Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Oblivion Adventures Part 3: Durability and Destiny

Last time on Oblivion Adventures, smash-hit salesman Shush’Ogar struck scores of skeletons and sketchy sell-swords, taking tons of treasure to trek towards town, prompting a peaceful proprietor to propose probable paths of practicing proficient peddling. And afterwards...

Shush stepped outta de shop feelin pretty gud about all de sellin stuff he did. Shush were gettin lotsa shiny gold pieces for all de glowy stones he found. Shush wasn’t sure what to do wit all de gold doe. Den Shush had an idea. Cause see Shush’s clanky clothes got all banged up from all de skeletons an stuff, an it was real uncomfortable. So Shush found a buildin wit a picture of clanky clothes on it, an he went inside.

The shop in question, notable for looking exactly like every other shop in the imperial city.

“Welcome to The Best Defense!” said a dark-skinned man in clanky clothes. “I’m Varnardo, I handle the heavy armor here. How can I help you?”

“Shush got hit a bunch, and now dis is all smooshed an stuff” Shush said, banging his fist on his chest. “Can he buy a new one?”

“Oh, well certainly sir” said Vernarder, “but even with dents that deep, I can always just repair your armor for you.”

“You can make it not all bumpy?” Shush said hopefully.

“Of course” said Varnarnda. “It’d probably be cheaper than buying a new chest plate too. And if you’re versed in armor repair yourself, I sell repair hammers. Might not be cheaper than paying me to do it at first, but it’s a useful skill to learn.”

“How do Shush use de hammers?”

“Well that’s a complicated question. Proper technique takes time and training, and I’m no teacher in repair. The basic idea is to hammer out the dents, but of course there’s far more to-“

“I’ll take one a dem repair hammers.”

Veranda shrugged. “If you say so.” He handed Shush de hammer an Shush gave him some gold. Den Shush walked out.


Varnardo shook his head once the strange orc left the store.

“Bit of a strange one, eh Varnardo?” said his coworker Maro Rufus from across the room.

“No argument here” said Varnardo. “Not exactly the brightest sounding orc either, between you and me. But what can you do, adventuring takes a lot of strange types. Glad my father talked me into more stable trade as a lad.”

Maro nodded and leaned on his counter. “And I’d imagine you get even more slow customers than I do, since they all make their living hauling giant slabs of metal around.”

Varnardo rolled his eyes. “Starting with that nonsense again? Maybe they wear metal because, surprise surprise, it’s better at deflecting a blade than stuffing your shirt with tissues.”

Maro frowned and blew a lock of his mangy brown hair from his eyes. “Look, just because you’re angry with training in a defunct school of armor doesn’t mean-“


Both armor salesmen winced, and their heads jerked toward the door. There was a brief silence, before Varnardo spoke up. “You don’t think that’s...”


“Sure sounds like it” said Maro, standing up from the counter and walking towards the door. He cracked it open just a bit to peek through as another peal rang through the store.


“Yup, that’s him” said Maro, grimacing and closing the door. “Sitting in the street right outside the shop. A bright orange, shirtless orc smashing a tiny hammer into his breastplate. His technique seems a bit...rusty. Even for a metal-head.”


Varnardo ignored Maro and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Doesn’t seem to be stopping. Do you think I should go out and-“


“Oh good, seems to have solved itself.”


Shush frowned at his broken hammer. It didn’t last very long. Shush were just gettin de hang of de smash-fixin too. Shush made almost as many new dents in de clanky clothes as he started wit, but he was just figurin out how to not do dat when de hammer went all snappy. Shush sighed but den he saw somethin cool. Dere was a barrel right near Shush, and Shush saw another one a dose fixy hammers innit! Shush walked over to de barrel and opened it up, pickin de hammer out.

Den Shush had a thought. Dis barrel may have belonged to a person dat wasn’t Shush, and Shush didn’t want to get thrown in jail again. Last time was borin and smelled. Shush yelled over to a person walking by.

“Hey you! D’you know if any people own dese crates an stuff?”

“W-what?” said de guy. “I uh, I don’t know, those are today’s shipments probably? This late in the day they should be empty of anything important...”

“So Shush can take whatever he want from here?”

“Huh?! N-no, I didn’t say...nevermind.”

Shush wasn’t really listenin to de guy anymore, he was busy lookin in all de barrels for fixy hammers an other cool stuff. Shush liked how much free stuff dere was in de big city. Den Shush searched de barrels on de other side a de street and found even more hammers n tings. Shush took a long time fixin his clanky clothes. It was sorta like smashin people, except instead a people it was a metal ting, and de smashes was real tiny.

Now might be a good time to discuss durability. Durability is a mechanic in some games where equipment like weapons and armor degrade over time. If you don’t repair the equipment, usually through paying someone, then it gets worse or outright ceases to function. Personally, I don’t like it much as a mechanic. At absolute best, it provides some basic management and prep work to keep track of. I understand that can be fun, but I prefer my management gameplay to involve choice, tactical thinking, or even any thinking at all. With durability, it’s completely binary. It’s always a good thing to have repaired equipment, and most games have it cheap enough that it’s never worth it to ignore doing so.

The repair interface for Oblivion. You just click on the equipment and it increases its durability, with a chance to break one repair hammer.

As is the case with a lot of Oblivion’s mechanics, durability is implemented in a somewhat bothersome way. Equipment condition isn’t binary, meaning that if you’re on the right side of rounding your weapons or armor can be worse from taking or giving a single hit. This continual damage is merely annoying until you get into really high levels, when it gets unbearable. A friend of mine played Oblivion until high enough level that every fight his armor would break in a few hits, and the best weapon in the game would break shortly afterward. At master skill level, an armorer can use a repair hammer an infinite amount of times, and long before that the cost of them will be completely trivial. Hell, Shush already has enough money that they’re trivial. Oh, and the repair hammers break at random, which is more of a personal annoyance, but an annoyance all the same.

So the repair system in Oblivion isn’t a big deal. But it’s largely worthless in terms of engaging gameplay, annoying and arbitrary until it’s trivial and arbitrary, and completely breaks down at high levels. So old man Genericide finds another mechanic to shake his fist at, but what else is new. Let’s get back to Shush.

It was gettin dark out and Shush was almost done fixin up his clanky clothes when some guy walked up to him. Shush didn’t even notice him until he started talking.

“Uh, excuse me?” he said.





Shush looked up. “Oh, hello dere loud person. Shush didn’t see you.”

“Yes, well...I have a message for you, from my master Umbaccano. He has a job offer for you, and would like you to meet him at his manor in the Talos Plaza District.”

Shush was thinkin for a second. “So, he wants to give Shush gold for doin’ somethin?”

“Precisely. A hefty amount of gold, at that.”

“Dat sounds pretty gud.” Shush put away his fixy hammer and put his clanky clothes back on. “Take me to de guy wot wants to give Shush gold.”

So den de guy took Shush across de city to a real fancy big buildin an Shush went inside. Den another guy took Shush up some stairs to a room dat had a elf in fancy clothes innit. De fancy elf was sittin at a table wit some statue on it. His hair was real funny.

Like, wow. Just wow. What do you even say to hair like that? It makes it really hard to take elvish Jimmy Neutron here seriously.

De hairy elf spoke up. “Ah. Thank you for coming. You may recognize that statue over there on the table. The very one that you recently sold – for less than its true worth. As you may know, I am somewhat of an enthusiast for Ayleid antiquities. In my-“

“Shush didn’t know.”


“Shush didn’t know dat. Dat you liked eye-lead antiquilts.”

“I mean, I didn’t...” De elf waved his hand. “Not important, forget it. Where was I?”

“You was right here, sittin in dat chair.”

De elf squinted at Shush. “No need to get smart with me, you...actually probably didn’t intend that, did you? Regardless!”

De elf cleared his throat. “In my own modest way, I have amassed a rather considerable collection. I have recently become interested in obtaining the complete set of these ancient statues. I believe that ten still exist. No mere shopkeeper knows their true worth. If you bring them to me when you find them, I will pay you double for each one.”

Shush thinked out numbers in his head, den smiled. “Oh, double is like twice as many golds, yeah?”

“ the definition of the word double, yes. In addition, if you can actually manage to bring me all ten of the set, I will double your previous payments.”

“Dat’s a lotta doubles.”

“Indeed. So do we have a deal?”

Shush pointed to de statue. “Shush just gotta bring you more a dose?”

The statue in question, in all its fuzzy-textured glory.

“Correct! The Ten Ancestors. Are they not exquisite? The way they catch the light, the perfect cut of their shining gemstones, oh they are just-“

“ ‘sokay.”

“Ahem. Okay?”

“Yeah, dey kinda shiny. But once Shush saw a statue dat was even more prettier den dis one. It was of a lady wot looked pretty.”

“I see.”

“And de lady was NEKKID.”

“Fascinating.” De elf wasn’t lookin at Shush no more.

Shush helpfully pointed at de statue. “Dis statue doesn’t have a lady wots nekkid innit.”

“Yes thank you very much, I’m sure the artistic community would applaud your critique” said de elf, standin up suddenly. “But I’m afraid our time together is up. Enchanting meeting you, remember to get me more statues, Jollring show him OUT, please!”

As de door slammed behind Shush he was feelin pretty good. Shush were just out of jail and already he were havin two different jobs to do. Shush’d be sure to look real careful to see if any statues showed up.

I’m going to interject for a moment to just spoil the suspense: This won’t come up again for some time. Umbaccano doesn’t suggest places to look until after you get him a second statue, and despite checking every ruin I passed there were a whole lot of not-statues inside. That’s not to say we’ll never see mount hair gel again, just don’t expect it soon.

Thinkin about de jobs dat Shush had to do reminded him dat he still had to get de shiny stone onna string to dat Joffers guy. So Shush decided to leave de city an walk out towards where he was s’posed to be. Dere were some wolves and people askin to take Shush’s money along de way. Cyrodil seems to have a lotta dose. But Shush smashed em an nothin else interestin happened until Shush got to a big buncha buildins down de road. Dere was a guy out front a de buildins so Shush asked if he knew where a guy called Joffers was.

“You seek father Jauffre?” said de guy. “He should be right inside the priory up ahead, on the second floor reading, probably.”

As a brief aside, let me just clarify that I did a bunch of things on the way to Weynon Priory. You can just fast travel between major cities in Oblivion, but I’ve generally found it more enjoyable to walk and explore along the way unless my inventory is full of things I need to sell. However, I’m going to skip a lot of dungeon runs and side trips that aren’t important.  Running through three perfunctory, bland forts in succession on this path reminded me that there isn’t much to say about segments like these.

So Shush went inside and up de stairs where dere was a bald guy readin, and figured he must be Joffers. Shush waved to him and walked up to de table he was readin at.

“Hey, are you Joffers?” Shush said.

“I’m Brother Jauffre. What do you want?”

Brother Joffers, in the flesh.

“Shush is s’posed to give you somethin, hang on.” Shush started searchin through his pack for de shiny stone. He knocked a couple skulls out while lookin.

“Uhh...” said Joffers, eyes kinda big.

“Not dose” Shush said as he found de shiny stone. He pulled it out and showed it to Joffers. “S’posed to give you dis.”

“What” said Joffers all quiet. “Could that really be...the Amulet of Kings? Gods above, how did you get this?!”

“A man in fancy clothes gave it to Shush. He said I needed to give it to de Joffers guy, who’s you, and somethin about shuttin jaws and oblivious. Den he got killed by guys in red robes.”

“W-what? You can’t mean...the emperor? The emperor is dead?!”

Shush nodded, pleased dat he got it. “Yup, dat’s de guy.”

“Mara have mercy...this is all very sudden.” Joffers looked at de shiny stone in his hand for a moment. “I’m not sure what the part about jaws means, but I think I know why he told you to come here. I know some sensitive information. If the emperor trusted you, then I suppose I can as well.” Joffers took a deep breath. “The emperor...had a son.”

“Well sure, lotsa people got sons, specially old people.”

“No, you don’t understand. The emperor had a son no one knew about! An illegitimate one, which he asked me to deliver somewhere safe when he was a boy. As the only heir to the throne, he could be in terrible danger. And even though I’m unsure what they mean, those other words sound portentous. We may need an emperor before long. You see, it’s speculated by scholars that-“

Shush kinda stopped listenin after a while. Joffers talked a lot wit a buncha big words and it was real borin. After a couple minutes Joffers paused den started speakin again.

We’re really not missing much with the background dialogue, in case you’re wondering. I gave the essentials; the rest is not directly saying, but “foreshadowing” as heavily as possible in 50 foot neon letters: “GET EMPEROR OR ELSE DEMONS.” Bam, entire plot of the game summarized.

“Anyway, that’s why it’s vital that we find the emperor’s son. Can I trust you to find him? I’ll offer help in any way I can, and there are some supplies in that chest.”

Shush looked at de chest behind him. Dat sounded pretty gud, so he opened it up and found a buncha weapons inside.

Shush started grabbin de weapons. “Cool, Shush can take all a dese?”

“That’s not exactly what I said but...well, better safe than sorry I suppose.”

“So,” said Shush as he stuffed some longswords in his bag, “where do you want Shush to go again?”

“The emperor’s son is named Martin. He serves Akatosh at the chapel in the city of Kvatch. Kvatch is southwest of here, more towards the coast. Have you got all that?”

“Yup” said Shush, pickin up his pack at wavin goodbye. “Gotta find Martin, he at de church by de coast place, see ya!”

“Wait, it’s not right on the coast, you-“ was what Joffers was sayin when Shush went out de door. Shush didn’t know what he was gonna say, but Shush was pretty sure it didn’t matter. Shush knew what he had ta do, so he walked back to de city to find a boat to take to de coast city. Shush was gonna find dis Martin guy in no time flat. He had a super gud memory.

Well, most of de time.

No comments:

Post a Comment