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We’ve previously covered Quake mega-mod Arcane Dimensions, which has become a cornerstone of modern Quake mapping thanks to its slew of new gameplay features, enemy types and weapons going a long way to refresh the formula of Id’s cyber-gothic classic without diluting its breakneck pacing and drum-tight combat loops.
Xmas Jam: 1024^3 is the latest group project to come from the quietly industrious func_msgboard mapping community. Built using Arcane Dimensions’ bag of tricks, it offers 11 new levels from 11 different creators, all adhering to a single restriction: the level must fit (roughly) within a tiny space, 1024 Quake map units cubed, approximately three seconds travel time across.
Sitting at the intersection of several of my interests is Ghosts I-IV for Quake, a new mod which turns id Software’s gibtastic first-person shooter into a quiet walking simulator and couples it with a calmer soundtrack. While Quake’s original 1996 soundtrack is an industrial dirge by the popular beat combo Trent Reznor & The Nine Inchnails, this mod replaces it with tunes from their chilled-out 2008 album Ghosts I-IV – which is legally fine to include, thanks to its Creative Commons licensing. The mod is organised by JP LeBreton, a designer and level designer who worked on the first two BioShock games and has developed quite an interest in peacefully exploring seminal FPSs. (more…)
It's been six months since E3 2017, when Bethesda announced its intention to add a Creation Club to Skyrim and Fallout 4, their massively-successful mega-RPGs known for their breadth of content and emphasis on player freedom. This club would task third-party developers with producing new pieces for the publisher's two marquee games, which players could then buy from an online storefront with real money. While some decried the service as yet another attempt to introduce paid mods to the single-player gaming ecosystem, Bethesda insisted the market for free fan-made content would remain unaffected. "We won't allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club," reads the FAQ. "It must all be original content."
Following this, in late August Bethesda revealed the initial line-up for Creation Club, which included the Hellfire Power Armour and the Chinese Stealth Suit, both priced at $5 and inspired by similar items introduced in the various expansions for Fallout 3. There was just one little problem - if you searched the Nexus, the massively-populated home of free mods for Bethesda's games, among others, you'd find both the Hellfire Power Armour and the Chinese Stealth Suit already on offer for the low, low price of nothing.
A mild furore erupted. Press pounced on the revelation, which fed the already-boiling fan frenzy over what were considered outrageous prices for sub-par content. Paying $5 for a piece of armour was bad enough, but when the free alternative is superior, the bad deal starts to seem like an out-and-out ripoff. For Road to Liberty, the mod team behind the two projects, it was a confusing development, and one they worked with Bethesda to try to avoid.
There may be spoilers for the Dishonored series of games ahead.
"The Void is unspeakable. It is infinite and it is nowhere, ever-changing and perpetual. There are more things in the endless black Void, Kirin Jindosh, than are dreamt of in your natural philosophy" (Letter from Delilah). Despite the best efforts of natural philosophers, the world of Dishonored is defined by occult, unknown influences. Here, we performed dark magicks, battled witches, conversed with spirits, and even traversed the distance in-between worlds during our vendetta-fueled travels through Dunwall and Karnaca.
Any inquiry into the metaphysics of Dishonored stands and falls by the Void, that shadowy realm that is the source of all magic, witchcraft and arcane knowledge. Even the Outsider, who appears as an ancient god that grants his arcane mark to the player, ultimately derives his powers from the Void, not the other way around. But the Void is an elusive place that doesn't give up its secrets readily, and we as players don't understand it any better than the seekers of Gristol or Serkonos who struggle to catch so much as a glimpse of it. So, what exactly is the Void, or rather, how should we think about it to make sense of it?
When does a console generation arrive?
Most people would agree that the seventh gen started when the Xbox 360 launched but that answers a different and thoroughly less interesting question.
It isn't unreasonable to say that the 360 era arrived on the carrier wave of Patrick Stewart's Royal Shakespeare Company tones announcing the final hours of the life of Uriel Septim 7, god-emperor of Tamriel, whose death serves as the starting gun for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion and quite arguably the golden age of western RPGs that followed. A golden age that includes The Witcher 3, as if anyone needs to be reminded.
There are more wonderful games being released on PC each month than ever before. In such a time of plenty, it’s important that you spend your time as wisely as possible. Thankfully, we’re here to help. What follows are our picks for the best PC games ever made. (more…)
Skyrim's dirty little secret is that it isn't that large. Oh, it remains fairly gigantic by the standards of other virtual landscapes, even next to its youthful imitator and usurper, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But set against what it pretends to be - a kingdom stretching from arctic wastes to the temperate south, racked by dynastic squabbles and laced with the treasures and detritus of millennia - it's actually pretty dang tiddly, a little over 14 square miles in scope.
14 square miles? That's no bygone, mystery-shadowed dominion rearing its shrines and watchtowers amid sunflashed snow. That's a jumped-up theme park, a country music festival. More to the point, that's approximately the same size as The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, a game which has become something of a punching bag for Elder Scrolls aficionados in hindsight - neither as grand as its swaggering barbarian brother, nor as memorably odd as burned-out hippy uncle Morrowind. Steer clear of distractions like temperamental mammoth herds and you can walk from one side of Skyrim to the other in half an hour.
I'm being quite obtuse, of course. If open world games were required to be as large as their inspirations or narrative aspirations they'd never get finished, and in any case, who would have the time to play them? The fascinating thing about open world design is that it's not really about size at all. It's more the art of the deceptive miniature - of making the poky or digestible seem enormous to the point of exhausting, even as distant cities reveal themselves for neighbouring hamlets, fearsome mountains for mere well-appointed foothills. Skyrim is extremely good at this, to a degree I'm not sure any game environment can rival save the corkscrew terrain of the original Dark Souls. It launches on Switch this week, glory of glories, and I've spent a few hours with the remastered PC version to remind myself of its achievements.
The environments of massive open-world games, particularly in recent years, have been rightly praised for their representation, scale and design accuracy. However, there are some gems at the other end of the spectrum - environments that make you feel cramped, tense and desperate for a break. This is an approach to environment design utilised in our real-world, from gardens to architecture, and is mirrored excellently in some game environments, creating areas that trap us in cramped, claustrophobic conditions.
The underground tunnel network of the Metro series, adapted for human life but traversed with trepidation and tension, nailed its own post-apocalyptic look and feel, and had claustrophobia, discomfort and fear oozing from its design. These spaces successfully evoke real-world design principles of landscape mazes and labyrinths, such as dead ends, twists and turns to cause doubling back and elevate desperation, fluctuating size and scale of spaces, and a continuous and monotonal finish (a symphony of grey in Metro's case) that makes every surface and area look the same, but also makes for an unrelenting and repressive aesthetic.
Often, the spaces are not only characteristic of uncomfortable mazes and tunnels, but their disrepair and crumbling structure means they have a constant feeling of pressure and weight about them: the feeling that, at any moment, the space could collapse on top of Artyom's head. The tunnels are also powerful spaces as they are a believable and familiar environment to us; adapting a real-world, recognisably claustrophobic environment makes for a powerfully uncomfortable virtual space.
Update: Patreon has removed the fraudulent campaign page for violating its TOS, specifically with regards to "impersonation:" With allowances for satire and comedy, " You cannot pretend or impersonate another creator, such as using someone else's name, brand, or content in order to raise funds."
Morrowind, the best of Bethesda's long-running Elder Scrolls series (and I'll hear no more about it), is set on Vvardenfell, an island within the Dunmer home province of Morrowind. The mainland is never properly seen: The Tribunal expansion technically takes place there, but it's contained entirely within the walled city of Mournhold and so doesn't really count. It's a shortcoming that the ambitious Tamriel Rebuilt mod, which we took a closer look at earlier this year, aims to overcome by recreating and adding all of that missing landmass to the game.
The project is entirely volunteer, which is one of the reasons there's no end in sight after more than 15 years of work. It's also why you probably wouldn't be surprised to see a Patreon campaign supporting its creation. Don't back it, though, even if you're a big Elder Scrolls fan, because it's a fraud.
"There is currently a link going around to a Patreon page masquerading as our official account, asking for donations to keep Tamriel Rebuilt running," a message on the official Tamriel Rebuilt website warns. "This account is not affiliated with us in any way, shape or form. We do not have, nor do we plan to have, a Patreon account at all."
The mod makers say they've made Patreon aware of the situation, but the campaign remains up for now. Fortunately, nobody has donated to it so far. (And to help keep it that way, I'm not linking to the campaign page.)
Despite not being complete, Tamriel Rebuilt is playable as a work-in-progress. You'll need a copy of Morrowind and the Bloodmoon and Tribunal expansion to dive in—if you've got all that, you can download the most recent release of the mod here.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.>
I wrote about this stonkingly beautiful and enormous mega-mod for the original Quake last year, recommending that y’all should play it, but it didn’t quite turn out as planned when fans and creators alike (politely) argued that the screenshots I’d used did not suitably sell the game. So, here are some screenshots of Arcane Dimension which hopefully will> convince you to give it a try. You really should, because it’s the next best (or maybe even better?) thing to getting a whole new Quake.