Sunday, August 13, 2006

Good day. There are no coffee filters around here . . . So I'm having green tea. It's the cheapest I could find at Mitsuwa, the Japanese market. I'm kind of proud of how I managed money the past week. I spent thirty dollars to fill up my gas tank, and around thirty dollars on art supplies, and still I managed to live comfortably thereafter.

Though the tracing paper turned out to be a disappointment, I did get one new thing to make me happy--a flat surface. No more having my pencils and pens getting caught in the canals of old drawings.

And I beat Oblivion last night, by the way, or at least the main plot of Oblivion. I'm sure there're hundreds of subquests I've not yet played. It took four years for me to get tired of Morrowind, Oblivion's predecessor. I suspect it'll take less time for Oblivion, but there still ought to be a substantial amount of afterglow.

"What?" you say, "Less time for you to tire of Oblivion?! But why? But how?! Upon my word, blulalloolalooohah!"

Well, it's true the landscape in Oblivion is far more impressive. You can see for great distances, and it looks like real forest and mountains. The radiant A.I. is fascinating and amusing. And I like that it's a little harder to level up in Oblivion. But for all that, Oblivion still feels smaller than Morrowind. Perhaps it's the smaller variety of weapons and armour. It's the fewer segments of armour--to make a full suit in Morrowind, you need collect helmet, cuirass, left pauldron, right pauldron, left gauntlet (or bracer), right gauntlet (or bracer), greaves, and boots. In Oblivion, the pauldrons have become part of the cuirass, and the gauntlets have been put together as a single unit. In some cases, the whole suit of armour is a single piece--from boots, greaves, cuirass, to gauntlets. This is the case with the arena armour and the special armour you get from the Dark Brotherhood Assassins Guild. Also, you're no longer able to wear clothing under your armour.

What this means is that you can put together less interesting combinations. In Morrowind, I'd sometimes just put pauldron and gauntlet on a single arm, making for a nice asymmetrical look, looking sort of like Ivy in Soul Calibre. Or I might do something like what I did here, with one of my favourite characters, Paelwynna;

She's wearing a High Ordinator cuirass over a shirt--which provides the plumbed sleeves--and daedric gauntlets. You can't do something like that in Oblivion.

The biggest problem with Oblivion, though, is by far the interface, with its big, preschool font, lack of imagery, and cumbersome means of navigation. How I miss the ability in Morrowind to drag and drop any item to anywhere. And I miss how conversations were laid out like web sites, with hotlinks to topics of conversation.

I was able to download mods to fix some of these problems, including a problem (though I'm sure the designers would tell you it's an improvement) Oblivion has with its third person mode, which gives the camera an annoying "elastic" effect. It's essentially as though the camera following you is attached to your character by a rubber band, making it difficult to manoeuvre in battle and keep aim.

It is nice in Oblivion how everyone's got voice actors now and that you're able to overhear conversations between other characters. And I like how all the characters have houses in towns and routines.

Oblivion's physics engine is an improvement, too, giving objects weight and realistic reactions to stimuli. But there seems to be less variety of objects.

Anyway, a lot of these problems will probably be solved by mods eventually.

The end of the game itself was sort of interesting. There's a character voiced by Sean Bean, which was nice. I made sure to ask him about every topic in his dialogue tree, just to hear Sean Bean extolling endless bits of extraneous trivia in that tremulous, casually passionate voice of his.

And a character voiced by Terrance Stamp provides the closest thing to an end boss of the game, though the best thing about fighting him was how amusingly easy he was. Of course, the game was designed to be beaten by characters at level seven and I was at level forty three.

"Beaten at level seven?!" you say, "Bloulblaboollooghbloo!!"

Yes, you see, many of the game's problems are related to its being aimed at console systems, where apparently people consider a game bad if it can't be beaten in a weekend. But I, enthralled by Oblivion's massive landscape, ignored the stupid "map travel" function and ran out into the wilds, plundering every tomb, shrine, and ancient ruins I came across. By the end of the game, I had much of the best enchanted daedric armour, like Boots of the Taskmaster, Cuirass of the Undefeated, and an ebony helmet I enchanted myself, naming it Skull Cosy of the Motherfucker.

What else have I to say this Sunday? I watched Blue Velvet on Friday. There's a movie I love more and more as I grow older. I wonder, though, if David Lynch is going to do his own DVD release of it. This latest one has excellent picture, and nice special features, but the sound mix is a little odd. One thing that's amusing about it is that Frank Booth's voice is the only audible voice at regular volumes, forcing you to turn it up so Frank's really loud when he shows up to say, "Shut up! It's 'Daddy' you shithead. Where's my bourbon?"

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