I think Jay and I lost approximately 36 hours this past weekend. Not because we were drunk (we were, of course, it’s the weekend, right?), but because we have a new XBOX 360 and a used copy of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
The game is fucking crack.
I’m an old school adventure gamer. Monkey Island, Sam & Max, those CSI and Law & Order games…that’s my gaming poison of choice. I hate playing games that require any manner of hand-eye coordination on my part, however I’ll happily spend hours watching Jay play Marvel Ultimate Alliance, or Crackdown, or anything else that lets him jump over buildings and punch hookers in the face (his two biggest fantasies brought to life!). I like to assist with helpful suggestions such as “I’m pretty sure that secret key is two screens back, you know, right before the huge abyss with the skull-fucking zombies that took you 45 minutes to time out the jump across.” or “It’s left bumper, right trigger, X and then B! But do it faster!” When Jay tries to thank me for all my help by tossing the controller at my head with an exasperated “FINE! Why don’t you try it if it’s so goddamn easy then?” I naturally demur, reminding him that if I can’t point-and-click my way to victory, or if there is the slightest chance my character could die in any way…I just don’t want to play.
Which is why Elder Scrolls IV is pretty much custom made for a happy Pacheco-Pinkerton household.
The first few days we had the XBOX, I actually spent more time on it than Jay did. He had a huge stack of “research” to play, but I’d discovered the facial customization section of Elder Scrolls, and spent about 12 hours painstakingly crafting every vector to make my character look exactly like me. Which led to even more scintillating discourse:
”Jay, does my nose look right?”
“You know, most people try to…how to put this delicately…make their character look better than themselves.”
“But I want it to look like me. How big do you think my nose should look? Do I need to make it bigger?”
“…Fuck. There’s no way out of this for me, is there?”
Despite realizing I’d just forced my husband into a marital minefield, I compounded the issue and handed him the controller.
”Here, YOU do my nose for me.”
Eventually I declared my character close enough (Imperial Bard under the Lady’s sign that TOTALLY looked like me), and Jay stopped sweating and swearing quietly under his breath. I played for about 20 minutes before calling it a day, as the box of wine I’d been using as “inspiration” was getting dangerously light. The next weekend Jay created his own character, a custom job “Thief Mage,” because Jay wanted to steal a lot of stuff and do magic (his third and fourth top-rated fantasies).
Jay took about 3 minutes to customize his character’s face, mainly because I convinced him he needed to use the cat thing, since they make really good thieves. I think he just slapped a beard on it or something. We assured each other that this did not make us Furries. We also soon realized we made the perfect Elder Scrolls team.
“Jay! Press “X” to take all the contents of the crate!”
“That crate only had an onion and some yarn.”
“I KNOW! You might need that. You can at least sell it.”
“The onion is only worth one gold, I’m already over-encumbered, and the yarn is useless.”
“You don’t know that. What if there’s a knitting quest coming up?”
My obsessive adventure gaming experience had me convinced that EVERYTHING you find in a game will be essential at some point. And my tight-fisted, money grubbing ways convinced me that anything non-essential could be sold for fabulous piles of gold. Meanwhile, Jay was smartly slashing, stabbing, and spell-crafting his way through assorted trolls, bandits and pirate ghosts, racking up enormous amounts of expensive loot.
The thing about Oblivion, it’s fucking huge. With Jay working in the video game industry now, we’re both gaining a new understanding of just how much work it takes to craft a game that has a few hours of game-play, much less a completely open-ended world with seemingly limitless quests and possibilities. I really can’t even begin to comprehend how the hell they made this thing. You’ve got an entire continent to explore (plus add-on packs), and every time you say “hi” to a beggar on the street, or talk to some Orc in a tavern, you get a new quest you can go on. You pretty much get six new quests just in the course of completing ONE task. And we haven’t even started tackling the main story quest.
“Ooh, Jay, you wanna go find those six bottles of rare wine in the old abandoned forts? That lady at the inn said she’d give us a good reward for them.”
“Um, actually I’d rather go kill that vampire monster that’s been haunting the old abbey, and then ascend to a higher thief level by robbing the castle.”
It’s pretty mind-boggling. The game lets you be whatever you want, do as much or as little as you want. Wanna fight? You’re set. Wanna live quietly and start a store, or buy a house, or wander the countryside looking for rare mushrooms? You’re set. We take turns playing Jay’s character now (I quickly abandoned my painstakingly crafted “Wago the Wanderer”). Jay does all the hard stuff, and when he takes a bathroom break or needs a smoke, I swoop in and do all the things he finds mind-numbingly boring.
“Hey Jay, I totally upped our personality level by talking to that priest for 20 minutes!”
“That’s great, honey. I’ma go slaughter some trolls now.”
On Friday night we went to bed early – long day of work for Jay, long day of drinking and playing with the dogs for me (my life is hard). While laying in bed, I suddenly realized that if we equipped the “Eye of Fear” as a hotkey, we could totally get past the corrupt merchant and legionnaire that were camped out in the old abandoned crypt. I tried to wake up Jay to let him know, to which he responded “zzyeahthatzgreatmmphzzz.” But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I finally got up, snuck quietly out of the bedroom, and totally whomped said merchant and legionnaire. Then I decided I’d go back to all the houses and stores that Jay had already been through and clean them out of all the penny-ante crap Jay thought he was too good steal the first time around. “A box full of pick-axes worth 5 gold that takes up half our inventory? YES GUY!” “Quest to wander aimlessly all over the massive countryside to find 10 roots that will make a potion that’s totally useless for our character? I’m IN!”
Eight hours later Jay wandered into the living room in search of coffee, and found me staring at the T.V. screen, meticulously harvesting shadow-stain root caps, or some such nonsense.
“I’ve leveled our alchemy stats up to 15!”
“That’s…good? Don’t you need to, you know…sleep or something?”
“Just as soon as I’ve found six more slaughterfish scales! I’m pretty sure I can collect them all if I just search the river bed for another three hours!”
After that, everything got a little hazy, and apparently I stumbled blindly in to bed, still muttering about going back the Cheryodil and getting that last box of yarn.
Anyway, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Good game.