The Mumbles Problem

Hey everyone this is Mumbles on NICK’S BLOG!!

Well, I guess the cat is out of the bag. I’ve started my new video series that we’re hosting here on Digital Gumballs. It’s about video games. And the problems they can have. I made my first video about Skyrim because the complete lack of what I want in a roleplaying game really got under my skin. It’s funny because I played the game a lot, even if the whole time I knew my choices didn’t totally matter as much as I wanted them to.

Anyhow. Watch, share, subscribe. Thank you so much to everyone who has already watched it and commented. You guys are awesome.


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37 responses to “The Mumbles Problem

  1. I love the poison apple story at the end.

    But I’m eyeing my dried apple cookie bars a little suspiciously now…

  2. I totally agree with all the points you made in the video. Skyrim gives you a lot of superficial choices — which factions do you want to join, do you want a pet, do you want a horse, which house do you want to live in, who do you want to marry — but when it comes to shaping your character’s personality and morality, there’s just no depth. The game is full of contradictions in that respect. You can marry Mjoll the Lioness even if you’re in the Thieves Guild. If you’re an Imperial soldier who’s also in the Dark Brotherhood, the big kill to finish the DB quest line just makes no sense.

    I really like your idea of having other quest line choices, like putting an end to the Thieves Guild with Mjoll! That would have been awesome. I wanted to destroy the DB at first, but that’s just one quest with less loot, so I decided to join. It was a little silly.

    I’m also nerdy about creating a realistic character. It’s just like when I read a book or watch a movie… It would totally bother me if the main character could do completely contradictory things with no consequences. But yeah, like you, I still love Skyrim… I just wish it had better RPG elements!

    • IFS

      Oh man, having a series of quests where you hunt down each brotherhood assassin in turn to destroy the DB would have been awesome! For that matter a lot of the guilds could have used opposing factions or alternate plotlines, for example if I want to play a magic hating character there could have been a questline where you rally the people of winterhold into a mob to drive out the mages that they are convinced sank their city so long ago.

    • Hitchmeister

      Personally, I would love it in a game like this if your decisions had more impact, even if it just meant you were locked out of some content. Joining the thieves guild would preclude you from other things, accepting the title of Thane from one Jarl, meant that you could never be fully accepted by another one that hates him, that sort of thing. The way the game is designed now, they want to make sure you can do everything in every game. More logically, you should only be able to do maybe a third or a quarter of the possible quests and factions on any given character. That gives re-playability. I can only think of one real choice, Imperials or Stormcloaks (and a handful of sub-choices deriving from that), and even then it doesn’t really change much, except what color armor the guys you kill wear.

      Of course, this is not unique to Skyrim, it’s pretty much the standard in games these days. Exceptions to the rule are definitely exceptional.

      • Robyrt

        The trouble is that players really hate being permanently locked out of content, especially when they are not warned about it ahead of time. Even Dark Souls, famous for having real in-game consequences, added the ability to “pardon your sins” to reset the behavior of NPCs your previous actions had angered. (Probably because it can be difficult to complete the game if the crafting vendors all attack you on sight.)

    • The destroy the DB quest is pretty much absolute bare bones too. The fact that they couldn’t toss in something similar for other factions like the theives guild or the companions (if you aren’t big on werewolves) just boogles the mind.

      It’s like a week before the game was finished bethesda gave it to one playtester for their traditional 20 minutes of QA, and he got as far as “So, uh, how do you kill off these evil dark brotherhood guys?”

      To which I can only assume that the writers were left completely dumbstruck by the idea that someone would want to hurt any of their lovingly crafted characters.

      • The sad part is that, at least for the Companions, there was already a faction directly opposing them. They could have allowed you to join the werewolf hunters instead (I wouldn’t have, but the option would have been cool).

        You could easily draft up excuses to oppose the Thieves’ Guild. By there nature, they have tons of enemies. There was even one in Riften who opposed them. A character I liked, even.

        The College might be tricky, but you could play up the native’s hatred of magic. Maybe allow the players to convince townspeople from across the land to storm the place.

        These could all have made it better for role-playing. Then again, RPing has always been a weak point for Bethesda.

  3. Manny

    Congrats on starting your own video series! I knew something good would come out of the additional free-time.

    I very rarely have the urge to do proper role-playing in this kind of games, so this was kinda a new look on Skyrim for me.

  4. I was right up with you until New Vegas was mentioned and the background became New Vegas WITH DOGGIES! And my attention was then lost until the post-ending story, because of DOGGIES!

  5. Allen From Mars

    Good start, I liked that you kept it short but still got your point across. Tbh, I’m not sure why Skyrim was so appealing to me at the time: it literally scratched the gaming itch that I didn’t know I had. The unconnected main quest, silly storytelling, and inability to roleplay (it twists your arm and makes you go along) are some of it’s big problems with the game. But if there were so many problems, why did we play the game for 100+ hours?

    Anyway, I’m interested in seeing what you do next. 🙂

    • Kanodin

      For me the reason Skyrim works despite the many, many flaws with it’s roleplaying is just simply the exploration. When I play Skyrim I tend to avoid the towns all together and just endlessly poke around in the wilderness.

      Also if you wanted to roleplay a hulking nord meat head with an axe this game has you covered, and that’s the first character I always make in these games so I felt right at home.

    • My bet – it’s because of the “go anywhere and do anything” world it has. Very few games truly allow that.

  6. Even

    This was my exact problem with Skyrim. It’s like being in a twisted theme park where the entertainment involves putting yourself in life-threatening situations, yet all the laws and regulations of a theme park are there and you’ll be punished if you were thinking of coming up with your own ideas how to deal with the different “venues”. It almost makes me wish I hadn’t played New Vegas before Skyrim since it irrevocably raised my own standards for RPG freedom.

    • Not only that, it’s like Skyrim is afraid you’ll miss something or be denied an experience somewhere and that will… I don’t know, make you rage quit? I found it annoying that no matter what kind of character I had, I could become the Arch Mage, the avatar for the Assassin’s Guild’s goddess, part of the Thieves’ Guild Illuminati no matter what my skill set was. Call me old-fashioned, but if I come up with a melee and heavy armor build, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that I won’t be asked to head up my local magic-user club.

      If I was that bent out of shape over it, I’d make another character and actually replay the game, because that’s fun, darnit!

      • I did think it was kind of odd that I only ever needed to use one basic spell only one time for the entirety of the Mage questline. I suppose if I wanted to play as the luckiest conman in Skyrim, that would help.

  7. Pingback: The Mumbles Problem: Skyrim - Twenty Sided

  8. Irridium

    I prefer games like New Vegas as well. Skyrim is great for experiencing everything without restrictions. And that’s good, I like that. I still occasionally play, and enjoy, Skyrim. I just like the way New Vegas does it more.

  9. CTrees

    It’s always so weird listening to you speaking when you aren’t using your spoiler warning voice. Hard to get used to.

  10. You’ve convinced me to reinstall New Vegas. I miss the ability to make interesting choices. Of course I never play the thing unmodded and since it isn’t on steam workshop it’s a bit tougher to get everything downloaded set up the right way. Which is to say it may be months before I actually play it again.

    Another issue I had with Skyrim was the way that the game felt it necessary to make your character the master of all things. You can become the head of the College of Winterhold without casting a single spell. It’s just odd. It’s okay if there are some thing my character can’t do or won’t experience.

    • IFS

      Its always felt weird that no matter what quest chain it is my character is the head of an organization within about an in game week or two of joining (which only made any sort of sense with the DB), it would work better if you reached a prominent position that was still below the head of the organization. This would also make people giving you random tasks to do make more sense since you wouldn’t be their boss.
      This especially could have worked for the mages guild, because you’ve already got two minor characters debating whose going to get a position when someone steps down, so just let the player take that position (I think it was master wizard or something).

  11. Raygereio

    The thieves guild in Skyrim really annoyed for the reason you stated. It’s such a clumsy and jarring way to introduce you to a questchain. Best part is that the “you never did an honest day’s work for your money”-line is complete nonsense. Due to how the game works you can’t make a living of stealing until you start this questchain.
    The game actually tracks certain statistics about your character, amongst other things how many things you’ve stolen and how many pockets you’ve picked. It would have made so much more sense to base to start of the thieves guild quest chain of those stats.

    I think the core issue is that Bethesda seems frightened that the player will miss or feels cheated out of content. Another example of that would be the mages guild. A meathead fighter who hasn’t even touched a spell in his life can become Archmage. What sense does that make? The mages guild should be laughing in your face when you want to join them with a character like that.
    Sure. There is something to be said for never closing a door in the player’s face. But the result of that school of gamedesign can easily be what we see in Skyrim: a world that simply doesn’t account for your actions and decisions and thus makes those actions and decisions feel meaningless.

    • Stratigo

      to be fair, the Mage’s guild is actually one where every char that even does a little of the main quest should be able to join.

      The warrior’s response to the entrance fee should be Fus.

  12. You very succinctly described my problem with soooooo many games, including every MMO ever! No matter how pretty, most computer RPGs fail at actually -being- RPGs.

  13. Vect

    I agree with the problem of the Thieves Guild questhook. Would’ve been better if rather than saying “Hey, you look like a crooked bastard even though you’re supposed to be a moral paragon”, Brynjolf would simply ask if you’re interested in making some money before elaborating on the scheme, at which point you have the choice to tell him to fuck off and he’ll go “Ah, alright. I see I found the wrong person.”

    Helping Mjoll take down the Thieves Guild would have been great. Similarly, the idea of having questlines opposing organizations like a Penitus Oculatus questline to hunt down the Dark Brotherhood members, a Mjoll quest to go stompin’ down to the Ragged Flagon and hell, a way to progress in the Companions quest without becoming a werewolf (telling Kodlak, who then calls Skjor and Aela dumbasses and let you do more Companion quests). Not sure what changes the College quests should do, but perhaps make it so that progression to Archmage should be measured by your magic skill (you need to convince the professors that you know at least more than the bare-minimum of magic). ‘Course, that might also get kinda annoying…

    Similarly, I really think that the Civil War was sorta a wasted chance. In my eyes, there really wasn’t much of a reason for a non-human or non-Nord to side with Ulfric. Even then, the game should at least acknowledge that you’re an oddity and maybe have the Stormcloaks talk down to you. Really doesn’t help that the questlines are near-identical (go to fort, kill guys, repeat until you get to Solitude/Windhelm). And if they wanted to have you avoid just going up to Tullius/Ulfric and stabbing them in the face rather than just make ’em unkillable they could have the guards confiscate your weapons/nullify your magic in some way like they did in New Vegas at the Fort.

  14. While it did have a couple of good ones, in retrospect Skyrim’s strength was probably not its stories and quests (the thieves’ guild easily being among the worst).

    Instead I think what I liked about it most was just the world design and how all that talk of “lovingly hand-crafted dungeons” really seemed to pay off. Skyrim was the kind of game that is just really fun to run around and explore in. If I ever got bored with what I was doing, I could just wander off until I found a cave with bloody skulls in front of it. “What? That can’t be good, and there are children nearby! Literally, I can see them right over there. Looks like I have a mess to clean up.” *Draws sword and lunges into the darkness, “have at thee, wild unknown!”
    Then what followed would be an almost entirely self-contained mini-adventure, almost like an episode out of an old adventure show.

    Comparing that to Fallout 3 or New Vegas, those games do have dungeons and ruined buildings to explore but I never really felt like there was much point to doing so unless I got a quest that specifically said “go to this location” (or if I just really wanted to rummage around for some 200 year old snack food). Exploring just wasn’t really that fun so all I ever wound up doing was making b-line straight to the next quest objective or finding a new town so that I could ask for new quests. There just wasn’t much point to going off and doing my own thing.

    Although I suppose it also didn’t help that one was “Woah, Skyrim!” and the other was “Great, more puke-colored dirt.”

    • Unfortunately, however well crafted the dungeons were only serves to exacerbate the lack of re-playability you mentioned. When I play through a really fun dungeon then great! Now I want to try a new one. What I don’t want to do is go through effing Bleak Falls Barrow again!

  15. JPH

    This was interesting to listen to because I vastly preferred Skyrim to New Vegas. I spent more time on it, and I felt more satisfied with it afterwards. That may be a reflection of what I personally look for in games.

    Then again, I have a lot of problems with New Vegas’s narrative and presentation. The roleplaying may have meant more to me if I wasn’t so disappointed with the ending.

  16. Also, I have a quick question for Mumbles about Spoiler Warning.

    Now don’t be mad, but did you really do all of the SW recordings while drunk?

  17. aldowyn

    Wow, so different from the way you are in SW.

    I can definitely see your problem with the thieves’ guild intro, and it is representative of the game. Skyrim makes very, VERY one-track missions. Either you do them or you don’t, there’s no choice except for WHICH quests you do. It doesn’t make sense that Mjoll the Lioness doesn’t have a anti-thieves’-guild quest like you mentioned.

    Also.. great story at the end 😀 I was afraid you had to kill him with the arrow…

  18. Cyranor

    I have the same problem with Skyrim, it just makes it seem so railroaded which for an open-adventure sandbox game really hurts it. I loved the character development you had in Fallout New Vegas and even Fallout 3 to a lesser extent. For so much focus on the perks in the skill trees which let you specialize your character into archetypes way more than oblivion ever let you do its sad to see how little you are allowed to customize your characters personality.

  19. Artur CalDazar

    That was an amazing video.
    I particularly enjoyed the, odd, footage of the games, very neat.

    The strange thing about Skyrim is that it’s trying so hard to let you tackle things the way you want to, allowing you to act any way you want, until the moment you start talking to somebody. Then it’s just as you say, on the one track with little thought as to how or why you got there.
    Oh, nice story at the end.

  20. Noumenon

    I felt like I was role-playing in Riften, because I decided I wanted to live there (wood elves like it warm with autumn leaves) so I kissed up to Maven Black-Briar in every way I could and then voila! Got her in charge so I could get my house.

  21. One of the major problems I had with the Thieves’ Guild was the open-quest lines to “fix up” the guild hall. There are seven different “thief”ish quests you can do for them once you’re in the guild. While I like these quests themselves just as a bit of RP consistency, how they tie into “restoring” the guild is obnoxious. You have to compete five of the thief quests for each major city (with 4 major cities, that’s 20 different quests) before you get a “master” quest for each city. But even with those completed, you have to do more of the randomly assigned side-jobs, 125 in all, to get the Ragged Flagon completely upgraded. That is some serious grind.

    In any case, my favorite Oblivion kill was a bit of a funny thing. One of the things you could do was enchant items to cause damage to its wearer, but you had to do it with something that was weightless, so you could plant it on NPCs, and also something they would equip. This usually meant headgear, such as a hood. So I was sent to assassinate a target, snuck in, and planted the hood on her. After I left the room and returned, she put on the hood, and immediately immolated. Unfortunately, it was only 5dmg/second. So she stood there burning . . . and burning . . . and burning . . . eventually, she drank a healing potion and continued to burn. So I watched her stand there, on fire, for nearly an entire in-game day, before she actually died. It was . . . well, not the most amazing kill, but certainly one for the records.

  22. malthusx

    I loved exploring Skyrim. Its first time I went on a nature walk in a video game. But then, Elder Scrolls games have always had a certain amount of that. I remember staring lovingly at an Oblivion portal for a full five minutes once.

    However, I didn’t find one quest series that appealed to me. I don’t like playing as an assassin, and my character was not a thief, but I was really looking forward to the Mage’s Guild questline, as it has always been my favorite for its tales of petty academic rivalry between mages and forbidden magic. I became Archmage in Morrowind before doing any of the main quests, and tried to get recommendations to graduate school in Oblivion at the same time I was trying to get recommendations to graduate school in real life.

    However, the arcane university quest in Skyrim was short, shallow, lacking in believable growth and ultimately dull. It had a few good moments (exploring the ruins as a tutorial class was fun) but there so few quests compared to previous Mage’s Guild story lines that the rise from hedge-wizard to arch -chancellor was laughably short. It was at that point that the game lost all its charm for me, and I stopped after a mere 45 hours.

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