There are so many good games out this fall. So, so many. There's a type of video game for just about every type of video game player. But there is one thing missing: There's no vast, open-world role-playing game.
Bethesda, scions of the vast open-world RPG, have dedicated this year to the fantastic but decidedly not-open-world Dishonored. I had to go somewhere to get my fix of wandering, leveling, and exploring. And so I decided to return to Fallout: New Vegas.
Over the past couple of years, I've heard a lot of people rave about the underratedness and overlookedness of Obsidian's take on Bethesda's first-person reinvention of the Fallout universe. I actually played a big chunk of New Vegas when it first came out, but I never finished it. I just sort of ran out of steam not too long after I'd arrived on the strip.
Two years later, with a healthy gaming PC and a new appreciation for how much modding can improve these types of games, I thought I'd dig back in. After so, so many hours in Skyrim, I'm increasingly hungry to return to the darker and, frankly, more interesting Fallout universe. (That's a mouthful! But you get it, right? Obsidian made New Vegas, Bethesda just published it.) I've also heard nothing but good things about the New Vegas DLC, which is now so cheap that I couldn't help but download all of it.
I'll be writing a few articles about my time in New Vegas—it's a crazy time of year, and I can't guarantee that I'll be able to play the game all the way through or anything, but I've already put in a big chunk of time and have noticed a lot of interesting stuff while doing so.
For the first post, I thought I'd write about how I've modded the game to get it looking as good as possible. I haven't gone nearly as overboard with mods as I did with Skyrim; lots of New Vegas mods make the game unstable, and seeing as how it's already pretty crash-y, I wanted to stick with the biggest cosmetic upgrades and not much else.
So, here's what I've got installed. These mods, coupled with my solid gaming PC (I'm running an i5 2.8GHz with 8GB of RAM and a GeForce 660Ti) certainly make New Vegas a better-looking, more tweakable, and more interesting game than it was when I played it on Xbox in 2010.
I've downloaded all of these mods from The Nexusmods Site for New Vegas, and most have been installed using the Nexus Mod Manager. I've made a note of the mods that require manual installation. Here goes:
Project Nevada is the only overhaul-ish mod I'm using, but it's a heck of an overhaul. It adds all kinds of crap to the game—hotkeys for grenades, a sprint button, bullet-time, stealth modes, cybernetic implants… honestly, it makes New Vegas feel like a much different—and much better—game. I particularly like the cybernetic implants—my sneaky fast-talker now has a stealth mod installed in her chest, and with a press of the "X" button, I can activate a stealth field akin to a Stealth Boy. This is great, since I always hoarded stealth boys in the original game and never used them.
To get Project Nevada to work, you'll have to install the latest version of the New Vegas Script Extender, which is very easy to do. Just follow the directions at the site. You'll also have to check the boxes for the four .esm files in the "Plugins" tab in the Nexus Mod Manager.
This one does just what it sounds like—it centers the third-person camera. Very nice, as the up-close third person camera is weird and claustrophobic. It's especially good for those early hours when you need to run/jump away from radscorpions to get where you're going. It's much easier to see when one of the little biters is right on your heels.
Fellout is a mod that, just like the previous version for Fallout 3, removes the orange tint that the game previously had. It, in combination with a couple of other mods, makes the game a much more welcoming-looking thing, and makes daytime in the desert a more arid, clear affair. I dig it.
NMC's texture overhaul for New Vegas is definitely the biggest graphical boost you can give the game, though it can also be a bit persnickety. You can't use the mod manager, and have to extract the archives straight into your New Vegas directory. That's no sweat, but after installing the large version of the pack, my game became hugely unstable. You'll also want to install the 4GB New Vegas Mod, which allows the game to use 4GB of virtual memory. Unfortunately, even with that mod installed, the texture pack caused constant crashes.
I downgraded to the medium texture pack, and things are much, much more stable now. The game still looks great, and while it does crash every hour or two, I'm A) not certain the crashes are due to the textures and B) can live with it.
Nevada Skies adds a bunch of new weather effects and sky textures to the game, and makes everything that much prettier.
This is another big one—I've actually installed the lite version of this mod, since the most recent one forces me to turn off AA and also slows my framerate down. The lite version still looks nice though, and adds a lot of good lighting effects. I generally turn it off when I'm in dungeons, however, as it just makes things too dark. Fortunately, you can turn it off with a simple keystroke at any time.
And that's that. There are, of course, a ton of other mods I could install, but I don't want to change the core experience too much—I'm interested in looking back at how the game feels a few years after it came out, and Project Nevada brings enough changes to keep me happy.
I've been playing the game sort of casually between other big fall releases, but I've already noticed a lot of things that are interesting, particularly after spending so much time playing Skyrim (and so much more time theorizing about Bethesda's presumed Fallout follow-up). I'll have some more articles throughout the week about New Vegas, and hey, if you've got any free time between the alien-blasting and stealth-stabbing, download some mods and join in.
With Dishonored reactivating long-dormant stealth glands the world over, now seems a fine time to revisit perhaps its primary ancestor, the Thief games. Doom 3 total conversion The Dark Mod is a mightily ambitious attempt to recreate Thief – its mechanics if not its actual missions – in a more modern, and very much darkness-orientated, engine. It’s just had a major update and a promising new mission added too.
I’m going to insert a ‘Read the rest of this entry’ link now, if that’s okay. (more…)
As Kirk and Jason noted last week, Dishonored is in many ways an "old-timey" classic, but there's more to that idea than just its design. Because it's a singleplayer game, with no ladderboards or auction houses, you can install "trainers" for the game that let you cheat.
In the clip above, you'll see just what you can do when you have unlimited blink, super speed and a pistol that acts more like a machine gun.
As PC Gamer notes, the places you get such programs that enable these abilities can be a little shady, so we're not going to link them here. But if you know what these things are, you probably know where to get one.
Also, mild spoiler warning above, since it's a runthrough of the game's first mission.
As you'd know if you were reading Fine Art last week, Dishonored was originally intended to be a game set in 17th century London, rather than the whalepunk fictional universe it ended up creating for itself.
The decision to switch settings wasn't made instantly; there had been time for some art to be drawn up imagining a stealthy 1666 London, and the fact the period's garb makes hero Corvo so much like the star of the Thief series might explain why things moved on.
That said, there's a Brotherhood of the Wolf vibe coming from those sketches that would have been nice to see in the final version.
To see the larger pics in all their glory (or, if they're big enough, so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
I once read a suggestion by conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, that you could drop all of culture into two broad categories (I paraphrase): “High culture”, which is best appreciated with some formal education about what is going on with it (difficult literature, opera) and “Low Culture”, which is basically everything in folk, primitive, and pop culture, for which education is not required. Sounds stupid and elitist, doesn’t it? Scruton himself admits many caveats, as I recall. It’s clearly impossible to create two such categories. But recently, well, I’ve started to think that perhaps he’s right about the education thing. At least when it comes to videogames.
I speak with reference to this FT article about a non-gamer judging videogames, and subsequent defences of the same. Actually, no, I don’t think we really need to worry about what non-gamers think of games. And that is because, in this instance, we are the highly educated elite.
I know, we've looked at Dishonored once already here on Fine Art, but today is a little different, because we not only have some images from quite literally the game's drawing board stage, but also some commentary on them from Sebastien Mitton, Arkane's art director.
Did you know, for example, that the game's "Tallboy" units were once envisaged as town criers? Or that the game was originally intended to feature a level set in an insane asylum? Or that it was first envisaged as being set in 17th century London? Well, now you do. And you've got some nice images to go with the knowledge.
Below you'll find ten images, most of them from very early in the game's development. Accompanying them is Mitton's commentary. Note that most of the pics are comfortably within the realms of wallpaper-sized, but also constrained by our site's 16:9 aspect ratio lock, so to see them at their full size (or read obscured text), just click on them!
This is the very first pencil drawing we did when the game was set in London, in 1666. I'm a bit nostalgic when it comes to this one, but in a positive way. This is the piece of art that triggered lots of excellent work in terms of architecture - all the landmarks…there were more than 80 cathedrals in the skyline by that time. There is this very specific skeleton aspect to the facades, there is a canyon feeling in the streets, there are strong shadows.
The plague plays an important role in our game. After many hours of research exploring narratives from the Black Plague period, we used some testimonies as a starting point for visual expression. The purpose of this exploration was to give the player a great visual impact by increasing this dystopia feeling in the city. The inspiration from this specific example (cut for gameplay consistency) came from the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who mixed with the lime wash used in mass graves.
As a visual designer, it is a fun experience and a great challenge to align visual appeal, engineering and functionality, nice animations, and a sense of power with a handcrafted weapon that you can upgrade in different ways!
I really love this ship, with its moving nose that can trap whales when harpooned. The story of its inception started one day when I was visiting our office in Austin.
I noticed a guy on stilts cleaning the building façade and told Harvey (co-creative director) we could put stilts on our town crier (loud speakers replaced this guy). He agreed, and the guy instantly became a Tallboy. Then slowly, game designers modified his original purpose, and the Tallboy became a guard, armed with its bow.
I then proposed to place a canister on his back, full of phosphorus, to get nice visual effects when he shoots arrows. Harvey preferred to use whale oil. Ok, but now we need Whales right? Hard to see Whales if you don't swim in the middle of the ocean, so it was time to design a whaling ship. Here's the result!
I then realized that the game universe was autonomous, no need to add anything from our real world. This world had its own needs and its own solutions as its own universe.
This one is a close-up. It's the "Regent" painting done by the artist Sergey Kolesov, who is one of the most talented painter/illustrators worldwide in my opinion. This painting won the 2012 into the pixel at E3. It has everything I love in paintings. It has that second layer of visual storytelling when you look at the bodyguard. It's not in your face at first sight, but it's there when you take the time to really look at it. It is the role of a bodyguard to stay discreet, you'd say!
It is always sad when you have to cut features, ideas, concepts. But that's the nature of our role in this industry. As an artist you have to stay really agile and react positively for the sake of the project.
In this case, we had to cut a mental institution which was haunted by some locals called Lunatics. I really liked the mechanics of those non-fighting guys who are really sensitive to sounds, and who drive the player into a corner, hooting when they've detected you.
After a long phase of gathering really good references from museums and libraries, it's time to throw ideas on paper, and align them with the bullet points and visual filters we've decided upon.
I like this board because it shows how crazy we go sometimes during our concept session. Jean-Luc, my assistant, not only takes notes during our brainstorms, he draws pages and pages.
One of my main goals during the creation of Dishonored was to bring iconic characters to life. This girl is the result of intense research during photo trips to London and Edinburgh, analysis of mug-shots and studies of typical English traits we found in books and pulp illustration. By drawing on those known characteristics, your characters convey emotion before they talk or move. This is visual storytelling.
This screenshot shows, if not the first, at least one of the early integrations of one of our characters in game. This is a moment of joy, when you feel everything is in place. You're heading in the right direction, and you suddenly don't care about the hard days ahead.
I talked previously about visual storytelling. Here's a perfect example of what we love at Arkane: creating a dense and visceral universe!