OK, I've been playing this game addictively(as much as I can without totally giving up on real life - lol) and after spending the time exploring and what not in this game it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is the virtual "open" game world games like Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings Online, and Dark Age of Camelot should have been: The world is gritty. It is pretty much open. It is dynamic. It is beautiful. It is terrifying. It is all these things and more.
Skyrim is just one portion of a bigger landmass. Just one country of a larger world. If this game had been released as a game based on the world of Conan the Barbarian and the developers said, this is Cimmeria I would be like "yes...yes it is". If this had been "Midgard" from Dark Age of Camelot, I would say "yes...yes it is." If they had said this is the weastern part of Middle Earth that includes the lands Arnor, Dunnland, Rohan and Eriador, I would say "yes...yes it is."
Why? Because Skyrim is how these worlds from these other games we've played should have looked and played. As I have said I have been playing this game a lot(over 100+ hrs into it) and I cannot believe how little I have done toward the main stories and quest and yet I feel as though I have done more in this game than any MMORPG I have ever played. In fact the area in and around Whiterun has more going for it than anything I found in most MMORPG's I have played and it isn't loaded with wall to wall MOB's that you aggro just running through the woods like you do in a game like Rift or Dark Age of Camelot or Age of Conan.
Not going to give away any spoilers to Skyrim, but let me tell you of an experience I had in this game that blew me away. Now as I said, I have played over 100+ hrs in this game on three different characters so far and I cannot believe the amount of "playing" I have gotten out of this game in such a small area(I'm talking around the town of Skyrim and Riverwood). Anyway...I was playing one of my characters and I happened to be out hunting for leather bearing animals to do some leather crafting. I had been through this area near Riverwood before, hugging the foot of the mountains along the tree line. As my character climbed over a knoll and was about to run down a mountain draw I noticed a little path. I was like, where did that come from? I had not seen it before...then again...I could have missed it. It would have been very easy to miss because it is not well traveled.
So I follwed it as it curved it's way through the trees and bushes. It lead up the draw into the mountains. I soon found myself at what looked like the entrance to an abandoned mine(it is hard to see unless you are standing at a weird angle, as if it were hidden that way on purpose by whomever started it). So in I go(of course).
As I crept in I noticed the torches were lit. So someone was actively using it. Turns out the were - some NPC had set up mining operations in it and didn't want the locals to know so he would have to pay taxes and he could manipulate the local market with the ore his people were ming from it. I learned this by listening to the conversation between the leader and one of his forman. So very cool. As I continued to explore this mine I heard this one guy asking another if he had checked to see if the guard they posted at the hidden entrance was still on duty. The one guy said he didn't know, but would check. Then the other guy walked to a guy sleeping on a fur bed roll near the fire and told him to wake up that he would have the next watch.
Yes...that is how deep this game is...this stuff does happen - in game! I was caught up just watching these guys from the shadows as they worked the mine. One guy was making tools on the forge and another guy came up and asked when he would have the tool done. The one guy replied it'll get done when it gets done...making tools take time. LOL!
A mine in Skyrim - NPC's actual work the mine!
So what does this have to do with Conan, Camelot, or Middle Earth?
Everything! It is called "immersion". It is the "immersion" into a games world that makes an RPG what it is...not just the hacking and slashing, that is just a part of it, but the world itself is what allows a player to imagine that they are in this world and that they are enteracting with it in a believable way. Skyrim does this. There is no reason that MMORPG's cannot do this as well.
I've said it so many times on my blog and I cannot emphasize this enough, the reason newer games are crashing and burning is they have lost touch with what role-players are looking for - we're looking for virtual open worlds, with open character development aka - a role-playing game. Stop holding our hands at every stinking turn! That is not what role-playing is about. I am so sick of these games taking away more and more, and then they have the nerve to call their games virtual worlds, and role-playing games. Even Blizzard's game WoW has a "world"...look at games since then...they get smaller, they become linear, and it's like you are forced to ride the train through the park and it never stops to let you explore.
As I said , Skyrim is not as huge as far as game worlds go...but you wouldn't know that. It seems massive - but it isn't, not really. How is it that a game like this can do something all the MMORPG's I have ever played failed to do and in a smaller area?!
I'll tell you. The game gives me freedom, it gives me a virtual world. The game designers are not taking my character, forcing her to wear a leash, guiding her - I am the one with the leash and I am free to choose how I wish to play her. MMORPG's do not do that - accept EVE, but even EVE cannot touch Skyrim. EVE designers insist that it's all about Spaceships. Fine...keep your spaceships. I prefer to play an RPG where I play a "character" I can relate to, not a hunk of brainless, cold metal. ;p
That leads me to this whole notion that so many people constantly toss around that game play that we see in Skyrim does not translate well into an MMORPG. Not as it is it wouldn't, but the basic game play would! Give me freedom. Give me the virtual world for me to interact with and allow me to develop my character as I see fit. Stop holding our hands at every step throughout the game. I am smart enough to figure out things - let me do it!
As I play this game Skyrim I cannot help but think, again and again, this is the game Age of Conan should have been. This game is more Conan-esq, than all of Age of Conan Online combined! How sad is that? This game Skyrim is more magical than Lord of the Rings and that is really sad, because Lord of the Rings is one of the reasons we play these games. How sad is that?
Seriously...how can this game that fits on one DVD be better than any MMORPG that comes on two and three DVD's? Because it is the "RPG" without the MMO. To many of these games have dropped the RP portion of the the acronym and are just MMOG's. Well I am not looking for an MMO, or an MMOG, I am looking for an MMORPG. Get it...RPG...role-playing game. A role-playing game in a persistant game world! Not a themepark, hold your hand, game on rails.
Bethesda got it right and people are playing the proverbial "hell" out of this game.
Skyrim sold over 3.5 million copies in it's first 48's after its release and is virtually sold out in almost every game store you go into. The publisher is busting their arse to get more copies out and digital downloads are still going strong. Almost every gaming site you go to, you see one word blazened on them or in their forums, "Skyrim". Why? Simple. Skyrim did almost everything right. It's like Bethesda digitized a great Dungeon Master from our pen-and-paper days and put him in our computers, and this DM has built us a virtual world for us to adventure in. Bethesda did what other games designers fail to do and gave us role-players a role-playing game - imagine that.