It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land.
The man walks the typical slow walk of all denizens of Oblivion. This makes this a long, tedious walk. Whenever I hit run out of boredom I risk catching up with him. He cheerily greets me every time I do. Very inconspicuous of me. Like I said, I am not good at stealth. Luckily, this mission doesn't really require it as he doesn't seem to find it suspicious, even when, near the palace, I switch to full stalker mode, running from pillar to pillar behind him. I've read somewhere that the people in Oblivion all have a schedule and some randomized behavior set into it that rules their day. This means that they have places to be at certain times, such as store-owners leaving their posts, people running from a to be, not just pacing back and forth. As the randomized pattern means they have conversations with people they meet along the way, this makes the populations look rather real and alive. People go from A to B, meet acquaintances along the way, chat and then keep moving in the same direction they were heading before, sometimes even running when they've gotten late. This makes for a great backdrop when you walk through a city, with people being busy around you and the murmur of actual conversations taking place all around.* When you are on surveillance on someone, this can become quire a nuisance.
*It does sometimes feel a bit like you're living in a mid 20th-century communist country when different people in different conversations spout the exact same propaganda phrases about the swordsman-guild hiring people now but I find that funny rather than irritating. Maybe the Imperial palace has a good propaganda-engine to keep its religiously sanctioned government in power.
My target makes his way to the arboretum, a park in the city, some trees and some really nice statues and quite a lot of people about at this hour. He walks up to a man and I get really excited. This is it! I run behind a column and expect to overhear cloak-and-dagger spy-talk. Then they chat about the fucking swordsman-guild hiring. God-damn! I keep stalking the shop-owner as he wanders around the park, sometimes stopping to enjoy the scenery, talking similar small-talky conversations twice more. Then he leaves the area and I follow. I don't know how long I follow him but the whole thing feels tedious. I walk behind someone walking slowly through the city. The idiot doesn't notice me even if I circle him (which I don't 'coz I'm RPing) so there is no challenge. This is... FILLER! The whole thing takes at least twenty minutes of game-time with nothing happening. But then he meets up with someone in a back-yard! I hide behind a bush and overhear a conversation between the two of them. Martor, in one of his rare moments of independent opinion decides I should follow the other man next. Another slow-mo chase is on until the man disappears in a door in one of the residential areas of the city. Martor suggests to search through the house when he is out so I decide it's time to sleep right here on the curb. I'm rather annoyed at the quest at this point.
I have to wait until the next evening until the guy has finally left. I wait for the guard to walk away and then pick the lock, using most of my picks in the process. I'm supposed to search the house for evidence of smuggling thieved goods. There is a basement-door and an upstairs apartment. I go upstairs first, pick everything I can, steal all the food (while vendors won't buy stolen goods I can still eat them, right?), read some texts lying about and then head for the basement door. I fail to pick the lock. All of this and I don't have enough picks on me. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I have had it with this city for now. I am out of here. I leave the house, set a wait-time to early morning so it'll be bright outside and decide to go on with the main-quest. After dutifully checking back with the shop-lady to tell her that I knew this guy who might be the seller of stolen goods and her telling me she already checked his name but that it was probably fake. Whatever. I'm out of here. Stupid city. Stupid quest. Time to see this grand world first glimpsed when I left the catacombs.