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What You Still Haven't "Heard" About Oblivion: Part 2
It's time to hear what the Radiant AI system sounds like.

Josh 'Moxie' Sprague, 2005-07-14

Every E3 article about Oblivion that you've read has had a single cannon at its source. That being the small-theatre demo hosted by Todd Howard which was shown off hourly to lucky press-pass holders. Now, they weren't allowing cameras to roll, but my minidisc and mike got a thumbs up from Pete Hines. After reviewing it, Todd's commentary is a bit echo-ey and not as crisp as I'd like. However, I decided that in the fan's shoes, I'd be willing to turn my speakers up and strain a bit to share in the experience. I've split what I recorded into two digestible mp3's, and you can dowload the second mp3 here. Below, you'll find some notes to help with the mental pictures.

0:25 - The current scene finds the character looking down a street that gently slopes upwards. A lady passes and you can hear her tell us "Good morning." Buildings and trees line the sides of the street and we come upon a Dark Elf NPC leaning on a wall.

0:55 - A bard walks up to the Dark Elf and they engage in conversation. You'll hear that the Dark Elves have maintained their husky voices and it's little things like this that tie the newness of Oblivion back to the Elder Scrolls line.

1:30 - Eavesdropping will make for a nice addition in the way one can start a quest. It is here, that you can see the new topic in the dialogue options. As the NPC's have their own agenda, it will be interesting to see if we'll actually be rewarded by heading to the tavern in the evenings and awaiting NPC's to gather and gossip.

2:10 - Todd takes up to a shop door at this point and after a short loading screen we find ourselves inside. Oblivion has maintained the system which keeps the outside world seamless, but zones a character into interiors. As long as load times are short, this is a decent solution for keeping the quality of the outside and inside worlds high.

2:40 - The speechcraft radar appears in the top left of the screen and it is composed of a circle divided into four parts (joke, admire, etc.). The circle shades from green to red and seemed to be based on speechcraft abilities. From what Todd says in the clip and the reaction from the NPC, the woman we are talking to seems to adjust her face based on what might work well. From memory, the woman seemed to offer a slight smirk as we hovered over the joke section. The faces and the way they express emotion are definitely impressive and should raise a bar on NPC interaction in RPG's, which is an interesting turn as Morrowind's NPC system was criticized for its simplicity.

3:45 - The upstairs room features a dresser with a small practice bullseye hanging above it. To the side is a bay window with seats and in the back of the room is a table with settings and food. In the back corner lies a single bed.

3:55 - Our hostess interacts with her fuzzy, black dog for a moment before picking up a bow and quiver. She backs up to the back of the room and takes aim at the target above the dresser. You'll hear her knocking off cups and pitchers with her arrows. After drinking the potion described by Todd, she moves closer to the target and does much better.

5:00 - The woman drops a piece of meat on the ground and her dog runs over to eat it. At first, I thought she was leaving it for our character and I immediately envisioned a quirky world where NPC's awkwardly drop items on the ground for the protagonist to pick up. I was relieved when Thunder gobbled up the steak.

5:25 - The woman sits down at window seat and begins leafing through a book and it looks like their will be a good variety to character animations and actions. When she eventually casts a paralyze spell on Thunder, the dog glows green, turns rigid, and falls over. Neat effect, but definitely comical.

6:00 - Still frustrated with the dog, our hostess throws a fireball at it. You'll hear it yelp as it goes up in temporary flame.

6:20 - The fast travel map a mostly uncharted world with our current city and the one we learned about earlier being the two known points. It really is as simple as clicking on the city you want to go to and those familiar with GuildWars' map system should have a good idea of what this system will work like (Also those familiar with Daggerfall will have a decent idea, except for the fact that you must know about a location first).

End - I'm going to end it here. After Todd fast travels, there is a short sequence following guards fighting their way up to a flaming gate to oblivion. From here, we kill a Dremora and the session ends. All in all, part 2 should give you as good as an idea about the NPC system as any journalist has at the moment. Now, it's just waiting to experience it.

Average Reader Ratings: 8.55 (271 votes)
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