Matt's Podcast 6: Frustration and Loathing in Skyrim

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Matt Barton's picture

It's like, how much more black could this be?It's like, how much more black could this be?I'm so angry about Skyrim that it was hard to make this podcast, but I did it anyway. I shouldn't have to say this, but if you are in love with Skyrim, this podcast isn't for you. This episode is intended only for complete morons, dolts, dullards, and out-and-out nincompoops like yours truly who are just too jaded and bitter to ever enjoy a truly fantastic masterpiece like Skyrim from the glorious design wizards at Bethesda.

Warning: There is some mild adult language here (PG rated).

Download this steaming pile of troll fat here.
Matt's Podcast 6

Comments

BrokenYaero (not verified)
As for music...

Hello Matt, I'm a big fan of your show and podcast, great stuff!

I think your comments about music being treated as a afterthought these days is bang on. It's not there to fill the silence, it's supposed to enhance the overall experience! Great music won't save a poor game, obviously, but a good game with mediocre and forgettable music is a missed opportunity. Only two of our five senses are directly involved when playing video games, but in the developer's eyes, only one matters. It's a real shame too, because while graphics will look dated after only a few years, great music will still sound great forever.

For me personally, the games I remember the most fondly are the ones that were accompanied by great music. I'll share a few of them, but it should come as no surprise that none of these titles are recent:

X-Com & X-Com Terror from the Deep

Both of these games gave me nightmares, and the BattleScape is to blame. What gave me the creeps was not only the sinister music, but when you ended your turn you heard the sounds of aliens moving about, taking shots at your soldiers and civilians alike, terrified screams of death and agony, all while all you see is a blank screen with the words "HIDDEN MOVEMENT" on it. Never to this day has a game terrified me like these two did, and that was by clever use of music and sound; my imagination did the rest.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Visually, the opening video for this game was nothing special, but the accompanying track, "Hell March," made a lasting impression. I don't remember ever feeling so pumped to play a game after hearing this song for the first time, it really stuck with me. Red Alert was a great game, and I immediately think of this song whenever Red Alert pops into my head, much in the same way I remember the opening theme for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Terminator, etc whenever I think of those movies. It's a bit surprising with the amount of games out there that so few of them have a memorable opening track, but I'm sure it's easier said than done.

Chrono Trigger

My favorite RPG, and that is because of the music. The game's plot revolved around time travel, so the music obviously changed as you traveled to different ages, giving them all a unique feel. The present was peaceful, the future was bleak and hopeless, the medieval period was uncertain and troubled, the dark ages felt desolate in one part of the world, wondrous and magical in the other, and the prehistoric period felt.. well, prehistoric. Quite a varied mix of musical styles and it all worked together to immerse you in the game world. The music also did all the heavy lifting when it came to the story, as there was no voice-overs or flashy cutscenes available on Super Nintendo. Its difficult to put into words, but all of the powerful and emotionally charged scenes that played out in this game would not have had the same impact if the music was not so well done. I remember a boss fight midway through the game that just blew me away, all because of the music. I'm still to this day amazed by how modern RPGs cannot rival the experience i had playing this game, and the game is over 15 years old!

SO yeah, those are a few examples. Music played a huge role in how i remember these games, and it saddens me that its treated as an afterthought and not a key part of the experience. You mentioned Might & Magic VI had a great musical score, what other games come to mind?

CreamofSumYungGai (not verified)
Hey Matt I really enjoyed the

Hey Matt I really enjoyed the podcast. Made me smile a lot, particularly the loading bitch part. :) You should do more of these!

As far as your points go I would agree with most points, but some seemed a little silly. I think you are spot on about modern game music. It might as well not even be there. Though the main theme with the heavy drums and chanting is nice; it's got some real energy. Your problems about the carry weight make me laugh. Why the hell are you carrying around 80 freaking carrots? And what is the point in cooking? To make soup that will heal two points? I don't know why the even have it in the game actually.

You neglected to mention a lot faults with the game though. Like how insanely repetitive it is! Every single quest amounts to "Go fetch this thing from a crypt (or dwarf ruin)." And there are only like five different enemies in the game: dragons, humans, wolves/bears, dwarf machines, and the falmer. Go I got so tired of those dumb falmer if I saw a dungeon was filled with them I would groan, then just turn right around and skip it.

The skill system is totally broken too. Half of the skill trees are completely useless and the other half is totally overpowered. With a couple sneak perks and some assassin gloves you can backstab for 30x damage. You can make daggers that are only slightly weaker than a sword too. You can one shot anything in the game! But you'll be hard pressed ever finding a real use for the alchemy skill. The growth rates are all over the place too. You can max out out smithing in 15 minutes but I never reached full speech even after like 40 hours of play.

I would also bitch about the movement control and animation. Its an improvement over Bethesda's previous work (which was downright embarrassing) but not up to 2011 snuff. I was playing Assassins's Creed a while before Skyrim and the movement in that game is just so good and natural feeling. With Skyrim its like playing a game from 1996.

Bethesda is a really untalented and lazy studio. Every game they make is the same but with different wallpaper and it feels like they just expect modders to fix all the bugs. Though I will say PC Skyrim is a lot more stable than the previous Bethesda games I've played which have always crashed every 30 minutes or so.

I almost forgot to mention something I noticed about all those books in the game. It isn't even new material! I'm pretty sure most all of it was just was just copied and pasted from morrowind and oblivion. Hehe

Anonymous (not verified)
That was lovely.

Cheered me up you did Matt. Everyone's been going on about this emaciated drivel of a game and I am ashamed to admit it has been getting on my nerves. Something as shoddily done and vacuous as Skyrim should not be getting as much voluntary press as it has, nice to listen to a clear-eyed and well put viewpoint.

I didn't grow up with the old crpg's, grew up on counterstrike and Dynasty Warriors for goodness sake, and I am in my early twenties and I despised this game to the core of my comparative experiences. You really don't need to be jaded and embittered by the decline of crpg's or computer gaming to find Skyrim a thoroughly sad affair.

August (not verified)
meaningless

Skyrim is an RPG for modern times.
You don't use a 80's tv for modern games, do you?
I have no issues reading the books, using a 40´ LCD/TV. The problem is the size of screen, for PC players works ok, because they have the face close to the monitor. Today, forcing someone to read story in-game or on paper, is an achievement, but that's my view. Audio for all books is too much, the developers have a controled cost number of data for the 3 plataforms, no matters if PC or bluray swallow a lot of information.
Collecting items is interesting, you need to consider the variety of users, many accustomed to the type of "collecting" from the MMO style. Try Lotro for example. Visually, Skyrim could be even more beautiful, but you have to remember, thanks to multiplatform, everything has to be compressed at ridiculous cost of quality (textures, models, sprites, animation) all losing, considering the huge world.
No one sits at a table of audio today to "compose in keyboard"... your vision is pure nostalgia meaningless.
And you prefer a "midi" close to a symphony??

In a world full of magic, limitations are welcome.

Your podcast does not reflect long hours playing the game, there are five years of production inside Skyrim.

Bill Loguidice
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Just to play devil's advocate for a moment as well...

Wow, I'd like a 40 foot TV, August... I'm jealous! But seriously, why do flaws in a game have to be excused because of "five years of production inside Skyrim?" Wouldn't it have been a better use of that time instead of making such a huge, "do anything" world (though that in and of itself is debatable), to perhaps scale down the ambition maybe by as much as half and make the world more fully realized and smooth out things like the audio-visuals further (and no, that has nothing to do with it being multi-platform)? There's definitely more than one approach to game development. For all that we may want to criticize the upcoming Diablo III for, as a point of contrast, their "five years of production" will have been used to polish that game to a blinding degree. While it won't have nearly the same ambitious scope of a Skyrim, I bet in many ways it will be a more "complete" experience...

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August (not verified)
Yes, i recommend a nice

Yes, i recommend a nice screen for the current games market, and future.
I did not mention "ignore the errors" they are bugs and instability with the Radianty. I really enjoy the main quest, and sidequests.. all types of judgment for the sidequests. I consider it an exaggeration to say the size of the world offers a big "do nothing".
Skyrim came with the intention of meeting the entry of dragons, vampires, a secret society and civil war. The content is too good for consumers who passed Morrowind and Oblivion, asking for more. Soon more updates, DLC, and have a strong mod community.
The multiplatform is a crucial issue to consider today. You can not manage the memory of the PC game identical to the console, you can not offer the highest level of textures for the PC, because the console hardware, in the final spec is weak. And has yet to imagine the entire gameplay between the three types of system. Imagine a small Skyrim.. you would still have the same limitations, because of the need for balance between the three types of platform. Actually make a game, became RPG, distribute more to one side, and less to another side.
Is a decent game for all types of players. Have story, rpg, fight, visuals, and size for choose your ways, many, many times.

And loating and sneak are awesome ;)

The major flaw for Bethesda in 2011? put her name together with "id software RAGE".

August (not verified)
I'll wait for Diablo 3. one

I'll wait for Diablo 3.
one negative for now.
some "cartoon" in the proportions.

Nissl (not verified)
There are definitely major

There are definitely major things wrong with Skyrim. There are bugs, bugs, and more bugs; this is actually the least buggy Bethesda game at release but it hasn't improved nearly enough. Follower AI fails too often, particularly for stealth characters, and monster AI is almost nonexistent other than mages trying to get away and heal and people running to the location of someone you killed from stealth. The UI winds up being a scrollfest once you start amassing items; for starters, gems, poisons, crafting potions, and crafting items should have been broken out into their own lists. Having to run to different merchants and plan your sales to address limited gold quickly becomes second nature, but it's still an unnecessary timesink. NPCs look better and are less wooden, but again they should have been able to improve more on previous games. There are for the moment balance issues where giants and even bears are more threatening than dragons, and smithing is a bit too good for fighter and thief characters, not to mention the broken +crafting gear loops that are possible late in the game. Melee combat is better than previous Bethesda games but still feels floaty, magic combat on the 360 requires you spend 2/3 of your time in the favorites list selecting spells and turns the game into a miserable slog. (After listening, I think that may have been your biggest problem... why couldn't button combos and the down arrow have been hotkeys, bringing it closer to the 8 hotkeys PC players get? Apparently mage is quite fun on PC but I gave up after a handful of hours). After some experimenting I've been playing stealth ranged, as I did in Fallout 3. Bow on one hotkey, either conjuration (for me) or DW 1h on the other. Feels great, but it's ridiculous that I had to reroll to find something that wasn't kind of a slog to play.

That said I couldn't disagree more with half of your complaints. Complaining about a cloth map included in the box? Don't buy special editions. I've never bought a special edition, but if I did a map would be the first thing I want since I'm a map geek, and no, I don't want all the hundreds of dungeon locations crammed on the map and spoiling things. Complaining about books? That's been in every Bethesda game, and I appreciate the effort. You don't need to read them, just click on the 50+ gold books for skillups. There are some notes you can loot that generally provide a little interesting background on whatever dungeon you're in, but they're a single page and you can ignore them. Complaining about encumbrance, want a spell that just converts everything into gold? Seriously, pick and choose or go play Diablo 3. It sounds like you were looting armor and such... not necessary, not realistic. Just take gems, gold, potions, and good magic items. You should be able to do a couple hours of dungeoning before going back to town, no wonder that was boring, and since you were doing so much you always fast traveled, skipping the random encounters and dungeon discoveries that are a huge part of this game's appeal. I liked the graphics; northern climates are genuniely unforgiving and there was plenty of stark beauty particularly with sunrises and sunsets and mountain vistas, but also some quite home-y areas like the birch forests around Ivarstead. (I couldn't *stand* Oblivion's generic English forests, so this may just be different strokes). I also liked the music, and some of the chanting is stuck in my head as I'm typing, so I don't know what you were on about there. And the quests, there was still the collect 10 bear asses quest, but that's the only one I've hit so far. Quests don't level you, only skillups, and they finally nailed their goal of leveling the world with you, so you should blow off anything that isn't fun or doesn't fit your character's alignment. Cooking is pointless and I never loot food, you should have plenty of cash for healing potions. And you should have plenty of perk points if you actually focus your build correctly, i.e. on ~5-6 trees.

The big appeals of the game to me are the immersive graphics, the sense of exploration and discovery, and the care that was put into crafting even the smallest bandit hideout (a welcome change from Oblivion's sprawling expanses of nothingness). Unlike Oblivion's good vs. evil setup the game has a background of complicated politics and there are lots of morally gray missions, and unlike most RPGs there is much more freedom to play anything from the most moral of heroes to a vile serial killer. They also refined the leveling system along the lines of Fallout 3, which was a necessary change to get me to actually play this game. But if you're a mage playing on the 360 and you're stuck in WoW mode where you try to do every quest and do it the "right" way (or do the main quest as fast as possible) and you loot every possible bit of treasure and fast travel past as much of the exploration as possible, yeah, you can easily turn it into a miserable slog.

Bill Loguidice
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A differing opinion as a map owner...
Nissl wrote:

That said I couldn't disagree more with half of your complaints. Complaining about a cloth map included in the box? Don't buy special editions. I've never bought a special edition, but if I did a map would be the first thing I want since I'm a map geek, and no, I don't want all the hundreds of dungeon locations crammed on the map and spoiling things.

It's actually not a cloth map, and it comes in the regular retail editions. It's this kind of fancy paper-like material. If it were cloth - which admittedly might be harder to fit in the DVD keepcase - it would probably be more worth having regardless of its in-game value-adds. As for that in-game value add, like Matt, I can't find any either. It offers nothing that's not in-game. Surely if a map is included - and surely they went out of their way in some regard to do so - it should either be "special" a la cloth, or it should provide some clues, hidden or otherwise, meaning some other tangible benefit. As it stands - even though I love "feelies" - the map seems completely unecessary, which is clearly a shame/missed opportunity.

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Anonymous (not verified)
As amusing as Matt's comments

As amusing as Matt's comments are, I feel the review failed. Matt, you claim that Skyrim is a failure both as an RPG and a action game, but most of your substantial complaints only cover the problems with combat and the action. Yes the combat is poorly realized, animated, and unbalanced. There really isn't a reason to play as anything other than a warrior. Yes the UI is absolutely horrible, and you spend more time messing around in the menus than you do infacing with the game. (And they aren't even good of menus, clunky, badly designed, and clicking on them gets you to the wrong place 4 out of 5 times.) Clunky loot system, no easy way to sell your gear, etc. All of these certainly make for a bad action game, or action RPG. But what you don't expound on is why you think Skyrim is a bad role playing game. Outside a few comments about how hard it is to figure a good character build, the clunkiness of perks, and complaints about the organization of the thieving skills, you don't really address the RPG aspects of the game. Now normally I'd chalk it up to reviewers knowing nothing about RPGs, but in your case I know better. I have your book. So I find it odd that you would dismiss this as an RPG, but not say why.

It's a damn shame that everytime we get objective reviews of Skyrim, they can easily be picked apart since the authors goes off on tangents. Like the other day the one I saw were the guy was complaining about Skyrim's naming conventions. To listen to that, or to listen to Matt going off about pretentious people making music with gameboys, you would think they couldn't find valid complaints with the game, and they are just nit picking. Which is especially frustrating since Skyrim has so many things actually wrong with it. Things no one ever brings up. Yes, combat is bad. Yes the UI sucks. But what about the rest of the problems? What about the bad character creator? What about the "organic character progression" system that is broken. What about them removing the spell maker? What about not having skills actions that esist in the game. Like unarmed combat, why include that if it can be leveled up? What about since removing the attributes got rid rid of rolls for spell resistance and other previously vital starts? What about there not being a character status screen. I got so sick of hearing "you look sick" with no way to check it until figuring out diseases are under "active magic effects", but people would still say I look sick with no active diseases. All of these are major problems for an RPG (in my opinion), but everyone ignores them. Even Negative reviews like this one. It's especially frustrating when so many people hail Skyrim as the future of RPGs. I don't want this future.

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