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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kate Moss in Oblivion Scandal

I think that games are showing a tendency to simplify mechanics for the gamer, perhaps in an effort to become more inclusive to newcomers, perhaps in acknowledgement of the maturation of the medium. Just Cause, sequels to Deus Ex, Rainbow Six, Zelda and especially The Elder Scrolls series - they've all refined the elements of their predecessors and become more easily approachable, but have they lost something in the process?

Today I'd like to focus on auto-travel, featured in three of the games I've mentioned above. As the road analogies commence I fear that developers are on the wrong track in removing the necessity for players to follow their own path as they course their way through a game. In Oblivion, for example, the route from the Imperial City sewers to Weylon Priory could present itself as a trail pebbled with chance encounters, paved with the corpses of slain highwaymen, embedded with the cat's eyes of ... OK - enough of that - let's just say that travel can be an adventure in itself.

I try to make best use of my time, so it's with a sad obligation that I oft choose to auto-travel. I curse my self-depreciating efficiency as I click my way through lush forest and rugged heathland, vomit the bile of a philistine as I neglect the weeks of development time devoted to perfecting the noxious volcanic wastes of some entirely forgettable place; a place which would have been seared into my memory through trial by fire were it not for the inevitable pyroclastic flow of me and my need to go.

This isn't a criticism of developers, quite the opposite - development teams show surprising modesty in their acceptance that many players won't discover the richness of their world. If you've read this far, and you agree, perhaps it's time to consider auto-travel as a lustful temptation, the apple in the garden or Kate Moss in your bed - initially attractive but ultimately a shallow, bitter distraction from life's pleasures.

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