An Economy Of Scale

Posted by Lies (3866 posts) -

Long time no see, Giantbomb.

I'm here to talk to you about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and why it is not the best game of the year, and why it fooled so many critics and consumers. I want to make it clear, because I know how, ahem, rational this debate can get, that I do not think you are a bad person or your opinion is wrong in any way if you enjoy Skyrim and think it was the game of the year. I think I understand why that's the prevailing opinion, perhaps I even understand it in a way you yourself have not considered. Perhaps you understand it in a way that entirely eluded me. Regardless, I believe we can peacefully coexist, and I simply ask you hear me out. I promise it'll be worth your time.

Videogames (?)

Videogames, as they mature and grow as an entertainment medium, and some would say an artform, are expanding exponentially in scope, to the point where seeing a statistic along the lines of say, "72% percent of households in America play videogames", actually does not inform you in any significant way, because of the myriad subcategories inherent. Cell phone games, smartphone games, educational games, console games, camera games, etc can all fall under the umbrella of videogames. And then there are the porous borders of the term: does Windows solitaire count? What about online poker? Scene-It? They're certainly games, displayed on video screens, and they react to player input. By all the denotative limits of the term, yes, they do count. But many a person would argue against their inclusion. The term "videogame" holds no inherent meaning nowadays to the general culture, other than as a broad umbrella. And so we see fracturing and categorization- the list I gave before. All videogames, all different enough to deserve a named category, without descending into enthusiast jargon. All these videogames, with their common heritage and characteristics, and herded apart and divided, mostly according to one thing: scale.

To our particular subculture-- which for shorthand's sake I'll call hardcore gamers (although I am certainly not ignorant of the connotation and conflict that surrounds the terminology, in this case simply consider it an easy way to separate the community that concerns itself primarily with console games and things like Game Of The Year awards from the unwashed smartphone and Wii Sports masses)-- the highest-level attribute of a videogame is its scale. Before platform, before developer, before influences, before even genre, the defining characteristic is scale. Scale, scope and ambition hold sway over the imaginations of our community. The much lauded "depth" of a game is a natural subset of this scale. A man more secure in his audience's attention might meander about whether that obsession is culturally-induced and what it reflects about our community, but for today, we'll simply content ourselves with the fact that it does, indeed, exist.

Minecraft Legos. Now your virtual building blocks can be more constrained physical building blocks!

What's a "real game"? Skyrim's a real game; that's a statement you wouldn't find much challenge on. Kinectimals? Maybe there's a bit more discussion there. There's less to do, it's more of a virtual pet. It's a simulator. Is such a thing worth our time? There's no scale to the endeavor. Rayman Origins? By all accounts one of the most excellent, tight, creative and polished games to come out of a major studio in a while? Dropped to $19.99 already. Not near enough scale and perceived value in that project to survive in a retail market against a juggernaut like Skyrim. Forget about even trying to bring a portable game or a smartphone game into that discussion. Listening to the Giantbomb GOTY podcasts, watch for how quickly Patrick is shrugged off trying to insert Sword and Sworcery into the deliberations. Even to professionals, scale and scope are kings. It couldn't possibly match up. Minecraft? That's an interesting one: the potential for amazing scale is there, but the onus is on the player, not the developer. Thus it attracts a different audience, creators instead of consumers, and to consumers it has perhaps the least scope out of all of these. Minecraft is a blank page, not a completed manuscript. Minecraft is a LEGO set, not a cathedral (I think it's absolutely hilarious that they're making physical Minecraft LEGO, when Minecraft was pretty much a virtual LEGO set).

Look to our own wiki on Giantbomb: no flash games. No scope, no scale. No two-hundred person development team. Not notable.

So scale matters. It matters most, on a meta-level, to the categorization of games, and what we see is that the largest games, those with the most scope and scale and ambition become the games. They become the games that matter, they become the top ten games to look forward to in 2012, they become the future of gaming. They become, ultimately, the game of the year.

And I'm here to say: we are blind.

We Come To Skyrim

We come to Skyrim to drown ourselves in fantasy. We come to Skyrim to get lost. We come to Skyrim for the scale.

And it doesn't disappoint

And here's what's so clever about Skyrim: it uses that scale to distract you from the fact that it actually spends a good 80% of it's time being a pretty mediocre first-person combat game. The role-playing elements are simply trappings: they hang around, colouring and contextualizing the combat in a clever display of sleight-of-hand. And the combat's simply not that good. Better than we've seen in Elder Scrolls previously, no doubt, but the combat in Skyrim is not by any stretch of the imagination, the strong suit of the game. Yet that is where the meat of the game lies, elements of story and world stringing you along from combat to combat. Combat is your only method of SIGNIFICANT interaction with the world of Skyrim. And herein is the issue.

The categorization of Skyrim as a role-playing game is almost disingenuous. I can't say it's a lie, but there's an element of tilt to the statement: it's an action game with extremely complicated and interactive interludes between levels. Which, ultimately, appears to be the direction the modern RPG is moving in, so perhaps I'm spilling words into an issue everyone already knows about. But for a game to get this level of acclaim solely for scale is ridiculous. What you spend your time doing in Skyrim is fighting. Fighting clunky controls and heavily scaling enemies. Sure, you have the option of fighting with magic or swords or archery, but none of those systems are as good as they would be if the scale of the game was less. Ultimately, I don't understand why we should praise Bethesda for managing to cram a bunch of mediocre gameplay systems into one game. Sure, it's an undertaking of impressive scale, but the scale doesn't excuse the mediocrity of the actual gameplay. If what you're doing for a good 80% of the game is simply average (if anyone here will argue that Skyrim's combat is great, I will fight you), does scale really excuse it?

According to Metacritic it does. And I don't know; it seems ridiculous to me. Am I crazy? Or are Bethesda just some of the greatest sleight-of-hand artists our industry has ever seen?

#1 Posted by Lies (3866 posts) -

Long time no see, Giantbomb.

I'm here to talk to you about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and why it is not the best game of the year, and why it fooled so many critics and consumers. I want to make it clear, because I know how, ahem, rational this debate can get, that I do not think you are a bad person or your opinion is wrong in any way if you enjoy Skyrim and think it was the game of the year. I think I understand why that's the prevailing opinion, perhaps I even understand it in a way you yourself have not considered. Perhaps you understand it in a way that entirely eluded me. Regardless, I believe we can peacefully coexist, and I simply ask you hear me out. I promise it'll be worth your time.

Videogames (?)

Videogames, as they mature and grow as an entertainment medium, and some would say an artform, are expanding exponentially in scope, to the point where seeing a statistic along the lines of say, "72% percent of households in America play videogames", actually does not inform you in any significant way, because of the myriad subcategories inherent. Cell phone games, smartphone games, educational games, console games, camera games, etc can all fall under the umbrella of videogames. And then there are the porous borders of the term: does Windows solitaire count? What about online poker? Scene-It? They're certainly games, displayed on video screens, and they react to player input. By all the denotative limits of the term, yes, they do count. But many a person would argue against their inclusion. The term "videogame" holds no inherent meaning nowadays to the general culture, other than as a broad umbrella. And so we see fracturing and categorization- the list I gave before. All videogames, all different enough to deserve a named category, without descending into enthusiast jargon. All these videogames, with their common heritage and characteristics, and herded apart and divided, mostly according to one thing: scale.

To our particular subculture-- which for shorthand's sake I'll call hardcore gamers (although I am certainly not ignorant of the connotation and conflict that surrounds the terminology, in this case simply consider it an easy way to separate the community that concerns itself primarily with console games and things like Game Of The Year awards from the unwashed smartphone and Wii Sports masses)-- the highest-level attribute of a videogame is its scale. Before platform, before developer, before influences, before even genre, the defining characteristic is scale. Scale, scope and ambition hold sway over the imaginations of our community. The much lauded "depth" of a game is a natural subset of this scale. A man more secure in his audience's attention might meander about whether that obsession is culturally-induced and what it reflects about our community, but for today, we'll simply content ourselves with the fact that it does, indeed, exist.

Minecraft Legos. Now your virtual building blocks can be more constrained physical building blocks!

What's a "real game"? Skyrim's a real game; that's a statement you wouldn't find much challenge on. Kinectimals? Maybe there's a bit more discussion there. There's less to do, it's more of a virtual pet. It's a simulator. Is such a thing worth our time? There's no scale to the endeavor. Rayman Origins? By all accounts one of the most excellent, tight, creative and polished games to come out of a major studio in a while? Dropped to $19.99 already. Not near enough scale and perceived value in that project to survive in a retail market against a juggernaut like Skyrim. Forget about even trying to bring a portable game or a smartphone game into that discussion. Listening to the Giantbomb GOTY podcasts, watch for how quickly Patrick is shrugged off trying to insert Sword and Sworcery into the deliberations. Even to professionals, scale and scope are kings. It couldn't possibly match up. Minecraft? That's an interesting one: the potential for amazing scale is there, but the onus is on the player, not the developer. Thus it attracts a different audience, creators instead of consumers, and to consumers it has perhaps the least scope out of all of these. Minecraft is a blank page, not a completed manuscript. Minecraft is a LEGO set, not a cathedral (I think it's absolutely hilarious that they're making physical Minecraft LEGO, when Minecraft was pretty much a virtual LEGO set).

Look to our own wiki on Giantbomb: no flash games. No scope, no scale. No two-hundred person development team. Not notable.

So scale matters. It matters most, on a meta-level, to the categorization of games, and what we see is that the largest games, those with the most scope and scale and ambition become the games. They become the games that matter, they become the top ten games to look forward to in 2012, they become the future of gaming. They become, ultimately, the game of the year.

And I'm here to say: we are blind.

We Come To Skyrim

We come to Skyrim to drown ourselves in fantasy. We come to Skyrim to get lost. We come to Skyrim for the scale.

And it doesn't disappoint

And here's what's so clever about Skyrim: it uses that scale to distract you from the fact that it actually spends a good 80% of it's time being a pretty mediocre first-person combat game. The role-playing elements are simply trappings: they hang around, colouring and contextualizing the combat in a clever display of sleight-of-hand. And the combat's simply not that good. Better than we've seen in Elder Scrolls previously, no doubt, but the combat in Skyrim is not by any stretch of the imagination, the strong suit of the game. Yet that is where the meat of the game lies, elements of story and world stringing you along from combat to combat. Combat is your only method of SIGNIFICANT interaction with the world of Skyrim. And herein is the issue.

The categorization of Skyrim as a role-playing game is almost disingenuous. I can't say it's a lie, but there's an element of tilt to the statement: it's an action game with extremely complicated and interactive interludes between levels. Which, ultimately, appears to be the direction the modern RPG is moving in, so perhaps I'm spilling words into an issue everyone already knows about. But for a game to get this level of acclaim solely for scale is ridiculous. What you spend your time doing in Skyrim is fighting. Fighting clunky controls and heavily scaling enemies. Sure, you have the option of fighting with magic or swords or archery, but none of those systems are as good as they would be if the scale of the game was less. Ultimately, I don't understand why we should praise Bethesda for managing to cram a bunch of mediocre gameplay systems into one game. Sure, it's an undertaking of impressive scale, but the scale doesn't excuse the mediocrity of the actual gameplay. If what you're doing for a good 80% of the game is simply average (if anyone here will argue that Skyrim's combat is great, I will fight you), does scale really excuse it?

According to Metacritic it does. And I don't know; it seems ridiculous to me. Am I crazy? Or are Bethesda just some of the greatest sleight-of-hand artists our industry has ever seen?

#2 Posted by ShadowConqueror (3048 posts) -

Skyrim is still the game of the year. Sorry

#3 Posted by the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG (4307 posts) -

The gameplay, the story and the combat are all mediocre.  Its hard for me to go back to it and start playing it again.  Also, the bugs can be pretty bad too.  Meh, it got game of the year, nothing that anyone can do now

#4 Posted by Brodehouse (9515 posts) -

What amazes me about Skyrim (and even more about Dead Island) is that the first person combat still sucks.  Condemned came out 6 and a half years ago.  No one has any excuses anymore.  Condemned had timing, a bit of strategy, a great deal of chaos and unpredictability, and a palpable sense of contact.  I'm baffled at how no one picked up on this and a half a decade later it still feels like I'm waving my weapon in front of an enemy and their health bar is draining.

#5 Edited by Neeshka (118 posts) -

Yeah I agree with what you say. A lot more can be said about the obvious flaws with skyrim; and it's really bizarre how the scale is used as an excuse by many reviewers to totally ignore the gameplay problems.

Unless you are a very specific kind of roleplayer that enjoys meta-game aspects and make belief; you be left wondering what all the deal about this game was about, and get bored early on at around level 20-25 or even earlier if you manage to see all the "good spots". A lot of people bring up the argument of "being able to do whatever you want". Unless you are a roleplayer/LARPer you will never see this and be disappointed.

Skyrim really does fail as a game in most traditional RPG and action oriented gameplay aspects. I think GoTY has totally lost any value, kinda like academy awards for movies. There were definitely a lot of really good games with good gameplay in 2011.

Although perhaps with the creation kit; it a couple of months there will be a ton of mods that salvage the gameplay and RPG aspects; hard to say really.

#6 Posted by huntad (1930 posts) -

I'm becoming increasingly tired of action rpgs. I prefer turn-based or strategy rpgs. So, Skyrim, Amalur, Fable, etc are not going to do it for me.

#7 Posted by mlarrabee (2868 posts) -

@Brodehouse said:

What amazes me about Skyrim (and even more about Dead Island) is that the first person combat still sucks. Condemned came out 6 and a half years ago. No one has any excuses anymore. Condemned had timing, a bit of strategy, a great deal of chaos and unpredictability, and a palpable sense of contact. I'm baffled at how no one picked up on this and a half a decade later it still feels like I'm waving my weapon in front of an enemy and their health bar is draining.

Well said.

#8 Posted by Storms (341 posts) -

Oh, great. Another "why do people even like Skyrim lol" thread. 
 
First, Skyrim is an RPG -- one of the best and truest. More of a true RPG than anything else in recent times not made by Bethesda. Just imagine applying these rules to half the so-called RPGs out there. It just gives you the freedom to play it like it's not an RPG. I personally find that to be a bad idea. If I was going to work my fingers to the bone on making a game like Bethesda does, I'd grab people by the back of the neck and force them to get the point so my work doesn't go to waste like pearls before swine. And that goes for the gameplay, as well as the roleplaying.
 
Most elements of the game are actually above-average. And even if they weren't, I'll sacrifice polish for freedom and openness anytime -- that's where I get the most enjoyment in a game. But combat, story and visuals don't suffer from the epic size of the game. Rather, it improves on every aspect of previous entries in the series while continuing the grand tradition of freedom of choice first established  back in 1994, when Bethesda released Arena, which at the time of its release was considered very innovative and groundbreaking. Over the years, Bethesda refined every aspect of Arena in their next main entry releases, Daggerfall and Morrowind. Though these games never quite broke into the mainstream, they still gave Bethesda the experience and the footing to continue to release and refine the Elder Scrolls series. When Bethesda released The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it seemed like the entire gaming world started to pay attention. It was new, it was exciting, and it gave gamers a new perspective to open-world RPGs. It really fleshed-out the "do anything, be anything" mentality the Elder Scrolls series was most known for." And now they've gone and outdone themselves with Skyrim. You seem to have missed just how, so let's go over it.


When you first start up Skyrim, one thing is immediately apparent: the graphical fidelity. The sun shines through the trees and gives the world a fresh, morning feel; the wildlife adds a sense that the world is living, breathing and always moving; the details on spell effects are crisp and are generally treats for the eye; and when your attacks make contact, you can feel and see the force behind them. You really get the sense that you are a part of Skyrim. You are a real adventurer making an impact.

But unlike almost every other game, you don't have to make an impact. You can just wander off and take things at your own pace. Raid some camps to the south, help random travelers, listen to pub bards, smith or forge equipment. or just hunt for wildlife. All these things, plus much more, is available to you at the start. To finish off my incessant comments about freedom and openness, Skyrim really is one of the most free-form experience I've personally ever felt in a game. I can do whatever I want -- I don't have to worry about anything, and the game never pressures you too much. Enough on that. On to combat.

In addition to the free feeling of the world itself, combat has a similar vibe. Because of the perk system, you are capable of crafting your character meticulously -- be it a mage with potent one-handed skills; a warrior with high-level conjuration abilities; or a thief with mastery of healing arts -- you craft your character step by step, however you feel like. Melee weapons hit hard and pack a punch. Magic is empowering -- I never could quite feel like a powerful sorcerer in Oblivion or Morrowind and Skyrim lets me. From shield-bashing to dual-casting, every sort of combat ability feels, well, satisfying. For a game where combat is 1/1000th of the content, that's not too shabby.

The story is very well done. It keeps you guessing and aching to get to the next part. Fleshing out the stories from previous games about the Nord power of The Voice and all that lore about dragons and Dragonborn emperors is a dream come true for me -- made complete with intensive details like hundreds of in-game books and the invention of a Dragon Language just for this game (oh, I still get goosebumps when I turn it on and hear the choir). And then comes the perfect conclusion in SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content.

I can't even see where the "Skyrim doesn't have a good story" meme comes from. But if the main story isn't your cup of tea there's only a few thousand other things you can explore in the game, from politics to poetry, from lutes to lore. I know you dump on the sheer size, but the Thieves Guild is like a game in itself -- and that's impressive no matter how you try to downplay the massiveness of the game.

It's not just big, it's a really good RPG. That's really all that has to be said about Skyrim. It's a massive, ambitious, immersive, detailed and technically and artistically impressive game. Every aspect lends itself well to another. Game of the Decade.
#9 Posted by enthalpy (37 posts) -

@Lies said:

And here's what's so clever about Skyrim: it uses that scale to distract you from the fact that it actually spends a good 80% of it's time being a pretty mediocre first-person combat game. The role-playing elements are simply trappings: they hang around, colouring and contextualizing the combat in a clever display of sleight-of-hand. And the combat's simply not that good. Better than we've seen in Elder Scrolls previously, no doubt, but the combat in Skyrim is not by any stretch of the imagination, the strong suit of the game. Yet that is where the meat of the game lies, elements of story and world stringing you along from combat to combat. Combat is your only method of SIGNIFICANT interaction with the world of Skyrim. And herein is the issue.

The categorization of Skyrim as a role-playing game is almost disingenuous. I can't say it's a lie, but there's an element of tilt to the statement: it's an action game with extremely complicated and interactive interludes between levels. Which, ultimately, appears to be the direction the modern RPG is moving in, so perhaps I'm spilling words into an issue everyone already knows about. But for a game to get this level of acclaim solely for scale is ridiculous. What you spend your time doing in Skyrim is fighting. Fighting clunky controls and heavily scaling enemies. Sure, you have the option of fighting with magic or swords or archery, but none of those systems are as good as they would be if the scale of the game was less. Ultimately, I don't understand why we should praise Bethesda for managing to cram a bunch of mediocre gameplay systems into one game. Sure, it's an undertaking of impressive scale, but the scale doesn't excuse the mediocrity of the actual gameplay. If what you're doing for a good 80% of the game is simply average (if anyone here will argue that Skyrim's combat is great, I will fight you), does scale really excuse it?

First, I want to know how you're defining scope in this post because I can't pick out exactly what you mean in context unless you mean market penetration.

I would guess that a good bit less than 80% of my time spent in Skyrim was spent fighting. I crafted, picked herbs, talked to folks, tried to cause strange things to happen, broke into houses to see what was there, and most importantly, explored the world on foot--I almost never made it straight to where I was going because something else was interesting enough to make me look at it first instead. I found myself often having spent almost the entirety of my daily time with the game just walking around towns or the overworld and resolving a bunch of quests that didn't necessarily involve fighting.

I don't think that it's bad that Skyrim stands on its surprisingly functional world. Could the combat portion be better? Absolutely. In fact, I don't believe that, until we have some more immersive display and control technology, that first person melee can work super-satisfyingly (I'd love to be proven wrong), and the ranged combat here is not its strong suit either. So. if the importance of Skyrim to me was for its combat alone, I think that your point would resonate better (for me).

Skyrim is built to be a spectacle, I completely agree with you there. Skyrim is full of an insanely huge set of complex moving parts. I think it's beautiful and interesting. It has great stories, buckets of lore, and is incredibly fun to explore. If what you want out of it looks like an action RPG, yeah, you're going to be very reasonably disappointed. If what you're looking for looks more like a tabletop RPG, you're also going to be very reasonably disappointed. But Skyrim's world is a giant set piece that tricks you into believing that you have far more agency than you actually do, and that's even when there's already a fairly huge amount of open-world stuff. It does a great job of bounding what you can do with parallel, sensible constraints.

Broadly, and knowing that this is seriously reductive, I think that an RPG is about giving a player a fleshed-out world and telling them to progress in some fashion that advances player power in their chosen areas over the course of a narrative. These limits land on things like character abilities that affect how the character interacts in the fiction, combat ability increase, customization in gear, etc... Skyrim does that, but also gives you the option to progress in exploration, and it's on a scale that the exploration part doesn't just ring hollow or exclusively as a function of progressing in the narrative. That's an achievement, and why I think it succeeded as well as it did.

#10 Posted by Thordain (959 posts) -

I don't know about you, but this Lies guy sounds liker a total poser to me.

#11 Posted by RagingLion (1363 posts) -

A well written piece.

There are some things and some experiences and therefore emotions that can only be elicited from games with great scale and some of those emotions are the most profound many gamers feel. Being lost in a world that feels dynamic enough to be believable is just such an experience, so it's not something to be sniffed at.

I hear you, though. Ultimately it's really hard to compare one game against another.

#12 Posted by Azteck (7450 posts) -

First of all, it's very well written and interesting. And I can definitely see where you're coming from. I share a lot of the same thoughts about Skyrim. It's flawed in many, many areas, combat being the most obvious one. This is why I wound up going through the game as a stealthy assassin type, specializing in archery and backstabbing foes. This is where the true greatness lies, I feel. It isn't necessarily how well it does what it sets out to do but rather the amount of options it gives you along the way. That said even those are fairly narrow in most cases but it still gives a feeling of truly having that ability in the palm of your hand. At the end of the day, it isn't necessarily about how it does things, but rather how it makes the player feel, and most of the time it did make me feel like I had more choice in my actions than most games these days do.

#13 Posted by DragonBloodthirsty (469 posts) -

There's role-play and there's roll-play, but they both get called roleplaying. Emphasizing combat wouldn't disqualify Skyrim from being an RPG.

It seems like you think the game isn't that great.

If you think there's a better game candidate for game of the year, name it and tell us why it is better than Skyrim. A decidedly mediocre game could steal game-of-the-year in an awful year, just because there's nothing better out. I don't expect us to realize that keeps happening until years from now, though.

#14 Posted by Praxis (248 posts) -

Like yourself, I find it hard to reconcile the effusive responses Bethesda's games get when I look at the products they actually deliver. They have been iterating on the same formula for nigh on twenty years now, and they're still in the process of figuring out core things like enjoyable combat and engaging character interactions. The GB crew has said it a number of times, but it bears repeating that Oblivion was at the right place at the right time. People needed a meaty RPG to sink their teeth into, and there really wasn't anything else around aside from Oblivion at the time, at least not on the 360. It put Bethesda on the map in a way it never had been before, and a lot of the excitement for their later products can be directly attributed to that.

I suppose that doesn't completely explain why Skyrim is so beloved, but it is a start. Five years after Oblivion, Bethesda is still more or less the only game in town for this kind of experience, and for better or worse, open world games have also traditionally received a fair amount of leniency when it comes to glitchy, poor, or non-functional content, so one's individual willingness to look past flaws definitely plays a part. Whereas people like you and I see janky sword fighting, an even jankier (though pretty) game world, and a serious dearth of memorable characters to keep one invested, others see an immense and unending fantasy theme park with a few lackluster but ultimately negligible particulars as the price of admission.

#15 Posted by ZenaxPure (2569 posts) -
@Storms said:


The story is very well done. It keeps you guessing and aching to get to the next part. 
You really should speak for yourself. After 80 hours on my current stealth archer I have not even one time, not a single moment, have ever been guessing or aching to get to the next part of a story bit. When I come to a dialogue heavy portion in Skyrim I mash the A button as hard as I can to get through it because nothing about it is riveting or engaging. It bums me out more than anything when you get to one of the forced cutscenes where you can't skip dialogue, I usually end up taking that time to check websites or IMs. I can't even remember the name of a single character who was a part of the main story or faction stories, that is about how memorable I found them.  
 
As someone whose spent a lot of time in his youth reading fantasy novels or playing fantasy themed games Skyrim offers me nothing original or engaging in the story department. Perhaps if you aren't familiar with the tropes of the genre then yes I could see that - but nothing in the game is original or has it's own unique and cool spins on something generic. On the other hand though, I've been fiddling with the original Dragon Age: Origins lately and after finishing the Dwarf Noble origin story I already know more and found the Dwarves of that universe more interesting and unique than anything I could scrape together about any race in the Elder Scrolls universe. 
 
Your entire post is just stated so fact-of-the-matter that it bothers me a bit. It's fine that you like Skyrim and think it's this amazing master piece and such, but it certainly doesn't make it true.
#16 Posted by HistoryInRust (6267 posts) -

I really tire of these binaries. Binaries are lazy. So are qualitative statements. X is good. X is bad.

Who cares. I think we need to read into things more critically than with the endpoint simply being "distinguish 'best' game of the year."

#17 Posted by Zippedbinders (983 posts) -

There's nothing I can really say without it sounding like "Bethesda fanboys are idiots and New Vegas proved Obsidian can make a better Bethesda game than Bethesda can." Which I really don't want to say, since I do like what Bethesda does, warts and all.

I understand many of your complaints, scope of content becomes a weird way of judging games. I had a much more heartfelt and memorable experience in all dozen hours I spent with Ghost Trick than I did in any of my hours at Skyrim. Zelda's animation and artistic design showed what you can do when you aren't rendering enormous sterile and cold game worlds. Portal 2 and Bastion showed the deft use of personality with a handful of characters and voices. I don't think I need to point out Skyrim's VA issues.

Its worth noting that Skyrim isn't the defacto GOTY, it won it from a number of publications, but so did stuff like Portal 2, Skyward Sword and Arkham City (which, based on pure Metacritic data was the overall GOTY). Giantbomb isn't the world, not everyone thinks Skyrim is the hottest thing out there.

#18 Posted by Storms (341 posts) -

@Zenaxzd: If you found out more about the dwarves in Dragon Age than any race in Skyrim, that has to be your problem. Skyrim goes ten levels deeper in depth about absolutely everything in it than any aspect of Dragon Age (except perhaps the main story), so if you don't know tons of things about a race such as, say, the Argonians, in TES; it's because you purposely avoided it or are just a pretty oblivious person. And the story was great. People need to stop saying "it wasn't a good story because I skipped it" like that makes the story anything less than wonderful. Your analysis is similar to a person opening up "Great Expectations", seeing that it starts with the word "My" and then skipping the rest and trashing the story.

Heroes that are born with the souls of dragons.

The Thu'um.

The 7000 steps.

The Greybeards.

The Snow Elves.

The World-Eater.

Sovngarde.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a story like that and in fact if you can get over the cinematic story-telling gimmicks that the creators of other games use to dress up mediocre or even bad stories, it would suck you in and drag you along like it did for me. It's one of a million other things that set the tone and atmosphere of this, the greatest game I have ever played. If you can't figure out for yourself why Skyrim is so loved, then there's probably nothing anybody can say about how the feel of this massive, open, detailed game-world makes almost everything else seem trite that could help you figure it out. The best way I can sum it up is that so much work was put into Skyrim that it feels like more than a game, more than corridors rushed down like in Fable and even Dragon Age -- more than kicking people in the head in Batman. From the moment you step out into the world and everything is before you, it just makes the heart of most people swell. "I can do anything! I think I'll play as realistically as possible, work at the sawmill and run from threats! No, I'll be an assassin with a giant two-handed axe! No, I'll be a silver-tongued rogue!" as opposed to "I will be Nathan Drake, I will shoot people and that's that".

Other people... just somehow don't get it. There's something wrong with those people.

#19 Posted by EODTech (83 posts) -

Some people just don't understand roleplaying games.

#20 Edited by jakob187 (21640 posts) -

Whoa whoa whoa. I must be crazy or this must be a fantasy, because it seems I'm actually commenting in a new blog from Lies! It's good to see you are back!

As for the blog itself, I think there's only one problem with what you are saying in the first half: scale does not mean the game is great. Yes, it definitely helps when it is DONE WELL, but the inverse point to your argument is "look at Bastion and Braid". Those are two games which were indie darlings, and they didn't have a sense of "scale" in the terms of what you are stating. Instead, they had really solid gameplay, interesting stories, and great worlds to explore. They didn't need 100+ hours and tons of dungeons to romp through, but they were critical and financial successes as well as showed up on NUMEROUS Top 10 lists for their respective years. Were they number one every time? They may not have been in every single case. However, they were highly regarded...and still remain that way.

My point to your point is this: scale will only get you so far. The reason that Skyrim was considered Game of the Year by so many people wasn't just about the scale - it was how that scale was handled. Skyrim itself feels like a big and living world! That's something that few games ever accomplish.

Personally, I agree that it wasn't the best game of last year. Why? The game was buggy as shit, and I too agreed with the points that Jeff and Vinny made about Skyrim on the GOTY Deliberations. It doesn't mean that they didn't have Bastion pretty high up on that list, as well as some other games where scale doesn't come into the factor.

Another thing you need to seriously consider is the general amount of hype around something. Skyrim was something of a monster when it came to hype, especially for an RPG. When it came out and delivered on what people wanted, there was nothing but this pure elation. Now that some time has passed, there's this weary feeling that has set in because of all the bugs and broken patches. People are finding that Skyrim is this crazy and broken world that also happens to be a lot of what we want in an RPG.

Personally, I still think Dark Souls tramples all over Skyrim in so many ways that it's not even funny. I really kind of hate the way that some people write it off because of its difficulty curve and the intentional design philosophies behind the game. It's almost like people just want everything given to them up front, like they've forgotten what it was like to go into a game where there was actual MYSTERY and INTRIGUE, going into a world that wants to be DISCOVERED rather than laid out on a map so you know everything before you make one step on the virtual ground.

#21 Posted by RedCricketChase (439 posts) -

Dude seems like he's straining pretty hard for that Armond White spot.

#22 Posted by Storms (341 posts) -
@RedCricketChase said:

Dude seems like he's straining pretty hard for that Armond White spot.

I see what you mean. Hype tends to make me want to find flaws in something too but I knew the second I popped this game in and heard those first few drumbeats that I wasn't going to be able to hate it. And then it went into the cinematic opening sequence and just got better from there. Between discussing existentialist philosophy with wise old dragons and drinking in the dark beauty of Blackreach, anyone who would rather get their jollies in being contrarian is only depriving themselves of a greater joy.
#23 Posted by potatomash3r (126 posts) -

I have to agree.

Skyrim is steeped in mediocrity and the only thing going for it is scale, the game is enormous but at some point I caught myself thinking, "What the Hell is the point?" The game isn't difficult and the loot system is uninspiring, the only things that may be worth chasing are the few unique items that those dragon priest carry around and even so none of these unique items are overly powered or needed to progresss further. I played as an Orc, two handed and heavy armour with smithing and enchanting, so equipment was not a problem, in fact the game got too easy once I had obsidian armour and weapons of which I could two hit almost anything and it would die instantly. One could argue I could artificially increase the difficulty but that wouldn't solve anything because the combat in Skyrim is just bad. Playing with stealth, magic, or one-haned may have improved the experience but it would defeated the point of player freedom.

However, my biggest gripe with Skyrim is how little you actually effect the world, nothing seems to change that much other than the new and different dialogue npcs spout. It would have been great if cities died or landscapes changed. Choice had little effect on the game. The least they could've done would be to have more interactions between the guilds and not allow the player to be the master of all, which left me very hollow after achieving that. Furthermore, a lot of major events felt badly scripted, awkward, and small in scale.

I think Skyrim was an awesome game but it wasn't my game of the year. Seventy hours is money well worth spent but what I got from Skyrim after the game was nothing, not even fond memories.

#24 Posted by Tru3_Blu3 (3181 posts) -

Games have taken this lazy route in adding XP bars and fuckloads of unlocks to become enjoyable. Skyrim, while having a level-up system, doesn't focus on its progression system. It wants you to revel in its world instead.

#25 Posted by Rebel_Scum (615 posts) -

Ugh this thread is just one big 'Im a wanna-be game journalist' type thread. This guy said it best. @Tru3_Blu3 said:

It wants you to revel in its world instead.

Wow holy shit. Took one sentance for him to sum up Skyrim's gaming experience.

#26 Posted by Grimluck343 (1146 posts) -

@Rebel_Scum said:

Ugh this thread is just one big 'Im a wanna-be game journalist' type thread. This guy said it best. @Tru3_Blu3 said:

It wants you to revel in its world instead.

Wow holy shit. Took one sentance for him to sum up Skyrim's gaming experience.

No, don't you see, that's the point! You've been fooled! Hoodwinked by their massive world that you get to explore!

#27 Posted by Rebel_Scum (615 posts) -

@Grimluck343 said:

@Rebel_Scum said:

Ugh this thread is just one big 'Im a wanna-be game journalist' type thread. This guy said it best. @Tru3_Blu3 said:

It wants you to revel in its world instead.

Wow holy shit. Took one sentance for him to sum up Skyrim's gaming experience.

No, don't you see, that's the point! You've been fooled! Hoodwinked by their massive world that you get to explore!

Ha ha ha ha!

#28 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -

Skyrim is super, but I agree that its feel off.
 
Like Oblivion and even Morrowind before it I can't help but feel so limited in this massive world.
The lore doesn't quite grab me either and about the only thing I remember in each game are the Daedric deities and the other gods.
Rest is all so....generic fantasy.

#29 Posted by Storms (341 posts) -
@potatomash3r: "Loot" is boring. It's a concern outside of the game, not within it. I'd be bored with Skyrim too, if I was looking at it like a movie producer watches movies. 
 
@TaliciaDragonsong said:
Skyrim is super, but I agree that its feel off.  Like Oblivion and even Morrowind before it I can't help but feel so limited in this massive world. 
Please, tell me of a massive open world sandbox RPG that has fewer limits than TES, because I want to play the hell out of that game. I don't think it exists, though. There are games that are almost as big, but they have more limits and fewer choices. There are games that give you more choices in the sense of options within a quest, but those are much smaller, which is a big limit in itself. Let's not make nonsensical criticisms -- if you have a problem with Skyrim's "limits",  you must have this same problem with all video games since none surpass Skyrim in this regard.
 
@TaliciaDragonsong said:
Rest is all so....generic fantasy.
Only Oblivion had that generic fantasy feel (and that ends once you step into the Shivering Isles). Nothing about the land of Morrowind was generic and Skyrim has unique art style, music and lore. It has parallels with Lord of The Rings, but LoTR didn't have Dragon Gods, shouts, steampunk robots, CHIM, and it also wasn't a great video game.
#30 Posted by themangalist (1716 posts) -

@Lies said: Scale might not be an excuse, but I can hardly think of a game that's not Bethesda that offers that type of feeling of "role-playing". Not the role-playing of pen and paper, but actual you're in a world do stuff type of role-playing. I never treated Skyrim or any Bethesda games as much an RPG as Baldur's Gate would be, but rather a world. The scale IS the game, not the gameplay mechanics.

#31 Posted by SeriouslyNow (8534 posts) -
@Lies:  You're wrong, Skyrim is definitely a role playing game.  Your whole post defines disingenuous, Mr I Want to Create a Controversial Opinion So People Will Reply.  
#32 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -
@Storms: I should have explained better.
What I mean with limited is that is that the game is insanely big, open and full of things to do.
Sadly these things either fall into a talking, exploring, gathering or combat section. 

The talking is fun, nice quests and such but you always end up doing the other three things.
Exploring is superb, but I feel there's not much of a incentive to actually go explore and gain something from it, which might have something to do with the combat being unbalanced at times (or just tedious after so many hours, like its previous installments).
Gathering is fun but mostly pointless too, you strap on the best, smith a piece and improve it with enchanting/smithing, you'll have more than enough money if you loot some dungeons and dragging everything along is getting boring and kills your encumberance. Which also forces you to double back to town too often for my liking (yes, you can choose not to take stuff but taking a big ass orc sword that sells for 500 coins is hard to not take with you when it drops of your enemy).
 
Final section would be combat.
It's fun, it's upgraded but its still what it always has been.
There's little actual feel to the weapons except for perhaps magic and the bow, and even those are silly at times.
I know it's an rpg, and I could stomach it more then I ever could Fall Out 3 (I shot you about a dozen times in the face...why aren't you dying? Oh yeah dice roll!) and I suppose somewhere its a matter of taste but like the same reason I stopped Oblivion I feel like I'm stopping Skyrim for.
 
I played some Skyrim this last week and I did nothing more then run through the landscape, kill some things that get in my way and gather some loot.
The quests, while some are good fun, seem bland and uninspired and typical fantasy.
 
I did enjoy this game though, the area's are unmatched in pure fantasy'ness.
I just wish they'd work out even more of the kinks in a future installment.
 
Besides, if I'm dual wielding why doesn't it show two weapons on my belt?
Silly oversight.
#33 Posted by SnowyPliskin (99 posts) -

Play the Witcher 2?

#34 Posted by ArtelinaRose (1828 posts) -

@Brodehouse said:

What amazes me about Skyrim (and even more about Dead Island) is that the first person combat still sucks. Condemned came out 6 and a half years ago. No one has any excuses anymore. Condemned had timing, a bit of strategy, a great deal of chaos and unpredictability, and a palpable sense of contact. I'm baffled at how no one picked up on this and a half a decade later it still feels like I'm waving my weapon in front of an enemy and their health bar is draining.

Quoting this to agree with you and bring up Dark Messiah. With those two games I don't know why first person melee still gets away with "click the man and he will die eventually."

#35 Posted by Village_Guy (2476 posts) -

So if I have understood you correctly you are saying that the main reason - the scale of the world - that many people rated it so highly and gave it Game of the Year rewards, doesn't count?

I mean sure the game is mostly pointless, but that is the beauty of it, you are thrown into the world and then you can pretty much run around exploring, finding places (even places that aren't even on the map), just soaking in the atmosphere and lore of the world. And isn't pretty much all games pointless if you really look at them.

For example I was passing through some mountainous areas in the south-eastern part of the map and randomly came across a Shrine of Talos. At the shrine there were plenty of dead Worshipers, these peaceful folk that owned pretty much nothing, had been slain by the Imperials for breaking the law and worshiping Talos.

Finding that place changed my mind on the civil war where I originally was more neutral, a random place with no actual quests or real story made such an impact on me, that I sought out the Stormcloaks and joined them.

#36 Posted by Storms (341 posts) -
@Village_Guy: Look around the area closer, I think you find their killer with a note on him/her.

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