape: Torment sometime. There, you start in a morgue. A very creepy one, at that.
    • It's not Deja Vu, it's a TRADITION! :D

      (Yeah, Arena was there by design. Daggerfall started with you getting imprisoned too, for a decent tutorial dungeon. With Morrowind they made it a prison ship just for laughts. With Oblivion they decided not to break the tradition.)
    • In daggerfall, you don't start out as a criminal. You're set on a mission by the emperor, and your boat crashes during a storm. You start the game just waking up from it in Privateer's Cove with your ship destroyed.
  • Some of those new innovative features attributed to Morrowind actually have their roots in Daggerfall. In particular, vampirism and lycanthropy in Morrowind are based on nearly identical features in Daggerfall. Morrowind is the impressive engineering feat while Daggerfall is the inspirational work of creative genius. Hats off to Daggerfall!
  • TES (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:13PM (#15022887) Homepage Journal
    Daggerfall is still the most ambitious of all of their titles. I played through the game, then went back to look at some of the spoilers for it, and... WOW. There's a gajillion things you can do in the game that I hadn't even touched upon. Not only could you become a vampire, but they had 12 different clans of vampires, with different abilities, inter-clan politics. The most detailed character generator yet, which just played up to the powergamer in me (fear of animals flaw FTW). Werewolves. Unique Artifacts. Quests for different religions, guilds, etc. A crazy awesome magic item creation system (My top gear only worked during the full moon, to keep costs low. I spent a lot of time sleeping.)

    And I thought that my flying horse was pretty cool.

    Sure, they used a "dynamic map" system of pseudo-random generating the dungeons and towns, but you know what? I liked the fact that there was 20,000 dungeons in the world. Every so often, I'd hop down into one for a nice randomly-generated-ala-diablo-2 experience. The sucky part was when you'd get quests to fish items out of the dungeons -- the dungeons were litterally huge, and could take hours to complete sometimes, especially if you couldn't find the one secret door behind the double-hairping corridor turn. So if I was doing quests for the mages guild (which I spent maybe 75% of my game time doing), I'd just drop any dungeon fetch quests and request a new one.

    I wish they'd do a "digitally-remastered" version of Daggerfall, kinda similar to what they did with FF1&2 (improved the graphics, added a lil' bit of new content). If it looked as good as Oblivion, I'd never leave my computer.

    The trouble with TES games is the fact that Bethesda doesn't believe in that whole whacky "quality assurance" thing. Daggerfall wouldn't run on my computer. Period. Until the 18th patch or so -- had a Cyrix CPU in 1996, remember those? Battlespire was almost a great game (online multiplayer with real working castles, catapults, drawbridges!) but was so buggy I had to stop playing. Redguard wouldn't run for more than 5 minutes without crashing. Morrowind once corrupted a section of the world (forcing a reinstall), and another time ate one of the quest items I needed to complete the game (had to go into the TES Construction set and drop a new one on the ground for me). Oblivion crashes every time I quit (ironically enough), but then also if I alt-tab, hit the windows key, reload too fast, click too fast, hit the keyboard too fast... or basically any time your hard drive can't keep up to speed (I have a Raid0 hard drive, so it rarely happens). It did crashed once on my girlfriend after she'd spent an hour without saving, which is really the only way I got to get my computer back from her after she spent her entire spring break on my own computer playing Oblivion. =) I was relegated to doing work with an old laptop.

    Oblivion is great though. Maybe not as big in scope as Daggerfall, but damn. It looks awesome if you have the rig to run it, the quests (and the quest system) are about 100x more interesting than Morrowind's. All in all, it's one of the better RPGs I've played (and I thank the lord it's not an interactive movie like FFVII or FFX), and if the only time it reliably crashes is when I quit... well, I can deal with that.
    • Re:TES (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Entropy248 (588290)
      Absolutely not. No. The most ambitious of their titles is called "The Elder Scrolls:Travels" and it's for your cell phone. It is a "Bard's Tale" style RPG on your cell phone. It doesn't have an immersive plot, but it does have 4 classes, a huge dungeon that I got extremely lost in, and portability that I just can't fight. I had the game for 6 months or so (Yes, you can save the game) before I beat it. It's difficult to find, but it worked on my Sanyo SCP 5200. It was such a great game, I transferred it to m
      • I actually have Dawnstar on my cell phone, played it for an hour or two while stuck in various places without anything better to do, haven't been particularly impressed by it. What did you like so much about it?
  • I read in the article that Arena is from 1994, but I know a german computer game "Das Schwarze Auge" (based on a german pen&paper RPG similar to D&D) which had exactly the same principle that you could go wherever you wanted and find little quests etc. and only go for the main quest when you felt like it.
    Sorry, The Elder Scrolls were not the first (but hey, I'm playing Oblivion right now as much as I can find time... (: ).

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