[As I mentioned several days ago, I am going to try to write out some short essays in the morning before I go to work for the next month or so as a way to get some extra writing in each day. This essay will be about some thoughts I’ve had on the use of Magicka in the game Oblivion and how I think Skyrim could learn from things.]
The most obvious thing about Magicka in Oblivion is that it is is pretty much everywhere. I have written down to get back to going into major detail about the origin — or lack thereof — of Magicka in the world of Oblivion, but spending just a few hours with the game will make the player aware of the presence that Magicka exists in the game. From being given spells at the beginning of the game to the fact that the player must fight off skeletons and zombies, the idea that “magic” runs this world is ever present. Given that, I would think that more time would be spent integrating it into quests.
I know that freedom of choice is a major aspect of the game. The developers wanted to give any type of player the options to complete any fighting instance any way they wanted. You can join the Mages Guild and get through its quests with just fighting techniques. In fact, though I have not tried it myself, you could probably get through the whole game with potions and hand-to-hand fighting, leaving swords and magicka at the sidelines. You can also go through the Fighters Guild quests with relying magicka. My point then is that options are the ever present diving factor. To solve any situation, the player must be able to choose and then act on any style of combat.
And I’m not knocking that. I think it is important to have different styles of play. I’ve written a great deal about that in the past. Still, I have been thinking about ways that the use of Magicka could be used to create very unique situations, special instances of narrative.
The first thing that comes to my mind is to take the player to another place, one that is not in Cyrodiil. Some of the more interesting quest destinations I have seen in the game in my sixty plus hours of play have been those that have taken the idea that this world is a fantasy and extended it more toward the fantasy than the world part of that phrase. Noticeably, the Through A Nightmare, Darkly was very good at taking the player into the dreamworld of another NPC. I also liked the final area of Tears of a Savior. I want more of going into a place that is vey high fantasy. If Magicka, and Mysticism especially, can change the perception of the way the player views the world through the player’s eyes, play with that idea. Take the character to a strange place. Not just Shivering Isles weird but, to steal an idea from a later game, Walking With Spirits different.
Here are some suggestions:
- Bizarre dimensions.
The Daedra and Aedra should not think as Men or Mer do. Show us that — the Shivering Isles is a good start
- Change Perception.
As with Walking With Spirits, have the character consume some potion or use a special spell that will show the player something or someone that is not there. Many mysticism spells say they change the view of the world. What if a NPC used that idea for more than just invisibility?
- Make something up.
In equal step with the perception change, allow the player to use the skill of Illusion on some grander scale than just on the character. What if a NPC had created some large via their own Illusion mastery? What if the player had to “pretend” to be someone use, via the use of Illusion, for some extended part of a quest?
If you can change the perception of a situation, via potion or spell, can you change some aspect of a person? It would seem from the necromancy quests that the dead can be raised. From the use of conjuration skills, creatures can be summoned to the side of the character. But what if some aspect of a person or animal was changed permanently. I’m thinking along the lines of K’skar and his near-constant invisibility in the Burma Mages Guild.
What if you could change someone’s mind? It seems you can hide things from them — Chameleon and Invisibility — but what if you change alter their mind for some goal? Charm spells seem to raise the deposition of people around you. You can ever bribe them into liking you. What if you could take that even farther?
- Love Potion/Spell.
This was what I first thought about in the line of changing minds. Can you, among the rules of Magicka, make someone love another person? Some googling produced this quest which, while not an official quest, matches what I was thinking about. There also seems to be this Morrowind quest. The idea that affection could be artificial is sufficiently worrisome to produce good quests.
- Adding a bit of Racism.
Talking to Argonians or Khajiit often produces borderline racist — xenophobic? specist? — responses from them. What if you could add that to a NPC? Making one faction fight or hate another could produce some very interesting narratives bits.
- Forget me — what?
Although close to the previous segment, I think it would be quite interesting to make people lose some amount of emotion or experience. Playing through the Thieves Guild will point out that the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal is actually cursed to remove whomever wears it from everyone’s mind and even from books — via “The Gray Cowl”: “Whosoever wears it shall be lost in the shadows. His true nature shall be unknown to all who meet him. His identity shall be struck from all records and histories. Memory will hide in the shadows, refusing to record the name of the owner to any who meet him.” Taking a memory from the character or a NPC could produce quests to replace or recover any lost relationships.