Sunday, April 16, 2006

Obliviate Your Life

So I've been silent (in this medium) for weeks. The reason? Oblivion, the fourth of the Elder Scrolls games. It has literally devoured my free time. To understand the reasons why require a description of the game.

Simply put, imagine taking 16 square miles of hilly land and turning it into a sort of free form theme park. As is typically the case in games, locations are closer together than they would be in real life, but also "time" passes more quickly, with the sun and moon crawling visibly across the sky. It's like a movie - we mentally "fill in" travel time without having experience it. So our theme park (thanks to its accelerated time frame) can be given the illusion of much larger size. Time in Oblivion passes at 30 times the regular rate (with a "24 hour" period passing in 48 minutes), so we can imagine, cinematically, that the world is 30 times as large in all directions, expanding its apparent size to an astonishing 14400 square miles. And every one of those miles has Stuff in it, ranging from small touches like plants I may be able to harvet alchemical ingredients from to dozens of ruins, caves, forts, and bandit encampments. I have been exploring this world.

Another game I've played (Halo) has a silly line, where the 'voice in your head' character points out a cave and declares, "Someone built it, so it must lead somewhere." At the time, it was a blatant request on the part of the game to follow the breadcrumbs. But it goes a long way to explaining my attitude toward the minutia in games. I want to explore the world I've been handed and discover its secrets precisely because someone went to the trouble of building it. It's a sculpture the size of Maryland that someone's invited me to explore. And respecting worldbuilding such as I do, I feel compelled to squeeze every last ounce of gameplay from it.

I'm starting to run out of things to do, so presumably my real life will resume soon. Unless, of course, I decide to use the tools Bethesda employed to build the game (which ship with every copy) to begin making a sculpture of my own.

That would be... time consuming.