The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Pity Skyrim's humble courier. He's charged with tracking you down in an incredibly dangerous fantasy world to deliver notes, letters, and quest instructions. While as the Dragonborn you're definitely recognizable, finding you as you race around the map killing monsters and looting dungeons can't be easy for the young man (though he does at times appear to be quite psychic), and the truly tragic thing is that this poor fellow doesn't even have his own place to live and rest between his deliveries.

Thankfully, celebrated Skyrim modder Arthmoor has stepped in with an equal dose of mod skills and empathy, and the Provincial Courier Service mod is the result, giving our favorite letter-carrier a proper home and base of operations. In it you'll find a desk, a bed, a dining area, a kitchen, and other creature comforts the courier can enjoy when he's not running all over the world trying to stick a letter in your pants.

The mod also provides an optional home delivery service, which means the courier can just bring his missives to your house (or one of your houses, if you're doing quite well) instead of materializing in your immediate vicinity, which certainly sounds like an improvement from his perspective. And, now that you can track him down for a change, you can also swing by his shack during your travels and collect your mail from him there. Everybody wins.

Okay, it's not a palace, just a humble abode, but we can all agree the fellow deserves it. You'll find the courier's new digs on the road outside Whiterun, and you'll find the mod, and the instructions on how to install it, on its page at Nexus Mods.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind® Game of the Year Edition

Just between you and me, the first time I played Morrowind it was on an Xbox. It was still a great game, but getting the PC version and being able to mod it made it even better. We praise it for being the last truly weird Elder Scrolls game, but we should also remember Morrowind as one of the clunkiest. To enjoy its mushroom trees and settlements built in dead insects meant putting up with rough combat, a leveling system that needed gaming, plenty of bugs, and a bit too much walking.

In the 15 years since its release modders have done an intimidating amount of work making Morrowind better. The best Morrowind mods are now spread over sites like Morrowind Modding History, the Morrowind Nexus, and Mod DB. Here's our collection of the greats, though even this list only represents the tip of a big iceberg. 

If you've never played Morrowind before it's worth trying unmodded to see which parts you'd most like to alter before diving in. It's also recommended to use a loader like Wrye Mash or Nexus Mod Manager to organize mods once you start. And even when using them, always read the installation instructions.

Table of contents

 Patches and tweaks 

Believe it or not, there were a few bugs in this Bethesda RPG. These mods fix those and greatly improve the fundamentals.

Morrowind code patch

Download link

A massive effort committed to fixing bugs and mistakes, from savegame corruption and missing objects to the in-game calendar not having the correct number of days in each month. There are plenty of optional changes, including modern resolutions and an over-the-shoulder version of the third-person view. The Morrowind Code Patch is also an essential foundation for the Tamriel Rebuilt mod, but can conflict with leveling mods like Galsiah's Character Development or Madd Leveler if you don't turn off skill/attribute uncapping when installing it. 

Tribunal Delayed

Download link

Bethesda isn't great at seamlessly inserting DLC into their games, and in Morrowind that manifests in Dark Brotherhood assassins trying to murder you in your sleep until you start the Tribunal expansion. If you're not interested in being assassinated at level one or surviving the attempt but then scoring assassin gear that's way too powerful for you, this mod puts off the nightly murder visits.

The Unofficial Morrowind Patch

Download link

Each Elder Scrolls game has one of these, tidying up hundreds of minor leftover bugs ranging from spelling errors in dialogue to problems with quest progression. If you've ever had a quest stuck in the journal after you've finished it, or noticed “Edryno” spelt “Edryon” this is for you. It also fixes a lot of errors relating to NPC barks playing in the wrong situation or not at all.

AltStart

Download link

If you're sick of the rigmarole of going through the Census Office at Seyda Neen every time you make a new character, this mod lets you race through character creation and then choose which of the island's ports to disembark at. It also puts some basic equipment in your inventory, suited to your skills.

Skyrim UI Overhaul for Morrowind

Download link

User interfaces have never been a strong point for Bethesda's open-world games. If looking at Morrowind's borders makes you miss the Skyrim color scheme and slightly cleaner look, this mod adds that while keeping the basics of the UI the same.

Getting around

Why run when you can run really fast? New methods of transportation and tweaks to existing methods make life in  Morrowind less tedious.

Andromeda's Fast Travel

Download link

When you're crossing the Ashlands for the fifth time or bouncing back and forth between distant NPCs for certain quests, you really need a more convenient way to travel than a muddled network of giant fleas. This mod makes roadside signs into fast travel points. Look at the sign pointing to your destination, press spacebar, and you'll arrive with six hours added to the clock. Mods that add new landmass can make it a bit hinky and I did once travel to Gnisis only to find myself stuck in the middle of the ocean, but it's still worthwhile for journeys free of Cliff Racers.

Run Faster—Faster Running Speed

Download link

Another way to speed up Morrowind is to increase the running speed, which makes a mockery of the incremental increases to the Speed stat you can buy at level-up but is worth it to reduce a lot of the slog. There are multiple speeds to choose from, with Fastest a solid choice if you want to run like a Looney Tunes character but still be able to see the world as you zip past it.

Silt Striders

Download link

Cool as it is having giant fleas that can be steered by twiddling their central nervous systems hanging around settlements, the Silt Striders always seemed underused in Morrowind. With this mod you can actually see them travel across the land when you hire one, though they're less jumpy than I expected. Their speed is adjustable in case you want to zip over to Vivec but don't have half an hour to watch scenery go by.

Sell N Sail Galleon

Download link

If walking up to a ship's captain and asking for a lift to Ebonheart isn't doing it for you, Sell N Sail makes both a small boat and an expensive galleon (205,000 septims!) available for purchase. The galleon has a fancy below decks area you can make your new home, and both craft can be sailed around via slightly fiddly controls. Buy them from the island just off Gnaar Mok.

Melian's Teleport Mod

Download link

The Mark and Recall spells are essential for returning to out-of-the-way locations, like your home once you build one or that mudcrab merchant with loads of gold. Normally you can only have one place Marked at a time, but Melian's Teleport Mod lets you cast Mark as much as you like and name each one individually.

Visual overhauls

Morrowind's showing its age after 15 years, but these mods go a long way towards maintaining its otherworldly beauty.

Better Heads

Download link

The landscapes of Morrowind were impressive in 2002 and can still look surprising today, but the faces were always a mess. They look like photos stretched around cubes. Better Heads is one of many mods that improves the way faces look in Morrowind, an easy to use choice that's low on compatibility issues. However, if you're interested in other options with varying degrees of fidelity to the original looks, here's an old Comparison of NPC Head Replacers.

Better Bodies

Download link

While you're at it, maybe you'd like nicer body textures as well? These were based on high-res scans of the modders' own skin. There are versions that let you leave your medieval underwear on and also a nude version, though given that some enemies run around in their underpants that's more likely to be disconcerting than anything.

Visual Pack Combined and Mesh Improvements

Download link (Visual Pack Combined)

Download link (Mesh Improvements)

The easiest way to make Morrowind's buildings and scenery look better is with this combination of five existing texture packs. Follow that up with Mesh Improvements to get small objects like bowls and candles looking noticeably less angular.

Morrowind Graphics Extender XE

Download link

On a modern PC the draw distance option in the menu can easily be pushed to the max, rolling back Vvardenfell's fog. If you want to go even further the Morrowind Graphics Extender XE mod will let you see Vivec from Pelagiad with ease.

Skies Version IV

Download link

The ash storms, drifting clouds, and starry night skies can be made to look a lot prettier with this mod. It changes the way weather is rendered as well as replacing repeating sky meshes with unique ones, and there are multiple options for changing how you'd like the moons to look.

New locations and quests

It's a whole new world. Seriously: you can add enough content to Morrowind to keep playing it forever, and the ones we've highlighted here are the best of them.

Tamriel Rebuilt

Download link

Bethesda had planned for the entire nation of Morrowind to make it into the game, but focused instead on the island of Vvardenfell to its ultimate benefit. If you dream of exploring the mainland however this mod will let you do it, greatly expanding the map and adding some gorgeous new cities. The quests are a little rudimentary, but mostly you'll just want to explore all this new land.

The Underground

Download link

If you wish Morrowind felt more like Vampire: The Masquerade, then your dream's come true. The Underground is a questline based around a nightclub for the undead hidden in the Balmora sewers, where sexy vampires will send you on quests and one of them can even be romanced. From the moment the club starts blaring songs by The Beastie Boys and Garbage you'll feel a long way from the atmosphere of Morrowind, but it's goofy, gothy fun nonetheless. You'll want additional mods that add a walkthrough book, and if you finish the questline one that clears up a couple of lingering issues like, oh, infinitely spawning spiders.

Immersive Madness

Download link

The kookiness of The Shivering Isles (a classic Oblivion add-on) has inspired mods for several Elder Scrolls games, and Immersive Madness is the Morrowind equivalent. It lets you join the cult of the Madgod Sheogorath by visiting their shrine south of Molag Mar where you'll find quests to recover an Orc's stolen buttocks, defeat a rock and then a puddle, win a staring contest against a rival cult, and other similarly wacky missions.

Morrowind Rebirth

Download link

Once you've played Morrowind long enough it stops feeling uncanny and becomes familiar. To regain some of that feeling, try the complete overhaul Morrowind Rebirth. Each settlement is recognizable but different, with more houses and NPCs. There's also new equipment, creatures, music, and more. Morrowind Rebirth on its own is enough to make another playthrough worthwhile.

Official Plugins

Download link

If you got Morrowind from GOG it will already have this selection of plugins made by Bethesda. If not you can grab them from the Nexus, either individually or collected. They include quests to restore the propylon travel network and take an island fortress back from the undead, more armor, arrows, and sounds, and an option to entertain the drinkers at the Eight Plates in Balmora.

Arktwend and Myar Anath

Download link (Arktwend)

Download link (Myar Anath)

SureAI are a German team you may know for their Oblivion total conversion mod Nehrim, or Enderal for Skyrim. Arktwend and Myar Anath were where they started, total conversions that replaced Vvardenfell with a slightly more traditional fantasy world, though one with some gothic touches. They're not as polished as Enderal—you'll get killed by huge mobs of enemies a lot and hear some characters speak German even with the English patches—but they're still impressive achievements.

Creatures and NPCs

Inject more life into Morrowind, and make those critters prettier, to boot. 

Better Dialogue Font and Less Generic NPCs

Download link (Better Dialogue Font)

Download link (LGNPC)

If you're sick of squinting at the font for Morrowind's dialogue, journal, and menus then the Better Dialogue Font mod ups the resolution on all of them. Meanwhile, if you're sick of NPCs rehashing the same paragraphs of information the Less Generic NPC project has been working to give every character their own dialogue, which is a heck of an undertaking.

Better Beasts

Download link

In the spirit of Better Bodies and Better Heads, this adds new textures for lizard-people and cat-people, making the Argonians and Khajiit look plenty nicer. If you're playing as one you'll have a few new head options as well.

Morrowind Children

Download link

Bothered by the absence of kids? Ma'iq the Liar would like a word with you. If you need to have rugrats running all over the place this mod will do it for you, though as with all mods that add NPCs en masse it can cause slowdown and they absolutely will get stuck between you and a door at some point.

Morrowind Advanced

Download link

Bethesda staff member Gary Noonan, known to modders as WormGod Elite, made Morrowind Advanced to add more challenging encounters. It rebalances existing creatures as well as adding new ones like Centurion Rippers and Giant Earth Golems, and eventually you'll have to deal with high-level raiders too. A few new dungeons and some new equipment thrown into rebalanced loot tables round it out.

Creatures Version XI

Download link

Adding new animals to Vvardenfell is tricky because the existing ones are so alien. Horses would just feel wrong. Modder Piratelord walks a fine line in new additions that feel appropriate to the setting like the Ash Poet and Land Dreugh as well as more vanilla creatures added sparingly, like moose and butterflies. As an added bonus this mod makes Cliff Racers less aggressive the more of them you kill so that eventually the damn things will leave you alone.

Combat and Skills

Overhaul Morrowind's clunky combat with some some welcome changes, like removing the dice roll behind each melee strike and increasing the pace at which you accrue skill points. Now go out there and be a warrior.

Faster Skill Increases

Download link

One of the more straightforward balance tweaks available, with Faster Skill Increases all it takes is a single attack or a few seconds of running or jumping to make the relevant skills go up. You'll get sick of the angelic sound that plays with each increase, but you'll also be able to tackle the interesting quests a lot quicker without grinding around in Ratmurder Town forever.

Oblivionized Magicka Regeneration

Download link

Even if you're not playing a spellcaster you'll want access to the occasional Levitate to cross a mountain or Mark and Recall to bounce back to a quest-giver. Wizards have to nap a lot in Morrowind though, because magicka regenerates at a glacial pace. If you're not ideologically opposed to the idea of making Morrowind more like Oblivion, this mod borrows its rate of magicka replenishment and honestly it's a godsend.

Accurate Attack

Download link

Whether an attack hits or misses in Morrowind is based on a random roll behind the scenes based on your skill. In a more abstract RPG that's fine, but in a 3D one where you can see that spear hit someone to then be told by the math that it whiffs it can be jarring. With Accurate Attack any blow that looks like it hits actually hits.

Projectile Overhaul

Download link

The lovely, thunky speed of arrows in Skyrim was inspired by a mod for Oblivion that made them less dodgeable but much more fun to shoot. Projectile Overhaul puts some of the same arrow juice into Morrowind, increasing the velocity of everything you can launch, including throwing knives, shuriken, and spells.

Madd Leveler

Download link

Install Madd Leveler to take away the worry about effectively leveling and grinding the appropriate skills, as it'll do all that for you. Madd Leveler raises attributes based on which skills you've been using and does it quietly in the background so you don't even notice. There's also Galsiah's Character Development, which is a bit more complicated and can be restrictive if you're trying to play the kind of hybrid character who doesn't fit a single class.

TESIII Sneaking Realism

Download link

Each Elder Scrolls game makes sneaking a little less ridiculous, but even in Skyrim we're still crouch-walking invisibly in broad daylight because our skill's high enough. This mod doesn't make stealth perfect, but it does add modifiers based on the time of day, weather, what armor you're wearing, and whether you have a weapon out. It also increases sneak attack damage to x10 so it's worth all those potential penalties.

Prey - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brendan Caldwell)

Raphael Colantonio, the founder and president of Arkane Studios and creative director of recent fuzzy alien basher Prey, has stepped down from the studio after 18 years. It is time for me to step out to spend some time with my son, he wrote in a statement, and reflect on what is important to me and my future. Colantonio was also the co-creative director on Dishonored, and the man who once referred to us grubby journalists as press sneak fucks . … [visit site to read more]

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Richard Cobbett)

For a few horrible minutes during E3, it looked like Bethesda might seriously claim that The Elder Scrolls and Fallout were part of the same universe. Thankfully, not. Despite this being an era where Sony wants a Ghostbusters universe and Universal thinks demeaning the Universal Monsters by linking them with a top-sekrit monstah hunting group led by Dr Jekyll is anything other than schoolboy fan-fiction, Bethesda’s Pete Hines has been quick to go “What? No. No! No…>” Phew! Honestly, it’s bad enough that Daggerfall has six endings, ranging from the villain becoming a god to orcs being either defeated or victorious, and canonically all of them are true.>

But at a time when we’re seriously asked to pretend that “Dark Universe” is a thing we should want to see, that unholy union really wasn’t impossible…

… [visit site to read more]

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

In among the game announcements at E3 2017 Bethesda also announced Creation Club, “a collection of new game content for Skyrim and Fallout 4.” That content includes new weapons, armour, crafting and housing features, and changes to core systems, and you buy all of it in-game with ‘credits’ purchased for real money through Steam. Is this a new paid mods system? No, says the FAQ, “Mods will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they d like.” … [visit site to read more]

QUAKE

In addition to being the first truly 3D first-person shooter, the other completely off-the-chain feature in Quake was its soundtrack. Back in 1996, Nine Inch Nails was massive, having recently released the still-classic The Downward Spiral. Trent Reznor's next major release was the soundtrack for Quake, and what a  soundtrack it was.

Thankfully we'll be able to own it on a physical format soon (unless you kept your CD-ROM), because the soundtrack is being reissued on vinyl. Since it's only marked as "coming soon" on the Nine Inch Nails website, there's not really much else to learn, except that it'll be a single vinyl edition and its cover mirrors the packshot on the original Quake retail release.

I've embedded a YouTube rip of the soundtrack below, so you can be transported back to a time when nailguns were all the rage, and bunnyhopping was in its infancy. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Richard Cobbett)

The sign of a truly hardcore world is that it has its own languages. Klingon. Dothraki. Elvish. The term for these is ‘Conlangs’ – aka ‘constructed languages’ – and whether you see them as a vital part of world-building or a joke-in-waiting on The Big Bang Theory (they’re due a third one one of these days), there’s more to them than just slapping together some uncommon syllables and hoping it sounds alien. Well, actually, that’s exactly> how Klingon started, but never mind. Done right, paying attention to language offers more than just another DVD extra. Or at least, it can do…

… [visit site to read more]

Garry's Mod

Achievement hunting on Steam is serious business. While Valve's storefront might not have Xbox's Gamerscore or PlayStation's Trophies, there are still plenty of PC gamers who appreciate the way Steam achievements challenge them to play games in new and interesting ways. Then there's the satisfaction of knowing you're one of just a small percentage of players who've explored every nook and cranny, maxed out every stat, or earned every gold medal a game has to offer. 

The thing is, a lot of Steam achievements are kind of boring. Kill 10,000 enemies, hit level 99 in every class, finish the game on Ultra Nightmare Hardcore difficulty—most of the objectives feel like they've fallen straight out of a free-to-play MMO's quest log. Even the rarest achievements are often little more than tedious grind fests, requiring you to play 500 online matches in a multiplayer game with no active player base, or fight alongside a game's developer when that developer has long ago moved onto their next project. 

These achievements aren't particularly fun to earn, let alone read about. But buried in Steam's massive catalog of games are some truly obscure, brutally difficult achievements that less than 0.1 percent of players have managed to accomplish. These are achievements worthy of the name. Most of us will never earn them, but we can dream.

Note: Total owners approximated from SteamSpy. Verified achievement stats through AStats.

Devil Daggers

Devil Dagger - Survive 500 secondsTotal Owners: 236,000 Completion Percentage: 0.1

For something you could complete in the downtime between Dota matches, frantic FPS Devil Dagger's one and only achievement has managed to defy 99.9 percent of players for well over a year now. That might seem odd given how simple its requirement sounds: all you have to do is survive for 500 seconds. I mean, I do that all the time. See. That last 500 seconds? I just survived that. 

But yeah. Surviving Devil Daggers is a wee bit tougher than running out the clock in real life. Despite the game selling for a mere fiver, just 0.1 percent of players have managed to avoid croaking for the 8 minutes and 20 seconds necessary to snag the 'Devil Dagger' achievement. Watching replays of those runs is equal parts mesmerizing and depressing, making it painfully clear just how amateur my own skills are. I could probably spend the next year playing nothing but Devil Daggers and still not come close to the graceful death-dealing of players like the world-record-smashing bowsr. When the apocalypse hits and the whole world goes to hell, I'll be the redshirt incinerated in the first ten seconds.

Crusader Kings 2

Not so Bad - Survive the End Times Total Owners: 1.4 million Completion Percentage: 0.1

Crusader Kings 2, champion of the grand strategy genre, is full of intricate, multi-layered achievements few players have managed to unlock. From installing a female ruler in the five baronies of the Orthodox Pentarchy, to trampling the Pope with a horde of elephants, over a dozen eclectic achievements are currently sitting at a completion rate of less than 0.1 percent.  

The one I want to shout out, though, is the 'Not so Bad' achievement awarded for surviving the End Times. Ostensibly, you unlock this achievement by surviving the rise of the Prophet of Doom and the Black Death he's convinced will destroy humanity. A Crusader Kings player going by the username Xolotl123 on Reddit, however, inadvertently earned themselves the achievement due to their investment in high-quality hospital care and their imprisonment of the Prophet for disturbing the peace. The Prophet then hanged himself, but not before sending the player a letter that read: 'If you are reading this letter, I am with God, or with Lucifer..., if so, then you were right. If not, then I was right.' 

I've not had the time to play Crusader Kings 2, but after reading this story, I think I'm going to have to clear my schedule. Any game where you can avert the End Times through hygiene is a winner in my book. 

Rising Storm / Red Orchestra 2

Bringing a sword to a sword fight – As an American soldier kill an Axis soldier wielding a Katana, with a Katana. Stick it to Tojo – As an Allied soldier, kill 100 Axis soldiers with a bayonet. Total Owners: 2.7 million (unreliable due to free weekend) Completion percentage: 0.1 - 0.2

Rising Storm's focus on historically authentic, asymmetrical WWII combat means that, naturally, American soldiers do not spawn into the battlefield with katanas. In order to get one, you have to defeat a Japanese soldier who's carrying one. And in order to get the "Bringing a sword..." achievement, you then have to pick up their katana, find another Japanese soldier with a katana, and then defeat them with the weapon of their ancestors. It's a hard scenario to concoct in an FPS where rifles and grenades are the preferred way to fight.

Bit.Trip Beat

MEAT.BOY SMELLS - Get a perfect in 1-1 using only a game pad.Total Owners: 311,00Achievement percentage: 1.6

Heresy! An achievement that requires ditching the holy mouse and keyboard for a filthy gamepad? What does BIT.TRIP BEAT take us for, console players? Everyone knows a good M+K combo is the only way to play. Sure, it makes driving games a bit twitchy, and performing combos in third-person action games can be tricky without analogue sticks, and fighting games don't always work so great, and stealth sequences tend to be a little wonky with WASD…

Okay. So maybe gamepads aren't that bad. Still, locking an achievement to a specific piece of hardware is a surefire way to tick off achievement hunters. The BIT.TRIP devs found that out the hard way with the game's 'SIXTH.SENSE' achievement, which required players to beat a level using Razer's short-lived Sixense motion controller. The backlash to 'SIXTH.SENSE' drove the devs to delete the achievement from Steam completely, which technically makes it one of the rarest achievements out there. Not quite as rare as a game with motion controls that don't feel like total garbage, but still…

The Stanley Parable

Go outside - Don't play The Stanley Parable for five years Total Owners: 2.1 million Number of achievers: 2 verified through AStats (6.9 percent on Steam) 

Games are meant to be played—we usually take that much for granted. It's a little odd, then, when a game actively encourages you not to play it. Odd, however, is what The Stanley Parable's all about. I mean, one of the game's endings involves running back and forth between two buttons for four hours. And that's not to mention the pointed commentary on the nature of free will and the human tendency towards obeisance. Like I said, odd. 

The Stanley Parable's weirdest elements, however, are definitely its achievements. In addition to an achievement simply entitled 'Unachievable' (paradoxically earned by 3.9 percent of players), there's the 'Go outside' achievement that tasks players with not playing the game for five years straight. Since The Stanley Parable released in October 2013, no one can legitimately earn this achievement until October next year. Of course, that hasn't stopped some unscrupulous Steam users from setting their computer clocks forward to unlock the achievement early.  

Cheating to not play a game? I guess some people will do anything for their sweet cheevos. 

Garry's Mod

Addict - You have wasted a year of your life playing GMod! Total Owners: 13.2 million Number of achievers: 9 verified on AStats (1.8 percent on Steam) 

You can do a lot of things in the 8760 hours that make up a single year. You could play 105,120 matches of Rocket League. You could marathon the entire current run of The Simpsons—all 617 episodes—38 times over. You could hitch a ride on a rocket and fly to Mars, with enough time left over to plant the seeds of an interplanetary rebellion

You could also spend every one of those 8760 hours playing Garry's Mod in order to unlock the 'Addict' achievement. And when I say playing, I don't just mean booting up the game and letting it idle in the menu. You have to be connected to an active server for your time to count. Unsurprisingly, the hefty investment involved has kept the achievement's completion percentage at just 1.8 percent, even with achievement hunters over at AStats devising strategies for minimizing the resources used by Garry's Mod so you can leave it running in the background while you tend to other tasks. 

I have to wonder, though, how many people left their computers on while they were working or sleeping solely to unlock this achievement? At a modest estimate, 8760 hours' worth of electricity would cost roughly $210 USD, which is a whole lot of money for a single achievement. Kind of puts all those pesky microtransactions to shame, doesn't it? 

Train Simulator

DLC scenarios Total Owners: 995,000 Completion percentage: 0

Speaking of money, Train Simulator boasts some of the rarest achievements on Steam, but that's not because they're brutally difficult or stubbornly obscure. Heck, the achievement descriptions make it pretty obvious what you've got to do: the 'It Works For Dogs!' achievement reads 'Awarded for completing scenario [RailfanMode] Barking. It's not like the game's unpopular either, with nearly a million owners on Steam and a median playtime of a respectable 7.5 hours. 

No, what makes Train Simulator's achievements so rare is that fiendish friend of ours: DLC. Train Simulator is notorious for having the most expensive DLC on Steam, with its total value currently sitting at $6254.43 USD. Worse, Train Simulator ties many of its achievements to its DLC, leading to a wealth of 0 percent and 0.1 percent completion rates across the board.  

But that $6254.43? I'd want a real honest-to-god train if I was forking over that much cash. If it was anything like Train Simulator, though, it'd probably lock out the train whistle as premium DLC. Steam whistle: only $0.99 per toot! 

Ark: Survival Evolved

Artifact Archaeologist – You personally retrieved all Eight Artifacts! Total Owners: 4.7 million Completion Percentage: 0.2

A whole lot of people play ARK: Survival Evolved, and yet even the most common of its seven achievements has been earned by less than 5 percent of players. But while 95 percent of ARK players haven't defeated the game's first Ultimate Life Form, 99.8 percent remain vexed by its toughest achievement: 'Artifact Archaeologist', rewarded for retrieving every Artifact in the game. It sounds simple enough, but this is where ARK's nature as an Early Access game comes back to bite it on the rump.  

According to the achievement description, there are only eight artifacts in ARK: Survival Evolved. This isn't true. There are 14 artifacts in total, 10 of which can be obtained through normal play, 3 which are locked to the Scorched Earth DLC, and one which can only be spawned through a console command. For a game that has already seen its fair share of controversy, ARK has left quite a few achievement hunters pretty disappointed. Still, at least they can take solace in the giant bees that have just been added to the game. That's something, right?  

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Dragonrider - Tame and ride 5 dragons Total Owners: 11 million (unreliable due to free weekend) Completion percentage: 0.8

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you've played Skyrim, or at least heard enough about it to understand the game's premise. You're the dragonborn, you need to save the world from an evil dragon, yada yada yada. In short, the game basically revolves around dragons. 

How, then, is the achievement for riding dragons so rare? Only 0.8 percent of the millions of Skyrim players have tamed five or more of the mythical creatures and taken to the skies, which makes exactly zero sense to me. Who wouldn't want a dragon as their personal chauffeur? It's not like you'd have to worry about anyone jacking your scaly pal; any thief foolish enough to try would be charred to a crisp before they could shout Fus Ro Dah. I guess Skyrim players are just too busy getting busy and fighting Macho Man Randy Savage to spend their time becoming certified dragon pilots. 

Black Mesa

Rare Specimen – Send the Hidden Hat to Xen. Total Owners: 500,000 Completion percentage: 2.1 percent 

Hats are all the rage these days. I have it on good authority from my stock broker that the hat economy is only going to go up—and that's coming from a man who wears a top hat, so you know it's legit. My wardrobe is already full of baseball caps, bowler hats, fezes, and beanies, just waiting for the day when my fabric fortune will be ready to claim. The only thing I don't quite understand is why my broker keeps mentioning Dota. Eh, never mind. I'm sure it's nothing. 

Video games, it turns out, are just as keen to cash in on the hat craze. Black Mesa, the fan-made recreation of the original Half-Life, adds in the 'Rare Specimen' achievement that tasks good old Gordon Freeman with locating a hidden purple top hat and lugging it all the way from the Black Mesa Research Facility on Earth to the alien dimension of Xen. It might not sound that tricky, but apparently Gordon's more interested in trivial things like saving the world instead of securing his future in the hat economy--only 2.1 percent of players have carried the top hat all the way to its new interdimensional marketplace. 

Wait, that gives me an idea. What if I started selling digital hats instead of physical ones? Ooh, I think I'm onto something here. I better stop typing before someone beats me to the punch… 

QUAKE - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Strafe [official site] is steeped in love for Quake 1 & 2 (and to a lesser extent the original Doom), there’s no question about that. But it’s also saddled with a desperate desire to evoke retro-cool no matter the cost, clad as it is in ironic faux-’90s videogame advertising terminology, lascivious talk of gore and a widdly-widdly-woo soundtrack. Strafe tries far too hard, and it backfires. Strafe is a deeply> dorky videogame. I quite like it anyway. … [visit site to read more]

Team Fortress 2

I tried.

Without bagels, I’d probably live to be 100 years old. But I have regular access to bagels and sourdough loaves and this sandwich bread always in my house called Birdman that’s covered in seeds and I don’t know why. I eat the stuff so fast I’ll be surprised if I make it to 50. 

In videogames, bread often gives you health instead of slowly seeping it away, a beacon of hearth and health. It’s been this way since the earliest games, and as technology became more capable of producing detailed environments and uncanny human likenesses, so too advanced the fidelity of the loaf. But the evolution of bread didn’t happen in a straight line. Diverse genres, art styles, and game engines shifted the purpose and priority of bread throughout the ages.

To get a clearer picture of how game bread has or hasn’t evolved, we’ve taken a look back at its implementation in some best games ever made to some of the most obscure.

BurgerTime (1982) 

As one of the earliest depictions of a hamburger bun, BurgerTime did a decent job. And it should have, given the name. Notice the inference of sesame seeds on the top bun and how the light diffuses on the bottom bunk. Early pixel art set a high bar for bunwork. 

Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1992)

A decade later, the burger genre fell out of vogue and fantasy roleplaying games stepped into the limelight. Ultima IV didn’t feature bread in a major way, but was an early example of inventory art, proof that you didn’t need the latest in computer graphics to make a great loaf. 

Jesus Matchup (1993) 

As a preteen, I went to a Catholic church camp even though I’m not and have never been Catholic. I ate the body of Christ even though I wasn’t supposed to and my friend Brian chastised me after the fact. He said I needed to get confirmed first and that I broke some kind of holy rule. The bread was just a thin wafer, like a sugar cone without the sugar, and maybe the aftertaste of it was a taste of hell itself. Jesus Matchup’s brown lump captures my disappointment exactly.

Ultima Online (1997) 

Pixel loaves hadn’t evolved much between Ultima IV and Ultima Online, but for one minor detail that changed the bread game forever for a few months. Ultima Online’s bread features a small blemish, giving the impression of a bite or piece ripped away for light post-adventure munching. The loaf went from inanimate prop to inanimate prop with history

Thief: The Dark Project (1998) 

Whether Thief should commended or condemned for its early attempt at modeling a 3D loaf is beyond me. All I know for sure is this: that’s a log. 

Someone’s in the Kitchen! (1999) 

You may know Steven Spielberg for his hit films like E.T. and Jurassic Park, but did you know his name was once mentioned in a trailer for a game he probably had nothing to do with? Someone’s in the Kitchen! isn’t just good reason to call the police, it’s a bad point-and-click edutainment game with one hell of an opening theme song. Also, you make a sandwich in it while a demon toaster—who is going to kill me, I saw it in a dream—judges your creation. The bread looks like my little brother sat on it, and is a shade of yellow I’ve only ever seen in bathrooms built in the 70s. Clearly, the late 90s weren’t great for game bread. 

The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind (2002) 

Even the modern masters of 3D bread had to start somewhere. In Morrowind, Bethesda drew inspiration from something other than felled trees and instead turned their eye to the sky, probably. I’m guessing here. They managed to suggest bread by texturing a footballish shape with what look like photos from the visible surface of Jupiter, a perpetually storming gas giant. 

World of Warcraft (2004) 

Just two years later an MMO, known for prioritizing multiplayer features over looking good, managed to bake bread that an Orc could tolerate. While the left loaf looks like a water chestnut, the precise angles and light divots up top are a convincing enough illusion. The right loaf, except for it’s undercooked coloring, nails the shape. And the inner texture marks a defined border between crust and light, fluffy inside. I’m tempted to throw some mayo, lettuce, tomato, and a bit of thinly sliced night elf meat on there just looking at it.

The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion (2006) 

Maybe Bethesda should’ve prioritized bread resolution DLC over horse armor. At a glance, one out of ten times I’m going to say that’s bread. The other nine times I’m going to say that’s a large misshapen potato. I lived in Idaho for a while. Got invited to a ‘Baked Potato Party' and yeah, they get that big.

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale (2007) 

While 3D game bread moved into potato territory, Recettear reaffirmed that pixels were still the way to go. Its depiction of Walnut Bread takes a good squint to make out, but when you get up close, the shades of gold and brown and white light diffusing on the outer crust nearly flash the entire baking process on the back of your eyelids. “Walnuts, soft dough and a bit of sugar…” do more than an extra dimension ever could.

Dinner Date (2011) 

I’d flake on a guy who thought it’d be a good idea to dip that twisted loaf in some red shit too. And look at that distribution! I’m not sure what’s being distributed, but half of that isn’t even bread, it’s Dark Brown Stuff. Jesus, man. We should never be able to see inside the bread if the tech isn't ready and can’t simulate a good bake. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 

Star Baker goes to Todd Howard this decade. Look at the fidelity of this loaf. A nice rise, detailed textures, and I can nearly hear the muffled tip-tap from the even bake. Forget adventure and the snowcapped mountaintops and vampires and dragons—like a toilet in a Tarantino movie, a good loaf is the keystone of any open world. 

Minecraft (2011)

Well regarded for its wild redstone contraptions and horrifying monuments to pop culture, Minecraft’s bread has been largely ignored, and for good reason. You’re one of the most successful games of all time, and a brown lump is the best you can muster? I’ve felt more love radiating from an old hotdog bun.

Scribblenauts Unlimited (2012) 

You can tell this was made in a bread pan, small specks imply the bread is airy and light, you can summon it whenever you like, and nearly every humanoid creature will eat it. It’s a crude child’s drawing, sure, but Scribblenauts built put time into simulating natural, albeit simple, bread world behaviors. Consider it this immersive sim, the System Shock, of bread. Place it in the world, and the world reacts to its presence.

Bioshock Infinite (2013) 

Source: David Miles on YouTube

If one game knows how good its bread is, it’s Bioshock Infinite. If you were to press pause and inspect the 3D baguette, it’d be possible to nitpick small design decisions, like texture resolution, flour distribution, and grain density, but because the bread is sandwiched with context—the dancing bread boy and his believable reaction to owning a baguette inside a big patriotic amusement park city held up by balloons that Ken Levine imagined using his brain, his very own personal brain—it doesn’t feel out of place. Realism is helpful, certainly, but the game world needs to feel alive, like a natural home for bread above all else.  

Team Fortress 2: Love and War update (2014) 

Bread is only monstrous when left to mold, and Team Fortress 2’s Love and War update bottles the essence of in a cute, tragic short film. There’s little purpose to the bread in-game aside from a few dough-themed items. Personally, I interpret it as a commentary on the state of game bread as nothing more than a simple prop and HP potion skin, new ideas and advances left in the pantry to rot. I see you Valve.

I Am Bread (2014) 

As a goofy physics playground, I Am Bread is fine. I do take issue with how controlling a slice feels like maneuvering a heavy sponge. Bread isn’t heavy and sandwich bread isn’t durable. One fall off the table and it’s over, usually. I Am Bread forgoes natural bread behaviors for the sake of a joke, but I’m not sure we’ll be laughing when our kids start to think they can wash the dishes with a sandwich.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) 

Everything about The Witcher 3’s world feels hand-placed. Small villages, big cities, and even monster-infested caves are brimming with life and purpose, but in order to maintain such a sprawling illusion, nearly all props and people are static. NPCs sit in the same place spouting the same lines and props like bread just sit there, looking delicious, but forever out of reach. What an awful game.

Fallout 4 (2015) 

After setting a new standard for 3D loaf work in Skyrim, Bethesda dropped the atom ball in Fallout 4, spending more time on the bread box than any bread at all. Modders came to the rescue again, modeling slices, sandwiches, and adding recipes any old ghoul could follow.

Dishonored 2 (2016) 

Karnacan bakers know how to bake bread. Lovely rise, nice crust, but a bit low res I’m being honest. Eating it gives you a small dose of HP, but the animation is a simple swipe-and-swallow maneuver. It’s pan for the course, and not much else. In 2016, it’s a good bake, but it’s not a great bake. 

The future of videogame bread

How far have we come, really? From BurgerTime’s advanced bun art to Dishonored 2’s simple dark loaf, videogame bread feels without a sure destination—a lumpy mass that needs more time to prove. Perhaps the future holds loaves we never could have imagined, or abominations, such as virtual reality pumpernickel that virtually tastes like sourdough. 

Will Call of Duty: WWII pay proper homage to the history and show families turning their nose up at National Loaf? Maybe someday we’ll spend as much money on naan as we do on spaceships in Star Citizen. All we know for certain is that bread will be there, a short roll for every dodge roll and an abundance of biscuits to crowd every RPG inventory.

...

Search news
Archive
2017
Nov   Oct   Sep   Aug   Jul   Jun  
May   Apr   Mar   Feb   Jan  
Archives By Year
2017   2016   2015   2014   2013  
2012   2011   2010   2009   2008  
2007   2006   2005   2004   2003  
2002