Skyrim is a huge and uneven game, and I will be discussing many of its high points. In the spirit of getting the bad news out first, however, I want to discuss the game's secondary quest, concerning the civil war between the Imperial Legion and the Stormcloaks led by Jarl Ulfric of Windhelm. There is much to admire in the way this quest is set up, but as a world element and gameplay series it falls short in several respects.
The decision to lock out used games would be a major gamble for Microsoft to make. While the decision would likely be cheered by the industry, the possibility of fewer consumers and doing irreparable harm to relationships with retail partners has serious implications.
Welcome back to the second part of our interview with Jonathan Blow, creator of the indie smash Braid and the upcoming The Witness.
In this episode, we begin the discussion of what it means to spend our time playing games. Paramount to this: our discussion of "achievements" and how they feed into creating structures that presuppose challenging design.
I have a lot to say about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and indeed I've already said some of it. Some of it has been said for me, for instance in Shamus Young's takedown of the Thieves' Guild quests, which after a promising start became too intolerable for me to bother completing. Uneven writing quality is almost a certainty in a game this large, though, and perhaps it was the Thieves' Guild's time, after being one of the best sidequests in Oblivion.
In a cinematic action game, the player needs to keep moving forward because the intent of the game is to both tell a story and excite the player. Viewed as a question of design alone, difficulty that forces several replays of any section is undesirable because it gates progress and converts the game into a movie that is merely very inconvenient to watch.
There is a certain muddiness here between "narrative" components and "systems". Would I have loved Agro as much if he were a lizard? A featherless chicken? A square with four squares sticking out of it? Perhaps I would not have. At the same time the graphical (i.e. narrative) depiction of Agro as a horse serves to contextualize the system he presents and make the game's rules intelligible.
We've been seeing a gradual shift in software sales in the last couple of years towards digital distribution. Full retail games have been available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 over that time and, although the digital library is but a fraction of the retail library, digital has been catching up.
The idea of a game world typically appears in the context of immersive games like Far Cry 2 or Grand Theft Auto IV. Games of this type use attractive graphics to imitate reality, making the idea of a virtual world a natural one.
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