Analysis of Older Games
  • In an effort to continually economize my tepid existence, I have found it a worthwhile endeavor to minimize the purchase of new video games, at least to a point in which I am not spending nearly as much money on games that will contribute to one outstanding backlog, and instead spend time revisiting older games that I never really tired of in the first place, and who still perform a satisfactory duty of providing me with satisfactory results. For example, I have contributed a non-insignificant portion of my free time this year to Morrowind, an RPG game that is now over a decade old, and I find that it is still a worthwhile and pleasurable experience, in that I derive pleasure from directly interacting with it.

    This thread is not an attempt to step on the toes - were it to have feet, and toes, or other perfunctory digits - of one "Week in Gaming" contribution, but rather to serve a sort of amalgamation of purposes in which we detail

    A) If we are playing older games - "older" being a rather nebulous term but one in which I would suspect we all have a general consensus to - which older games they are
    B) Why, in the year 2015 AD, we are playing said older games
    C) What changes have taken place in the game's genre or form over the years, and are these changes "good" or "bad," "welcome" or "unwelcome," and how they impact the gameplay

    The present author will now demonstrate - perhaps inaptly, but currently nonetheless - a rough example of this three-pronged approach haphazardly extolled in this text. Because, as it so happens, the author has spent a non-insignificant amount of free time, as stated before, - to the tune of about 25 hours - on one Morrowind, this year, a WRPG that was decidedly not released this year, or even in the last 10 years. Given that Morrowind has had not one, but two sequels, it is somewhat easy to see how the series, and the genre as a whole, has developed over the years. Morrowind is, coincidentally, one of said author's favourite games, and a game that - much like its younger brother Oblivion - a game that which hereto author has never truly grown tired of exploring - exploring, of course, being the nom-de-guerre of the series, if such a thing can be said. Morrowind, unlike later entries in the series, is a bit of a departure from the high-fantasy that becomes more Tolkien-esque in Oblivion and Skyrim. The world appears more psychadelic, with strange plant growths, mushrooms, volcanic ash, giant, twisting biological homes and stores, and a pervasive mood of a sort of metaphysical cynicism - not all gods and organizations are "good" and the region of the world in which the game takes place is owed no good fortune or guarantee of survival. As it is an older RPG, there is no map helpfully marking quest goals, and one becomes acclimated to simply talking to everyone in an area as often as possible, and trying to quickly commit to memory where certain towns and key people are. Of course, this is considered antiquated by modern standards, and certainly does create more time in which one is simply looking for one quest goal, but given the strangeness and uniqueness of the world, this time is not so idly spent. As with all TES games, half the fun is stumbling upon old dungeons and weird characters and odds and ends, and a game that does not spell out what to do for you means the player has perhaps more ample opportunity to do so. Because the game is so bursting at the seams with things to do, a quick quest route is not necessarily a necessity. There is value to exploring and having to find things, instead of being driven from point A to point B. If Morrowind was lacking in content, this searching would be rather dull and dreary, and a quest marker would be welcomed, but it is not. One wonders how the spelling out of quest locations changed the average user experience of Oblivion and Skyrim. It would not surprise the current author if people, on average, completed less sidequests and explored less of the world map. 

    There is value, still, in this sort of slower-paced world infused with weirdness and challenges. Whereas Oblivion and Skyrim were rather content to not kill you, Morrowind will early on punish you for a poor build or for biting off more than you, as a player, can chew. Given that this is a PC game, the penalty is rather small - simply reload your last save point - but it infuses a sort of sense of danger that is not present in newer games in the series. This dovetails with the weirdness and alien-like nature of the world, pressuring the player to feel constantly on guard and aware of their surroundings more than Oblivion and Skyrim, which in turn, perhaps rewards the player in, once again, observing the game world around them more fully. Infact, the entire game drives home this completeness of exploration more than later games in the series, and manages to fulfill this obligation with enjoyable content.

    There is, perhaps, more to be said for Morrowind, and how the series has somewhat abandoned the strangeness and the necessity of exploration so present in the game, or how dice rolls have been minimized for real time direct response, but alas, this post is long, and I am curious to hear if anyone else is replaying, or playing for the first time, an older game, and would like to share their thoughts. The floor, as they say, is yours.
  • @GoodEnoughForMe I enjoyed your post. I am in the middle of a huge oblivion playthrough, with various mods installed making it extremely punishing ( to the the beyond the extreme at times ) . It is stupid difficult!

    I have never played through Morrowind but, I have always loved the art style (as you were talking about) the landscapes always seemed so much more alien and interesting (particularly if you are using oblivion as a comparison) .

    I am glad I am not the only person completely caught up in a Bethesda Studios at the moment! :)
  • @GoodEnoughForMe Btw with my mods installed it took me 55 hours of game time before I could beat the very first ruin you encounter in oblivion!
  • It is fantastic how malleable the experience in the games are. 55 hours before the first ruin is ridic. I've done some mods for Morrowind to change it up. I think one of the interesting things with Oblivion is how fast travel changed the series. Well before Skyrim came out, I played with my own "rule" that I wouldn't fast travel anywhere that I hadn't been to on foot first. Little did I now that's the system Skyrim would implement! It certainly made exploration more natural and vital to the experience.

    Oblivion has some of the best quest lines in the series by far. Some really dark, twisted stuff, too.
  • I just wrote a big post and miss-pressed something and lost it :( nevermind.

    As you say the fast travel system in Skyrim is much better, these games thrive on exploration and the more the mechanics forcing you to explore the better. It is interesting that I also used your self imposed 'rule' when I first played through Oblivion too! Thankfully one of my Oblivion mods forces this by default on my current playthrough :) .

    I tried to playthrough Morrowind a few years back but couldn't get past the combat system after playing a lot of Oblivion (which combat mechanics were pretty bad to begin with) . But i so would love to explore Morrowind! I do like the Shivering Isles expansion though as it does make the Oblivion landscapes much more surreal and interesting..

    + I maybe 60 hours into my oblivion playthrough but it is now satisfying as hell that I can actually kill an enemy finally xD
  • It's probably worth keeping an eye on Skywind then, or even trying out Morroblivion, if you can get it to work (it's a pain). Or do what I did an compromise; I installed a mod for Morrowind that made attacks hit like Oblivion as opposed to dice rolls. I then had to mod the game harder, because it wasn't made to have all your attacks hit, but it's all worked rather well so far.

    There was another series of games I beat again not too long ago, and that was the KOTOR duology. It was my first time playing them though after having played the Mass Effect trilogy, and man. Seeing them again... the Mass Effect trilogy takes so much from that series. It's really interesting to chart Bioware over time. But the whole "have a ship full of crew mates to talk to" was KOTOR. There are even aesthetic similarities in some of the planets from series to series. Bioware has done, in a way, what Bethesda has done over time; eliminate the dice rolls and more explicit RPG elements for "real time" or "direct feedback" combat, Bioware's just take place in a 3rd person perspective. But in many ways, Inquisition is to Origins, or Mass Effect 3 is to KOTOR, what Skyrim is to Morrowind. I'll be curious to see if any mainstream AAA team wants to take a risk on going back to the older style; right now, Kickstarter and Indies are mostly filling that void, and really hardcore, numbers based RPG mechanics are disappearing from the major releases. Even Final Fantasy, from the other side of the ocean, has not been immune at all.
  • The latest Dragon Quest game was a Musou game. Says it all really.