A Realistic Hour With Skyrim

By Alec Meer on September 1st, 2011 at 1:15 pm.

that is a *fat* horse

Bonus for people who don’t like reading: new footage and some video comments from Todd Howard also await you below.

Elder Scrolls games have many, many merits, but being a great spectator sport perhaps does not number amongst them. While I am personally very excited to see an hour of Skyrim being played as it is intended to be played – from the start, exploring and making it up as the player goes along – it’s a stark difference from the massive fights with massive dragons and crazy spell combinations I’d been shown previously. What I’m seeing today is Bethesda’s Pete Hines rummaging through corpses’ pockets for loot and doing mental arithmetic about weapon stats – demonstrating that Skyrim is at least as much about calculation as it is about combat. Watching someone compare swords sure isn’t as much fun as watching someone shoot a dragon out of the air. It is, however, more important – because here he’s playing Skyrim you or I would play it, showing off its proudly nerdy roleplaying heart rather than its crowd-pleasing flashy face.

“This is not some polished demo with scripted battles,” he promises. “This is me starting a new game, kind of playing through and showing some new stuff.” It’s… well, as purely a spectator here, to be honest it’s almost a little boring. When he gets a new axe with better stats, it’s meaningful to him but it means nothing to me. Because that’s the nature of this game and its heritage – finding a better axe would only be meaningful to me if I was the one playing.

YES IT HAS A TAIL ALRIGHT

So, in fact, seeing Skyrim at its quietest and most inward-looking is a huge relief. While Skyrim has looked mighty impressive from afar, there was a fear that the nuts and bolts of Elder Scrolling had been subsumed by all that impossibly epic combat and shouting at sky-lizards. In fact, there’s plenty of the number-watching and cave-exploring that we so yearn for. In many ways, it seems incredibly familiar – there’d be no mistaking it for any other game series. On the other hand, the spit and polish on top of it is wonderful. Most especially in the inventory.

Oh! The menus. Oh! With every single pick-uppable item rendered as a full, 3D, rotable object, everything tiered into neat categories and smart features such as tagging favourites for instant access, right-clicking stuff in a looting screen to immediately equip it and a tiny, discrete icon denoting which item is the best of its sort in your bags, it seems to have kept all the good stuff of inventory management while making it far more efficient and look exactly 17 times better. Maybe even 18.

The main game-screen itself gets a similarly minimalist makeover. Magicka, health and stamina bars only show if they’re not full; when you’re in tip-top shape, they fade out to present you with the most uncluttered possible view of Skyrim’s world. Stealth, meanwhile, is denoted by a line-art eyeball icon around your targeting reticule, which incrementally opens or closes depending on how are local enemies are of your presence. Everything seems to be present and correct, but there’s been a clear focus on making it all discretely fit together and be as visually un-fussy as possible, rather than clutter the world and the interface with everything at once.

We’re wandering into one of Skyrim’s dungeons, having just gone through character creation. Picking a race and appearance is pretty much all that’s involved here – the rest happens as you play. Hines appeals to the room for what race he should play as. Silence. I crack and call ‘Khajit!’ but pronounce it wrong and start blushing furiously. Undeterred, he creates himself a catman character, picking through a vast raft of visual options such as scars, dirt, warpaint, piercings and facial hair. His catman ends up wearing a fine Fu Manchu moustache. Also, a tail. “Argonians and khajit have tails,” Hines reassures us, having apparently been nagged half to death about it on Twitter. “Please spread the word so people will stop asking.”

What we don’t get to see at this point in the game’s opening quest or anything at all to do with the main narrative. Bethesda don’t want to talk about that stuff until the game’s out, so instead we’ve skipped straight to free-roaming adventuring. In this case, we’ve wandered straight to a nearby dungeon, but there are other options. At the start of the game, you (or rather your map) know roughly where Skyrim’s cities are but you can’t fast-travel straight to them yet. You can wander that way and hope for the best, or you can pay for a carriage there – a la Morrowind’s Silt Striders. Once you’ve been somewhere, you can then fast-travel to it, if you want to.

While wandering around, icons pop-up on the slim, subtle top-of-screen compass to denote nearby locations of possible interest, which is how we find ourselves in this dungeon. “There’s a crazy amount of dungeons,” claims Hines, “all hand-crafted” by Bethesda’s new phalanx of level designers. The idea is that, as well as being a more characterful, designed adventure, each dungeon has an undertone of incidental backstory, conveyed by decoration rather than exposition. In this one, we find a crucified skeleton hanging over a shallow lake. A knapsack waits at its feet, containing a journal. The journal tells of a fisherman who’d been having trouble catching much in his usual stomping grounds, so he’d roamed further afield. Top tip for fishermen: don’t roam into necromancers’ dens.

The Necromancers themselves aren’t far off, nor are they pleased to see us. We dispatch the first one sharipish with a fire spell – each and every new Skyrim character starts off with basic fire and healing magic, but from there it’s up to you what you use (and on what you find or buy, of course). Fire isn’t a shot-by-shot fireball, but a steady steam of flame that makes short work of these cloth-wearing dead-botherers. As one falls, another immediately turns and starts resurrecting him. His body lifts off the ground, his back arching, surround by blue energy. We pepper the would-be resurrector with shots from our newly-found Orcish bow (I couldn’t tell you what its stats are; Hines looked at them briefly, muttered something positive to himself and immediately equipped it), and as he falls his undead servant dissipates into a shower of ash. Meanwhile, another Necro starts resurrecting the one we downed with the bow – as his body rises in the air, we can see the arrows we filled him with sticking out of him, almost comically.

The fight continues, and dramatically so, with one Necro summoning spectral wolves to fight us, the big cheat. The game dynamically comes up with kill moves depending on context, but they’re quick and part of the ongoing fight, not the disruptive slo-mo of Fallout 3. We start dual-casting spells too – at the moment, it’s just one in each hand, fired separately, but there is a perk available that lets you combo both hands into one mega-spell.

As the fight moves on we face Falmer, “twisted, evil creatures that dwell in Skyrim’s deepest reaches” and which basically look like goblins wearing spider’s faces as helmets, we move more into melee. A blade in one hand, and in the other a torch to light this dark place. Oh, and also to block and bash, plus set enemies on fire for extra damage. They’re not mere light sources any more.

The fight winds up, which means it’s rummaging time. Hines dredges up a small mountain of loot, which he peers at, equips or discards according to numbers in his head. I want to be the one with those numbers.

It’s also time for lunch. Not for me – this is at Gamescom, after all. Lunch isn’t possible at Gamescom. Our character, however, has collected various bits of meat and vegetable on his travels, which he could consume now for a minor health restoration bonus, but a spot of cookery would achieve far greater things. Oh – Skyrim features auto-recharging health, stamina and magicka, but the former a whole lot more slowly. You won’t get far by hiding behind a box for ten seconds then charging back into a fight. Food and potions remain vital. So, let’s get one of those rabbit legs we collected earlier and stick it in a nearby cookpot. With the right ingredients, it’ll provide temporary bonuses to other statistics, much like potions. You’ll also stumble across spits in the game. When you activate one, you’ll be told what you can cook on it and what ingredients are needed.

Also in there is mining and crafting. Find a pickaxe and an ore vein and you’re away. Find a forge and you could, for instance, construct an Iron Shield from two leather strips (obtained by skinning creatures, then taking their hides to tanning stations) and four iron ingots. Or you could use a grindstone to improve your existing kit. For instance, tempering a longbow makes it more powerful. There will be a limit on how many times you can do this, however – this isn’t Two Worlds and its ludicrous infini-upgrade system. You’ll be able to improve Smithing in the same way you can improve other skills/perks – which will let you use better materials. For instance, upgrading something with glass will achieve far better things than upgrading it with poxy old iron. On top of this new crafting, old TS faves Enchantment and Alchemy return, in similar but updated forms.

What I didn’t get to see in this demo was anything of Skyrim’s cities or faction system. There’ll be four of the latter: the Companions (essentially the fighter’s guild), the Mages’ Guild, the Thieves’ Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. As before, joining the latter requires an invitation, based on sinister forces observing your less-than-pleasant behaviour. As a whole, the game is “an order of magnitude bigger than Fallout 3 in terms of number of quests and dungeons.” And, I’m relieved to see, in terms of stuff.

I want to be doing what Pete Hines is currently doing, silently worrying to himself about whether this axe is better than that axe, where I can find a bigger Soul Gem to enchant it with, whether I’ve got enough leather to build a new shield. Dragon-questing, or whatever the hell it is that’s going on in the main story? Lots of fun, I’m sure. But me, I’m much more about my own interests, not the world’s. Primarily, that involves scouring dungeons for stuff and making more stuff out of it. Skyrim, I am very pleased to see, appears to have stuff in spades.

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141 Comments »

  1. Jajusha says:

    Sounds good, and atleast in the inventory management part seems ages ahead of Oblivion. Still, will it have enemies that level as you do? Will you be able to get a Daedric armor out of lvl31 highway bandit Bill? What about dungeon loot, is it random, fixed? How about the “unlimited dragons”, any more word on this?

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, this is vitally important to me. I’d hate to level up significantly and then find that since I’ve hidden away from the world and greatly raised my smithing and cooking skills, everyone else has magically risen to level four hundred and is clothed in ultra-diamond daedric armour. I guess I could always wait for mods to come out to fix this and make the game logical.

    • Malfernion says:

      I believe they’ve previously stated that the enemies will scale in a similar way to Fallout 3, i.e almost imperceptibly.

    • Xerian says:

      It’ll have scaling-enemies, as in, they scale with your combat-focused stats, as far as I’ve heard. And… I dont really recall much about dragons, other than the fact that some of the first mods for the game, undoubtfully will be the ability to get a dragon-mount, become a dragon-drake-of-sorts-thing, and ofcourse the ability to have sex with dragon-prostitutes.

    • Calneon says:

      There should be a compromise. The trouble is, in a world where you can go anywhere, enemies have to level with you to some extent or the majority of the dungeons you visit on your travels will either be trivially easy or incredibly hard.

    • Prime says:

      “or the majority of the dungeons you visit on your travels will either be trivially easy or incredibly hard.”

      And what’s wrong with that, exactly? Too easy – you feel powerful, and can relax for a bit. Too hard – you get a scare from the game then come back later when you’ve buffed up a bit, triumphing over it. Why does every dungeon or encounter in the game have to be pitched at the level of “survivable, but a slog”? That was Oblivion’s major failing, wasn’t it?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      But equally if there are only a few dungeons appropriate to you level, the rest being so ludicrously hard that it is not possible to get anywhere in them or too easy that you could tank every enemy in the place, then it’s firstly not much of an open world experience with your path being guided and secondly most times you stumble across a dungeon it’s going to contain no loot you want or you will die horribly at the first enemy – not much fun

    • Urthman says:

      For me, it’s not a genuine open world if there isn’t the possibility of poking your head into a dungeon, finding something terrifyingly more powerful than anything you’ve encountered so far–SHIT! GIANT UNDEAD VAMPIRE DRAGON SORCERERS?!? WITH FLAMING GLASS WEAPONS?!? SHIT!!–and running for your life.

    • IDtenT says:

      I think the people who approve of level scaling misunderstand what TES is(/was) all about. TES is not about action; it’s an adventure-RPG.

      Even the devs have mistaken themselves for action-RPG makers. There really isn’t a palm or face big enough for Bethsoft.

      I totally approve of not being able to kill rats at level one and being able to kill NPCs with single shots when I reach max level.

    • Prime says:

      @Sheng-ji: that’s only assuming that easy dungeons will have no decent loot in them. We have to break this seeming link between skill of inhabitants and rewards. Why can’t some poor old goblins live in a system of tunnels with an amazing secret hidden in it even from them? And I disagree with the challenge reducing the feeling of “open-world” – you seem to mean that phrase as “the entire world is open to you” which is plainly and glaringly unrealistic. Being physically able to travel anywhere you want is one thing; being allowed to do so is something very different.

      I totally approve of not being able to kill rats at level one and being able to kill NPCs with single shots when I reach max level.

      As do I! Morrowind delighted me no end when my character finally became powerful enough to shoot down those f**king cliff-racers with one shot. It didn’t suddenly replace them all with something much harder to kill, a la Oblivion. Levelling up in Morrowind had meaning, purpose and a measurable effect in the world. Levelling up in Oblivion was pointless as far as combat was concerned. It was just the same hard slog all the way through.

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      AndrewC says:

      IDentT: You’ve mistaken the type of game they make. The auto levelling is about allowing any player to go in any direction at any time and have an adventure relevant to them. This is a design decision that is against hardcore RPG-ers and min/maxers, but favours the more generalist gamer. It of ignores the long-game in favour for immediate little bubbles of stand-alone adventure, but it’s not simply incompetance. It’s just a design decision you disagree with.

    • IDtenT says:

      Andrew, you are 100% right. I hate you for being right, I really really do, because it means that the devs are disinterested in making the TES I want to play.

    • Danarchist says:

      Actually one of my favorite things from Oblivion was how if I got myself into a sticky situation in a dungeon I couldn’t just run out the door and get away, the mobs actually followed you through different zone lines! I am not sure if that was base game or mod but I loved it! With the auto adjusting thing though, I do enjoy beating something that should logically wipe the floor with me, it is perhaps the greatest joy I get out of gaming. If the monsters adjust too low it robs me of that thrill. Then again I remember the first time I ran into a group of bandits with glass armor and weapons and got trounced because my magic spells were atrociously built.
      Of all these types of games I think the most undervalued was Two Worlds 2. It is buggy in spots and decidedly unfair in others, but it made me think and forced me to reconfigure my spell and gear for specific needs in dungeons. I enjoyed that. Part of the fun of an rpg for me is the pre-planning and strategizing, then seeing that work pay off or flop depending on my skill.

    • Love Albatross says:

      I totally approve of not being able to kill rats at level one and being able to kill NPCs with single shots when I reach max level.

      +1 to this. So long as getting there is a challenge – as it was in Morrowind – then becoming such a high level that you feel like a minor deity is awesome. Nice thing was even when you hit that level in the core game, the Morrowind expansions were designed for high level players so you got that challenge all over again. None of the DLC for Oblivion did that really apart from the odd battle in Shivering Isles.

      Why can’t some poor old goblins live in a system of tunnels with an amazing secret hidden in it even from them?

      That’d be great. How cool would it be to have stuff like finding the very first dungeon in Oblivion (you know, that ruined temple with the bandits which can kick your arse when you first emerge from the sewer) was hiding a major piece of loot or other big secret which is only revealed later on once you had the appropriate skills or had followed a long quest line?

    • ulix says:

      Guys, relax.

      From what I’ve understood (and somewhat said here), the scaling will work like in Fallout 3.
      Meaning:
      - The rat will be scaled between level 1 and 5, if you’re level 1, the rat will be level 1, if you’re level 1345, the rat will still only be level 5, and die from you looking at it.
      - The big bad M3G4-DR4K0HHN will be scaled between 4567 and 10 Million. Meaning if you’re level 1, you will still die from the dragon looking at you (since its level 4567), if you’re level 6348, the dragon will also be 6348 (or maybe fixed at +/- X levels in comparison to your level), and if you’re level 50 Bazillion, then it will still only be level 10 million.

      Understand?

      In my opinion its a nice compromise.

    • LostViking says:

      Apparently the dungeons will ‘lock’ the level of its inhabitants the first time you visit it, meaning you can come back later if its too hard and the necromancers wont suddenly be much higher level.

      As for people saying level scaling is necessary in a game like this, i disagree. Risen had a similar open world without scaling, and you felt really weak initially but leveling up your character really meant something. The difference is you can’t run into any dungeon at any time and expect a fair challenge, but I don’t see why that has to be the case for an open world game.

    • LionsPhil says:

      And what’s wrong with that, exactly? Too easy – you feel powerful, and can relax for a bit. Too hard – you get a scare from the game then come back later when you’ve buffed up a bit, triumphing over it. Why does every dungeon or encounter in the game have to be pitched at the level of “survivable, but a slog”? That was Oblivion’s major failing, wasn’t it?

      This, and hard—it’s something I’ve found I really like about Champions Online, which natch can’t scale because it’s an MMO: some areas are outright dangerous and if you find yourself in one you want to run away oh god flee aaa that fire hound thing almost saw me.

      Then go back five levels later and stamp on their heads. It’s a simple joy being obliterated by the degree of perfectly-crafted handholding in recent SP games. (Fallout 1/2 also come to mind as games where you could wander into serious trouble.)

    • AlexTaldren says:

      Difficulty shouldn’t be dictated by leveling. This is not some themepark MMORPG, and I’m glad about that. There are other ways the game makes you feel “more powerful,” through upgrading your weapons and armor, as well as incorporating combat skills that allow you to block and dodge attacks.

      Example: A cave troll shouldn’t be “challenging,” because he is level 50 and you are level 47. He should be difficult to overcome because he has a specific skill that is difficult to dodge, or because he has a resistance to magic and you are forced to use other means to dispatch him.

      Difficulty based solely on levels is archaic game design left over from the days of pen and paper RPGs, and really has no place in modern RPGs, at least as the only determining factor.

      Bethesda has the right idea, as the game world cannot be open-ended and explored freely if you’re bound to places by levels.

    • Wulf says:

      @Xerian

      Mods: Doing what Bethesda can’t/won’t do in appreciably good and entertainingly bad ways since 2002.

    • icdmize says:

      I wanted to watch the video comments with Todd Howard you linked to but sadly Zenimax will have nothing of the sort. I assume they don’t like free press.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      It’ll be like in New Vegas. Certain areas will have very challenging enemies, others weak ones, and even the enemies that do scale only scale a bit.

      Like, when you left Goodsprings and headed North, you’d run into Deathclaws and other high level enemies that would rip your face off. Head South, and there’s more manageable Powder Gangers. When you come back at level 25, those Powder Gangers are still there, and though they might have very slightly better armor, they can be killed in one shot. The Deathclaws are still there as well, and you’re now of a level to have a chance.

      Level scaling only really was apparent when factions sent assassins after you. The assassins would be stronger as you leveled up. Which makes sense. They’d want to send tougher guys to kill a tougher enemy.

      I’m not worried. They’ve figured out scaling since Oblivion. What I’m hoping is they’ve improved their writing, taken a cue from Obsidian.

    • JimK. says:

      One of my problems in oblivion was not just the lvl scaling. I also got very frustrated by the end of the game when your enchanted sword (which was, if you remember, quite expensive to charge) was exhausted after killing only two regular oblviongate demonspawns.

      And i’d like to note that i have no liking towards deathclaws.

    • Sonofthenorth says:

      @xerian where can I find the ‘dragon prostitutes’ you speak of? I want some dragon action…

  2. Teddy Leach says:

    That is a phat horse.

    … Fo’ shizzle.

  3. CMaster says:

    ““an order of magnitude bigger than Fallout 3 in terms of number of quests and dungeons.”

    So over a thousand locations and somewhere approaching a thousand quests. Call me sceptical here.

    (I guess he could be being a sneaky programmer and using powers of 2 rather than 10)

  4. Davee says:

    The UI does sound very nice. Great improvement from Oblivion if so.

    But I haven’t preordered yet – Too many games, too little money – and I’ve yet to see a full, long, un-staged gameplay video of Skyrim.

  5. inertia says:

    I hope all this stuff balances well, so I don’t get people shouting at me about how I’m playing it wrong and I should use this build, which is the most powerful one, look I tested it and this spreadsheet shows that it’s by far the most efficient and powerful way to play the game. I hate that.

    • Sidorovich says:

      TBH I’ve never felt the need to ‘power game’ in any of the TES titles – their worlds are so massive and crammed so full with stuff, concerns about whether I have the right ‘build’ or not dissipate completely.

      Excitement over the new crafting system almost has me forgetting their risible decision to do away with armour and weapon degradation. I do hope it’s possible to ‘trade’ your way through the game, crafting items for profit – and not have your efforts undermined by the preponderance of Daderic items falling off bandits dead corpses….

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      drewski says:

      Anybody who thinks hitting thing with an armourer’s hammer is good gameplay frankly deserves being hit with an armourer’s hammer.

      I don’t mind complexity in game, but repairing your kit in the TES series was nothing more than a time sink and we’re well rid of it.

    • rayne117 says:

      Yeah it’s impossible someone found a more fun way to play than you, oh mighty one.

  6. James says:

    Any word as to playing as a thief? Will stolen items be irrevocably marked and thus, near impossible to sell? The world filled with worthless imitation items in the name of balancing the awful levelling system?

    This ruined Oblivion for me, I really hope Bethesda have turned around on this.

    • Stevostin says:

      If there is one good thing to say about ES (and Oblivion), it’s the leveling, skill based system. That feels realistic, and allow for strictly non violent play – not only not killing things, but even not hitting them. I’d also advocate for the auto leveling system : create three different characters and you immediately feel the benefice of being able to deal with the part of the game you want, when you want it. Thus I admit this one is unpopular. I also agree the anti thief abuse could have been more subtle, although it’s alway better than steeling a shop then selling them what you stole. That being said, IRL that’s what real thief do : rob, then sell to a dedicated channel. So not entirely senseless.

    • Bhazor says:

      One stealing counter I would like is a suspicison based sysyem. So when a shop gets robbed the owner would become more suspicious and start hiring extra security and have a lower disposition to customers. If you stole from someone’s home they would start locking their doors, hiring door guards or even hiding their valuables under the bed or behind a pile of barrels instead of showing them off in a cabinet. Suspicision could spread through whole towns/neighbourhoods and slowly ebb and flow as pilfering habits change. It would mean low level thieves would still have naive townies to practise robbing with but that subsequent burgalries would become more difficult so it would end up scaling to the character. Stolen goods would become a tougher challenge to get and would sell for less because the shop owners have rock bottom disposition and start to assume everything they buy is stolen.

      I’m not sure if any games have actually implemented this kind of system but would like to see it tried.

    • Stevostin says:

      If there is a Thieve Guild, we can assume robbery is common, hence suspicion everywhere, at least in big cities. So it doesn’t work for me to base this on player’s actions. I’d rather see a “touched” mod for container : each time you rob from it you have a chance (skill based) on letting it in a way that will trigger suspicion by NPC seing it. If they see you around, unless you have a positive reputation to them (or a sufficiently higher title) , they’ll catch you and ask to check your inventory (bigger item such as weapon would be seen even without that). (oc you can resist check through speech or hand combat). Even if they let you your suspicion rate in the city would increase and you’ll end up having guards monitoring you.

      Oh, that would be a lot of work to deal with a real good robbery gameplay, but isn’t it worth it ?

  7. Bilbo says:

    You’re not alone – the main quest in Oblivion held almost no appeal for me, but wandering off and doing your own thing? Fucking amazing.

    • Mattressi says:

      This is exactly what I plan on doing. I hope that ‘doing my own thing’ doesn’t have to involve doing quests though and could, instead, involve being a hermit blacksmith. I think my roleplaying is broken…sometimes I worry that one day I’ll want to roleplay a rock…

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Hehe, I must have put 80 hours into that game before I went to Kvatch and started the whole portal opening thing!

    • oliverh72 says:

      @Mattressi

      You know, you don’t have to play games to do that. You just sit on the couch all day, drool eventually pooling on your stained T. Oh wait, is that a potato? I always get those confused.

      Nonetheless, it’s totally doable.

    • Prime says:

      Wandering has always been the main strength of the Elder Rolled-parchments games. The main quests always tend to be massive errand-boy fetch/deliver chains anyway, which get boring really quickly.

    • Trousers says:

      Thank you, Prime, for my first post-work laugh for the day.

  8. sneetch says:

    Does the fat horse armour DLC cost more? (I believe we’re legally obliged to mention horse armour at least once when talking about Elder Scrolls).

    Maybe time to bust out Oblivion again. Make a new fugly character and wander about for a wee bit before that sense of open world ennui sinks in and I quit to cry, naked and despairing the futility of it all in the shower.

    Or maybe I should play Bastion.

  9. LGM says:

    Color me excited!

    Also, we need official system requirements now. I wanna know if my 3.1ghz core2 is going to be enuff.

    • Malfernion says:

      @LGM
      You probably don’t have to worry, as this is coming out on consoles.

    • max pain says:

      Guys! Guys! Check it out this one has 3.1ghz core2 central processing unit!

  10. Kestrelio says:

    Did anyone else pick up on the developer’s insinuation in the youtube video that this game was yet another XBox-first, PC-as-an-afterthought game?

    • skinlo says:

      It was a video aimed at the Xbox users, hence the Xbox logo and sound at the end.

    • NathaI3 says:

      I did. And when he was talking about ‘infinite detail’ and how much more they could get out of the (frankly ancient) Xbox… hmm.

    • Prime says:

      Ha ha! I laughed at that “Infinite…detail” line as well. Shame he didn’t say his dragons were similarly infinite!

    • tyren says:

      I haven’t seen the video (it got taken down) but when I’ve seen them talk about getting more out of the 360 it’s usually in the context of “we can get more out of it compared to what we could with Oblivion,” not “compared to a PC.”

      They’ve already said outright that the PC version will have more graphics options and that the game will definitely look better on PC, so color me skeptical on the “bad console port” thing.

  11. Atic Atac says:

    Not buying until Scrolls issue is solved. Yeah, I’m that guy.

    • Mattressi says:

      Shouldn’t you be boycotting the Bethesda game then, not this wonderful creation of Mojang’s?

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      I’m boycotting the Mojang game due to their outrageous appropration of plucky little Bethesda’s IP.

    • skinlo says:

      Theres always one…

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Wasn’t it Mojang wanting to appropriate the word scrolls? If so, you’d probably be better off doing the reverse.

    • BurningPet says:

      I am boycotting mojang scrolls because it just sounds like a boring money grind machine.

    • Jumwa says:

      It was Notch and Mojang that filed for a trademark of the word Scrolls that began the issues. Try turning your rage around at the guy who attempted to make Elder Scrolls a violation of his trademark.

      Also, Scrolls seems to just be a money-pit. Monthly subscription for a PC card game? Real-money auction house to trade cards in? I’ll take the more elder any day of the week over that.

    • Jeremy says:

      Yeah, Bethesda isn’t trying to keep Notch from using the word Scrolls, but for trying to trademark the word Scrolls. In all fairness, Notch was the one to fire the first shot into the trademark mess, and Bethesda should protect it.

    • Xzi says:

      He’s not trying to trademark Elder Scrolls, so it shouldn’t matter. They can’t stop him from trademarking the one word, anyway, because nowhere does it say Elder(TM) Scrolls(TM). It just says Elder Scrolls(TM). Which means they only have a trademark on the entire phrase and not each individual word. Nobody is going to confuse the two. Bethesda are dicks.

    • Jumwa says:

      Except that’s not the case at all. As people have linked time and time again, and various lawyers explained, that’s not how trademark law works.

      But hey, I’ll stop harshing on the indignant rage. People seem to enjoy casting Bethesda as the big baddie against the little guy, even if it’s not accurate.

    • JackShandy says:

      A. OpenOffice is not forced to sue Office.
      B. This argument assumes that Notch would have won a battle against the Elder Scrolls if Bethesda hadn’t sued him. That’s like saying someone could make a game called Fantasy and win a suit against Final Fantasy.
      C. Bethesda have spent exactly the same amount of money, time and effort on this suit that they would have if Notch had sued them – except now, they’ve got a bigger PR hit and less chance of winning. If they were doing this to defend their trademark, why not just wait until (the unlikely event) Notch sued them, then slap him away easily?

      It seems obvious that they’re not doing this to defend their trademark – they’re doing it to get some money out of it.

      On the other hand, if this actually IS how trademarks work – if Notch could feasibly have won a case against the Elder Scrolls – then the entire legal system is so bullshit that no-one utilising it in any way can be called a Good Guy.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      A. Microsoft sucessfully forced Sun to change the name from OpenOffice to OpenOffice.org
      B. I don’t know quite what you’re saying. If someone made a game called Fantasy, they would not need to take anyone to court, they could attempt to trademark it and release the game. It would be up to Squeenix to defend their trademark if they felt they needed too. If the two parties could not come to a civil agreement, then it would have to appear in front of a court.
      C. I expect only 2 or 3 employees of Bethesda and 2 or 3 from their law firm know how much time or money has been spent on this. I know for a fact you are none of these people, so stop making up lies. What makes you think Notch could sue Bethesda anyway? What grounds does he have? If they didn’t challenge Notch, his trademark application would have gone through and their brand would be, in their opinion, threatened. Notch would not have had to sue anyone, I think you need to research the law a bit before making statements as fact that are in fact fiction from your head.

      And, please do tell, how are Bethesda going to earn money from this?? Where is the revenue going to come from?

  12. Burning Man says:

    Excellent write-up. Though, as Davee says, I’m wondering why they haven’t shown unrestricted gameplay with the game due to release in just two months.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    Were the dungeons in Morrowind and Oblivion not hand-crafted as well? I don’t think I ever visited more than three in each of them because there was never anything of value there. It just felt too unrewarding.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      They were kind of prefabs, you unique layouts but identical rooms and corridors, I think (It was a long time ago)

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I think there’s a reason they were so hard to tell apart. Bethesda’s games have always had a bit of a sense of “fuck it, that’ll have to do, we don’t have the man hours to do it properly” to them. I’m hoping for rather less of that this time around. I’m terribly excited for Skyrim and terribly worried that it’ll disappoint as badly as its brillimbassing, horrignificent predecessors.

      I saw a mudcrab the other day. Horrible creatures. Good day! *walks up to a wall, grinds face against it for two minutes, enters one of two dozen identical houses and immediately exits again* Good day!

  14. rustybroomhandle says:

    In these games I kinda prefer my main quest to be just another quest. It must feel like life just goes on after you finish it, rather than feeling “finished”.

  15. Stevostin says:

    As a whole, the game is “an order of magnitude bigger than Fallout 3 in terms of number of quests and dungeons.”

    If that really is true, this will be by far the biggest solo RPG ever. Steam told me I spend 80 hours on Fallout 3, most of it sidequesting – and that’s if I remember right, cause now I played it twice with addons and passed the 200 hours. Will there… really… be… 800 hours of gameplay to do everything in the game ? That sounds like an error. Fallout 3 was already really big. More than 100 hour (that would be twice F3) would already be great. How do they expect to sell DLC with that much content ? :P

  16. Berzee says:

    “But me, I’m much more about my own interests, not the world’s.”

    So what you’re saying is, “I Am Not Dovahkiin Jensen”?

  17. Derppy says:

    Hopefully they will lift some restrictions with Skyrim.

    Hated how you couldn’t sell stolen items and how enemies got harder if you trained.

    Of course allowing player to steal stuff and then sell it gives the player a ton of gold and allowing him to train outside of the story makes it a lot easier, but does it matter? Isn’t that kind of the point why you would do such actions?

    Well, even if the system would be similar to Oblivion, I’d still play the game for hundreds of hours. It will be awesome, but I’m still hoping for some minor improvements.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Couldn’t you sell stolen goods to fences in the Thieves Guild? Or am I mis-remembering?

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      It would be nice if there were repercussions yet also ways to circumvent them (or ameliorate them). Say, you steal from a shop in one city but you did get spotted. Then after some time you’ll be known by the merchantsguild (not to mention the guards) in that city and they will notice your appearance if you come close. Then only unsavory types are likely to want to deal with you there.

      Yet in a different city you may still be a complete stranger.

    • alh_p says:

      I really like to buid a character with a cohesive set of skills and abilities, not quite min-maxing but sort optimised in a sensible way.

      Oblivion was a bit weird for me in how some people played the whole game at level one so that it was easier than leveling “naturaly”. This mechanic alway bugged me.

      I liked both Bethesda Fallout games levelling system better though -none of this weird +x attributes per level. I hope they learn that from FO, can’t remember if they’ve said they have…

    • NathaI3 says:

      @alh_p
      From the mention of perks in the write-up, I assume they have.

  18. CaspianRoach says:

    Have they still not released their playthrough video from Quakecon? I want to re-watch it in proper HD graphics :S
    http://vimeo.com/27403132
    Here’s the video I’m talking about if anyone’s interested.

  19. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    I totally bought this with the silly offer from Tesco that Lewie had on his website…

    Not entirely sure I’ve ever pre-ordered a game before, but I’m a sucker for a good offer.

    Got Rage and Skyrim for 20 pounds each! :)

  20. onehitter says:

    So how DO you pronounce Khajiit?

    Ka-jeet? Ka-sheet? Kah-git? The wiki doesn’t say.

  21. aldo_14 says:

    I never played Oblivion, so only have the frame of reference of Morrowind – how does the combat in this compare to Dark Messiah? (which had the finest sword-y first person combat I’ve experienced so far)

    • MrXswift says:

      If Skyrim takes the best from Morrowind & Dark Messiah & Risen & Two Worlds 2 , this will be the perfect game for me :)

    • Love Albatross says:

      Going by the videos alone I’d say this isn’t quite on a par with Dark Messiah, it doesn’t look as though it has the same sort of heavy, realistic block, parry and thrust battles, but on a positive note I believe that some people from Arkane have been involved in the development so it should be an improvement. What I’d really like is for them to copy the environmental and magic interactions from DM, you know that really fun stuff like booting orcs off cliffs and shooting ice on the ground so enemies slip over. That was brilliant, why haven’t other games stolen it?

    • Mattressi says:

      That makes me want to play DM again. I still remember my last playthrough – I stuck with dagger weapons the whole way through on the hardest difficulty. Basically the only way to kill anything was to either kick it into a spike wall a few times or to knock it down and then do the “finishing” (yeah right) move…several times. I also tried to play through by only killing with kicks, which worked out surprisingly well, considering the number of spike walls that the bandits, undead, necromancers and orcs seem to place everywhere…

    • leadmagnet says:

      DM was under-appreciated! The spikes, tho – can’t imagine the workplace safety isses!

  22. mbp says:

    Have they changed the leveling system. I always felt the levelling system in Oblivion was broken.

    • vecordae says:

      The leveling system killed the series for me. The whole “get better at a thing by doing a thing” structure is cool, but the lack of direct control over your character’s progression was irksome. I thought I was doing something wrong for a while and did some research only to find people advocating one jump through absolutely ridiculous hoops in order to get your character to reach the next level in the way you wanted them to. All the while, all the enemies had to do to get a nice flat bump in overall power was wait for you to do anything to improve your character.

      Why oh why do I have to *fight* the mechanics to build the character that I want?

  23. Reiver says:

    You can wander that way and hope for the best, or you can pay for a carriage there – a la Morrowind’s Silt Striders. Once you’ve been somewhere, you can then fast-travel to it, if you want to.

    This is very pleasing to hear and shows they’ve at least taken on board some of the reasoned arguments against Oblivion’s fast travel. This way will allow people who want to roleplay and have a coherent world to ignore fast travel without having face silly travel distances for their stubborness but also not take away the convenient fast travel system from more casual players. The perfect solution imo.

  24. mejoff says:

    Can’t wait to play this, that ‘rearing up horse’ card looks like it will be quite a good addition to my deck…

  25. deadly.by.design says:

    So, Dragons are the new Cliff Racers then?

    Or perhaps just taking the place of annoying Oblivion gates ‘hunting you down’ in TES IV? Dragons sound neat, but I don’t want them to be as pesky as those gates…

  26. Covmeister says:

    Todd Howard could play Steve Carell in a movie about Steve Carell playing Todd Howard in a movie.

  27. JFS says:

    So it does not only have unlimited dragons, but also unlimited detail? How is that all gonna fit onto those little CDs?

  28. Robin says:

    “Oblivion has a world an order of magnitude bigger than Morrowind”
    “Fallout 3 has a world an order of magnitude bigger than Oblivion”
    “Skyrim has a world an order of magnitude bigger than Fallout 3″

    But to me the problem is not the size. The problem is that, since Morrowind, Bethesda worlds lacked any credibility / believability, resembling more “themed luna parks”.
    How Skyrim improves the sense of immersion in a fantastic alternate reality, rather than being a trip to FantasylandTM (or PostapocalypticparkTM)?

    And I mean as in lore as in structure. Morrowind has both; Oblivion has none; Fallout 3 none too. Skyrim?

    • TheGameSquid says:

      This.

      Plus, the “magnitude” claims are probably lies. And in the end, Daggerfall still holds the record for having the largest landmass in the TES series. It’s all dull randomly generated content of course…

    • Blush Response says:

      They always pull out the “it’s even bigger!” marketing line. Yet the games seem smaller each time?

  29. Moonracer says:

    Stamina and magika regeneration make sense but I’m pretty bummed out about health. Hopefully it won’t be too bad but I suppose this is what mods are for.

    I’ll be curious to see how much they nerf alchemy. It was quite overpowered in Morrowind and Oblivion, but it was also a lot of fun if you are an OCD collector and like to kill people with mega poisons :D

    I’m going to take a wild guess and say chameleon is not an enchant-able spell this time around ;)

  30. SirDimos says:

    Possible typo?:
    “It is, however, more important – because here he’s playing Skyrim you or I would play it”

    Perhaps you meant to say “because here he’s playing Skyrim how you or I would play it”?

  31. jasonamyers says:

    If Skyrim is going to have so much mining and crafting, will I need to play Minecraft any more? Wonder if it lets you build buildings.

  32. sinister agent says:

    Okay, lots of questions and comments about the game aside, I have to say, all of that sounds very promising indeed. It sounds like they’ve been working hard and making lots of small but significant changes to the formula.

    It also sounds like many of the systems people like to mod in are already present in some form, which means that even if they’re not quite the way people like them, it should be a much simpler matter to tinker with them.

    Quite promising indeed. Bethesda’s world-building skills matched with more improvements to the ‘game’ side of things is exactly what I want, so best of luck to them.

  33. Hernan says:

    Do you know if Skyrim support character slots?

    It’s very frustrating in games like this to have to manage save games in order to load an adventure previously played. I believe something like character slots will be a great addition to this game

  34. I LIKE FOOD says:

    Ah it´s consolitus retardus for casualitus gamerus who woulda thunk it.

  35. Love Albatross says:

    The idea is that, as well as being a more characterful, designed adventure, each dungeon has an undertone of incidental backstory, conveyed by decoration rather than exposition

    Yes please. This one was one of the things missing from Oblivion for me. A dungeon in Morrowind always stuck in my mind – it was just a small place but there was a corridor blocked by a rock fall, with a skeleton half buried there and a diary with some minor loot lying beside it. The diary described how the unfortunate chap got crushed and was slowly dying, I think there may have been a short quest about returning the loot to his brother. Very simple but incredibly atmospheric and memorable.

    Looking forward to Skyrim more after reading this preview.

    Alec – don’t suppose you found out whether we’re able to leave annotations on the map?

  36. Grinnbarr says:

    Wait…
    “For instance, upgrading something with glass will achieve far better things than upgrading it with poxy old iron.”

    Does this make sense?

    • PodX140 says:

      Yeah, in TES glass is one of the top tier armors (THE top tier light armor IIRC). Something about the forging process, but it works out in the end to have this cool shiny guy then the bland steel covered guy.

    • Hematite says:

      Of course it makes sense! Mining glass is very difficult and expensive, and nobody would bother if it wasn’t such a robust material. Once the glass mine is depleted you’re stuck with a very expensive hole in the ground. All you can really do with it is mine eggs instead.

      What do they teach children in school these days?

    • Urthman says:

      Just pretend that “glass” is the Tamrielian term for “diamond” and it makes slightly more sense. Maybe.

      Aw, just say, “A wizard did it.”

      (I think it’s probably a convention borrowed from the Ultima games, in which a glass sword will do huge amounts of damage. Once. Because it breaks the first time you use it. Applying it to armor makes no sense that I can tell. But it looks cool, which is what’s important.)

    • gritz says:

      Except there are already diamonds in Nirn.

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  38. outoffeelinsobad says:

    The video’s down. Anyone have another?

  39. MythArcana says:

    Zenimax needs to lighten up with the media rights a little bit. Let’s try not to be Ubisoft with the previews here. I missed the video since it was taken down, but I’ll just assume that I missed out on some really amazing console action.

  40. propjoe says:

    The fourth screenshot looks exactly like Rohan from the LotR movies. The game sounds exactly awesome. I was worried that it would be all theatrics and no substance, but that fear is now completely gone.

  41. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Please, please don’t be another Oblivion.

    Pretty please.

  42. AreChaos says:

    Was there any news or did anyone found out about the settings, can we change the FOV in this game?

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  44. Blush Response says:

    Most important question:

    Is it a Morrowind or an Oblivion? i.e. does it treat me like an adult or a child? Does it have a unique style or is it generic fantasy?

  45. Ashrik says:

    Oh! With every single pick-uppable item rendered as a full, 3D, rotable object,

    I feel this is a thing that reviewers, with great company-provided computers, will think is wonderful while regular people will continue to not give a shit. Though not recently, I grew up on the downslope of the technology curve. Whenever a game would do this instead of some nice piece of 2d art, I would ask “why?”

    • Unaco says:

      Regular person here… I think this sounds awesome. It’s called progress.

  46. Nagual says:

    Was talking to a friend about that very addition, started off like you, asking why it was there, as yes, it looks nice and all that but what function does it have? Unless you can look at items for information, clues etc. etc. No idea if that sort of thing is in the game however, the inclusion of such a thing for the community mods to play with sounds like a great idea.

    Talking of mods, I wonder if the Devs have properly thanked the modding community for improving their game. I am not trying to be a sleakit wee jobbie here, but since many of Skyrims ‘additions’ since Oblivion seem to come from the Mods people produced, it would be nice of them to at least admit “Yes, we saw that, and liked it, so we developed it further and added it to the core game” or possibly more cynically…”Yes we saw that we cocked up by not adding something like that and we’ll erm…. borrow it….” :P

    I will not be getting Skyrim, not unless with all this talk of using Steam, they mean it will run on a PC powered by steam – there is only so much coal a man can shovel in for goodness sake.. :D I guess a new PC may have to be bought. . . I could sell this one as an historic piece of cra.. erm well maybe not.

    Their PR drive is approaching max speed, and no doubt we’ll see lots of official vids and interviews in the coming months. I hope, really hope against hope, that there is less hype and more fact. Oblivions AI was to be kind, terrible. But the hype had it as amazing. The Psychic Guards & shop keepers, leveling system were all flaws (in the eyes of many people, at least) that were corrected very quickly by the community. The actual game content was quite low, other than do-rinse-repeat style of things. Indeed some of the better things to come out of Oblivion were from the Mods, the Archaeological mod for example. This isn’t a dig at the Devs as such, rather a question. If part time mod makers can make engaging content that is in many ways better than the games – Why aren’t you’re own devs able to produce this sort of thing, if they can let them, if they can’t then hire some community modders!

    • Unaco says:

      “Was talking to a friend about that very addition, started off like you, asking why it was there, as yes, it looks nice and all that but what function does it have? Unless you can look at items for information, clues etc. etc. No idea if that sort of thing is in the game however, the inclusion of such a thing for the community mods to play with sounds like a great idea.”

      I assume you’re talking about the 3D rotatable objects here… if not, apologies.

      What function does it have? It lets us look at things, admire them etc. It’s a cosmetic thing. Why did Morrowind and Oblivion have a vanity view? So you could look at your player character. Why did the mod community make things like mannequins and display cases? So you could put your armour/weapon collection on display.

      Does it need more of a function than this… to allow you to inspect and admire your equipment and objects? To bring them to life in your inventory?

      Also, I think Beth did hire some community modders. Some of their new level designers are former modders I believe.

    • Nagual says:

      What function does it have? It lets us look at things, admire them etc. It’s a cosmetic thing. Why did Morrowind and Oblivion have a vanity view? So you could look at your player character. Why did the mod community make things like mannequins and display cases? So you could put your armour/weapon collection on display.

      This is what I originally thought too, I’m sorry if I was not clear – comes from thinking and typing too fast. Well maybe not the thinking bit really.. ;) It does look at first to be a purely cosmetic inclusion, however I wonder if there may be more to it. Could items have symbols carved on to them which unless you actually look at the item, you’d maybe miss. Perhaps they lead on to a quest or a POI or anything. Perhaps there isn’t anything to look at, at all. However I can foresee modders using the ability to look at things closely to add new apsects in to their mod, maybe something like the above example? I don’t know really, but it would or rather could be an interesting addition to game play if implemented correctly.

      Nice to hear of some modders getting jobs in this way

      EDIT TO SAY Having just watched the official PAX footage on youtube, seems I was right about the need to look at things. However the example they use is a little simplistic. I had hoped for something more in depth. Oh well, Modders- you know what you have to do… ;p

  47. kuran says:

    I’m sadly expecting Minecraft 1.9 to have more grasp on my imagination and time than Skyrim when it is released on the same day.

  48. UK_John says:

    There seems a lot of talk about levelling, I find the MMM mod got it right. If a cave was near civilizarion, like a city, the mod assumed town guards would clear it out regularly, so the inhabitants would stay low level. As you wnet into the wilderness, to caves that had never been visited by man, you got the much tougher monsters.

    This seemed emminatly logical to me,. which is why I stuck with MMM thoughout my Oblivion playing as it went from 1.0 at around 300k to 4.0 at 300mb! I hope to see MMM for Skyrim ASAP after 11/11/11! :)