The Orrery, too pretty to blame

I wanted to comment Oblivion’s downloadable add-ons since when Raph give it some weight. This week even Lum added his opinion and I was going to back up those points.

I really don’t mind paying for content, especially for games I really like and wish would never end. Before Oblivion was out I was already anticipating these mini-addon they announced but I still didn’t know how superficial was the concept. I like the idea of “ongoing development” even applied to single player games, with mini-packs of content added regularly and aimed to continuously enhance the game.

I was waiting for new dungeons, factions to join, plots to discover, new scripted events, new zones to open up, new herbs to collect, new magic effects, weapons, armors, monsters. Extension to the game, content that could be worth a price.

Instead Bethesda’s idea of add-ons seems just taking the worst out of mmorpgs. Loot-driven instead of content-driven. As I often wrote this *genre* should be more than just “loot whoring”. When you offer something and ask for money, you should offer some kind of value. A “communicative pact”. In this case the message that Bethesda is sending is definitely wrong.

These mini-packs were an extremely interesting possibility that was ruined by an absurd mentality that, as Lum wrote, could be negative for the whole industry.

This is what I wrote on Q23 (in response to one of the devs):

ashileedo: Not to belabor the point, but I’ll say again — the Orrery itself took an artist a month to create – something we never did for Morrowind.

It’s not a problem of appearance, it’s a problem of substance.

You are basically selling loot, taking the worst from the RMT and mmorpgs. Instead we expect “content”. Something that has something to say. Some gameplay.

Role playing games. Not loot whores. The Orrery could be pretty, but it needs a role.

You have a team. The content you release should be the work of a mini-team as a mini exp pack. This means that in this team of devs you should have at least one member for each core duty, like a world builder, an artist, a scripter and so on.

Instead you are fragmenting too much. Leave that to the mod community. And instead take advantage from the fact that YOU CAN HAVE A TEAM.

And that’s the difference. Content-less plugins tweaking a couple of elements in the game are a type of content that the community can easily do. It’s that kind of superficial approach that everyone tries while poking things around with the toolset. You tweak here and there those few elements so that they fit better your taste.

From Bethesda I expect more than that. I expect at least small teams working together to add something to the game. I expect that kind of collaborative work that isn’t easy to find in the mod community where the great majority of the stuff is one-man work focusing in his area of expertise. I expect from Bethesda that special added value that is about working as a team, have different developers that are specialized in different areas and that can work on a project in its multiple aspects. Not just a new texture, a new model, a new bandit camp, a new script or a new monster. But all these “segments” of content brought together so that they build up a piece of the game with some cosistence. Complete in all its parts.

The Orrery is extremely deluding if you consider the gameplay. It drops a note directly in your backpack, enabling a waypoint where you have to go kill a bandit. This bandit will have a letter that will then mark four other locations where you have to kill more bandits and retrieve four dwemer mechanical parts (btw, it’s damn hard to find corpses rolling down hills and hiding in the grass). When you have these you go back to the mage guild and hand the parts to an NPC that will go work to repair the Orrery. You return one day later and finally the Orrery is open. It consists in a room and a button that you can press to get a daily power, the button will then give you different powers depending on the moon phases.

The gameplay sucks. It’s another random excuse and a button you press to get a special power adding nothing to the game. But I have to say that the Orrery itself is a true MASTERPIECE. And masterpieces have no price.

The value of this plug-in is truly unique. It is just a “room” but the work that the artist has put on it is something unparalleled. This is pure art. One wonderful steampunk machinery, completely animated that made my jaw drop. The detail in every little texture is impressive. This goes beyond a “game value”. It is pure visual awe toward a fancy artifact that leaves you speechless. And in this it captures perfectly the spirit of this object in the game.

This dwemer machine is a planetarium. It serves no game-y purpose and it is absolutely optional for the game. But it is optional even in the fictional Oblivion world as it would be in the reality. It won’t help the population to fight monsters or resist the invasion from the outer plane. It is like a museum. A museum that transfers its visual value from the game to the reality. Because this machine is impressive to see as you would go watch it in a museum if it was real. It’s like a blur between two realities and, in this, it becomes a true masterful work. There’s just no gap anymore in the suspension of disbelief.

It is definitely something new and unique. I’ve never seen something like this. Basically the artist has brought to life a dwemer artifact as if it was real. A veil rift. It is obvious that this work is an absolute exception. It just cannot be reviewed as a “game” product, since it is not. It is not a piece of loot with a price tag added. This is pure art form and a dedication from an artist that can be directly felt.

And in this it has no price.

(two critics:
– the animation of the walls is unbelievable the first time you activate it, sadly once active you cannot switch it off anymore. I wish there was a switch so that you could trigger the whole process at will
– I also wish the quests were more naturally blended into the game instead of just POP-UP screen messages the first time you reload)

There was an Orrery even in Morrowind.

(screens here)






























































































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