I played some more Skyrim over the weekend. Maybe a little too much Skyrim. Still, like any game designer worth his salt, I came away with some ideas.

Since cookiemonger is also playing Skyrim, I’m deliberately avoiding plot-related quests because she’s highly susceptible to spoilers. This being an Elder Scrolls game, it’s easier to avoid the plot than in most games.

Anyway this means that I’ve spent a great deal of time trekking cross-country, looking for places of interest to me — I’ve been alternately between Mage College quests, and what basically amounts to “nature hikes” as a means of entertaining myself. When I get tired of wandering through the wilds, I explore a dungeon.

Dungeons in Skyrim come in a couple different forms that I’ve observed — natural caves, which come in a variety of unique shapes; mines/quarries, dug out by humanoids and are a little more predictable in layout; and forts, walled installations generally featuring a barracks or keep, and a jail.

It’s the forts that caught my attention — since they represent exactly what I like to imagine as the basis for strongholds in tabletop parlance. They aren’t sprawling cities, filled to the brim with guards and soldiers — they’re quiet, secluded places with no more than a dozen or so guards, occupying a strategic location.

Getting totally off-topic — forts in Skyrim represent both one of my favorite elements and one of the most frustrating features of gameplay. While the first-person perspective is great for immersion, it is simply unable to convey the kind of information about a scene that actually being there in person can grant.

For example, actually being on the scene would enable most people to estimate how wide the walls are, how large the settlement is around, how many buildings and people the structure can accommodate, and so forth. In the game, the only way to get this information is to circle the complex, which is tedious.

The game fails to effectively convey a sense of depth, despite being rendered in three dimensions. It’s a very “flat” world, and visually deceptive. I sometimes flick between the first- and third-person views to try and get a feel for how large things are, but the third-person view is extremely limited.

Then there’s the problem of enemies in the forts varying wildly in terms of power. One fort I raided had a bunch of bandits whom I was able to sneak around and pick off with a bow at a distance. This worked until I got inside and the enemies who previously required one or two arrows now took three or four to kill.

Three or four shots is easier to pull off when you have room to maneuver outdoors — indoors however, the comparative inability to take cover between shots turns raids into a nightmare of rapid zoning and save-scumming.

I don’t know, maybe it’s more realistic that arrows deal more damage from an optimal distance (is it because they require a minimum distance to achieve their greatest velocity?) but what I would really like is a “point-blank shot” perk so I could use the stupid thing indoors, or up-close when I get rushed in melee.