Empires, Theft, and Just Wandering Around Picking Stuff Up

The fact that Elder Scrolls Online has finally come out of beta reminded me of one of my favorite things about gaming: picking stuff up.  It’s something that I’ve seen done in different ways in different games – in Terraria, for instance, you can find pitchers, vases and chests all over the place, and pretty well clean out dungeons for decor for your house (done a lot of that).  MMORPG’s have shifted this around to pure crafting, where you can’t even raid Goblintown in LOTRO unless in the dungeon iteration (I guess yeah, Tolkien might have had a thing about theft even despite his main character of The Hobbit being a Burglar).  GW2, as different as it tries to be from MMO’s, goes along with this concept and still just lets a person craft via picking up plants, killing animals, or digging metals.   But, TESO’s forerunner, the extremely popular Elder Scrolls series, allowed a Player to actually take things from houses.  Yes, yes you could.  I wasn’t the greatest fan of the little bit I’ve played of Morrowind or Oblivion, but that was my favorite thing to do by far – I could take things to my heart’s content from homes (as long as I didn’t get caught), even steal the house from an owner (if I killed him or her).  Oh yeah, that was great!  It reminded me of doing that in Albion, wherein yes, you could take everything and sundry from those weird homes, though in that game nobody blinked an eye when you did so.   How much of that do I want to have in my games?  A fair amount.  (Ok a lot).  I know I’m not the only player who loves to take stuff from places – I’ve read about how during the beta for TESO it was hard because everybody and his brother was looting every place they could.  Why?  Players have differing reasons for this kind of thing.  To some, it’s for getting money – either from stealing itself or from selling the stuff they’ve stolen – to others it’s just “because it’s there”.  I know there are those who do it because of prestige, or because there are certain things that they want (gear, decor, etc).  And there are other reasons I can’t think of just now.  When you’re playing something, what do you loot and why?   Now, in “Nikria’s Menace”, the story’s straight-forward enough, with a few twists and turns, but I want the Player to have a few things he or she can pick up if they want.  Granted it’s more of a Zork than a Wow sort of game, being text adventure, but you can still pick  stuff up in Zork.  And, like in Zork, all or most of that stuff is useful somehow.  (lol no vendor trash here). The Ghlaanan Empire is big, very big – as far as it stands, the Player won’t see all of it – and I dunno if Player ever will see any more of it than with this one.  However, I do have a list just now of stuff the Player can pick up or get from this or that merchant.  Same when Player gets to Shiend, though there it’s of more a steampunk-like slant, where the Player picks up silver polish to get rid of rust spirits, that sort of thing. Theft?  Do I want theft?  I’m not so sure, at least I know I don’t want it for this game.  The Soul Gardens, I could see it happening there.  How to implement it?  How to control it?  Not so sure there either.  I recall hearing about Age of Wushu taking this idea to the extreme, where you can apparently not only steal from other players, you can kill them – while they aren’t online!  That’s not where I want to go myself, so… somewhere in between, maybe?  It’s something to think about for future games, yeah.  What do you guys think of theft/looting in games?  To what extent do you want it in a game?  Why?  How much or how little do you think is too much (or too little)?

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One Response to Empires, Theft, and Just Wandering Around Picking Stuff Up

  1. audiophilegamer says:

    Interestingly enough, the Something Awful website covered this subject with a term affectionately referred to as “Asshole Physics”: http://www.somethingawful.com/news/asshole-physics-manifesto/

    It’s mostly humorous, but it speaks to how even seven years after the article was written, we’ve really only scratched the surface as to what terms like immersion and interactivity really mean. Silly things like the command “HELLO SAILOR” in Zork are as much a part of the setting of a game as a house or a tree, begging the question of how it can be possible for a game like Oblivion to struggle with matching the same level of interactivity as a game over 30 years old. The answer is that realistically, it can be done. You just have to code it so an NPC can perceive when an object has been added, removed or altered by someone else (like in Thief or the Splinter Cell games). To its credit, Oblivion has a system for selling stolen goods to fences, and a dim thief who steals an item from a shopkeeper and then tries to sell it back to them gets dealt with very harshly. The problem is that when you only have a finite amount of time and space, developing concepts that aren’t directly a part of the game tend to get pushed aside or saved for DLC.

    I prefer games where choices mean something, even if that means interactions are limited, but meaningful. For example, The Stanley Parable offers a very engaging narrative (“story” or even “game” is perhaps a bit too strong for the allegory-driven, essay-like presentation) without offering the player much more than the ability to move and press buttons. In other words, if I have the ability to steal something, I want to see a meaningful consequence if I fail (not hard to do in games where fighting is common) and a meaningful reward if I succeed. An alarm should be raised if a guard notices the crown jewels on a pedestal suddenly missing on a patrol. Normally silent guards should start questioning passers-by the next morning. And so on. In other words, I want to feel like anything I do is part of the world, whether it’s slaying the big evil dragon or building a tower from nothing but plates.

ooh, messages from aliens!

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