Daggerfall: Exploring the Mind of a Mad Data-God

The Survival Kit

 
In Daggerfall, I've taken to counting the saves. You're sort of forced to. Even with all the patches there's still a chance, a dice roll if you like, that your save game will be corrupted, or your game will freak out mid-stream and have to be restarted. It's a game in itself, and not a very fun one, to preserve the work you've done.  I've been playing for a few hours now, and my save count is up to 150-something. 
 
So far I've had only one crash in all that time, although I've had my share of void glitches, including being reminded that a mountain chain has buggy dungeon entrances, such that one time I actually spawned outside of the dungeon, and saw through The Void TWO crypts, one that would have been the normal one, and one that extended from the EXIT. Not only was there another whole dungeon but there were bits of rooms floating in space, unconnected to anything, with orcs and giant bats wandering forever locked in these dimensional prisons. It was actually kind of cool, although I was annoyed I had no easy way to get back out again. 
 
(For the sake of completion I'll mention that I did get out using the tools available to me by levitating underneath the starting room and accessing the exit from there.)
 
The spell Recall is pretty much required to maintain my sanity. It allows you to teleport to any place you've anchored to with the same spell, letting you zip to a point in space, cutting down on return travel time or making navigating its insane dungeons much less taxing once you're done in there. My usual practice is to anchor the spell at the entrance to a given dungeon, but I have sometimes, when I was feeling especially daring (read: stupid), set the anchor at the quest-giver's spot. Anchoring at the entrance, once you have a wagon, is very useful because if you overload on loot you can access the wagon through the entrance without leaving and dump all but gold into it. If you've cleared out the area, you can also rest without fear of anything but random encounters. Anchoring at the quest-giver's spot saves you some time but prevents any of these conveniences. And once you leave a dungeon it respawns, so if you're not done you'll have to start all over if you go back. 
 

Exploring the Mind of a Mad Data-God

 
I can't remember how many times I've started this damned game. I love the little moments, when you enter a room with a weird configuration and marvel at how it all falls together. Or when you manage to knock someone off a cliff, use a spell to get around a trap, or find the next piece of loot that upgrades your gear. Yeah, the game is busted all to hell, but I sometimes feel that instead of playing a messed up game, I'm exploring a ruined virtual space, trying to make sense of a created world so massive that its own creators abandoned it.
 
If Daggerfall were MORE complex, this feeling would only be heightened. There's a sense that, sometimes, you're the first human being to ever see a given dungeon. Maybe a few players have been there before, but most of this stuff isn't fully documented. There could be even more crazy combinations of rooms and monsters, more weird traps, more quests even. If anything, I think the game would be better if it delved deeper into this Lovecraftian madness.  I wish I knew how easy this was to mod.
 
Still, as a game Daggerfall is painful to play, as I've talked about before. Paralysis effects seem to last too long, some of the character creation options don't work, some of the skills are nearly useless, the errors can sometimes be so thick that you'll be screwed out of one or more saved games, and while the crypts feel too small, the random dungeons are just too damned big to be fun if you're looking for something in there, since there are no clues to where a quest object might be. 
 

Where the Architects of Ancient Times Had Trod

 
But, enough of this! What I need to do is try the main game and see if those custom-made dungeons are friendlier. I'm not intimidated any more by this sort of thing, especially after beating Morrowind. I've tried my hand at beating Arena (contrary to myth, there was no Elder Scrolls game before Arena), and I was a bit bored by the lack of variety, although I'd say in some ways Arena is a better dungeon hacking system than any Elder Scrolls game that's followed.
 
I've spent enough time in the procedurally generated wilderness. Time to explore the parts of Daggerfall that were actually colonized by the designers and see if it makes any more sense.
6 Comments
7 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

The Survival Kit

 
In Daggerfall, I've taken to counting the saves. You're sort of forced to. Even with all the patches there's still a chance, a dice roll if you like, that your save game will be corrupted, or your game will freak out mid-stream and have to be restarted. It's a game in itself, and not a very fun one, to preserve the work you've done.  I've been playing for a few hours now, and my save count is up to 150-something. 
 
So far I've had only one crash in all that time, although I've had my share of void glitches, including being reminded that a mountain chain has buggy dungeon entrances, such that one time I actually spawned outside of the dungeon, and saw through The Void TWO crypts, one that would have been the normal one, and one that extended from the EXIT. Not only was there another whole dungeon but there were bits of rooms floating in space, unconnected to anything, with orcs and giant bats wandering forever locked in these dimensional prisons. It was actually kind of cool, although I was annoyed I had no easy way to get back out again. 
 
(For the sake of completion I'll mention that I did get out using the tools available to me by levitating underneath the starting room and accessing the exit from there.)
 
The spell Recall is pretty much required to maintain my sanity. It allows you to teleport to any place you've anchored to with the same spell, letting you zip to a point in space, cutting down on return travel time or making navigating its insane dungeons much less taxing once you're done in there. My usual practice is to anchor the spell at the entrance to a given dungeon, but I have sometimes, when I was feeling especially daring (read: stupid), set the anchor at the quest-giver's spot. Anchoring at the entrance, once you have a wagon, is very useful because if you overload on loot you can access the wagon through the entrance without leaving and dump all but gold into it. If you've cleared out the area, you can also rest without fear of anything but random encounters. Anchoring at the quest-giver's spot saves you some time but prevents any of these conveniences. And once you leave a dungeon it respawns, so if you're not done you'll have to start all over if you go back. 
 

Exploring the Mind of a Mad Data-God

 
I can't remember how many times I've started this damned game. I love the little moments, when you enter a room with a weird configuration and marvel at how it all falls together. Or when you manage to knock someone off a cliff, use a spell to get around a trap, or find the next piece of loot that upgrades your gear. Yeah, the game is busted all to hell, but I sometimes feel that instead of playing a messed up game, I'm exploring a ruined virtual space, trying to make sense of a created world so massive that its own creators abandoned it.
 
If Daggerfall were MORE complex, this feeling would only be heightened. There's a sense that, sometimes, you're the first human being to ever see a given dungeon. Maybe a few players have been there before, but most of this stuff isn't fully documented. There could be even more crazy combinations of rooms and monsters, more weird traps, more quests even. If anything, I think the game would be better if it delved deeper into this Lovecraftian madness.  I wish I knew how easy this was to mod.
 
Still, as a game Daggerfall is painful to play, as I've talked about before. Paralysis effects seem to last too long, some of the character creation options don't work, some of the skills are nearly useless, the errors can sometimes be so thick that you'll be screwed out of one or more saved games, and while the crypts feel too small, the random dungeons are just too damned big to be fun if you're looking for something in there, since there are no clues to where a quest object might be. 
 

Where the Architects of Ancient Times Had Trod

 
But, enough of this! What I need to do is try the main game and see if those custom-made dungeons are friendlier. I'm not intimidated any more by this sort of thing, especially after beating Morrowind. I've tried my hand at beating Arena (contrary to myth, there was no Elder Scrolls game before Arena), and I was a bit bored by the lack of variety, although I'd say in some ways Arena is a better dungeon hacking system than any Elder Scrolls game that's followed.
 
I've spent enough time in the procedurally generated wilderness. Time to explore the parts of Daggerfall that were actually colonized by the designers and see if it makes any more sense.
Posted by Ravenlight

I've always wanted to try my hand at Daggerfall but I find it prohibitively broken. Definitely a fascinating artifact form a bygone era but it blows my mind that anyone was actually able to play, much less complete, this game.

What keeps you from just giving up in frustration?

Posted by Mento

I started up a new character in Daggerfall just recently after watching Vinny and Dave play it and wondering if the starter dungeon is really all that formidable (protip: No), then stopped when a glitch lost me about 30 minutes of progress and just moved onto other things soon after that.

It still holds up, sort of, but I can definitely see that the ubiquitous glitching that will either force you to reload or otherwise completely ruin your game is still a deal breaker to most. It almost feels like a form of meta-booby trap; if you're not careful, something will kill your character by going over the player's head and doing something scandalous with the coding.

Moderator
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Ravenlight: I guess I HAVE given up over and over, but it's less from frustration than just feeling like I've seen all I could at the level of involvement I was willing to invest. I'd never really do the main quest, so I just would repeatedly do quests for the Mage's Guild, the easy ones that mean you don't have to leave to complete them, stock up on stuff, maybe run through a dungeon without a mission once in a while, then start finding daedric gear and get a full set. Then...  well, there's not much to accomplish after that. I liked finding the witches' covens, and I get little surprises every once in a while, but I sorta reached what I felt to be the end of the non-main quest game. At the time, because of the unreliable construction of the game, with the glitches and all, I didn't have much confidence in what Bethsoft might do with the main quest, and I was sorta always wary of doing main quest stuff when I could just wander. That's probably as far as I've gotten.
 
But I realized through playing some of Arena and all of the main quest of Morrowind that they do pay a lot more attention to those quests, and that they'll actually be interesting, so in the back of my head I've thought about doing more in Daggerfall. So that's sort of what I'm edging toward.
 
As for the problems, I'm used to them. I can figure out ways around The Void, and I save reflexively, so most of the problems aren't there. I also just avoid quests that are rumored to be broken, so I'm pretty much protected. There have been a few runs where I did, like you, get exhausted and quit. But I guess I like enough of it to try again every once in a while. I guess I'll see how long this lasts.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Mento: I DO treat the saving as a meta-trap, so I've done all right so far this time. It's vital to protect your progress, and that means continuous saves (even saying that, my vigilance lapses now and again). I also have a save-fix utility standing by just in case, but thing seem OK so far. Key for me is to remember not to hoard stuff; I think some of the errors come from having too many objects for the software to keep track of. I used to gather all the material components I could find and stuff them in my wagon, but now I sell them the first chance I get. The most I have now are just bank account numbers and hundreds of days at inns. 
 
And no, Privateer's Hold isn't too bad, especially if you've learned what to expect from the game. I rush through it almost mechanically now. I also know more about the character building system, so I grimaced when they made certain choices. Was fun to see people with little prior experience or faded memories trying it. Vinny's eagerness to continue was fun to see, as it always is. I like that he's willing to try stuff like that out even after it's taken a big bite :)
Posted by Mento

@ahoodedfigure: Yeah the character building stuff can get crazy if you exploit it a little. Like prohibiting Iron and Leather (soon replaced with better quality stuff anyway) and using the bonus XP gain to give yourself an immunity to magic or a much faster regen rate. Vinny's just stubborn, like I am. It's a trait that is highly beneficial to playing CRPGs, as well as plenty of difficult video games in general. It'll probably give me a heart attack before too long though.

Moderator
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Mento: I always do a similar build, and it works well for me: forbid leather, steel, elven, dwarven, and bladed weapons. Up HP by a bit, multiply magic points, increase poison, paralysis, and disease resistance, and maybe a few other tweaks. I also try to have stats nearest to 60 to start, and make sure no level-up skill has a weapon I'll use or a skill that's in constant use to prevent leveling too fast (and I give it a boost in the question set so I can hit stuff). Primary skills tend to be thiefy, major skills are ubiquitous stuff. I usually pick Argonian just cuz, although if I play Skyrim I think I'm going to break that first-game tradition since just about everything looks like it might be fun to try out.
 
What I wind up with is someone who can wear all high-level armors and crush stuff with warhammers, while using utility spells. Works out quite well, assuming The Crashening doesn't happen too often, of course. Just like any character system where you're given a lot of freedom, though, it can get out of control.