Below is a short "story" I've written as part of Introduction to Video Games Creation course from XAMK.
I walk along the plank to the wooden pier, and a guard escorts me to the office. During this very short walk, I hear a strange sound, as if a cry of a whale. Or what I imagine to be one. I try to look around to see what kind of creature is making this sound and whether I may need to fight it, but the guard tells me not to dawdle, so I enter the small building.
There I am greeted by Socucius Ergalla. To be officially released and become a free dark elf, he needs me to fill in some documents. Well, he will be filling them in, since I do not really know how to write, and the official documents use some high-quality paper.
He asks me a bunch of questions and after them tells me, that I seem to have affinity to become a battlemage, a fighter preferring heavy armor, axes, and, of course, magic of different flavors, including Alteration and Destruction. I am yet unsure what I can do with that information, but since I, probably, would want to find a job soon, I keep it in mind.
After registering my sign, The Tower, Socucius tells me to continue through the building and give the papers to Sellus Gravius, who would then finalize my release. For some strange reason my path lies through a lonely room, which looks more like a dining room. I see some crab meat and a rusty knife on the table and decide to take them. I mean, I was a thief in the past, no one is watching me, and I do need both food and a weapon to protect myself. Surely, they won't mind missing such minor items, will they?
When I open the door, I find myself in a grassy patch enclosed in stone walls with another building right in front of me. Another strange design, but if this is all, that stands before my freedom – who am I to judge? Near the next building there is a lonely wooden barrel. I peek inside, and beside a small basket and wine cup I find a ring, which is giving off blueish subtle glow. Can't say I have much experience with enchanted items, but this one seems to have a healing spell cast on it, which could be very useful for me. I look around cautiously, but since there are no windows facing this patch, I quickly stuff the ring inside my pocket and move on.
By the look of his armor alone, you can tell that Sellus Gravius is a high-ranking officer. Unlike other guards in the building his armor has golden tint and lion-like motives. A captain brave as a lion, I guess. Better not try playing games with the man, for sure, especially, since I seem to be literal steps from my freedom.
The man seems to be strangely polite, as he explains to me, that even though I am a free man, once I step outside, the Emperor, Uriel Septim VII did not release me without a task. Apparently, I need to deliver a package to someone named Caius Cosades in the town of Balmora. Looks I may not need to find a job, since I am apparently getting one right away.
I get some directions from the captain and step outside. My first steps as a free man in Seyda Neen, a fishing village in Morrowind. Surprisingly, even though I am a dark elf, I have never been to Morrowind, which is the home region for us. I was born in Cyrodiil to a slave woman, never knew who my father was, and did not really care. Either way, perhaps it makes sense, that I was sent here, since imperials are not that fond of dunmers.
A bosmer comes up to me, asking if I was the one who was dropped of by the boat just now. He does not wait for me to answer, and continues saying, that this is a rare occurrence to see an imperial boat at this time and shares his dislike of imperials, since they took his ring. For a second I become alert, since I do have a ring in my pocket, and prepare to lie, if required, but the guy just asks me to let him know if I do find the ring.
He leaves and I am left with little idea what to do next, until I hear the same whale-like cry. I follow it to find a big bug-like creature leashed to a post on a wooden platform atop a nearby hill. Near it I also find a dunmer woman, who explains to me that this is silt strider, and the creature is used to travel between towns and villages of the area. And she can take me to that Balmora town for 15 coins. Which I do not have.
While getting down from the hill I notice a half-rotten door inside a mountain wall in the distance. I wonder what can be inside this cave, maybe something I can fence somewhere to get those coins? I put on the healing ring and prepare the knife, even though I doubt it will be of much use, if push comes to shove. And I enter the cave.
The cave has entrance going in a semi-circle, and at the foot of these probably unnatural "stairs" there is a campfire and a woman near it. She clearly did not expect me. I try to talk to her, but she does not want to listen and takes out her own knife. I dodge or block a few strikes, but then a couple of them reach me in such a quick succession, that I do not have a time to use the ring… And die.
This is the rest of the essay for the course.
These were just a few first minutes of my experience with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. They were enough to make me fall in love with the game and know that those 2 paragraphs in old magazine "Cool" did not give it justice. It blew my mind by how many little things were there that made it all feel so real and believable. Almost "natural". I spent weeks in the world of the game, completed seemingly most of the quests, but it still felt like there were tons of things to explore. And I still believe that in terms of immersion, it's better than Skyrim (let alone Oblivion).
If a few minutes of a game with little to no narrative (at least at that portion of the game) can tell such a story, it's hard to imagine how the whole game can feel, when you learn more and more new stuff about its lore and mechanics. It is still worth playing today, although I understand if some people would want to use plugins, that will enhance the visuals.
But the most fun about the experience was (and is in other games like this) that you, the player, was part of that narrative and it was fully in your hands to weave the story. Yes, at times the choices did not affect the world, as we experienced in newer games, but they all felt natural, logical to the circumstances of each particular quest. The player was the story, which was much more complex to achieve compared to what GTA3 had at the time, where the "open world" was mostly dead except for the limited missions that you had and you could feel more as a "cog in the machine", rather than a proper main character.