Fuck Oblivion CS

In the last few hours I was messing again with Oblivion and Oscuro’s mod to see if I could improve some parts. But it just won’t behave in a coherent way.

This is what I see in the CS:

That means that I expect that fucking bandit to have about 49 health in the game. The “1” value in the “offset” means that the NPC is automatically leveled at +1 of the level of the player’s character. This means that if I’m at level 1, the bandit will be at level 2, with exactly those 49 HPs that are shown there (to a maximum cap of level 8).

Really, these game’s tools are VERY easy to grasp. It’s another matter when you have to script stuff, but editing the “database” is trivial.

If only things behaved properly, or at least showed a coherent pattern.

This is what I see in game, with a brand new character and with the difficulty slider exactly in the middle:

WHY THE FUCK that bandit has 89 health instead of 49? I just couldn’t figure out even after running multiple tests.

With the added burden than I cannot change things in the CS and then test the changes, because it looks like the new values aren’t getting updated if I don’t start a brand new game with a new character and go through the friggin Imperial dungeon every time I want to change a variable in the CS and test it.

I tried everything, even a “ResetInterior Vilverin” while at the other side of the world with the hope that the cell was purged and reload, but nothing.

It looks like this CS isn’t based on logic, I just cannot identify a logic explanation why the game pulls fancy values out of the blue. There’s another NPC in that dungeon that should have around 80 HP, and instead he has 140. While the other levelled lists are working properly.

Trying to fix things under these conditions isn’t exactly easy. I guess there’s a trick I’m not aware of, as it’s simply insane that I have to start a new game every time I change something in the CS. Right now it’s the only way to do it, though, because the game isn’t updated properly when I change stuff and I don’t know yet a way to tell the game to forcefully reload that data so that I can actually TEST what I’m changing.

And in the case of the example in the picture above not even a restart works, because I cannot figure out from where the game is pulling those wrong values.

That said, Oscuro’s mod is a TOTAL MESS. I’m still using it because it has some very good parts, but the design and organization is pure chaos. It seems made without a vision or plan, but just by throwing stuff together randomly. The more I look into it the less sense it makes. The claim for more “static” content is a lie. Oscuro uses rubberbanding to a greater extent than the base Oblivion. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s hard because the levelled lists are completely RANDOM. These basic bandits for example go from level 1 to 20 and what Oscuro does is just randomizing their level so that they may be much above or below the player’s level, or even multiple spawns at once, but there’s nothing really persistent or static. The world STILL levels with you, but in this case it does on lists so random that it’s hard even to identify a pattern.

The fact that it’s hard to identify a pattern made people playing this popular mod believe that the game was more static, but the truth is that it does the exact opposite. It makes the randomness so excessive that your own level isn’t anymore a recognizable element. You are tricked to think the world outside is more independent from your level, so the illusory perception of a world more static, but in reality the precise rubberbanding of Oblivion is replaced by a TOTAL randomness that destroys even more the feel of a coherent, static world.

The vanilla Oblivion levels the whole world around you. Oscuro doesn’t remove this process, but makes it so random that you meet all sort of creatures. Not because those creatures are more static in the world, but just because it takes Oblivion’s rubberbanding and discards its principles. It’s replace a logic (the difficulty scales with you) with NO logic (randomness).

It works for those players who finished the game and what something more challenging, but it’s NOT better game design than Bethesda. It’s worse.

It’s a mod for those who like the challenge, sure. But it’s because whatever can spawn as there are very few rules. Or, more precisely, no game design. No direction.

But there’s also something that Oscuro’s mod does well. The new items are often placed by hand in the dungeons. For example a particular magic sword could be stuck in a tree truck deep in a dungeon. This is a part that greatly enhances the exploration and a part that was completely MISSING in the original game.

I believe that the players who made these mods fell in the exact same trap of Oblivion’s designers. A chest in this game isn’t a chest with “real” content, it’s instead a portal on another dimension that shares the same script/logic. This means that by changing that script, you are able to dynamically change the content of multiple chests in the game at the same time.

That’s how the sense of persistence is lost. You know that every chest is a window on that dimension, so a chest next to you isn’t different than the chest in a hidden dungeon far away. You know that what you are going to find is just the randomization of a generic script.

The point is that, still today, no one has tried to “fix” that. Both Oscuro and, in particular, Francesco rely heavily on the same trappings of the random system, that is the real responsible of all this. They tweaked those lists, we can argue if the result is better or worse than vanilla Oblivion (as these mods only work as “niche”, that’s the truth), but they didn’t base the actual game design on different premises. They didn’t replace the formula.

But is there even a definitive solution? Here we hit a deeper problem, because while it’s true that a true static world enhances the exploration, some randomness also enhances the replayability.

Would you prefer that a chest always has the exact same content, or some randomization can improve the fun? There isn’t a perfect answer, but there may be different compromises. Pure randomness isn’t a good one because it represent the excess of the opposite of Oblivion’s rubberbanding.

The ideal would be to have a coherent world, with some implicit rules.

I wish the CS would cooperate. My first attempt was to use Oscuro as a basis and smooth the difficulty scaling so that it’s more tolerable, while also reducing the randomness. Make it a little more playable, give it more direction. Instead of having generic “bandits” levelling from 1 to 20 I would try to separate them into three or four different groups at different levels, so that I could then set various bandit camps with different difficulty depending on where they are located. Making the difficulty more tied to the content (using the progress of the storyline as a “lead”) and less random.

There are many little touches in Oscuro’s mod that I wouldn’t want to lose, but, really, the overall game design is a pure mess. The two extremes, Francesco’s mod is carefully and methodically organized to the point that it feels too mechanical, Oscuro’s is instead utter chaos and very hard to mod.

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