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Oblivion Designer Moves To New Company

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the big-huge-gig dept.

Role Playing (Games) 37

Gamasutra reports on the new position that former Bethesda designer Ken Rolston has taken with Big Huge Games. The lead designer for Bethesda's hit titles Morrowind and Oblivion, Rolston is now slated to be working on an unnamed title for the Rise of Nations developer. Rolston announced he was planning to retire early last year but ... apparently not. The designer characterizes his new project as 'a strikingly original and cunning concept for a console RPG'. No name or concept was included in the announcement.

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scaled leveling system, nuff said (1, Flamebait)

wootywoot (1066162) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099354)

If he's the one who came up with the crappy enemy scaled leveling system in Oblivion, I hope his new project bombs big time.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (1)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099542)

I actually really liked that, so I hope to play his new project if that's the case

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099590)

I agree, that totally killed the game for me. I kept levelling up, and found the game to get more and more
difficult, until it was almost impossible near the end. Only then I find out that you MUST level up and train
in a VERY specific way to maximize your progress, otherwise you'll get screwed because the game assumes you already know all the levelling up tricks and your enemies level up in a perfect way. So much for the open character
development. Only thanks to quicksave every 10 seconds is that I managed to finish the game without having to restart from scratch.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (2, Insightful)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099650)

Don't games usually get hard at the end? And shouldn't a failure to train adequately put you at a disadvantage?

Nobody ever said you could enter the game as a mage and completely ignore magic and succeed. Or that you could build all of your abilities equally so you basically don't have shit and you shouldn't have problems beating the game. Welcome to the world of RPGs.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (3, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100076)

Sure, but when run of the mill bandits are running around in a king's ransom worth of equipment, and perfectly mundane animals are suddenly a match for an entire conscript army, there's a teensy problem with your design. Welcome to a lazily balanced tabletop D&D game.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100174)

He didnt say adequate, he said specific.

The fact is there are plenty of routes in Oblivion you can go down where your character will become weaker and weaker, and when I say weaker and weaker I dont mean when you go to new areas you arnt up to scratch I mean you can be attacked by the same creatures in the same places and lose...

That isnt getting hard at the end, that isnt inadequate training, thats broken.

It has nothing to do with that (4, Informative)

Rob Simpson (533360) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101728)

Enter a gate of Oblivion at level 1 and this terrible threat consists of a bunch of puny weaklings. Walk down a road just outside of a peaceful town at level 20 and you get attacked by bandits with godlike strength, wielding ancient weapons of power.

Re:It has nothing to do with that (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18103636)

Uh. Even Ultima III on Apple ][ was better designed then that. At the beginning, you could be easily killed in a single encounter, if you were going in the wrong place.

But, as you leveled-up, in certain parts of the world, creatures were running scared in front of you. At one point, you could get into any town from the starting area, steal stuff, and kill all the guards that were coming, until you totally controlled the city.

So the inhabitant of the world were not changing with you, and it gave the world a real sense of reality, and a personal sense of progression. I haven't play much RPG since, but this seems a pretty basic feature...

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (2, Insightful)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 7 years ago | (#18103090)

Nobody ever said you could enter the game as a mage and completely ignore magic and succeed
And, ironically, this is almost exactly what you must do in Oblivion to optimise your levelling - If you primarily focus on your "major" skills (that is, those which define your character class at the beginning) you will rapidly end up with a character with high skills, but low stats, and be crushed. A deliberate focus on your secondary skills to the deteriment of these allegedly character-defining skills is necessary for optimal progress. It's a very unintuitive game mechanic until you actually look into the nitty gritty of how stat improvements on levelling works, and isn't particularly conducive to just playing the game and having fun.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (3, Insightful)

friedmud (512466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100104)

You know.... there was a difficultly slider... and since it's a single player game, feel free to make the game as difficult as you like.... you're the only person you have to please.

Seriously, I didn't find it all that hard in the end (but I spent well over 100 hours on the game, so I was pretty trained in most everything), but I ended up turning the difficulty down slightly just so that the actual fighting portion of the game didn't take so long so I would have more time to explore and such.

Oblivion more than any other game is a sandbox, you build the experience you want...


Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#18102320)

You know.... there was a difficultly slider... and since it's a single player game, feel free to make the game as difficult as you like.... you're the only person you have to please.

Except that just feels too arbitrary.

I put nearly 200 hours into the game. I really enjoyed the ambience incredibly. But I would have strongly preferred a more rational leveling system. It got very frustrating when I realized I was plaing against my character rather than with them.

I will be paying a LOT more attention to the leveling system in the next RPG I get.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (1)

flamearrows (821733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18115660)

You might wanna take a look-see at some of the mods that are available for Oblivion. I like Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul for the balancing it does in terms of levelling. The aim is to create a more static game world that provides definite rewards for pushing your characters to higher levels and better skills, and all in all, it succeeds.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (2, Insightful)

PoderOmega (677170) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099596)

I like the idea of a scaled leveling system, but not the way it was implemented in Oblivion. I already have the leveling mod so I am still playing, but here are my 2 cents.

-There was almost no variation in the enemy's skill. Starting enemies at your level was fine, but after leveling most random enemies stayed at your level. I think it would have worked if when your character was level 30, you could encounter enemies from level 1-30.
-Having non-combat skills as main attributes was suicide. I commented on this before 42878 [] here

One other small gripe I have with Oblivion and Morrowind is that when you encounter and enemy I wish:
1) The music would fade into the combat music rather than an abrupt change(see Zelda TP and many other games)
2) When combat was over it would fade back into the same tune that was already playing, rather than starting a new one.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (2, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100020)

By level 30, even if you have been getting +2 stat increases the whole time rather than +5, assuming you have some halfway decent armor and weapons, you should be able to stroll through the toughest enemies blindfolded with one arm and one leg tied behind your back. At level 33, I can take on 5-6 of the toughest enemies at the same time, and dispatch them all within 30 seconds using at most one potion.

Actually, having all combat skills as main is suicide. To get the best character, you do need to level a certain way. In order to do that, you need to control when you level. In order to do that, you need some combat skills that are not main skills, so you can switch to those when you don't want to level. It also helps to have a few skills that you can use in the opposite fashion, for quickly gaining a level after you have advanced your skills enough to get the bonuses you want.

I didn't powerlevel much, getting three +3 stat increases per level on average. By level 25, nothing could come close to killing me. Levels 2-20 were kind of frustrating though, as it really didn't feel like I was getting any better. After level 20, things started to get easier, then as I said, by level 25 they were a cakewalk.

I will also say, there are some cheapskate techniques one can use to kick ass any time things get hard. Do the mages guild quests to the point where you can enchant. Run around collecting grapes and tomatos near Skingraad. Make and sell restore fatigue potions until you can afford to enchant five things with chameleon 20%. You are now permanently invisble, nothing can see you to hit you, and you always get sneak attack bonuses. 10 hours into the game and you are invincible.

I dind't find that trick until level 25 or so, but there's no reason you couldn't use it much, much earlier.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (1)

PoderOmega (677170) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100234)

Interesting. I got so pissed off by getting my butt handed to me by goblins I started using a leveling mod around 20. But by this point I had spent at least 20-25 hours or more into the game and the leveling system was making the game less fun. It kind of sucks if you have to play for 20+ hours just to get to a point that combat is fun. I've gotten bored with Oblivion and I think your Chameleon suggestion may breath some life back into the game for me (that sounds fun!).

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101360)

Hehe, it's fun for about half an hour, until you realize that there is NO challenge. It makes all the thieves guild quests rather unchallenging as well. Higher level goblins are actually surprisingly tough, I would put them on a par with high level daedra. They were still a challenge for me even when I was whipping through bandits and other run of the mill encounters like a hot knife through butter.

One of the things about the Elder Scrolls series, there are many viable strategies and ways of dealing with situations. Take one approach and an encounter will be insanely difficult, while with a different strategy, the same character wouldn't even work up a sweat.

One skill that can make things insanely easy is alchemy. The ingredients for restoring health, fatigue and mana are easy to come by, and a few home made potions can turn a bloody defeat into an easy victory.

Also, the AI is rather stupid. If there are a number of enemies in a room, you can often times shoot one of them, lead him off and kill him, and repeat until all the enemies are dead. Also, they can often not reach places that you can get to, or they may take a roundabout path to get to you that leaves you plenty of time to snipe them on the way.

Many enemies are slow but strong. You can shoot them with arrows or spells while running backwards in a large circle. Or you can dart in, smack them, and retreat before they can hit you.

Pairs of waterwalking shoes are easy to make or come by. Then you can lure enemies into the water and shoot them at your leisure. Several NPCs in the game will even recommend this tactic.

Finally, play to the strengths of your character and develop a strategy that works for you. This is far more important than how you level up your character. If you are a thief-type, sneak and snipe, don't rush up and start bashing ogres with a club. If you are a lumbering fighter with heavy armor, don't use a strategy that requires speed. If you are a mage, make use of the mages guild to create customized spells that match your abilities.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (4, Interesting)

Reapy (688651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101534)

If you are a mage, make use of the mages guild to create customized spells that match your abilities.

Like my favorite spell, "Camp Fire". This little gem consisted of a long duration firespell that did a few points of damage. It also did some fatigue damage as well. This kept the mana cost somewhat low. When you encounter a bad guy, the first trick would be to hit him with some powerful fatigue drain effects, until he hits the ground, passed out. Then, run close and drop the camp fire on him. He will lay on the ground, unmoving, happily toasting away to his death. Sometimes it takes a while, so feel free to pull out marshmallows and toast accordingly.

Oh, should fire not get the job done, you could try the sister spell to Camp Fire, entitled, "Electric Chair". :)


Are you a goblin or bandit? The you need LifeAlert (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101592)

"Help! I'm on fire and I can't get up!"

I'm going to try that tonight, that's hilarious.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (1)

Specter (11099) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100766)

"Having non-combat skills as main attributes was suicide..."

So totally not true. I always play on the hardest difficulty setting now and I rarely put any skill I plan on using very much as major attribute.

I've played through the main quest and the Mages and Thieves guild quest lines with a character who did not ever once use offensive magic or wield a weapon herself. She did _no_ offensive damage herself to anyone/anything and did not loot corpses/chests/etc.

I played another character most of the way through the main quest with _zero_ people and creatures killed (as recorded on the stats screen). I got bored before I could finish, but it is possible to finish the main quest with zero kills to your name (although very very difficult).

I'm running a custom assassin right now with marksman and alchemy as minor skills and it's pretty easy to take on most anything I encounter. With a high enough sneak skill you can even use hand-to-hand on many creatures successfully if you can take them one at a time.

In short, you can do an awful lot with non-traditional characters in Oblivion. Hard core combat skills are not a requirement for success.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18102284)

Go grab Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul. It makes combat punishingly hard at first (it's supposed to be -- run away!), but does remove the obnoxiousness of the leveled lists without doing away with them completely.

Get the right economy mods (starting and perhaps ending with Living Economy) and you can ply your own trade routes. You're still going to have to fight, a lot, since there aren't any well-developed hireling mods (and in most games, typical friendly AI is still dumb as a brick)

It's still a combat-centric game though, but so is pretty much every CRPG.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (1)

Is0m0rph (819726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18103176)

Maybe I'm not high enough level yet (16) but I really haven't had a problem with this auto leveling. Buy the Wizard's Tower add on (or use the Arcane University) and you can easily create weapons and spells that will level the playing field if the leveled up creatures are too tough. I just got done creating a couple game breaking weapons for my current level. 1-2 dagger strikes takes out anything at this point of the game.

Re:scaled leveling system, nuff said (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099862)

At least maybe his new company won't ship his visions with loads of game-breaking bugs.

slashdot tags (-1, Flamebait)

alfs boner (963844) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099370)

Anyone who tags a story with 'thinkofthechildren' is a pedophile and should have his ip address subpoenaed.

Re:slashdot tags (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099858)

Anyone who is called "Alf's Boner" is a Xenophile and should have subgonads.

Big Huge Games? (2, Insightful)

The Orange Mage (1057436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099402)

If this console RPG they're making is as good as Rise of Nations was, then hot damn, should be good. I just wish the rest of the RTS people liked it. :[

A Level Monkey Gets A New Job? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099528)

Alert the gaming press!

I heard a rumor that one of the testers at Activision got fired over personal hygiene reasons! I'll get back to you with this other juicy bit of breaking gaming news!

Ehh.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18099802)

No one cares. Console RPGs direly lack in comparison to their PC counterparts.

Re:Ehh.. (1)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18099892)

No one cares. Console RPGs direly lack in comparison to their PC counterparts.
Of course. Since the top selling and top rated RPG's of all time were either only on consoles, or were on consoles first before being ported to PC. (i.e. Final Fantasy 7, Chrono Trigger, etc.)

Re:Ehh.. (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100096)

Exactly, whether the console RPGs are good are not*, is entirely different story as to the testament that the console RPGs sold very well. So if Console RPGs are lacking, it sure isn't in the financial / selling area.

* Depends if you like the open Western style, or the game-on-rails Eastern style

Re:Ehh.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100152)

Yes, it's very unfortunate that Asian-style RPGs dominate. >:/

Re:Ehh.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100158)

Those are Japanese pieces of crap, not RPGs.

Re:Ehh.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18100290)

While I cannot separate out the numbers, according to the sources cited by wikipedia (and yes sources are cited), ESIV: Oblivion has sold over 3 million units. Now, granted many of those will be XBox, but that is higher then the numbers for ChronoTrigger and a lot of ChronoTriggers numbers seem to be for Japan sales, which probably explains something...

Re:Ehh.. (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 7 years ago | (#18111592)

None of those games came even close to the standards Ultima 7 or Fallout have layed out. Sorry to say that, but I am in both worlds, gameplaywise console games on the average still use game mechanics of 1982 while the PC games have evolved. Only one thing has been improved over the decades in console gaming, that is the graphics.

Will ES go the way of BG (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18100416)

I wonder if this means that Elder Scrolls games will go the way of Baldur's Gate (aspired to but never reached by subsequent games by the developer (or, rather, what's left of the developer)). I'm curious about Fallout 3, but ES matters more to me, and I'm hoping the rest of Bethesda's designers will be able to determine what worked about those games and what didn't.

Anyway, he was planning on retiring after Oblivion anyway, so it's only a good thing he's staying in the industry to help on another RPG. Auto-leveling of monsters in Oblivion notwithstanding, he's still one of the best designers out there.

Re:Will ES go the way of BG (1)

chrish (4714) | more than 7 years ago | (#18108372)

Huh, what?

Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II (and the expansions for both) were all written at BioWare [] , by generally the same folks... you can see how they progress in their craft (game design, writing, and programming) between the two.

The Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic situation (BioWare did the good/excellent originals, shifted the sequels to Obsidian where they were rushed out the door by the publisher before they were even close to ready) on the other hand...

Re:Will ES go the way of BG (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18108644)

Hmmm well I was under the impression that after Black Isle fell apart the dev team had changed somewhat, but you're right, it barely did! I guess there was no excuse for NWN to be as rubbish as it was compared to BG II, haha. (BG I and II are some of my favorite RPGs)

Well, I'm still worried the ES series will suffer the same fate in terms of going from good to mediocre. That is, ES 5 will be on the level of NWN or something.

Interestingly... (3, Funny)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#18101260)

Even though he's been given a large pay rise, he's found that everyone else has also received the same raise and all the prices have gone up accordingly, leaving him wondering why he bothered.
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