Category Archives: Skyrim

Deliberating TESO

The beginning of a new year is a time for predictions good and bad. Gamers look forward to their most wanted launches of the year in enthusiastic or more reluctant anticipation. As for mainstream media, it’s an opportunity to be sensationalist and snide because nothing brings more hits than condemning yet-to-be-released titles or already revealing the GOTYs of 2014 in January. January.

I have no MMO predictions to share for 2014 and even if I did, I’d like to keep them positive. Whatever feeling one might have about upcoming AAA-titles, 2014 will be a year of new releases – of buzz and growth and lots of discussion. The genre is moving forward or at the very least, it’s moving and new games will infuse our conversations. For this reason, 2014 is already the better year for MMOs in my book than 2013 ever was. There’s no real failure for this genre as long as new games keep coming out. Once they stop being developed that’s when we’re in trouble.


What do you mean, no more MMOs? [belen02 @]

Condemning TESO – A brief Chronology

So, what happened? A few days ago in good old Kotaku stunt manner, a member of said news site declared publicly on twitter that The Elder Scrolls Online “apparently has a price tag of $200 million”, only to delete the tweet soon after because it’s bad journalism to make claims without any fact to back them up. However, that’s exactly how effective internet rumors start and that brief tweet was enough to set the gaming community completely ablaze over a simple, uncorroborated figure.

As if that wasn’t silly enough, Zenimax’ own Matt Firor then added more fuel to the fire by making very unfortunate, sarcastic remarks on how TESO could never ever have cost nearly that much because hey, look at our game – it’s crap! (just to paraphrase mildly). Now, I do somewhat appreciate the obvious eyeroll from Firor but it wasn’t the greatest way to address the budget question and infuse trust and enthusiasm in your anxious player base.

After all of that commotion had already spawned myriads of sub-tweets, message board threads and blog posts, Forbes (yes, they do video game journalism) ventured forth to declare TESO the “Greatest Videogame Disaster of 2014” two days ago. The article is essentially a summary of old news and concerns long debated among MMO players, but since the rest of the world needs time to catch up with us, it has gone viral not least thanks to its sensationalist headline.

All the while, I am scratching my head a little over what exactly has caused some of the vocal TESO malady in the wake of this budget rumor. Mainly, I have three questions regarding the most popular concerns (in the Forbes article and elsewhere) that I just can’t seem to figure out:

1) What does $200 millions even mean?
Maybe the person holding authority over efficient MMO budgeting could please come forth and enlighten the rest of us what TESO at its current state should legitimately have cost. Of course nobody knows similar figures for AAA-ventures Wildstar or Everquest Next and it seems the best course of action to make sure your numbers never get out lest you not be met with omg-SWTOR-hysteria. By the way, wasn’t it $300 millions for SWTOR? Or $500? If you really want to bore google, you can find them all. In truth, I’ve never found an MMO player nor videogame journalist who had an inkling of all the costs related to a particular MMO development (they tend not be public!) but now that we know (not) that TESO cost 200 MILLIONS….that changes everything!

2) How is it news that this is “just a Skyrim Online”?
It’s been clear from the beginning that an ES MMO wasn’t going to re-invent the genre wheel. When TESO was finally officially confirmed in 2012, the game had been in development for several years, which also means prior to Skyrim’s success and during an era of still solid WoW rulership. You can bet a franchise as traditional as Elder Scrolls dipping their first toe into MMO territory, was going to keep things conservative under these circumstances. There is also the ES fanbase to consider which doesn’t necessarily consist of online players. So yes, of course an ES MMO will essentially boil down to something like “Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim Online”. What else would it be? One doesn’t turn to TESO for big MMO innovations in 2014. Duh?

skymmo3) Nobody ever wanted an ES MMO. Really?
Considering TESO’s imminent launch this April 2014, it’s not only a grossly cynical statement that nobody ever wanted an Elder Scrolls MMO, it is also simply untrue. For every new installment be it Oblivion, Morrowind or Skyrim, fans have debated and fervently hypothesized up and down social networks how awesome an online Elder Scrolls or at least coop function for Skyrim could have been. I myself addressed this topic after Skyrim on this blog, preferring a coop option to the MMO. Of course TESO was already being developed then but the general MMO discussion for Elder Scrolls games is a thing among gamers and an old thing at that. To say the developers has no legitimate reason to believe such a project might be of interest to their fans, as the Forbes article has done, is bogus. If anything, that interest has increased over the last few years.

From where I personally stand nothing has changed in terms of looking forward to TESO this 2014. I trust all the beta testers who have told me that it’s essentially “just Skyrim Online” and all those who have mixed feelings about the game’s polish or long-term appeal. It’s more or less what I am expecting. Of course, there is the subscription concern and a free-to-play switch is probably in the books for TESO as is the case for so many MMOs nowadays.

No doubt, TESO is going to be the traditionalist among 2014 MMO releases and it will need to charm franchise fans. Pre-condemning the title for these reasons however, seems rather oblivious to the fact that many players still like traditional MMOs and that we’re living in times where switching to free-to-play is not a failure but proven business model. Either way, I’ll be playing TESO with or without a sub and I will make final judgements after all the big contenders of 2014 have had their fair shot. For now, my MMO sky is still lit with promise and lots of opportunity!


Holding a torch for MMOs until proven otherwise.

Tunes of Magic III – Skyrim

While ZeniMax Media are eagerly blocking all Skyrim soundtrack clips on youtube, I got myself the official 4-CD OST collection of the game and I cannot recommend it enough. Skyrim’s music is STUNNING, kudos go to Jeremy Soule for creating such masterful tunes for a beautiful world!

Meanwhile, fans worldwide have been busy. Merely five weeks old, Skyrim music clips, movies, cartoons and comics are shooting from the ground like Mora Tapinella (c wut I did thar!). I always loved fan initiatives, the creativity and inspiration the best of games will unleash in their player base. WoW too, has certainly been a remarkable example of that.

In lieu of official tunes to present here, I’ve therefore decided to dedicate a small round-up of musical fan creations for Elder Scrolls V. As maybe more unofficial part of my Tunes of Magic series, this stands on its own as a testimony to player creativity and Skyrim’s most catchy themes – enjoy!

“The Dragonborn Comes” by Malukah

Directly inspired by the bard song ingame, this haunting fan interpretation is beautifully sung, capturing the mood of Skyrim’s cold lands with its clear vocals. It’s available for free download here – just a pity it’s only two minutes long!

“Skyrim Epic Rap” by Dan Bull

You don’t need to be particularly into rap to appreciate this cover for its funny lyrics. The majestic choir of Skyrim’s main theme fits oddly well with the performer’s rhythm. This too is available for free download. A real scream!

“Skyrim meets Metal” by Erock

This put a wide grin on my face – I would expect nothing less than a metal interpretation of Skyrim! The two are pretty much made for one another, a classy performance with a slight /headbang!

“Skyrim Remix” by Levi Doron

Uh-oh…dance techno, really? Of course, somebody had to do it – but then, for all its trashy Euromix flair, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Someone actually went through the trouble to adapt Skyrim for the dance floor – an acquired taste, yet somehow contagious?!

“Literal Skyrim Trailer” by Tobuscus

Literal trailers are almost always great fun and this is no exception. I always marvel at people’s breath on these, I could never keep up! Add to that, they’re actually attempting to sing it (well, kinda) – hilarious!

“Retro Skyrim Trailer” by RubberRoss

This collection of music genres would not be complete without an oldschool 8bit video game tune. I admit, it takes a lot of nostalgia to appreciate them, but both the clip and “song” made me chuckle – this is how all great games began!

Ah and in case you haven’t seen the Escapist’s Zero Punctuation take on Skyrim, I really suggest you do! A good weekend to all of you – be it called Christmas, Hanukkah or just a lazy day somewhere out in the snow (alternatively warm and fuzzy in a chair playing videogames)!

Skyrim fun links

It’s Friday everybody – my favorite day of the week! In lieu of any MMO to talk about, because Starwars does not enthuse, Guild Wars 2 is far away and WoW is becoming Pokémon, I decided to put together some Skyrim links for all those of you who are currently immersed and bedazzled in the vast world of Tamriel. Just a few bits’n bobs you might want to check out and have some fun with!

  • Skyrim easter eggs; like most games these days, Skyrim holds a few hidden movie and pop-culture references and quotes in store, even if somewhat more subtle and scarce in number (and a good thing too). I can’t say I noticed any of them myself ingame, but then I was busy wiping tears away over the beautiful vistas.
  • Skyrim kindle edition; the numerous books scattered over the lands of Skyrim are a wonderful feature of the game, so is the fact that you can read them all, collect and store them on your personal book shelves. Care to browse’m on your way to work? No problemo! Fan initiatives such as these never cease to amaze me. 
  • Skyrim arachnophobia mod; apparently arachnophobia is such a serious issue that it can considerably hinder the enjoyment of video games for people who are affected. The beauty of PC games is the community and interactivity; if the devs allow it, players can write their own mods and fixes for almost everything. In this case turn them nasty spiders into bears or crabs!
  • Legit console commands; while all console commands are “legit” of course, there are several that are more useful and feel less like “cheating”, considerably improving your gaming experience. I certainly find my game flow less disrupted by an improved carry weight or extended night-day cycles, but judge for yourself.
  • Skyrim detailed map; Someone actually went through the trouble of mapping entire Skyrim including all locations, early on after launch. Quite impressive, although I must say I love not having discovered everything just yet.
  • Skyrim sim power; clips such as these show the amazing authenticity of Skyrim’s gameplay, the technical finesse that brings life to this virtual world. Now if only I had such an aim!
  • Skyrim on Cracked; as usual, have their own cynical take on how playing Skyrim will affect your personality.
  • Skyrim on Penny Arcade; not surprisingly, Gabe of PA is an avid Skyrim player, battling with the same initial issues as everyone else. Especially the strip on obsessive looting behaviour made me chuckle – you can never have too many brooms imo!

I wish you all a very good weekend and mighty adventures! I know where to look for mine.

(Quite possibly the greatest quest of all times.)

Freedom of choice and player-hosted MMOs

Skyrim is making quite the noise at the moment; not just among classic RPG lovers but a large circle of MMO players too, realizing just how much they have missed that sense of wonder and adventure in the online world. No doubt it is a certain kind of MMO player who feels this loss most acutely – I know why I do and like me, many MMO players have actually started their journey decades ago, as console gamers, as tabletop and pen & paper players, as lovers of the fantasy genre as a whole. These past days I have felt as if re-discovering a long lost friend and exploring the world of Tamriel has been an almost poetic experience. I kid you not. Within the first few hours, I’ve been inside my favorite Robert Frost poem and been the hero on my cherished old D&D covers. What more could I possibly want from a game?

“He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.”

I don’t know how to call this essence that we can feel when a fantasy game, book or movie is being true to its core. This strange magic that happens when somebody does it right and takes us there with him. The difference between a work of passion (and geekdom) maybe and a generic work of fail that we can all tell apart. Some games have soul, some don’t – you can feel it and see it but not nail it down on single criteria like graphics or combat.

Me and a friend of mine like to call it “high adventure” and we borrow from the opening of Conan the Barbarian there. Or we call it “epic bombast shit” (EBS©) in a  not-so-srs attempt to qualify the seriously atmospheric and epic fantasy from its ugly mass-market siblings.

Either way, Skyrim has it; this sense of magic and awe, of being there in this vast world with dragons in the sky and darkness lurking around the next corner. It has its minor flaws, as others have already pointed out, but at this stage it’s entirely beside the point for me. Again: what else could I possibly want?

The “Skyrim MMO” deal

Right after entering Skyrim, I said “man, if only this was co-op. I would need holidays”. Indeed, the world of Tamriel screams for companionship; sharing the travels and adventures with a few more people who don’t happen to die on the way or get stuck under the stairway like their NPC equivalents. I would love nothing more than a co-op mode for maybe 2-4 players.

The MMO idea now, I am not so sure. I commented about this before, and my initial negativity stems from the justified scepticism of what a developer might do to Skyrim in popular WoW-fashion. That idea is frankly a nightmare and I care little whether WoW’s gamification trend came from the players or the developers, I would never want to share Tamriel with WoW’s current MMO achiever crowd. Ever.

I’m far from opposed to online modes though or sharing games by principle. Why did I become an MMORPG-player in the first place, if not because I prefer to have more than NPCs around me? But for this to work in Skyrim, we would have to take a close look at all the aspects that make the game so dear to us right now – and at how to protect those. How can you retain Skyrim’s scale, open world and playstyle freedoms in an MMO while maintaining a sense of meaning? This is something Bethesda has managed to balance: open world vs. meaning. They show us too, that not all satisfaction in an RPG is delivered by means of a classic definition of “challenge” and immediate “hard rewards”. There is great joy in adventure and exploration.

The answer to the question might already lie in the online world: FPS games. Times before we’ve noticed features of online shooters and communities with the potential to improve things for MMORPGs too. It was my better half though who tipped me off when pointing out what he liked about Skyrim and as an FPS-player, always disliked about WoW –

“…This is what the players want: freedom. Let me play the game however I want and with whom, don’t tell me what to do or how to play. Let me choose my difficulty, whether to use console commands or not. Don’t tell me when to grind or what items I need or where I should go. I’m not an idiot. This is what the …[insert random Blizzard insult here]…still don’t get.”

A popular dilemma of MMOs is the accomodation of player X; to appeal to a variety of players within the same game, to offer dynamic content and different levels of difficulty. All of that can simply be summed up as a basic issue of player freedom. If you realize that you cannot deliver for everybody, why do you even try to define the game in the first place?

Several weeks before Skyrim’s launch, I tipped my toe into Red Orchestra 2 – for lack of alternatives and the wish for quick, cooperative play more than anything. I joined the friendly banter of my partner’s clan on teamspeak and tried to hide my cringe-worthy attempts at mimicking the FPS player. Yet, I never fail to be impressed over how readily the FPS industry has delegated their server administration to the clans who represent their loyal player base. If you log into RO2, you’re met with a long list of player-hosted server types, each offering their own rule sets, map and itemization choices, number of players allowed. Whether you choose to play in a smaller group, use aim-bots or loathe any kind of mod, there’s a place for you.

This is what I would want for a “Skyrim online”. A chance to choose how I play it and to share it with a limited amount of like-minded players. A developer can never look after so many individual choices, but I can. And I would join such a game in a heartbeat.

Skyrim shows us that the RPG and MMO player alike love the scale and freedoms of an open world. FPS games have shown for years that the best way to cater to a mixed audience, is to let the community configure and moderate their own servers. Why should we not adapt this for online RPGs in the future?

Skyrim cloth and cosmetic armor

Following up yesterday’s announcement, I’ve prepared an overview of what I believe to be some of the nicest available cloth or “cosmetic” outfits for Elder Scrolls V. I’m putting cosmetic in brackets here, because strictly speaking all armor in Skyrim is cosmetic if you happen to be a non-melee class. The best available gear for magic users comes from enchanting – meaning, you chose whatever gear you enjoy the most (you can wear any armor class too) and add the most powerful enchantments which you will have to earn by skilling up the profession, learning recipes and creating powerful soul gems.

Likewise, the best armor for warriors and thieves come from professions too; while there’s no “tailoring” in Skyrim, there sure is armor-smithing and leatherworking which creates the best sets combined with enchanting. An interesting approach to gearing up, in my opinion.

In this post, I will focus on “cloth” (armor class 0) that cannot be crafted, but picked up in Skyrim, either by drop, reward, purchase, theft or murder (the game being open like that, almost any NPC can be killed). In a few cases, the items can only be acquired via console commands on the PC version of the game which is why I will include commands (where I know them) for those looking to collect the peaceful or lazy way. And yes, console commands are completely legit, if not somewhat of a spoiler. But then, so is surfing on the net and looking at pictures.
Note that the console command to add an item to your inventory is always “player.additem [itemname] [quantity]”.

Skyrim “cloth and cosmetic” armor – some picks

Most of these items aren’t powerful by themselves as they lack proper enchanting. All pictures are taken by myself and may serve as overview to plan your future gear or for collection purposes. Item numbers from left to right.

A) Festive clothing

1. Embellished Robes #000E84C4 (also as Refined robes #000E84C6)
2. Emperor’s robes #00015516
3. Embroidered Robes #000EAD49
4. Fine clothes (blue) and fine hat
5. Fine clothes(green)
6. Fine clothes (brown)
7. Wedding dress #00088956 / wedding wreath  #0008895A / wedding sandals #00088958

B) Mage outfits

1. Blue mage robes (also exist in black; common item)
2. Archmage robes #0010F570 (reward mage questline)
3. Master mage robes #0010D664
4. Thalmor set (robe #00065BAC, unhooded #0010C698, boots #00065BB3, gloves #00065BB)
5. Vaermina robes #000E739B
6. Mythic Dawn (robe #000B144D, unhooded #0010901, boots #000B1460, gloves #000B145B)
7. Psijic set (robes #00065B94, hood #00065B99, boots #00065B9B, gloves #00065B9D)

C) Commoners

1. Clothes (also exist unhooded; common item)
2. Clothes (common item)
3. Merchant’s clothes #0006FF45
4. Chef clothes #0001BC82 and hat #0001BCA7
5. Monk’s clothes #000BACF3 and boots #000BAC07
6. Blacksmith’s clothes #0005B69F and shoes #0005B69E
7. Cicero jester set (clothes #0006492C, hat #0006492E, boots #0006492A, gloves #0006492D)

That was some work! It’s a real tribute to Skyrim’s gameplay variety; not only does it offer players an epic adventure of traveling with companions, questing, dragon hunting, skilling and crafting, but also a little “UO feel” with its player housing, decorating and collecting gear and books. In case you didn’t get enough cloth armor inspiration yet, there’s a few more at this place!

I’m still here

Things have been quiet on the blog lately and I feel shamefully neglectful of this place. Two months, are you serious? Who disappears like that? I suck and have been feeling bad about it, no excuses.

Still, there are reasons of course, some external, some internal. It’s not that there are no more things to write or read, but that for me there needs to be a certain peace of mind to allow for inspiration and creativity – not just available time to sit down and delve into your thoughts (for time is rarely the issue when people say it is), but energy and “room” in your mind to do so and let go of the day’s weight. I’m sure many understand what I mean by that. Even if I read other bloggers, I like to take my time to comment and really read what others have written.
I’m not a journalist and I never want to be; I don’t produce texts by the dozens, by the deadline, by demand. When I write I get lost, consumed somewhere far away and my mind shuts itself completely to my surroundings (tricky business if you attempt to speak to me at such times – the house better be on fire). There is a quiet and magical place at the other side, one you don’t get to force yourself into. One that has pulled at me all my life and at times swept me away completely. One that’s made me drunk with joy at times and utterly miserable at others. That’s why I write; for that rare and precious hour, that sensation when the mind flies and all you can do is hoping to keep up.

There’s no place I’d rather dwell but alas, right now that door’s heavier than usual. My mind is so pre-occupied with repainting the props of my life that it’s been hard to switch off. Moving back to another region, finding a new home, starting a new job and coordinating everything with a second person. Scary times. Exciting but scary. So, I apologize for not updating the blog as frequently as I’d like right now. There are many topics in my mental pipeline and even more sitting half-written in my inbox, but all my daily attention is used for breathing, making a step at a time and keeping all the lose ends from unfurling. Good thing that I am not exactly expecting a great deal of MMO excitement until 2012, anyway (it’s no secret that I’m waiting on Guild Wars 2).

What I’ve been doing mostly, besides organizing and worrying, is letting my mind wander and be distracted; I’ve read about 6 books last month (really recommending The Book of Lost Things to you and The Lies of Locke Lamora), watched new movies, listened to old tunes on my PC (of which I will share some soon, promise) and played the odd game, some Torchlight and Bastion…and then: Skyrim.
The Elder Scrolls V are back with a vengeance and I cannot begin to describe how much I’ve been enjoying myself with this game the past week. The world of Skyrim is huge and breath-taking, full of adventure, the road not taken…and dragons! Lots of them!!!

I do not recall when I’ve last been sucked into a virtual world so completely – probably when WoW was still in its prime. And sure, the game has its flaws too, the UI functionality and messy combat among them, but these are no hindrance whatsoever to enjoy the vast, open world, the quests and funny dialogues hidden everywhere. Maybe it’s because I’m somewhat new to Tamriel, but I am completely awed by the size, well-balanced physique and natural beauty accomplished here by Bethesda – the sky is the limit, indeed! So, whether you’ve only got time to wander around a little or let yourself be immersed in the main story completely, Skyrim is the biggest RPG deal out there currently for all you high fantasy lovers! That goes for those too who are currently swinging that Wii-mote for extra heart containers.

Needless to say, I created a female imperial mage/healer-hybrid and have already started to collect some shinies. While my initial impression of the characters and apparel in Skyrim was somewhat ‘meh’, I’ve come across several gems on my way (and now that I have my own house there’s space to store them properly!) and I’ve also been playing around with some console commands. Silly to collect gear in an offline game you say? I can live with that. Although I gotta agree: if this game was online or co-op at least, that would be too good to be true.

In any case, it’s exciting to play a game that’s only just come out – there’s not that much (accurate) info on armor in Skyrim out there yet and even less pictures, which is why I’m going to take some screenshots this week and intend to include them in a follow-up post on Skyrim ‘cosmetic’ gear and nice gear models. So, consider this a prelude – and a warm hello from me to everybody who stepped in here today! =)