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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.
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.
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.
Bethesda will unveil its heavily rumoured Elder Scrolls MMO in May, according to a new report.
Elder Scrolls Online, as it is apparently known, is set a millennium prior to the events of Skyrim, an "industry source" told Tom's Guide.
It is speculated that this means the unannounced game is set during the Second Era of Elder Scrolls lore, hundreds of years before any game in the fantasy role-playing series. It will, apparently, feature three playable factions, each represented by an animal: lion, dragon and bird of prey (either a phoenix or an eagle).
The Elder Scrolls MMO is then expected to be shown at the E3 expo in June, and again in more detail at Quakecon, alongside Doom 4.
It is in production at ZeniMax Online Studios, which has been after staff with MMO knowledge for some time now.
Indeed, rumblings of an Elder Scrolls MMO have been felt since 2007, when Bethesda registered the website address elderscrollsonline.com. Then, Bethesda marketing chap Pete Hines said the company was only snapping up URLs to prevent others from getting there first.
Then, in 2010, legal papers submitted in the now settled court case between Bethesda and Interplay revealed the company was working on a "World of Warcraft type MMO".
Apparently development on the MMO had been ongoing since 2006 and involved "close to a hundred people" and a budget of "tens of millions of dollars".
In 2007, Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax hired Mythic Entertainment co-founder Matt Firor to lead development of an MMO. His experience on Dark Ages of Camelot, a traditional fantasy game, closely fits the Elder Scrolls bill.
Bethesda has confirmed the Oblivion 5th Anniversary for Europe. It will be released on 23rd September for £20 on PS3 and Xbox 360, £18 on PC.
European PR manager Alistair Hatch confirmed the date on Twitter.
Inside the Oblivion 5th Anniversary Edition is the Game of the Year Edition of Oblivion, which contains DLC add-ons Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine.
Also in the box are a Making of Oblivion DVD and a colour map of game world Cyrodiil and the Shivering Isles.
A Skryim video is thrown in as well.
The Oblivion 5th Anniversary Edition doesn't come in Steelbook casing in Europe, but it does in the US.
Oblivion was the fourth Elder Scrolls game and is the predecessor to new game Skyrim. Eurogamer's Oblivion review awarded a modest 10/10.
Video: Shivering Isles.
A new BBFC rating for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition has popped up online, suggesting UK gamers may soon see the launch of the 5th anniversary edition of the sprawling fantasy RPG.
The 5th anniversary edition launched in the US earlier this month.
The new BBFC rating, classified today, details the Game of the Year Edition of Oblivion, which includes the Shivering Isles expansion.
In the US the 5th anniversary edition includes a map, a making of DVD with a Skyrim trailer and a $10 Off Coupon for Skyrim.
This comes in a steelbook with slip cover.
Eurogamer has contacted Bethesda for comment.
Sprawling fantasy role-playing epic The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion looks set for a limited re-release in June.
According to the site the innards come in a steelbook with slip cover. A June PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 release is planned.
Oblivion launched in 2006 to critical and commercial acclaim. Eurogamer's Oblivion review rolled a whopping 10/10.
Follow-up Skyrim is due out later this year.
Gamers are still buying the Horse Armour add-on for sprawling fantasy role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Bethesda has revealed.
The nearly five-year-old DLC, originally priced at 200 Microsoft Points (£1.70), angered gamers for being a bit on the expensive side all it added was, yes, horse armour.
Eurogamer's report on its release spawned over a hundred comments.
But despite the DLC being ancient, people are still buying it today.
"In one respect everything we've done has done well, including the much maligned horse armour," vice-president Pete Hines told OXM.
"I swear to you I don't have the report in front of me, but multiple people bought horse armour yesterday! For some inexplicable reason. It happened, I promise."
Hines' comments came as part of a discussion on the success of Bethesda's downloadable content for all its games. The upshot: if it's worth the cash, the people will come.
"So that [Horse Armour] sold, and Shivering Isles sold, and everything we did for Fallout 3 sold, so it's clear to us that what matters most is value - and whether it's value at the 10 dollar or 10 pound price point, or five pounds, or whatever it is, so long as it's good value, people will like it and buy it."
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will hark back to Morrowind and the "wonder of discovery" - something Bethesda wittingly "sacrificed" for Oblivion.
"It should feel alien," creative director Todd Howard said of Morrowind to OXM, "kind of 'stranger in a strange' land - with familiar looking elements only rooting you early in the game.
"The whole tone ends up being one of 'I'm an outsider, I'm uncomfortable'.
"With Oblivion, we're dealing with the capital province, and we wanted to get back to the more classic Arena and Daggerfall feel of a fantasy world that felt more refined and welcoming, a place that you instantly understood.
"But in that," he added, "we sacrificed some of what made Morrowind special: the wonder of discovery. With Skyrim, we're trying to bring some of that back and walk the line between Morrowind and Oblivion. Where it's at first familiar looking, but has its own unique culture and spin on it."
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will release in November on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Big things are expected. What we know so far? Skyrim has dual-wielding, perks, finishers, no classes, fancy menus and a brand new (evolved, really) Creation Engine.