Oblivion is overrated. Morrowind is the real deal.
It kinda annoys me when I read articles that say Skyrim was made by the Oblivion developer. It kinda reminds me that a lot of those people who played Oblivion do not really understand the Elder Scrolls Magic. Ask them about Morrowind, and either they do not know or they are annoyed by the graphics. Well guess what, when I first saw Oblivion, i kinda thought the graphics sucked. My heavily modded Morrowind looked better than vanilla Oblivion.
I’m not an Oblivion hater, mind you. I just want to give credit to what game started the strong community support for The Elder Scrolls series. It’s Morrowind. You see sirs, the real deal with The Elder Scrolls series is not because of its gameplay or presentation. As much as how the gameplay is ambitious (and pretty successful at it), gamers will inevitably exhaust all the quests, will open all the chests, and will visit discover all the locations…and by the time that is done, by the time that a player would say, “I got nothing to do anymore”, BAM! The game would be shelved.
Gameplay and story are just one part of the magic of The Elder Scrolls. The other part of the magic is modding. A million players would say, “Morrowind rules!”, “Oblivion is the bomb!”, but only a handful of these players would stick to the game for years. These are people from The Elder Scrolls community. You see not all these players are modders. There are two distinct players in the modding aspect of The Elder Scrolls–the modders and the consumers. A lot, if not all, of the modders are consumers (and to some extent, the ‘requesters’), but not all consumers are modders. Nonetheless, mods make these players stick to the game. These players aren’t the fanboys who start flamewars with other games (or at least that’s how I envision them). These players are actually the players that contribute to the development of the series directly.
Remember Oblivion’s Radiant AI? Well before that, Morrowind only had static NPCs that say the same thing over and over again. The modding community came up with LGNPC, or Less Generic NPC. It simply adds more dialogue to NPCs, creates a schedule for them, adds traveling NPCs, and random NPCs for every town, road, etc. It also adds a bit of backstory to towns and its prominent people. That’s the prototype of Radiant AI.
That goes the same with Skyrim today. Much of its features were already made by modders for Oblivion and Morrowind. The combat system of Oblivion kinda feels like the Scripted Spells mod and Deadly Reflex mod of oblivion. The immersive UI of Skyrim was like the Immersive Interface mod for Oblivion. The levelling scheme of Skyrim kinda reminds me of Galsiah’s Character Development of Morrowind and nGCD (not Galsiah’s Character Development) of Oblivion.
It’s because of the continued support of a loyal community that Skyrim is enjoying this fame. Oblivion wasn’t great solely because of its presentation–it’s because of its loyalists–the modders. People usually measure the success of a game based on the numbers it sold. But to effectively measure the success of a series, one has to understand the community behind the game. Oblivion was just a continuation of that legacy (I told you I didn’t dislike Oblivion). It was Morrowind, with the decision of Bethesda to include a construction set, that started the free modding scheme (what I mean is modding up to core gameplay and story, unlike other games which only add end-user content/plugins) that defines the series today, and that eventually created the strong community that supports Bethesda until today.
I see that a lot of people love the Skyrim theme today. Well guess what, it was the theme of Morrowind. The drums used (in the original score) was actually the heartbeats of a dead god. At least the Bethesda development team still recognizes its roots to Morrowind. Here’s a comparison (Skyrim adds little additions, so wait until the end to fully recognize the similarities):