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Skyrim – Mod It

So, Bethesda finally released the long-awaited Creation Kit for Skyrim, so the modders of the world can finally really sink their teeth into the game and start producing outstanding content.  Well, there’s some good stuff already, but the options are now thrown wide open.  If you are interested in giving it a whirl, they’ve got a wiki set up with starting information, including how to install the Kit (not obvious via Steam, at least to me) and some solid tutorials.  I myself am not much of a 3d designer (hence why most of my art resembles The Order of the Stick), but new quests (or adjustments) would be fun.  I added a room in the basement of many buildings (one room, linked in many places) in Morrowind to give me a place to store stuff as well as to ease travel restrictions in that game.  What would YOU add or change?

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Friday Finds – LOTR and Star Wars

Hey, it’s been a while.  Vacations, children, car shopping, attending Sabres games in the press box, all take a toll on my time.  Onto the posts!

Bah, I’ll be impressed when the docking bay is built into a giant Death Star model.

100 facts about the Lord of the Rings movies, many of which you might know if you watched the movies with the DVD commentary on.  Neat for those of us who haven’t.

I just love glaciers, and science.

The Math that Saved Apollo 13 – this is cool.  I had JUST watched a show about Apollo 13 where you saw Lovell with this very manual.

Mimicking nature, always a solid option when you have a technical challenge like this.  These ‘kelp forest’ underwater power generators could possibly be adapter to work almost anywhere.

Really does sort of resemble the Silver Surfer.  It’s a comet, though.

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Skyrim Screenies

In case you want to see more of my adventures, including me blinding a bear:





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Skyrim Stories – The Shakiest Swordarm In The North

This is a new series I’m doing, highlighting some of the cool cinematic moments I find myself in while playing Skyrim.  I hope you enjoy them.

A rescue mission!  My first task as a new Companion is to head to a cave and rescue Camilla Valerius of Riverwood.  I collect Lydia, my housecarl, and head out of Whiterun.  I see from my map that our path will take us past abandoned Fort Greymoor, which is sure to have at least a few bandits nearby (abandoned forts are funny that way).  We approach the fort, and spot at least two bowmen stationed on the battlements.  It looks like more at first, but the bandits have placed training dummies along the wall to try and obscure their numbers.  Smart.  I line up a bow shot on the living bandit on the wall, and let loose an arrow.  Hit, but not dead, he alerts his companions.  At least a half-dozen bandits come boiling out of the ruined gate.  I raise my bow again as Lydia fires her first arrow, confident I will hit SOMETHING with all the targets when I hear it.  Beating wings, and an ear-piercing shriek.


I scramble for the cover of the wall while shooting arrows, and I see the bandits have momentarily forgotten our quarrel and are doing the same.  The dragon glides around in a circle, then dives towards the ground, landing just in front of the gate.  I run left as a tongue of flame sweeps my way.  I’ve lost track of Lydia; I can only hope she got out of the way and is still in the fight.

I put aside my bow and take out a massive axe.  I run to the dragon’s side and swing the axe into it with a scream.  The creature howls in pain, and I swing again.  Scales are flying, blood flies off the axe and into my face, but I keep hacking.  The bandits keep firing arrows, and I, with one more mighty swing, cave in the dragon’s ribcage.  I stumble back as beams of light curl out of the dragon and into me, and I feel the power.  I then feel a sword crash into my helm, apparently there’s a couple of surviving bandits.  I whirl on them and use my VOICE.  They fall back – one stumbles to the ground – I swing wildly at the two still standing and they fall.  Without pause I line up a powerful swing, and realize too late that my target is wearing a nice set of steel armor.

The force of the killing blow rolls the body over.  It’s Lydia.  Oh, crap.  At least she won’t have to carry my burdens anymore.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim First Impressions

I’m only maybe 5 or 6 hours into Skyrim, but I feel like I’ve seen and experienced enough to give you my first impressions.  It’s a downright beautiful game, it set my detail level to ‘High’ based on my specs and it was just ridiculous how good it looks.  I think there’s been an emphasis on the Elder Scrolls games after Morrowind to try and get you into some action right away, and Skyrim does not disappoint.  You start the game as a prisoner (as per usual with these games) and being taken to your death.  You escape when, as they shove your head down on the block for the headsman’s axe…well, you’ll see.  A member of a rebelling group of Nords (the Stormcloaks) helps you, and depending on how you want to play it you can join them if you like.

Let me pause right there and explain how The Elder Scrolls games are different than some other popular computer RPGs.  In The Elder Scrolls, your character is intentionally a blank slate.  You start in prison or under arrest in some way – did you actually commit a crime?  Are you wrongfully accused?  Maybe you stole to feed your family, or you killed someone who was attacking your wife.  You decide, and role play it that way.  Let that color your decisions for the rest of the game.  It’s freeing, especially if you’ve been playing linear RPGs for a while, but for some folks it can feel a bit directionless.  You are helping to create your own story, which for some people is not as much fun as starring in their own interactive movie.  I love it, though.  Similar to that is the fact that Bethesda doesn’t like to limit what you can do, and you can often find quirks in the game which you can exploit to your benefit.  It’s up to you not to game the system too much and ruin your experience.  If you’ve ever had a DM who had to house-rule something particularly gamebreaking out of a DnD session, same idea.

Below, I will talk about my early game experiences, and there are some minor spoilers.

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Friday Finds – Remembering

It’s 11/11/11, a day I’m already tired of being reminded of as being ‘special’.  The REAL reason it’s special is Veteran’s Day (or Rememberance Day for you folks north of me).  My dad was in the Navy for 26 years, in Vietnam, in the Gulf during some tense times, all of that.  I heard a ton of stories as he, my uncle and the husbands of my mom’s friends all told their stories while the ladies played cards and drank strawberry daquiris (half the time forgetting the rum).  The men, ranging from my dad, who spent most of his career in the ‘brown water’ Navy, on amphibious ships and in the rivers of Vietnam, to a supply corps Captain, to a Merchant Marine sailor during WW2, told stories ranging from hilarious to harrowing.  Many of the stories have stayed with me to this day.  Thanks, Dad.

On a less serious note, this week’s posts:

Links of the week:

7 Things You Should Do In Skyrim – The game is now out, and I must play it.

Create instant origami.  Light, heat and plastic sheets.

Urine Power.  I need say no more.  You’ve already clicked it.

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Old Game Tuesday – The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

I came to know Morrowind (I only figured out it was the third game in a series after the fact) through a friend.  He had taken time out from Everquest to play a new single player RPG that I hadn’t heard of.  I sat and watched for a while, and was intrigued.  There were a LOT of things different about Morrowind, such as skills that improved with use and not just from an arbitrary level-up.  The world was massive, with miles and miles of terrain with ruins and caves to explore.  You were free to roam anywhere and do the main plot at your own pace.  I really enjoyed that aspect, as it was one of the few games where you could really get in over your head in a dungeon meant for a higher level (but if you could sneak through and grab some of the gear it was incredibly fun).

It’s a game that is meant to actually be role-played, but that did mean that the gameplay was breakable if you were a bit of a min-maxer.  You could find (or steal) many solid weapons and armor right from the start if you were careful and had the patience, though the effectiveness of the armor stayed low until you had been hit in that kind of gear quite a bit.  You could also cheat the potion-making and enchanting systems by creating temporary stat boosting potions, using them (cumulative) and then creating even more powerful potions and so on.  Still, once you know how to break the game, it’s up to you not to do it.  I’d rather have the option to be creative than be hamstrung because of a few dopes.

The game itself looked good for the time, though it suffers (similar to Dragon Age: Origins) from too much brown.  The character faces were pretty muddy, but that leads to one of the other big strengths of this game series:  you can fix it with mods!  Bethsoft provided a fairly easy to use set of tools to customize the game, and gamers took to it.  There are 297 pages of mods listed at PlanetElderScrolls for Morrowind, and many of them are quite awesome.  Don’t like getting attacked by Cliff Racers?  Take them out of the game.  People are ugly?  Install new heads, new clothes or whatever you can think of.  Don’t like the housing options in your favorite town?  Build a new one, or heck, build a whole new island of your own.  People did, and it’s incredible.  There are numerous mods I wouldn’t start a new game without.

If you are as excited as I am getting for what you are seeing out of Skyrim, you owe it to yourself to go back and play Morrowind and Oblivion.  Classics.

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On Sequels

Reading some of the reviews and discussions out there on Dragon Age 2 got me to thinking – Did Bioware do a disservice to themselves by declaring this game a sequel?  They call it a sequel on the game’s official site, and they put a ‘2’ after it, but it may have damaged the perception of the game a bit to do so.  Even the CNN review says it “isn’t exactly a sequel” and I agree with them.  A sequel, to use the wiki definition as an example, is:

a narrative, documental, or other work of literature, film, theatre, or music that continues the story of or expands upon issues presented in some previous work. In the common context of a narrative work of fiction, a sequel portrays events set in the same fictional universe as a previous work, usually chronologically following the events of that work.

Let’s examine DA2 in this context.  It *is* in the same fictional universe, though DA2 starts during DA:O, not after.  You’ve got a bit of character overlap but not much, but the most important character from Origins is not directly present, the Warden.  The new game is set in the same world, but all new locations.  The DA2 story has some elements you came up against in the first game, which I won’t spoil, but still, to me, doesn’t seem like all this adds up to clearcut sequel status.  It became clearest to me when someone mentioned Baldur’s Gate:  Dark Alliance, a game my wife and I very much enjoyed, but played quite a bit different from other BG games.  DA2 doesn’t stray THAT far away, but it did move.

That isn’t a bad thing, though.  The problem is not with the game, but how it was sold to the consumer.  When I hear ‘sequel’, I’m thinking of games like Diablo 2, Warcraft 2 and the like.  Games that are bigger/better/MORE of what came before.  Yes, there are new features, graphical upgrades, but you see the progression.  You don’t see that so much with DA2.  There’s enough things that are different (some would say downgraded) and enough gameplay has changed that it really feels more like a spinoff than a true sequel.  Instead of slapping a ‘2’ after the name and calling it a day, Bioware should’ve titled it something like “Dragon Age:  The Champion of Kirkwall” while simultaneously announcing development of a true sequel 2-3 years down the road, closer to the Elder Scrolls dev cycle.  Those playing the Kirkwall game wouldn’t necessarily be expecting ‘more of the same’ as DA:O, and a real high fantasy epic world-spanning adventure ‘true sequel’ would still be very welcome.  Everyone is happy, and we can be done with the whiners complaining about not having all the origin stories in the game NOT named Origins.

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Future Games I Want

  • Dragon Age 2. Still gotta try the demo, but really, I’m all over it.  (have it now, see my reviews)
  • The Elder Scrolls:  Skyrim.  My favorite characters in Morrowind and Oblivion were both Nords.  Looks really, really cool.
  • Portal 2.  Please assume the party escort submission position.
  • Batman:  Arkham City.  Sweet trailer, sounds like a ton of improvements to a game I already enjoyed.  YES.

More as I think of them, and put your suggestions in the comments.  I love RPGs most of all, but RTS, FPS, Sim and adventure games are all welcome.  I have a DS, Xbox360, and a gaming PC.