Tag Archives: game

Exploring Skyrim, (even more screenshots)

After leveling all the main archetypes to around level 10, and being somewhat dissatisfied with all of them, I decided to try a hybrid build. I googled around to see a lot of people talking about how difficult spell-sword or mage/melee builds are, but I decided to roll one anyway.

I’m immensely happy that I did. I’m not sure what people are talking about, because this has by far been the easiest, (and the most fun), character I have rolled. My main skill is conjuration, which I use for bound weapons and Atronachs. My secondary skills are heavy armor, one handed weapons, and restoration, (largely for the regeneration perks). My offense is really powerful, since my melee benefits both from conjuration and one-handed skill points, and my defense is pretty good too. The only piece of light armor I wear is a nice hood, for the magicka. My character also looks cool, which is always a plus.

Oh, I also laughed really fucking hard at Ulfr’s book. (See the screenshots below).

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Exploring Skyrim, (more screenshots).

According to my site stats, these are relatively popular, so I thought I would share some more. Written posts are still coming, these are just supplementary.

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Eve online: a new player narrative

(Recommended listening for this post).

Between Skyrim, Orcs Must Die!, and picking up Serious Sam HD for a ridiculously low price, I thought I would have my hands full… but the social side of me has been craving something game related, and so I decided to try Eve Online. At its best it has been described as beautifully complex — at its worst, “spreadsheets in space”. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. The technical will be tackled later, because the first thing I noticed in Eve is how fucking great it looks. If Stanley Kubrick had the opportunity to make a game, it just might look like Eve.

Everything. Looks. Stunning. The character creation is immensely detailed and elegant, which is a pleasant surprise. After all, most of the time you are flying around in a ship, not walking around your hangar and captain’s quarters. Still, being able to walk around adds a nice level of immersion. Back when I first tried Eve, you simply popped into the universe as a ship, bound to it forever, never able to leave. The most you ever saw of your character was an avatar in the top left screen, which made you feel more like some weird automaton, rather than a pilot. This time around was quite different. I was able to customize my character to a wonderfully excessive degree, and had a chance to see all those customizations as I strolled around my quarters.

Though the game is really fucking complicated — or at least it seems to be, so far — the tutorial eases you into things excellently, without making you feel like a useless newb. The loving A.I., “Aura”, guides you through the beginning of the game. She kindly teaches you about ships, combat, the market, missions, weapon fitting, warp drives, webifiers, wormholes… the list goes on. If Aura isn’t enough for you, the game automatically puts you in a channel called “Rookie Chat”. The channel is  filled with thousands of other rooks being helped by a few hundred natives. The same questions are inevitably asked over and over again, and after a while its nice to find yourself answering and helping others. Everyone that I have chatted with has been very helpful so far, with most my questions being answered immediately. The silliest ones, (e.g., how do I shoot), are inevitably answered quickly. The more complicated ones don’t have straight-forward answers, and often involve a nice debate between veteran players. This is the mark of a good sandbox, or, do-what-you-like, type of game. It’s almost frightening how many things you can do. You can run missions, incursions, rat, explore, wormhole, grief, pirate, gatecamp, ninja-loot, gank, ransom, roam, scam, steal, mine, chat, loan, trade and build. You can do a lot more too, but I’ll spare you. Besides, I don’t even know what half of the previous terms mean.

At the moment, I’m just doing the simple beginning missions; they reward you nicely with some cool ships, and make you feel strong and accomplished. (Notice the key word, feel). There are people that have been playing Eve for years, and I’m not sure if there is any real way of “catching up” with those players. You see, Eve doesn’t work through the standard gain-experience-level-up formula. That would be too simple. Instead, you purchase the skills you wish to train, and select “train” — or something like that. In other words, the only thing stopping you from having a particular skill is the money you need to buy it, and the time it takes to train it. Skills are trained while you are off-line too, so there’s no need to just keep Eve running 24/7. I’ve heard that it’s entirely possible to be flying a decent PvP ship in a month. I’ve also heard there is no way to ever catch up with the veterans, and so there is no point in even playing Eve. Again, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle —  hopefully closer to the former.
As of now, my goal is to simply stay on track with my missions, and get into a Corporation that can teach me the ropes. There are many “rules” of Eve. The most common is, “If you can’t afford it, don’t fly it”. In other words, expect to get blown up. I assume I’ll be losing  at least a few ships when I start PvPing, so I’ll have to have some back-up cash before I get really involved in it. Another rule is to never trust anyone. As some of you may have heard, the largest virtual heist of all time took place in Eve. It’s a hostile universe; people want to blow you up and steal your stuff. But, that’s OK. The universe in Eve is big, and beckons to be explored.

Now I just need to figure out where to start...

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Exploring Skyrim, Part 1

Today’s blockbuster game titles aim to be epic, but very few succeed. Opening a game with a flashy pre-rendered cut scene and dramatic music — usually involving opera singers for some reason or another – doesn’t make a game epic. What makes a game epic is finding yourself in a grand narrative, with a deep and fundamental sense of purpose driving you throughout the game.

Skyrim is a game that reminds us of what epic means. It does so excellently, and immediately. Skyrim’s spiritual predecessor, Oblivion, opened with the player awakening in a prison cell, presumably awaiting his execution; in Skyrim the game developers found a way to make the opening even more visceral and dramatic. When the player starts the game, the title “SKYRIM” fades into view in cold and stark type, mirroring the landscape you find yourself traveling in. Before long, it is clear that you are being taken to your executioner. Your hands are bound, you cannot move, and you do not speak. All of this creates a sense of helplessness, and allows you to listen to the tales of the convicts you are traveling with. Your convicts-in-arms reveal some of the backstory of Skyrim, including a sort of cold-war between the native Nords and the Romanesque Imperials – a topic that will be more adequately examined in a later blog post.

Quite obviously, the player is not executed; instead, a dragon causes a bit of a ruckus, allowing you to flee. (Surprise, surprise). You can choose whether or not you wish to follow the Imperials that took you captive, or the friendly Nord that you were captured with. For most players, this won’t be much of a choice. All but the most random Nord-despisers will choose the likable Nords over the annoying and militaristic Imperials. This may not seem like a big deal, but it does foreshadow a problem I have run into within Skyrim. The problem is, it feels as if many of your choices don’t ultimately matter.

To be fair, the lack of substantial choice is symptomatic of most games today – the notable exceptions being the Mass Effect series, and Dragon Age. Your actions outside of the main quest line of the game — e.g., whether or not you want to be a murderous member of the dark brotherhood, or a fighter in The Companions guild – don’t affect the main story line. There is little to no cross-over between the various quest lines in Skyrim, which makes the otherwise amazing and immersive world feel a bit inorganic, and stale. The game developers have implemented what they call “Radiant Storytelling”, which will change the world based on your actions. This makes random side quests more dynamic and potentially changing, but important quest lines like the ones mentioned before, will remain the same.

On a less comprehensive level, dialogue choices rarely have any significant effect on the ultimate outcome of a particular quest and story, and much of the dialogue appears to be filler. This isn’t to say that the voice acting in the game isn’t quite good. What this does mean is that you will find yourself selecting boring dialogue options such as: “What’s next? What now? Where should we go?” and the unimaginative “remain silent”. Unless you are immensely devoted to every NPC’s story, you will probably find yourself mashing buttons, (or keys), just to get to the end of a dialogue scene.

Still, it is easy to forgive Skyrim for occasionally falling flat with dialogue and quest choices. The game more than makes up for these flaws in both the quality and amount of content given to the player. The sheer number of NPCs with unique story lines and quests is almost intimidating. In Skyrim, you truly feel as if you are exploring a world, rather than a game. Besides the smaller fetch-quests and the main story line quests, there are also extensive side-quests. These usually involve in-game factions like the Thieves Guild or the College of Winterhold, (a faction geared towards magic-users).

Additionally, and rather amazingly, the three character archetypes – warrior, thief, and mage – are generally balanced in terms of gameplay difficulty. As one would expect, Warrior builds are the most straight-forward of characters. Thief, (read sneak), based characters are a bit more complicated to play than warriors, while mages are generally the most complex. There is a crucial and odd difference between magic users and warriors or thieves. Warriors and thief characters only have to focus on a handful of talent trees in order to be effective. As a mage, it is all but essential to grab Destruction, and very worthwhile to spend points in Conjuration, Restoration, Illusion, and Alteration. Still, what Mage’s might lose in devoting points into a single tree, they gain in versatility.

To nitpick, some skill trees could be simplified or made more worthwhile. Skyrim is a game built around combat, which means that many players, including myself, will doubtless ignore constellations like “Speech” or “Alchemy”. Sure, these perks have their uses in some cases, but I want to kill stuff. I much rather spend my time lighting enemies on fire or bashing in skulls than sitting at an alchemy table combining ingredients.

Thankfully, the wonderful thing about Skyrim, is that you can do what you want. If, for whatever reason, you do want to sit at a table combining ingredients all day – as opposed to traveling around an epic world slaying dragons – you absolutely can do that, or just about anything else you want to do. If you see a rugged and tranquil mountain in the distance, you can climb it. If you wish to kill everyone in a particular town, you can. In short, if you want to be coaxed away into an immersive, compelling, and dragon-filled world, pick up Skyrim – assuming you haven’t already.

I’ll continue to explore the world of Skyrim, and will be writing follow up posts soon.

Thanks for reading. Keep on playing.

Andrew

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