by: Vijay Lakshman, Julian LeFay, Ted Peterson (Arena), Julian LeFay, Bruce Nesmith, Ted Peterson (Daggerfall), Todd Howard, Ken Rolston (Morrowind), Todd Howard, Ken Rolston (Oblivion)
by: Ultima Underworld, pen-and-paper
Four main games, with a few expansions thrown in
Fallout 3, also created by Bethesda
Softworks, follows the open-ended style of the Elder Scrolls games, among other influences
Elder Scrolls games take the
non-linear approach to its height. Each is a full world to explore with many
things to do which are not strictly necessarily to win. Morrowind, infamously, a multi-CD game, could be won in under eight
minutes if the player knows what to do.
course, doing that, you don't get to see much along the way. And there is much
to see! These games create huge expanses of territory to explore, huge caverns
and dungeons, and have thousands of people to speak with along the way. Lead
designer of Morrowind, Ken Rolston,
an old hand in pen-and-paper RPGs design, has said this was to try to bring
that kind of the free-form experience to the game.
successful is this free-form experience? How wide-open is the game? Well,
according to the game's Wikipedia page, the second Elder Scrolls game, Daggerfall,
contains not one, not ten, not a hundred, but 15,000
towns. Italics, indeed! It takes several hours just to walk across the
game's gigantic map.
did something like this become possible? Wouldn't it take millions of man-hours
to create all that space, and logic-defying compression techniques to squeeze
it onto a CD? Well, no -- not if you create it all through fractal generation
techniques, like the game world in space games Elite
and Starflight. In
other words: they used a pseudo-random generator, seeded with set values tied
to each sector of game world, to algorithmically create terrain and contents.
drawback of that approach, however, is that it's really hard to make
interesting random content. Roguelikes
are generally best at it (although those space games mentioned are no
slouches). As a result, most people only say dull placeholder text, dungeons
tend to be fairly lackluster and lacking in design, and because of some bugs in
the generator there are a good number of bugs that make playing the game
difficult, if not impossible.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Elder Scrolls games went to using
handmade terrain, and as a result have much smaller (but still huge) game
worlds. And yet, the problem with creating thousands of game characters
remains; many of the basic man-on-the-street inhabitants of the games' towns
could nearly be clones of each other.
advantage of the huge-world approach of game design is that there is room for a
great number of sub-quests. Players can run assassination missions for
important people, join and rise up the ranks in the guilds or military, join
clans and houses, steal from merchants, create spells and potions, and
permanently enchant items.
It's not quite as bizarre as Might & Magic, I notice, but there does seem to be considerable
non-placeholder content there. The depth of the subquests is surprisingly deep
considering that many people never see much of the content developed for the
game. Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Oblivion all allow players to become vampires as a side-quest.
initial state can be acquired as a status ailment in a fight, and then either
cured or encouraged. While a vampire, players can drink the blood of sleeping
characters and participate in vampire scripted quests, provided they stay
indoors during the daylight hours.