Morrowind MDA analysis v3



Hello Everyone,

This will be the final post I make on my Morrowind MDA analysis, as it will cover the Aesthetics portion of the process.  If you would like to have a more in-depth understanding of the MDA, you can see my previous Morrowind MDA post HERE and/or see the link at the bottom of this post, which has a link directly to the original MDA paper.











The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind

Mechanics list

-Character System

   -Player Character (PC) System 
        -Character stat
            -Stat modifier(s)
                  -Potions
                  -Enchantments on wearable items (e.g., clothing, armor, etc...)
                  -Racial Traits
                  -Birth Signs
        -Character attributes
            -Gender
            -Race
        -Character skills (e.g., lock picking, speech craft, weapon proficiency, etc...)
            -Skill Modifier(s)
                  -Potions
                  -Enchantments on wearables
                  -Stats
                  -Attribute(s)

-Non-Player Character (NPC) System
        -Essential Character
        -Character stat
            -Stat modifier(s)
                  -Potions
                  -Enchantments on wearable items (e.g., clothing, armor, etc...)
                  -Racial Traits
                  -Birth Signs
        -Character attributes
            -Gender
            -Race
        -Character skills (e.g., lock picking, speech craft, weapon proficiency, etc...)
            -Skill Modifier(s)
                  -Potions
                  -Enchantments on wearables
                  -Stats
                  -Attribute(s)
                  -AI
                      -Pathfinding
                      -hostility
                           -Wandering enemy/creature
                           -PC social standing in the game world
                           -Individual relationship between the PC and that NPC
                           -Rival faction/Guild
                      -amiability
                           -PC social standing in the game world
                           -Individual relationship between the PC and that NPC
                           -Friendly Faction


-Magic
   -Magic types
        -Enchantments
        -Direct Magic
        -Passive Magic
        -Physical Ailments (e.g., disease)
   -Magic Modifiers
        -Magick Pool
        -Character Skills
        -Character Stats

-Weapon(s)
   -Base Stats
   -Weapon stat modifier
        -Enchantment
        -Potion buffs
        -Character Skills
        -Character Stats

-Crafting
   -Direct magic
   -Potion making
   -Enchanting

-Armor
   -Base stat
   -Armor stat modifiers
        -Enchantment(s)
        -Potions
        -Character Skill
        -Character Stats

-Persistent Environment
   -Social Standing/Fame/Infamy
            -Crime
                  -Theft
                      -Modifiers
                           -Stealth
                      -Character bounty system
                      -Committing a crime,
                  -Hostile actions against NPC’s
                  -Murder
                  -Trespassing
              -Response to Crime
                  -Bribery
                  -Hostility
                  -Jail
   -Faction(s)
            -Guilds
            -Houses
            -Races
                  -vampires
                  -Misc.
   -Economy
              -Inventory Items
                   -Buy/Sell/Currency
                             -Modifiers
                                  -Character Skills
-Mercantile
                                  -Character Stats

-Quest system
   -Main Quest
   -Side Quest(s)
       -Factions
       -Misc.

-Combat
   -Modifiers
       -Weapon(s)
       -Armor
       -Magic
       -Character Stats
       -Character Skills
       -Character Attributes




Dynamic Scene Explanation 


For explaining dynamics I am going to focus on the sub-mechanic of NPC hostility under the AI high-level Mechanic and the dynamic situations that can occur as a result of a given situation. Specifically, what happens when you attempt to resell an item to a shopkeeper that was stolen from that shopkeeper. Essentially, you can attempt to sell anything to any shopkeeper in this game, regardless of whether it is stolen or not. The economy of this game differs from the later games in this IP in this regard, where in Oblivion and Skyrim any item that is stolen is visibly marked as such and can only be sold to fences in the thieves guild (except in cases in which the PC has certain skills and/or items in their possession).

For sake of explanation the scene will be in Ald'ruhn in Bivale Teneran’s clothing shop. Bivale Teneran will typically have a pair of extravagant pants of the 2nd variation in her inventory. Now, if we introduce the dynamic of the PC having stolen those pants from her inventory, lets explore what happens within the scene under these parameters. The way that Morrowind handles FormID’s is that unless it is a unique item (i.e. Azura’s Star), all other items are generic and not tagged as unique since there can be an infinite number of them in play at any given time. However, items that have been placed in an interior area in which an NPC has ownership of the interior area (i.e. homes, shops, etc…) are tagged as being owned by the corresponding NPC (this system failing actually created an amusing bug in the game in a home/shop area in Caldera, in which the residence which occupied the scamp shopkeep and other orcs, where there was a failure in the tagging system of items in the residence and you could steal the property right in front of the occupants and even sell them back to the scamp and all they would do is yell at you for stealing, but the hostility portion of the AI would not kick in and since ownership of the items was not tagged, your “crime” was not reported). Using this tagging system in the aforementioned example, if we then attempt to sell the pants we stole from Bivale Teneran back to her, she will acknowledge that that instance of the FormID extravagant_pants_02 had been tagged to her ownership by the Gamebryo engine and she recognizes this. Another fun side note, in pre-patched versions of the game if you have multiple instances of extravagant_pants_02 in your inventory when you steal these pants, the engine will jenk up and tag all instances of this item in your inventory as her property. This also applies to storage containers; in other words, if you place this item into a storage container with other copies of extravagant_pants_02 in the same container, the game would tag all those as ownership of Bivale Teneran. This has been patched out in later versions. Back to the example, after the dynamic of the PC attempting to sell Bivale Teneran back her property, she recognizes the pants as tagged to her ownership, and a number of the games other mechanics kick in. First, it sends a script to the law keeper of the town and your crime is reported; then, the game will check Bivale Teneran’s character level, skills, stats, attributes, gear and all modifiers against yours and if you are inferior to her, she will attack you. If you are a higher level, or have a high infamy level, then she will just report your crime, not allow you to purchase from her until the situation is resolved and let the city guards deal with you. If she attacks you and you manage to kill her, then the city guard will still attempt to deal with you, but in addition to your bounty for theft, a bounty of murder will also be added.

If you do not murder Bivale Teneran, after the situation has been resolved (and you no longer carry a bounty) you will have the ability to “Earn” Bivale Teneran's services again through boosting her disposition toward you. This is done through a number of other mechanics including, PC and NPC Stats, Skills, bribery, etc....



Aesthetics Explanation

I believe that a solid argument can be made that all of the following list from the Aesthetics category of the MDA can applied and focused on in not only Morrowind, but the entire Elder Scrolls franchise (yes, including travels):
-Sense pleasure
-Fantasy
-Narrative
-Challenge
-Discovery
-Expression

However, for arguments sake, I am going to focus my attention on Fantasy and Discovery since these are the two most prominent aesthetics to my playstyle.

The Elder Scrolls IP has long since been (and was the first to be) a truly open world IP. Backing this truly open world is a deep lore that can be seen embodied within everything in the game, from NPC’s to Books within the game to architecture and beyond. Everything within Tamriel has some connection to the lore of Tamriel. The level of detail contained within the lore of Tamriel is on par, maybe even beyond, that of worlds such as Middle-Earth, Forgotten Realms, etc… Daggerfall and Morrowind were the first games to put you in this deep lore contained within a gigantic continent and let you do literally whatever you want to do and the world reacts to your actions and choices. Arguably, Arena was not anywhere close to the level of open-worldness that Daggerfall introduced, which is why I did not include it here. This core concept is what fantasy, in reference to the MDA, truly is. I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire: The Masquerade, Shadowrun and a slew of other tabletop RPG’s, where you are only limited by your mind. The Elder Scrolls were the first games to bring the experience of a tabletop RPG to a video game.
Experiencing a deep lore and huge digital open world in a medieval fantasy setting is something that I had wanted to do since the I was 8 years old and The Elder Scrolls gave me the ability to live that fantasy.
The other major aesthetic to me within The Elder Scrolls is that of discovery. Someone can play the main quest in Morrowind from start to finish in less than 30 hours, but why do so many people spend hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of hours within these games? Discovery! Plain and simple. These games are not meant to be played for only one quest line. These games are about discovering that random dungeon that happens to be way out in the middle of nowhere, but has a unique lore to its existence and houses a necromancer with a unique daedric artifact. Even down to meeting outlandish NPC’s such as M'aiq the Liar who will have some truly absurd conversation topics that change drastically between installments within the series. Even being able to find the Morag Tong in Morrowind to be able to join their ranks and become guildmaster for them… Literally every aspect of Morrowind, and every Elder Scrolls game makes its mark with an unparalleled level of discovery available to the player. Even within a number of game mechanics there lies discovery. The entire crafting system (especially potions) is laced with discovery, from what ingredients do what, what combination of enchantments do what, etc… Being able to approach any quest/situation from multiple angles, discovering what multi-class combination best suites your unique playstyle, even discovering how to exploit the inevitable bugs that are always present in the franchise are all a small sample of the level of discovery you can experience within an Elder Scrolls game. An Elder Scrolls game without discovery, and a deep level of uniqueness and reward for making said discoveries, is like Halloween without trick or treat. It is just not an Elder Scrolls, regardless of the lore that is backing it. Case and point, Elder Scrolls Online. No true Elder Scrolls fan would consider that an Elder Scrolls game due to the complete lack of these core tenets.

In closing, despite the fact that one can make a compelling argument that all of the aesthetics I listed at the beginning of this section are present in any true Elder Scrolls game, I believe that the brand of Fantasy and Discovery that The Elder Scrolls presents is very unique to this particular IP and as such, are the largest defining aesthetics in this series.  



You can also click HERE to see the original MDA analysis paper

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