28 March, 2006


I am rapidly losing respect for Oblivion.

A fellow on the street tells me about a happening tavern, so I stop in. No one's there but the proprieter, so I gossip with him a little.

It's when I sit down at the bar that things get weird. First off, there's already food there, a place setting at each barstool with food on each plate. But the owner doesn't come over to serve me; he just stands there by the door, appearing to ignore me. Have I caused him insult? I don't know.

A cafe up my street usually serves you bread when you sit down whether you want it or not. Most of us have been to Mexican restaurants where they bring you chips and salsa... but something here tells me I'm not allowed to eat any of the food that's already out. So I get up and walk back over to him. He has food for a sale, but only ingredients; no meals. A head of lettuce, a loaf of bread, some cheese. I buy some bread and cheese then walk over to a table where there's an empty plate.

Did I ever have a hell of a time putting my food down on that plate! I ate the cheese by accident, so decided to sit down and have the bread I'd bought with some raw, spoiled sewer-crab I'd picked out from a pool of feces and urine the evening before. Well to get them on that plate I first had to drop them on the floor. The bread rolled partway across the room, but the crab landed on the table, knocking some blackberries on the floor.

Again, some instinct told me to leave those blackberries alone. A fleeting memory from a past life, perhaps.

Well I pick up my bread and the crab and put them on the plate. In Oblivion you have a gravity gun just like the one in Half-Life 2, except there's no gravity and it's not a gun. The process falls somewhere between telekinesis and carrying a cat with your elbows. Eventually, though, I had the plate bautifully arranged and I sat down to eat.

Earlier I'd been out on the street shooting the shit with some of the townspeople, and I was impressed at the control they had over their necks. They could look up and they could look down, just like normal people without pancake makeup and Welsh accents. But to my dismay I learned that I, as a dark elf, have no such control of my neck. Unable to look directly at my food from a seated position, I was forced to stand back up and eat.

There was a newspaper on the table. Have you ever been to a cafe and there was already a newspaper on your table? Even though it was last week's issue, I thought perhaps I'd pick it up and have a look.

But again, I worried this might offend the owner. The owners of the cafe up the street are mean. One even called a friend of mine fat and said she looked like she had been using heroin. Perhaps the owner of such a place in a computer game can be similarly mean, especially if he has no customers.

But several people had wandered in by this time, and a conversation was underway. I didn't think he'd notice, much less mind, were I to look at someone else's week-old issue of the paper - but just in case I didn't take it. In Oblivion you can take an item like you can in good roleplaying games, or if you'd rather you can just push it around with your invisible elbows.

Well I figured I'd test the fellow's temperament by just shifting it over a bit, and if he raised an eyebrow I'd make as though I just didn't want to get crumbs on the thing. That wasn't a very good idea, because he flew into a panic. "Stop!" he yelled. "Thief!" And a guard rushed in. So I ran out.

The guard followed me out, and then to my further surprise four more guards came out of the same door. Where were they hiding? Had they been under the newspaper? Maybe that food at the bar was for them, and they had all gone into the restroom together. I hadn't noticed a bathroom, but I bet the lady I stole ten hammers from earlier that day didn't know there was an entrance to the crab-infested city sewers in her basement either. Cyrodil is a land brimming with secrets.

Outnumbered, I surrendered. To be more specific, I went to the bar and sat down. I dropped my weapons and I took off my pants. The message was not clear. One of the guards stood on the barstool next to me and chopped repeatedly at my neck with his sword.

I'm not too clear on what happened next, but I must have survived because I found myself in prison. In prison, you can lie down and sleep through your entire sentence, but that sounded boring to me so I went to the bars of my cell and chatted up the guard.

This fellow wasn't too friendly either. He informed me that talking is not allowed. Then he talked to me for twenty minutes. He didn't like jokes, and didn't believe me when I mentioned what a swell chap he was, how big his muscles were and how shiny his suit of armor. But he enjoyed my boasting and confessed to envying my way of life - and he loved being threatened. After we'd been talking for a while he even began to stutter. Now that I think of it, he might have had a crush on me. I wonder if he still works there.

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