Things I learned From Skyrim

Yes, Skyrim.  Elder Scrolls 5.  The latest chapter of the erratically long-running, ambitious series is out, and I'm playing my first Elder Scrolls game since "Daggerfall."

I know I'm not alone.  I see it talked about constantly, hear about it constantly, and my friends and co-workers discuss it.

Know what?  It's actually a really good game.  Sure it has some flaws and bugs, but I'm pretty impressed.  It's gorgeous, adventure-filled, fun, and has a serious wide-open sandbox feel that is crammed with a lot to do.  It's really an adventure "your" way, even if your way is to run around in your underwear amassing a cabbage collection.

But as this is an impressive, epic game, the kind of game a lot of games promised to be and weren't, it's also got me thinking.  What does Skyrim "mean" for gaming – in short, what's the progeeky impact?  What can we learn if we're in gaming?

This is Open World Fantasy Adventure Done Right – Seriously.  The game has a wide open continent, but there's also a lot to do.  Wander in any direction and in five minutes or so you'll fight wolves or undead, uncover a cave or a ruin, have a random encounter, and probably harvest a few interesting plants you can poison yourself with while experimenting in Alchemy.  It's the balance of "big" and "stuff to do" that really works.  Anyone doing something similar is going to be compared to Skyrim.

Go On And Steal From Other Games.  Skyrim has parts bolted on from various other games as well as all of it's predecessors (I won't spoil).  Know what?  It works.  It also works well.  Gaming is a language, and like a language it's OK to learn from others.

Massive Content Raises Questions.  Skyrim is also freaking huge with plenty to do.  This makes me wonder if A) DLC would even matter for a game like this, and B) if large amounts of content maintain mindshare or not.  Dragon Quest IX's downloadable quests were a good sustainability mechanism, but I'm wondering how this will work.  Will Skyrim maintain mindshare or will it fade like others despite its content?  Content size and sustainable market mindshare are questions for the future.

People Will Play Solo Games.  Skyrim is solo.  It works.  Sure I've got a bodyguard and creatures summoned from other world, but I'm alone human-wise and I'm having a blast.  Solo games aren't dead.

Underhype Works.  Skyrim was far less hyped than I expected – and I think that helped.  It underhyped and VASTLY overdelivered.  I think people into games are hype-tired.

People Will Forgive Bugs.  Skyrim has bugs (the entire series is infamous for them).  However Bethesda isn't denying them, is fixing them, and people are having a laugh with them.  Most importantly the core gaming works well so it's not totally disruptive (but there are some people having critical issues that, frankly, a bit more testing should have found).  People will forgive bugs if you're sincere.

Voice Acting Matters.  Sadly, the voice acting is at best mediocre overall.  This helps pull one out of the experience at times and can be jarring.  I worry at times Voice Acting has become a second thought in gaming. Voice Acting is important to game feel.

So those are my thoughts?  What are yours?

Steven Savage