The Elder Scrolls: Where COULD We Go from Here?

Resolved: After seeing the Skyrim announcement, I'm going to ramble about what I want from an Elder Scrolls game.

Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall

 
My experience of the Elder Scrolls began with Daggerfall.  Buggy, expansive Daggerfall.  I didn't even know about Arena when we bought the second part in the Elder Scroll series and struggled with its terrible, game destroying bugs that would send you falling through the floor, leave you stuck, with quests unfinishable and savegames ruined.  For some folks it would be too much to go through to even bother playing, but we stuck with it, at least for a while.
 
For me it helped that the customization was so extensive. Creating a custom class and fiddling with the skill system, species/race, and character development was always fun (even if I wound up playing versions of the same thing).  The art style, which some might think of as anachronistic, seemed to hail to the old pen and paper role-playing game art that made me feel like these guys knew what they were doing, whether or not they actually achieved it.   
 
It wasn't just the characters, either. You got a sense of ownership in some part because of the world you inhabited too.  You could bum around in different provinces, setting up a more-or-less permanent base in a region, with a house, a bank account, and an ever increasing (and admittedly unmanageable) list of places to explore.  The more quests you went on and the more wandering you did, the more places on the map you'd find.  While the graveyards were already marked and would yield a bit of loot, the massive dungeons were where the real money was, and until you got a spell that helped transport you out once you were done in there, those monstrosities were also where the game's biggest headaches were.
 
 Like a lot of the game, the dungeons were randomly seeded upon creation (meaning the numbers that were used to generate the dungeons were given numbers to generate everything beforehand, as were the locations themselves), but there were some problems when setting up the borders for what these random numbers would create.  You would get mind-numbingly immense caverns that had no thematic consistency that automapped into something resembling several piles of intestines all mooshed together in a chaotic horror you could spend days navigating, even with a careful, systematic approach.
 

Moving On


Once you discounted the bugs (which wasn't really possible, but let's pretend) people seemed to react to all of this by saying that the problem was the randomness and the samey-ness that seemed to come from that. That's why we got Morrowind, which concentrated on a smaller region, and Oblivion, still smaller.  Some intervening games like Redguard and Battlespire even focused on smaller areas, although many people aren't familiar with the games at all (I'd say Redguard was unfairly overlooked from what I've seen of it, though I haven't played it myself). 
 
Yet I think part of the customization was in finding a region you liked to visit and staying there a while.  Daggerfall boasted deserts, mountain regions, alien-looking plains, several types of cities and hamlets, and hidden witch covens. Each region felt different, and I loved starting what I felt to be an enterprise in a region I liked, exploring the dungeons, pleasing the locals, and finding what I could before moving on.  If that had been expanded and enriched, I think it would have been hard for me to complain, and I think there are a few people who wouldn't mind them taking another crack at something on a larger scale that takes advantage of modern storage and combination ideas. 

The Exploration of a Gamespace


It wasn't until Minecraft that I got a sense that someone really wanted to take random to its logical extreme and still make a playable game experience. You would find terrain built up in a satisfactory way, and if you enjoyed the phat-pixel graphics you could easily get absorbed in what you were doing. I think Minecraft shows that you can have a low-res experience feel like real exploring without the janky modularity that ruins a lot of Daggerfall's goodwill.
 
I see games like Minecraft and (to some extent) Dwarf Fortress showing the potential of creating a world procedurally, and letting the player explore it.  What games like Elder Scrolls needed was a solid foundation and a consistent aesthetic.  Imagine going to the icy north to find an frozen cave. In that ice cave the game engine would say that 100 years ago a bunch of settlers found refuge there during a massive blizzard, and wound up making it their home. They dug until they created a miniature city, until perhaps they dug too deep and let loose creatures who then drove them out. So the program would have a section (reasonably sized) filled with stuff that might be the artifacts the settlers left behind, deep down you see the dwelling of the creatures whose home was inadvertently invaded, and who are possibly still active many generations later, and an overlapping area which is a random combination of elements from the two factions and signs of conflict (residue of magical blasts if the settlers were magically adept, broken weapons, mummified corpses from both sides). 
 
All this stuff sounds complex, but you could have a pretty straightforward string of variables to implement it.  What limits expansive games like the Elder Scrolls, and games in general, isn't so much the potential of programming, which only gets better every day, but our own expectations.  While I don't expect or even want everyone's tastes to mirror mine, I think there seems to be many people out there who want only the latest attempt by video games to approach absolute realism in their graphics.  Oblivion has some pretty astonishing visuals, but as time passes we become used to these graphics, we begin to see the flaws, we want something more, and that march toward perfection, if it's even attainable, is at the expense of enriching the game world.  Oblivion took some leaps forward from its predecessor Morrowind, and especially Daggerfall before that, but with the increase in detail, there feels to me to be a decrease in customization and expansiveness, and in a few ways I don't think it's advanced too much since Daggerfall. 
 

Customization through Action

 
I was watching a person looting a jewelry store in Oblivion and I felt like I was watching a pre-programmed series of events. You could murder the shopkeeper and take all his stuff, or just burgle his store and settle for a little less loot but be less likely to have to suffer for it if you were caught.  You could play the role of the thief in this sense, but even that felt modular because there was no nuance to it, as if they had said "you wanna play a thief, we have that too!" Unless you were into the bare idea of stealing, there wasn't much there to enrich that role, beyond taking specific quests for the thief's guild.
 
Guilds DO make things interesting, and I liked the move in Morrowind to have competing guilds and specific questlines for guilds that had a personal, human feel to things. The random guild quests in Daggerfall often felt cold, but I think in part this was because there were so few variations that seemed to have no consequence for the place you were helping. You would find a carbon-copy of the Mage's Guild everywhere, with a few different variations on the possible characters and quality of items inside, and the quests were randomly generated from a very small pool of choices with some random name attached: "Rudolf Beckwesley needs this thing called kordrom, but we know it as mummy wrappings." Always mummy wrappings. Always. 
 
I wonder if a more unstructured approach might work better. You set up behaviors and consequences for ACTIONS as opposed to pre-planned lines of behavior. Some sellers might LOVE to buy the stuff you looted from their rival's store. Some fighter's guilds might react in horror at the story of you slaughtering everyone to get at the rat in the cellar, while others may buy you a beer for your tenacity.  The spell ingredient nestled deep within the underground labyrinth has a chemical analog growing freely in the Plains of Abem, so if you supplied that instead, who would know the difference? (Depending on the skills of the people asking for help, possibly no one would know.) By making things a bit more unpredictable and dependent upon the player understanding the world, rather than having their character do all the work for them, the level of engagement might increase more than if we get more set "roles" to play.
 
Similar to the frozen cavern idea above, each mage's guild could have a set of variables that dictated the history of that particular guild, its rivalries, the skill of its members in identifying quality of goods.  Individuals in that guild could have secret motivations that only revealed themselves the more they trusted you, and combining all of these simple things could lead to a very different feeling moving from guild to guild.
 

Skyrim

 
I'm looking forward to seeing what they might do to enhance the game that Bethesda has been essentially remaking and enhancing for years. It seems they'll be concentrating on a formula similar to what they did with Oblivion, where each kingdom is basically the center of a game. I can see that being a sensible way to not get overwhelmed by the size and continue to refine the experience; I just wonder if there might be some other game, possibly made by someone else, that would capture that sense of getting lost in a massive, living world.
 
I have more to say, more I could go into, but I guess I'll leave it here for now.  Thanks :)
43 Comments
44 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

Resolved: After seeing the Skyrim announcement, I'm going to ramble about what I want from an Elder Scrolls game.

Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall

 
My experience of the Elder Scrolls began with Daggerfall.  Buggy, expansive Daggerfall.  I didn't even know about Arena when we bought the second part in the Elder Scroll series and struggled with its terrible, game destroying bugs that would send you falling through the floor, leave you stuck, with quests unfinishable and savegames ruined.  For some folks it would be too much to go through to even bother playing, but we stuck with it, at least for a while.
 
For me it helped that the customization was so extensive. Creating a custom class and fiddling with the skill system, species/race, and character development was always fun (even if I wound up playing versions of the same thing).  The art style, which some might think of as anachronistic, seemed to hail to the old pen and paper role-playing game art that made me feel like these guys knew what they were doing, whether or not they actually achieved it.   
 
It wasn't just the characters, either. You got a sense of ownership in some part because of the world you inhabited too.  You could bum around in different provinces, setting up a more-or-less permanent base in a region, with a house, a bank account, and an ever increasing (and admittedly unmanageable) list of places to explore.  The more quests you went on and the more wandering you did, the more places on the map you'd find.  While the graveyards were already marked and would yield a bit of loot, the massive dungeons were where the real money was, and until you got a spell that helped transport you out once you were done in there, those monstrosities were also where the game's biggest headaches were.
 
 Like a lot of the game, the dungeons were randomly seeded upon creation (meaning the numbers that were used to generate the dungeons were given numbers to generate everything beforehand, as were the locations themselves), but there were some problems when setting up the borders for what these random numbers would create.  You would get mind-numbingly immense caverns that had no thematic consistency that automapped into something resembling several piles of intestines all mooshed together in a chaotic horror you could spend days navigating, even with a careful, systematic approach.
 

Moving On


Once you discounted the bugs (which wasn't really possible, but let's pretend) people seemed to react to all of this by saying that the problem was the randomness and the samey-ness that seemed to come from that. That's why we got Morrowind, which concentrated on a smaller region, and Oblivion, still smaller.  Some intervening games like Redguard and Battlespire even focused on smaller areas, although many people aren't familiar with the games at all (I'd say Redguard was unfairly overlooked from what I've seen of it, though I haven't played it myself). 
 
Yet I think part of the customization was in finding a region you liked to visit and staying there a while.  Daggerfall boasted deserts, mountain regions, alien-looking plains, several types of cities and hamlets, and hidden witch covens. Each region felt different, and I loved starting what I felt to be an enterprise in a region I liked, exploring the dungeons, pleasing the locals, and finding what I could before moving on.  If that had been expanded and enriched, I think it would have been hard for me to complain, and I think there are a few people who wouldn't mind them taking another crack at something on a larger scale that takes advantage of modern storage and combination ideas. 

The Exploration of a Gamespace


It wasn't until Minecraft that I got a sense that someone really wanted to take random to its logical extreme and still make a playable game experience. You would find terrain built up in a satisfactory way, and if you enjoyed the phat-pixel graphics you could easily get absorbed in what you were doing. I think Minecraft shows that you can have a low-res experience feel like real exploring without the janky modularity that ruins a lot of Daggerfall's goodwill.
 
I see games like Minecraft and (to some extent) Dwarf Fortress showing the potential of creating a world procedurally, and letting the player explore it.  What games like Elder Scrolls needed was a solid foundation and a consistent aesthetic.  Imagine going to the icy north to find an frozen cave. In that ice cave the game engine would say that 100 years ago a bunch of settlers found refuge there during a massive blizzard, and wound up making it their home. They dug until they created a miniature city, until perhaps they dug too deep and let loose creatures who then drove them out. So the program would have a section (reasonably sized) filled with stuff that might be the artifacts the settlers left behind, deep down you see the dwelling of the creatures whose home was inadvertently invaded, and who are possibly still active many generations later, and an overlapping area which is a random combination of elements from the two factions and signs of conflict (residue of magical blasts if the settlers were magically adept, broken weapons, mummified corpses from both sides). 
 
All this stuff sounds complex, but you could have a pretty straightforward string of variables to implement it.  What limits expansive games like the Elder Scrolls, and games in general, isn't so much the potential of programming, which only gets better every day, but our own expectations.  While I don't expect or even want everyone's tastes to mirror mine, I think there seems to be many people out there who want only the latest attempt by video games to approach absolute realism in their graphics.  Oblivion has some pretty astonishing visuals, but as time passes we become used to these graphics, we begin to see the flaws, we want something more, and that march toward perfection, if it's even attainable, is at the expense of enriching the game world.  Oblivion took some leaps forward from its predecessor Morrowind, and especially Daggerfall before that, but with the increase in detail, there feels to me to be a decrease in customization and expansiveness, and in a few ways I don't think it's advanced too much since Daggerfall. 
 

Customization through Action

 
I was watching a person looting a jewelry store in Oblivion and I felt like I was watching a pre-programmed series of events. You could murder the shopkeeper and take all his stuff, or just burgle his store and settle for a little less loot but be less likely to have to suffer for it if you were caught.  You could play the role of the thief in this sense, but even that felt modular because there was no nuance to it, as if they had said "you wanna play a thief, we have that too!" Unless you were into the bare idea of stealing, there wasn't much there to enrich that role, beyond taking specific quests for the thief's guild.
 
Guilds DO make things interesting, and I liked the move in Morrowind to have competing guilds and specific questlines for guilds that had a personal, human feel to things. The random guild quests in Daggerfall often felt cold, but I think in part this was because there were so few variations that seemed to have no consequence for the place you were helping. You would find a carbon-copy of the Mage's Guild everywhere, with a few different variations on the possible characters and quality of items inside, and the quests were randomly generated from a very small pool of choices with some random name attached: "Rudolf Beckwesley needs this thing called kordrom, but we know it as mummy wrappings." Always mummy wrappings. Always. 
 
I wonder if a more unstructured approach might work better. You set up behaviors and consequences for ACTIONS as opposed to pre-planned lines of behavior. Some sellers might LOVE to buy the stuff you looted from their rival's store. Some fighter's guilds might react in horror at the story of you slaughtering everyone to get at the rat in the cellar, while others may buy you a beer for your tenacity.  The spell ingredient nestled deep within the underground labyrinth has a chemical analog growing freely in the Plains of Abem, so if you supplied that instead, who would know the difference? (Depending on the skills of the people asking for help, possibly no one would know.) By making things a bit more unpredictable and dependent upon the player understanding the world, rather than having their character do all the work for them, the level of engagement might increase more than if we get more set "roles" to play.
 
Similar to the frozen cavern idea above, each mage's guild could have a set of variables that dictated the history of that particular guild, its rivalries, the skill of its members in identifying quality of goods.  Individuals in that guild could have secret motivations that only revealed themselves the more they trusted you, and combining all of these simple things could lead to a very different feeling moving from guild to guild.
 

Skyrim

 
I'm looking forward to seeing what they might do to enhance the game that Bethesda has been essentially remaking and enhancing for years. It seems they'll be concentrating on a formula similar to what they did with Oblivion, where each kingdom is basically the center of a game. I can see that being a sensible way to not get overwhelmed by the size and continue to refine the experience; I just wonder if there might be some other game, possibly made by someone else, that would capture that sense of getting lost in a massive, living world.
 
I have more to say, more I could go into, but I guess I'll leave it here for now.  Thanks :)
Edited by lucas_kelly

Not that I want to turn this into a Morrowind Vs Oblivion argument, but I really wish they head back in the direction of Morrowind.
There were so many things that I loved about Morrowind that were just completely scrapped in Oblivion.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@lucas_kelly:  Since I've never played Oblivion, could you elaborate?  I don't want emotional arguments either since this is basically an issue of personal taste, but I liked a lot of what Morrowind did to help give the individual locations more personality. 
Posted by bearshamanbro

Good ideas, was an interesting read ... makes me want to jump back into Oblivion. I've tried hard to get though Oblivion, bought and sold it back 3 times. What kills it for me every time is the clunky melee combat (just seems way too imprecise to ever have a consistent skill at it) and the feeling of being on a treadmill. From the super generic and same-ey dungeons to going through the steps to complete quests I just don't find interesting. I know I'm probably alone on this, but I think they need to streamline the game some. I'd prefer they really get the game mechanics (notably combat) nailed down really well and create some memorable dungeons that are worth going through. All of the random and hidden stuff is very cool to me and made the world feel alive but if the fundamentals are messed up/boring then it just loses me. With that said, really looking forward to Skyrim as well to see what they come up with.

Posted by EpicSteve

I just want combat that's a bit more interesting. Oh, and more voice actors.

Posted by Nentisys
@bearshamanbro said:
"  I know I'm probably alone on this, but I think they need to streamline the game some. "
Heh, my opinion is totally the opposite. Oblivion was so dumbed down compared to Morrowind. Except for the melee combat which was still sucky. 
 
I also hope they bring back more aspects from Morrowind. 
Posted by Doctorchimp
@bearshamanbro said:
" Good ideas, was an interesting read ... makes me want to jump back into Oblivion. I've tried hard to get though Oblivion, bought and sold it back 3 times. What kills it for me every time is the clunky melee combat (just seems way too imprecise to ever have a consistent skill at it) and the feeling of being on a treadmill. From the super generic and same-ey dungeons to going through the steps to complete quests I just don't find interesting. I know I'm probably alone on this, but I think they need to streamline the game some. I'd prefer they really get the game mechanics (notably combat) nailed down really well and create some memorable dungeons that are worth going through. All of the random and hidden stuff is very cool to me and made the world feel alive but if the fundamentals are messed up/boring then it just loses me. With that said, really looking forward to Skyrim as well to see what they come up with. "
Yeah, you're just looking at Elder Scrolls strictly from playing Oblivion right? 
 
It is NOT Legend of Zelda, and streamlining it more would be a death sentence to that franchise. They need to look at what they did with Morrowind where it was a sandbox filled with unique locations and characters that had you carve the world the way you wanted it, from your character all the way to how you traveled....from flying, teleporting, silt striding, or super speed. Rather than just clicking on what city you want to go to... 
 
The combat does need to be expanded on and they really need to go through whatever map they come up with and think about trying to make the locations unique. Judging from my time with Bloodmoon, Skyrim is going to be a savage place. 
Edited by ahoodedfigure
@EpicSteve:  I like voicework, but I know that adding them tends to mean adding to production costs, time, and...  well, if they don't voice everything it feels a bit weird.  Yet I hate reading tiny text, too.  I guess brief and to-the-point text is better for me because I know a skillful writer can do everything and it can be edited at a moment's notice.  
 
Still, well-delivered voice acting just enhances things, so I can't say I stand by text whole-heartedly.
 
@bearshamanbro: @Nentisys:
As far as combat, are you guys familiar with Mount and Blade?  It's clunky too, but I feel like I'm in better control of what's going on, and it feels the kind of awkward that's almost like you're having a medieval battle sim instead of just tapping a button repeatedly.
 
I'm not familiar with Oblivion so I don't know how the basic formula changed from Morrowind, especially as far as combat and how big and detailed the dungeons were from a gameplay perspective.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Doctorchimp:  In Morrowind I would sometimes get a bit frustrated with the navigation, like when someone told me to turn right at a rock and there were way too many rocks, and I would sometimes get a bit mixed up on how to quickly get to a location, but at least the latter was actually fun, like a skill you could master learning where to go and how to get there.  Being able to do complete, consequenceless fast travel sounds a bit too severe to me. In Morrowind it felt more like you were living in a place that wasn't always convenient, and I liked that.
 
If they got rid of those stupid birds I would have enjoyed just walking more.  But man, those birds... 
Posted by Doctorchimp
@ahoodedfigure: Yeah for sure, Morrowind was a little rough. 
 
But I don't know how long you stuck with it (or if you finished the main story which is actually amazing)...but goddamn it did you feel powerful by the end of the game. You overcome all that mercenary on the road bullshit and you become an epic hero. 
 
I completely agree with you...FUCK CLIFFRACERS and yeah the fast travel sucked completely. That was the worse, I also love it when people bring up "You don't HAVE to use it stop complaining!!!" 
 
When in fact they stripped out all the other transportation modes that would make you circumvent fast travel, so that's all you COULD do. I also hope they take out level scaling... 
 
I don't know who the fuck at Bethesda thought it was a good idea to make the player avoid all the good for the first few dozen of the game until they leveled up enough to do the quests without getting a shitty weapon, and then they scale all the enemies so the poor highwayman looking for a quick buck has the most expensive armor in the game...it really destroys the world they were trying to make. 
 
There's a way to do it to have a challenge in the open world game without breaking immersion. Like only scaling certain enemies like demons and special NPCs as oppose to all of them...
Posted by NoelVeiga

I still think Daggerfall was the best by a large margin. I agree with the OP, it was a wildly ambitious game that delivered on a lot of what it promised (just it turned out you didn't actually want a lot of what it promised, but still). Morrowind and Oblivion are just RPGs and, for all of their good things, they are set on a derivative universe, bogged down with clunky combat, running on a terrible engine and stuck with a disjointed narrative. 
 
That was all fine in Daggerfall, because the game was almost entirely procedural and the narrative came down to how you roleplayed all the hidden stats that controlled the social interactions across the world (I tended to be a socialite that had a double life as a magic ninja thief Robin Hood-like figure). By comparison, the scripted bits they added to the two last ones can't compensate for all the crappyness they inherited.  
 
I would love to see them go back to the risky thing and try to come up with a new form of randomly generated storytelling but with the great results of their last few RPGs, Fallout included, the likelyhood of that happening is next to zero. After all, for all my nostalgia for Daggerfall's ambition, the kids that jumped in with Morrowind seem to think that was the peak of the series and the even younger kids that joined with Oblivion or Fallout 3 are on board with those, too, while us old timers more or less keep buying what we get. 
 
But if the discussion is between Morrowind and Oblivion, Oblivion is clearly the better game. Morrowind lacked the scope and the emergent gameplay of Daggerfall, but it still forced players to deal with so much crap that didn't belong, like an inconvenient travel system, inane fetch quests, tons of blocked content from the get-go depending on class and skill choices and more. Oblivion was just a better experience that used what was left in the game to at least some decent effect.

Posted by Hailinel
@ahoodedfigure:   Well delivered voice acting is welcome, but when you only have four voice actors voicing 99% of the game world's population, sometimes exhibiting absurd shifts in tone and diction in mid-conversation, I can't call that "good."
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Doctorchimp: 
 
I got pretty close to beating it. I was actually in the end area but lacked some fundamental doodad to be able to finish everything. Was a bit disappointing actually to have done a ton of research that sorta gave me hints but never gave me enough knowledge to do the deed.  I also felt like I got halfway in a bunch of other interesting quests and encounters that didn't quite resolve correctly (usually because I missed something, but once in a while there was a glitch).  I still intend to keep playing, possibly beat it, but I love exploring the world so much in these sorts of games that I find it difficult to justify completing them. 
 
 I was going to mention level scaling but I couldn't think how to fit it in without writing another section.  Daggerfall scaled humans but not creatures, which made things feel varied and I liked that.  I don't think there should be much scaling at all, if any, but it's not easy to come up with an alternative solution without alienating some people.  I'm from the old school where I know it's OK to run sometimes and get stronger before you tackle something, and you sort of get that feeling in Morrowind I think, where there are certain things, like Daedra, that you just don't want to mess with until you're strong enough.  That makes things not feel like they're all the same, and gives you an incentive to level up and explore.
 
I'm actually not sure what system they used in Morrowind, though, so maybe that was just my impression of it.  It seemed like the daedra lords were super tough for a while but then got easier the stronger you got, rather than staying that tough throughout the whole game (good thing, too. They had nice loot).
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Hailinel:  You describing Oblivion?  There was some incidental voice acting in Morrowind and I sorta liked it. You read most of the time, but the voices sorta added flavor without the game becoming dependent upon them spilling out line after line.  Until machines can read lines I think there's always going to be a battle between these two extremes.
Posted by Hailinel
@ahoodedfigure said:
" @Hailinel:  You describing Oblivion?  There was some incidental voice acting in Morrowind and I sorta liked it. You read most of the time, but the voices sorta added flavor without the game becoming dependent upon them spilling out line after line.  Until machines can read lines I think there's always going to be a battle between these two extremes. "
Yes, I am, and all of the dialogue in Oblivion is voiced.  Every single line from every single NPC.  Given what they had done in that game, I would have preferred if some NPCs simply didn't have voices.
Edited by ahoodedfigure
@NoelVeiga said: 

 " I still think Daggerfall was the best by a large margin. I agree with the OP, it was a wildly ambitious game that delivered on a lot of what it promised (just it turned out you didn't actually want a lot of what it promised, but still). Morrowind and Oblivion are just RPGs and, for all of their good things, they are set on a derivative universe, bogged down with clunky combat, running on a terrible engine and stuck with a disjointed narrative.  That was all fine in Daggerfall, because the game was almost entirely procedural and the narrative came down to how you roleplayed all the hidden stats that controlled the social interactions across the world (I tended to be a socialite that had a double life as a magic ninja thief Robin Hood-like figure).  

That sort of attitude of dealing with this sorta-random world is what I really liked.  Maybe that's not immersive enough for some people, but I feel a bit like I'm exploring a game so much as exploring a consistent fantasy world, seeing a dungeon or a city that possibly no other human being has seen.  The more variables thrown in there, the more you want to explore and see what kinds of crazy combinations there are.  Naturally you have to make sure nothing goes completely nuts, but more dynamic terrain, more city types, more events that can effect the area, and you run into something that has that million dollar word: verisimilitude.

You may be right that folks like us may never see an Elder Scrolls game follow that formula, but seeing the new stuff coming out leaves me hope that someone else will build on what came before and make something to appeal to virtual explorers :)

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Hailinel:  That seems to be the way that big releases are going. From what you've said, and from what I've seen of the crazy AI, it sounds like it would serve more to break the experience than make it feel more real.
Posted by Bollard
@ahoodedfigure said:
" @Doctorchimp:  In Morrowind I would sometimes get a bit frustrated with the navigation, like when someone told me to turn right at a rock and there were way too many rocks, and I would sometimes get a bit mixed up on how to quickly get to a location, but at least the latter was actually fun, like a skill you could master learning where to go and how to get there.  Being able to do complete, consequenceless fast travel sounds a bit too severe to me. In Morrowind it felt more like you were living in a place that wasn't always convenient, and I liked that.  If they got rid of those stupid birds I would have enjoyed just walking more.  But man, those birds...  "
Yeah, but coming from a backwards perspective (having played Oblivion to death then gotten in to Morrowind) GOD THAT GAME IS SLOW! I like much more actually having to walk to destinations rather than fast travel everywhere as you can (or at least to the nearest fast travel point to where you want to go) but the walking speed is murder. I suppose by the end of Oblivion I did have a character which had like 90 Agility or and Athletics, so I basically flew everywhere but still I'm pretty sure the default speed was faster. Hopefully with faster walk speed, less fast travelling would work better in Skyrim.  
 
Also I just want to probably go with the consensus, and say that I hope they improve the combat. I want my sword to feel dangerous, like it does in Assassin's Creed but with less time holding block. I guess that'd hard to implement though - I mean you don't want all really low level characters to be able to kill everything in one swing if they hit the right place. Oh and for the sake of everyone playing the game, the world does NOT need to level up with the player. Really bad design decision that.  
Posted by onarum

Unfortunately I feel that no matter what our wishes are, the game (ESV) will still be dumbed down to hell, even more so then Oblivion....
 
for bethesda this is how it works, they had a really hardcore game(daggerfall) that even though it may be considered a cult classic it wasn't a hit by any means, then they streamlined the whole thing (Morrowind) still leaving considerably complex elements in and the game became more known, then they completely dumbed the whole thing down (Oblivion) and the game sold like hotcakes.
 
So for them the pattern is really simple, dumb game down == more cash, I won't see why they would want to change that pattern at all.
 
I wouldn't be at all surprised if the game turned out to be a action adventure game with no open world, no exploration at all, few to none side quests, linear, regenerative life mess..... 

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Chavtheworld:  They could definitely borrow pages from other games on the combat, yeah. I think just about everyone's had a better example of the same sort of action combat that ES games have been trying to get.  I thought it was a bit absurd in, say, Daggerfall when I got to the point that my character's speed was faster than my ability to wave my mouse back and forth.
 
As for the walking speed, it certainly felt like it took a while.  No mounts in Morrowind, unlike Daggerfall and Oblivion.  Maybe that would have made a difference.
 
@onarum:  You may be right about the general formula, but I wonder if they'll reach a breaking point somewhere.  The Elder Scrolls fan community seems incredibly tolerant, though.  We all have our opinions on what games we like the best, but many of us still wind up being excited when a new one is announced, even with the bugs and the dramatic format changes in mind. I guess exploring what the game has to offer is another form of exploration in itself.
 
It's that change over the years, though, that has me wondering if someone else, from the simple side of things, will build up a game to the point where it reaches that scale but learns from past mistakes.  I'm optimistic for some of the reasons I said, but that doesn't guarantee anything will happen.  Unless someone gives me a design contract, that is.
Posted by ArbitraryWater

I think your ideas could result in a good game, but somehow I doubt Bethesda will make anything resembling them. I think they will make a very good open world game with a bit more personality and character this time around than the army of robotic NPCs found in Oblivion.  I think we can, at the very least, expect them not to make the mistake of having around 6 voice actors do the lines for every single person in the world.
 
However, I still have no predictions of where they will take the series mechanically or structurally. Daggerfall is a hilariously overblown mess, I'm not a huge fan of Morrowind and it making me walk everywhere at roughly the speed of a crippled tortoise, but I can agree that Oblivion could be more complex without really alienating the audience in any meaningful way. I think the idea of competing guilds is good, and I think they could stand to improve the combat (However, the Stealth must be Oblivion level of broken. I want to backstab someone while standing right in front of them and loot entire stores while the owner is still there). Stealth in Morrowind was kind of ass, and significantly less broken in either of the Gamebryo Fallouts.

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Posted by onyxghost

Free horse armor. Just give it out and say,'sorry.'

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Posted by onyxghost

They could give you a better reward for completing a guild quest line. Start up like a cut and paste quest builder so head of other guilds could post them like cars in Forza. Collect cash and do another quest. As the head of a guild you should be able to assign these task or any other to NPC guild members assassins creed brotherhood style. 

Online
Posted by zudthespud

I want to see the enemies stay at the same difficulty as you level up. It made levelling feel futile when every level I gain more hp and other stats, but the enemies do more damage and have more health. It's just pointless. I beat Oblivion at level 7 or something like that. 

Posted by Hailinel
@ArbitraryWater:  I didn't find stealth in Oblivion to be that broken.  Or at least broken in the way you described.  Nothing like getting accosted by psychic guards halfway across the country because I had a stolen apple on my person.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@ArbitraryWater:  Once you got skills up enough I think the stealth was OK in Morrowind.  I guess.  But one mistake and they automatically knew you were there.  What I don't like is when they make the NPCs omniscient.  Like in Daggerfall, where you TRY to sleep, the game tells you that's illegal, and instantly the guards spawn everywhere screaming their halt song.  I WOULD like to get away with minor crimes without the Overmind knowing.  Hell, I think it would be cool to be falsely accused of something once in a long while, just to have an emergent quest out of that.
 
If you could, could you compare the voice contributions to Morrowind (which, you know, were basically one-liner greetings that showed the person's attitude toward you) to Oblivion?  I mean, I remember there being what seemed to be more voice actors with fewer actual contributions, but I felt like they were varied enough and linked the the races and species so that you could identify where someone came from with just their voice.   
 
@Hailinel:  Yeah, it's that sort of omniscient nonsense that doesn't really seem necessary.  As long as they don't make crime super rewarding, why not let players hock their goods or get away with a little scrumping?  I'm all for keeping players from abusing the system, but if they want that they should just have witnesses in the street that see you popping out of buildings or something, rather than breaking the reality of the game.
Edited by ahoodedfigure
@onyxghost:  I think it'd be pretty neat to actually run your own guild.  Maybe even start one up from scratch, actually hire NPCs and make sure they're trustworthy, send them out to get income or items you don't want to risk getting by yourself.  Would be fun. Cool idea.
 

@zudthespud:

The scaling level system is one of the first criticisms of Oblivion and I haven't met anyone who likes it so far. Sure the player gets better at what they do and that sorta offsets the difficulty, but it feels sort of pointless to level at all, especially if all monsters have equivalent behavior you have to beware no matter what weapons or abilities you have.  Part of leveling is changing the game environment in a way, saying that you're no longer afraid of most wild animals and are now ready to enter a new, deadlier place.  Leveling used to mean gaining access to new places.  If you beat it without leveling much that sort of system cheapens advancement.
 
Since I've heard this criticism often enough, I'm willing to bet someone at Bethsoft heard it from somewhere. I guess time will show if they take this to heart.
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Hailinel said:
" @ArbitraryWater:  I didn't find stealth in Oblivion to be that broken.  Or at least broken in the way you described.  Nothing like getting accosted by psychic guards halfway across the country because I had a stolen apple on my person. "
Ah, that's probably because you didn't play it long enough to get to that point. With around 50% Chameleon and a good enough stealth skill, you can do exactly what I described. For as much bitching as people do about the scaling levels in that game, once you reach 20 it's pretty much a cakewalk from then on out.
 
@ahoodedfigure: Morrowind existed in an era where you could still get away without having full voice acting. However, as far as I remember, there still wasn't exactly a ton of variety between races.

 
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Posted by Bollard
@ahoodedfigure: Yeahh I didn't think about the mounts but still, glad they upped the walking pace. 
 
Something I think is interesting to note with Skyrim is it's going to be released before the change in generation of gaming consoles (unlike the Morrowind to Oblivion change), so it will still be limited in some way by the current console's power. I wonder if there will be a big gap between the quality of the PC one compared, or they will make only small advances from Oblivion. I hope they really use the increase in PC performance though, but you can't forget the consoles completely...
Posted by bearshamanbro
@Doctorchimp:  Yeah, I only played Obliviion. I think Oblivion was a great experience. All I'm trying to say is that I am amazed how much I liked the game despite really not liking the core mechanics. It's a testament to how good those others elements were. If they can keep those (or expand them) and improve the combat I'm all for it - they will have one hell of an awesome game. I'm just trying to be realistic and thinking they may have to cut some effort somewhere to put more effort in the combat.
Posted by bearshamanbro
@ahoodedfigure: Mount and Blade looks very cool. Yes, that would be an improvement to me. Also there is some game that someone posted on NeoGAF called Dark Messiah, clip here. That to me looks a nice alternative as well. 
Posted by WinterSnowblind
@Doctorchimp said:
" @ahoodedfigure: Yeah for sure, Morrowind was a little rough.  But I don't know how long you stuck with it (or if you finished the main story which is actually amazing)...but goddamn it did you feel powerful by the end of the game. You overcome all that mercenary on the road bullshit and you become an epic hero.  I completely agree with you...FUCK CLIFFRACERS and yeah the fast travel sucked completely. That was the worse, I also love it when people bring up "You don't HAVE to use it stop complaining!!!"  When in fact they stripped out all the other transportation modes that would make you circumvent fast travel, so that's all you COULD do. I also hope they take out level scaling...  I don't know who the fuck at Bethesda thought it was a good idea to make the player avoid all the good for the first few dozen of the game until they leveled up enough to do the quests without getting a shitty weapon, and then they scale all the enemies so the poor highwayman looking for a quick buck has the most expensive armor in the game...it really destroys the world they were trying to make.  There's a way to do it to have a challenge in the open world game without breaking immersion. Like only scaling certain enemies like demons and special NPCs as oppose to all of them... "
Morrowind was definitely a little rough around the edges in places, and I'm all in favour of streamlining games for a better experience.  Mass Effect 2 for example, streamlined a lot of mechanics from the first and was all the better for this.  But like was said, too many features from Morrowind were simply scrapped completely or dumbed down to the point of stupidity.  They definitely need to go back and look at the bigger picture..  while a lot of casual fans may get a bit lost looking for quests or struggle with the enchantment system, that's something most of the casual players will likely ignore anyway.  And I'm sure we could have an easy mode that gives you big flashing arrows pointing to your next location, if you want them.  Making it a mandatory feature removed any sense of freedom and exploration. 
 
The compass and fast travel systems were some of my biggest problems with Oblivion, along with the scaling system like you said.  It was an amazing experience in Morrowind, when you go from a prisoner who can barley hit a rat with a sword accurately..  to an ultra powerful deity who can literally take out Gods. 
 
I'm looking forward to Skyrim a lot..  But I won't be buying it, if it's a repeat of Oblivion.  (at least until I can pick up the GoTY version for cheap).
Posted by RichardLOlson

I want to see lots of things in Skyrim.  Here is a list of some of the things:
1. More side quests and things to do (possibly random events like in Morrowind)
2. Level up rewards (as far as opening up more things to do and items)
3. Multiplayer (kinda like an MMO, but not a full MMO)
4. Projectile weapons (crossbows and bow and arrows)
5. More speech options when talking to an NPC (kinda like Mass Effect 1 & 2)
6. Make it a bit more mature (topless women or naughty words)
7. More alchemy options like Morrowind  (like smoking a bong or pipe)
8. Creating a family (kinda like Fable series)
9. Make the open world more open
10. A lot of DLC

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@ArbitraryWater:  Well, I don't consider the era to be passed so much as some consumer's lack of tolerance of its absence.  But when I think about how much has to go into a game to get that, I don't much care if it's not there.  Pleasantly surprised when it is, even moreso when it's good, but I don't need it to play a game. It also leads to shortcuts.  Like Bioware is having a fully voiced MMO just like Jade Empire or KOTOR, in that you will have some dudes who speak different languages have subtitles (thematically that works for Star Wars, but anyway).  As far as voices in Morrowind, with a few exceptions I think they had one voice for each gender in each race, but I felt like it was just enough variety that I didn't feel hemmed in by it, probably because the spoken dialog was minimal.
 
@bearshamanbro: It's funny how often Dark Messiah is being brought up lately. I think people are starting to realize that it did a lot of things well, even if it had some flaws. I haven't played DM, but I played a lot of an earlier build of Mount and Blade and loved how it felt. When I was charging into battle I got a vague feeling of empathy for people who did combat during that age, with all the weight of the equipment and the knowledge that you could very well get chopped into bloody bits despite your best intentions to survive. Since they're in the action RPG realm it would pay for them to pay attention to this, since it's not like the combat is much more complicated than it already is, it just feels much better than mindless swinging.
 
@WinterSnowblind: I'm one of those "explorer" type players, so anything that helps me use my virtual senses to explore rather than some omniscient quest tracker thing is fine by me.  If they have a hint system, it's best if they let people like me turn it off so I can just figure things out on my own. I don't mind there being a hint system; hell, in Morrowind I have several examples where the directions I got were ridiculous and I wound up spending hours scouring the countryside for someone.  But if you make it automatic it ceases to be a game about the environment and becomes follow-the-dot.
 
As for your predictions for Skyrim possibly being close to Oblivion, I wonder if you might be right. Bethesda doesn't seem afraid of tweaking engine mechanics, though, so there's always hope.  Smart to hold out for GOTY though, given their history with releases. That's [sorta] what I did with Morrowind.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@RichardLOlson said:
" I want to see lots of things in Skyrim.  Here is a list of some of the things: 1. More side quests and things to do (possibly random events like in Morrowind) 2. Level up rewards (as far as opening up more things to do and items) 3. Multiplayer (kinda like an MMO, but not a full MMO) 4. Projectile weapons (crossbows and bow and arrows) 5. More speech options when talking to an NPC (kinda like Mass Effect 1 & 2) 6. Make it a bit more mature (topless women or naughty words) 7. More alchemy options like Morrowind  (like smoking a bong or pipe) 8. Creating a family (kinda like Fable series) 9. Make the open world more open 10. A lot of DLC "
What sorts of random events in Morrowind are you referring to? There were people out in the hills that you could run into, but they were sort of pre-planned.  You mean monsters?  I like it when there are always a lot of alternatives for things to do, and generic quest systems like in Daggerfall are better than feeling "oh, I've done everything there is to do here, so I don't need to be here anymore." At least if those quest systems are somewhat fun.
 
In Daggerfall you were usually awarded weapons and armor that scaled to your level. So in the start you wouldn't find the upper-level stuff, but as you progressed in power you found items that were much higher in stats than your standard stuff. In a way, this was how they helped advance the character. Pen and paper games do that too, where the GM gives you stuff to help beat bigger baddies down the road.
 
It's funny, but I feel like Elder Scrolls has always felt like an MMO, just one without other people playing at the time. As much as I'd hate the idea of someone dancing or hopping around in my RPG, I imagine it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for them to do it.  Although something tells me that if they do it'll be limited, since up until now they've been focusing on single player so intently.
 
How did the projectile weapons in previous games not meet your expectations?
 
I like the idea of having more speech options in a similar way to ME1 and 2, although since we've also been talking about voice acting, I'd rather they just make conversations more dynamic and drop the need for voice acting so they can focus on it (though I know that's unlikely given what they've already done).
 
In Daggerfall they actually had an adult bent to things but scrapped it for the final game (adult should be in quotes, there :) ). Boobies (well, they're still there) and sex, less generic fantasy than something you'd see airbrushed on the side of a van (which is AWESOME!!).  I mention this just to show that they weren't afraid of going in that direction, at least in the concept phases.
 
I'm not familiar with Oblivion's alchemy system, but I liked that in Morrowind you could find or buy ingredients and combine them experimentally. The console version I had was rather cumbersome to use, but it was still fun to discover new combinations without having to rely upon recipes.
 
The family idea would be interesting and might give you a sense of place. I liked having a home in Daggerfall (even if I couldn't put anything on the shelves), and anything that lets you personalize the place would be cool by me, including adding little squirts.  It just brings up something that I don't think Elder Scrolls directly addresses, that of interspecies relationships (argonian and high elves, for example). Even if they couldn't have babies, could they stand each other's smell?
 
I'm all for open worlds :)  And as far as DLC...  I dunno.  I think DLC is just another way of paying for content, so it's a double-edged sword to wish for it.  I'd rather they just do all they can to make the basic game worth playing :)
Posted by Nentisys
@bearshamanbro said:

"I'm just trying to be realistic and thinking they may have to cut some effort somewhere to put more effort in the combat. "

I feel totally the opposite. I don't mind the combat being just clicking like in Morrowind.

I want a interesting setting, good story/quests/dialogue. This is what Morrowind had and Oblivion didnt.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Nentisys:  What I liked about Morrowind's setting was that it felt a bit alien. It wasn't just fields and trees, although I'm OK with that, it was giant mushrooms and floating creatures and hellish, diseased mountains. It made exploring much more interesting per square yard than games that try to just replicate reality.
Posted by owl_of_minerva

Nice blog, AHF. I can sympathise with your perspective but I think Oblivion has become too much about exploring for the sake of it without corresponding polish and depth in the other facets of its design. My basic answer to the question is "become more of an RPG". Exploration and immersive, interesting worlds are great but you also need things to do in them. So what we need to see is better writing for quests, factions, and overarching plot. Stronger characterisation and either more varied or less voice acting is also called for. Also, they really need better character designs and models to reduce the uncanny valley. They've neglected significant aspects of the RPG to their own detriment, Oblivion was especially boring and almost unplayable. While a FPP-style Oblivion game isn't going to have deep, strategic combat mechanics it should at least avoid having broken character progression, level scaling, and poor writing on every level.

Posted by ATrevelan

I have absolutely no faith that Bethesda will be heading back in Morrowind's direction. The simply fact that they revealed Skyrim at the VGAs indicates that they're going for a mass-market audience, and Morrowind is definitely not a mass-market kind of game. 
 
That being said, I'll still be getting Skyrim. Even though I was disappointed with how they simplified things in Oblivion, I still love the game to death. I just like Morrowind more.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@owl_of_minerva:  Yet another vote against the scaling system. I'm pretty sure by now that they're at least aware of the problem, but I hope they consider feedback important enough that they'll pay attention to it.  Exploration is nicer, too, when there are things to do in the places you explore, yes. I don't think that would be terribly difficult for them to do, though, whether or not buildings spawn randomly depending on where you walk, or if they stick to a more conventional formula (I can imagine actually spawning a building using basic terrain rules and history rolls like the kinds I talked about above, that way you might walk for a little while without seeing anything but you'll know that eventually, if you keep your eyes peeled, you'll come across SOMETHING interesting to loot/ruin/restore)
 
@ATrevelan: I guess it's coming out toward the end of next year, so we'll hear more about what they want to do with it before too too long. I guess my argument is almost for a split; something moving forward in the current direction to pay the bills, and something a bit smaller that will let those of us not bothered by a little jank get more out of our experience.  But, eh, maybe that sort of thing should be left to others.
Posted by themangalist
@ahoodedfigure:
Randomly generated stuff... tend to not work that well imo. My favourite open world RPG is not any Elder Scrolls... but Gothic 2. Gothic 2 had a much smaller land mass, had little to no lore, clunky combat... but Piranha Bytes did one thing really really well. The world was hand-crafted with great detail.The prosperous city, the dangerous forest, the isolated monastry, the mysterious ruins, and the desperation in the land inside the fallen barrier... all were very interesting places to visit and explore. Oblivion did exactly the opposite by making the world feel generated and randomly placed. The experience would have been better if not that every cell was the SAME, but even so, a carefully designed world is something I think Oblivion and Daggerfall ultimately lacked.
 
Don't get me wrong though, you're ideas are amazing. I definitely want to see someone make a game like that.
Edited by ahoodedfigure
@themangalist said:

" @ahoodedfigure:
Randomly generated stuff... tend to not work that well imo. My favourite open world RPG is not any Elder Scrolls... but Gothic 2. Gothic 2 had a much smaller land mass, had little to no lore, clunky combat... but Piranha Bytes did one thing really really well. The world was hand-crafted with great detail.The prosperous city, the dangerous forest, the isolated monastery, the mysterious ruins, and the desperation in the land inside the fallen barrier... all were very interesting places to visit and explore. Oblivion did exactly the opposite by making the world feel generated and randomly placed. The experience would have been better if not that every cell was the SAME, but even so, a carefully designed world is something I think Oblivion and Daggerfall ultimately lacked.
 
Don't get me wrong though, you're ideas are amazing. I definitely want to see someone make a game like that.
"

Thing is, I think if we just go by past experience, yeah, a great deal of randomly generated stuff isn't that good, in part because you can pretty much tell that it's random.  You can see the seams, as it were, and tell where stuff was just plugged in.  One good example is the dungeons of Daggerfall, which have no set texture or pattern, just a wild mass of seemingly endless hallways carved by a bunch of Tolkien's dwarves on a cocaine binge. That's random out of control, pretty much.  
 
Random done right is something like Minecraft, where there's a behavior and a flow to things.  Even minecraft doesn't do everything perfectly, but when I'm watching people play the game and I, and they, go "wow" at some new landform that crawls into view, then something's going right.  You can walk right past little caverns, and be one thin wall away from a whole nest of monsters and treasure. I don't see this as being too far distant from something that could be used to model stuff in the RPG I have in my head.
 
That said, I'm not saying this is the only way to make a good RPG, since you can pretty much do anything and call it an RPG it seems.  And there are some story-driven RPGs that are completely hand-crafted and excellent, and there are roaming environment RPGs that allow for sufficient exploration that don't use random, too.  I just think that if you want to go big, you have to do some procedural generation, and I secretly have a fevered desire to explore a world that no one else has seen before.  The hands of the creators will still be there, but it can afford to be much bigger, and even surprise the creators of the game with interesting combinations.  I just think that most of the time, creators either don't think through some of the possible combinations, or they use random generation as a crutch, which can be painful to look at.
 
Since I have your ear, I've been trying to learn more about Gothic 2 since I saw it on sale at GOG but haven't met too many people who've played it.  It's got that exploration feel to it?  How would you compare it to the first Gothic?  Should I bother to get the prequel or just stick with 2? Can you design the look of your character or do you get one dude you can dress up in different shiny armor?
Posted by themangalist
@ahoodedfigure: 
Is it you want one enormous worldspace like in minecraft, or something like Oblivion where there's exterior and interior cells where you teleport in between? The thing about Oblivion is that the interior cells follow the exact same layouts, and its ambition was too great to give the devs enough time to make each and every house and dungeon interesting and unique. Minecraft on the other hand, is a different story. But keep in mind minecraft has no lore to constrain how the world is.
 
I personally think Fallout 3 is ambitious but justified. An example would be the vaults you come across. The many vaults follow the same layouts BUT, the lore inside justifies their existence. Not only does the Fallout lore help in explaining the same boring layout (all built by Vault-Tec), but what makes them unique and worth exploring is that each has a different messed-up experiment going on. 

I agree with you, which huge open-worlds should have a good system that randomizes well, but to this date, I have yet to see a game that's remotely interesting when the world is not handcrafted to every little detail. It's probably my own taste, but if an open-world RPG is to be made, I'd much rather have the devs focus their resources on a smaller land mass to better control and make sure each and every encounter and discovery an interesting one.
 
Gothic 2 is a game that gives me that feeling. Caves never go beyond three or so rooms, except in the ending chapter you have to explore a massive one. If it's not supposed to be interesting, then don't make the player feel like doing a chore. Make the cave crawling short before the player runs out of patience. There are plenty of scenic vistas and interesting places worth visiting, i hardly feel there is a need for fast travel (but of course there is a teleportation spell later on). Even more importantly, i feel like i am constantly rewarded for lifting every rock in the game. It's not like i stroll through a multi level dungeon in Oblivion and in the end all i get is a crappy sword. 
 
Well, the open-world aesthetic aside, Gothic 1 and 2 hold up surprisingly well too. It does have its flaws: the enemies are tough, and shitty combat are not making the game any more enjoyable (many times you have to game the system to win). Even in the end I still feel like there are places where i can have my ass handed to. Also, the lore is non-existent. Don't expect too much other than the generic fantasy stuff. But don't let that fool you. Gothic 1 and 2 creates the perfect mood and tone for this medieval fantasy world. It's an experience done so well it's definitely worth overlooking its issues. 
 
Gothic 1 definitely has a more unique setting compared to many other fantasy titles, but otherwise, Gothic 2 is a vastly superior game. I suggest looking for the fan-made movie that summarizes Gothic 1 and watch it instead. Gothic 2 has much more tolerable combat and more setpieces to explore. If you want next-gen graphics, try Risen. It's by the same guys and essentially Gothic 2 all over again. But of course, I'd still recommend Gothic 2 much more. Oh, don't bother with Gothic 3 and 4. It's a joke compared to the first two.

Sorry to go on forever, but since you do spend a lot of time reading and replying, which i applaud, i could not help but type a bit more too :P
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@themangalist
 
I think I see where you're going when you say interior and exterior cells.  I don't see it as a necessary thing to HAVE to have one constant world, since I realize the cells allow game spaces to exist without too much loading needed. But then again, I don't really have a problem with lo-fi environments if that'll help loading and system resources.

In Morrowind, a lot of the Daedra temple interiors were the same or at least similar, but at least when I explored them I remember them actually varying, sometimes a bit, sometimes dramatically, even though they all began by using a basic theme. So maybe it started out the same but got modded when people ran through the world and changed stuff.   You could easily justify the daedric ruins being similar because they're built with the same purpose in mind, sort of like the Vaults you mention from F3. I think this makes a bit more sense than the Mad Dwarves style of dungeons in Daggerfall, although I wished for some decent in-between, where you have sizeable dungeons but ones that fit within a unified theme or feel. 
 
As far as minecraft not having lore, I think this is partly by design, but it wouldn't take too much for them to add more well-defined areas other than the dungeons and caverns, and then justify why the monsters only come out at night (the days are just to bright, I assume).
 
While I love the idea of looking at a completely new world not even built by human hands, there's also the fact that with massive worlds comes time constraints. That Gothic 2 managed to pull off a big-feeling place AND making areas hand-crafted is one sort of ideal for me, even if part of me wants to see what sort of monstrosities can exist through computer machinations.
 
 "If it's not supposed to be interesting, then don't make the player feel like doing a chore. Make the cave crawling short before the player runs out of patience."
 
Daggerfall REALLY needed to learn this lesson. I think they learned it a bit too well and made many of Morrowind's interior environments a bit too abbreviated. 
 
Thanks for detailing Gothic 2. I'm intrigued more than ever before about how it's set up, but I still feel like I need to research a bit more before purchase, if only because I already have a ton of unplayed games already. I also tend to have a violent allergic reaction to generic in fantasy; some people may say Elder Scrolls is pretty much the same, but I feel that the choices they made about species and the environment DO feel consistent and have a different feel than the usual orcs-goblins-+1oneSword stuff, as well as them taking old fantasy races and giving them a twist (the dark elves aren't evil, just jerks. The dwarves are supposedly extinct. The lizardmen are probably the most noble creatures in the whole game, etc.)