Thursday, January 5, 2012

What I Hate Most about Skyrim

I know you're all looking forward to me moving on from Skyrim and getting back to my regular blogging, and I promise it's coming up soon. I'll win this game this weekend, and then the X-box goes to the nearest yard sale. In the meantime, I thought I'd commiserate with you on my biggest pet peeve of the game.

***

I'm walking outside of some place like Solitude, enjoying the sunshine, the birds flying overhead, the architecture, and the conversations between NPCs working the farm. I'm dangerously close to lollygagging.

I come upon a Khajiit sitting cross-legged on the ground. "Huh!" I say. "I don't think I've spoken to him before. Let's see what he has to say."

ME: "Greetings"

KHAJIIT: "Be wary, my friend, for you greet S'am the Murderer!"

GAME: Ba-da-BUM.




ME: "Wait. What? I don't want another quest."

KHAJIIT: "S'am the Murderer is tired of murder today, though. Perhaps you can fulfill my latest contract for me? I'll teach you everything I know about stealth."

ME: "No! I don't want to help you murder people! Get off my quest board!"

KHAJIIT: "How...unfortunate. I'll remain here until you decide to be reasonable."

ME: "I'm not going to 'be reasonable'! I'm going to turn you in to the nearest guard!"

KHAJIIT: "Ha! As if you have any dialogue options when talking with guards. No, I'm just going to hang out here. You'll come back eventually."

ME: [ends conversation]. "Well, maybe it won't be so bad. Maybe he wants me to kill some Thalmor or something. Let's check..." [opens quest log].


Yeah, I don't have Photoshop, all right? I did this in PowerPoint.


ME: "The hell with that! I'm not murdering young lovers! My character is supposed to be good!

A peal of thunder ripples across the sky as every Daedra lord in the game simultaneously chuckles.

I run up to the nearest guard. "Hey!"

GUARD: "...I'm not kidding you. Not for one second. Curved. Swords. I mean, how the #&*# do you forge a..."

ME: "AAAAARGH!"

I run back to the Khajiit, whip out my Blade of Woe, coat it with poison of lingering damage, sneak up behind S'am, and score a 15x damage hit.

S'am falls to his knees and catches his breath. Again and again I strike him, to no avail.

KHAJIIT: "Have you changed your mind about the contract?"

GUARD: "Stop right there, criminal scum!"

I go charging off into the distance. Pausing the game, I grab my notebook from my desk and vow to write down my own quests from now on and never look at the quest log again.

Three hours later, after all my quests are completed except one.

ME: "You know, I never really did like Mjoll the Lioness. She's probably secretly working with the Thieves' Guild..."

***

Now, I made this one up, of course, but there are plenty of quests that you literally cannot avoid, and the only way to get them off your list is to do something horrible. [Spoilers follow.] Perhaps the worst is in Solitude, where you almost immediately get a miscellaneous quest to "Talk to Jaree-Ra about possible employment." Say three words to him, and you're locked into a quest to put out the fire in a lighthouse, run a ship full of innocent people aground, and loot the wreckage. Even though a nearby guard talks about wanting to arrest Jaree-Ra, you can't talk to him about it. You can't kill Jaree-Ra. There's no way out of it except to ignore the quest in your quest list, which is really hard. I'm not the only one who has that problem, right? Right?


I don't think I'm racist, but if I was, it would be towards Argonians. Just...look at them.


It gets even better. Read a freaking book and you get tagged with "Boethiah's Calling," which ultimately requires you to sacrifice a follower on Boethiah's altar. I couldn't get it off my list even when I massacred all of her followers in front of her shrine--she apparently enjoys that. Want to avoid joining the Thieves' Guild? Ha! Not if you want to solve the Stones of Barenziah quest. Not to mention that you get roped into the Thieves' Guild the moment you have to talk to one of its members during the main quest. Oh, and if a noble-looking knight asks for your help clearing evil from an abandoned house in Markarth, don't do it; you'll end up having to kill not only him, but an innocent priest. Have a problem murdering old ladies? Don't talk to Aventus Aretino in Windhelm. Don't even go near his house.

The problem is so prevalent that when I did find a way out of two quests--joining the Dark Brotherhood and eating dead people--by turning my sword on the quest-givers, I was astonished that it worked. I've never played a game that simultaneously amazed me with the scope and variety of its quests and infuriated me with the inescapability of them. What makes it worse are the quest items that you can't get out of your damned inventory. I'm carrying six or seven things that, because of bugs or some non-traditional approach that I took, I can  neither use nor drop.

The kind of hand-holding evidenced by un-killable NPCs and un-droppable items drives me mad. Morrowind had neither of these "features" and did fine. If you killed someone that broke the main quest, you got a warning, but otherwise you could backstab anyone that offended your sense of morality. Even Oblivion, though it had a few un-killable NPCs, just told you that the quest was over because some key person had died. It didn't try to protect everyone in the game who might some day give you 150 gold pieces. (My favorite approach was in Baldur's Gate, where if you killed a crucial NPC, he'd be replaced in all his future scenes by "Biff the Understudy.") On my current Skyrim playthrough, I got so mad at the citizens of Markarth that I decided to kill every one of them (I partly justified it because I was a vampire at the time) and found that half of them just wouldn't perish, no matter how long I stood over them, swinging my blade, screaming "Why...won't...you...die?!"

Okay, calm down, Chester. It's just a game. And it's a good game. I'm going to give you a mock GIMLET on in when I finish, and I'm sure it'll rank high. But damn, it's got some annoying quirks and bugs. With the effort that they put into all other aspects of the game, I don't understand why they couldn't have put just a little more into the quest options and given me the opportunity to FUS-RO-DAH Jaree-Ra off the castle ramparts.


50 comments:

  1. As for me, I'm only bothered by a quest when I can't figure it out from the given hints. Those bugged quest items sure sound annoying but the quest journal I figure is just what your character knows of not some stupid checklist (unless of course it led to something purposeful like the best equipment in the game). Just do whatever as you're basicly a tourist through your character in Skyrim.

    Funny post.

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  2. What I've always wondered is why my obsessive need to keep my quest log and inventory clean don't translate to keeping my house clean IRL.

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  3. It's funny that you bring this up while I'm playing through Might & Magic I, inspired by your blog and your review of it. I noticed that there's a Level 3 Cleric spell called "Remove Quest: Releases party from its commitment to a quest." This feature was in CRPGs 25 years ago! Ha! :)

    Gotta say I'm loving the open-endedness of Might & Magic and I love how non-linear it is. Although I can't kill quest-giving NPCs, the basic choice of what I explore or do next is up to me. And this was before quest logs to annoy my OCD side into completing quests just for completion's sake.

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  4. I second that, Dave! :)

    My guess is that a mod will pop up to remedy that complaint once the SCK has been released.

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  5. Well, at least the quest items don't weigh anything for as long as they can't be dropped.
    But Morrowind really was much more mature in the way it handled quests.

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  6. So I'm not the only person who decided to wipe Markath off the map?
    That doesn't surprise me at all.

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  7. How about NOT DOING THE QUEST?

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  8. "I don't think I'm racist, but if I was, it would be towards Argonians. Just...look at them."

    Brilliant piece, very funny, congratuwelldone

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  9. Heh, amazing that you have the patience to play every CRPG from 1975 onwards, but don't have the patience to wait a few months for game play enhancing mods to appear.
    I don't know if there is an in-game console on the console versions or it the console versions have an ini file, but (assuming it's like Oblivion)on the PC versions it should be easy to reset or remove quests from the console and make all NPCs killable by editing the ini file.

    The whole concept of unkillable NPCs ruins the immersion of the game for me, so in Oblivion I just accepted the fact that not all quests could be finished if certain NPCs were killed. In Skyrim I thought the "Radiant Story" is supposed to replace quest related NPCs?

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  10. I recently did that quest, "The House of Horrors." It felt quite strange, beating up the old man who was stuck in a cage. Yeah. And the mace wasn't even worth it. It's strange. I think a "morality system"--like in games like Ultima: Quest of the Avatar--would have been useful. In Skyrim I quickly realized that it doesn't matter what the hell you do. Thus, my character became a sociopath.

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  11. I find it interesting that Jason’s character became a sociopath when giving freedom to do anything. I find that the game allowing me to make my own choices actually frees me from having to force absolutely evil or absolutely good choices onto my characters.

    To me that is one of the triumphs of this game. Your character is YOUR character, and he/she is doing things for YOUR reasons.

    SPOILER:
    In the course of the main quest you will be forced to take a quest that requires you to kill a rather important individual. If you don’t do it, you will never be able to speak to the Blades again. The quest giver has good reasons, but the target makes some very convincing arguments, and I decided to not kill them.
    That quest will never leave my quest log, and I am OK with that. A man chooses, a slave obeys.

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  12. yes the game sux balls after you see his true colors. I never finished the shit. My luck was that i eluded the main quest for so long, otherwise I would've tossed this trash asside.
    Broken quest everywhere, no power of choice in the majority of the matters. Annoying unanimated NPC which you couldn't kill.
    skill tree becomes boring after a while, the entire gameplay as well.
    I find it curious, how I am unable to finish Bethesdas RPGS, while I can finish others that are clearly cheaper and of lower quality.

    Lets hope Dishonored will set a new standard for this trash market

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  13. I do absolutely everything anyone tells me to do. First come first serve.

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  14. That old lady that Aventus wants you to kill? She chains orphans to the walls.

    And the priest you're supposed to lure back to the abandoned house? He's about as nasty as they come.

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  15. The unavoidable quests are one thing, unkillable NPCs another - they also annoy me but both can at least be circumvented to some point.
    The real problem of Skyrim are the massive bugs plaguing the engine (memory leaks, cache overflows etc.) and the content (quest bugs).

    The game is either not playtested enough (as in "nobody played it 200 hrs on a console" - even though it is mostly a console game) or they intentionally threw the game on the market with a heap of problems to keep the 11-11-11 date and get the xmas money. I assume it was the latter, though.
    A day 1 patch was released and people hoped that it will at least clear all major problems but they were wrong: They had to release two more patches to get at least most things in a playable state - without even tending to the quest bugs, yet, so a 1.04 patch is already announced for January.

    They could have avoided all of this (and grabbed a few more GOTY awards) if they had delayed the release by three months to eliminate the worst problems. I'm pretty sure RPG fans would've waited without problems if Bethesda had made a sincere press release with an apology. After all RPG players put a lot of hours in such games and *need* solid tech to not be disappointed along the way.
    Personally, I made the mistake that I assumed that Bethesda had enough experience with what is essentially the same game engine since Morrowind (enhanced and expanded, of course) and I assumed a relatively (!) bugfree state for a console game - not to forget that I had nearly no problems at all with Oblivion when I bought it at day 1...
    I was wrong but I won't make the same mistake twice...

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  16. Agonians looked much cuter in Oblivion! Just look what have they done in Skyrim! WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?!!! I wanted to marry Ocheeva!

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  17. Marry an Argonian? But...those teeth...

    The Khajiit have also undergone major changes between the three games, though I think they look best in Skyrim.

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  18. Man, the biggest peeve I have with the unkillable NPCs meets big-bad-glitch sub-genre of Skyrim is in Winterhold, with the Blood On The Ice mission. *Spoiler* So, I'm told to go outside after dark and find some murderer. Only it's 10 AM and I've got other errands to run, so I decide to walk around the city a little. And what's this? Hey, my quest arrow says to go in some house - the same house the murderer supposedly occupies. Probably I should go into that house to deal with it right? That's how quests work. Inside I find a crazed shop owner charging me with a knife. I kill him in self-defense. Only he won't die. He gets up and wanders away, after the guards burst in to arrest me. (I kill them, too, but they stay dead). This shop owner? Yeah, he's the murderer. My objective is to catch the murderer. He standing their talking to me. I kill him repeatedly. He won't die. He occupies a house, it turns out, that I could otherwise purchase in game. Purchasing and renovating the properties is one my favourite activities in games like this. But apparently I'm not allowed to while an immortal murderer is squatting in the closet. And now that I've allowed the quest arrow to trick me into doing the quest out of sequence, the earlier part - the part that identifies the murderer definitively won't play. I've only been playing for 42 hours... maybe I should just restart so I can eventually buy my fictional house.

    JS

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  19. I'm really glad that I have only encountered very few and very minor bugs in my playthrough so far (about 200 hours in). Must have had some good karma left! By the way, I love the argonians in Skyrim, they look more like actual reptilians and not like humans with reptilian traits in this one. I sill wouldn't marry one, not even if it would end world hunger and save all the kittens ...

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  20. Spoiler:
    Oh, and if a noble-looking knight asks for your help clearing evil from an abandoned house in Markarth, don't do it; you'll end up having to kill not only him, but an innocent priest. Have a problem murdering old ladies? Don't talk to Aventus Aretino in Windhelm. Don't even go near his house.

    THAT is the innocent priest you mentioned? The Forsaken have him locked up for a reason! He is a priest of Boethiah, the Deadric who wiped out her own cult until she found a cultist who would murder another to save himself! Basically it is one evil deadric lord having you haul one of his enemies priests back to him to convert him. OR you can kill him to spite both of them. (Assuming we are talking about the same quest)

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  21. Sorry, http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Darkest_Darkness states that Boethiah is one of the good Deadra, however I'm skeptical, having just had a Boethiah cultist attack me out of nowhere and had the aformentioned book on him describing how murdering a fellow cultist is all that will keep you alive in his/her cult.

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  22. Canageek,

    The 'good' Daedra are so-called because they agreed to recognize the Tribunal as gods. Ironically, Sheogorath (mentioned in The House of Troubles) for all his madness, is probably far more pleasant to deal with than Boethiah.

    --nyx

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  23. So, a good Deadra is basically like a good dog in that he defers to his master. /pats Boethiah on its head

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  24. A good dog the murders people for pleasure.

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  25. My main issue with the quests in Skyrim is actually the short descriptions, why not add some more information like who the questgiver is together with title and city or organization.
    add that many quests are auto accept makes you lose overview.
    yes I know many of the mish quests are random however it had been no issue adding

    [name] (optional title) in [city / organization] want you to [kill, find talk to], [name or description like bandit boss] in [city or dungeon]
    Two lines instead of one and you have all the base information.

    Ability to cancel quests, if you just talked to somebody and auto get the quest you should be able to cancel it and get it back by talking again.

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  26. Just my 2 cents (long time fan of your blog, and I didn't skewer you about your review of Wasteland hehe).

    You know when I play Mass Effect, I play so good, that I swear FemShep should have a halo. I do that, because it feels right in the universe. I really have a hard time doing evil things in video games!

    But not when I play Elder Scrolls. The world of the Elder Scrolls is an evil and hard place. There are some things I don't do, but if I go into a house and a *God* (for all practical purposes) tells me, "You need to murder this person", then I believe that it's my role, to kill that person. I don't kill with out a reason (which oddly to me, would seem twisted and evil...). So, even though I struggle to not put an arrow in the heart of EVERY guard that asks me, "What's a matter, somebody steal your sweet roll", I only kill when commanded or am paid.

    To quote Gross Pointe Blank:

    Debi: You're a psychopath.
    Marty: No, no. Psychopaths kill for no reason. I kill for *money*. It's a *job*. That didn't come out right...

    ;-)

    So, my suggestion, don't look at the things your doing as Evil, they're fate, you were destined to become the listener of the black hand...

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  27. ronald, I really would like to have that opion in Skyrim. If I recall, Baldur's Gate allowed you to just delete quests from your journal. You could also type your own notes in it.

    Hybris, I think I remember Morrowind just having a general journal in which quests were continually added but never deleted. I used to have to play with a notebook by my side in which I wrote down a couple of key words about the quest and the page number of the journal on which I'd find it.

    olol, it's a personality disorder. What can I say?

    The problem, Petrus, is that I'm playing the X-box version, which of course doesn't support mods. I just bought a new laptop this week, though, so if I'm feeling particularly masochistic, I might buy Skyrim for it. Not until I get a good string of postings going on my blog, though. Skyrim's already killed my productivity enough.

    BragonDorn, I used to play like that, but I found that it spoiled the immersion. Just like in real life, you have to prioritize. If the Stormcloaks are about to attack Whiterun, I'm not going to wander around the countryside looking for Deathbell for Ingun. In my latest gameplay, I've been focusing on the quests that seem most serious, but stopping by any quest-related locations "on the way," or in the same city, and cleaning them up that way.

    Fair point, John. As Canageek says, the priest is actually Boethiah's, who had me murder all of my followers, so I guess he's not a saint. (As for her being a "good" Daedra, all I can say is that she wants me to murder one of my companions on her altar.) I just didn't have any problem with him until an evil Daedric lord told me to kill him. As for the old lady, I'm not sure assassination was the answer. I realize the game doesn't give you any other options, but still...

    JS, I had a similar problem with that quest. The quest markers are a bit much. I guess I don't mind them for really obvious locations, where your character could reasonably be expected to know about them, but to have one point directly at the mysterious murderer is just stupid. Not to mention those that point to the books you have to retrieve for the orc in Winterhold. How would I really know that a copy of "The Spotted Pig" could be found in some dank dungeon 600 leagues away? I agree with magne moe that a bit more textual description would have been better. By the time I get to something that's been on my quest list for 80 game hours, I usually don't remember why.

    Trives, there's a difference between role-playing a hardened warrior in a harsh world and playing a serial killer. I just find it disappointing that your role-playing options when accepting and completing quests aren't as numerous as when you're just wandering around.

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  28. After I wrote the above, I remembered my new year's resolution not to buy any more new games. I guess that means I can play Skyrim again in 2013.

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  29. That's why I like Fable. You kill a shopowner, then come back to town a while later and can rent out his place for one of your love dens. It's also a game where you ignore quests by design. They're there to tempt you off your path.

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  30. Christ... I can't agree enough. And even to do away with the stinkin' Brotherhood you STILL have to MURDER someone. But you can't MURDER someone else, if that someone else is a regular at the Ragged Flagon. It just TICKS ME OFF!

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  31. wow i just had to comment on this.

    bro i read the entire thing, and i agree 100% lol

    i cannot stand getting mainstreamed into these questlines i dont want. if i dont want to kill that person for them i have to just ignore the mutiple quests in my log. and god forbid i actually do it, each quest strings together 3 more. so i end up with a whole list of shit i didnt want to do.

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    1. The daedra quests are the worst. Almost all of them require you to be horrible. There's no way to say, "No, I don't want to murder a follower. No, I don't want to help a cult of cannibals."

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    2. Some of them yes, some of them no. You have to read the lore though, to know how the good guys and who the bad guys are. Really, the Deadric quests could be named the "Lore quests" since they all go into the lore of the deadra heavily. Try finding a copy of Darkest Darkness, and the book by the priestess who describes being a priestess of all the different cults. Or you could read http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Daedra

      The one where you get the stone, you have to stop someone whom is eating souls to defeat death. Then you have the choice of giving it to the deadra to be fixed, or breaking it more into a black soul gem. Not exactly evil.

      We've already talked about how the priest you kill in another one is a downright evil bastard.

      In the sleep one you can just tell the dredra screw you, and watch their scheme fail.

      In the werewolf one you can just say screw that, all you people hunting the werewolf for bloodsport? Eat hot death *Fireball*.

      The quest in the mad kings mind DID get a deadra to return from vacation, but you also released someone from madness and ended a haunting.

      The only one I hated was the one with the dealmaker, where he gets restored to power no matter if you kill the dog or don't. I killed the dog, which seemed to slow him, but I didn't get as good an item for it. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't have used either one, and the axe looks great next to my houses door. :D

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    3. Fair enough. I shouldn't have said "almost all of them." A few bad ones were looming larger than the others.

      But even in some of the ones you mention, like Hircine's, whatever you do ends up "serving" the Daedra in one way or another. And no matter how you solve them, it annoys me that the quests ba-da-da-dum into your list in the first place. There's really no way in this game to absolutely reject quests. If you try, the initiator just says something like "I'll be here when you change your mind" and the quest remains in your active list.

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  32. For me, a quest journal that has a quests listed anything other than "Completed", unless it was a mutually exclusive quest, drives me nuts.

    Some people might call guys like me a completionist.

    But I believe that it's the Failure in me that keeps me from just completing an RPG with something left undone...

    "No! I will NOT fail in THIS life as well! Raaarrrgghhh!"

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    Replies
    1. I'm convinced that the only good way to play Skyrim is to force yourself to ignore the quest log. In fact, when I play it on a PC, I'm going to download a module that kills the quest log. Not only do the markers make it too easy, but the inescapable obsession of gamers like us to "clear" it destroys any chances of true role-playing.

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    2. Yeah... it's stuff like this that takes the Role-Playing out of the Game.

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    3. ...I think you guys are rather more compleationist then I am. I really only open my quest log to turn on a quest so that I can see where to go.

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    4. Ugh. You can probably have "enough" nachos and "just one" drink in a bar, too. You people disgust me.

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    5. I'd have to be in the bar a long time to have more then one or two; I'm famous for making a single drink last the length of dinner and then some. ^^

      Also: Natchos? Bleh. *Hands Chet some Ketchup chips*

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    6. Ketchup chips. Christ. You people can't even spell "completion" right.

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    7. So does this mean if I give you a list of all the tracked conducts in Nethack you have to beat the game once for each one? (Nudist, vegetarian, vegan, pacifist...)

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    8. Canageek your just being mean now ;-p

      Imagine how this blog would go if he allowed his OCD completionist tendencies to take over like suggested. He would never finish nethack, and once we get to the era of sidequests he will bog down. Also games like daggerfall which had procedurally generated quests and dungeons (some of which generate in such a way as to not be finishable) will cause him fits. Then again it also sounds like a recipe of how to kick the completion habit.

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    9. Or bloody open-ended RPGs that does not have any quests like Mount & Blade.

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  33. There is a mod (on the PC) that gives more explanatory text for quests, but yeah, the "Quests I Didn't Ask For" tend to annoy me as well.

    Granted, if I have a lengthy conversation with someone that provides info to a cave somewhere, and the quest just says "So-and-so told you of a cave somewhere," I'm fine with that, as I'd rather not have to track so-and-so down again to trigger whatever might be in the cave.

    And yes, the quest arrows are evil and misleading. And sometimes confusing, if you have too many quests "active." (Am I following the right arrow for this quest, or is it a stray arrow from a quest I've forgotten about?)

    (One nice thing about the Mass Effect games, is I never felt overwhelmed with too many quest options at once.)

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    1. Man, I loved those arrows though. "Huh, I don't have any fast travel points near there, time for a hike".

      The map needed to be better at showing paths though, I spent ages trying to get through mountain ranges.

      Of course, then I remembered the clairvoyance spell and things got easier. I just wish I could trigger that on instead of having to recast it a bunch.

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    2. Krud, do you know what the name of that "better explanatory texts for quests" mod would be? I'm interested in looking it up on the Nexus. :)

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  34. Hehe, the completist vs. the role player. But you simply had to talk to the Daedra...

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    1. I wouldn't call myself a "completist." I have no problem ignoring parts of the game, or entire questlines (like the Dark Brotherhood) for role-playing reasons. But I do have trouble not doing things on a quest list.

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