Friday, May 25, 2007

Byte: Sweet Oblivion

I've been replaying Oblivion over the last couple of days, and now that I've abandoned the traditional level rush approach to playing an RPG, it's become a much more playable (and enjoyable) game. I even picked up the expansion pack this week, though I'm going to finish the main campaign before I really try to get into that.

So I've been wandering around Tamriel as a Level 1 noob, with my custom class set up just so, so that it should be practically impossible for me to gain a level, ever, and other than the crashes that I keep getting when I'm closing Oblivion gates, it's pretty good fun now that I've ensured that the game shouldn't ever throw an enemy at me that I can't handle.

I had quite an interesting moment last night: I was sneaking around plundering Goblin Jim's Cave, just outside of Skingrad, when I noticed a rope stretched across a doorway. Fairly obviously, it was a tripwire for a trap. Having failed to set it off with a couple of arrows, I decided that it was worth the risk of just running through it, so I dashed through the doorway and avoided the falling logs that had been teetering on top. A quick swipe of my intelligence-sapping akaviri katana to get rid of the goblin hiding in the corner later, I was able to loot the chest I'd seen tantalisingly through the doorway. Nothing special, just a couple of gold and a lockpick, but worth the trouble. Or was it?

When I turned around to leave the chamber, I ran into a small problem. The four logs that had been intended for the top of my head had, in fact, blocked the doorway. And, of course, the game engine doesn't allow you to pick up large world objects. The roughness of the floor was holding them all in place, and I couldn't simply push them out of the way by running into them. In another game, this might have led to a quick reload - except that I hadn't saved for a good half hour, and I didn't want to redo the dungeon trawl, so I had a think. How was I going to unblock the door so I could make off with my poxy 6 gold and a lockpick?

The problem was that the logs had fallen into a mutually supporting pile, aided by the cragginess of the floor. So the key was being able to pry one of the logs out of its position first, so that it would free up the others to move. Simple. But how to do it? The answer, as always, was physics. I used my bow to fire arrows into the end of one of the logs at an angle; thanks to the inclusion of Havok in the game engine, the momentum of the arrow would then be transferred to the log, giving it a solid nudge and making it pivot away from the pile. Once I had pried a sufficient distance between the log and the pile, I could push it to the side of the cave by walking into it. This then allowed me to use the same trick to dislodge the other logs and unblock the doorway. I could then retrieve all the arrows sticking out of the logs and make my escape with my ill-gotten gains. Hurrah for physics!
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