Gamasutra - Designer's Notebook: Bad Game Designer #10
Over at Gamasutra, designer Ernest Abrams does another one of his feature articles reviewing examples of flawed game design, this one being the tenth "No Twinkie" article.
Here's an excerpt on "Psychic AI" from Oblivion:
"In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the guards are so good at their job, they instantly know when you've committed a crime (i.e. killed someone in a building, stolen something), even when they were never in the area. They'll sometimes run all the way across town to try and arrest you.
"Another Oblivion issue is the stolen items thing: merchants will happily accept items you've 'liberated' from the corpses of your enemies, but if you take a candlestick in, you can't even offer it to them, never mind get refused."
The underlying design problems are actually different here. The psychic guards have access to global information when they really should have access only to information about their local region. The other is that the merchants have a peculiar sense of morality: they condone mugging but not burglary. What's that about?
The article goes on to talk about other less than perfect game design elements such as teleporting NPCs in Neverwinter Nights 2, unobtainable essential items, being mocked for failure by the game devs ingame, over-grinding in MMO's and ' magic perfect cover' in shooters.