Wednesday, 26 June 2002

Morrowind & Harry Potter

Listening to:

Brahms, Fantasien, op. 116. Played by Emil Gilels.

Some perceptive comments about the Harry Potter books.

Good things about Morrowind:

  • It looks very nice. Wandering the country-side at night, with stars to look at; admiring the massive pyramid-like architecture in the city of Vivec; the haze of dawn mists. The first-person perspective heightens the sense of immersion.
  • It really does seem open-ended and free-form. The thrust of the “main” story-line is far from clear, and there’s still lots of interesting stuff to do on the fringes. On a couple of occasions I have just taken my character on wanders through the back-country, testing my archery skills on wild animals, and poking my nose into various ancestral tombs that you occasionally bump into.
  • Related to this, the guild/faction structures are nicely done. Yes, they have “quests” for you to do, even in the Imperial Legion (joining the latter gets lots of comments from guards along the lines of Why aren't you at your post?, but you're not forced into barracks for months at a time); but these are all pretty well varied, and seem to admit multiple methods of solution. My character has joined the Fighters’ Guild, the Thieves’ Guild, the Imperial Cult and the Imperial Legion. I'm aware of seven others that could be joined (though some of them are mutually exclusive), making for lots of different ways to play the game.
  • The underlying game system is refreshing. Though there are player levels, these govern just health and magic-point totals. The system is primarily skill-based, and though there are sample classes provided (with their skill-sets already chosen), you can design your own. A class picks 5 major skills and 5 minor skills that start off at higher levels, while all of the game's other skills start low. But the system is that all skills improve if used successfully. If and when D&D makes it to a 6th edition, it might have evolved to a system as nice as this.
  • It continues to engross me, many hours after first starting.

Things that could be better (for the next version):

  • NPCs are static; they don't move around except within very constrained patrol routines for some guards. This breaks the illusion a little because they obviously have no lives of their own.
  • Relatedly, there is no real day/night cycle in the towns: it might be the middle of the night when you arrive in Balmora, but everyone is still up and about and will have exactly the same conversations with you. They should all be in bed!
  • There is no scope for the multiple character adventuring. When you are occasionally lumbered with an escort duty, the escorted person follows you around like a stupid pet, and you can't wait to get rid of them.
  • There are occasional graphical glitches that look peculiar but have no real effect on the game.
  • Monsters will occasionally get stuck when they should be charging at you (a pathfinding failure this), making it possible to pick them off with bow and arrow.
  • There are too few people in the towns. This really is a difficult one for any game designer to solve: how do you invent a complete village? Either you make all the people the same, which is boring and worse than not having them, or you spend an incredibly long time inventing hundreds (thousands) of lives, most of which the PC will never interact with. Morrowind actually does a fabulous job on this front, so I'm really being impossibly (?) perfectionist.


hay hary potter

Posted by: amir at August 24, 2004 04:28 PM