Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Skyrim User Interface Designer Checks Into Rehab

Posted by Stropp on November 15, 2011

After reading this about the Skyrim user interface, amongst other commentary on the issue, I wonder if it is good I don’t have enough time to play it now. Maybe waiting six months until this sort of crap is fixed might not be a bad idea.

You’ve got to wonder how a user interface as bad as that got past usability testing. Was that part of the team on acid?


Been There, Done That, Let’s Go Back

Posted by Stropp on November 15, 2011

I haven’t been playing Skyrim. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that all this wheeling dealing businessy stuff is taking up my time at the moment and Skyrim deserves a level of monogamy I cannot promise. That still doesn’t stop me from looking askance at this gorgeous supermodel of a game, and occassionally wondering if it’s okay to cheat on my business commitment a little.

And just to be clear, because so many take things the wrong way, by looking askance I mean reading reviews and blogs about Skyrim, and by cheat I mean spending money I don’t have to buy the game and play it for many many hours while I should be working. I’m not a cad. Honest.

Anyway, back on track eh? Keen at Keen and Graev’s makes the statement today, MMO worlds should be like Skyrim. He wants a MMO world to be spacious, and adventuresome, with players (or should I say inhabitants?) feeling a connection with a certain area and hanging around these places.

I agree.

But it’s been done.

Asheron’s Call 1 was like that. Huge open spaces where you could walk for ages and not see another player. Turn in any direction and you could follow your nose across the map and not come across any contrived barriers. Sporadic towns and villages dotted the map. And players, many of them, formed attachments to certain towns and would return after venturing across the map.

There are a couple of other games like that too. Eve Online falls under that category, giving players quite a lot of freedom in both highsec and losec space. Anarchy Online I remember, while it had artificial barriers in places, gave adventurers lots of room to move. And of couse there is ATITD where you can barely sneeze without encountering a player built town around some resource.

Unfortunately however players have gradually fallen victim to the curse of the zone. Everquest 1 was the first game to artificially restrict players to entering and exiting zones from certain locations by using contrived barriers like impassable mountains to restrict player movement. At the time, this was certainly due to technical restrictions, but over the years other games like WoW have continued this tradition even though they had no technological need to do so.

So when Keen laments that Worlds should be like Skyrim, I certainly agree. I’d love to see less restrictions on how players travel across the world, and what they can do while there. Certainly server tech is now powerful enough to overcome many limitations of zoneless servers, and the software technology to implement such a server is at least understood, and very likely solves the problems that zoneless worlds have.

The themepark however has other ideas. They work best by funneling players from ride to ride, and zone to zone, and by at best giving the illusion of freedom. It’s a thin illusion though, easily shattered.

The big open world has been done. Let’s go back.

Eight Legged Freak Therapy

Posted by Stropp on November 14, 2011

Huntsman Spider -- these guys are regular visitors

I don’t know when it started. It might have been when I was four or five years old and tried to drink from an outside tap. I turned it on, put my mouth down to drink, and a big black spider crawled out from the faucet. That could have been it, or it could have been any one of a hundred childhood traumas with those evil critters. I mean eight legs? Yeech!

And of course there was the time I reached down for the gate latch and felt the furry body of the fellow in the picture. I jumped like it was voltage. He wasn’t so happy either, and climbed on top of the gate post and raised his front legs at me aggressively.

Why do I tell you about my (not so) secret fear?

Well, I’m not so freaked out by spiders anymore. Sure I still can’t really stand them, and reach for the spray when a big one decides to crawl across the wall or the ceiling toward me. But I don’t have the crawling feeling of revulsion anymore.

I put a lot of this down to the last few years of gaming.

After all who hasn’t had to make quest progress by killing thousands of the eight legged freaks? How many dungeons have web lined tunnels straight out of some game designers coffee enhanced, pizza fueled imagination have all of us ventured down?

They do say that the best way to defeat your fears is to face them. So hows this for a theory. Running spider infested quests is therapy for arachnophobes. That those who play these games reduce their fears.

Why do I say this?

Well I just saw a post on RPS about a mod for Skyrim where the spiders are replaced by other less limbed critters like bears (although there is a crab mod apparently so the number of limbs remains the same, but crabs aren’t so creepy. Perhaps it’s because we eat them.)

Way to go modders. Giving arachnophobic gamers a way to escape much needed therapy. For shame.