Week of April 3rd: The Elder Scrolls IV: Cocaine Addiction Fantasy Land
Then came Oblivion.
If I look to my left right now, at this very moment as I type this, I see Grandma cycling through some dialogue options solving one of the many mysteries of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. She quietly navigates the cities and roads, talking, searching, killing, stealing, learning; and I quietly sit here waiting for her to explode into a terrifying rage that can otherwise only be seen in the withdrawal wing of the Betty Ford clinic. It's as though both of us are holding our breath; watching some poor child trying to cross a mine field. We love that kid, he's a good kid. This kid has great graphics and gameplay, an expansive environment, interesting and moving stories, great voice acting, let's face it- this is one fantastic, cool little boy. But god dammit why did Bethesda Softworks forget to clear the mines from the field before releasing the child from his cage?!
It's just bad parenting, plain and simple.
Allow me to explain: Oblivion has several now infamous glitches that can literally prevent you from advancing a story; real game killers, these. You want to explore the depths of The Mages Guild, discovering what lies within Arcane university and what it is to experience true power? TOO BAD, DIPSHIT!! On this PARTICULAR save, the game has decided that you never will. So... start over and try again. Maybe it'll happen; we're not saying. So you want to go the Fighter's Guild route instead, you say. You CAN'T DO THAT EITHER. The solution? Try starting a new game, invest another 30 hours getting your character up to level and hope the glitch has reset itself.
Look how much it costs to develop, release and distribute a game. It's staggering. The price of the game reflects the amount of work; coding, mapping, debugging, drawing, recording, etc., that goes into it. $60 US isn't a whole lot of money, even though nowadays we look at particular flavors of Ramen noodle soup as "gourmet selections." When it comes down to it, it's a bargain for all the work that goes into a great game. For a shitty or mediocre game, we look to the bargain bins at the local gas station, happily plopping down a couple of fivers to make fun of Shamu's digital effigy. I can think of one game off the top of my head the violated the class distinction cost/shittyness ratio- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
The similarities are SCARY. BioWare is one of the good guys; Grandma's liked what she's seen and gets the feeling that they truly work hard to make games great. The same could be said of Bethesda Softworks. KOTOR was compelling, beautifully done, and well worth the hype its fanbase works to expand. Again, the same thing could be said for Oblivion.
Want to get depressed? Do a Google Search for "Carth Glitch."
(Strangely enough, after doing it myself I find that we're on the first page of the search results. ....It's a god damn SIGN or... SOMETHING.)
Those of you who are familiar with the Carth Glitch are probably also familiar with its consequences, and perhaps you even have the scars to prove it. Maybe there is a patched up, repainted hole in the dry-wall of your living room where an XBox S-Controller once landed a bit too quickly. Maybe there is an unsent angry letter to BioWare sitting in a shoe-box along with your college student handbook and tuition loan agreement forms which you thought might earn you a visit from armed men in black suits if actually sent through the post. Maybe you named your dog Carth and kick him for no reason other than to satisfy your need for Dark Side completion and vengeance.
Whatever your ways of dealing with the pain of witnessing a beautiful game like KOTOR become ruined by a glitch, you also found, via forums and blogs (and from BioWare themselves) a work-around that, while not perfect, allowed you to continue with the story. Unfortunately, Bethesda Softworks hasn't released any hint of a work-around or even a console-functional path via XBox Live or SOMETHING to allow you to complete the game to its fullest extent without first killing yourself so that you may enter an afterlife where all things are possible. At the moment, becoming an omnipotent spirit in a land of milk and honey appears to be the only way out of this less of giving up your level 20 Battlemage and starting all over with a new character, and even THEN there are no guarantees.
There are so many bugs in Oblivion on par with the Carth Glitch, it's depressing. You folks know Grandma, so you can probably guess what she had to say upon the discovery of such a glitch first hand. Grandma displays her emotions in a very subtle way, see if you can tell how she's feeling.
"What the FUCK?! THERE'S NOTHING HERE!!!! I'VE BEEN HERE FOR TWO GOD DAMN HOURS looking over EVERY FUCKING ROCK, EVERY FUCKING CRACK IN THE FLOOR, SEARCHING EVERY FUCKING BONE EXHAUSTING VERY FUCKING... POSSIBILITY AND THERE IS NOTHING FUCKING HERE!!! Look, SEE?! THERE's the marker. It SHOULD be in this room, but I can't find a GOD DAMN THING. I went back! I talked to EVERYONE to see if SOME conversation option would do SOMETHING!! Then I came back and what do you know: FUCK-ALL!! If I don't complete this quest, I can't advance in the Fighters Guild. If I can't advance in the guild, I don't know what happens. If I don't know what happens, WHAT'S THE FUCKING POINT?! Am I just pressing buttons for the hell of it?! Shit, if I wanted to press 'A,' 'Left Trigger,' 'Up' all day I COULD, and I wouldn't have to spend SIXTY FUCKING DOLLARS TO DO IT!! FUCK!!
You can avoid one of the major glitches, so here's what we've figured out about the "Vidkun in a Motherfucking WELL" quest, otherwise known as the "Cheydinhal Mages Guild Recommendation Circle Jerk Glitch":
Do NOT approach the Cheydinhal Mages Guild for a recommendation until your Alteration is at LEAST 25. If you talk to the people, find out you can't use the Buoyancy spell because your levels aren't up, then go level yourself up for a while and come back- you're FUCKED. Here's why: from what we understand, bodies disappear after three days. It's just how the game is. It's not too big of a spoiler to know the poor bastard is dead down there, but that clock begins once you go down that well for the first time and try using that spell. If you climb back out, it's over. You can't restart the quest, you can't clear it from your active quests list and you can't progress any further. Similarly, the Harlun's Watch Quest for Fighter's Guild advancement wields similar results, although it took me three different characters with three different new games before what was supposed to be there actually appeared.
The game is EXCELLENT, if it wasn't for the glitches; and that's why this story is so sad. It could be such a wonderful game; SCREW the long load times and occasional cache crashes, it's a BIG game, that shit HAPPENS. If you save often that sort of bug is tolerable. But these plot-ending bugs afford only one response from Grandma, one piece of advice for all of you who have yet to buy it: "Wait."
Wait for Bethesda to respond to the thousands of folks who are desperately trying to play a game they would love, but can't. Wait for a patch or a fixed version to be released. Put it off; don't fool yourself watching the XBox Live friends list grow with more players to think everything is better. After it's fixed, it might very well be THE game for the XBox 360 for 2006. Not everyone is experiencing these problems, but from a quick glance at the Bethesda's forums we can tell it certainly isn't rare, isolated problems either.
Until then, the rest of us, those of us who have picked up a copy and begun the downward spiral into addiction will have to keep playing with new characters and multiple saves, because we're already pulled in; we're hooked. We'll have to suffer the random crashes, the dialogue mismatches, the people of Bruma walking around in the sky, disappearing NPC's, load freezing, quests gone uncompleted, training abruptly ended, all on cool, well performing XBox 360's running on immaculate disks, free of scratches. Grandma and I BOTH have separately witnessed all of these instances using two different copies of Oblivion (one rented and one purchased; yes I know, "fool me twice- shame on me" and all that) on two different XBox 360's.
We'll suffer it, all right. If we see a good friend who means the world to us all coked up and sleeping in a puddle of piss and vomit on the street, we HAVE to take him in. It's just our nature as enablers. We both LOVE Oblivion, but- and this goes especially for Grandma, the huge glitches are keeping us from truly enjoying it.
[We're answering all the questions you folks asked in the past in a video, that (among other things) is what's taking so long, I apologize for the delay. Thanks for being patient with us folks!]