First Person: Skyrim is Soulless

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The lack of reaction to events is a big damper on Skyrim. Empire or Stormcloaks, Alduin defeated or not. none of it matters in even a small way to the world of Skyrim.

So why should it matter to me?

I don't care. Skyrim is an incredibly fun game and I enjoy all the time I spend playing it. It is a game, a game the deliveries a ton of fun stuff. Great plots and great exploration. Sure there are a few things I would like different, but that is what modding is for. And if I thought I could do better, I would, but I can't, so I don't. Complaining about it is the same as volunteering to fix it.

unoleian:
I find the New Vegas comparison suspect.

No kidding, and well said on the reasons why.

New Vegas is a great game, but it doesn't really accomplish anything that Skyrim didn't, despite the occasional claim otherwise.

The whole example strikes me as odd. Agnis responded to the actions, she just didn't respond as the author wanted her too. She doesn't care that you killed the forts occupants, she knows more will take their place and she'll have a job with them again, cleaning and cooking. It's a bizarrely sedated reaction to some murder around her, but I suppose in her situation it's supposed to make sense.

Oh, big tough fella waltzed on in and killed them, huh? Big whoop, why's she care? Seen it happen dozens of times before.

It's not as if she acted completely unaware of it, she acted completely unconcerned with it. Two different things.

And considering this is just one minor little character in some random little fort in the middle of nowhere who serves no apparent quest purpose, that's more than I'd expect from such a massive, sprawling game.

Reason you get more world changing feel from new vegas is that new vegas was written and developed by obsidian, who may as well be a reincarnation of blackisle studios, who made fallout 2, in the old fallout games it was all about making a difference in communities, stuff you did mattered globally, faction influence, karma, all that stuff.

Bethesda "learned from fallout 3" when they made skyrim, and fallout 3 was all about this kinda stuff.

I went into skyrim EXPECTING this kind of stuff, so maybe I don't feel supprised that most of the npcs feel lifeless, and pointless. :P

Still, one might think they were going for a partially senile, completely rooted, not caring who else occupies the area around her due to it being in constant flux, due to the strategic import of the fort's location, character in agnis.

I tend to agree, though I still find people comment on a lot of the small things I've done so far...

Also,

Come on, modders!!!!! I honestly would love it if modders added a huge amount of text dialog. I said before, I would not mind one bit if they only voice acted major characters like Jarls and such, and then for all the hundreds of minor characters they basically only have text dialog - except that they would have a fairly generic voiced greeting or something. For example current guards have a small range of things they can say, which is great. Just need to add a lot more text chatting options. Particularly if you're trying to find someone/something. Guards tend to know things.

My main problems with skyrim is: Lifeless towns there are no busy streets even in solitude. npc and especially companions are dumb at recognising who you are or what you accomplished. Companions system is very half-assed, they gone for quantity over quality, i would be perfectly fine with 3-4 marriable companions in the entire game, but with more personality, story and much more dialogue. Skyrim do a lot of things right but it's just doesn't make me invested. I have no reason to care about companions, story or everything you do in this game, because it's just don't impact the world or character you controlling. That's way i love KOTOR and Mass Effect so much, it does character and story thing very well.

Dennis Scimeca:
First Person: Skyrim is Soulless

Skyrim doesn't seem to care about you or what you do.

Read Full Article

There's a middle ground that isn't well-marked or well-mapped, I guess. On one hand, there are games in which your decisions really, really matter... but you get far fewer of them. On the other hand are games like Skyrim, in which you can make thousands of decisions, but they can tend to feel a bit inconsequential -- "a mile wide, but an inch deep."

In this case, I think it's a matter of playstyles not matching. To me, Skyrim is intended to be a buffet -- you sort through dozens and dozens of options and choose the ones you want, knowing that you can always try the others next time you eat here. And it's meant to be enjoyed multiple times. Of course, it's been a long time since we had a game like that, so a lot of us are still in Completionist mode -- a game is meant to be completed as a single run-through (we're supposed to get a bit of everything on the buffet). The result is that we feel like we're getting only a tiny bit of each item.

In constructing a game like this, there's bound to be missed opportunities (or the appearance thereof), like with Agnis. To thrash the buffet analogy a bit more, we can accidentally snag a food item that's actually meant to go with another item, and in treating it like a stand-alone, we can't help but feel it's not quite finished. But no one was there to tell us those items were supposed to go together...

It's a game that simultaneously trusts the player with a lot and then assumes a lot of the player. Classic double-edged sword there. I might recommend that you approach a game like Skyrim as a "toolkit." It's not meant to have "soul" in the same way as other games, but meant to provide the means for you to express your own. Yeah, the "empty vessel" thing is often abused by unfinished or hollow games, but in this case they really do provide you a lot of the tools you need.

That kind of unguided, or less-guided, experience isn't everyone's favorite dish, though.

Duffeknol:
Oh wow, this article sums up everything I've been yelling about Skyrim since day one and got flamed to death for.

You're are wrong. Your opinion is wrong. And I won't even try to understand what you are trying to say.
Jokes aside, you and me both.

Dear everyone critiquing the shit out of this game, stop trying to make me hate it.

The game is fucking great, deal with it.

Your article definitely made me think. I'd run into Agnis as well but I took away a wholly different experience.

Imagine if she were real. From her perspective that was her home. Bandits took over (and over, and over, and over), she had nothing of value and was no threat so they let her clean and cooked for them. She would have been completely helpless and as a result indifferent to whoever occupied the fort. If that be the case, how exactly did you expect her acknowledge what you did?

"Hey, thank you for running through my house murdering my uninvited guests. Have some wine and sweetroll dear. I have some gold coins on the table, you should steal those, everybody else does."

Now who's the soulless jerk?

She ceased to feel real to you because she isn't and you chose not to suspend disbelief.

Be honest. It's a video game and she is nothing but a soulless pre-programmed set of animated pixels in a digital environment. Don't look for interactions that feel dynamic and real or you are likely to be disappointed with a great many games for a long time to come, at least until we develop true AI into video games. All video games are soulless and if you spend enough time probing their world, you will eventually find what makes them tick. It's like being a kid that believes in magic or Santa Clause, then you get to look behind the curtain or figure out that the set pieces are cardboard and the illusion only works if you are 500 feet away.

If all you do is pointlessly loot every dungeon in systematic order you will likely feel a sense of pointlessness. You really get out what you put in. If you cannot meet games half-way in the suspension of disbelief you will see them for the mindless things that they are.

Consider: what does a mountain of loot get you? Nothing. Not even so much as an achievement. You can do it, but the level of satisfaction is your responsibility because the game doesn't care. You, the player, are the only entity in all of Skyrim that cares.

*gasp* "You mean, I am not going to be recognized as the Skyrim Hoarder?!?! That's it, FUS RO DA on all you soulless motherfuckers!"

Good article, but you've got an entire country worth of FUS RO DA punishments to dole out. Better get started now if you are ever going to finish. :)

Immersion in games comes and goes and I think that we, the players, have a big part in accepting the suspension of disbelief and delving into the game.

See, I don't play with Lydia. Not because she gets in the way in battle (she does), but because I like her, and I don't want her to get hurt. Also, while she stays at my home, I consider her the sole reason my lockless home with more Dragon Bone than the Skyrim Smithsonian Institute isn't robbed blind by those jealous peasants.

Is this scripted or even remotely necessary, story or gameplay-wise? Nope, but that's MY part of the whole soul and immersion thingy.

I also make several other conscious choices that are absolutely unnecessary (and which make the game harder for me), simply because I'm accepting that I'm also responsible for my fun. I NEVER make more than 2 trips to a dungeon, so I am vary judicious of what I loot (300 Weight here, Mage character, has never seen a level in Stamina). I am purposefully avoiding the Imperial/Stormcloak debacle until I decide myself on which side I'll take. I do not get a single item in towns that isn't expressly given to my character, no matter how easy it would be to pocket them.

It's a world so massive, so beautiful and so full of possibilities that I think it is unfair to throw all drama choices in the lap of developers and whatnot.

How is Skyrim different from a pen/paper RPG session? Sure, you don't have the same level of interaction with other players, but you are also constantly facing the fact that Shazzama, the Elven Enchantress is that 250-pound bearded fellow who speaks with a lisp. Do you demand him to emulate a thin, elfish voice simply for immersion?

No. This is YOUR responsibility.

As such, I think this article is simply a bash on a famous, popular title, trying too hard to be polemic. If it's not, and if you really think the world is souless just because of a NPC who failed to meet your unrealistic expectations, well, you can always kill clowns with that giant pink dildo in Saints Row 3.

You just described a problem that can be found in all most any game ever, the only reason it's more evident in Skyrim is due to how well they did at crafting the rest of the world.

I remember Agnis - first playthrough I left her alone as she was harmless.

Second playthrough, a stray flame grazed her while I cooked her slave masters, and she went all aggro, pulled a dagger and came for me. I thought she was just there to do the cleaning?!

StriderShinryu:
While I get the general point of teh article, I can't help but think that part of the problem was the author's own expectations and approach. It may be true that the Agnis situation is odd, and I felt the same thing when I ran into her, but there is some responsibility on the part of the player to put themselves in the role rather than have it be handed them entirely by the game.

No it's not.

It's a games responsibility to draw you into an immersive experience. You can't just tell a player to take up a very specific mindset (in this case particularly, you are telling the player to take up a mindset where he ignores all the faults and shallow areas of the game on purpose, but by that argument, any game can be great).

If a game requires you to go into it with "the right mindset", then it's not GotY material, because i can mention a lot of games out there who have succeeded drawing in different audiences who normally didn't play that sort of game and didn't know what to expect. Take a game series like Modern Warfare. Even though they use a very generic formula, the gameplay is so compelling that most people will be able to pick that up and enjoy it without any particular mindset. In fact, it's almost impossible to go into Modern Warfare with the wrong mindset.

Skyrim is, at its best, a game which offers you a great amount of freedom, but 'freedom' isn't what everyone wants, and more importantly: The freedom is in most cases rather shallow (which is why this article was written in the first place).

Which is also why I'm going to pick up this quote for the last part of this post...

Zachary Amaranth:
And they probably never will.

But it hasn't really stopped people from being "immersed," regardless of what you've argued.

...and point out that it hasn't stopped a lot of people from NOT being immersed either :o)

And i feel this really is the core problem of Skyrim: People keep claiming it's a deep and expansive game, but while it's certainly huge, it's also in fact a rather shallow game. Now, there isn't anything wrong with a game being shallow (hell, Modern Warfare is rather Shallow too, and it's still the best selling game series ever), but there is something wrong with trying to pretend to be something else, and this rather breaks up the immersion for many people.

Why didn't she react to you killing those bandits? You answered your own question. You mentioned she spoke about how often the fort changed hands. The "fort changing hands" probably involved the new owners killing all the old owners. So the fact that you just waltzed in and murdered every bandit there and left them on the floor is nothing new to her, and she's probably been desensitized to death enough to not be bothered with it.

Heck, she even said she has a lot of cleaning up to do. What is she cleaning? All those half-naked corpses you left behind...just like she's done every other time the fort changed hands.

That isn't soulless, that's good writing on the dev's part.

I feel as though Skyrim's problem is that it's trying to be story driven and deep and RPG-ish while forgetting what it truly is.

A hiking sim. A dungeon crawler. That's what people do to have fun in Skyrim, they go into forts and caves and ruins, kill stuff and loot. Then they explore some more, kill more stuff and get more loot.

But then you have these essential NPCs that are there for quests, so you can never just go on a killing spree on a different save and you have these quests that beg for you to take them seriously while you have no reason to do so because it doesn't matter. During the main quest, everyone you talk to is worried and tense but no one outside of it is.

During the Dark Brotherhood quest

and it didn't change a damn thing. I don't even remember anyone mentioning it. You end the civil war but all that's different is the superficial change of Jarls.

And this is why I just can't see the Skyrim as the masterpiece people claim it to be. I felt more connection to Atlas and P-Body, or The Kid, or the Wanderer in Fallout 3 then I did with anything in Skyrim. The whole point if the game is to do because you can, and that isn't why I game. It's a straight faced RPG equivalent of SR3. In that game you batter people with massive dildos just cause. In Skyrim it's the same story, you're doing quests and clambering through caves and killing dragons just cause. It's tough to feel a part of an RPG where not a single thing you do really matters.

SonOfVoorhees:
I guess you prefer more linear games where your the star and everyone knows it.

What a load of bollocks, RPGs for years and years have had sprawling, epic stories where your impact on the world is actually felt. It makes you feel that what you're doing actually matters. Besides, I thought the whole point of the story in Skyrim is that you weren't nobody, you're the Dragonborn. A literal living legend, thrust into greatness. Right? Surely if ANY story is going to push you into changing the world with your presence and actions, its this one?

I do have to understand what he means, I kept hearing about this war between the stormcloaks and the empire but I never see any fighting, no warriors riding out on horses or any care that I was elven and the stormcloaks were like "we hate all Elves and they should leave skyrim, want to help us?"...it did not make much sense.

...

When I found Agnis I figured she must be some kind of witch or the bandits leader, so I cut her throat no questions asked.

Oblivion managed to do it a tad bit better voice acting is a problem but at the same time its nothing that 30% of more effort would not have fixed for the most part.

Tho at the end of the day its soulless because they try for to much and focus on a more limited and mindless audience, they make more money but at the end of the day the product suffers for it.

PhantomEcho:
See, when I met Agnis... I had the complete opposite reaction.

Here was the perfect character to exemplify how the game has a soul. It's self aware. She knew even before the bandits were killed at her feet that someone else was going to come along anyways, and it didn't matter in the least. She'd seen it before. She'd see it again.

What this story is describing? That's the limitations of a game that strives to be massive.

You can't have it both ways. You can't have a world TEEMING with infinite dialogue and interesting characters while also being enormous and filled with random interesting things to do. It's just one of the many little signs that say:

"Even though we were busy designing this big, beautiful world... we haven't forgotten the people who make it up."

She has a personality. It's a limited personality, because Agnis is NOBODY... but it's a personality. It's a mindset. It's a character. You can't develop EVERY character, but you -can- give minor set-piece characters a little flair.

Agnis is the perfect example of this.

If you just plain don't care about the story, well... I can't help you. If you don't care about the plot, or the characters, then there's not really a lot to be done. But I loved them. I loved meeting folks in Skyrim. Even folks who didn't have anything useful to say.

I've played the hell out of every Elder Scrolls game ever made. This is the most alive a world has ever felt for me.

I agree with your first point, about not being able to have it both ways. But really, I think that they could have done just a little more to make it click for me personally. I DESTROYED the stormcloak rebellion and killed Ulfric, yet I continually here how the imperials can't wait to kill another of Ulfric's boys, or about the damned imperials. I don't think that its asking too much to have the result of the war result in different generic dialogue?

Woodsey:
"One of the lovely things about Skyrim is there is no doubt whatsoever if a human being is an enemy or not."

Tell that to all the Imperial guards I've accidentally nailed to the ground with an arrow from 200 feet away.

Or with some firespell because "shoot first, ask questions later" is really helping me to stay alive!

Anyway. While I see your point, I think Agnes is a beautiful character wonderfully placed and probably accidentally murdered by my fireball. (I looted a corpse reminding me of her some weeks ago)
This is the true soul of Skyrim. They are bold of enough to let you kill properly voiced NPCs with a backstory and they don't shove their "oh so important and perfectly designed character" in your face. While I dislike that essential characters exist (Probably because the only persons I wanted to kill were essential) I think Skyrim is making an excellent job, I seriously doubt you can have both that form of desired depth and "soul" and the limitless choices you can do in Skyrim.

Apart from that, I was intrigued by the fact that you could actually influence the outcome of the civil war. I'm not sure but this seems to me to be the first time in the Elder Scrolls where something "side questish" like this would have such impact on the gaming world. Hopefully the next Elder Scrolls will have that, and will come out soon enough! :-)

I tried playing Call of Duty/Battlefield/Medal of Honour whatever it was, because my daughter loves military style shooters and insisted I tried one.

I was dropped into a military training ground and put in front of a firing range and a drill sargent screamed and shouted at me. So because I was coming in from my 'open gameplay experiences' I played it how I wanted to.

I shot the nasty tit with the gun he just taught me how to use.

The game faded to black and some bumf came up about me being court marshalled and thrown out the army and I gave the game back having played it to the point I felt happy with.

IN Skyrim...I escaped the be-heading and the tunnels 'oh doom and wandered off down the track not really bothered about the person who 'helped' me escape because I had zero connection to him (him being constantly out of my eye line and running off) and frankly I wasn't interested in what he had to say.

I met a fisherman who told me he liked fishing.

And then I stopped playing.

I actually got more out of the shooter than I did Skyrim. There's no motivating factor, the 'open world' is as exciting as a wet weekend in Wigan (look it up) and frankly there's only so much 'lovely scenery' I can look at before I feel like I'm not the most important part of a game I should be the hero of.

I am going to give it another go but frankly I'm getting more out of Dragon Age.

Pinstar:
Why didn't she react to you killing those bandits? You answered your own question. You mentioned she spoke about how often the fort changed hands. The "fort changing hands" probably involved the new owners killing all the old owners. So the fact that you just waltzed in and murdered every bandit there and left them on the floor is nothing new to her, and she's probably been desensitized to death enough to not be bothered with it.

Heck, she even said she has a lot of cleaning up to do. What is she cleaning? All those half-naked corpses you left behind...just like she's done every other time the fort changed hands.

That isn't soulless, that's good writing on the dev's part.

No, that's you just imagining things, trying to cover up terrible writing. It's very clear that the pieces of dialogue they decided to give her is to give the keep a sort of backstory, but it is ENTIRELY unrelated to what he did. Fact of the matter is that if he had snuck into the keep without being seen (or had befriended the bandits somehow and had been invited in), she would be spurting the EXACT SAME LINES.

If you are going to pass off the fact that an NPC is going to use the exact same dialogue depending on whether or not you are a visitor or a mass murderer who have just murdered off her employees and looted her room as good writing, then I'm happy you aren't a game designer. It neither good writing, nor is it rational or immersive. What it is is making Agnis a robot that does her programmed tasks and spit out her programmed lines no matter what happens around her. That's it.

DoomyMcDoom:
Reason you get more world changing feel from new vegas is that new vegas was written and developed by obsidian, who may as well be a reincarnation of blackisle studios, who made fallout 2, in the old fallout games it was all about making a difference in communities, stuff you did mattered globally, faction influence, karma, all that stuff.

Bethesda "learned from fallout 3" when they made skyrim, and fallout 3 was all about this kinda stuff.

I went into skyrim EXPECTING this kind of stuff, so maybe I don't feel supprised that most of the npcs feel lifeless, and pointless. :P

Still, one might think they were going for a partially senile, completely rooted, not caring who else occupies the area around her due to it being in constant flux, due to the strategic import of the fort's location, character in agnis.

The reason New Vegas felt more "alive" so to speak, other than its well-written companions, is the fact a lot of the sidequests didn't feel disconnected from the main thread of the game. You had the large factions, and smaller ones trying to fill the vacuums of power. It would give you PLENTY of options of how to approach these said quests, and some even overlapped. Most of them felt consistent within the setting(other than the lol rocket ghouls). Having an actual faction and town reputation helps out a lot as well.

Skyrim is a vast land of stories that exist in a sort of "vacuum" to the events that surround them. Its really fun initially because you simply don't care, but the apathy creeps up on you slowly as time goes on. Its really the same problem Bethesda has had with most of their games.

SonicWaffle:

[M]y argument hinges on the fact that I find the game very immersive but ultimately pointless.

You've been mislead by your own expectations. Skyrim is a harsh, unforgiving land, and the people are reacting just as you would expect them to. In the sack of Whiterun, the shopkeepers comment that they didn't really care who was in control. The entire war is trivial to most people living in Skyrim. Their lives are driven by a fierce denial of their harsh motherland, and they do so through food, drink, and sex (all of which are dependent on a steady flow of coin). The dragons, whether you like it or not, are a pest. Stormcloak and Imperial forces complain of dragons as a mere "interference" in the war. You're misconceptions of the main character being a great self-made hero are the projection of your own effort spent building the character. The truth, whether or not you'd like to accept it, is that your character is not acting through choice, but because fate is controlling his or her every action. It will take generations before people to sing of your epic, and they will do so between goblets of mead.

Wow, so much nit-picking. I guess if this is the worst Skyrim has to offer, it really is a great game.

Yeah that's the problem with Skyrim nothing really matters in the grand scheme of things making the whole choice point mute' which in all makes for a poor rpg

Maybe they should give up with npc and the like and just have you exploring some destroyed wasteland where your the last survivor and make it a journey of discovery, Instead of a pointless wooden rpg,despite this i still kinda like skyrim though but its not Goty

I agree. Playing skyrim often made(and still makes me off course) me slightly pissed at the little things, like what you had with Agnes.

And there are more examples, but the basis is that Skyrim is huge, filled with tonnes of stuff, but does not give you reason to care about it.

Maybe give the draugr a little more backstory, add some sympathy (or not), or add a few extra lines to sweat old Agnes.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN SKYRIM DOESN'T CARE FOR ME! SKYRIM IS THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN!

If you had really paid attention, you would have noticed that there were dead bodies of guards lying around that fort. Those bandits had just taken over the place. Agnis is old and senile, and had no idea that the place had changed hands. She was very much role playing.

Granted, she could have reacted to the dead bodies at her feet, lol.

Skyrim is about waving your virtual cock around much like WOW. Your actions don't mean jack and the purpose is to have the best stuff. The threads on here are about having the best weapons, or killing the most badguys etc.

Looks like the enthusiasm for this game is dropping and people are finally seeing it for what it is; NOT the best RPG ever made.

Dennis Scimeca:
Skyrim is Soulless

Skyrim doesn't seem to care about you or what you do.

Read Full Article

Yeah, a game that's your personal show and playground is all you need, eh? Well, help yourself to all the other games, because they provide that in spades. Ask yourself this, however, does the real world care about you to such a degree?

I, personally never liked to be the center of attention. The only game that really relieves you of that position is "Space Rangers", where on the easiest setting the game could be over with or without you. It's an extreme, but being Harry Potter each and every time I load a game gets old very fast.

The one and only reason why Skyrim doesn't deliver to the fullest is that its story (especially the main quest) is a "meh" fantasy cliche we've seen a thousand times before, but I kind of accepted the fact that fantasy just can't have a good story no matter what you do. It has everything to do with absolutes and, well, fantasy.

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