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In the lore of The Elder Scrolls V, the Snow Elves have been driven underground by the Nords. But the in-game legends about the mystical race make it sound like they're former badasses who've been laid low and are ripe for revenge.
Bethesda's already on record as saying that DLC for Skyrim will be rolling out in the style of expansion packs and these files certainly make it seem like that plan will be going into effect.
The patch Bethesda's hit RPG that PS3 players have been waiting for—y'know, the one that should get the game working the way it's supposed to—will be coming later today, according a tweet by VP of PR and Marketing Pete Hines. You'll also get those upgraded kill cams and a slew of other features in the 1.5 update, which is reportedly already live for the Xbox 360.
Last night, Obsidian's Chris Avellone tweeted an interesting detail about his roleplaying game Fallout: New Vegas.
"[Fallout: New Vegas] was a straight payment, no royalties," he said in response to a fan question about the game's financial success. "Only a bonus if we got an 85+ on Metacritic, which we didn't."
Metacritic, an aggregation website that collects scores from selected review sites and compiles them as a weighted average, currently lists the Xbox 360 version of Fallout: New Vegas at 84 (out of 100). The PC version is also listed at 84. The PlayStation 3 version of the game is listed at 82.
In other words, Obsidian may have missed its bonus and lost out on a significant amount of money because of a single point.
We've reached out to New Vegas publisher Bethesda, the company that financed the game, to try to confirm Avellone's statement, but they would not comment. If the New Vegas designer's tweet is accurate, then Bethesda put a portion of Obsidian's financial fate in the hands of a select group of game reviewers.
Finances have been an issue for Obsidian—earlier this week, the independent studio had to let go of 30 staff because a game it had been developing for the next Xbox was cancelled. So a potential Metacritic bonus may have been no small matter.
I understand the logic used by publishers like Bethesda when they dole out bonuses based on Metacritic numbers. As an aggregation of critic review scores, a Metacritic average can be an important benchmark for the perceived quality of a game. And it certainly makes sense that a boss would want to reward its employees based on the quality of their work.
Except Metacritic scores are not objective measures of quality. The Xbox 360 Metacritic page for Fallout: New Vegas consists of 81 reviews. If Obsidian's bonuses were determined by this aggregator, they were not based on the game's quality—they were based on 81 peoples' opinions of the game's quality.
Look through Metacritic's list of critic reviews. The list of selected websites is comprised of both professional and volunteer reviewers. Some write for the web. Others write for print. Some scores are weighted more heavily than others (Metacritic does not publicly discuss the formula it uses to create its averages). Some scores are even treated differently than others—a 7 at Game Informer does not mean the same thing as a 7 at Edge, for example.
Many of the reviews attacked the game for its bugs and glitches, many of which were fixed in subsequent patches and downloadable content packs. While reviewers may have been justified in marking down scores for the buggy product, those scores may not have been relevant after a month, or even after a week. Most review outlets don't change their scores once patches have been released. Is that something Bethesda took into consideration?
There is no such thing as an objectively good game. Nor is there such thing as an objectively bad game. We all secretly hate some games that are beloved by the rest of the world, and everyone has their favorite black sheep. I've strongly disliked some highly-rated games, like Dragon Age 2, and fallen deeply in love with some poorly-rated games, like Suikoden V. Should my personal opinion really be condensed into a mathematical formula and used to decide somebody else's bonus?
At Kotaku, we don't use review scores. Metacritic doesn't count our reviews. What if that made the difference? What if an outlet's choice of reviewer changed everything? What if a developer's bonus was determined by a single person's arbitrary distinction between a 7.8 and a 7.9? What if a game studio faced financial trouble after it missed its bonus by a single point?
This isn't healthy for anybody involved. It's not healthy for a reviewer to have to worry whether his criticism will directly affect peoples' jobs. It's not healthy for developers to focus on pleasing reviewers, rather than pleasing consumers. It's not healthy for individual opinions to impact bonuses and salaries.
Publishers need a better tool for measuring a game's quality. I don't know what that tool is. I don't know that it exists. But using Metacritic to hand out bonuses is dangerous—for developers, reviewers, and, quite frankly, you.
(Disclosure: While working at Wired.com, I gave Fallout: New Vegas a 9/10. My review appears on the game's Metacritic page.)
You're still playing Skyrim. With content from the game's Creation Kit making the game more weird and grand on a daily basis, why wouldn't you be? But maybe you're a bit tired of how all your finishing blows looks the same. Worry no more, Dovahkiin!
The 1.5 update's live on Steam now and will include new kill cams for melee, ranged and magic and a slew of other features and fixes. Bethesda says that PS3 and Xbox 360 owners will get the update soon. For a full list of changes and fixes, go here.
Say the word "railgun" around a PC gamer and they'll instantly start telling you stories about the Quake series, and how it's such an awesome weapon in a make-believe future universe.
They're right on the former, but on the latter, not so much, because railguns are real, and the US Navy has one. Here it is undergoing testing.
The project, which is being overseen by the Office of Naval Research, has been running for a few years now (indeed, experimental railguns have existed as crude prototypes for decades), but this is the first time it's been filmed looking like an actual gun.
Railguns don't work like normal firearms or cannons; they use rails and electricity to propel projectiles at speeds vastly greater than those possible with conventional explosive technology (modern weapons still use the centuries-old principle of an explosion to propel rounds).
Which is why the Naval Officer in the video loads not a shell but just a simple piece of metal into the weapon.
It's amazing footage. Next stop, handheld versions.
Epic harmonies brought to you by the Brigham Young University's Men's Chorus.
So let's take a look!
The Star Wars game is actually Star Wars Kinect, which looks stupid in motion, but in terms of art, Brian's done wonders with what little he had to work with. The RAGE stuff is pretty great too.
You can see more of his work at his personal site.
I play Skyrim obsessively, like lots of people. I'm also a full-time antiquarian book dealer and during my glorious attempts to become a leather-clad death machine in The Elder Scrolls V, I'm always tempted to make some in-game coin on the side collecting and selling the hundreds of available antiquarian titles. Books such as Advances in Lock-picking or Dwemer Inquiries Vol. III offer both arcane and practical lore to thereader as well as deep context for the game's developed history, technology and culture.
But, I am bamboozled at every turn by what is essentially a completely unrealistic book market based on ridiculous assessments of value. While items such as staffs, swords, armour, and jewels fetch a premium price on the secondhand market (500-2000 gold usually), books, for some reason, no matter how scarce they are, top at a measly 100 coins. This is ridiculous. It is simply not possible to make a decent living as a bookseller in Skyrim, despite all my systematic and professional attempts.
My argument is based on two major points: rarity and demand. In our world, these are the factors that fundamentally determine a book's value. How scarce is it and how many people want it? It makes no sense to me at all how a merchant would only give me 50 coin for a title so rare there's only one copy of it in all of Tamriel. If I need to penetrate the bowels of the earth through some death-trapped dungeon and hack through legions of the walking dead to find that book, shouldn't it be worth a little more?
Take Fragment: On Artaeum, for example. It is required reading in a quest where you have to stop the influence of an unearthed, potentially cataclysmic magical Eye. You even have to fight a ticked-off rogue Altmer mage named The Called to get your hands on it (the rare edition, that is). You put your life on the line! Nevertheless, this book only fetches a paltry 45 gold on the secondhand market, despite its central role in saving the land. Well, it just doesn't add up does it?
Now, admittedly, booksellers are notorious spendthrifts when it comes to purchase price. And the game is very accurate in portraying its booksellers as grumbly overbearing cranks. The truth is, despite long afternoons lost in the lore of ages, it is very hard to make a real living as an antiquarian dealer. They're sour for a reason. Many folks who take the plunge into this apparent dream job find this out very quickly. Still, it is possible to make a go of it, as a truly rare item can fetch a glorious sum.
This simply isn't true in Skyrim. Even a world where books figure far more centrally than in ours, a land where messages are still sent though couriers on foot (there are no phones, no Internet) and essential knowledge still needs to be kept safe in big monastic castles against the ravages of time (not to mention the mould encouraging environments of old keeps and crypts) you often can't make more than 15-30 or so gold per title.
Considering that a decent house in the game costs 5000 gold, not to mention the 1500 you have to drop outfitting it, you would have to buy and sell 216 titles, scattered willy-nilly all across the land, and fight numerous Dragur, Icewraiths, and Saber Cats to get them, and most certainly die a broken and hungry bookseller. Maybe that's why there are so few full-time people in the game trying. There are numerous grocers and blacksmiths, but only a handful of booksellers, despite a glut of material and occult demand. Still, their shops have so little inventory that I can't see how they possibly could be making a living without selling something illegal on the side.
I feel that this is an unacceptable blind spot that needs to be addressed. When so much thought goes into the minutiae of a sword's magical abilities, a Tolkienesque Middle Ages fantasy where mysterious knowledge is required to survive needs a much more functional antiquarian book market. And I'm not even going into the fact that there seems to be only one printing press in all of Tamriel producing these things. These problems aren't a deal-breaker, however, because I've easily clock 100 plus hours into this game and don't seem to be stopping. But, just like in the real world, I would like the poor bookseller to get their due.