What I'd Like To See In The Elder Scrolls VIJul 31, 2015
First of all, welcome to 2015!
I took a two year break from posting for various reasons. Mainly, I didn't have very much to talk about. Opera abandoned its Presto rendering engine, which dropped me from "loyal fan" to "happy user." I also played The Elder Scrolls Online for almost a year, which didn't leave me with a lot of time for other things.
Now I'm back with a new post, because I've been excited about this topic for the last several weeks. I'd like to put my thoughts into words just to get them out there. So without further ado...
Full disclosure: I was introduced to TES games with Morrowind, so you may find that many of the items I list are vague (or sometimes explicit) appeals to nostalgia for that game. On the other hand, there are plenty of improvements that Oblivion and Skyrim have made which I rather would see return in TES 6. And while there are plenty of other posts that have been made on the topic of features various people would like to see in the upcoming game, I'm sticking to a list which I feel would make the game a better experience overall for me personally. Not just for me personally though, but for the nostalgic Morrowind fans and new Skyrim fans alike.
Encyclopedias-worth of argument have been written about the introduction of map-click fast travel (MCFT), first in Oblivion and continued in Skyrim. I understand that many people have a play-style where MCFT is valuable. However it must also be acknowledged that there are those who have play-styles where MCFT is damaging to one's perception of the world.
In land area, Morrowind was less than 2/3rds the size of Skyrim, yet (partly) because you couldn't MCFT in Morrowind, the game world felt so much bigger. It's tough to describe this feeling to someone who's never played Morrowind, but the feeling is definitely real. Among those who continue to argue against MCFT, I would say this feeling is the main reason for their efforts. Let me attempt to describe it with a couple points:
a) Impact on player choices
Open world games, like those in the TES series, are about one thing over all: player choice. You start off the game with an opening quest, but from there the choice is yours to follow it, or ignore it completely. Do you go here? Go there? That's one of the most beautiful things about these games: the choice is yours.
Enter MCFT. Now choices that involve travel are dramatically reduced in importance. Want to finish your quest across the map? Sure, just click and you're there. While without MCFT, you now have a harder choice to make. The turn-in for this quest is half-way across the map. Should you take the time to travel there, or should you make a note to turn it in the next time you're there, and do other things in the meantime. Essentially what the player is doing is judging whether the potential reward from the quest is worth taking time out to travel to the turn-in. Such a thing may be an annoyance to some players, but provide a heightened sense of immersion to others.
b) Remove temptation
The most common argument against removing MCFT is the old standby: "If you don't like MCFT, just don't use it." The problem with this is three-fold. One is that the temptation to use it is too great for all but the most disciplined players. Consider the situation: It's late at night, you've just finished a grueling boss-kill, and the quest turn-in is a 10-minute run away. You just want to go to bed. You'll just use MCFT this one time and never again. Then one finds that these "one times" start becoming more times, until you're just using MCFT indiscriminately. It's so easy, yet many hours in you start realizing how you've damaged your perception of the game by skipping all the content between quest hubs. The game seems small, because you've seen so little of it.
The second problem is that in both Oblivion and Skyrim, quest giver speech and journal text were designed with MCFT as an assumed feature. There were no complex traveling directions, descriptions of landmarks, or notes to pay attention to signposts. There was none of this because the quest giver just needed to give you the final destination and you could probably find it on your own with a combination of MCFT and the compass. Sure, if you'd never been there before you had to walk there, but after a relatively short time, most places on the map are at least close to places you've already discovered. Just MCFT to the place that's closest to where you need to go.
The third problem is that native fast-travel systems, such as carriages, boats, mage's guild teleports, propylons, mark & recall, intervention spells and others were severely limited or removed altogether in Oblivion and Skyrim. In Morrowind, one eventually learned the native fast-travel networks that could get you most places on the island of Vvardenfell in a relatively short time. If one tried to follow the maxim "if you don't like MCFT, don't use it" in Oblivion or Skyrim, the amount of actual walking required is far greater than was required in Morrowind. And this is because Oblivion and Skyrim assume MCFT will be used. There is just no alternative travel network, simple as that.
Bringing it all back, MCFT should be an in-game toggle, but just implementing the toggle is only one part of this effort. A more robust, native travel system needs to be brought back. One that's discoverable, and can be learned. Mark & Recall should make a comeback, as well as Divine Intervention to take you to the nearest Temple of the Divines. NPCs and the journal need to provide more detailed directions instead of just relying on the compass and hovering arrows.
If I had to hate on anything in any game it's ankle-high walls. When you're running somewhere and a rock the size of your head on the ground stops you dead in your tracks. Or a tiny quirk of the terrain becomes an impassable barrier. This shouldn't happen. TES VI should take a page from the many parkour-style games that have been released in recent years and adapt character motion to match.
When your character strikes a rock, they should step or leap over it. Low ledges should be climbable. The character should turn aside when running headlong into a tree. High falls should end with rolls instead of leg-breaking landings. Things like these would do an incredible amount of good with respect to making players feel their characters are actually a part of the world, instead of a robot wandering around.
In addition to this, races should be given unique motion animations where applicable. For example, Argonians should tail swim, as they did in Morrowind. A well-muscled character should have different walking and running gaits than a delicate one.
As far as I know, the removal of beast legs from Oblivion and Skyrim was based on time and expense constraints only, not lore. The beast races are supposed to be digitigrade. They're only plantigrade in Oblivion, Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls Online because: a) it allowed the developers to use one animation mesh for all races; and b) they only had to design one set of boots for all races.
Beast legs were one of the things that made the beast races truly stand out in Morrowind. Since they walked with a different gait (albeit a kind of awkward one) they were instantly recognizable from a long way off. If you played a beast race as your character, you couldn't wear boots or shoes. And you know what? That was okay. Like I mentioned earlier, player choice matters, and if the choice I make has a downside then that's part of the game experience, not just something to whine about.
I lived without wearing shoes in Morrowind as an Argonian, but why did I have to do that? Surely the Argonians had come up with some kind of footwear to fit their strange legs, as well as the Khajiit. A second type of foot slot should be assigned to the beast races, and boots of both types should drop as loot. The "beast" type of boots should only be wearable by beast races, while boots of the regular type can be worn by non-beast races. I would be happy with just this change, but wouldn't be opposed to having tailors and armorers in towns being able to convert footwear from one type to the other for a fee.
Another pet peeve of mine, perhaps not as much for Khajiits but certainly so for Argonians, is the lack of armour on the tail. The Argonian tail is a quite substantial part of the body, and I'm sure any Argonian would rather not have it damaged in battle. Adding some tail-top armour with equipped greaves would be a great start. Better yet, make tail armour its own slot.
I still have quite a bit to write about what I'd like to see in TES VI, but I'll probably save that for Part 2. For now, I'll list some things from Oblivion and Skyrim that I'm okay with staying in TES 6.
First of all, I don't care where they set the game. I know wherever they set it, it'll be awesome.
Attributes have been a hot topic since they were mostly removed in Skyrim. While I was among those who were originally outraged, I'm not certain having these attributes visible is all that necessary. One thing the attributes did do that I miss is allow for enchantments that buffed a specific attribute. But other than that, no attributes is fine too.
The Perk system was a cool new addition that I wouldn't mind seeing return. It gave players a way to really customize their character which was a refreshing change from just grinding skills for level XP.
That's it for now. Look forward to reading Part 2 of what I'd like to see in TES VI!
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