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Issue Data
Status: New
Issue Type: Bug Report
Project: Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch
Component: Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch
Category: Actors
Assigned To: Nobody
Platform: Windows PC
Severity: Very Low
Votes: 1
Watching: N/A
Opened By Czembro on Nov 9, 2020 1:56 am

Issue #29377: USSEP ignores narrative aspect of Skyrim as storytelling medium

 
Erik the Slayer's class "fix" implemented in USSEP, though seem reasonable from a strictly technical standpoint, completely ignores the narration of Erik's story, his realtionship with his father and his inexperience nature as an adventurer.

In game we are asked by Erik to help him convince his father to let him become an adventurer/hireling. When speaking with Mralki it's pretty clear, that he is protective, or even over-protective of his son, fearing for his life as Erik never venture alone outside of Rorikstead. This establish their father-son dynamic, as the one where Mralki is holding back his son from experiencing the vast world. If we convince Mralki to let his son go, he promises to take Erik to Whiterun to buy him new equipment.
The next time we visit Rorikstead Erik has his new armor and weapon, as well as his new name, Erik the Slayer, reminiscent of popular character Conan the Barbarian, which might be a first hint on Erik's combat preferences. Yet, Erik wear a clunky set of heavy iron armor with addition of sword and shield, which can point on two possible scenarios that happened when we were gone:
  • Mralki, as an over-protective father, wanted Erik to have as much protection as he can get, completely disregarding Erik's preferences or his skills, so he bought him a heavy armor together with shield, believing that it will protect Erik from any major harm. The fact that this is only an iron armor can be easily explained as that this was the only one Mralki could afford,
  • Erik, as a freshman to this whole adventure thing, simply doesn't know better, so he goes with whatever Mralki suggest and/or what he believes is a popular equipment among hirelings.

Both of those makes sense in a previously established story of Erik and Mralki, and continue the trope of an over-protective father, who holds his son's progress back, even when letting him go into the harsh world of Skyrim. That also simulates a grow of Erik as an adventurer, cause when player notice his better prowess in light armor/two handed weapon combination and provide Erik with appropiate equipment, he becomes a much better follower.

In conclusion, I believe that discrepancy between Erik's equipment and class, while might have seem like a bug from technical standpoint, was an intentional piece of storytelling, continuing the theme of over-protective father and inexperience son. As such I request for Erik's class to be changed back to CombatBarbarian and his combat style to HumanBoss2H.

Related Issues: 14739  19324  

Comments

10 comment(s)
DayDreamer said:
 
"When player notice his better prowess" isn't really possible in the vanilla game. If you hand NPCs light armor, they do not equip it in preference to the heavy they are already wearing. A default light armor NPC will always equip any heavy armor you give them. Unlike your own armor level, there's no inventory UI indication.

How would you judge he's actually more proficient in two-handed weapons? All NPCs will usually equip any two-handed weapon you give them, because it is based upon damage value rather than proficiency. Consider that a game engine bug.

In almost all cases, the choice is to change the unknowable (invisible) character class to match the known default (visible) armor and weapons. We assume the NPC has chosen equipment that matches their abilities. When the vanilla game has a mismatch, it is considered a bug.

That he only has iron armor is a bit pathetic, as all his father could afford. Changed in Cutting Room Floor, presumably so he scales better with the player, although there's no mention on the CRF page.

Czembro said:
 
""When player notice his better prowess" isn't really possible in the vanilla game. If you hand NPCs light armor, they do not equip it in preference to the heavy they are already wearing. A default light armor NPC will always equip any heavy armor you give them. Unlike your own armor level, there's no inventory UI indication.
How would you judge he's actually more proficient in two-handed weapons? All NPCs will usually equip any two-handed weapon you give them, because it is based upon damage value rather than proficiency. Consider that a game engine bug."

This isn't true. From my experience with followers they always choose the weapon that match their skill, unless the other weapon is exceptionaly more powerfull. Don't know what is the exact math behind it, but I assume that simillary to how damage value of the weapon for the player rise together with corresponding skill, even if no perks are unlocked, the damage value of weapon for followers is also calculated with regards of higher level combat skill. Same for armor - I just went into the game, hired Janessa who is more proficient in light armor (100) than heavy armor (15) and gave her ebony and even daedric chest piece, yet she was still wearing her default leather, but when I gave her elven armor, which is only one tier higher, she immediately put it on.


"In almost all cases, the choice is to change the unknowable (invisible) character class to match the known default (visible) armor and weapons. We assume the NPC has chosen equipment that matches their abilities. When the vanilla game has a mismatch, it is considered a bug."

Then why Belrand from Solitude had his equipment changed by USSEP to match his class instead of the other way around, as you described?

Arthmoor said:
 
It's been my experience with various hirelings and other followers that they will go only by what the game tells them is better for them to use, and it doesn't take their class settings into account for that decision. It's strictly about the numbers, which can result in some bizarre choices.

You're also never going to notice that Erik is somehow better with light armor because the game presents him to you, trope or not, wearing heavy iron armor and he does nothing as far as dialogue to tell you that this isn't an optimal choice. You would only ever discover by accident that he may be more proficient in light armor by handing him something, expecting him to simply carry it for you, but he instead puts it on. You'd then have to somehow magically realize that once he put it on he's become far more skilled at combat. There simply isn't any feedback mechanism for you to know this. So the natural thing would be for most people to continue to try and equip him with stuff he's not statistically able to use effectively. Which leads to complaints that he's a paper tiger, etc.

I am fully aware that there was some element of story telling here, but the execution of that didn't go far enough to make it clear that Mralki hamfisted the situation. If this had been executed correctly, it would have been made clear to the player that this equipment isn't optimal and that it was all his father could afford to buy. Even though logically speaking, leather armor is cheaper than heavy iron, and that would have been more in line with the skill set he was assigned by the devs. You also need to keep in mind that the person who created the Erik NPC may not have been the same one who later assigned his combat stats and they may not have been aware of the story elements. So while you make a good argument on the side of story telling, it falls apart in terms of gameplay as set up by the devs.

So that leaves us in a situation that's generally considered untenable. Fix the bug by aligning his combat class to his visible setup, or change his visible setup to match his combat class and hope that we haven't missed any specifics that clearly place him in iron armor. Either way it's a no-win situation for us because one side or the other will accuse us of making improper decisions either for NOT fixing it, or for fixing it a different way.

In Belrand's case the devs went further with his combat stats and assigned several specific perks to his NPC record that made the intent clear, and he's NOT an Erik case, so there's no story elements saying that his father bought him crappy gear for financial reasons. Belrand is supposed to be a seasoned mercenary and simply didn't fit the details that were given to him on the mechanics side of things.

@DayDreamer: CRF gave Erik his specific outfit as part of the hirelings edits that gave the ALL the custom outfits the game data had but never used. It doesn't apply in a vanilla game because while they provided them, the devs clearly chose not to use them for unknown reasons. IMO those outfits work out far better in the long term because they scale with the player's level better.

Czembro said:
 
"You would only ever discover by accident that he may be more proficient in light armor by handing him something, expecting him to simply carry it for you, but he instead puts it on. You'd then have to somehow magically realize that once he put it on he's become far more skilled at combat."

This is pretty much how I discovered Erik's preferences first time I played Skyrim. First it was a minor difference, but I started noticing that with light armor I gave him, he was on his knees far less during combat. I understand that not everyone would notice something like this, but this is one of a fun parts of getting to know your follower, even if you need to check CreationKit or UESP to fully grasp NPC's character.


"So that leaves us in a situation that's generally considered untenable. Fix the bug by aligning his combat class to his visible setup, or change his visible setup to match his combat class and hope that we haven't missed any specifics that clearly place him in iron armor. Either way it's a no-win situation for us because one side or the other will accuse us of making improper decisions either for NOT fixing it, or for fixing it a different way."

Well, as it isn't really a game breaking bug, so I feel that trying to "fix" this is more of a design choice of a mod author/s. As player can also "fix" this situation in-game by simply giving Erik matching equipment, so there really seems to be no need for change like that, especially since with it Erik feels a lot more generic and less unique, as his equipment and combat style is the exact same as all of the housecarls.
Taking that there are 3 ways to handle this I can think of:
  • Leave it as it is in vanilla,
  • Change equipment to match the class,
  • Change class to match equipment

I think that the first one, leave it be, is the most neutral and in-line of what patch fix should actually do. Erik isn't broken, his equipment just isn't the best suited for him, but it should be up to player to fix it as an in-world character mistake rather than the game's developer one.

Arthmoor said:
 
Erik isn't broken, his equipment just isn't the best suited for him, but it should be up to player to fix it as an in-world character mistake rather than the game's developer one.

What you're missing here is pretty important. The player is given no cues whatsoever that his equipment choice is a mismatch, and they may continue handing him heavy armors in the future on the mistaken assumption that it's what he should be wearing. I think that in-game cues, whether they're spelled out clearly or not, are just as important to address as bugs. This goes beyond something that was merely a bad design choice but is well understood anyway. So I'm personally leaning toward modifying this to shift him from iron armor over to leather so that the game cues are clear - if you assume the devs deliberately assigned his skills that way.

Otherwise my second choice is to leave things as we've set them since his skill set under our class fix favors heavy armor and matches the visual cues given by the devs.

FelesNoctis said:
 
I'm a lore nerd when it comes to the series, so this one has some analysis investment.

I agree that, by his backstory and story environment, this may not actually be a bug. Erik wants to adventure, and his father is overprotective. Overprotective parents tend to be illogical in their decisions for the sake of their child, so even if Erik fights better in light armor and with a heavy weapon, Mralki could very well be blind to that and went for something that's obviously protective. That would support the argument for his original assigned class and fighting style. In addition to that, there are numerous examples in Skyrim (and TES in general) where there was meant to be more, where writers/designers were crammed for time, and where creative minds may have left subtle clues behind for characters and events hoping that someone would see (after all, Cutting Room Floor is fairly expansive). This situation may be a part of that last situation, a hint that his father is forcing decisions on him that maybe aren't the most suitable for his skills. The name, as an aside, may be a hint or it could just be a joke reference. TES is filled with those jokes.

However, notice all those highlighted ifs, mays, and maybes? This is all based on meta knowledge. We have no clear indication that his original class and fighting style are what was intended. Consider the environment he grew up in. His father is overprotective. If Erik received formal training at all, at least by his father's approval, it was likely with a defensive style, such as with a shield. If he's using armor, it's was likely his father-approved protective heavy armor. If Erik is going to be out of Mralki's sight, it's going to be with all preparations necessary to make sure Erik stays unharmed.


So what do we have for support of being a light armor, 2H barbarian?
  • Plugin data such as class and stat AVs (meta info, not visible in-game unmodded)
  • His name (meta, possible reference to Conan)
  • Self-training (assumed, since it isn't actually seen in-game)
What about support of a more defensive option?
  • Strong desire for adventure at young age (demonstrated by quest)
  • Overprotective father (demonstrated by quest)
  • 1H weapon used before quest, kept after (demonstrated by quest)
  • Conditional approval (assumed, implied by father's gifts to him)

As much as I agree that the story and naming leaves an implication that he has innate talents of a barbarian, the Unofficial Patches aren't here to assume from storytelling narrative. The team can't assume what was intended by the devs as hidden info and what was just a mistake, as that would result in bugfixes being opinionated one way or another. All they can do is provide an unbiased resolution of potential issues based on the facts at hand.

In this case, the support for the change to a heavy armor fighting style is the unbiased approach to resolving this issue based on the quest, in-game result, and associated visual cues, with only meta assumptions supporting the barbarian side. Again, as much as I'm a lore nerd, I see this situation as a nonissue. The team did what's appropriate given the situation.

Spoiler:
As an aside, the name isn't a direct reference to Conan the Barbarian. Erik is a memorial to a notable forum member "Immok the Slayer", real life name Erik, who died from cancer in 2011.

Comment #6 Nov 9, 2020 5:39 pm  Edited by FelesNoctis on Nov 9, 2020 5:44 pm
Czembro said:
 
@Arthmoor
What you're missing here is pretty important. The player is given no cues whatsoever that his equipment choice is a mismatch, and they may continue handing him heavy armors in the future on the mistaken assumption that it's what he should be wearing. I think that in-game cues, whether they're spelled out clearly or not, are just as important to address as bugs.

Actually I'm not missing it, I just don't agree that this is something that needs fixing. Similarly, some quests also don't give player cues about the correct solution, and because of how quests are overall handled in the game, player is pretty prone to do a mistake, e.g. in "Blood on the Ice":
Spoiler:
Player has no knowledge, that he/she can confront Wuunferth by him/her-self. The quest journal log only says "Talk to Jorleif", not "Talk to Jorleif or confront Wuunferth", so when doing this quest for the first time it's almost impossible to get the correct solution to the murder case, because player is used to that journal entries gives all possible actions that can be undertaken at given stage. Even more, on second playthrough player can think that there isn't really any alternate solution, so he/she will again accuse Wuunferth, because he/she thniks this is how the quest must go.
If we should apply this idea of giving cues to the player, so he/she doesn't make a mistake or have whole knowledge of the game world, we should also consider described quest jornal entry as a bug, because player has no cues that Wuunferth can be confronted, and can probably find this way of doing the quest only by sheer luck.

It all comes down to whether or not player should be led by the game by hand. Though I do understand that my view on this matter is a bit biased, as my experience with the game, discovering Erik's preferences by coincidence, made the whole thing much more interesting, I just view this change as robbing other players from getting similar expierience of figuring some stuff on their own, even if it means checking some under the hood mechanics of the game.

@FelesNoctis
So what do we have for support of being a light armor, 2H barbarian?
  • Plugin data such as class and stat AVs (meta info, not visible in-game unmodded)
  • His name (meta, possible reference to Conan)
  • Self-training (assumed, since it isn't actually seen in-game)

We also have the followers choice of preferable equipment. Sure, it can probably happen almost 100% by accident/sheer luck, that the player will discover follower's preffered skills, but it is still a viable option.

In this case, the support for the change to a heavy armor fighting style is the unbiased approach to resolving this issue based on the quest, in-game result, and associated visual cues, with only meta assumptions supporting the barbarian side.

This depends of how we are looking at things like this - as a game developer mistake, or an in-game character mistake. I think that if something isn't breaking the game, but rather is just a minor inconvienience, that can even be explained as an in-world event rather than wrong value in CreationKit, it should be left alone for player to handle it for him/her-self, especially since stuff like giving follower proper equipment is absolutely possible, even if player may not know what equipment will be best from the get go.

FelesNoctis said:
 
We also have the followers choice of preferable equipment. Sure, it can probably happen almost 100% by accident/sheer luck, that the player will discover follower's preffered skills, but it is still a viable option.

Except for a large flaw in that logic: NPCs don't have a preference for specific types of equipment. By design, NPCs are given certain outfits, OR they use their inventory as determined by a flag set. The ones that use their inventory do so by calculating the most protective things to wear (for armor), or the most damage delivered by their current attack plan (for weapons). Modified by this is the gold value of said items, and NPCs typically assume that a higher gold value means a better item, even if that may not be true. For instance, I tend to use my followers as pack mules. Jenassa in a recent game preferred to wear steel armor despite her light armor skill being much higher (because the numbers were better than her leather), and although she's a ranger, would default to dual wielding staves for ranged combat. Even when I gave her a really damn good bow, she still preferred the staves. Why? Because they had a higher value.

Using an NPC's equip preference to determine their skills is shaky at best because the same rules are applied across the board. If the numbers work out in the right (or wrong) way, what they equip may surprise you. Perks and skills only determine increased effectiveness, not a guarantee of use. Classes provide additional skill bonuses. Fighting styles determine how they'll behave in combat. Using those stats to determine how an NPC is "supposed" to be just isn't reliable.

That being said, it would be nice to actually give NPCs a preference beyond what their skills dictate, or locking them to a particular outfit config, but that's an engine thing.

DayDreamer said:
 
@Czembro assumes that there exist deliberate "in world character" mistakes. Because I've seen and fixed so many careless Bethesda developer mistakes, that's my default assumption.

I'll bow to your experience with Janessa, I've never hired her.

Early game experience with Faendal has him put on any armor that I've given him, and in 9 years I've never noticed him prefer light over heavy. Perhaps I've missed it. (I'll check later.) Likewise, he'll happily wield a warhammer instead of a sword.

Rayya uses an elven warhammer over her scimitars, but not an iron warhammer. (I happened to have an old save with those choices.) But I don't know what's vanilla, as I'm fairly sure that US*P improves the price of scimitars. So in vanilla she might use the iron warhammer, too.

Personally, I've never tried out different equipment on a follower. I give them various things along the way, and when I see that they equip something that doesn't match what I (as the player) know they had originally, I take it back, assuming it is wrong for them. I've never assumed it was a deliberate game choice to give them initial equipment that is wrong for them.... Principle of least surprise.

In this specific case, I'm confident US*P has the best solution here.

Comment #9 Nov 13, 2020 9:46 pm  Edited by DayDreamer on Nov 13, 2020 9:48 pm
DayDreamer said:
 
Faendal will equip iron boots over leather or fur boots, iron gauntlets over leather or fur gauntlets, and iron helm over leather helm. He is skilled in light armor, but there's no way for the player to know (as he starts with no armor). He has an iron helm at home.

He will equip an iron warhammer over an iron axe, but will equip an iron greatsword over the iron warhammer. I don't know why, as the warhammer is worth more and hits harder. There's more to the calculation than is obvious. He is skilled in one handed, but again there's no way to guess, other than the axe and mace in his house.

Therefore, I reject the assertion that these NPC skills are learnable in game, other than very specific instances.

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