Well, the official trailer is here and from what we can tell: expanded vampire gameplay, crossbows (first time in an Elder Scrolls game officially since Morrowind!) and DAT SKELETAL HORSE. There’s a whole bunch of stuff from the Skyrim Game Jam that is getting included in this DLC and TAKE MY DAMN MONEY ALREADY BETHESDA SOFTWORKS.

I’m such a sucker.

Oh, and for the Xbox fanbois, you can take your 30 days exclusivity. I’ll take the moddability and superior graphics on my PC any day.

I don’t know about you, but I really want that Mud Crab DLC.

In all seriousness though, some of the stuff should have been in the game at release. Like mounted combat? Probably one of the top items on Oblivion veterans’ wishlists. Spears, missing since Morrowind. That improved water shader.

That said though, just package the best of that shit up as a DLC and I’ll be first in line, like the hopeless Elder Scrolls fanboi I am.

Update: SkyEdit has not been updated since early 2012. I wouldn’t recommend it over the official Creation Kit now.

It’s almost the end of January and still no sign of the Creation Kit (maybe the 31st). For users who must start modding, the unofficial alternative SkyEdit is your answer. Still in the early development stages, but 0.05 has been pretty stable for me.

Skyrim - Dragonborn

Looks like it’ll be ready soon according to a new blog post.

Actually, what’s more exciting is the 1.4 update. Two things jump out:

  • Improved compiler optimization settings (PC)
  • Long term play optimizations for memory and performance (PS3)

Can it be? Will TESVAL and SkyBoost be made obsolete? I certainly hope so! And credit to BethSoft for paying attention to the modding community and correcting (thus implicitly admitting to) their mistakes.

As for the PS3 fix, well, good for my long suffering PS3 Skyrim brethren, but it should never have been a problem in the first place in that there’s only One True Way™ to play the game: on a PC, modded out.

Also, quest fixes, finally.

Skyrim - Dragonborn

The Elder Scrolls games are the most user moddable PC games series since the release of Morrowind largely thanks to the excellent editors as well as the by now well documented file formats. Admittedly, they usually need to be since there are bugs as well as other game play issues even after the final patches.

Even though the Skyrim editor (Creation Kit) has not been released publicly, there are already numerous mods available. Most of them are texture mods which do not require the Creation Kit, but there is already a significant number of modders using third party tools to produce mod files.

With the imminent release of the Creation Kit (some time in January 2012), I thought I’d just list some of the mods I have been using.

First off, you’ll probably want the main stays of any serious PC Elder Scrolls player, Nexus Mod  Manager (NMM), Wrye Bash and BOSS. NMM is meant to be the successor of OBMM, is closely integrated with the Nexus Network and can manage Obivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. I prefer the UI of OBMM, but the integration with the Nexus Network is excellent. Wrye Bash is a complex tool, but is well worth learning and will be essential when juggling any significant number of mods. BOSS manages your load order automatically.

Script Extenders

You’ll want SKSE. As of now it is used by very few mods, but I wouldn’t bet against it being as essential for Skyrim as OBSE was for Oblivion.

There’s a “competitor” to SKSE in the form of Script Dragon. Personally I’m not using any mods that requires Script Dragon yet, but from all accounts SKSE and Script Dragon co-exists fine.

Performance

Basically, modder Arisu discovered that the Skyrim executable is compiled without certain optimisation flags set. He then created a SKSE plugin proof of concept that replaces some of the inefficient code with handcrafted SSE2 calls. It has been released as the TESV Acceleration Layer. Alexander Blade (author of Script Dragon) took the concept and expanded upon it, releasing the result as SkyBoost (doesn’t require SKSE).

Personally I’m using SkyBoost as I’m getting just that bit more FPS out of it, but some have reported that the TESVAL runs at a lower FPS but smoother. Probably a good idea to try both to see which works for you. It’ll probably be most useful to users who have beefy GPUs and decent CPUs. If your GPU sits on the lower end, these probably won’t be that useful to you as you’ll probably not be CPU bound.

On a side note, what the hell Bethesda? According to Alexander, “Beth have no interest in boosting pc version of Skyrim”. For fuck’s sake, what’s up with that?

Edit (January 21, 2012): Seems Bethesda will be using proper compiler settings for patch 1.4. Hopefully that will obsolete TESVAL and SkyBoost.

UI

You’ll want SkyUI. Goes some way to de-nerf that terrible consolitis interface. This mod shouldn’t even be necessary (did the play testers spend any time on the game with keyboard and mouse?) but the SkyUI team is doing some great stuff so far.

Textures

Texture replacer mods were the first type of mods to arrive in force as they did not require the Creation Kit. Some of the ones I use:

The 4GB Skyrim tool used to be essential for texture mods but since BethSoft enabled LAA by default it has been redundant. In any case, for optimal experience you should have more than 4 GB of RAM, and running a 64 bit OS.

New Weapons

One of my priorities when selecting mods is lore friendliness (no Buster Swords in my Elder Scrolls!). Two lore friendly but very high quality weapons mods are JaySuS Swords and Weapons of the Third Era. Both are highly recommended.

Trinkets, odds and ends, that sort of thing

Stuff that don’t fit in anywhere else:

A Quality World Map – With Roads

Midas Magic – Spells in Skyrim

Morokei Mask Enchantment Fix

Talos Shrine Fix

Better Sorting OR Valdacil’s Item Sorting

So it turns out Skyrim will feature same sex marriages for your character. Beth’s VP of marketing Pete Hines confirmed it in a tweet.

More choices = better in a Role Playing Game, I say, as long as it wasn’t implemented at the expense of some other aspect of game play. Going by what we know and seen so far though, any fear of that is likely unfounded.

At least, it won’t be anything like that abominable sequel of an RPG, Age of Dragons 2 or something…

Lots of new information available since my last post about Skyrim, but it is only at Quakecon that we got actual live gameplay footage.

What I got from this video:

  • The draw distances are amazing. No more trees and structures popping up out of nowhere.
  • At the same time, great detailing on the little things like logs, small plants.
  • The spell effects look good, which fixes one of my pet peeves from Oblivion. I wonder how moddable they are. Hopefully Bethesda is including OBSE-esque hooks for extra scriptability.
  • While the one weapon or spell per hand mechanic looks like it’ll add whole new dimensions to game play (it looks like a super-charged version of what we got in BioShock), it looks like parrying with weapons is off the table, perhaps in the interest of game balance.
  • The areas demoed are the same as in the previously released game play trailer. Would have preferred to see something new.
  • Obnoxious audience is obnoxious.

The Collector’s Edition was also announced at QuakeCon. I’m sorry, but while I am a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series, USD150 for a PVC sculpture, a making of DVD and an art book is just a rip off.

Edit: the video was taken off. Will be updating the post once a better version is available.

Here’s a new idea, an anniversary limited release of a computer game.

Bethesda is releasing a 5th anniversary limited edition of Oblivion, which comes with Oblivion GOTY edition (wot? no DLCs still? I want my horse armour dammit), a map, a “Making Of” DVD and a coupon for a 10 dollar discount for Skyrim, all in a sexy steelbook.

Overall, I’m thinking it’s a little shabby.

Since this is what should be the ultimate edition, why not pull out all the stops? That excellent soundtrack on audio CD would be nice, for one thing. The aforementioned DLCs wouldn’t be out of place either.

From here on I’m speaking for the PC version since I don’t care for console gaming.

What I would really like to see is some acknowledgment for what really made the game so successful and enduring: modders. Official integration of what I consider essential mods like the UOP and the supplementals and one of the DarN UIs (the default UI is nerfed for consoles, completely unbefitting of PC gaming) would have been fantastic and much appreciated. Of course, any potential copyright issues will have to be looked at but I’m sure the modders involved would be happy to have their work included in an official release, especially in a set so reasonably priced.

The game executable itself needs work. Essential tools like OBSE, Stutter Remover and Fast Exit should be integrated. The executable should be compiled with the LARGEADDRESSAWARE option enabled, no reason not to nowadays. Long standing problems like the Abomb should be fixed. What would have been really nice would be the backporting of improvements from the Fallout 3 engine such as the more efficient graphic rendering routines which results in the huge draw distances found in FO3. UI improvements like pressing “A” to take all items as in FO3 should be built-in too.

I just don’t find this a compelling package. The box is so pretty though.

Photos taken from nitrobeard.com.