I’m playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion now, which is awe-and-some. The level of detail in the character generation is sick, for a game where you switch between first-person view and third-person view, and in neither case can you see your own face. I quickly developed my favorite alter-ego, a thief/assassin, and set out.
Oblivion is open-ended both in plot and in skills. You can go anywhere you like, and while there is an overall plotline, you don’t have to follow it.
Your skills increase for whatever you keep doing. For instance, the more locks you pick, the better you get at picking locks. The more you jump around, the more your Acrobatics skill increases.
I immediately started working on my sneaking and lockpicking skills, and use of a bow and daggers.
After the game gives you a chance to get used to the controls and interface, you are given an option to pick from a list of character occupations or archetypes (fighter, scout, mage, witchhunter, priest…) the mouse pointer hovered over the word “Assassin.”
That’s when my Inner Philosopher woke up.
IP: “What are you doing?”
Me: “I’m picking my character’s occupation.”
IP: “Assassin again, hmm?”
IP: “Well, don’t you always pick the Assassin?”
Me: “Sure, because it’s my favorite.”
IP: “Have you ever played anything else?”
Me: “Well, no…”
IP: “Then how do you know if you wouldn’t like something else better?”
Me: “I like the Assassin, and I’m playing the Assassin.”
IP: “Fine, fine, I was just wondering what that might mean about your personality.”
Me: “It means that my mad sneaking-around-skillz allowed me to live through High School, and now I can use those same skillz to unload a Quick Shadowy Death on the virtual residents of Oblivion.”
IP: [yawns] “It could also mean you are a cowardly bastard who just likes to shoot other people in the back.”
Me: “Do you really think I paid $50 for this game in order to develop a new virtual skillset?”
IP: [Deathly Silence]
Me: “Fine. I will pick some other occupation if you will stop that.”
IP: [Normal Silence]
Me: “Thank you.”
So I started over and made a Fighter. A real fighter. I mean a Drinks Petrol and Pisses Nitroglycerin fighter. He is also a lizard who can breathe underwater. I picked a name in the lizard tongue which means, “Eater of Puppy Dogs For Breakfast”. He carries an axe so big it blocks out half the screen (Note To Self: Need bigger monitor.).
And no more sneaking. When I enter a dungeon, I yell, “Woe to all who are here, for I have come to paint the walls of this place with your blood!” This has several advantages:
- The wimpy characters run. They weren’t worth my time anyway.
- The tough guys come out of the woodwork, so I don’t have to go looking for them. (Note to Virtual Self: Need bigger satchel for healing potions, ideally a Bag of Holding.)
- It makes me feel like a tough guy. Even if the dungeon is empty.
This is very strange for me, and not a very easy playing style for me to get used to. Plus, I doubt the skills I’m learning by ‘Stretching Out’ and playing a gregarious, blundering oaf will translate well to the real world:
Troubled CoWorker: “Conrad! I’m so glad you are here, there’s a problem with my computer!”
Me: “Ha! How Dare it trouble you poor, helpless cubicle dweller! I am here to destroy your computer problems!”
Troubled and Disturbed CoWorker: “But don’t you want to know what’s wrong with it first?”
Me: “A waste of time! Look! I have already gutted this machination of evil, and I will hang the entrails around your cube! The next computer you get will think twice about giving you problems!”
Troubled and Really Disturbed CoWorker: “Great…um, thanks. Guess I’ll be leaving early today…”