Thursday, April 06, 2006

Oblivious

As of this past Tuesday night, I am the (somewhat) proud new owner of an XBox 360 (well, actually, it's in transit ATM, but money has been exchanged), and noone is more surprised than I am. I've stated on this site in the past that, while pretty (which doesn't count for much on my aging big-screen), the 360 didn't have much in the way of software that interested me, so I wouldn't be buying one any time soon. However, I also mentioned that I would likely have to buy one eventually, if for no more reason than to play a handful of upcoming Bioware games (which is essentially the role my current XBox assumed for this hardware generation, cross-platform releases aside). Still, I was quite comfortable waiting for a increase in supply (and possibly quality) coupled with a decrease in price. So what happened to prompt this foolishness on my part? Oblivion happened.

For those not aware, Oblivion is an RPG for the XBox 360 (and PC) that is notable for its large, immersive single-player world and its flexible character creation/role-playing engine. Unlike the traditional Japanese-style console RPGs that I spend the majority of my time with, Oblivion is a PC-style role-playing game. I'm not certain that I'm up to the task of describing that distinction properly, but, to make an attempt: Japanese-style RPGs tend to be turn-based 3rd-person affairs with inflexible storylines and pre-defined player characters, while PC-style RPGs tend to be much more open-ended free-roaming real-time 1st-person affairs with player-defined characters. I've never really been fond of PC-style RPGs, and have only spent quality time with two(-ish) of them in my lifetime: Might & Magic 7 for PC and the Ultima games for the Commodore 64. The Ultima games were an early love for me, and some of the first RPGs that I ever played. However, I wasn't really up to a game of that complexity at that age, so play sessions generally degenerated into getting lost and eventually killed in dungeons or robbing the store and getting killed by the town guards as I tried to escape (which, even that long ago, gives you an idea of the flexibility afforded by PC-style RPGs compared to their Japanese counter-parts). So, the only PC-style RPG that I've played that I was of an age to really appreciate was Might & Magic 7, the game which, as some of my friends have heard me rant about at length, stole an entire summer of my life that I'll never get back.

See, I've always described myself as a completist when it comes to my video games. I like to find every bell and whistle, leaving no stone unturned, and am generally not content until I've found and done everything that there is to find and do, regardless of how many hundreds of hours (literally-- these games track time spent, and I've passed the 100 hour mark on many) it takes. And, I'm proud to say, I'm generally quite good at it, even without today's readily-available and oh-so-tempting FAQs. I have a real knack for it, you might say. I was able to "complete" every game that I'd ever played, up until Aiden introduced me to Might & Magic 7, an introduction that I still curse him for to this day. For, you see, Might & Magic 7 destroyed me utterly. The many Japanese RPGs that I'd spent so much time with left me completely unprepared for MM7-- the game was, to me, incomprehensibly broad and deep. I could go anywhere, and do everything, and I could just pick a direction and stumble across a new dungeon, or an island full of monsters guarding treasure. I spent almost every day of that summer (I had it off between years of high school or university-- I can't recall which) in the following manner: get up, play MM7, eat supper, play MM7, go to bed. I was unwilling to admit defeat, so every day, I plugged away at that game, convinced that I was nearing the end. After two solid months spent in this manner, and roughly 400-500 hours of play, I finally, in a moment of weakness, went online and grabbed an overworld map. At first, I thought that I must have gotten the wrong map, but that was just my skewed sense of scale-- I soon realized that I had explored only roughly 1/6 of the game world. I then promptly uninstalled MM7, gave it back to Aiden, and never played it again. I was defeated.

So, given that history, why in god's name do I so desperately want to play Oblivion that I would buy a $500+ console for that sole purpose? I wish I knew. There's just something about the game that demands it be played-- I'm powerless to resist it. It just looks so... fun. So, I've bought it, as well as an XBox 360 (it was either that or a new PC, and I'm pretty attached to my current PC, relic that it is), and, once I finish one of the two games I'm currently playing (I discovered long ago that I can reasonably handle no more than two different games simultaneously, and they must be of different genres, and, even then, it takes some work), I'll begin playing it. I do have a plan in mind to try and prevent a repeat of what happened with MM7. I intend to play Oblivion in moderation over the next year or two while I continue to work through my backlog, one game at a time. If I'm able to stick to this plan, rather than surrendering to Oblivion utterly and playing it non-stop, I think it might work. I'm historically not known for my willpower when it comes to gaming, but I remain optimistic. Time will tell, I guess.

I consulted a few people on this purchase before I made it, and Nathan strongly advised against it-- he couldn't comprehend buying a system for one game (although, incidentally, I do intend to buy at least a few more games for it over its life-span, such as the upcoming games from Bioware and Mistwalker). As I then told him at the time, the funny thing is, this is historically how I make all of my system purchases. When I buy a console, it is with a single game that I must play in mind-- everything else is just icing on the cake. Of all the post-Atari consoles I've owned, from the Sega Master System to the PS2 and XBox, the only console I did not buy to play a specific game was the Gamecube. He suggested that I instead play Oblivion's predecessor, Morrowind, which is affordably priced and for a console that I already own. It would certainly be the smart thing to do. The problem is, that game is 1/2 a decade old, and, to be frank, it just doesn't grab me in the same way that Oblivion somehow has.

One discovery I made with this purchase is that the XBox 360 drought has well and truly ended, which Microsoft has tried to claim is the case for some time now. I had no problem finding a 360, and my wait will be but a matter of days-- and most of that is shipping time. I ended up purchasing my 360 at Amazon, rather than EB, which is where I make the majority of my video game purchases. This is because EB will not sell me the console by itself-- they insist on offering only expensive package deals that come with the system, several games, several peripherals, the kitchen sink, and so forth, ballooning the price to ridiculous heights for the biggest bundles. This is a problem, because I don't want all of that extra crap-- if I wanted to play Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo while frying bacon on the damn thing, I'd have bought one of those bundles at launch. Instead, I waited for games (well, a game, at least) that I actually want to play, and now I just want the console itself (or the Premium version of it, at any rate). Fortunately, Amazon is offering the 360 Premium box (the console, one wireless controller, a headset, a media remote control, 3 months subscription to the online service, and a hard drive, which is needed for backwards compatibility) by itself, for a flat $500 plus tax.

Now, those who know me well might question why I'd want 3 months of the online service, since I generally hate online play, and they'd be right to question. To be frank, I don't want it-- but I need it anyway. You see, the way in which the 360 supports backwards compatibility is through emulation software specific to each game, and that software is downloaded on demand from the online service when an original XBox game is inserted. It's a one-time operation, since the download will be stored locally on the hard drive after I'm done, but in order to play my XBox games on the 360, I'll need to connect to their online service initially. Just don't get me started on the save files for those games-- Microsoft made a specific decision to not support transfer of save files for XBox games to the 360. Bastards. I guess I'll have to keep my eyes out for a work-around-- until then, I'll be hanging on to my old XBox. To sweeten the matter of the online service slightly, there is also downloadable content on offer for Oblivion, at a small cost that has generated no end of debate (I intend to speak at length on this on Smiling Politely in the next couple of days). So, I'll probably make some use of my 3 free months, but after that I may simply cancel it, as I did with my XBox. That being the case, I guess I'll probably need to look into picking up a wireless router sometime soon.

So, anyway, I'm now a XBox 360 owner. I never expected to be an early 360 adopter, but here I am, dubious though the reason may be. It is my fervent hope that I won't come to regret it.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Aiden said...

"I like to find every bell and whistle, leaving no stone unturned"

In Elder Scrolls you can turn the stone over, take the bell and whistle under it, take the dirt, and then the stone if you want. I'm thinking you're going to wish for a bigger inventory or more housing.

Thursday, April 06, 2006 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous NOS said...

I strongly advise avoiding alchemy as a skill. Otherwise you would have a constant incentive to be taking all the dirt, mushrooms and rocks lying around.

And it's not so much a matter of inventory size as it is your capacity to carry the large assortment of junk you will plunder as you wander through a crypt. You will learn to overwhelmingly hate creatures capable of damaging strength, and accordingly carrying many restore strength potions at all times.

Thursday, April 06, 2006 1:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Correct me if I'm mistaken but I thought the Jordan methodology was (and I'm paraphrasing here...), "I don't play the next (read: new) game until I've finished the current one".

That being said, don't you have a huge backlog of games to play before you can even hit the power on your shiny new 360? Furthermore, why not wait until your current list of titles is complete before purchasing the unit? It will no doubt decrease in price by that time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006 1:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Correct me if I'm mistaken but I thought the Jordan methodology was (and I'm paraphrasing here...), "I don't play the next (read: new) game until I've finished the current one".
This is true. I'm weak, I guess? I've got kind of a priority queue going on. First in, first out, except when something merits a high priority and gets shoved to the head of the line.

That being said, don't you have a huge backlog of games to play before you can even hit the power on your shiny new 360?
No, I have a huge backlog of games to play before I should hit the power on my shiny new 360.

Furthermore, why not wait until your current list of titles is complete before purchasing the unit?
Because that is never going to happen (barring the possibility of a debilitating injury in the future that will allow me to sit at home and collect government money). I buy roughly one game a month and finish roughly one game every three months. My only hope is that consoles are still viable when I reach retirement age, and furthermore that I live to see retirement age.

Thursday, April 06, 2006 2:44:00 PM  
Anonymous vern said...

I don't have an obsession for completing games I start; most of them I end up quitting half-way through usually because for some reason or another I stopped playing for awhile and just don't get back into it, partially because I forget so much.

I've tired many times to play morrowind, all unsuccessfully. You described exactly what I think is so interesting about the game itself which is also the biggest hindrance into why I haven't bothered playing it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006 4:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

You described exactly what I think is so interesting about the game itself which is also the biggest hindrance into why I haven't bothered playing it.
You're talking about "opportunity paralysis". Not an uncommon problem.

Friday, April 07, 2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Update: I got my new toy up and running last night, and it is pretty slick. Also, Microsoft, thank you for jamming my new 360 hard drive full of crappy music and stupid videos-- why in hell would I want to use a whole gig of my 20GB drive to watch "The Making of Titanic" or an "extreme" Adidas ad. Suffice it to say, one of the first things I did was delete everything on the drive.

Saturday, April 08, 2006 1:32:00 PM  
Anonymous vern said...

After looking up 1 use of the term opportunity paralysis, yes, it does refer to me and what happens when I play these games, but it wasn't exactly what I was trying to explain. Or maybe it was at the time. In any case, at this point in time, my point is that I don't voraciously play video games anymore generally, and I go for extended periods of time of not playing a game, and so if I either haven't beaten it or mastered the controls and for games where plot and hence play changes, it's too much of a pain to re-learn all this stuff and it beomes tedious, so I don't bother.

Monday, April 10, 2006 2:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Geesh. You're in trouble now,.. I've heard that there are a number of items (like the Invincibility Cloak) that are unavailable in Oblivion if you remove the "The Making of Titanic" from the harddrive.

Thursday, April 13, 2006 3:54:00 PM  

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