My TES6 wishlist

Post » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:45 am

How strange … I could have sworn I posted this already. But it isn't appearing in my post history, neither as its own thread or having been merged with some other “TES 6 wish list” thread. If it is still out there, I apologize for the double post. Blame Bethesda's crappy forum website engine for glitching out and saying there isn't a post when there is one.

There's a lot of realism-enhancing things I'd like to see in the next TES game. Some of these might seem impossible, but I think it can be done if you approach the game design the correct way:

  1. A better approach to scaling.

Skyrim's enemy and loot scaling was a huge step up from Oblivion's scaling system, but I still think it can be improved upon.

I'd recommend a scaling system similar to Fallout 4, where tougher enemies and better loot were based on location, rather than level.

However, FO4's scaling system was entirely arbitrary. There was no explanation in-game as to why the enemies got stronger as you went further south. Besides, it didn't make any sense, even as-is. Sommerville Place was right next to the glowing sea, so shouldn't it have been picked off by radscorpions and feral ghouls several times over long before the Sole Survivor ever even got thawed out?

So here's what I'd recommend: Have the enemies (and corresponding loot) get stronger as you get further away from the cities and roads. I think it makes perfect sense for enemies to be weaker as they get nearer civilization, since they'll likely be picked off by guards and travelers on the roads before they get strong enough to be a real threat, whereas creatures and bandits more detached from society would live to develop their combat skills more.

Fallout 4 had a total of 29 settlement locations, and two major cities (Diamond City and Goodneighbor), for a total of 31 “peaceful” places. This presented virtually no room for enemies to spread out. But then again, that makes sense in Fallout. The few survivors were packed like sardines into houses the size of closets, with the biggest city in the Commonwealth being the equivalent of a pre-war stadium. It's the whole point of Fallout.

But the Elder Scrolls is different. Each province only has nine main cities, so there's plenty of room for you to develop higher-level zones that are far away from society. Just imagine, in Cyrodiil, how much space was between the Anvil/Kvatch/Skingrad metro area and the city of Chorrol, or how much space was between Leyawiin and Cheydinhal, and you'll get the idea.

So imagine if each main city had about three or four smaller towns dotting the hold (or whatever you call the counties in your future games), providing crops, alchemy ingredients, lumber, and mining services to their corresponding major city. These settlements would be placed alongside the roads, so they would only be attacked by low-level enemies like wolves, who they could easily handle, even with their low combat skills.

  1. A postal system.

This is, admittedly, nit-picking and at the bottom of my wish list. However, I am including it early because I'm setting up for future entries on my wish list.

In present TES games, couriers are the most common means of delivering packages and letters to you. However, it makes absolutely zero sense that these couriers can find you. It's incredibly immersion-breaking when these couriers have omniscient knowledge of your exact whereabouts and beeline to you in the middle of bumfuk nowhere, no matter where you are.

I have a better idea of how to get these documents to you without breaking immersion: Set up a postal system. Letters and packages would be delivered to your “primary residence.”

What counts as your primary residence depends on the circumstance. The first time you rent a room at an inn, that inn becomes your primary residence until overridden. Talk to the innkeeper to receive your mail. If you join a faction without owning a house, that faction's HQ becomes your new primary residence, overriding the inn. When you buy a house, that house becomes your primary residence, overriding all other places. If you own multiple houses, you can choose which one is your primary residence by talking with the steward of that hold.

This enables people to contact you in writing without breaking immersion.

Again, this is a minor thing, but this postal system can be used to better facilitate a few of my other entries.

  1. More realistic essential NPCs.

I concede that essential NPCs are a necessary evil due to radiant AI. NPCs can be randomly picked off by dragon attacks or minotaurs when they're traveling between cities. Keeping quest characters unkillable is a necessary evil to prevent the player from being denied quests just because of a random act of god that was beyond the player's control.

But I still think the system can be improved upon.

First of all, you've heard a million times before the suggestion of allowing only the player to kill essential NPCs. I like this idea for the most part, but it has the potential to be immersion-breaking in its own right. This would mean that a rusty iron dagger could take out a character in one hit if the player is swinging it, but that same malnourished beggar could tank dragon fire breath like nobody's business.

But really, I've already offered a suggestion that would make the essential NPC system as invisible as possible: Have the stronger enemies be away from cities and roads! If an NPC has to travel between cities, just make sure to program the NPC to stick to the roads where the enemies he'll encounter can be easily dealt with. They might be unkillable, but if the enemies are so weak that they can't even reduce the NPC's health to zero in the first place, what does it matter? Instances where an NPC's health would be reduced to zero – and the player is there to see it – would be so few and far between that we can forgive it happening once every ten playthroughs.

The only essential NPCs that would stray into the high-level zones would be combat specialists like fellow faction members, who would have the weapons, armor, combat skills, and health/magicka pools to be able to survive those dungeons anyway.

  1. Bigger population sizes while still keeping radiant AI.

Future Elder Scrolls games will obviously be on better hardware than anything Skyrim or Oblivion was designed for. This should allow Bethesda to really come unglued with how big they make their world. Since the massive and expansive size of the world is one of the biggest draws of the Elder Scrolls, I'd expect nothing less.

However, one of the most common observations about most RPGs, not just Elder Scrolls, is that the cities are densely populated. Games like the Witcher 3 and Assassin's Creed have huge populations, but to get that, they have to make each NPC near-static. They have to repeat the same motions over and over again, never eating, never sleeping, never moving from beyond their designated spots. So to use that method to create realistic population sizes would take away from one of the biggest draws of modern TES games: Radiant AI.

However, I think I have an idea how we can have the best of both worlds. See, Radiant AI is revolutionary, but it doesn't always manifest in ways that make sense. For starters, shop owners usually live on-sight, having an upstairs area that they use as their private quarters, so that their sandboxing has as little chance as possible to interfere with other NPCs. Meanwhile, about half the so-called "unique" NPCs in Oblivion didn't have much of a personal life at all. Their Radiant AI schedule would basically boil down to making random small talk with other NPCs and then walking around staring at walls for hours on end.

The latter type of NPCs were created because there wasn't a whole lot for those NPCs to do. There just weren't enough jobs for them to actually have personal lives, and the inns were so small that there was no way you could fit the entire city's worth of citizens inside without some of them clipping through the floors and walls.

Well, with future TES games, the size of the world can be increased to much more realistic levels. This would be especially true if Bethesda were to procedurally generate the main structures while adding little touches - such as rugs and carpets - by hand. They're already using this method to create the overworld (by using procedural generation to create the big things like hills and rock formations, while hand-crafting the little things like cracks in the ground), so this shouldn't be too much of a leap for them.

Then there's the issue of giving them jobs. You already have a system for this in Skyrim. About 80% of the NPCs in the game can do monotonous drudge work such as gathering crops or mining ore for a living.

Case in point: Remember when I suggested earlier about having farming/mining/logging settlements supporting the main cities? Well, let's create a mining settlement of about 80 people. The corresponding mine would have 15 ore veins inside it. In addition to the mind itself, there would be three buildings. They would be multi-story inns capable of housing about 30 people each. This would allow for about ten vacant rooms, so the player could rent a room.

One guy will be the mine owner. This is the NPC who you will sell ore to for payment. He will have about 60 miners and 4 “mining supervisors” working for him. The mine would be worked 24 hours a day, six days a week (with Sundas being their sabbath). There would four shifts for the mines, two for daytime and two for nighttime, with each shift working twelve hours a day, three days a week. One supervisor and 15 miners are assigned to each shift, with each miner having an ore vein assigned to them. These miners would then dig at their assigned ore vein for the duration of their shift.

So, just on that alone, I've accounted for a total of 65 NPCs, giving them jobs and schedules, while still having a reasonable population size for a small mining settlement. You can assign sixty NPCs – three fourths of the settlement's entire population – in one fell swoop. Then imagine the other fifteen NPCs being assigned to work the three inns that house all the NPCs. Three innkeepers, each employing two cooks and two maids who only work during the day.

From there, you can probably imagine how you can program farm hands, loggers, people who clean the stores, etc.

This way, you can have the best of both worlds. Realistic population sizes, radiant AI, and everyone has a job and a home, while still having a realistic population because you don't need to program each NPC individually.

  1. More factions with a wider spread of morality and gameplay.

When I first bought Oblivion, I knew I wanted to be a stealthy character. I got my love of stealth gameplay by playing the Splinter Cell games.

But as I played Oblivion for the first time, I realized that stealth was equivalent to being evil. In Splinter Cell, you're still the good guy. But in Oblivion, the only two stealthy factions I can join are the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood.

Going through the Dark Brotherhood questline made my stomach churn. My boss – who was a vampire – said to me “You're blood is cold, your heart hard. You exemplify everything the Dark Brotherhood stands for.” I'm sitting there thinking “No, no! That's not who I am! I just love stealth! That's it! You're all a bunch of psychotic bastards!”

I'd like to see more factions. Oblivion, Skyrim, and Fallout 4 only had four main factions each, excluding DLC, but I'd like to see around seven main factions. For example: The Legion could serve as an enemy to the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood. The game would not allow you to join one side if you're already aligned with the other, encouraging multiple playthroughs. If you complete your first few missions in the Legion in a stealthy manner, the Legion would acknowledge your tactics and invite you to join a splinter group of the Legion, one that emphasizes stealth (e.g. eavsdropping on bandits' plans to attack, or taking out bandits who have escaped previously). Basically the TES equivalent to Third/Fourth Eschelon. This would give me a faction where I could enjoy stealth gameplay without worrying about being the bad guy.

That would be Major Faction #5. For Major Factions #6 and #7, I think evil versions of the mages and fighters' guilds would fit the bill nicely.

But in addition to major factions, I'd also like to see about twenty or so minor factions. These factions would have mostly radiant quests and no primary questlines, but would still be a boon to roleplayers who want to play a different style than the four main styles.

Here are a couple of threads where I requested mods for these types of minor factions. This should give you an idea of how you could implement the 20 or so minor factions:

  1. Better radiant quests for factions.

In Skyrim, the post-questline radiant quests for the Dark Brotherhood and College of Winterhold svckED BALLS! After becoming the leader of the CoW, you were sent on the exact same radiant quest to take close magical anomalies in one of 27 locations. That's it. That's all there was to it.

The Dark Brotherhood was a little better. There was at least a little variety, but only a little. The same ten clients would hire you to kill the same ten targets in an endless loop. In fact, the targets didn't even have Radiant AI schedules! So it wasn't even fun, not even the first time, to assassinate them, because you couldn't follow them around like a stalker until you found a place you could kill them without witnesses.

If you go with my idea of having realistic population sizes, then there should be literally thousands of potential clients and potential targets for you to assassinate in these radiant quests. But even if you don't go with that, I'd still like to see more variety in these radiant quests. Procedurally generate the names, races, and appearances for clients and targets, instead of it just being a pool of the same ten respawning characters who you've already killed. Then plop them in one of about a hundred different potential locations before the game would use procedural generation to assign them a schedule, giving you the option of stalking your prey to find when they're alone.

  1. Better combat.

Fallout 4 was the first time Bethesda really got it right when it comes to combat! Oblivion was only a slight improvement over Morrowind; Skyrim was only a slight improvement over Oblivion. But Fallout 4 was where combat really came into its own.

One of the best improvements with combat in Fallout 4 was the way the damage was diversified. For example, if the raiders were wearing metal armor, you should forgo your ballistic weapons like your 10mm pistol and pipe gun, in favor of energy weapons like your laser musket. But if the raiders were wearing leather armor, the opposite is the case. Meanwhile, many creatures had specific weak spots, the most famous of which is the mirelurks whose underbellies are weakest to ballistic damage while their outer shells are resistant to it.

Meanwhile, the various sizes of guns also added extra depth. For example, the minigun may have a very high base DPS rating, but it got that DPS by having a very high rate of fire, but with low damage per-shot. This doesn't seem like a big deal at first glance, but remember that, in FO4, armor offered protection based on a ratio of incoming damage to armor rating, rather than a straight percentage of damage reduction. This meant that miniguns were actually LESS effective against exceptionally heavy-armored enemies like Deathclaws and power armor clad raiders.

The only weapon types that seemed to be consistently effective across the board were grenades. That's because explosion damage was a different type of damage altogether than gun or melee damage, and the resistances were separate as well (as evidenced by the fact that you could make mods to your power armor to give you such resistances). However, this was balanced by the fact that, with the exception of molotov cocktails - the weakest of all the explosives - every other grenade in the game took a few seconds after being thrown before it finally detonated.

This created a whole new level of strategy to each fight, and forced the player to carry around at least a handful of weapons for a variety of situations they may encounter.

Imagine a similar combat engine in Elder Scrolls 6. Obviously, we can't have guns. But imagine if some tough-skinned enemies (such as argonians) were resistant to bladed weapons like swords and axes, while heavy-built enemies like giants and minotaurs were resistant to blunt weapons due to their stronger bones and extra layers of cushioney muscle? For humanoid NPCs, light armor such as leather or chainmail would improve blade resistance while heavy armor like steel would improve blunt resistance.

Keeping the ratio-based armor system would also provide an incentive to carry around both one-handed and two-handed weapons, instead of following the rule of thumb of "pick a melee weapon type and stick with it." It may even encourage you to keep some of the older weapons since they'd be faster than the daedric or ebony weapons, instead of it being a simple linear upgrade.

In addition, we obviously want location-based damage. It almost seemed like you were planning to implement this in Skyrim, since there's an actor value in the game that's supposed to account for crippled limbs, but it never made it into the final cut. Well, it needs to go into the final cut of TES6.

  1. An FO4-esque settlement system.

Need I say more?

  1. Followers with personalities

This is another one that Fallout 4 did really well, and that I hope will appear in TES6.

When it comes to followers, quality over quantity. Skyrim had about 100 followers, but with a few exceptions, they were all interchangeable. Fallout 4 only had 13 followers (not counting DLC), but each follower was unique. They had their own likes and dislikes. They had their own backstories. They had their own character motivations. Even the typical “hired gun,” MacCready, was still imbued with such depth that I ended up loving him by the end.

This is what I want to see in TES6. I'd prefer at least one companion for each main faction, but the important thing is that each one of them have to have personalities. And no, simply being a drunkard, or have a love for brawling like Uthgerd, does not count as “having a personality.” Preston Garvey would often order stiff drinks while in Diamond City, but that wasn't the entirety of his personality! Cait loves to brawl, but she also has a very deep and complex backstory that made us feel sympathy for her.

More of that please!

  1. Better small talk & a skill-based persuasion system.

Oblivion's persuasion minigame was a complete disaster. This was Bethesda's first attempt to turn the art of persuasion into a skill-based endeavor rather than a luck-based one.

In Morrowind, persuasion was based on a dice roll. You selected “admire” in the persuasion menu, and an RNG would play out to determine whether it increased or decreased the NPC's affinity.

Bethesda, not content with persuasion being left up to chance, decided to try and turn Oblivion's persuasion system into one dictated by the player's skill rather than chance. However, to say that it didn't work out as well as they liked would be an understatement. Oblivion's persuasion minigame would probably tie with Morrowind's luck-based combat system for the most atrocious game mechanic in all TES history.

Skyrim's persuasion skill was a step up from Oblivion's, but that's like saying that being slapped in the face is a step up from being shot.

A lot of fans believe that this is the only way one can simulate conversation in a video game without it being horribly contrived like Oblivion's not-persuasion-minigame. For a while, I agreed. However, I no longer believe that to be the case.

I have recently played a game called “WWE 2k17.” It's a wrestling game, in case you couldn't already tell from the name. That game has a promo system in place, as you can see from this tutorial video:

While your microphone skills (basically the equivalent to your speechcraft skill) dictate how many points you gain or loose for a right or wrong dialogue choice, whether or not you gain or loose points is still dependent on whether you select the right dialogue choice or not. Of course, you also have to cater your dialogue to whatever the audience personality is.

The promo system could easily be implemented in TES 6.

First of all, I would like eight dialogue options, instead of four. You can still keep the dialogue wheel, but instead have it be manipulated with the right thumbstick (while the left thumbstick can be used to back out of conversation). But more importantly, I want each direction on the right thumbstick to consistently correspond to a single dialogue type.

Fallout 4 had this idea to some extent. When you had the option of being sarcastic, that option was always … always … on the left side of the dialogue wheel. The same was true for when you wanted to bargain for more money for a job. But other than that, everything seemed random. Most of the time, the “bottom” dialogue choice (“A” on the Xbox, “X” on the Playstation) would advance the conversation, but not always. When I'm talking to Nick Valentine and discussing the day my son was kidnapped, the dialogue that advances the quest was when I described Kellogg's face … and that was on the right side of the dialogue wheel.

I would prefer the bottom of the dialogue wheel to be the dialogue that actually advances the conversation. If multiple dialogue options can advance the conversation, I'd prefer the bottom to be the “straight” dialogue (that is … the one that is not cynical, not sarcastic, not aggressive; it's just a nice, polite, respectful dialogue to advance the plot).

The left side of the dialogue wheel should always be the persuasion check. If you're accepting a quest, this is where you haggle for money. If someone is withholding information, this is where you try to convince them to open up. For all other NPCs, you could simply demand money from them by robbing them.

The top wedge should ask if they have a job for you. After they've offered you a job, this would also request additional information about the quest you're about to accept (e.g. “What exactly is so special about this scroll you want me to retrieve?”).

The right wedge should reject whatever proposals the NPC is currently offering, and cancel out of the conversation.

The diagonal wedges on this 8-choice wheel would be the miscellaneous “emotion” dialogue choices … sarcasm, cynicism, aggressiveness, and flirtatiousness (useful for trying to get NPCs to go to bed with you).

Whether you react cynical, humorous, straight, or threatening would increase or decrease the NPC's affinity according to what their personality is. For example, Orcs and Nords prefer people who are tough and love to fight, so they might respond well to aggressive dialogue choices. NPCs of the opposite six might respond well to flirtatious dialogue. Wood Elves, Kahjiit, and Argonians would appreciate more sarcastic dialogue. Beggars would like you more if you engaged in cynical responses, and so on and so forth.

This preference for dialogue could also play into your companions' affinity, as well. For example ... suppose I'm accepting a quest. I could have a choice of dialogue options to accept the quest. I could say …

  1. The "straight" choice (e.g. "Don't worry; I'll take care of those bandits for you"),

  2. The "sarcastic" choice (e.g. "So, would you like them with or without their entrails intact?"),

  3. The "cynical" choice (e.g. "By the Nine, can't you guys ever fend for yourselves?!"),

  4. The “aggressive” choice (e.g. “Oh, I'll murder those bandits asses off!”). If you're trying to persuade someone, this could also serve as the “intimidate” persuasion check.

  5. The “flirtatious” choice (e.g. “For you, baby doll, I'll kill a thousand bandits!”)

  6. The “exposition” choice (e.g. “Do you know why these bandits are targeting you, specifically?”)

  7. The “haggling” choice (e.g. “You want me to risk my life against a bunch of bandits … I'll need money for supplies and healing”).

  8. The “rejection” choice (e.g. “No, I don't think it's worth the risk”).

While Dialogue Options 1-5 would activate the quest all the same, different companions would adjust their affinity based on which dialogue option you used.

As far as persuasion is concerned, there's no reason it should be based on chance, but at the same time, it shouldn't be dictated exclusively on your speech skill either. It should be a lot easier to convince my spouse of something than my archnemesis, and yet, in Skyrim, all speech checks were the same regardless of what the NPC's disposition to me was. That makes absolutely no sense.

So here's my proposal on how to do speech checks: For “normal difficulty” speech checks, you can persuade the NPC if their disposition towards you is greater than the “persuasion threshold.” The persuasion threshold is calculated by 100 – Speech. So at 100 speech, you will be able to persuade anybody except those who already have 0 disposition towards you … which makes sense, seeing as you're now a master orator. However, if you start the game with only 5 Speech, you will need to boost the NPC's disposition up to at least 96 to pass a “normal difficulty” speech check. This seems harsh, but remember that, under my proposal, the “correct” dialogue choices can never fail; they only result in smaller disposition boosts at lower speech levels and higher disposition losses for wrong choices. So you can still reliably boost anybody's disposition up to 100 at the start of the game if you know what you're doing; it will just take longer to do so.

That's for normal difficulty persuasion checks. For “very easy,” “easy,” “hard,” and “very hard” persuasion checks, the persuasion threshold would have a multiplier attached to them: -50%, -25%, +25%, and +50% respectively. So, for a very hard persuasion check, you would need at least 34 Speech skill to have a chance at persuading the NPC at all (because 100 – 34 = 66, and 66 x 1.5 = 99, thus requiring 100 disposition; meanwhile, a speech of 33 would place the persuasion threshold at 100.5, requiring a 101 disposition, which is impossible). Meanwhile, very easy persuasion checks would only require 48 disposition to persuade the NPC (because 100 – 5 = 95, and 95 ÷ 2 = 47.5, thus requiring 48 disposition), which should be very easy to get very early in the game, with or without faction membership boosts.

This transitions to my next point …

  1. More options for peace.

The Elder Scrolls is a franchise about adventuring and dungeon-delving. I get that. But then again, there are plenty of gamers out there (myself included) who would love the ability to talk our way through our problems without violence, and not just between city folk, either.

In my No. 5 entry (where I request about 20 minor factions), I provide a link to a requested mod where you can enter conversation with a bandit by approaching with your weapon sheathed. Imagine having to rescue a kidnapped citizen and/or stolen family heirloom from a group of bandits, and being able to negotiate for the hostage's release or the heirloom's safe return! If you're doing a bounty quest against a group of bandits, imagine passing the “very hard” speech check to convince them to turn themselves in, at which point they'll appear in prison for the next couple of days!

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StunnaLiike FiiFii
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Post » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:38 am

You should copy/paste this idea and add it to the Beyond Skyrim General duscussion.
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Felix Walde
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Post » Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:08 pm

It was merged with the Beyond Skyrim thread. It's still in there.

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