Drag-On: Even More Skyrim Screens

By Quintin Smith on February 11th, 2011 at 4:46 pm.

It feels a little dirty dedicating a whole post to four new The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim screenshots only two days after we posted five of them, but whatever. Eurogamer has four new shots! I’m excited. You’re excited. There’s new technology that allows snow to settle realistically on rocks and trees. Everyone’s excited!

You know the drill, gentlemen. Click for bigger. Click firmly, yet with tenderness, as you might usher a tiny child into this place we call “planet Earth”.

Skelintons!

A hairyman!

A hunter! Shh, everybody.

Next, a… oh. That’s it. Damnit Bethesda! More. Feed us. Feed me.

, .

101 Comments »

  1. Quine says:

    Hairy Man is big!

    Or Camera Man is small?

    Or…crouching is in!

  2. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    Zombletons? Skellbies?

    • Jeremy says:

      I think I am in love the word Zombletons. I think of an elitist zombie with a dignified air.

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      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Underground, overground, zombling free,
      The Zombletons of Zombledon Common are we.
      Making good use of the things that we find,
      Things that the everyday folks leave behind…

    • Premium User Badge

      piphil says:

      Things that the everyday folks leave behind…

      Like their braaaaaains….?

    • Jeremy says:

      Someone please make a Zombleton mod for Skyrim using that poem.

    • 12kill4 says:

      Let us not forget The Zombltones, Tamriel’s #1 underground (pun intended) death metal barbershop quartet.

    • brulleks says:

      Hmmm. That just conjures an image of Zombie Wombles into my head.

      D’oh. I really should read other replies first.

  3. Sarlix says:

    It’s just going to be Fallout, with swords….

    • Danarchist says:

      You sir, win my snark of the day award hahahaha
      That was great

    • Shark says:

      Actually, Fallout was Oblivion with guns already.
      Not that I didn’t enjoy both

    • ANeM says:

      I almost sort of wish Skyrim was Fallout with Swords..
      I went back to replay Oblivion recently for the first time following the release of FO3 and New Vegas and all the stats and character progression just felt so obtuse :(
      I can’t even remember how I got through the game in my initial runs..

    • Xocrates says:

      I was actually disappointed that Fallout 3 wasn’t Oblivion with guns. Of course, I’m a filthy heretic that never played the original Fallout games, so what do I know?

    • Emperor_Jimmu says:

      I played Oblivion again over Christmas and was amazed at how flexible it seemed compared to Fallout 3. It may have been because I was mostly playing the Dark Brotherhood story line. Trying to kill every assassin during the purification quest was really interesting. I somehow found the idea of waking up and having nothing to eat but poisoned apples really amusing. The systems and AI routines are very transparent, making their manipulation more satisfying in a way.

      It will be interesting to see how Skyrim compares, as everything they have said so far suggests they want more dynamic and convincing AI. I hope I can still be a manipulative murdering bastard.

    • Voxel_Music_Man says:

      @Xocrates:

      Good god, man! For all that is good, play Fallout 1 NOW!!!!

    • dadioflex says:

      I loved that Dark Brotherhood storyline. That was my favourite bit of the whole game. There’s a Dark Brotherhood mod that’s been on the go for years that was going to expand the quest lines a lot but I’m still waiting.

    • Pwninat0r2000 says:

      CONGRATULATIONS SHARK! you managed to both “get” and “miss” the joke entirely.
      fucking retard

  4. Jeremy says:

    I’m really liking the little details in these shots: the fog settling in the hills, the etchings on the wall, the bark on the tree having dark spots… It just seems a lot more detailed and fleshed out. Liking it.

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      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Yeah, those are some nice looking birch trees. Good to see SpeedTree finally getting their act together.

    • rei says:

      Actually, unless I was dreaming (I might have been), I think they ditched SpeedTree and wrote their own vegetation system.

      EDIT: In previous games the team licensed the SpeedTree middleware to render the forests. For Skyrim, they’ve created their own platform that allows artists to build whatever kind of trees they want and to dictate how they animate. Artists can alter the weight of the branches to adjust how much they move in the wind, which is an effective way of, for instance, actualizing the danger of traversing steep mountain passes with howling winds violently shaking branches.

      -GI

      EDIT2: oh wait, does this mean the midget with the feather boa wasn’t a dream either?

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      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      I stand corrected. Either way, pretty trees be pretty.

    • Jeremy says:

      I’m obviously a cretin:

      Me are the like of trees with spots.

      Or.. I like birch trees.

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      Devan says:

      I agree that the environments are nice, but it’s hard to get over how overdone the bumpmapping is on that giant in the second shot. The “deep” creases in the fur and the stark shadows on the veins on his chest are at odds with how flat the geometry actually is.

      Bump/Normal/Parallax mapping are imperfect illusions which most gamers are well aware of. It’s like a girl’s makeup; use it subtly and it’s fine, but apply too much and it becomes distractingly ugly.

      Anyways, it’s a Work In Progress and this is a minor criticism about a very exciting game.

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    James G says:

    I’ve actually been becoming increasingly interested in Skyrim as the details leak out. I wasn’t a great fan of Oblivion, but it sounds like they’ve been addressing some of the major issues I had with it.

  6. CalleX says:

    That must be one blind deer!

    Also that dragon looks to be really small dragon-scalewise

  7. Pijama says:

    Holy crap, never thought I would say this in my lifetime, but these undead look good.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I was thinking the exact same thing. For the first time that I can recall, I am looking forward to fighting undead.

      They normally rank with giant rats for me.

  8. Bfox says:

    Hoho Drag-on..

    Like omg this tv show never ends, I guess that’s why they call it Drag-on ballZ

  9. fionny says:

    That hunter screenie is beautiful, this is going to be my game of 2011 without a shadow of a doubt.

  10. mkultra says:

    How dev teams can create whatever they can possibly dream of, yet stick to dragons and goddamn living skeletons, is proof that Earth has definitely surpassed peak oil in 1975 and the world’s population will be halved by 2050.

    • rayne117 says:

      I’m not sure that the two are related…

      Now, children near me and then I suddenly catch a cold, those are related.

    • Shark says:

      maybe he saw the future were humanity, out of desperation invents an apparature that materialises your thoughts, in hope of creating oil but everyone just thinks of dragons and undead which will then decimate the population

    • cjlr says:

      Monsters! Monsters from the id!

    • Tei says:

      Maybe ereativity and originality are different things. A very creative dude can make billions of different iterations of orks and elfs.

  11. Marco_Fiori says:

    Awesome. Glad they’re not skyrimmping on the amount of screenshots they’re releasing…

  12. Alaric says:

    I’m worried that all the models looking very, very plasticy. The hairyman in particular looks like he just came out of a plastic mold. =(

    • Potentaint says:

      Agreed. I have no idea how the animations are but everything is looking very Oblivion 1.5 in terms of graphics. I’m so ready for the next console cycle so we can get new types of textures that aren’t shiny and plastic anymore. I’m hoping for more detail in the PC version.

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      Vandelay says:

      I’m not really getting the gushing over these pics either. The scenery looks very nice, but the models are horrific. The hunter in the bottom image in particular just looks very flat and dull.

      Considering one of the major failings of previous Bethesda games is the lifeless people inhabiting their worlds, these images do nothing to make me think this one will be any different.

    • Davee says:

      I believe the reason it looks so plastic is that they’ve gone a bit mad on the bump-mapping (or normal mapping, w/e). They should consider making it less visible – it’s only supposed to be used for small, near-unnoticeable detailing on models to make them look less flat.

  13. fionny says:

    @Quintin,

    TOP TIP, Like them on Facebook and you can get those screenies in high def without Eurogamers Watermarking.

    http://www.facebook.com/TheElderScrolls

  14. Oculardissonance says:

    Wow I really wanna see the editor and pull apart that engine! On the art side of things Bethesda really stepped up their game. One of my friends is an animator working on this game and she assures me that the animations are tighter and more fluid but…. I still need to see some gameplay to believe her. My internal hypemeter is rising.

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    heretic says:

    I’ll only be sold if they improve the female character models <_<

    • Brumisator says:

      I take it you haven’t seen the pictures released earlier?

      All those plastic shaders, BLAH! So like TES IV. I don’t get it, Fallout3 had none of that!

  16. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    I’m not really excited about these screenshots, tbh. I remember when the first Oblivion screenies were released and I was utterly captivated. But so much time has passed since then and I suppose I don’t see the graphics here as the quantum leap that I had found the original Oblivion screenshots to imply, compared to Morrowind (and to be honest, visuals were one aspect of Oblivion that did not disappoint).

    Or maybe it’s just due to the fact that I can never help but treat Oblivion as a lesser game even after all these years. Some disappointments just brand themselves in the mind with a hot iron. In any case, I’d like to see some gameplay footage. System requirements, too!

  17. Stevostin says:

    I’ve got my answer : long range view looks great. The only cons in those screens is that there’s still a “plastic” feel to character. The trees are gorgeous.

  18. RoTapper says:

    I agree with what other commenters have said about the plastic look of the textures. Same thing bugged me in Oblivion and Fallout.

  19. omicron1 says:

    Yay! New images!

    And, Screenshot Analysis Time!

    Image 1. The most obvious thing is the fogbanks on the distant terrain; they are using camera-facing semitransparent billboards, with what may or may not be volumetric effects added. (There are spots where geometry clips through the fog, such as one location slightly above the stone structure; you can see the hard edge of a terrain bit)
    Visible here is a good example of what they meant by snow settling – a normal-based effect more than anything. Still, it looks nice enough. Definitely nicer than their terrain texturing approach.
    Contrary to prior impressions, the dragon’s wings here are not translucent; merely yellow and lacking in standard shading.
    For the sky, my impression is that they are making use of a set of skyboxes/cloud images with smooth transitions between them, rather than a full-on sky simulation. It worked well enough in Oblivion, and it seems to work even better here, especially since their texture quality has improved enormously.
    And finally, we can see that their terrain texturing system has eliminated the “blotchy low-res distant texture” problem. This is easily visible on the middle-right, where we can see the sharp edges of snow patches, and in the lower left, where we can see a much smoother, more constant grassy green.

    Image 2. The first thing that comes to mind is, “Those rune rocks look horrible.” The dungeon appears to have been constructed, as the inside of a Medieval castle, but all the rocks are festooned with intricate carvings that don’t really go anywhere and don’t really make sense. It looks like a Celtic Knot decoration, as drawn by a hyperactive three-year-old with a chisel.
    The undead appear to be zombies; they do indeed look very nice and highly unique. The glowing blue eyes (with tears?) are probably indicative of whatever force is animating them – they most remind me of the Others from A Song of Ice and Fire, which might well have some influence on the game.
    The two main problems I notice here have to do with lighting. First off, we can see a low-resolution shadowmap, especially obvious in the shadow of the stone lamp. It’s probably 1024×1024 at most, and affects only the local area. There appears to be one active light source here, and one shadow map.
    Second, the light illuminating this scene makes no sense. Based on the shadows and specular highlights, I’d say it’s located roughly in front of the large stone pillar in the image’s center… but this bears no relation to the position of the visible light source. Nor can it be a torch offscreen in the player’s hand; the zombies are backlit.

    Image 3 shows a very nice outdoor scene; I especially like the rocks on the left, as they blend into the terrain wonderfully, while looking much more natural than those we’ve seen before.
    Normal mapping appears to have been applied extremely liberally to this ogre-person; sadly, it gives mixed impressions on his clothes – halfway between fur and an extremely wrinkled bit of cloth. The detailing of the bone totems etc. is nice, though, although it’s pretty obvious that every one of these guys will have the same set of bones in the same spot.
    Foliage does not self-shadow. This makes sense from the point of view of the engine – self-shadowing is both expensive and hard to get right.
    In the lower-left we can see a bit of terrain texturing; it appears to be normal-mapped, but not necessarily parallax-mapped. And again, we can see the too-smooth transition between terrain textures with the bit of snow lying on the ground.

    Screenshot 4 is my favorite of these – I love the way they did the birch trees. This looks like it came right out of New England. Note especially the fallen tree on the right – just beautiful.
    I can’t tell if the trees here are casting proper shadows on the ground, or if they’re using Oblivion’s method. More investigation is required here.
    Incidental detail (brambles etc.) fades away by where the buck is standing; this is probably one of the things the PC version will be able to improve upon.
    The hunter’s clothes have an uncomfortably low-resolution look about them. This may be a limitation of the graphics hardware on the 360, or it may be that Bethesda devoted different amounts of effort to different kinds of items, focusing on melee characters’ equipment first. Either way, the difference in texture quality even between the hunter’s clothes and his boots in this image is highly concerning.
    And finally, note the hunter’s hair. It is still modeled and animated rather than physics-enabled, and it still has an uncomfortably low level of detail (note the sharp crease!), but this time around it seems to have at least some animation attached. I’d say the lower reaches of this hunter’s hair are attached to his body’s armature, which, while it makes the hair look unnatural in this scene (it should be hanging down around his face), would look better if, for instance, he was moving his head around while upright.

    • Urthman says:

      The detailing of the bone totems etc. is nice, though, although it’s pretty obvious that every one of these guys will have the same set of bones in the same spot.

      This is the thing about video games that makes no sense to me. They’ll give us umpteen square miles of unique territory, but for some reason they can’t manage to vary the little details like this on enemy characters to make each of them somewhat unique.

      Actually, Oblivion was much better about this than most games by giving all the characters unique faces, but, like you say, all the monsters were identical clones. Couldn’t they just add some random variation to the height and size and maybe some of the color? Vary the details of stuff like the bone totems you mention? It would be a significant amount of work, but still pretty minor compared to how much time they spend making all the unique environments.

    • omicron1 says:

      The problem from a technical standpoint is that there are no good solutions. If you make a creature modular, with parts that can be swapped around, you sacrifice valuable processing power in doing so. Conversely, if you make multiple varieties of creature model, you’re sacrificing storage space, development time, and texture memory. It’s one of those “tradeoff” choices during development.

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      James G says:

      A few of the Oblivion mods did this, Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul being the one which comes to mind:
      http://www.oscurogamedesign.com/oscurosoblivionoverhaul-high.html

    • Kryopsis says:

      You made some good observations, omicron1. I have to begrudgingly agree that the rendering of objects in the distance has been greatly improved. Still, screenshot 3 is several kinds of hideous in terms of light and shadows.

  20. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    Since I loved Oblivion (and, like true love, acknowledging its flaws didn’t make me love it any less) this will be a day -X purchase for me. I’ll be very happy if there are no ropey animations, some moral ambiguous multi-ending quests, and improved skill system. Is there any news on snazzy Collectors/Ultimate/etc editions?

    P.

  21. Emperor_Jimmu says:

    Don’t cry Mr Zombie!

  22. Dontdrop says:

    More games need cool dragons (not MMO dragons, but cool dragons!)

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      Cinek says:

      Yesss…. badass firebreathers not some childish creatures. :D

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    Chaz says:

    Realistic snow fall, well that’s got to be worth £40 of anyones money surely? Now if they could just recreate the feel of the biting cold winds in your face or the smell of flowers and greenery on a fresh dewy forest morning breeze, then I really will be fucking impressed. But the snow’s good for starters.

    • omicron1 says:

      The snow is little more than a normal-based function. If the surface normal (possibly procedurally modified) is approaching (0,0,1) (universal up vector) within a certain amount, the color of that pixel is set to (1,1,1).

    • cjlr says:

      I’d love me some realistic snow. It ain’t gonna happen anytime soon, but progress is progress.

      Accurate cold. The cold squeak of ice crystals on a blindingly bright morning. Giant wet flakes half-melting on the sun-warmed ground; clinging impossibly to the bent, bare tree branches. The icy sting of tiny flakes, in a cold blizzard headwind. To see your own breath, feel it freeze to the hair on your face. Sundogs in the twilight, in the early afternoon.

      God damn I want a game that actually feels like winter.

    • omicron1 says:

      @cjlr: http://www.productwiki.com/upload/images/crysis_snow.jpg

      I think part of the problem is the lighting. Games, including Skyrim from the looks of things, don’t adjust their lighting solutions very much, if at all, for “cold” weather. Clouds darken scenes, while a cloudless sky brightens them tremendously if snow is present; scattering from the snow will render them much more blue (or less blue, in some cases) than Skyrim manages.

      http://pool.twincitiesdailyphoto.com/2008/fluffy_snow_day-01.jpg
      http://www.frontiernet.net/~indiancreek/streets_files/06-Bridge%20snowy%20day.jpg

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      Harlander says:

      I’d be very impressed if they managed to simulate all those tactile and olfactory qualia with a monitor and speakers too.

  24. ScubaMonster says:

    This looks more and more awesome. Unfortunately I doubt my PC would run it. It just meets the minimum for Civ 5. I have a feeling I’ll have to get it on my 360 instead. Oh well, at least I’ll be able to play it in some form or another.

  25. Kits says:

    So…when does a zombie stop being a zombie and become a skeleton? Because those skelintons are looking pretty borderline to me. *ponders*

    • rei says:

      A skeleton can be a bit meaty, but if there’s skin on the bones then I’d say it’s a zombie.

      Or maybe it’s a matter of moisture percentage. If the meat or skin was really old and dry I might accept that it’s a skeleton.

  26. Kryopsis says:

    The only improvement over Oblivion that I see is a new lighting engine. The low polygon count of the models and the low resolution of the textures are not impressive in any way. The bloom effect seems to be a little overdone as well. The dragon on the first image has some sort of an ugly outline; it’s hard to tell whether it’s because of a blur or a bloom effect. The game is still in development but I think the fact that it is designed to run on the same consoles as Oblivion will severely limit the possible graphical improvements of Skyrim, new engine or not.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      “The only improvement over Oblivion that I see is a new lighting engine.”

      Then you are totally blind. Seriously.

    • Urael says:

      Seconded. Did you type your comment with a braille keyboard?

    • Soon says:

      Objects in fog cast shadows on the dense atmosphere so they get a dark halo, although it just looks like a result of jpeg compression. But maybe it’s both.

    • Kryopsis says:

      Actually I have perfect vision in both eyes, but thank you for your concern.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      You obviously haven’t played Oblivion in a long, LONG time if you think these aren’t much of an improvement.

      You should give it another whirl now before you make any more “doesn’t look much better than” comparisons.

  27. Resin says:

    I’m not particularly impressed by the graphics improvement, though they are an improvement. If they improve the quality of their faces and voice actors that would be huge.
    But mostly I feel like they lost something crucial between Morrowind and Oblivion, I hope that they can reclaim that for Skyrim.

  28. noom says:

    I think I may hold off playing this until that slightly creepy woman makes new character models with intricately detailed genitals. TES just isn’t the same anymore if it’s not making me feel mild sexual discomfort.

  29. Grape Flavor says:

    Lol at RPS suddenly turning into the very shallowest of graphics whores every time Skyrim is mentioned. Again, double standards being applied to this game. And those of you saying it looks plasticy obviously have no memory of the Doom 3 era.

    This is actually pretty good, folks, considering it is being co-developed for consoles. Sure, they could have made it high-end-PC centric and then worked to radically degrade the graphics for 360 and PS3, but let’s face it, that’s just not the way things are done these days.

    Also, Quinns: I think you need to use more sarcasm. It’s too subtle, there might be people who still haven’t gotten that you already don’t like this game.

    • faelnor says:

      This is a PC-centric blog post about a handful of screenshots. Commenting the graphics is the only thing that people can do at the moment and when those look worse than 1 year old games that were also on X-Box 360 like Just Cause 2 (and in some shots even 2009′s Risen), you can expect people to say it. I don’t see double standards here.

      EDIT: The only double standards I see here are people who like the look of the game but complain about the naysayers vs. people who don’t like it but don’t complain about those who do.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      Face it faelnor, if this: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/images/11/feb/witcher.jpg was a Skyrim screenshot everyone would be shitting all over it.

      “too much bloom!”
      “is that a cucumber monster?”
      “geralt’s pose looks so unnatural, what shitty animators they must have”

      You can’t deny that much of RPS, staff and community, already hates Skyrim and is looking for any excuse to rip on it. If these same shots came from an “original” game by some startup indie dev, everyone would be creaming their pants already. But it’s Bethesda so the hate has begun in earnest.

    • faelnor says:

      You’re living in the land of fantasy dude.
      FWIW, I really hope Skyrim will be a great game, dated graphics or not. It can’t be worse than Oblivion (my honest opinion, and I loved Morrowind to death).
      Re. TW2, I dunno. CD Projekt sort of built some well placed anticipation by releasing a great game and caring for what the fans had to say all along. I agree: there is too much bloom in that shot. Also, look at the latest vid and you’ll see the new inventory looks awful with a lot of wasted space. What pains me is that, however awful it may be, it still looks better than the interface shot we have of Skyrim.

      And it looks like you’re dismissing on purpose most posts in this comments thread. People are gushing over Skyrim. And as usual, the minority is more vocal. What’s wrong here again?

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      Grape – you see, that’s why it sux being big developer. If Skyrim turns out to be poor game and Bethesda looses money on it – company survives, brings sequel, earns more cash than ever.

      If The Witcher 2 turns out a poor game CD Projekt looses money then there won’t be any sequel what so ever. Company goes bankrupt and everyone go on the street.
      So Witcher needs moar good PR! :D ;)

      Besides that the Skyrim as did Oblivion is just a classic good cRPG, Witcher is bit more grown up game, so brings different expectations.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Grape: I think it looks great. And I’m reading this comments thread and seeing an awful lot of positivity there, too.

      So, yes! I do deny it. I think you’re getting the wrong of the internet stick.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      Ok, well maybe it’s me then. I think I need to quit the internet until I’m in a better mood – my rant-retraction ratio is getting pretty bad…

    • Kryopsis says:

      Sometimes I wonder if the people who vigorously defend an unreleased game against all criticism aren’t doing it in hopes of convincing themselves, in the end. Then again, perhaps they are conditioned by the industry itself.

      Either way, I noticed a trend of defending games in their totality, i.e. an unreleased major title must be flawless in every way. It will have beautiful music, immersive sounds, life-like animations, gorgeous visuals and addictive gameplay. If one criticises one aspect of this, the implication is that he criticises it all. This dualism is similar in essence to that disgusting trend in contemporary politics: “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”.

      I like video games. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. In fact, I like them so much, I am not content with what I see in front of me today. I think video games could be better in so many ways. I also believe that if everyone accepts what is offered to them, progress would be impossible.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      tbh Grape, kudos for you for your retraction. But you should notice, as i said before, RPS’ coverage has been almost entirely positive. I think you’ve been seeing things that aren’t there. Besides, people seem pretty positive. But also cautious with good justification.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      @Kryopsis
      I see what you’re saying. The political analogy made me wince, I’d hate to think I’m becoming one of those people. To be fair though, there’s ample reason to be optimistic. Morrowind was awesome, and Oblivion was pretty incredible too, once you’ve patched and modded out the rough bits.

      To me the question is whether Skyrim will be great at launch, or will require some tinkering before it reaches its full potential. Given Bethesda’s track record, I’d be absolutely shocked if they fail to even lay down a solid foundation.

    • Kryopsis says:

      Heh, if I were to give my honest opinion on Bethesda and their games, I’d probably be labelled as a troll on the spot. I do not expect Skyrim to be any better than the rest of Bethesda’s games, however I am not going to judge it until I actually play the game. This said, the visuals on these screenshots look underwhelming, especially after seeing ArcaniA: Gothic 4 and Two Worlds II (both of these games being middling, unfortunately). Then again, there are so few norse-themed games around that every new one is quite welcome.

  30. 8-bit says:

    Everyone’s excited!

    nope, not me.

    unless they have promised that it wont be a buggy mess when they release it?

  31. Skusey says:

    Feed Me makes really good music, I bought his album the other day. Games are also good.

  32. Davie says:

    I love that last screenshot. Those woods look like actual, weedy, peeling, overgrown, muddy woods. Much of Oblivion bore an unfortunate resemblance to a golf course, or the sort of forested lawn you’d host a dinner party on.

  33. Araxiel says:

    It still looks like Olbivion with better graphics.

    But something as good as Oblivion with better graphics is something I’m looking forward to.
    I only hope it will be a bit more gory than Oblivion. TESIV was a bit to ‘clean’.

    Also:
    DOVAHKIIN! DOVAHKIIN!
    NAAL OK ZIN LOS VAHRIIN!