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Game News Ken Rolston's RPG is announced. Sorta.

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
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Messages
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Tags: Ken Rolston's RPG

As you may know, Ken Rolston, the creative genius behind super hits like Morrowind and Oblivion, was dragged out of retirement by Big Huge Games to work on a super awesome RPG for "for Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows PC". Yes, in this order. <a href=http://biz.gamedaily.com/industry/feature/?id=16028>Here are the details and an interview</a>:
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<blockquote><b>Ken Rolston, you're a legend in the RPG field, both electronic and paper-and-pencil. Where would you like to take the genre next? What innovations can we expect?</b>
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Rolston: I'm actually a pretty conservative variety of visionary. In addition to our brilliant but secret central premise, and the addition of four or five original amazing major features and implementations we can't Wait to Reveal at a Later Date, I just want to make everything... story, characters, exploration, themes, setting, interactivity, entertainment, world class whacking and looting... just a little more perfect in every way.
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My role model is Tolkien. Create a rich setting with profound themes, then create a varied cast of characters and an epic saga to guide the pilgrim through that setting. It's a simple scheme... but very hard to execute For the Ages.</blockquote>:salute:
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<blockquote><b>As the lead designer on Oblivion, what did you learn about developing for the 360 so that you can make an even better product on that platform this time, or were you frustrated by any of the console's limitations?</b>
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Rolston: The 360 is a wonderful platform. I just want to do a better job of exploiting its many virtues... the Xbox Live achievements, for example.</blockquote>That's what the genre has been missing - more Xbox achievements.
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<blockquote><b>Ken, what kind of feedback have you gotten on Oblivion that you can apply to help make a better RPG with Big Huge Games and THQ?</b>
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Usability. I was shocked to discover how difficult getting started in Oblivion was for some casual gamers, and even for some experienced fans of the genre. And the interface is an amazing triumph in many ways, but still requires way too many clicks and too much of a lifetime spent in 'Menuland.' </blockquote>In other words, Oblivion wasn't dumbed down enough, but Ken is working on it as we speak. Great news!
 

Sovard

Sovereign of CDS
Joined
Sep 2, 2004
Messages
920
Sir_Brennus said:
<b> the interface is an amazing triumph in many ways </b>

He surely is delusional, isn't he? :shock:

He's a visionary. We are renowned for seeing only the perfect idea we had for something, not it's actual execution. We're so focused on the horizon, we fail to see the past and present.
 

Seboss

Liturgist
Joined
Jan 27, 2006
Messages
947
Is this another Codex joke interview?
He sounds like he is the avatar of Bethesda's retardation.
 

Drakron

Arcane
Joined
May 19, 2005
Messages
6,326
No, its a "standard" interview that the Codex ripped.

Its THQ so ...
 

Bossman

Educated
Joined
Dec 16, 2004
Messages
53
<b> the interface is an amazing triumph in many ways </b>

Damn, I want some of that stuff he's smoking, that shit is gooooooood :shock:
 

Lord Chambers

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Messages
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Isn't this the same Ken Rolston people were praising for being the inspiration and spirit of Daggerfall, who, it was said, got pushed to the margins by Todd and Co. when Bethesda sold out? In fact, wasn't there an interview about Rolston's retirement that subtly implied he played little part in Morrowind, almost none in Oblivion, and that he was embarassed by the way Bethesda made those games sucky? Hence the reason for his retirement?

If I'm not mistaken, then take his over-the-top comments with a dose of humor, because he's making fun of Bethesda, not being serious. A line like:
Rolston said:
In addition to our brilliant but secret central premise, and the addition of four or five original amazing major features and implementations we can't Wait to Reveal at a Later Date,
suggests strongly so.
 

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
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Messages
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Lord Chambers said:
Isn't this the same Ken Rolston people were praising for being the inspiration and spirit of Daggerfall, who, it was said, got pushed to the margins by Todd and Co. when Bethesda sold out?
No. Peterson and LeFay.

In fact, wasn't there an interview about Rolston's retirement that subtly implied he played little part in Morrowind, almost none in Oblivion, and that he was embarassed by the way Bethesda made those games sucky? Hence the reason for his retirement?
Yes and no. There was an interview that implied that because Rolston wasn't fully in charge during Oblivion's development, he decided to retire, but he is definitely the one to blame/praise for Morrowind.
 

Hellraiser

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Danzig, Potato-Hitman Commonwealth
Dear lord of all things holy! Oblivion was complicated? We seriously need to issue gaming licenses to people who are intelligent enough to play games. That or send all the idiots to some shit island like Madagascar or trinidad and tobago and then blockade it with a fleet.
 

Oarfish

Prophet
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Sep 3, 2005
Messages
2,511
The Oblivion interface is actually rather good - on the XBox. Shipping the same UI on the PC was lazy.
 

GhanBuriGhan

Erudite
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Aug 8, 2005
Messages
1,170
I hope he means all these comments very different than how I understand them...
 

stargelman

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Funky Bebop Land
Vault Dweller said:
Yes and no. There was an interview that implied that because Rolston wasn't fully in charge during Oblivion's development, he decided to retire, but he is definitely the one to blame/praise for Morrowind.
Yeah. The influence he brought to the series is that idea that every people in the game world has to be the equivalent of some ancient people of Earth, like the Cyrodiil as Romans and all that jazz, that's him.

If I still cared I'd be relieved he's gone. I never liked that particular aspect, and what he wrote about the interface makes me doubt his sanity. Then again he worked for Bethesda for a loooong time.
 

OSK

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I was shocked to discover how difficult getting started in Oblivion was for some casual gamers, and even for some experienced fans of the genre.

What!? How!? I can't believe this. This can't be serious.

Please tell me this isn't serious.
 
Joined
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And the interface is an amazing triumph in many ways, but still requires way too many clicks and too much of a lifetime spent in 'Menuland.

How about making shit movies instead of shit games? I guess one click for "play" and one click for "close" isn`t dumbed down enough. Combining the play and the close button would be a hell of a idea.
 

MountainWest

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It's true. It's hard as hell. I didn't even make it out of the first dungeon. I accidently went into a dead end, and when I reached the wall I didn't know how to turn around. And here's the saddening part: there was no pop-up box telling me how to turn around, no nothing. One would think such a feature would be standard in this day and age. Crappy game. I bet those elitists at the Codex loves it. Oh, and another thing: I tried to shoot these guys on the other side of the room with my sword, but they didn't die and nothing came out of the tip of the sword. Perhaps it was a bug, I don't know. Lolz.
 

Kotario

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Interesting, remember this interview? Deleted and resurrected as it was, it has some information on Ken from Douglas' perspective.
Removed Imperial Library interview with Douglas Goodall said:
Sinder Velvin:
Could you enumerate a few of the design decisions that you disagreed with?

Douglas Goodall:
[. . .]
Also, Ken Rolston and I have very different writing styles. I tend to make plots based on characters instead of starting with a plot outline. I like to make a few interesting characters, put them together, and see where it leads. Everything in Morrowind was designed top-down, and I had a hard time adjusting to that. There were only a few quests where I could give the characters some character.

Ken and I also disagreed on "relativism" and "betrayal," among other things. I appreciate disinformation, but I believe it works best when you know what the truth is. I like to write a true account and then conceal it among carefully designed false accounts. Ken wrote a dozen different accounts, apparently without any personal preference to which, if any, was accurate, and ignored the contradictions. I wanted to have NPCs betray the player in a few quests, but Ken had a "no-betrayal" rule (and some other rules, like "only one coincidence allowed"), which didn't make sense to me. I can't say that I'm right and he's wrong. In fact, I often felt that he was talking past me or over my head. I understood all of his words, but they didn't combine into sentences that made sense to me.

Sinder Velvin:
Can you remember any other rules that Ken Rolston had?

Douglas Goodall:
There were quite a few of them, but since I didn't understand most of them, this is something you ought to ask Ken if you get the chance. The only ones I'm sure I understood were "no betrayal" and "everything must be a metaphor/everything must be based on something."

"No betrayal" meant that key NPCs couldn't turn on the player, lie to the player if they were honest in the past, nor could an NPC steal an item from the player, etc. This is good as a general rule, but it's the kind of rule that begs for exceptions.

"Everything must be a metaphor" is how the quirky Cyrodiil of Daggerfall and the alien Cyrodiil of the Pocket Guide became the Roman Empire, how the Bretons got French names, etc. I felt Tamriel had been moving away from generic fantasy and medieval history with every game until Morrowind. I wanted this trend to continue and resented having to squeeze a Hermaeus Mora-shaped Vvardenfell into a Roman Province-shaped space. I think Ken uses historical examples to make the world more believable. If you just make stuff up, there's a good chance you'll make something wrong and break suspension of disbelief. That's true, but I'd argue that if you use an inappropriate or easily recognized metaphor, you have the same risk. Besides, making stuff up is more fun for both the creators and consumers. Did I mention I enjoy arguing?

I don't want to sound too hard on Ken. In many cases where we disagreed, I think he made a good choice. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but that doesn't mean the Elder Scrolls isn't in good hands. Note that I didn't expect Morrowind to be nearly as popular as it was, at least not among "classic" Elder Scrolls fans, which basically proves me wrong.

[. . .]

Sinder Velvin:
Why did you leave Bethesda Softworks? Was it because of Ken's rules?

Douglas Goodall:
Ah, one of the difficult questions. It was partly due to my constant disagreements with Ken and Todd. "This game isn't big enough for the three of us." I loved the original Elder Scrolls too much to stop arguing in their favor, but I could tell that these arguments were bad for the team and for the game. I spent over a year working 70-100 hours a week, gained about 50 pounds, and had turned into an obnoxious, vitamin-D deficient zombie. My health and sanity were failing. I became someone I didn't like. There were a lot of other factors, but I'm not going to turn this into several hundred pages of real or imagined grievances.

It does have a happy ending. I am now fully immunized against complaining about by job. I've really enjoyed every job I've had since.
 

FrancoTAU

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Yeah, he's the one who didn't allow NPCs to betray you.

He was never the groundbreaking RPG guy, but he's either a terrible PR person or he's mocking Pete Hines.
 

Elwro

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Divinity: Original Sin Wasteland 2
Oblivion's UI does require too many clicks - because the font is idiotically huge and there are few (if any) keyboard shortcuts.
 

elander_

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Oct 7, 2005
Messages
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"Also, Ken Rolston and I have very different writing styles. I tend to make plots based on characters instead of starting with a plot outline. I like to make a few interesting characters, put them together, and see where it leads. Everything in Morrowind was designed top-down, and I had a hard time adjusting to that. There were only a few quests where I could give the characters some character. "

It's amazing that even in PNPs some DMs like to drag their players through a pre-written plot without giving them any freedom. What Douglas is describing is the most faithful way to write for rpgs. Of course that a flexible pre-written plot doesn't hurt and may be necessary to give some consistency to the world.

KR did guilds right in Morrowind. He allowed the player some freedom in refusing certain guild paths and even kill local guild leaders without sacrificing guild progression. Something that was taken away in Oblivion.

They did dispersed themselves too much with Morrowind and they should have done something more like Gothic, instead of wasting time and effort with a million of tiny crappy dungeons.

The world was interesting and had an aura of mystery and magic in it but there were very few interesting characters with interesting lives and problems to solve to tell you how interesting the world was.

Daggerfall characters on the other side, looked much less robotic and showed some traces of personality, which was something amazing considering how minimal the dialog was. I think that it was because they have a day/night/job schedule (also minimal but adds to immersion), they have reactions and will comment on the current player quests that reflect the way the player is doing or has finished it(*), their minimal dialog responses are well written and consistent and they acknowledge when the player is too persistent.

The main quest characters showed some traces of personality in a passive way, because they were well written and also some main-quest paths were optional and had multiple choices. One example, we can either deliver Elysanas trapped cape to an ally of her brother (pretender to the succession of Wayrest) and let him be killed or we can fix the situation and help the guy survive. Each solution will put the player in different positions towards Elysana and her allies and reveal a piece of her character.

(*) This was done by defining inside each quest file a pool of comments that considers each npc class, race, faction and how the player is doing or has finished the quest. This dialog is linked to npcs dialog repertoire for the duration of the quest. During the game certain factions would give clues to the player if they like him enough.
 

Korusus

Novice
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Apr 23, 2007
Messages
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Usability. I was shocked to discover how difficult getting started in Oblivion was for some casual gamers, and even for some experienced fans of the genre.

What the fuck? Why not just let the game play itself for god's sake?

Wow... I'm glad this man isn't working on Fallout 3.
 

cutterjohn

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I'm surprised at those comments as his statement upon leaving Bethesda made it sound like he didn't like what happened with Oblivious at all. The comments certainly don't bode well for a decent RPG, and right now I'm just glad it's a crapbox title for the kiddies and ADD set.
 

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