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Default Why Puzzles and Exploration Should Drive Story-Telling @ Forbes

March 21st, 2012, 21:26
Forbes.com has a piece titled Why Puzzles and Exploration Should Drive Story-Telling In Role-Playing Video Games, Not Just Quests. I think the auhor has a valid point, though clumsily explained in the actual article. About the "useless" books in Skyrim:
What if instead of these thousands of useless books, each volume you encountered contained something actually vital to the progression of the game? Keep the spell, skill, recipe and quest books, but ditch the rest. No more useless books at all.
Obviously wed need quite a lot fewer books, but since books in Skyrim are just irritating props at the moment this would hardly detract from anything.
And what if inside these books were pieces of larger puzzles? Maybe youd find one clue in a book you find early on in your travels, and then four hours later you find a second clue (or the beginning to a separate puzzle) in a dungeon somewhere else.
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March 21st, 2012, 21:26
And what if inside these books were pieces of larger puzzles? Maybe youd find one clue in a book you find early on in your travels, and then four hours later you find a second clue (or the beginning to a separate puzzle) in a dungeon somewhere else.
Divinity 1 had something like this, if I remember correctly.
However, it is almost … 10 ? Years since I have played the game …

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March 21st, 2012, 21:31
Obviously wed need quite a lot fewer books, but since books in Skyrim are just irritating props at the moment this would hardly detract from anything.
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March 21st, 2012, 22:27
I'm of two minds on this one.

On one hand, I see no harm in the books in Skyrim, they offer a bit of lore for those interested. Personally I prefer the codex system used in Bioware games, since the lore is acquired as you encounter beings/places, rather than the random tidbits in Skyrim books. Yet, I still see nothing wrong with them for those who enjoy that kind of thing.

On the other hand, I completely agree about having more puzzles in RPGs, and his example of Might & Magic II is spot on. One of my fondest memories of that game is the exploration - finding clues to things on cave walls, mysterious fountains that could buff you or kill you, hidden passages in cities filled with stacks of 800 kobolds (and sums of loot at the end if you could get there)… The fun of that was in searching the landscape and uncovering its secrets. Games nowadays tend to focus mostly on combat, with the occasional treasure chest strewn around to open. I'd like to see more games that required some detective work or at least gave you some really cool things to find for those who were diligent and up for a challenge.
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March 21st, 2012, 22:45
Yep, that was one of the charms of World of Xeen, too. I like that, but getting rid of lore provided in books is silly. No one is forcing the player to read in game books.
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March 21st, 2012, 23:13
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
getting rid of lore provided in books is silly. No one is forcing the player to read in game books.
Absolutely agree. There's no such thing as "too many" books imo, and it's not as if they're essential to finishing the game. I haven't played Skyrim yet, but I loved the books in Morrowind.

I'd much rather learn about the world/lore in that manner, as opposed to such information automatically being added to some type of stat screen as I play the game.
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March 21st, 2012, 23:16
Plus if you just want the map marker/skill increase/quest activation it takes less than a second to open a book, and see if there is a reward. After a while you can just scan the books with your crosshair to figure out whether to open or not, once you figure out that the books with skill usually cost more, or you learn to recognize their titles.
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March 21st, 2012, 23:18
Now I have an urge to play old Might & Magic games…

I agree - the author was was a little too bold in his assertion that the books should be removed, and I'm not clear why he would consider them 'irritating' per se. It's pretty easy to tell which books have an effect on stats or some sort of gameplay significance, over the random tomes. You can simply just ignore them, much as you can ignore the 3-4 gold pieces inside all those urns, if you so desire.
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March 22nd, 2012, 01:05
I can kind of see where the guy is coming from regarding the books in Skyrim. More often than not, these books are random stories that have little to do with the quests you're partaking of. While fun to read, they have little relevance and do not serve to immerse you deeper into the story happening around you.

I am not advocating less lore - simply more pertinent lore.
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March 22nd, 2012, 01:46
Yeah. This analysis hits the nail on the head as far story exposition and NPCs go. Namely, it could be MUCH better.

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/…ng-man-crumble
Last edited by Thrasher; March 22nd, 2012 at 18:48.
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March 22nd, 2012, 08:54
I actually agree with him almost completely.
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March 22nd, 2012, 09:27
So he's basically describing how RPG's used to be before that kind of game design was considered too niche outdated due to more money in catering to casual gamers modern innovations.
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March 22nd, 2012, 10:22
It seems to me he just doesn't like the idea of an open, 'living and breathing' world that doesn't revolve exclusively around the player. It's a perfectly valid preference but a different approach than the one the Elder Scrolls games take, which is equally valid. Criticizing these games for it and suggesting that it's just wrong is unfair and, frankly, even selfish.

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March 22nd, 2012, 12:39
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
Yep, that was one of the charms of World of Xeen, too. I like that, but getting rid of lore provided in books is silly. No one is forcing the player to read in game books.
No one is forcing anyone to read them, but they are all being forced to pay for them. Production costs of games has skyrocketed over the past 15 years or so. Obviously there are some benefits to that, but the more you spend, the harder it is to turn a profit, which means the less risk the publishers are willing to take, which is something people tend to gripe about.

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March 22nd, 2012, 14:14
The added cost of the books in Skyrim is almost 0 as the lore is mostly inherited from earlier games. Each one has added to the store of in-game knowledge.

I personally somewhat dislike games that totally revolve around the character because of their artificial nature. Alas, almost all games are done this way at least to some extent.
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March 22nd, 2012, 14:18
Originally Posted by blatantninja View Post
No one is forcing anyone to read them,
No-one is forcing you to read newspapers, either.
And no-one is forcing you to drink and to eat either.

I don't like this kind of argument, because it practically nullifies the wish to read books. Or a wish to do anything at all, in the end.

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March 22nd, 2012, 14:19
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
The added cost of the books in Skyrim is almost 0 as the lore is mostly inherited from earlier games. Each one has added to the store of in-game knowledge.

I personally somewhat dislike games that totally revolve around the character because of their artificial nature. Alas, almost all games are done this way at least to some extent.
You still have to take the time to get the code for those books in the game and place them. With a game as big as Skyrim, that's going to be a fair amount of man hours. Enough to break the bank? Probably not, but that's just one of a dozen things like that that add up.

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March 22nd, 2012, 15:32
Originally Posted by blatantninja View Post
You still have to take the time to get the code for those books in the game and place them. With a game as big as Skyrim, that's going to be a fair amount of man hours. Enough to break the bank? Probably not, but that's just one of a dozen things like that that add up.
Little things like that also make the game world seem more alive and real. The painted in scene things that look like books in other games but that you can't even pick up let alone read bug me.
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March 22nd, 2012, 15:33
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
Little things like that also make the game world seem more alive and real.
I completely agree. It's a trade off.

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March 22nd, 2012, 17:49
I don't see any downside to having lots of books filled with lore in a CRPG. But I agree with the author that books could be made even more interesting if they provided materiel information that could unlock mysteries in the actual game.

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