Thursday, December 29, 2011

Everyone else is talking about Skyrim, so I will too.

I've been taking some time away from the toolset to play Skyrim. Let me get this out of the way; it's great and the money was well spent. They fixed essentially everything that was wrong with Oblivion. I've played for some 40 hours and totally ignored the main plot in favor of pursuing the backstory I came up with for my character. Also, I'd buy Morrowind again if they remade Morrowind with this engine.

Now, on to the nitpicking. (If you just want to read something very cool, skip down to the last two paragraphs.)


Being told that there's a big conflict between some rebels and the Empire I took a logical (for an adventurer) tack and head for the border. That's where the conflict should be sharp right? Nope. I followed a path and found a border to the empire, and there was a gate marking the end of the gameworld. The gate was unmarked on the main map, meaning it was unimportant. It was also unmanned, I thought there was conflict? Right next to the unimportant, unmanned gate to the empire, and five feet from the road, valuable ore (gold iirc). Was that ore just ignored when they built the gate?

Later I found a map showing where the forces were, and found a number of camps from both sides. The empire's invading force was not near the border with the empire, instead they are all as far away from the border as they can be. The rebels? Close to the border. Shouldn't that be reversed?

I found two dungeons where I could turn off a few of the torches. Presumably this would improve my sneaking. Unfortunately, these were the only dungeons I could do so in the 40-50 I've been in. Either let me turn them off, or don't. 


500 feet underground and it's light as day. Everything natural apparently glows in the world of Skyrim, water, fog etc. The natural world underground is actually brighter than the dungeons.  Yes, I know, gameplay reasons... If you look up, many of those "light beams from the sky" are coming from hard rock. Not all of them though, some come from actual holes in the ceiling, so I know the maps can have holes in the ceiling.

I've entered a number of places where no living creature has been for centuries, and there are torches and candles everywhere lighting the place up? Apparently torches and candles last for hundreds of years in Skyrim, or maybe zombies like them? Also, dust in the air, hundreds of years and it didn't settle.

The sunlight in the various grottoes on the world map does not match the high mountains surrounding them, instead the areas are lit as if there were no mountains, or much lower ones. Daylight reaching the ground in some of these should be an hour long, at best. Some grottoes do not have a day/night cycle, despite even large openings to the surface.


The "cleared" notification for dungeons is a great idea. The game tracks it as a stat. There's a Steam achievement for clearing enough places. So why aren't some places clearable? I'm positive I've emptied out a number of places (Skrim's levels are almost entirely linear), yet not received "cleared" or a notification that a place isn't clearable for some reason. It would also be nice if I got an information message of cleared instead of having to look at my map, though maybe I've just missed that.

Dragons are awesome, except when they stink. The tutorial dragon wrecks an entire town. So when I found my first dragon I thought, "This is going to be epic!" Nope. Three hits and it was dead. It didn't even get a chance to use it's breath on me. Perhaps the game should take note of it being the first time you fight a dragon, and make sure it's difficult.

The random "superboss" mob member. In one area I fought a boss, a master level wizard opponent using ice magic, and learned one of the dragon shouts for my trouble. The level of difficulty was such that I could take 5-6 hits before dying. 15 minutes later I was in another area fighting mobs, and one generic mob member, who also happened to be an ice wizard like the boss I'd just recently fought, kills me in two hits. Repeatedly.

This is a Steam one, and maybe the Xbox/PS3 as well since it's an achievement thing. The "Master Criminal" achievement is when you've got a high bounty everywhere. That's not a "Master Criminal", that's a bad criminal, the good crooks get away with it. Wanted Outlaw maybe, Scourge of Skyrim perhaps?


Dwemer armor is quite valuable, so naturally dwemer scrap (used to make the armor) is fairly valuable too, right? Nope. It's seems to be least valuable type of "ore" for smithing, and it's value to weight ratio is worse that virtually any useful item, even the lowly iron dagger.

Light armor versus heavy armor. The light armors elven, glass, and dragonscale all have a hard plate armor look. This visually groups them with the "heavy" armors. It also would mean in practice that the usage would be more akin to "heavy armor" usage, the hard plates deflecting blows. Except light and heavy armor are different skill trees. I've purposely avoided "upgrading" to these armors just from the look. I'm not playing a melee fighter, I don't want to look like one.

Falmer are blind, so their helmets have no eyeholes. When the player wears a falmer helmet, they can apparently still see despite wearing a helmet with no eyeholes. I know npc's can be blind, see the infamous bucket stealing trick.

Some non-realistic looking weapons. I was granted a unique ghostly sword for completing a quest. That was pretty cool, everything else in skyrim goes for a realistic if sometimes stylized look. So I liked the sword even though I'm not playing a swordsman. Shortly thereafter, I found a dungeon full of lootable ghost weapons. So much for the uniqueness of my quest reward, and the ghost weapons are out of the "look" of the rest of the game.


Oddly inconsistent texture work. The texture work is mostly great, but in a few places it's not nearly the same quality/resolution. Fast travel to the mage college and look at the snowy bridge for an example.

All the jarls have the same "bored slouch" pose, even the ones that take an active interest in things.


Best moment ingame: Fairly early on, I wandered into an archery trainer, who has the player complete several ingame archery tests for training. She gave me a bow for completing them. It was about the same as the bow I already had, but I started to use it anyway since I quite enjoyed the ingame tutorial. I kept using the bow even as I got better one, until I got one that was much better. I still kept the bow out of fondness for the training/trainer, and carried it around since I didn't have a home or anywhere to store it. It even meant having to leave loot in dungeons sometimes.

Much later ingame, I wound up against a boss enemy, who used it's dragonshouts to disarm me of the bow I was using. So I pulled out another bow from my inventory that I'd picked up in order to sell. That too got disarmed. Now what? I looked through my inventory and there it was, the bow from the archery trainer I'd met in the middle of nowhere, and carried around solely because of my fondness for the training. That bow, "obsolete" and carried around solely because of my character's fond memories, saved my character's life. That's a gaming moment that will last.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Dark Host pseudo prc

By making an in-game bargain with an lower plane power, you can gain access to the Dark Host pseudo prc. In return for a significant stat boost (but random as to whether physical or mental stats are boosted) and forced alignment change towards evil, the player loses some control over the pc due to the influence of the being they host. The idea is similar in concept to the story of one community member's adventure (I won't say who since it would kind of spoil if for players of that person's adventure), at least I can say I had the idea independently.

This is an entirely optional bargain, it is not necessary to complete anything in the game, it is not given anywhere the player must go, and the player is warned in-game of the unpredictable nature of the bargain. Lance Botelle has a poll up now on predestination versus free will. Is your pc's answer to the lines below predestined, or free will?

PC: So I become just an empty shell for something. Somehow, that does not sound appealing.
Lower plane power: You do not become an empty shell. You... share, though of course you are strong enough to remain in control.
PC: Of course. Somehow I doubt you are entirely telling the truth.
Lower plane power: How much is truth and how much is lies is for you to decide...

Here are some examples of the loss of control: one quest has the player try to convince some local ruffians to take care of something so the player doesn't. A normal player can use appraise, bluff, or taunt. The Dark Host forces the player to use intimidate, as the being they host overrides the pc and speaks through the character. Another quest sees the Dark Host forcing the player into a fight they'd most likely avoid otherwise. It's not all bad consequences, a murder investigation the player is asked to undertake is instantly solved because the Dark Host "sees" the evil of the murderer, allowing the pc to instantly identify them.

There are currently around 20-25 planned spots for the Dark Host to influence things, eight are implemented so far. Players will generally be given the Dark Host option late in the game, so they probably won't see them all. Exactly how many a player sees will depend on whether they get the physical Dark Host, or the mental one, as the respective beings have different approaches to their evilness. The physical one is more of an intimidating brute personality, while the mental one is more of a conniving knowledge dealer. The Dark Host dialog options are unique, so if a non Dark Host player can use intimidation during conversation, the Dark Host intimidation the player must choose has a different line. The Dark Host dialog lines are umm, appropriate to what happened to the pc. People may not like their lines, but they did make the choice that allowed it. I had complaints about how you could do and say evil things in Path of Evil (yes, I know, I warned people of that in the campaign description, I still had complaints), and Dark Host is worse

I'm torn about giving the player an opportunity to cure themselves of this state. One possibility, the player tries, but the cure automatically fails (predestination!), and the player is stuck with it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Loadscreens for Crimmor

In Path of Evil, I used GIMP to add a painted effect to area screenshots. For Crimmor, I wanted a more personal feeling. I elected to use unedited screenshots, generally from viewing angles the character would have. I added area name to them since the character is a local to the city and would know the name of the area, assuming there is a unique name.

For the text, in GIMP, add a text box. The font I picked is called killigraphy, a freely downloadable font. You can get it from among other places. You can see from the font map the letters have a sharp look, reminding me of a rogues' typical weaponry. A number of letters have a particularly "weaponlike" look, particularly f, j, and t. It doesn't have capital letters. I used 72 point, centered. To give the written text a more 3d effect of still liquid ink (fluid, smooth, changeable, like a good rogue), after typing in your text, select Filter -> Decor -> Bevel from the GIMP menu. I used default bevel settings.

For the curious, the Auric Commorancy is a the name of the city's temple to Waukeen. I used a thesaurus to come up with some interesting sounding words, auric means pertaining to gold (Bond fans might remember the villain Auric Goldfinger), and commorancy is a dwelling or residence. So it's just a fancy name for "Gold House", fitting for a temple to Waukeen. Most named buildings have their named taken from the Dragon magazine article on Crimmor, written by Ed Greenwood (creator of the Forgotten Realms setting) himself.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Obsidian's next game is South Park?

CNN is reporting on their website that there is going to be a South Park RPG, and it's being developed by Obsidian. That's... unexpected.

I guess I should have seen the parallel between The Nameless One and Kenny. :)