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Posts tagged “morrowind

Morrowind and the Modern Games Industry

You may recall that I’ve discussed a game called Morrowind in the past. I wrote a post about it in my trademark retro-review-with-a-fresh-perspective format (don’t steal that idea, it’s MINE!) and I also streamed some sessions of it with my superstar tag-team partner Jarenth. You want to know why I stopped doing those stream sessions? I didn’t want to play the game anymore.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I stopped initially because of a very serious thing that happened to me, but I continued to not do it because I no longer had any desire to play it.

I’ve already said some mean things about Morrowind in that original post, but to recap: The movement speed is painfully slow, the combat is the epitome of a dull slog, and the stealth does not work properly. In the hours I spent with the game since then I began to learn more about it: namely, that it likes to bog you down with MMO-style “Collect X of Y” and “Go to X and interact with NPC Y” quests, which beautifully complement the atrociously slow movement speed, that the in-game economy is very easily breakable by exploiting potion brewing mechanics, and that the leveling system is convoluted, counter-intuitive and overly punitive.

Whenever people preach about how “old games were so much longer than the crap we play now” I roll my eyes, and this game is a perfect example of why. Yes, it occupies a lot of time, because it flagrantly wastes your time with slow movement and tedious fetch quests. Are we judging quantity over quality here?

Look, I did some digging through Morrowind and I just do not see any appeal. The game is revoltingly ugly (and I’m not just talking about graphical fidelity) and the combat is some of the worst I have ever played. Getting past that, the leveling system and economy system are both broken, and the quests provide no sense of engagement or satisfaction.

Is this really what we should hold up as the height of game design? Completing a million repetitive, meaningless quests so you can one day become the King Of Mages in a world of buggy robots? Exploiting an easily breakable economy and potion brewing scheme to get all the money in a dull, monotonous, overly brown world?

Is it out-of-line for me to call Morrowind a bad game? No, I don’t think so. I won’t begrudge you for your enjoyment of it, but it just does not function like a good game should. People have praised it for its setting and lore, but how much does that really mean when the game you’re playing is a fundamentally broken mess?

You know, back when I wrote that first impressions review of Fallout 1 and my site’s popularity [relatively] skyrocketed, people said I was being “unfair” toward the game because I was judging it by today’s standards rather than the standards of the time.

My response would be this: Yeah, I suppose I am being “unfair.” But if you want a “fair,” “unbiased” review of the game, I suggest you go back and find a review of it from the year it was released, because that’s the only way you’ll be satisfied. And I’ll also add that if you’re willing to criticize me for being unfair, you’ve missed the whole point of my retro review scheme.

A few months ago a certain blog post spread around the gaming community called “Fuck Videogames.” It’s a gross over-exaggeration of some genuine issues in the industry, but one part in particular really bothered me:

“Fuck developers for slapping a new coat of paint on an old game and selling it at full price. Fuck them for doing this every year, like clockwork, for the better part of two decades. Fuck developers for not taking risks.”

I’m not yelling about how these old games suck because I like yelling. I’m doing it to show that that line is bullshit. Many aspects of games have been steadily improving over the years. When I point out how egregiously flawed many of these so-called classics are, you respond with “Well, we have different standards today than we did back then.” And my reply is, “Yes, we do have different standards, because developers now have decades of experience and technology to make better games, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Many gamers complain that new games suck so bad and old games were so much better and the industry is totally stagnant and hasn’t improved in any way for like a decade. These same people will then turn around and tell me I’m being “unfair” in my criticisms of decade-old games simply because they’re a decade old. They don’t seem to be aware of the contradiction.

I understand if you think the industry has gone in a direction you don’t like. That’s understandable. It’s a very different place now than it was a decade or two ago, and I’m not going to argue it’s better in every way. But if you’re going to argue that everything about games is worse, then you’re literally, provably wrong. That attitude of yours doesn’t contribute to discourse. It’s thoughtless, pointless, ignorant, indignant bile masquerading as wisdom, and I do not have the patience to listen to that shit anymore.

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Morrowind 1-19-12

Stream’s up!

So yeah, it took roughly a stream and a half to do two close-by quests and get back to town. At least two hours, if you total up the time. To be fair, the traveling doesn’t take that long; the reason it took so long in this case was because of all the fighting, save scumming, resting and dying that came along the way. Cliff racers and dark brotherhood agents are not a good combination, especially for a low-level aspiring mage/thief.

You know what’s the strangest part? I actually kind of enjoyed myself. It was frustrating and irritating, but it was also kind of exciting in an alone-in-the-wilderness kind of way. As I’ve said before, I like the concepts of travel and survival used as game mechanics.

Here are my problems, though…

Successfully resting takes virtually all the tension of the scene away. It raises your health, mana and stamina right back up to full if you can find a safe place to hide in, and since enemies apparently can’t open doors, finding a safe zone isn’t always a challenge. Apparently you can rest on the open road, even when you can see a cliff racer in the distance.

If they had some sort of limitation for how often you can rest, that would make it less “Survive until you can rest” and more “survive until you can get back to town,” which would be more intense and exciting. Adding hunger would help with that; you can’t spend two weeks hiking from point A to point B if you don’t pack the food for it.

Of course, with things the way they are now, putting a limit on how much you can sleep would only make the game more egregiously hard, and the game definitely doesn’t need that. They would have to re-balance everything so that traveling from place to place while also minding your rations would actually be viable.

Beneath the egregious unfairness, shoddy gameplay and obvious exploits is a game I would absolutely love.


Morrowind 1-14-12

Stream’s here.

So, here’s all the important bits in this episode of Egg McMuffin’s Morrowindian Adventures:

  • Egg McMuffin did several Mage’s Guild quests, the rewards for which were health potions and mana potions.
  • He went out for a hike to get to his next quest.
  • On the way he killed a few wildlife creatures, an army of cliff racers, and a demon-type thing.
  • He discovered that he really likes his fire spell, and that his bow & arrows are next to useless.
  • He was assaulted by a Dark Brotherhood agent, and to defeat him he chugged down every single potion he earned.

The episode ended with him stranded in the wilderness, with no arrows and nothing to sleep on but the pile of cliff racers he murdered. Things look promising!

Once again, sorry for my heavy breathing. I thought I was better this time.

Also, on a completely unrelated note: Last night I posted a super-serious post on my alternate non-gaming blog, Ninja Lounge House. It’s called “Things You Shouldn’t Say to Suicidal People.” It deals with suicide prevention, and the counter-productive arguments people often use in order to convince their friends against committing suicide. If you like the post, I would really appreciate it if you spread it around. I want more people to know these things.

Yeah, shameless self-promotion, I know. I’m sorry. This is just something I’m really passionate about.


Morrowind 1-6-12

Here’s the Morrowind stream, in case you missed it.

Actually, the video got split into two for some strange reason, but the second video is only two minutes long and nothing of consequence or amusement happens in it, so whatever.

You may have noticed that I have a new Livestream account. This is because my old account had the shamefully stupid username of Jedi Sasquatch. Many a year ago I’d decided to make that my username for various online sites, due to a combination of Star Wars fandom and unlocking the secret character Umaro in Final Fantasy 6. And while I still adore Final Fantasy 6, I’ve really grown out of Star Wars, mostly due to developing actual taste and realizing how utterly horrid the prequel trilogy was. Plus, come on. Jedi Sasquatch. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Anyway, I feel the need to apologize for a few things. Firstly, I’m sorry for breathing heavily throughout the entire thing. I had no idea it was that obnoxious. I’ll try to work on that.

Secondly, I’m sorry that I forgot to turn off the mods before starting. I knew I’d forgotten to do something, I just knew it. The mod I was using was called Galsiah’s Character Development, and it essentially makes leveling seamless rather than a hard transition from level to level. Basically, as you level skills up, your stats will level up accordingly as well. My Khajit thief has a pretty high endurance from all the acrobatics leveling, for instance. It’s a pretty nifty mod. Kudos to Eldiran for recommending it to me.

So for those of you who won’t watch the video, over halfway through I stopped and realized I had the mod installed, so I had to disable the mod and then start all over. The result is that almost nothing of consequence happened the entire time; so far Egg McMuffin has left the prison, given a man his ring and then stolen it right back.

And lastly, I’d like to apologize for Jarenth being too busy fighting space zombies (or whatever he does on his free time) to show up and co-broadcast the stream with me. He evidently got mixed up and thought I lived in California.

I’m busy next Friday, so we’re shooting for Thursday the 12th, same time. Hope to see you there.


Happy Birthday! Also, Announcement

Yes, happy new year and all that. What some of you might not realize is that today doesn’t just mark the start of 2012; it’s also the one-year anniversary of the start of Ninja Game Den!

Well, technically I created the blog awhile before January 1st of last year, but that was the day I published my first post and publicized the blog. That was long before most of you would discover it, but whatever, this is a pretty big deal for me, alright?

I now feel morally obligated to do something special to mark the occasion. So here we go: I’d like to announce that in a few days I’ll be starting a Livestream playthrough of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. I plan to make this a regular thing, as I previously attempted with Fallout.

But JPH! You remember how Fallout went, don’t you?

Yes, I do. Morrowind is a different game. I’ve played it a decent amount already, and I didn’t find it utterly dreadful like I did with Fallout. But it does have a lot of boring stretches, and I figure it’ll be less boring if I have people to talk to along the way.

So, JP, what mods are you going to use?

This might sound a bit outrageous, but I’m not planning on using any, except for the Morrowind Code Patch, which fixes a number of bugs and miscellaneous issues (and, among other things, lets me toggle sneak mode).

I understand that the Morrowind modding community is impressively huge and talented, but for the purposes of a Let’s Play, introducing even one addition or feature that the designers didn’t intend for would open up a host of issues. Firstly, it could cause glitches within the game that weren’t there in the first place. Secondly, if I want to criticize the game for some minute detail, it could become hard to tell whether that issue is from the game itself or from the mods, and this problem would become more prominent with more mods included. And most importantly, it opens the floodgates for people to say “You’re not using the right mods! You should use these instead! They make the game way better!”

The first streaming day is set for Friday, January 6th. I won’t be free every Friday, and I honestly can’t say when I will be free, because my work schedule is completely erratic and unpredictable. I think I’ll just have to pick days that I’m off and announce those dates for streaming a few days in advance.

I’m not sure what build I’ll go for. The character I built for my secluded playthrough is an acrobatic ninja-type khajit, because what else would I do, honestly. For the LP I’m thinking I’ll roll a mage. An acrobatic mage, natch, but a mage nonetheless. I don’t know how magic works in this game, but I’ve heard that spellcrafting is one of the most fun things to do in Morrowind, so that might be the best option to showcase the game and to make me actually like it.

What do you think I should play as? Post a comment and say so. Or just show up on Friday and make your suggestion then.


Morrowind: First Impressions

Turns out my brother had a copy of the Morrowind Game of the Year edition in his closet. Since I’m kind of getting bored with Skyrim, I figured it might be fun to give it a look. I’ve heard it’s leagues better than Oblivion and read arguments that it’s as good as or even better than Skyrim. This is a pretty high expectation to live up to.

The game doesn’t say how long I’ve played it so far. I’m gonna guess that I’m maybe an hour or two in, although I did have to reroll my character. I’ve completed the first two quests in the Fighter’s Guild in Balmora, if that’s any indicator. Now I feel like I’m supposed to talk about it.

Where do I begin?

Hustle!

It takes forever to get anywhere. No, I’m not complaining about the lack of auto-fast-travel. I actually like that. I like the idea of having to travel myself or pay for transit from city to city. I’ve always felt that the instant fast travel system of Oblivion and Fallout 3, while convenient, sort of undermines the whole “big epic world of exploration” thing. And I like having travel and survival as core mechanics. It’s why I’ve spent far more time on Minecraft now that they’ve added hardcore mode.

No, I’m talking about movement speed. This sounds like a petty complaint, but it really screws with the flow of the game and it’s incredibly aggravating. Athletics is one of my primary skills, and yet even when I unequip all my armor my movement speed is still eye-twitchingly slow. Even getting from the armor shop to the magic shop takes far longer than it should.

Also, in Skyrim you can walk at a slow pace, run at a reasonable speed, or sprint at a fast pace, which drains stamina. In Morrowind you can run at a slow pace, or run at a reasonable speed, which drains stamina. Considering you could run into a fight within a moment’s notice and it takes forever to regain stamina, the game is sort of encouraging you to walk everywhere, which is horrendously boring. Jumping also drains stamina, so if you want to be ready for a fight, you can’t even spam jump to level up your acrobatics.

Yeah, okay, maybe that’s more “realistic” than being able to run from city to city without breaking a sweat. On that note, I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “He who sacrifices fun for an unfulfilled pretension toward ‘realism’ deserves neither.” Games thrive on an engaging moment-to-moment experience, and that falls flat on its face when you have to wait for five minutes while your character paces slowly back to town.

It’s also worth noting that the whole “big epic world of exploration” feel is really let down when the view distance doesn’t let you see more than 50 feet in front of you.

Wow, just look at that mountain! Erm…

The combat is a slog. This was back when devs hadn’t really figured out how to meld the genres of action and RPG properly, so you end up in a scenario where you see your character swing her sword directly into the rat, and yet the game tells you that you missed somehow. What? How? I saw that rat get hit in the face!

The system of missing and hitting according to the Dice Gods works in games like Fallout or Baldur’s Gate because those games don’t involve coordination or reflexes, and you’re not really in direct control of your character. If they didn’t have the dice rolling in place there would be no intrigue and no pass/fail chance in place (until you get to complicated Chess-like scenarios, but I digress). In an action RPG, especially one set in first person, you’re the one that’s determining whether you live or die, not your character. And when you miss because of something that was completely out of your control, that just feels like the game cheated you out of victory.

Beyond that, so much of the combat is spent spamming the attack button and hoping you don’t miss that it gets boring before you’ve even killed your first rat. Skyrim has a fairly elegant combat system in place for fighters, wherein you essentially play an ongoing rock-paper-scissors using attacking, blocking and bashing. Block counters light attack, heavy attack counters block, bash counters heavy attack. You have to constantly pay attention to your opponent’s attacks and counter appropriately, and it’s not exactly God of War, but it works. Morrowind, by contrast, is more sleep-inducing than Ambien.

Sneaking is horrendous. My first character was built to be a sneaky ninja, but once I realized how horribly unintuitive the stealth mechanics are, it was only a matter of time before I’d reroll as a warrior. In Skyrim you can see how close NPCs are to detecting you, as indicated by an opening and closing eye in the center of the screen. In Morrowind there’s no indicator of anything. You just crouch, steal the item and hope nobody spontaneously lashes out at you.

On top of that, in Morrowind crouching into “sneak mode” is not a toggle and can’t be set to a toggle. You have to hold it down constantly. Who thought that would be logical? How often would a ninja attempt to sneak past hostile enemies and then find that his pinky is sore from all the crouching?

Like I said before, I like survival and I like travel. I want to like Morrowind. I really do. But the game is just not making it easy for me. Oblivion was a complete mess, I know. I agree. But I’m really questioning the idea that Morrowind wasn’t also a complete mess.