The older Elder Scrolls

A couple of weeks back Bethesda gave away Morrowind to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of The Elder Scrolls. Of course I snagged a copy, but then I did something crazy. I tried to play it. One point of gamer-shame I carry around with me is that I’ve never played a significant way into any of the Elder Scrolls games (other than Elder Scrolls Online). I’ve bought them all, but generally drift away after 5-10 hours which is like reading the preface of a book then tossing it aside.

Morrowind, in 2019, was a struggle. It looks dated, the UI is clunky and the game is HARD. But hey, I’m on PC now, there are MODS. So I started looking into mods for the game and, well I won’t go into details but there’s a lot to take in and at some point I got tired of researching and decided “Y’know what, maybe we should turn to one of the newer Elder Scrolls games.”

So I bought Skyrim Special Edition, which is I think the 5th time I’ve purchased Skyrim (bought at launch, bought it on Steam at some point, bought the Special Edition on both PS4 and Xbox One, and now SE on Steam). But now I had mods in my craw so I wanted to mod Skyrim too.

That actually went a lot better since Skyrim was designed to be modded. There’s still a certain amount of fiddling you have to do, mostly in terms of load order and what mods co-exist happily and what should over-write what. In the end I followed a guide on YouTube. You don’t have to watch the video, just look at the mod list in the summary. That’s where we’ve landed, people essentially blogging in the description field at YouTube.

It’s looking pretty good, though every so often I get a surprise, like Aela the Huntress showing up in bondage gear thanks to one of the armor mods (though I’m not sure which one).

But at this point I’ve been playing WITH Skyrim more than playing it, and Morrowind was still floating around in the back of my head. AND Lola was demanding that I spend more time on the couch so she could rest her furry little head against me and snore.

So I snagged the Xbox (like, original Xbox) version of Morrowind for $15. Thanks to backward compatibility it runs on the Xbox One X and some mad scientist at Microsoft or Bethesda has tweaked it to run at 4K, even. I mean it is still super-dated but it’s better than “vanilla.” The UI is still clunky and the game is still hard. I ‘cheated’ on that last bit by reading and following a guide for the first couple hours of the game. That cut down the initial frustration a lot. Mostly the character creation bits. On my first try (on PC), rats were destroying me. Following this guide I can take down everything in the starting area without too much effort.

Funny thing is, I glommed onto Morrowind on the Xbox harder than I did the modded Skyrim on PC. I think it’s just so retro that it feels like something different, if that makes sense. These games take (I think) 100 bajillion hours to finish, so I’m not fooling myself that I’ll play through either of them, but I’m getting something out of them that I didn’t when I was younger. I think I just have more patience now. I read all the books I find, talk to everyone and just in general go slower and kind of take it all in more than I did back in the day when I couldn’t wait to get out there and kill something. In a way they’re scratching that MMO itch, in that what I generally love about MMOs is having a HUGE world to explore. (The other players in MMOs aren’t a huge draw for me because I’m weird.)

I dunno how long this nostalgia kick will go on. First old MMOs, now old single player games. I think I’m just enjoying them because these games are too old to have much drama surrounding them. Plus, to paraphrase @dog_rates, “They’re good games, Brent.”

Elder Scrolls MMO is official. Internet rejoices. I sob.

[Update #2: OK, I’ve found a second source (the infamous un-named source… a source CLOSE TO THE MATTER!) that confirms a totally separate team — separate studio in fact — is still working on the kinds of rich single player RPG we’ve come to love from Bethesda. So I’m placated at this point. Whew! Almost blew a gasket for a minute there.]

[Update: According to a comment from someone who I suspect is someone I trust, 🙂 there’s a totally separate team for the MMO and we’ll still see more single player Elder Scrolls games. Which I’ll take as very good news indeed.]

So Game Informer broke the news that it’s cover game for next month is The Elder Scrolls Online.

Yup, it’s official.

G+ is full of people claiming that spontaneous sexual reactions are happening to them in response to this news.

I, of course, am odd man out. Now I don’t really KNOW anything about The Elder Scrolls Online, but this is the Internet, where Knowing is Irrelevant to the Battle.

Remember how great Knights of the Old Republic was? Remember how OK that 3 weeks you spent playing Star Wars: The Old Republic were? And SW:TOR had the benefit of at least rendering the ancient Star Wars universe using modern-day graphics that put KOTOR to shame.

The Elder Scrolls Online is to Skyrim as SW:TOR is to KOTOR, except The Elder Scrolls Online will probably look slightly worse than Skyrim, given that it’s an MMO.

Now all those dragons you kill will respawn 30 seconds later. All those thieve’s hideouts will be ignored until you get a quest to kill 10 bandits, since clearing them out will be meaningless in a game where everything resets every 45 seconds.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE MMOs. But I hate that we’ve come to a place where everything HAS to become an online multiplayer game to stay relevant. I was looking forward to the next Elder Scrolls game that would let me be THE HERO instead of just another dweeb grinding for loot and screaming into the LFG channel for someone to help him kill an epic rat.

Fellow gamers: We have free will!

So you may have heard, Skyrim launched. I’ve been playing every spare minute this weekend and so far, it’s quite fun, but like any other open world game there’s gonna be some quirks.

This one was making the rounds even before the game launched:

Silly, huh? I kind of love it when people weird stuff like this.

Not everyone finds it amusing though. I’ve encountered at least one person, a game designer at a major developer, who is calling on Bethesda to “for the love of god” fix the issue. When someone else asked him why, he said that it breaks the illusion that it is a functioning world and turns the game into a farce.

(I’m not mentioned names or linking to the discussion because that last time I did that the person who I linked to got very upset and has since stopped interacting with me, and anyway I’m just using this one incident as an example.)

I thought this outlook was a little bit extreme, given that the issue is easily avoided and in fact if this video hadn’t been making the rounds very few people would have ever considered putting a bucket on the head of an NPC. Full disclosure: I’ve been playing since Friday and I’m not sure how the person you made this video picked up the item to move it like that. My interaction with things has been limited to ‘click to put it in inventory’ or ‘click to drop it from inventory.’ [According to the YouTube comments shudder you hold down the ‘pick up’ button…haven’t tested it yet.]

If Skyrim was a multiplayer game I’d be more sympathetic to the idea that this is something Bethesda has to fix ASAP, but it isn’t. It’s a completely single player game with not even so much as a leaderboard to compare your progress to that of friends. You should play it the way that you enjoy, and if using the old ‘bucket over the head’ trick breaks the game for you: just don’t do it!

This isn’t the first or the last time that this kind of an issue comes up, and the person I’m referring to isn’t alone. It seems to be a compulsion among video gamers that every corner that can be cut must be cut, and every exploit uncovered must be used. Why is that?

When did we lose the ability to create our own rules and follow them? Who didn’t have ‘house rules’ for Monopoly back in the day? Pen & Paper RPGers make up complete rulesets for themselves. Boardgamers do the same thing. If something about a game bothers them, they come up with a house rule to make it more to their liking.

But as soon as a game turns electronic and starts enforcing the rules for us, we seem to forget we have free will and can layer our own ‘house rules’ over the rules the machine enforces. So make a ‘house rule’ that says “No buckets on the heads of NPCs” and enjoy the damned game!

Skyrim demo from G4 shows interface

The post title tells it all. Todd Howard visited G4 at E3 today, and showed off Skyrim. Now we’ve seen most of this footage before, but this time (if you’re patient) you’ll see some footage of the user interface. It’s all looking really good. 11/11/11, baby!

Xbox 360 GamesE3 2011The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

Note that the video may be a bit slow to load…I’m sure their servers are getting hammered today.