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Weekender: Arrow's Path

Are map markers and location hints counterintuitive to the core concept of the open world game? Bengt investigates the problem as the rest of the team discuss their weekend gaming plans.

"As the end approaches in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim there are a few things that have got us thinking hard about where the genre is heading. The dilemma of magical arrows or the golden breadcrumb trail of the Fable series is that it allows the player to complete quests without actually listening to dialogue, read books or paying attention to why they are doing something, and thus robbing the player of the full experience.

It's safe to assume that a lot of focus group testing has gone into the design of Skyrim's quest arrows and quest design. The problem is that what's easy and accessible isn't always a benefit to the player. The need to ask around and gather clues is for the most part done away with in Skyrim. You activate a quest, head towards the arrow, talk to whoever it points to or pick up whatever item the arrow points to, and then head back to whoever gave you the quest. It's an efficient way of completing a quest as once you've explored the map you can fast travel back and forth and complete objectives very quickly.

Weekender: Arrow's Path
Paying attention to dialogue or just follow the arrow. The choice is yours in Skyrim.

Another issue with the quest design in Skyrim is the way your journal is crowded with quests that are activated by simply hearing something or accidentally asking about something. I think there is room to improve how this works without always giving things away. The quest you're given to evaluate a mysterious gem that leads you into the Thieves Guild is a perfect example of where the designers wanted to give players a surprising twist, but it turns out to be a little bit annoying. Why can't I find out what this gem is without helping some guy pin a crime on someone else? If you just follow the arrows, you may not care, but it's an interesting dilemma.

Much of my experience in Skyrim has been that of an adventurer without a plan. Looking for dungeons, places of interest, and possible quests outside of the cities. And the world on offer here is tremendous. And perhaps the cure for the almighty magical arrow is to sometimes just roam freely in Skyrim and stumble upon adventures that way. Mixing both playstyles will allow you to write your own adventure, and I also suggest stopping for a second or two to read notes and diaries left by fellow adventurers or foes when you're out and about. These stories really help the somewhat short and to the point storytelling, and expands the experience in a more pleasing direction.

The direct opposite of this is naturally Dark Souls, and perhaps that's not the solution for a game like Skyrim, and I don't think we want to ask around for information like we did in Shenmue ("I see"), but surely players who set out to play Skyrim for a hundred hours or so could be tasked with doing some digging around for information themselves.

And to those who think we've gone mad. We still enjoy Skyrim. Very much so, but there are issues with how quests are being handled and how accessibility may have been given too much priority."

The Weekend Playlist:

Weekender: Arrow's PathWeekender: Arrow's Path

Gillen: Riddler, Riddler, Riddler. When will it ever end? I'd never guessed I'd still be writing about my Arkham City playthrough in November, let alone two weeks into 2012. I finally found and saved the last hostage from the villainous side-quest in a admittedly amazing death-trap that I felt assured was the climax of the story.

But not so: Riddler's off the radar again with only the tease that I've got to find all 440 trophies around the city - I'm depressingly far from that still - before the proper, final showdown. I've still need to patrol the streets though: two other side story-lines - Hush and Azrael - are still incomplete. That glaring omission, despite having glided over the entire city, is starting to make online game guides looks mightily tempting....

Mike: I'm throwing myself into the world of PC gaming this weekend. There's more fun to be had in The Old Republic, that will be my first point of call that's for sure. I've got a couple of sessions earmarked for some extended play, essential if you're going to get the most out of a game like Bioware's force-wielding MMO.

But I'm also going to spend some more time with The Settlers Online beta. It's my first significant foray into the world of browser gaming; something I've steered clear of in the past. I'm coming to many of the conventions for the first time, and there's a lot to take in, but it's already shaping up to be infuriatingly addictive. I'll let you know more once I've got a few days play under my belt.
12:55

Bengt: With the upcoming move I've got all my games boxed up, but Skyrim still spins in the Xbox 360 so I'm likely to get back on to the College of Winterhold questline. I'd really like to find some more shouts as well, may have to resort to guides for that. Apparently there are supposed to be 20 different ones, and I'm holding firm at 12.

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