Over the holiday, I finished looting the Dwemer ruin of Mzulft. After something like three trips back to town hauling Dwemer scrap metal, I discovered the exploit that allows a follower to carry more than their maximum encumbrance.

As far as bugs go, it’s hardly game-breaking. My estimate after returning to Whiterun to smelt them into Dwarven ingots was something like two thousand pounds. Since my follower (Lydia) had proved so helpful, I forged her a full suit of Dwarven armor and tempered it to “Legendary” with my newly-maxed skill.

I also forged and tempered a Dwarven sword, bow, and shield for her, ’cause I thought I might have her tag along for a while. I also gave her an Ebony arrow I found — to take advantage of that “one-arrow exploit” for followers.

Ultimately, I kept Lydia as a follower far longer than I might have expected. It didn’t take long for the AI to bug me to the point that I banished her back to Whiterun.

What this makes me wonder really, is why RPGs (and games in general) tend to have such awful follower AI. You’ll have to forgive me for not having tons of programming experience — though I have some, and I know programming AI is a pain in the butt — but why isn’t this sort of thing a bloody priority.

Elder Scrolls is almost certainly — beyond a reasonable doubt — based on someone’s D&D campaign, and the core experience of D&D is the adventuring party. Not the lone action hero, the team. A bunch of guys. The band.

I’m not complaining about not getting more than one follower — I get that — what I’m complaining about is the competence or effectiveness of that one follower.

You can almost forgive a game for having worse AI when it gives you lots of disposable followers but when you only get one — and a limited pool of followers to draw from, as far as I know — you expect more from each follower.

Now, the follower AI could be really terrible in Fallout 2. I remember that I almost always preferred traveling by myself — but I also remember that it was fun to collect people, and at least in two dimensions, the game still worked.

But here I’m sneaking, I’m lining up a shot — and my idiot partner walks into me and flubs the whole thing. My shot goes wide, the target is alerted to me, and now we’re engaged in melee. On the one hand, I applaud the “realism,” but archery is hard enough as it is without having to worry about allies getting in the way.

The problem is the game suffering for this sort of thing.

You don’t get to have everything — you don’t get to have friendly fire kill followers and also have collisions where the idiots block the doors, and they refuse to give up their starting gear. As a designer, you have to compromise for your players.

The Good Bugs have to outweigh the Bad Bugs. Theoretically infinite arrows and encumbrance does not make up for terrible path-finding and body-blocking.