The Shrooms of Oblivion
There might not be much overlap between amateur mycologists (mushroom hunters) and gamers, but that didn't stop Bethesda from lavishing detail on Oblivion's fungi. Zach Miller goes on a virtual foray through the forests of Tamriel and compares it to the real deal.
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What a great read!
I was never into shroom hunting myself, but I deeply enjoyed the mechanic as presented in Oblivion. Never would I have thought that Bethesda put so much effort into it.
Also learned something new today about the Cordyceps ;-) (and obviously where some of the ideas for the movie "The Happening" came from)...
That is absolutely fantastic. I never knew.
I love how detail in games can vastly improve learning opportunities, such as learning about mushrooms for this author.
Some time ago I found my first homework I'd done for school, or rather, the first homework where I had to write more than a page. I was about eleven and had made a fourteen page work about the seven wonders of the old world. It has a comment from my teacher that she was so impressed, because she couldn't finish reading it in one sitting. I was insulted at the time, thinking she called me boring, but considering that others had made a twopager on their cat, I can see her point now.
I think it's marvelous that at age eleven I wrote about the seven wonders of the world. When I read that back I remembered my search for books on world wonders and my confusion about a book that had 200 world wonders in it (including statue of liberty, eiffel tower). So I learned to call the seven wonders "the seven wonders of the old world".
How I got interested in the world wonders at that age? Perplexing. Until I remembered which game featured them.
Thank you Sid Meier.
I have Oblivion to thank for allowing me to look like a seasoned outdoorsman when my family (who live in a big city) came to visit me out here in the country, and I was able to point out a few plants and fungi. I was probably wrong about them, but I felt like I knew what I was talking about.
Games with as much detail as Oblivion are rare in the world of video games. With the technology we utilize in games today, one would think that realistic detail in a game would be a given. Sadly, developers often mistake what people mean by intricate design, and end up concentrating on making their brick walls look realistic.
Oblivion wasn't just a game with detail, it was a game with depth, and the foliage in the game is the perfect illustration of it. Depth is that tiny amount of additional effort that makes good games great. I can imagine that there's an employee who's a big fan of mushrooms too (not in the same way Suda 51 is.)
This was a fantastic article. Keep up the great work and good luck with your children's book.
I loved hunting mushrooms in Oblivion. I was actually super excited when I saw the Fly Agaric in Oblivion because I thought I was going to get to use it for a damage or health boost; I remembered it from when I was really heavy into beserkers, and one theory is that they used the hallucinogenic properties of Fly Agaric to enter their berserkergang.
It didn't turn me into a berserker, but just seeing those references in a game that's all about immersion just makes the experience so much better.
As a bit of a gardener and botanist (I like helping my mum with the garden), I can also tell you that the plants are very well realized as well. The proper plants grow in the proper places. Plants meant to grow in caves are in the caves, willows grow near the water, fungi are attached to the wetter side of rocks, where they're less likely to be hit by the sun, etc.
It's one of the reasons I liked Oblivion more than Fallout 3. The world is more realisticwhile being more fantastic.
The path between between Good and Great is long and arduous, and every inch is won with blood, sweat and tears. Bethesda walked it easily, while picking mushrooms along the way.
Wow thanks you just gave me an idea for an oblivion mod! It should be easy enough to modify the different mushrooms to have realistic effects.....now all I need is an internet guide to mushrooms.
Through all my play in Oblivion, I nver knew of this. I thought all the plants were fake, but having the knowlegde that the developers decided to put that little detail in a game that most wouldn't care about, yet people like you would fills me with joy. I never did hunt for plants as I never played as an Alchemist, but knowing this actually makes me want to now.
All this talk of red-capped, white-spotted mushrooms in videogames and no mention of Mario? For shame.
I thought the Amanita Muscaria was going to make my character bigger.
This illustrates another reason I wanted a custom soundtrack option to PS3's Oblivion (besides how long the game is): to listen to "Mushroom Hunting" by the Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop soundtrack. Most of the other music I would've put in were old Genesis tunes; which kind of fit with mushrooms too but the fancy kind you can't buy in stores.
This is another reason why Oblivion will remain permanently installed on many hdd's around the globe and is often the first setup.exe a new disk sees.
If only Bethesda had gone as far with their other title...
I was a little disappointed when I first played Fallout3 and discovered that there were not any radioactive Elder Scrolls-esque flora to experiment with. You see glowing mushrooms all over the wastelands, but none are interactable.
Oblivion has always been on a higher scale than Fallout 3 for the simple reason that Oblivion, where there is sometimes a threat of danger, you can also relax when you play.
Although the scenery can be quite samey a lot of the time, just passing through a quiet field and maybe stumbling upon a village of friendly villages can be a pleasant experience.
I can overlook the fact that a lot of this was quite potentially copied and pasted for the fact that the game was teeming from every crack and orifice with lore, tomes full of little stories within stories, excruciating attention to detail etc.
Although i never felt myself really get immersed in the game, and i was always one of those "Fast-Travel is the way to go" kind of people(like Oblivion was a part of my hectic schedule and i had to rush through it after lunch to avoid it cutting into my other appointment) I can actually see where people are coming from when they tell me how good the game is.
As for Fallout, when you finish the game, you're screwed unless you buy the addons, the landscaping is ugly, like they were designing a map of Chernobyl and got carried away and they really want to make you feel like there's danger around every corner - Because there bloody well is. If you stand still for too long a mole bites your feet from under you, if you run around to much a DeathClaw rips your titties off with it's massive claws, if you're just minding your business a slaver could run up to you strapped with enough C4 to rip the galaxy a new intergalactic arsehole and blow you away. It just doesn't do it for me.
Bloody hell i can ramble
Just a minor niggle- I'm pretty sure that the red-and-white mushrooms are called Fly Amantia in the game. Why do I know this? Because one of my characters was the self-styled "Fly Amanita Thief", stealing valuables from nobles and replacing them with pieces of mushrooms.
Yeah, I'm a geek too, just a different kind of one.
(Side note- it's hilarious that the mushroom, which has such incredible hallucinogenic properties in reality, literally grows like weeds in the Imperial City and its surroundings. Maybe that's why all the NPCs have that glazed-over expression on their faces?)
It is amazing how different interests can be satisfied in unexpected ways in gaming.
I have a similar experience with astrology and video games sometimes, even in Oblivion itself. Choosing a symbol or sign for your character is a great way to communicate the basics of what that character would be and when they would be useful, especially to beginners, and I have taken great pleasure in understanding and choosing from these.
The Sims has a similar motif, though using the real Western Zodiac in its statistical system. It didn't get all the traits right, so like you, I found the bit where realism was cut off by practical balance issues and time constraints on development unfortunate.
Through special motifs like these, developers can tap the endless resource of other hobbies to reach across the great gap from author to consumer and touch hearts. These are the very type of motifs that draw hardcore fanbases.
The lack of deep detail realistic mofifs is one of the reasons why the Wii is so unpopular with the hardcore gaming community - the software for the most part lacks such extra pushes towards realism, instead providing basic environments with motion controls in experimentally interesting but superficial ways.
The hardcore base, which can make savings on development costs by utilising established franchises, is something that Microsoft has taken heavy advantage of. This may eventually show profit in long-term results versus Nintendo's more casual appeal. The hardcore shouldn't be underestimated as a business opportunity by these companies.
As a side point, I should point out to the author that Resident Evil 4's "Las Plagas" concept was inspired by plants like the Cordyceps. A note that you can collect in the game explained similar real life plagues/lifeforms that control or manipulate small animals (which may or may not have included the Cordyceps; the similar description you gave may mean it is the very same plant), explaining that the Plagas only does this at a higher level and to more intelligent animals.
Oblivion will always be listed as one of my greatest games of all times simply for the sheer mind-boggling amount of content the game has. From the the landscape to the wildlife, I don't think any other game has the level of interactivity and depth of Oblivion. Learning that a lot of this content was based on actual objects impresses me even more now. Bethesda really cemented their position as a great game designer with this one, because not only does the game have a billion things in it, all of those objects are refined and each looks and functions amazingly well.
Fallout 3 is on the opposite end of the spectrum for me, because there just isn't anything to do after exploring. There aren't that many side-quests, the story is actually pretty short, and unlike Oblivion, there isn't mindless things to do like collecting mushrooms. I don't know, collecting Nuka-Cola Quantums always felt like such a chore for me, since I had a reason and a payoff for collecting them.
Rogue Wolf: You are correct. Bethesda's choice to call it 'Fly Amanita' is actually a slight misnomer -- the more typical common name is the 'Fly Agaric'. I decided to use the Latin name in the article to avoid confusion. I'm glad someone else is paying attention to these things!
Also thanks to everyone for the comments. I'd like to echo what others have said that the ability to relax and wander (mostly) peacefully around the a landscape sets Oblivion apart.
I know my Oblivion adventurer couldn't keep away from shrooms for long. They were a great source of materials for healing potions.
I bought the game about 4 years ago.
On my first couple of saves I went through the game with quick-travel and I was mostly focused on being the best in Cyrodiil. Working my way up in the Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. Then when I reached it I just left the game be and started moding it and eventually just stopped playing it.
Now about a year ago when I suddenly got the itch for some adventuring in the Realm of Tamriel I re-installed the game and started pooling up some mods for it.
By that time I had changed a lot as a gamer, not focusing that much on the evisceral qualities of a game and got more focused on finding all there is in a game. I often found myself focusing on the little details. Also getting in character where ever possible.
Now as I finished modding and rerolled for the 7th(or was it 8th) time. I decided to create this robed Dark Wanderer who uses a blade and a bow. Who prefers to strike from the shadows and is experienced in the magic arts of Destruction and Illusion. Also able to create poisons/potions for self use and a bit of extra coin.
Extra to all that I decided to try a more higher difficulty as I usually played on the lowest difficulty, which was riddiculously easy.
Now as I play Oblivion I constantly think ahead before leaping into battle, preparing the various potions and posions that suit the occasion. Decide who gets an arrow with what poison in the gut.
Out of the battles I run around the wilds looking for the ingreadients. Now I don't remember the location of most of the plants as I also visit the alchemy stores. I do however imprinted a couple of potion or posion recipes so I would know what to get and in what quantity.
All in all, playing an alchemist in Oblivion can feel rewarding and very useful. Also I just love it when I suddenly happen on a little spot in the woods with a colourful mix of different flowers and mushrooms.
Even though I left it on my shelf without much attention a while ago. It has been my favourite game so far. Although now I occasionally spot a great game, I keep coming back to Oblivion. I just hope that the next TES will captivate me like Oblivion did.