Tag Archive for: Oblivion

Getting the Oblivion Feel, cont.

14 Nov
14 November 2009

(Continued from here.)

6 – Minigames

There are times when I’m less than excited about snapping 20 lockpicks in a row or struggling to spot the difference between the “like” and “dislike” expressions for the cat people.  But Oblivion’s minigames serve an important purpose — they lend tangability to elements of the world.

The core mechanical principle of almost all RPGs is abstraction.  Distill “capabilities” to a set of values, then use these values to determine probability.  How do we know if you can pick the lock?  Well, if your skill is 8 and the lock difficulty is 4, then there’s a 75% chance.

Abstraction works against immersion when it makes players feel like more like they’re manipulating a math problem than participating in a world.  Minigames can counterbalance this by providing more of a “tactile” feel in places — it’s not a roll of the dice to see if I open the lock, it’s me trying to line up the tumblers with a pick.  If I gain actual skill over time, I get the hang for picking locks, this starts to feel like a “real world” thing.

That’s powerful stuff for immersion and achieving it doesn’t require complex or overly entertaining games.  Oblivion’s alchemy model isn’t really a game but the fact that I see the plants in the world, pick them, learn their qualities over time, and experiement with them to make potions adds depth to their world.  Similarly, the book UI certainly isn’t a game at all but its implementation — picking up books, seeing the print, turning pages — produces a very different feel than what would be achieved if the exact same information were relayed to the player via entries in an “information” tab hung off of the character sheet.

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Getting the Oblivion Feel

02 Nov
2 November 2009


When too much time passes between the release of good RPGs, terrible things happen to me.  I get this sense that there has to be something out there that I missed.  There are thousands of games, there must be a RPG I didn’t play or didn’t play enough or haven’t played in a long time.  Something.  I become the addict who has flushed all his junk trying to quit, who then tears his house apart looking for a stash he prays to have missed.

I’m in the closet, digging through stacks of old games, cursing the missing CD in the Neverwinter Nights box.  I black out.  When I come to I’m on Steam with a copy of Two Worlds in my cart.  It’s been a long time, right?  They patched it.  Right? I black out again.

I wake up at an intersection, lost in thought at the change to green, furious beeping behind me.  It’s 6:30 on a Saturday morning and I’m driving to the office…to get the copy of Ultima IX from the games library.  It’s the only Ultima I didn’t finish.   I have to finish it.  I want to finish it.  Don’t I? (No.)

I know how this will end.  There I am, at my desk, surrounded by empty Starbucks cups and wasabi peas, trying to find someone on the Underdogs forums to help me get a Gold Box game running on DOSBox.

Sweet, sweet DOSBox.

Oh, God.  What am I doing?

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