See this hat I'm wearing? The one with the dark tuft at the top? You should be afraid when I wear this hat. Very afraid. Because this hat means I'm grumpy. But it's okay, I'm not grumpy at you. I'm grumpy at unidentified tech sorts at Bethesda Softworks who last night released the first patch for Skyrim. A patch whose only effects was to limit what we can do with the game. It was released without fanfare or explanation, but forums swiftly figured out its purpose.
The 18MB downloadette is essentially there to stop the game from running without Steam: the main executable is now tied thoroughly into Valve's security, unreliable offline mode et al. Nothing remarkable there, save for the surprising fact that it was at all unbound at release, but one of the upshots of this is that we're now limited from faffing about with said executable. Most particularly, the large address aware third-party patch that enabled Skyrim to use more than 2GB of system RAM.
Update: a new LAA workaround that apparently does the job without altering the exectuable! Phew. Now can we have official support for all our lovely RAM please, Bethsoft?
Activating this made the game more stable, and meant it could support more mods and tweaks - including the fabled uGrids .ini file tinker that made the game's icy landscapes look significantly more gorgeous. Once Steam auto-updates Skyrim, that opportunity is dead. And we once again have a game that, for many of us, ignores most of our PCs' memory. What a waste. The loss of LAA support is, of course, just a side-effect of Bethesda trying to increase security: they're not trying to stop us from tweaking. But if only they'd officially add support for more than 2GB of RAM: this is 2011, for heaven's sake.
It's particularly galling that the game will be coolly patched in this way, so Bethesda's tech-folk are clearly beavering away on the game, but we have not - and very possibly will not - see official memory and uGrids updates to make the game run and look better. They never came along for Oblivion or the Fallouts, so I'm guessing we won't get 'em this time too. Hopefully tweakers will find a way to salvage Skyrim's memory usage nonetheless, because great things lie on the other side of it.
Meantime, I'm very lucky in that my review build of the game has dodged the patch, so I'll switch back to that for uGrids 11 loveliness. Sorry.