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Interview Why Morrowind sucked - the Douglas Goodall interview

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
Joined
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Messages
27,926
Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind; Ken Rolston; Todd Howard

This interview with an ex-Bethesda's developer was originally posted at The Imperial Library TES site, but was removed for reasons yet to be explained. The balance in the universe must be restored, so here is the controversial interview for your amusement:

The thing that surprised me the most was also what disappointed me the most: procedural content. Arena and Daggerfall had more in common with random games (Rogue) than with traditional RPGs (Ultima et al.). Arena and Daggerfall were way ahead of their time, perhaps too far ahead of their time. I felt Morrowind was a step backwards in some ways.

I was also disappointed with the main quest in Morrowind. Frankly, the main quest never made sense to me, and I felt it contradicted too much existing lore. I couldn't get emotionally involved in the main quest or discern the motivations of the key players.

...

I didn't like the combat at all. I won't claim that the "move the mouse to control your sword" combat of Arena and Daggerfall was perfect, but at least it felt interactive. Morrowind's combat was too simplified, too automatic.

I liked the dialogue system on paper, but in practice I think it makes it too hard for players to develop their characters (in a roleplaying sense). I don't like "putting words in the player's mouth," which is what all but the simplest dialogue choices require. But when playing more traditional RPGs, I noticed that I connected with my character more when I had to choose different dialogue responses. Am I playing a goody two shoes? A greedy bastard? Do I always choose the sarcastic response, even if it gets me in trouble? Light side or dark side? Lawful good or chaotic evil? Paladin, Fire Mage, or Mercenary? I felt Morrowind lacked even binary character development choices. I could be very good in Morrowind, and I could be very bad in Morrowind, but I rarely had the chance to tell anyone about it. The game didn't react to me being good or bad, except when I was caught committing a crime.

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.

...

There were quite a few of them (Ken's rules - VD), 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.

...

I disagreed with Todd a lot because Todd and I do not like the same kinds of games. This is not his fault or mine. Whether it is more fun to smash things with a huge axe or coax secrets from obfuscated texts is pure opinion. Whether it's better to play against dice or against an intelligent designer is pure opinion. Frankly, most gamers are more like Todd. It is in Bethesda's best interests to appeal to those gamers, instead of making a game that appeals to me. I selfishly didn't want to work on a game that didn't appeal to me, but that wasn't my job. My job was to work on Morrowind, regardless of whether I liked it or not.
You may find the full version of the interview in this thread. Discuss!

Edit: It appears that Michael Kirkbride was the one who requested the interview to be removed:

Here are the new terms, AS: remove the interview *in its entirety*. All of it. Gone.

Or remove anything submitted by me that hasn't been published by Bethsoft. It's actually quite a lot. Go check. It's mine, it's copyrighted to me, and it's only allowed on your site through my permission.

It doesn't stop there. It won't stop there. I will pursue my own roads to have the rest of your copyrighted material removed, as well.

It's frankly very easy to comply. It's frankly very hard for you to continue with me as an enemy.Michael gets a semi-prestigious "What a dick!" award. Congratulations! Well deserved.
Thanks, Fintilgin & Sinder Velvin
 

Jed

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Ooh, VD--breaking Saint's Paragraph Number rule again. And I'm the one who's locked out of making PMs...
 

HardCode

Erudite
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Aug 23, 2005
Messages
1,138
Personally, I would remove all of that douchebag's shit from the site and keep the interview. Then, tell him to fuck off publicly in place of his removed content.
 

Micmu

Magister
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ALIEN BASE-3
That's funny but nothing surprising.
HardCode said:
Personally, I would remove all of that douchebag's shit from the site and keep the interview. Then, tell him to fuck off publicly in place of his removed content.
I agree. That's how it's done. Until form of "corporate communism" gets fully established in gaming industry, too.
It's not like that TIL site makes money or something.
 

Zomg

Arbiter
Joined
Oct 21, 2005
Messages
6,984
HardCode said:
Personally, I would remove all of that douchebag's shit from the site and keep the interview. Then, tell him to fuck off publicly in place of his removed content.

KB is probably the largest single "stockholder" of the stuff at TIL, and its mission is completely tied into him (since he writes the esoteric shit you need to track with hyperlinked webpages). They couldn't realistically have snubbed him and continued to meaningfully exist.
 

Ellester

Liturgist
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Dec 27, 2004
Messages
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ohio
The sad thing is I don't find this article offensive to Bethseda at all. It's just a difference in opinions. Bethseda made butloads of cash off of Morrowind. Why would they care if a former developer had a different view about the game, or thought they were simplifying the game? So what? It sold and people liked it. That Michael Kirkbride dude took the article a little too far, imo.
 

crpgnut

Augur
Joined
Dec 11, 2002
Messages
337
Location
St. Louis,MO,USA
I love Morrowind and I still agree with several of Doug's points. I didn't see anything wrong with the interview either. The writing style was one of the weak points of Morrowind. The main quest was confusing and extremely boring. The mages guild quests were mind-numbing in some cases.
 

Vault Dweller

Commissar, Red Star Studio
Developer
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Messages
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crpgnut said:
The mages guild quests were mind-numbing in some cases.
How dare you? They were awesome, just ask Steve:

Steve Meister said:
I've been spending some time play testing the Mage's Guild quests, and I'm just astounded by the details: the dialogue, the intricacy of the quests, the sheer volume of information. I was sent on an errand to go find four different types of flowers and bring them back to a guild member. She listed the flowers that she wanted, and then I could click on the name of each flower and I'd get a description of the flower. She also gave me a general idea where that type of flower could be found. Along the way, I passed a fort with torches blazing and guards standing ready; a valley comprised of ancient volcanic materials with twisted trees, rocks and nasty creatures around, and a verdant lake shore with trees, giant mushrooms, stones and boulders dotting the grassy hills, a farmhouse or two (complete with crops), and, after a bit of searching, the flowers I needed. I also met up with a few fellow travelers who had tasks for me as well, if I was available. It truly feels like I'm exploring a real place.
 

jiujitsu

Cipher
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Messages
1,444
Project: Eternity
Morrowind was big. Really big. That's all I can say in it's favor.

But remember, it's not the size of the boat it's the motion of the ocean. :lol:
 

callehe

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Gothic Castle
"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.

Why make a rule like that? It makes no sense at all, in fact it's quite stupid. I hope he who made that rule won't be involved in the design of fallout 3.
 

Fintilgin

Educated
Joined
Feb 18, 2005
Messages
83
Eh. I loved Morrowind. I can see how people might not, but for what it was I thought it was great.

As for Michael "Other People's Opinions Aren't Allowed On MY Internet" Kirkbride[/i]... WTF? Seriously. Jesus. It's laughable to think the interview could have any negative effect on Bethesda or Oblivion. Preaty much the only people who'd ever see it are hardcore Bethesda fans, anyway. In fact I bet more people will read it now then ever would have anyway.
 

Fodel

Novice
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May 20, 2005
Messages
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Location
Spain
It truly feels like I'm exploring a real place.

Agree :D

I wanted this trend to continue and resented having to squeeze a Hermaeus Mora-shaped Vvardenfell into a Roman Province-shaped space.

¿And Telvanni towns or ashlanders camps ? :roll:

I didn't like the combat at all

Nobody likes Morrowind combat, but nobody play MW by combat, would be as idiot as play ToEE by plot, dialogues or npcs.

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.

Wll, I can say he is wrong, the "no betrayal" rule is an excelent way to make boring and lineal plots, as Morrowind.
 

HardCode

Erudite
Joined
Aug 23, 2005
Messages
1,138
Fintilgin said:
It's laughable to think the interview could have any negative effect on Bethesda or Oblivion.

Maybe it's Bethesda's guilty conscience. I mean, they HAVE to know how they fucked things up worse in Oblivion. Something Freudian in there for sure.
 

Jora

Arcane
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Mar 14, 2003
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Location
Finland
Fodel said:
Nobody likes Morrowind combat, but nobody play MW by combat, would be as idiot as play ToEE by plot, dialogues or npcs.
But what else is there to do in Morrowind? Sure, you can decorate your house and collect some spores, mold and fungus, but I wouldn't call those valid alternatives to the main focus of the game which is combat.
 

Proweler

Scholar
Joined
Jun 30, 2005
Messages
203
franc kaos said:
Vault Dweller said:
This interview with an ex-Bethesda's developer

Sorted, I posted this on the TES forums; wonder if I'll get banned? :oops:

Again? :lol:

You missed the point. Beth didn't pull this out of the air. MK did.

jiujitsu said:
Who is Michael Kirkbride and why is he such a "bucktoothed faggot?"

He wrote the 36 sermons and about every other piece of lore that goes beyond the standard background details.
 

obediah

Erudite
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Jan 31, 2005
Messages
5,051
The only valid rules for rpg plot development are:

1: The lvl 977 arch-druid-knight-wizard must never entrust the fate of the world to a lvl 1 character because everyone (including the level 9 bartender) is busy. However if he/she does do it, some comedy points are gained by having that character just stand in the same spot doing nothing until the game is completed.


2: Never-Ever-Ever make a reference to the computer the player is using. "Hello person with convenient amnesia. Press the 'L' key to find out about the exciting task I have for you." ack-barf-hack I feel dirty just typing it.
 

roguefrog

Liturgist
Joined
Aug 6, 2003
Messages
516
Location
California, USA
I don't understand why he (Michael Kirkbride) would be so butthurt over this interview. He doesn't even get trashed in it. In fact it paints him out to be a positive force behind Morrowinds development. And to think he didn't even work there at the time...

That's completely asinine!
 

Drakron

Arcane
Joined
May 19, 2005
Messages
6,326
Still is rather a ... insane stand since the most visible target of that interview was Ken Rolston, Todd takes flack too but I dont see Mr. Michael Kirkbride even being mentioned.

Besides going after a fan site because they dont like a interview is one of the worst PR someone can do because missing content gets spotted real fast, its always a small world and word will spread like fire and its really makes the sites distrusting of the company if the staff does not shut down the site on principle alone.
 

Proweler

Scholar
Joined
Jun 30, 2005
Messages
203
Michel Kirkbride and Ken Rolston can get around pretty good together. Atleast so I heard in the laundry mill.
 

MrSmileyFaceDude

Bethesda Game Studios
Developer
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Kirkbride hasn't worked for Bethesda for about 5 years. I think he's on the West coast somewhere.
 

Proweler

Scholar
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Messages
203
And yet he is still writing Lore. The real source of the problem.
 

Fodel

Novice
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Messages
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Location
Spain
But what else is there to do in Morrowind? Sure, you can decorate your house and collect some spores, mold and fungus, but I wouldn't call those valid alternatives to the main focus of the game which is combat.

Choose mods 100%, explore 75%, roleplay 20%, TES lore 5%.

+300 hours of great gaming :D
 

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