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Bethesda Game Studios executive producer and game director Todd Howard, the driving force behind the mega-popular Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, has been announced as the 22nd inductee into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Howard "has created some of the industry's most success games by pioneering open-world gameplay," the AIAS said, adding that the games he's headed up "have been recipients of numerous DICE Awards throughout the years."
Howard has been with Bethesda since the early '90s, beginning as a producer and designer on The Terminator: Future Shock. From there, he did design work on Daggerfall and Skynet in 1996, and then ascended to project leader on The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard in 1998, and Morrowind in 2002. Every major Bethesda RPG since then (which is to say, all of them) bears his name as either executive producer or game director.
"Todd's impact on his studio, our company, and the gaming industry as a whole has been truly remarkable," Bethesda VP Pete Hines said. "When you look at the very best game developers of all time—the 21 members of the AIAS Hall of Fame—I think Todd deserves to have his name right alongside of them as the best of the best."
Howard will be joining the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, John Carmack, Will Wright, Richard Garriott, Gabe Newell, Hideo Kojima, and numerous other industry luminaries as a member of the HOF. It's an impressive list of names by any measure, and a fitting end to a remarkable year: Howard also earned a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th annual GDC, while Fallout 4 claimed the Game of the Year award at the 19th DICE Awards, along with the nod for Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction—another accolade for Howard, who served as game director.
"Todd is revered by legions of fans not just for his creative leadership over the years but for his humility and humor,” AIAS vice chairman Ted Price said. “Despite the fact that he’s helmed several of the most successful franchises in the history of our industry, he consistently defers praise to others and is the quintessential team player. Yet it’s Todd’s vision and strong direction that has brought Tamriel and the Commonwealth to life for millions around the world."
Howard will be presented with the Hall of Fame Award during a ceremony at the 20th DICE Awards on February 23, 2017, at the Mandalay Convention Center in Las Vegas—ironically, the setting for the one major Bethesda-era Fallout RPG that he didn't work on.
Oblivion fans, this is sure to tug on your strings. Skyblivion, a modding project aiming to recreate the entirety of Oblivion in Skyrim, has released a new teaser trailer highlighting another year of hard work. Above, feast your eyes on a number of locations from Oblivion (including the entrance to The Shivering Isles). Set to the Oblivion soundtrack, the four-minute teaser provides an enticing look at Cyrodiil through the lens of the more recent Elder Scrolls RPG.
We don't yet have a release date for this expansive mod, but in an email modder Kyle Rebel told me, "Now that the base game is done we can focus on implementing the quests, voice acting and finish all the weapon and armor sets." That's a considerable amount of work still to do, but it's hard not to marvel at the progress that has already been made.
turns five years old today, and what better way to celebrate its anniversary than by talking about its predecessor, the ten-year-old , and why it s a better game. This isn t meant as some big diss on Skyrim, which is a great RPG I ve spent over 200 hours playing. But Oblivion is still better, and here s why:
The guild storylines in Skyrim had strong stories and enjoyable adventures, but they absolutely pale in comparison to Oblivion s. Oblivion had the Fighter s Guild questline and its gut-wrenching reveal after you wipe out a group of goblins, the Mage s Guild story filled with intrigue, necromancers, and a surprising amount of destruction, and the Thieves Guild quests which culminate in the thrilling theft of an Elder Scroll from deep within the Imperial Palace.
The best, of course, was the Dark Brotherhood questline (spoilers to follow). Taking a nap after killing someone who perhaps didn t deserve it resulted in a recruitment pitch from a member of the Dark Brotherhood, Lucien Lachance. Join the guild and you ll be dispatched to eliminate a series of targets as you work your way up the Brotherhood s ladder.
The story includes an amazing mission to visit a party where you re assigned to kill everyone in attendance, with a bonus goal of making sure no one ever knows you re the killer. You can talk to your targets, discover the best ways to isolate them from the rest of the guests, and bump them off one-by-one, always deflecting the suspicions elsewhere. You can even convince one of the two remaining guests to kill the other, making your job that much easier. Brilliant, bloody fun.
And there s a fantastic twist to the Brotherhood questline. Midway through a series of dead drop assassination missions, Lucien suddenly appears to ask just what the hell you ve been doing. It turns out the dead drops you ve been receiving orders from have been compromised, your instructions have been replaced by an interloper, and you ve actually spent the past few missions murdering members of the Dark Brotherhood s inner circle! Ahh delicious.
Lucius winds up being blamed for the mis-killings, tortured, hung like a side of beef, and even partially eaten. It s a truly shocking and dispiriting moment to see him strung up naked, dead, and mutilated. Lucien was the slickest and coolest dude in the game, someone far too cool to wind up dangling upside down with half his face gone. That kind of thing doesn t happen to cool people, does it? In Oblivion, it does. Man. What a fantastic story.
Perhaps as a way to streamline Skyrim a bit to appeal to more players, some of the complexities of Oblivion were left behind. In particular, the ability to craft spells. Using an Altar of Spellmaking opened a pane where you could select the magical effects you had learned and were able to cast, and use them to create custom spells. You could set the range of the spell, the area of effect, and the duration, the parameters of which were determined by the Magicka cost and your skill level. You could mix, match, and combine effects, stack spells, and even name them. It was a fantastic feature, and its absence from Skyrim feels especially odd now, since crafting has become such a big element in games the past few years.
I ll admit the main storyline of Oblivion isn t especially great. Closing those damn Oblivion gates, one after another after another, becomes a real slog. But if you ask me, battling the Daedra in Oblivion is still better than battling Skyrim s unending and frankly boring parade of dragons.
The first time you see a dragon in Skyrim, it s very cool. The first time you fight one, it s extremely exciting. Then you fight another. Then another. Eventually it becomes dull, and then simply a nuisance, something that makes you wearily climb off your horse for a minute or two. Now, I just let out a sigh when one appears circling overhead, and many times I ve killed it and stripped it for parts so quickly that I m already selling its bones to an unimpressed shopkeeper before I ve fully finished absorbing its soul.
I prefer the Daedra because they don t swoop down on me when I m hunting deer or walking through town or picking Nirnroot by a riverside. Plus, there s the added bonus of discovering Mythic Dawn agents in Oblivion, townsfolk who secretly worship the cult. In Skyrim, did you ever discover that a dragon was disguised as an average citizen? No. It would have been cool, though.
This is almost a tie, but I give the edge to Oblivion. Skyrim s expansions were a mixed bag: Dawnguard gave you the chance to become a vampire lord, but didn t provide a heck of a lot of adventure, and Hearthfire let you build a house perhaps serving as a precursor to what would eventually become Fallout 4 s settlement building feature but it wasn t much fun. Dragonborn was very good, though the selling point, dragon-riding, was a big disappointment.
Oblivion s expansions were Knights of the Nine, which wasn t exactly sprawling but had a great main quest, and Shivering Isles, which provided a couple dozen hours of exciting and bizarre adventures as you meet the Daedric Prince of Madness, become his champion, and eventually wear his crown. Most of the rest of Oblivion s DLC was forgettable (except for the Horse Armor Pack, which no one will ever forget), giving the player a couple of quests to claim new headquarters, but Mehrune s Razor stood out by providing a surprisingly large underground area to sneak and stab your way through if you happen to be an assassin (which I was at the time). Good stuff.
I know a lot of players didn t care for the fact that the enemies in Oblivion scale alongside them as they played, and I can see the downsides of it myself. There s a certain satisfaction in evolving into an immensely powerful being who can easily wipe out scores of enemies, the same enemies that gave them trouble when they were low-level. It s a reward for progress: those skeletons you had trouble fighting as a beginner now shatter with one fearsome swing, and it feels good.
Oblivion didn t work that way, and I admit it was a bit weird. At low levels, you might face a desperate highwayman wearing rags, or be attacked by a couple of wolves. Once you ve gained some levels, you ll notice the highwayman is wearing better gear and the wolves have been replaced by much meaner boars. Gain more levels and the robber will be decked out in expensive glass armor and the boars are now fearsome mountain lions. You never get a chance to mow down those simple skeletons when you come back as a high-level character, because those skeletons are gone, having become high-level wraiths and liches. It doesn t make a whole lot of sense.
There is an upside, though, a big one, and it s found in the immense freedom the game gives you the moment you finish the tutorial. You can wander anywhere on the map, absolutely anywhere, and find an appropriate challenge. You don t have to worry about being gutted in a heartbeat just because you re level 2 and you wandered into an area with level 20 monsters. The world is yours to explore, every inch of it, right from the start. Less realistic? Less immersive? Yeah, I would say so. But you get so much more freedom, and each time you begin a new game you can start anywhere you like.
The Adoring Fan. You pretend to hate him, but you love him and miss him. Go on back and play Oblivion. He ll be waiting.
Update: Bethesda put out the word on Twitter today that the 1.2 update is now fully live. Fingers crossed that it works out better than the 1.1 patch.
The Skyrim Special Edition 1.1 update went live yesterday, with a promise to fix some bugs and at least partially correct the audio issues that left the game sounding noticeably worse than its non-special predecessor. Unfortunately, it has apparently caused more problems than it fixed, and so another update is now available on Steam.
The 1.2 patch notes:
For now, the update is still in beta, so if the game is working well for you in its current state, you should just let it go. If you are experiencing trouble, you can get it by right-clicking the Skyrim SE entry in your Steam library, then selecting Properties, then the Betas tab, and then "Beta" from the drop-down menu. After that, click on "Okay," and then stand clear while your game updates. When it's finished, it should appear as "Skyrim Special Edition [Beta]" in your library. Bethesda is taking feedback on the new update, for good or ill, on its forum.
The Skyrim Special Edition patch that Bethesda said it was working on a couple weeks ago is now out of beta and fully live on Steam. The update promises unspecified optimizations and bug fixes, but the biggest bang is that it eliminates the compression in "some" sound files that led to complaints about the SE's downgraded audio quality.
The patch notes in full:
Not a lot of detail there, and no indication of precisely which sound files have been fixed, which is unfortunate. The follow-up comments aren't entirely filled with praise either, although given the current player count the Skyrim SE currently holds the ninth spot on the Steam Top Ten, just a few thousand players ahead of the original Skyrim in fact the number of complaints is probably not unreasonable.
The Skyrim SE update should apply automatically, but if for some reason it doesn't, restart Steam and you'll be off to the races.
This week on the Mod Roundup, I have perhaps predictably rounded up some mods for you. For Skyrim, a mod adds a monster-hunting contract system inspired by The Witcher 3. A mod for Stellaris lets you board enemy ships, capture them, repair them, and add them to your fleet. Finally, a mod for Fallout 4 adds real shrapnel to frag grenades and other explosives.
Here are the most promising mods we've seen this week.
Inspired by The Witcher 3's monster-hunting contracts, this mod brings a similar system into Skyrim. Head to Solitude and join The Protectors, a faction of monster-stalking badasses, and your career as a contracted creature hunter will begin. The mod is recommended for players above level 20, and while there are only a handful of contracts at the moment, there are more planned for the future.
Currently, this mod is only available for the original version of Skyrim, not the special edition. If that changes, we'll let you know.
Sometimes destroying your enemies isn't enough. Sometimes you want to take their stuff and make it yours. This mod for Stellaris gives you the opportunity to board and capture some enemy ships once you've weakened them enough during battle. You'll have to repair the damage, naturally, but once you do, you can add them to your fleet.
We all love using explosives in Fallout 4. We'd love them more if the ones that were supposed to hurl shrapnel around actually did. Thanks to this mod, now shrapnel-based explosive weapons really work as they're supposed to. Instead of just an explosion, your frag grenades and frag mines, MIRV grenades, bottlecap mines, and baseball grenades will send a cloud of projectiles through the air, shredding the hell out of anyone within range. Duck and cover.
Yesterday we reported on the fact that Skyrim: Special Edition's audio is a significant downgrade from the vanilla version of Bethesda's RPG. Now, a Bethesda staffer has responded on Reddit that the developer is on the case (via Kotaku).
"We're currently testing a fix and hope to have an update out next week," Reddit user Gstaff wrote. Gstaff claims to work for Bethesda, having spoken for the developer in the past. We've contacted Bethesda for an official statement on the issue and will update this article as we receive more information.
The audio issue was originally explained by Reddit user LasurArkinshade, who said the Special Edition's sound assets were "very aggressively compressed."
"The vanilla game has sound assets (other than music and voiceover) in uncompressed .wav format," the post states. "The Special Edition has the sound assets all in (very aggressively compressed) .xwm format, which is a compressed sound format designed for games. This isn't so bad, necessarily it's possible to compress audio to .xwm without significant quality degradation unless you crank the compression way up to insane levels."
Bethesda did exactly that, the post stated. LasurArkinshade compared the original game's audio with the Special Edition, and the difference is quite noticeable through good speakers or headphones. Listen for yourself below.
While Bethesda works on a fix, Reddit user TI36X posted about a solution that could work in the meantime.
"I extracted my original Skyrim Sounds.bsa, packed it with 7zip and installed it with NMM in SSE. Seems to work fine," they wrote. "There are two folders in the bsa. Sound and Music. Just pack them into a archive and install by NMM [Nexus Mod Manager]. Someone just uploaded a bsa extractor on the SSE nexus that works for this."
We haven't tested the bsa extractor ourselves, so practice caution if you try it out.
With the release of Skyrim Special Edition, we expect some PC gamers may be playing Bethesda's fantasy RPG for the very first time, while others may feel compelled to revisit it after an extended break. Either way, it's a good time to remind everyone that Skyrim's console allows for all sorts of different cheats, some minor, some major, and some utterly game-breaking.
To enable the console, just hit the tilde (`) key and enter the appropriate codes, which are listed below. You can turn on more than one at once, too, so you can become invincible, fly, and teleport all at the same time.
Be warned, some of these console commands may cause glitches, problems, or crashes, so it's definitely worth saving your game first and using the codes with a separate save. You don't want to make some change and get stuck with it.
Good ol' God Mode means you're completely invulnerable to everything, and pretty damn god-like.
No clipping lets you walk through walls, ceilings, and mountains like some sort of ghost. Use the code again to return to normal.
Can't find that vital key? Lockpicking skill too low? Open the console, click on the door or chest you want to unlock, and type "unlock" into the console. If only this worked in real life.
Every single spell in Skyrim is now yours! It's like graduating magic school in under a second.
Automatically gain one level.
Automatically complete all the stages of your primary quest. Perfect if you hate playing games.
Unhappy with your blind, inbred-looking Bosmer chap? You can adjust the way your character looks just like you did at the start of Skyrim but this will reset your level and skills.
player.modav skill X
Where "skill" is the skill you want to modify, and X is the amount you want to modify it by. Skills are inputted via their in-game names without spaces, apart from Archery which is "Marksman", and Speech, which is known as "Speechcraft".
player.additem ITEM ###
Every single item in Skyrim has a code, a bit like an Argos catalogue of fantasy objects. You'll find them in our list of Skyrim item codes. Replace "ITEM" with the item's code, and "###" with the number of items you want. Now your dreams of owning 47 cabbage potato soups can come true.
player.additem 0000000f ###
A simple way to get some free gold. Any number between 001 and 999 will do.
player.additem 0000000a ###
Running low on lockpicks? Enter the number you require here and they'll magically appear.
Combine with the codes on this Wikia page to add your selected shout.
Toggles all in-game menus, perfect if you want to take some screenshots to convince elderly relatives that Skyrim is where you went on your holidays. Note that this also hides the console commands menu, meaning you'll have to type it again without being able to see the console.
Followed by 0 or 1 turns all map markers on or off.
Not Team Fortress Classic, unfortunately. However, you will be able to access the flycam, essentially leaving your host body behind and sailing through the air. Great for screenshots.
Toggles AI on and off, which means NPCs won't interact with you, or do anything at all.
Turns combat AI on or off, turning dragons into placid beasts who act like you aren't there. A bit like cats.
This one lets you behave like a little rapscallion, as it turns naughty business detection (stealing, murdering, doing a poo in the woods etc) on or off. You'll still get caught if you try pickpocketing, though.
Adjust your wanted level with this handy command - setting it to zero resets removes your wanted level completely.
Up or down your player level as you see fit.
player.setav speedmult ###
Want to run like The Flash? Set this number to anything more than 100 to speed up movement.
Go straight to your quest target.
Look at the thing you want to kill, open the console, click on the target, and type this command. They'll fall over in a very dead manner.
Lists every single console command. We've put this further down the list because we want you to actually read this article.
Target the thing you want to bring back to life, and they'll get up in a very alive manner.
player.modav carryweight #
Tired of getting tired? Up your carryweight and you'll be able to transport more goodies. Toggling god mode (tgm) also lets you carry as much as you like.
player.setav health #
Up your health here.
Bethesda's handily included a room with every single in-game item in it type this command to go straight there. It might take a while to load: there are thousands of items here. Type " coc Riverwood " to return to the game.
Quit the game without having to go through any of those pesky menus.
Target a character and type this and you'll get all their items including their clothes. Note: does not work in real life.
Change your character's gender.
set timescale to #
This defaults at 20. Up it to experience crazy timelapse-style Skyrim.
Use this to spawn NPCs and monsters at your location. Just replace actor/object ID with a Base ID (not a Ref ID) from our list of Skyrim NPC codes. This is the command we used to crank out a horde of dragons around Whiterun. Note that this command spawns new creatures, rather than moving old ones, so if you use it on an NPC, you'll clone them.
Use this to move yourself next to an NPC, useful for Kharjo, the nomadic Khajit, who can be hard to find as he follows the caravans around Skyrim. In this case you replace the words 'actor ID' with the Ref ID (not the Base ID), the opposite of placeatme. You can find the ID in our list of Skyrim NPC codes.
Select two NPCs and set the relationship between them, the values range from 4 (lover) to -4 (archnemesis). Use it to make NPCs fight or do other er... more worrying things.
Click on an NPC and use this command to add them to a faction. It's not just about Stormcloaks and Imperials though. Using 0005C84D will add a character to the follower faction, giving them the necessary dialogue to join you, while 00019809 will add them to the 'potential spouse' faction, allowing you to marry them. This won't work on NPCs with unique voices however, so you won't be able to wed Esbern or General Tullius any time soon.
Also known as the 'I have no mouth and I must scream' command. Disable banishes the selected NPC to some sort of weird coding limbo. They become invisible, have no collisions and AI won't interact with them, but they're still technically there. Horrifying.
Undoes the effects of the Disable command. Disabling and then Enabling your follower will reset them to your current level, which is a handy way of making sure they stay useful in a fight.
It might be fun putting on god mode and becoming immortal, but don't you get a little lonely knowing that one day all the other characters you love will die? I know I do. Thankfully there's a solution: simply use this console command with a 1 to set characters to 'essential', which means they'll take damage until they fall on their knees, but then get up again. Using it with a 0 will turn essential characters mortal, but be careful with that, Bethesda probably made them immortal for a reason.
This command sets you as the owner of the targeted item, removing all those annoying 'stolen' tags from your ill gotten gains.
This allows you to move the quests you're playing back to a prior stage or forward to a new one. Useful if you've somehow broken it by murdering the wrong NPC. Skyrim wiki has a useful list of quests, along with IDs and stages.
Changes the size of the player or NPC. You start out at level one, which is normal sized, while zero is small. It goes all the way up to an absurdly huge ten.
Click on an NPC and type this to force them to put the item they're holding away. Useful if they're holding a sword you want.
Sets your field of view.
Turns off the fog of war on your local map, filling it in completely.
Forces the player to drop items, even usually undroppable quest items. Try just 'drop' to drop absolutely everything you're carrying.
Unsurprisingly, dispells all spells on the target NPC. This won't work on werewolves, as they technically become a different NPC when they transform.
Marking an item for deletion sends a contract to the Dark Brotherhood, ensuring it will never been seen or heard from again. It will be removed from the world the next time you load an area. A useful way to get rid of annoying things like ash piles that never seem to go away.
Sets the player's jump height. A high value means enormous moon hops.
I'm just about to place my head on the chopping block when, all of a sudden, I hear a noise. "You say you don't know where the Macho Man is coming from," it sounds like. My captors ignore it, ordering me to place myself mere inches from the severed heads of those who went before me. That's when I see it. Introduced by a "Macho madness, sky's the limit," the cowboy-hat-and-sunglasses-wearing dragon lands on a nearby tower, sending everyone into a frenzy with a triumphant, "Yeah!" before wreaking havoc on the village of Helgen.
If this sounds familiar, then you've likely seen or used the Macho Dragon mod, which turns all of Skyrim's dragons into a monstrous recreation of late WWE wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage. The YouTube video has accrued over four million views, and it's often one of the first things brought up whenever a conversation about video game mods strikes. Its creator, who goes by the alias FancyPants, got his start with mods by turning Will Smith's character from Men in Black: The Game into Ronald McDonald, and he says that he built the Macho Dragon mod simply because it made himself laugh.
"Originally, I was testing some of the tools that had been released for Blender," FancyPants said. "I was doing it just to see if I could get the model exporters to work properly. And in fact, originally, it wasn't going to be Macho Man; it was going to be Tommy Wiseau [from The Room]. But I had the cowboy hat and I thought, 'You know, it would be funny to put in Macho Man's audio and see how that works.' I tried it in game, laughed my ass off, and put it out there... and it kinda blew up.
"It was just a test that kinda spun outta control."
With the popularity of Macho Dragon, he added a similar mod to Fallout 4, which replaced a Death Claw with something that looks a little bit more like Savage. If it wasn't already obvious, FancyPants doesn't need more than a laugh to publish a mod on the internet. He told me that most of the stuff he works on comes from him testing something, thinking it's funny, and uploading it.
"It's really just one long train of thought of weird ideas," he said. "There's nothing particularly serious, to be honest."
Despite his inclination for the wildly goofy, FancyPants has found himself pushed by the community to create mods that are more serious or, at the very least, they can use. He did this with his Crimes Against Nature Skyrim mod, which he says is the project he's spent the most time on. It started out as an assortment of bizarre head parts and outlandish models one of these being a Wiseau horse created only to make himself laugh. But hopeful players encouraged him to turn these unconventional heads into proper playable races. He did just that, allowing people to play as races such as a chair, My Little Pony, or even the Space Core from Portal 2.
"It's goofy, it's obviously not 'lore-friendly,' but people pushed me to set it up a bit more properly, so I did," he said.
The talented modder found himself creating another "serious" mod when he took the faces of Fallout 4 and exaggerated them to ridiculous lengths. The mod, titled , caused the faces to ignore basic human anatomy, breaking the rules of everything you know about human expression and creating pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel.
"I went in there and started messing with the vanilla files and, you know, see if I could exaggerate it, if I could increase the intensity," he explained. "Once again, I found it hilarious and said, 'Okay, fine. I'll release that.' But afterwards some people were messaging me saying 'Hey, this is really funny, but it would be nice if you could increase the intensity slightly and release that as a serious mod.'"
What he came up with was three different versions of the mod, which turn the dull, sometimes lifeless faces of Fallout 4 into more enthusiastic ones that are full of expression. It's a different kind of project for FancyPants, but he's unlikely to stray too far from the ones that make him laugh, especially his most popular one. When asked if he was going to make sure Macho Dragon worked with Skyrim Special Edition, he surprised me by saying he was actually working on it at the time of our interview. However, he said it won't be exactly how you remember it.
"It's getting a bit of an overhaul," FancyPants said. "When it was first released, it was just a silly joke of the same model for every dragon. I'm hoping to differentiate them a little bit with little outfits.
"I'm looking into adding a crown and cape for Alduin, he'll be the Macho king," he continued. "I'm seeing if I can make Paarthurnax look like Hulk Hogan, but I'm not sure if I can get him to use separate Hulk Hogan audio."
For someone as dedicated to his Skyrim mods as FancyPants, it's perhaps surprising that he still hasn't spent much time actually playing the game.
"It does look like an interesting game," he said. "I should take the time to play it someday."
Laughing, he says that he spends most of his time in Skyrim testing out mods, and by the time he's done, he doesn't want to play it. He tells me this isn't uncommon amongst modders, that it's a bit of a recurring problem in the community.
For what's in his future, FancyPants says he's looking at bringing Macho Man to other games. He briefly mentioned Dragon Ball Xenoverse during our conversation, but he can't commit to the idea of a Macho Man spirit bomb just yet. Nevertheless, he did provide one answer with a little more confidence.
"Whatever Bethesda game comes out next, I'll probably put him in that, too."
I've been messing around with the Skyrim Special Edition this evening, and along with comparing how it looks to the (unmodded) original, I've also got some information on the available settings and how well it performs. (You might also be interested in knowing how the Special Edition works with existing saved games and mods.)
Here's a look at the settings:
You can see there are three options for anti-aliasing: None, FXAA, and TAA. In other words, high, low, or off. There are tickboxes for screen space reflections, ambient occlusion, precipitation occlusion, snow shader, lens flare, and 64-bit render targets.
The in-game settings menu provides sliders for the fade distances of things like NPCs, items, objects, and grass, and there's also a depth of field slider.
One thing that stands out sort of immediately: there's no FOV slider. You can quickly adjust the FOV while playing by opening the console (~) and typing, for example, "FOV 90 90" or "FOV 110 110" (no quotes) but the absence of a slider is a bit perplexing considering the fact that the functionality is already there and has been for years.
As with the original Skyrim, Special Edition has a cap of 60 fps, though I get that 60 fps almost constantly on my GeForce GTX 980. Everywhere I go, whether running through the woods, riding across the plains, and even in Solitude where I started a fight that resulted in about a dozen guards and citizens all whomping on me at once, both indoors and outdoors, I never lost more than a few frames, and then only momentarily. It's been a smooth ride so far.
Which isn't to say this isn't still a Bethesda RPG. While the visuals have been improved, Skyrim is still Skyrim and the bugs and glitches that shipped with the original game are still there. Above, you can see the opening sequence, and how a random horse winds up getting in the way of the actors who are busy trying to execute me.
The horse became such a problem that the sequence stalled before the dragon could show up, so we all just stood around staring and waiting. After several minutes it was clear Mr. Ed wasn't going to be moved, so I had to restart. Skyrim! It hasn't changed much after all.
Finally, let's take a gander at how the Special Edition actually looks.
The images below were taken using the same saved game, first taking a screenshot in the original Skyrim, saving the game there, then transferring the save file to Skyrim Special Edition and loading it. So, what you're seeing is me standing in the same spot at the same time of day with the same weather conditions in both games. The image from classic Skyrim is on the left, and Special Edition is on the right. A handy slider lets you compare them.
This was taken near Riften, and you can see the colors in Special Edition are much richer. The sky is more blue and the yellow of the leaves is brighter. The water looks less greasy and oily as well.
Here's a glance toward Solitude, and in addition to slightly lusher plants and considerably bluer skies, you can see some additional details on the buildings, particularly the windmill in the top left corner. The lighting looks much better as well: it feels much more like actual daytime.
Here's the waterfall near Dragonbridge. Again, the skies are a much deeper blue, trees in the far distance look a trifle less cartoony, and the lighting of the landscape in the background gives more feeling of depth than the original.
Sunrise outside Markarth. Again, improved lighting makes the details of landscape in the distance, as well as the horse and cart, much easier to see. And we can also see some added details here and there, like the foliage along the staircase and cobblestone path.
It appears there haven't been improvements to the character models they're still pretty uggo though they look a bit better under the improved lighting. You can also see a few little bits of added foliage along the road.
Below, the images can be enlarged individually for a closer look.