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  1. #1
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    I miss TES: Oblivion NPC's

    Quite a lot actually. I've been dipping back in to Skyrim lately, and I really miss the dynamic NPC-NPC conversations in Oblivion. Sure, the conversation topics were limited, but Bethesda at least tried something new. While Skyrim is unquestionably better in many ways, it's a lot more of a dead world.

    Walk in to a pub in Skyrim and you are greeted by the hollow stares of its patrons. Skyrim pubs are silent, forlorn places. Sometime the silence is broken by the singing of a bard, who might get one or two slow claps from the audience. If you are lucky, maybe you'll get a scripted one-time conversation. It's kind of grim really, if you think about it.

    In Oblivion, you are greeted by a cacophony of inter-NPC communication. Sure, they were probably all talking about mudcrabs - but they were dynamically initiated. Conversations started with hello's, launched in to a topic, had a reply to a topic, then ended with goodbyes. NPC's on the street would greet you with simple Hello's, and not awkwardly launch in to their life story as in Skyrim. NPC conversations were often uncanny, but at least it was an effort at taking things in a different direction. With some iteration, this system could have been way better than the pre-scripted canned lines we get now!

    I get why devs do this. If a new feature isn't positively received immediately, cutting it and replacing it with something tried and true for the sequel is cheaper and easier than improving it. Bioware do this a lot (Looking at you, Mass Effect). I do really hate it though.

    Sometimes I feel the drive in the AAA sector for risk averse 'slick and polished' games is making us lose a lot of new, experimental gaming experiences and gameplay systems that require the large budgets of AAA games. Despite the promising big games coming from Indie land (Star Citizen, Kingdom Come, Kerbal Space Program).

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    Agreed, top to bottom. So often in games, a good idea poorly executed in the original game is abandoned entirely in the next, rather than receiving the (often straightforward) retooling it needs to become something really great. As you say, Bioware is infamous for this kind of thing, and I agree that Oblivion's radiant AI falls firmly into this category as well. It's a shame, it really could have been the beginning of something big for open world RPG's. A living world is one of those things press releases talk about that we never really seem to see, Radiant's this is about as close as we've gotten lately.

  3. #3
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    Interesting, I have been playing a lot of Skyrim recently and totally forgot about that aspect of Oblivion. Oblivion did have way, way more rough edges than Skyrim but also seemed like a bit more of an honest attempt at simulating a world. The fact that sometimes the conversations were really inane or barely made sense lent them a sort of credibility! Real people barely ever make sense. I seem to remember the cities in Oblivion being a lot more impressive on the whole, though that may be attributed to setting as much as anything else.

    Can't fault Skyrim as a whole though, the hours I have played are around the same level as an addict playing DOTA. And I am still bumping into conversations and stuff that I have never heard before. But you are right, the completely random, mundane conversations in Oblivion were really great.

  4. #4
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    Play Gothic, its NPCs are also talking with each other and they are doing a lot of stuff such as mining, working on farm, cooking etc.
    It's pretty little simulation.

  5. #5
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    NPCs convos in Oblivion were terribly done to be honest. Good idea, but it lacked good implementation.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by GameCat View Post
    Play Gothic, its NPCs are also talking with each other and they are doing a lot of stuff such as mining, working on farm, cooking etc.
    It's pretty little simulation.
    Absolutely.

    The biggest contrast between Morrowind and Gothic (both great games released about the same time) was the dynamic, living world of Gothic.

    iirc it was the first major RPG released with 100% spoken dialogue. It's taken for granted now, but I have trouble replaying Morrowind because it doesn't have that.

    It makes such a huge difference in terms of immersion for me.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranberry View Post

    iirc it was the first major RPG released with 100% spoken dialogue. It's taken for granted now, but I have trouble replaying Morrowind because it doesn't have that.

    It makes such a huge difference in terms of immersion for me.
    Honestly, I hate 100% spoken dialog. It's the reason RPG's barely have conversation branches anymore. Having to voice every option just means far fewer options, in practice. I sincerely wish I could find some games that didn't feel the need to do that. In practice I usually turn on subtitles and skip through the dialog anyway, waiting for it to be voiced is painfully slow compared to reading it.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by vinraith View Post
    Honestly, I hate 100% spoken dialog. It's the reason RPG's barely have conversation branches anymore. Having to voice every option just means far fewer options, in practice. I sincerely wish I could find some games that didn't feel the need to do that. In practice I usually turn on subtitles and skip through the dialog anyway, waiting for it to be voiced is painfully slow compared to reading it.
    For me, voices add personality and depth. Diego from Gothic is one of my favorite NPCs off all time, due in no small part to the great voice actor who portrayed him. There are other very good ones in that game as well.

    Reading lines feels like work. If you want to skip over dialogue that's fine, but the option to hear it out should always be there.

    Can you imagine a game like Mass Effect without voiced dialogue? It would be a completely different and lesser experience.

  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranberry View Post
    Can you imagine a game like Mass Effect without voiced dialogue? It would be a completely different and lesser experience.
    I agree with the "completely different" part, but would argue vehemently against "lesser." It would certainly be less of a movie, but it could be far more responsive and open.

    Edit: I am so far off topic right now, since what I'm talking about and what the OP is talking about are basically competing methods of creating a living world which are mutually exclusive.
    Last edited by vinraith; 23-09-2014 at 10:39 PM.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sketch's Avatar
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    Going from Dragon Age: Origins to Mass Effect it's clear how much having a voiced lead limits the choice of your character. In DA you say exactly what you click and they respond appropriately. Mass Effect isn't like that :(
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  11. #11
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    Yeah im not a fan of voiced dialogie on RPGs.

    99% of the time (and i usually have subtitles turned on), i read through the lines faster than the character speaks them, and i just skip to the next line.

    Plus most RPGs have mediocre voice acting.

    For RPGs i find that reading > voiced.

  12. #12
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    You play on a PC. Try some mods. I won't play Skyrim (or Oblivion) without them.
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  13. #13
    Network Hub TheDreamlord's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smullyoz View Post
    Yeah im not a fan of voiced dialogie on RPGs.

    99% of the time (and i usually have subtitles turned on), i read through the lines faster than the character speaks them, and i just skip to the next line.

    Plus most RPGs have mediocre voice acting.

    For RPGs i find that reading > voiced.
    On this, i agree with you 100%.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Squiz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xzi View Post
    You play on a PC. Try some mods. I won't play Skyrim (or Oblivion) without them.
    Are there any good voice acting and/or dynamic dialogue mods out there?
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  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Grizzly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sketch View Post
    Going from Dragon Age: Origins to Mass Effect it's clear how much having a voiced lead limits the choice of your character. In DA you say exactly what you click and they respond appropriately. Mass Effect isn't like that :(
    In Human Revolution you also say exactly what you click, yet it is fully voiced.
    Sure you don't have as many voices, but the UI is a lot better at it.

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gwathdring's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sketch View Post
    Going from Dragon Age: Origins to Mass Effect it's clear how much having a voiced lead limits the choice of your character. In DA you say exactly what you click and they respond appropriately. Mass Effect isn't like that :(
    I think part of the joy of Mass Effect was the characters and part of the joy of those characters was the fantastic performances. Dragon Age: Origins was a nice middle-ground. It gave us that while also giving us more.

    However I don't agree with the "you say exactly what you click" implication. I found myself in (proportionally) just as many situations in Dragon Age where reading all of the options left me without an in-character response as I did in Mass Effect. The only difference, really, was that in Mass Effect those experiences happened after I selected my response. Having gone back and played some of those conversations again ... I have yet to find one where I feel like the shorthand version of the dialog option mislead me in terms of which of the available options was most in character. Were some of them frustratingly unevocative of what was actually about to be said? Yes. But not to the point where the options I decided against were somehow more in character. I can see someone finding themselves in that position, sure, and Mass Effect has no compelling mechanical reason for abbreviating the dialog as much as it does.

    Then again, though, it's nice to read full conversions rather than back-and-forth one-liners. I don't think switching to text should mean I lose the sometimes paragraph length statements Shepard would make and but I also don't think reading 5-10 paragraphs before picking one is a good game mechanic.
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  17. #17
    Lesser Hivemind Node Harlander's Avatar
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    Doing your ambient NPC conversations in text rather than voiced must be easier in terms of allowing you to make them dynamic - but, as the latest version of Dwarf Fortress shows, that doesn't mean it's easy.

  18. #18
    Lesser Hivemind Node L_No's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranberry View Post
    For me, voices add personality and depth.
    The most important thing is that the voice acting has to be good to add the kind of personality and depth you want. In Oblivion, I skipped through almost all the dialogue, because I couldn't be bothered to wait for the NPC to finish talking when I had already read the subtitles. The only exception was Sheogorath, because his lines and voice acting were so funny sometimes that I just wanted to hear it all.
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  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Sheogorath getting his own expansion to Oblivion makes the Skyrim dlc look WEAK. Snot monsters and enslavement stones can go to hell, give me a god of madness succumbing to sanity any day, rain those flaming dogs!
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  20. #20
    Lesser Hivemind Node L_No's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliocentric View Post
    Sheogorath getting his own expansion to Oblivion makes the Skyrim dlc look WEAK. Snot monsters and enslavement stones can go to hell, give me a god of madness succumbing to sanity any day, rain those flaming dogs!
    The Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine expansions were way more interesting than the Oblivion base game, if you ask me. Still not as good as Tribunal and (especially) Bloodmoon for Morrowind though.
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