Extra Credits: Skyrim’s Opening

This week, we carefully examine and critique the first fifteen minutes of Skyrim's play experience.

Recent Comments:

  • OMG…Thank you. Because that's exactly how I felt when I started playing Skyrim. I was bored inside of 15 minutes and haven't gone back to it since. And yes, I know the game is supposed to be great, bluh, bluh, bluh. Still as someone who had never played an elder scrolls game before that point I was a bit underwhelmed that THIS was my first introduction to a game that had gotten such rave reviews. I've seen game opening that were stellar or really amazing, and this was....sub-par. I'm just glad that someone actually said it.

    Because of that opening scene, I actually turned the game off (and played something else). It looked ugly and boring. I honestly thought that the rest of the game was going to continue on like this for 10+ hours before the "good part showed up". Just like Final Fantasy 13 -- all over again. (oh god, no. Not again.) But now that I know, that's not the case, I'll go back to the game….as some point. After Mass Effect 3, of course.

  • After taking some time to re-evaluate my stance on this, I can't help but feel that ultimately, this episode more or less missed the point.

    I've mentioned before that James either worked on COD:MW or knew the people who worked on it well. That is to say: James left the company the same year the specific game that's put across Skyrim came out.

    Earlier in this thread I pointed out that this would make him biased (I didn't intend to accuse him of bias, mainly because bias isn't in an of itself a bad thing unless it's unfair and you can't accuse people of something that isn't bad. But that may still be what I ended up doing).
    Thing is though: It doesn't just make him biased, it makes him knowledgeable too. James probably knows every reason why the Modern Warfare example did what it did, every decision behind it and every intention that the people who made it had for it.

    But for Skyrim, he doesn't. So when he wrote this episode, he was looking at the Skyrim intro from the context of the Modern Warfare bit.

    The problem with that, however, is that the goals behind the two sequences were vastly different.

    Skyrim's intro isn't intended as an 'infodump' or something to familiarise you with the setting. Skyrim's intro is a case of 'Show, don't tell' gone horribly, horribly right.

    The whole conversation that happens on the cart ride? That's not something you need to listen to, it's just there to give you something to pass the time.
    The point of the intro instead is to evoke a feeling of restriction, a feeling of 'help, I can't do anything but sit here, waiting for what comes next.'

    It addresses a long-standing complaint by people who played Morrowind and Oblivion: That the start of those games merely told you your character was a prisoner, with very little to actually show it. Sure, in both cases you start off in a confined space, but you still have freedom of movement. You spend less than a minute 'unable to go anywhere' before the games make you start walking around.
    The dungeon start from Oblivion, for instance, isn't claustrophobic specifically because you are in control of your character.

    The problem with Skyrim's intro is, however, that it's too good at what it's supposed to do for most people. The entire sequence is intended to make you want, even hunger for, that moment where you escape/are set free and walk into the world. However, that moment takes a long time to arrive. Specifically because the conversation between your two (speaking) fellow prisoners is fully voiced and therefore the ride needs to last long enough for them to finish it.

    Ultimately, if it's intention was to involve players in the setting and show them the sights, the way that Modern Warfare bit it's put opposite is supposed to do, it would be a horrible intro. But it's not. It's supposed to show that you don't need to be in a closed off space to feel claustrophobic and trapped. It's supposed to make you want to get out there and explore. It goes against the expectations people have of what they're going to do in the game, but it does so specifically to increase the player's desire to do exactly that.
    It's just so effective at evoking that desire and giving off that feel, that most people can't help but feel that it takes too long before you get the chance to do that.

  • I just cant get on board with your opinion of the intro, it just feels too me like your trying to defend the game at any cost, without really have an opinion of it. You say you were 'restrained' (I barely felt restrained), and that this makes you desire freedom, but i dont agree. In this scene happened in the middle of the game, after you'd been exploring the great and open landscapes, i'd be more inclined to agree with you. But it happens as an intro, and you have no idea how great the world really is, so your desire to get free and explore just isn't there, because you really cant be too excited about exploring something you havent seen or had a sneak peak at yet.

    To sum up, i was just bored. Plain old bored. I sat the controller down and listened to the meaningless jargen, no idea what they were talking about, while i watched snow go by.

    I mean, when i played Modern Warfare, the intro was quite effective. Driving, hostage, past executions and rallys, it was almost intimidating, and it showed just how screwed you were. It drove home that feeling of fear because you pretty much knew this wasnt going to end well for you. Compared to Skyrim, just snow... snow... more snow... Nothing to make me feel any emotion, no fear, no excitement, no engagement whatsoever.

  • So... Am I considered that part of the market, that doesn't matter, if the skyrim intro was among the best I can recall, along with feeling the most 'close to real life' and such... I mean, it's better if you have to look around to see what happens instead of seeing a game designer say "well, we could make it bigger, but then (le gasp) player might miss something, so better cram it into one screen".

    Not to mention that ending the intro with execution of the character is meh.

  • Oblivion's opening was way better than Skyrim's, so I dunno what you're talking about.

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