A short “review”: Oscuro’s Oblivion mod

“Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul” is undoubtedly the most ambitious mod out there. I saw many people liking it and decided to give it a look, even if I’m not so fond of mods that aggressively change and add content.

This is an excursus of comments and things I wrote around the forums.

What I mean is that with these large packages based on users mods you always have tradeoffs of quality.

It’s different when you take a certain mod that tweaks a certain part of the game with a goal in mind, but when you aggressively add content and change the direction of the game you are always going to accept those tradeoffs. There will be interesting things as there will be things that really suck.

It’s great if you are on the second run through the game and want to see something different, but in many cases those “improvements” are definitely arguable.

Yes, choice is good. I discard about 98% of the mods I try. That’s the point.

With the big bundles instead you are sort of stuck with what you get. And it’s often “meh!”.

This was BEFORE trying the mod. And it seems I knew exactly what I was going to find.

(Based on a clean install. I have only bethesda’s official mods, unofficial patch 1.4.0, Book Jackets, DEJ Harvest, Living Economy, Oscuro 1.3 full and a small mod that sets the “timescale” variable to 15 instead of 30).

So I went on a clean install and gave that mod a try after reading up the readme and thinking it had some good premises.

The problem is that it didn’t made a very good impression on me. The tutorial part is pretty much identic. Rats and zombies do almost zero damage and die with two hits. Then you go outside.

Outside I had a few problems with lag, possibly because of grass and fish spawns added to the game. I notice that the crabs spawn in groups now. This is nice and they also have a veried size. I like the idea but I also noticed that the smaller crabs seems as resistent as the large ones. Not really a consistent behaviour when you see this tiny crab fleeing from you and you still have to swing repeatedly your big sword at it.

Then you have the same options as always. Your can cross the river to fight the two bandit and enter the Vilverin dungeon or go right where there’s a cave guarded by an imp.

Well, the bandit camp doesn’t have anymore the two weak bandits, but a whole squad of 5-6 of them, well equipped and almost unbeatable even if you “pull” and fight only one of them. With the bowman that takes almost 1/4 of your health with each arrow.

So I tried the other cave with the imp. And the imp fled as soon as it saw me and I had to chase it down for a while. Then I go in. There are more imps on the first level and again all they do is flee as soon they see me. Unfortunaterly fleeing in a cave just means that they run straight against a wall, with me repeatedly slashing their naked ass, till they die. Okaay…

Second level. More imps that flee as they see me, I chase them down the corridor, then I see a phantom like figure far away. Then I see a HUGE glowing projectile coming toward me that takes the whole corridor (impossible to dodge). It hits me. I die. I was at FULL health.

That’s pretty much it. From what I seen the difficulty scales HORRIBLY. You go from trivial to impossible in one step. From rats that do no damage, to imps that are stuck against walls without even trying to defend themselves (great AI, duh), to one-hit kills or even zergs of bandits RIGHT ACROSS the river in what is supposed to be the noob zone.

Beside that, there must be something that messes with the AI because in many, many cases the monsters didn’t notice my presence till I was very close (and not in stealth).

So, the impression I got wasn’t really good. There are some good ideas and I accept a mod that tries to make the content static. But if you decide to make the content static then YOU HAVE TO design the progression so that it is consistent and flows naturally. Without being overly frustrated or with unbeatable, one-hit kill monsters placed in a starter dungeon.

As it is right now the content just calibrated and designed very very badly.

That’s what I see, now tell me I’m wrong.

I wrote that and people told me they had different experiences. So I went on explaining my point and also had a discussion with the mod author about these points. At the end all that I wrote revealed to be true.

If I was complaining about the difficulty I could understand.

But I’m not complaining about that. I’m complaining about the scaling. The fact that I went from a monster that represents no harm at all to one that killed me in one hit. Without anything in the middle.

Not a very good, fun progression.

Sotobrastos: The bandit camp happened to have 4-5 bandits in your case… So why did you, a lvl 1, again, fresh out of jail, attack 4-5 bandits with crap equipment and a rusty sword? Just as there were 4-5, it could have been that only 1 or 2 were there. So, it was your luck. Would you prefer if I make it so that every place has a set number of enemies? No variety? No surprise? I don’t think so, personally.

Just good design.

You don’t find many games that put your character next to an unbeatable monster right at the start. Considering that a noob character ALWAYS comes out in that point of the map it makes sense to at least give him a possibility to familiarize with the game instead making him face sure death wherever he moves. I tried three things: bandit camp, Vilverin and the other cave. Those are ALSO the options that most players usually consider. Because when you play a new game you usually start by exploring the nearby space.

It is very frustrating if you are punished at every step you move and cannot figure out how *the game* expects you to play.

Sideways cave: Imps are wimps. Why? Because they now hang out with much powerful kin. You entered sidways cave, which, if you are careful, you can effectively hunt in it pretty well. But, as soon as you run into a Mystical imp is going to be time to run, especially if you are a weakling level one.

Again my complaint is about the scaling. On the first level ALL the imps I met just ran into walls and waited for me to kill them without the slight reaction. I just didn’t find this realistic, nor really fun. I’m sure that they can do better than that even if they are wimps. It just looked awkward and I’m reporting this.

Then I moved to the second level and there were MORE imps, who again just ran in the other direction. I chased one and I found that ghost-like thing. I died with one hit.

Again it’s the scaling. I went from absurdly easy to die in one hit.

So I WOULDN’T suggest to bring the difficulty down. But I think it would be a good choice to make the difficulty scale more GRADUALLY.

Then there’s the other problem that I don’t know if it’s a bug, a side effect of some script or what. But I noticed that the monsters didn’t react promptly to my presence. I saw idle rats staring a wall with me just a few feet away and, finally, I was able to shot down an imp in that sideway cavern with my bow. The imp NEVER MOVED. It never reacted. I fired the first arrow and he was facing the other direction. I hurt him and he just sit there doing nothing, till I killed it.

I was right about the gap between the starting dungeon and what you find outside as the mod author said that the starting dungeon is so heavily scripted that he didn’t want to mess with it.

I was right about the mud crabs all sharing the same stats even with their varying size, in fact the mod author admitted that he forgot to update those values.

I was right about the framerate problems as it seems that the scripts ruling the new fish spawns give other problems to the game.

And I was also right about the difficulty being set just too random. After I went to look up things in the editor.

The reason why imps don’t attack and just flee is because they have very low “confidence” and “aggression” values.

In the exact same spot where these can spawn, this mod can spawn a “mystical imp” as well (48% normal imp – 20% rat – 16% crazed imp – 16% mystical imp). This creature is the one who killed me in one single hit.

– The “rats” have 4 hit points and do 2 damage.

– The “normal imps” have around 15 hitpoints and do from 4 to 15 damage (if they actually fought back).

– The “mystical imps” have 150 hit points and hit from 13 to 50+ damage.

That gap is just *excessively wide* to share the same spawn point.

My character had 60 hitpoints but I had the difficulty slider moved just enough to get 10 more and die with one hit.

Which confirms my theory. The mod just has the difficulty scaling really bad. You just shouldn’t have spawn points that can spawn a level 1 creature that just flees or a level 10 creature with that kind of power.

The original game had the content completely scaled and it wasn’t fun because you always knew what you were going to find. While this mod makes the difficulty completely *random*. From super easy to impossible in one step.

Wasn’t the main purpose of this mod to make content “static”? And if that’s the goal, isn’t a contradiction to have the spawn points show a so random behaviour?

RPGs to be immersive should be consistent. This means that they must follow an implicit or explicit logic. That the player will then understand and manage. Having GODLIKE creatures spawn randomly in the same place of trivial creatures is not a consistent behaviour. Nor one that helps the game to be more fun.

If there’s a dangerous place in the game, that’s good. What isn’t so good is when that place is going to be dangerous or absurdly easy on just a dice roll.

It just isn’t a consistent behaviour if the same spawn point can generate a rat, a troll or a dragon. The sense of persistence and consistence would be lost, because it would be just a random game without a sense or a logic. If this game tries to achieve “realism” then that’s NOT the direction where it should go.

Now what I’m criticizing in this precise case is that, okay, lets have varied mob types. Lets have multiple types of goblins and imps. It’s all good. But the gap between all those type shouldn’t be too wide to retain some consistence, or the game would lack logic. In the same way you don’t just take a rat, give it 400 hitpoints and make it bite for 100. It’s just stupid.

Those mystic imps spawning randomly in the place of normal ones felt to me just like a cheap trick to make the game feel harder.

Now I could try to hack together a small patch for this mod. I think it wouldn’t be too hard to address those problems I pointed out. Even if it would take too much work to rationalize the levelled lists I think it could be still possible to have a band aid and make the difficulty of the game at the early levels more forgiving and fun overall.

Problem is that the mod behaves awkwardly in the editor and I cannot save changes to a custom plugin. The mod author told me this is going to be solved when the official patch for the mod will be out. So I’ll wait for it before I try to put together my own “rebalance” mod over his own.

As things are right now, I still think that using the mod combinations I had already commented and suggested (with a drift here) is still the best choice to play the game in its best form.

15 thoughts on “A short “review”: Oscuro’s Oblivion mod

  1. Interesting. Even after having replied to you extensively about the “uniqueness” of Sideways’ cave and Vilverin, you still, even here, continue to make assumptions that the whole mod (hundreds of dungeons) behave exactly the same way. Out of your two dungeon sample you extrapolate to the whole mod. That is, in a word, unbelieavable. Especially if one takes into account that I gave you specific reasons as to why those two examples were not representative at all of the work as a whole. You chose to ignore that in the ESF board threads and continue to ignore this here. Moreover, the posts at the boards in ESF are exactly like the ones you post here–in particular the post about OOO above this one–meaning that you do not even wait to get a reply in order to banter about your judgments on the mod. Incredibly, the post above goes as far as to suggest that there is a widespread problem in how “normal” vs “boss” spawns are organized out of one single dungeon! Even after I told you it was a special place that was made as such on purpose! You assumed and made such comments without even exploring the possibility that the rest of places in the world behaved differently. Now, how do you expect anyone to respect that kind of “reviewing”? How could anyone trust the judgment of someone who decides to air their final veredict based on assumptions and suppositions which have been stated and proven to be wrong?

    I agree with what you understand “good” design to be (I even made a couple of changes to the 1.31 version of OOO based on our discussion), but I disagree about your judgment of the mod based on your very limited experience of it, based on your hasty and inappropriate extrapolations and your suspicious assumptions–one wonders if there is something else that does not meet the eye about the purpose of holding onto a given point of view even if it has been proven to be short-sighted and un-informed. Perhaps, if one has been able to endure the unsubstantiated and theoretical ramblings preceeding them, the words of your last paragraph may lead one to discover that which lies hidden behind your “review.”


  2. Oscuro, yours is only a MOD of a game, nothing else. Dont be paranoid… I personally dont use OOO anymore because I like to have some control on what a mod change and what doesnt change, and OOO change MANY things, some of them I like, some dont… so I prefer to use many tiny mods that only change one or two things than OOO. Nice review btw.

  3. While no mod is perfect, OOO is a ambitious project that makes several excellent, and many would argue, much needed improvements to vanilla Oblivion. There are other great mods out there as well — and people too easily forget (or are simply ignorant of) the vast amount of time and resoucres that these mod developers contribute in their efforts to improve the game play experience.

  4. Well, here’s my two-cents:

    Oscuro, I really like the mod. I think that the idea of a more static world is great. Furthermore, the additions in the way of new monsters, weapons, armor, etc are great, as well as all the things that help the thief-type characters (i.e. more realistics posessions for wealthy people, etc).

    However, I’d be lying to you if the game didn’t feel a little lopsided sometimes. I don’t know enough about how game engines work to explore the inner-emchanics of the mod, but I have experienced some of the same things that were listed above, (with reference to the Ayleid Ruins across from the sewers). I was able, though, to make it through the ruins okay. However, my only reason for entering those ruins for what I realized to be my biggest complaint about the mod.

    I’ve probably put a good five or six hours into the mod, and I’m still level 1. Despite constantly working on my major skills, I just can’t seem to level-up. The difficulty scaling probably wouldn’t bother me if I could just get some more hit points. So I thought maybe if I go out and just wander around and explore I can get a few levels under my belt so I can really start enjoying all the great new things you added.

    So off I went into the wilderness. Just outside of Bruma, I confronted a snow mountain lion. I thought it might be difficult, so I saved my game before attacking. After this fucker killed me about 15 times, I called it quits and went the other direction.

    I’ve robbed damn-near everyone in the Imperial City and joined the thieves guild. So I’m level 1 with about $5000, despite my pittifully low sneak and security skills of less than 33. I just don’t know what I have to do to make my skills increase a little faster.

    Look, all in all, I like the mod. I dig most of the changes you’ve made. I just feel like I’m not getting to experience a lot of the great work that you put into this because it’s designed so that a level 1 character can’t just go out and take on the world (which I like), but for whatever reason, I can’t seem to get past that stage of the game, and there’s nothing fun about being stuck at level 1 and getting my ass kicked by everything on God’s green earth.

  5. Either you guys don’t know how to play RPG’s or you really suck at this game, or all you want to do is blaze through groups of enemies and feel proud. If so, then this is not the mod for you.

    I discovered this mod before I even bought Oblivion. As for your complaints against the dungeons and levels being too hard. Within one day I was level 8, pure mage breton. While exploring, the spells were being used because I actually needed them for my gameplay and it was awesome.

    If you feel like the mod is too difficult, you have the option of changing the setups. Or mayebe you guys don’t know how to READ. There are clear instructions on how to play the modular version of this. Adjust level rates, game play settings, difficulty, thievery options, etc. etc. Use the ooolite esp and add whatever modules you want or don’t add them. READ THE README!

    Oscuro is a genius. Its only because of his mod Oblivion keeps me interested anymore.

  6. I’ve played for about 5 hours’ish and haven’t had much luck. I’ve explored the crumbling mine near cyronill not sure on the spelling there. The regular bandits beat the crap out of me and I would assume a small cave near a major town would pretty safe for a starter character. I agree that the difficulty is a bit too much for a level one character to have much of a chance. I like the idea of what you have tried to accomplish but I just don’t have the patients to struggle through any more. Its just too hard to do anything besides in town non violent quests.

  7. there’s nothing fun about being stuck at level 1 and getting my ass kicked by everything on God’s green earth.

    Yep, that pretty much sums up my experience as well. I like the idea behind Oscuro’s mod. I don’t doubt alot of hard work went into it. But dying repeatedly over and over … just didn’t do it for me. This guy gave your mod far more time and effort than I did, probably well past the point he’d given up on it for himself.

  8. My experience has been virtually identical. A lot of wandering around getting my ass kicked by critters that just shouldn’t be that difficult. And after many hours of playing, I don’t seem to be any stronger or more skillful than I was at the start. The game has become static all right, but not in the way I expected.

  9. Os2, check your data/oscuro folder, there are options for setting leveling to normal, half as fast, twice as fast, up to five times as fast with a drag and drop. You could also switch to lite, which tones down almost everything that people don’t like.

    I personally love the mod, my first TES was Daggerfall, and even OOO doesnt hold a candle to how hard that game was in the tutorial dungeon. Took me about 8 hours to get out of the tut dungeon on my first play-through, and it was incredibly fun.

    Morrowind was quite a bit easier, but there were still challenges, especially from casters.

    Oblivion is nigh on Diablo 2 hack and slash in vanilla. The first time just run rampant through a bunch of daedra valkynaz and you’re not even hurt, you realize that there might be a serious problem with having everything always be too easy. Simply upping the difficulty slider to 75% is not really a solution, because all it does is make them hit harder/you hit for less. It does nothing to their levels, spells, equipment, potions, scrolls, combat styles, spawn numbers, or variety. The original system, in essence has nothing to offer you once youve 2 shotted your first kynmarcher. GG, nothing youll ever fight will ever be exciting, whatsoever, for the rest of the game.

    I want to be able to kill some things easily, just as I want some things to always outclass me. The fun is beating things that outclass you, using all your skills and potions (first beat of the game, never used a scroll or potion, except maybe during siege of bruma to invis through). What then was the point of alchemy? Why would anyone pick up destruction when an arrow sneak attack would do 10 times more damage than a level 75 destruction spell? Why don’t enemies use cool ability chains on me? Shivering Isles is a good illustration of this, very bland combat and enemy abilities, no challenge in any dungeon on the island. No need to wear any of the overpowered equipment.

    And I’m level 10, God of Madness? WTF?

    I come out of the portal to SI, wander around near Shardrock and I find a mystical imp, it roots and silences me, chameleons itself and does a wide circle around me while I try to search for a scroll of feather, a resist frost potion and anything that will dispel or reflect magic to equip. And this is just a mundane encounter of one mob, after I’ve just owned the Daedric Prince of Order like he was a little girl. Now I am glad I have Dawnfang/Duskfang and all of what I thought were overpowered trinkets from the shivering isles. Why on earth would I ever use Golden Saint or Dark Seducer on something I could kill with 2 50 dmg spells?

    Not to say it doesn’t have it’s weaknesses, but if you just want an easy slashfest, DONT GET THE MOD, superezproblemsolved.

  10. With a name like “Oscuro” I’d kick myself if my mod wasn’t awesome by many accounts.

    Here’s what I would like in a game: some common sense. When I’m talking Open-Sandbox Gameplay, I would either like it to be fully unrealistic, realistic, or tweaked for more fun, but still making sense in its context.

    Bethesda….made an amazing game. Morrowin was amazing then. Oblivion was, I would say, relatively less amazing, because some things were not present that should have been. Bethesda did not make a perfect game, and if I bought it for the Xbox 360, I wouldn either be obliviously playing the game, or cursing myself for not bying it for the PC.

    But Oscuro made the game a little more alive, I think. Ever played Diablo II? Wasn’t it fun finding Unique, or Champion monsters? Except it happened pretty rarely and everything else was a cakewalk. Oscuro gives the player the option to find those Champions, and you can do it at level 1! But at the same time, being level 1, you have to be aware of the fact that you ARE level 1. You can’t become Arena Champion straight out of prison. And not every bandit has already pillaged towns for the best loot when you’re level 30. I myself haven’t even beaten Oblivion yet. After seeing OOO and its improvements, I said, @#$% it, the guy’s right: it’s worth it to start from the beginning. I don’t expect to play this game more than three times, and I want a challenge every time. All I have to do is watch my choices and always have backup saves…And in the end, I will be the undead Head Vampire of Cyradiil or something.

    But Diablo II this aint, and I appreciate that Oscuro encourages people to use their heads a little (just like in the real world), and allows those efforts to be rewarded.

  11. The points here brought up by the several people responding have been addressed in the mod.

    It is true that OOO 1.3 was too harsh to level 1 players right out of the tutorial dungeon. The three hunting grounds right next to the exit of the sewers could be hard, on purpose, to teach people a lesson. That, coupled with the slow level progression rates of the Full version, made it shocking to some. Indeed, that is a very valid judgment. Also, because it is valid, I addressed that issue partly.

    in 1.31 the leveling rate was much eased. Even though I offered already in 1.3 plenty of add-on mods that changed the leveling rate to the player’s preference, I understand that by default it should have been more lenient. It was done, a long time ago–while still offering you the choice of rates with add-ons bundled with the main mod files.

    Also, I tweaked a bit the nearby hot spots, without completely dulling them. I still consider a wise decision to clearly imprint in the player’s mind that they cannot easily conquer a dungeon full of undead while they are puny level 1s with rusted iron weapons and rotten fur armor. The greater ease of leveling made that initial problem of 1.3, small but agmented due to its nature–right at the start–vanish significantly.

    Further, 1.31 implemented the lock-restrictions that were necessary to balance out the greater quality and quantity of available loot (especially Amazon armor and hand-placed city containers). Thus, the issue with availability of money, which was never drastic as its uses are very limited at a low-level due to the way armor, weapon and spells work for PCs with low skills, became more balanced.

    As I noted in my post, Abalieno had a some good suggestions which I recognized as wise and thereby implemented into the mod.

    Where I have disagreed with him, and where he has fallen in further posts, is with his hasty extrapolation of isolated issues to the general design of the whole mod and with his sloppy analyses and conclusions in things such as the role of randomness in OOO and its design structure–which he cannot understand because he cannot grasp its complexity and the way it is implemented in the CS. Those reasons are not enough to blame the work; rather, the burden of proof is in his side.

    (EDIT: Again, here I do not mean to denigrate Abalieno’s ability for analysis, since he shows his mettle throughout this site in plenty of ocassions. Simply, OOO, with many dozens of thousands of inter-related changes, is just too much for anyone to grasp with ease. Even the OOO beta testers, after months of close work with me, have to spend many hours and days just to understand how a small set of changes was balanced out, and why, if I can’t spend the time to offer a lengthy explanation)

    I do not expect any kind of retraction, however, seeing the nature and history of this issue in his posts. Perhaps I’ll be surprised, but that would require much more thorough analyses of the game design, vision and structure of OOO, coupled with a much greater understanding of how the CS works.

    (EDIT: In fact, Abalieno did just clarify his point of view on this issue and admitted to a lack of familiarity with the CS and the mod, which is part of the reason why he wants to keep investigating them and why some of his posts focus on them. I was gladly surprised.)

    I can’t hope that Abalieno will dedicate the necessary time to properly grasp those important considerations when writing about OOO. What I would hope is that he refrains from writing more senseless critiques that show ignorance of both the mod’s inner-structure and how the CS works. A pity, because among those gross generalizations and misunderstandings he does have some good insights to offer.

    (EDIT: As the above edit shows, this last paragraph does not really belong here anymore. This site is a place for Abalieno’s ramblings, blurbs, analyses and commentaries. I believe that I am a bit to blame for taking it too seriously. I respect Abalieno’s thoughts and I was thus more “hurt” whenever they misjudged, or oversimplified, OOO than I otherwise would have been. One grows a thick skin after being a center of attention in a board crawling with young people who lambast one’s work without having even read the installation instructions, or the readme, etc, as the Elder Scrolls Forums are–where there are thousands and thousands of posts above OOO.

    Such complaints carry no weight, usually. However, what I saw here was more worthy of being taken seriously, and this is why I invested time to reply. I do hope that you understand my reasoning and thinking behind this, rather than associate it with just a thin-skin or an inmature grudge against Abalieno.)

    Jorge Salgado


  12. Not to be rude or anything, but the mod can really be ridiculous to casual players.

    The idea of human factors psychology is to make things accessible and easier for a wide group of players. I eventually got the hang of the mod, but for the longest time I was getting eaten alive by everything. I eventually started playing differently and adjusting, but it was taking forever to get the tiniest jobs finished that I felt that I needed to stop.

    My point is that you seem to keep pointing out that the author doesn’t understand the complexity of the mod, but not every person should be expected to be an expert analyst and have to dig deep into a mod to gain from it.

    Plus getting killed all the time isn’t fun. Sure, it’s a nice life lesson, but it’s not fun. I play games to have fun and ease stress, and this mod didn’t really help me there. To some players, yes.

    And to end this polite response on a sour note, you are incredibly arrogant.
    You’re very rude and you are very elitist.
    I hope you recognized this and improve on it.

  13. Love the IDEA of a more static gameworld, and the sense of accomplishment you get when you kill something easily at level 6 that kicked your ass at level 2. However, this isn’t really how OOO plays out. EVERYTHING kills you in the beginning. It makes Oblivion more of an endurance test than a game. I don’t care what Oscuro says about forcing you to think, because his mod makes situations you could never think your way out of. While closing the first Oblivion gate, I found myself needing to pass through a small room with 4 hellhounds. There was simply nothing I could do to defeat them outright, sneak by them, etc. After dying 15 times or so trying different strategies (which really ruins the immersion btw), I gave up, left the quest and gathered ingredients for fire resistance potions. Came back a few levels later only to find the damn thing harder than it was before. Now I’ve got Hellhounds, backed up by Seducers and Hungers. I would go so far as to call it impossible without lowering the difficulty slider (strike two on immersion).

    Oscuro can blab all day about how much thought and work he put into the mod, but if he spent 2 hours actually PLAYING the freakin thing he would see that the mod should be renamed OSCURO’S FRUSTRATION OVERLOAD.

    Oh, and did I mention it crashes like an MF’er? (Strike three immersion, and the player is out).

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