PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Real life human wizard lays down the lore in The Elder Scrolls Online dev diary">The Elder Scrolls Online - lead loremaster



Do you have to look like a wizard to become a lead loremaster, or do you gradually transform into one once you've accepted the position? I'd ask Elder Scrolls Online lead loremaster and wizard, Lawrence Schick, but he's too busy discussing the delicate socio-political situation in Tamriel. There's a power vacuum in Cyrodiil and challengers to the throne are popping up in every other town. Sit back, take a sip of mead and hear a grand story of kings, necromancers and armoured lizards courtesy of the latest Elder Scrolls Online developer diary.



That was a lot of concept art, wasn't it? Here's what the game will actually look like:

Kotaku

Skyrim's DLC Is Coming To PS3 Next Month



Finally! Skyrim's downloadable content, until now exclusive to Xbox 360 and PC, is making its way to the PlayStation 3.



Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn will all be on the PlayStation Network in February. They'll all be 50% off during their launch week.



In case you're a PS3 player and you haven't been paying attention, here are some links to our coverage for the vampire-filled Dawnguard pack (not great), the home-making Hearthfire pack (lovely for fans of domestic activity), and Dragonborn, the best of the three.



So what took so long? Dunno. Last August, Bethesda said bringing Skyrim's DLC to PS3 was a complicated issue.



Dragonborn will also hit PC on February 5, Bethesda's Pete Hines announced today.


PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to An Illusionist in Skyrim, final entry: Solitude">Skyrim Diary 16 - Main



This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

My attempts to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic have driven me to intentionally contract vampirism, for the sweet illusion powers it will provide. The disease takes three days to take hold, and I've spent them messing with the Stormcloak rebels for the Imperial Legion. My mission is to deliver some forged orders to a Stormcloak commander in Dawnstar, and on my first morning in town, it happens.

"Your blood boils as your vampiric powers awaken." The screen burns red, then my vision clears. I look around. No-one is staring at me. I switch to third person view to examine my face: it's grim, steely, shadowed, haunted - so no change that I can see. I also don't have the invisibility spell I was hoping for - I guess that, and the face stuff, come later.

After looking left and right suspiciously, I find the Stormcloak commander and give him the fake orders. He's fine with just taking his orders from whoever runs up to him and gives him some, which is a policy we share.

Back at camp, the plot is starting to take shape. The orders we intercepted revealed the Stormcloaks need reinforcements at fort Dunstad. We changed those orders to say they didn't. So now, we're going to attack Fort Dunstad, and retake the Pale. Again, The Pale seems to be some kind of place with some kind of importance. I am ready to die for it.

It's going to be a huge battle, the decisive one for this whole chunk of Skyrim. So I want to up my game a little. In practical terms, this means lying down on a bedroll and going to sleep for 57 hours - two days to allow my vampiric powers to grow, and 9 more hours to skip to early evening, so that it'll be night by the time we attack.

I awake with a whole host of new powers - no invisibility yet, but one big improvement for a pure Illusionist: a universal 25% boost to the power of all Illusions. I set off.



Fort Dunstad

The men are gathering outside the fort as I arrive. It's dark, a furious blizzard makes visibility even worse, and the fort is surrounded by spiked barricades. We charge.

Rather than just buffing our own troops with Courage, I decide to take a more aggressive role for this final conflict. I use Fear. Anyone I hit with it runs from the battle, but unlike Calm, it doesn't stop our own troops from hacking them to pieces. I neutralise three archers with it before I have to wait for my magicka to recharge, and I bide the time by chasing my last victim, magicky hands waving.

"I yield!" he yells, sprinting away from me in search of some cover. I keep chasing, despite having no way of harming him. Look at my sparkly hands, soldier! Fear them!

"Victory is yours!" He cowers in a corner, hands over his head, terrified of the unarmed elf woman in a dress.

Meanwhile, the troops have smashed down several of the barricades and are flooding hte fort, clashing with the Stormcloaks in the courtyard and on the battlements. Belrand storms through them, stopping to dispatch enemies with devastating sweeps of his jagged axe. His ghost wolf is out and equally savage - I see him kill an archer and a berserker.

I get back to my Fearsome work, sending the enemy troops packing just long enough for ours to kill them in small, manageable batches. It takes a long time, and I burn through all of my health potions to survive the hail of enemy arrows, but at last the fort is ours.

It seems wise to heal up before the journey back, and with no health potions, that means sleeping.

Three days as a vampire.



The turn

When I wake up, everything's normal for about a second - just long enough for me to read that "As a fully developed vampire, you are hated and feared." Then the entire Imperial Legion turns on me. Ah. This is going to be a problem.

Belrand, to his enormous credit, is still on my side. He summons his wolf, draws his axe, and ploughs into the entire imperial legion.

I run - I still have no health potions, and this is an even higher tonnage of incoming arrows than last night. I zig-zag through the fort to dodge more arrows, and come against against two squads of my former brothers in arms. I hit each one with a ball of Frenzy, and the enormous splash radius catches every one of them with an urge to kill each other. I keep running. I want to help Belrand, but the fight is just too hectic right now. I hop onto a Legion horse and gallop away under a rain of fire.

Once I'm out of range, I veer round and skirt the fort. The sounds of shouts and butchery are still coming from inside, but I don't see anyone on the battlements now, so I cautiously canter back in. Belrand's doubled over on his knees in the center of the courtyard, two Legion soldiers bearing down on him. I fling a Rally spell at him, summoning him back to his feet in a ball of green light, and making him stronger and tougher.

Belrand cuts down two more troops, then jumps into the air and brings his axe down crushingly hard on the last of them. The body flops awkwardly on the snowy stone, Belrand holsters his weapon and looks up at me with a wordless look of, "Well, I guess this is what I do now."



The problem

We're in trouble. I mean, aside from the 18 murders and 1 horse theft we just committed. I knew my vampirism would be 'controversial', but I hadn't quite accounted for the fact that my own employers would attack me on sight, forever.

Normally, vampires pass as humans by drinking blood - it lessens their power, but returns their appearence to normal. But they don't sell that stuff in bottles, you have to drink it from a sleeping victim's neck. Whichever way you slice it, puncturing someone's jugular with your teeth and drinking their blood definitely counts as an attack. I can't do it. There's a cure for vampirism, but it involves soul-trapping, which again is against my rules.

The war for the Pale is won - or maybe a draw, now that we've wiped out the Legion forces too - but I can't complete the quest until I talk to General Tullius. And even if I could get past all of Solitude's guards and the entire Legion garrison at their headquarters in Castle Dour, Tullius himself would sooner kill me than talk to me.

I can't end this without closure. I need that check in my journal, the acknowledgement of my superiors, and to genuinely complete the mission I was given as a soldier of the Imperial Legion. So I keep thinking, and I think I have a plan. It's a plan of which the following clichés are true:


It's a long shot.

It's so crazy it might just work.

And it's something I have to do alone.


I've asked a lot of Belrand, and he's done it all unquestioningly - all the way up to slaughtering a whole Imperial army to defend me from persecution as a vampire. But I won't ask him to attack his home, Solitude. Not because he wouldn't, but because he probably would.

I could just tell him to 'Wait here', but I decide to be honest. I'm not coming back from this.
"It's time for us to part ways."
"OK, if you think that's best. If you ever need me again, you know where to find me."

I do. He sounds sad.

I hop back onto the black Legion horse I stole earlier and ride on into the night.



Solitude

I ride north, to the coast, and come at the city from across the mouth of the Carth river. There's a heavy fog on the water, and it's still dark - perfect for my approach. I slip off the stolen horse and let him stroll back to Fort Dunstad, while I swim quietly across the water towards the Solitude docks.

There are two guards patrolling the jetties, so I cast Muffle: it creates a blue mist around my feet that conceals my footsteps, so I can sneak as close as I like to the guards without them hearing me and turning around. That makes it easy to slip by one on the pier, and another on the winding path up to the city gates.

At the top, though, something incredibly awkward happens. Day breaks. The sun isn't strong enough to burn my skin, but vampires can't regenerate magicka when it's light, and I've cast Muffle again before I realise this. I'm low, and the sneaking only gets harder from here.

While I'm figuring out what I can and can't afford to cast, I spy the horse and cart guy up ahead - and he spies me. I'm rumbled. He jumps off his cart, the guards come running from all directions, and I bolt out of cover.

City guards are dramatically more powerful than Legion soldiers, and I know from hard experience that their arrows can kill me in a single hit if I'm not at full health. And I'm not. That's a problem, because as well as all the ones chasing me, there are two stationed at the gate itself. Gee, if only I was a monstrous vampire who could turn invisible at will.

Shadow's Embrace, the power I became a vampire for, makes me completely invisible and gives me night vision. It lasts for three minutes, but I'll have to reveal myself to open the city gates - you can't 'use' things or cast spells while invisible.

My pursuers still have a rough idea of where I probably am, but no further arrows come near me, and the guards at the gate have no clue I'm even there. I'm in.



Talking to Tullius

Now, it gets harder. The streets of Solitude are crawling with guards, and it's a long route through an open street to get to Castle Dour. I decide to break it up by stopping off at the pub for a drink.

The Winking Skeever is where I found Belrand, and it's restocked with health potions since I last ransacked it for health potions. I run in and steal all the health potions. The entire city guard follow me in, of course, but I barge past them on my way back out before they can really react. Before I go, though, I want to Frenzy them all - start a bar fight that'll keep them all busy in here while I run to Castle Dour. The only problem is, I don't have enough magicka.

I'm about to abandon the idea, then I remember something - I'm ready to level up. All I have to do is pick a stat to improve, and my health and magicka are fully restored. Level 11! Let's Frenzy!

I escape the bar room bloodbath I've just created and burst back out into the streets. I run zig-zag to stymie the annoyingly accurate guards still on the streets, and jump a wall to get up the ramp to the castle.

The last obstacle before Castle Dour are the two Imperial Guards at its door. Running straight at them, I can't dodge both their arrows. I can't Calm them both, because that'd leave me completely out of magicka, and I'll need some once I get inside. Instead I calm the furthest guard, then run straight at the nearest one. Before he can fire, I'm in close combat range, so he puts away his bow and draws his sword. Before he can attack, I'm inside.

Tullius is directly in front of me, surrounded by soldiers. I run at him. He draws his sword. And for my next trick, I spend my last chunk of mana to hit him with my last ever Calm spell, and immediately strike up conversation.

Reporting for duty, sir!



As his men sink their blades into me from all directions, Tullius commends me on my work, and lectures me on the strategic importance of The Pale to the Empire's war effort. The notification pops up: Quest completed.

I quit out of the conversation, amazed to find I'm still alive, and push past the troops to a door to the castle battlements. I have no magicka, almost no health, and I'm stabbed and cut several more times even as I open it.

It's sunny out. My vampiric night vision makes the light dazzlingly white, and at the same time, my skin burns in the sun. The combined effects are so bright that, for a second, I don't realise I'm dead. When colour floods back into the world, I see my limp body slide down the castle door.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, you've been a wonderful audience!
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Skyrim Enhanced Terrain mod increases detail of distant textures">Skyrim HD Enhanced Terrain mod



Being Dragonborn hath its privileges. For one, you have tons of time for heroic gazes across Skyrim's arboreal vistas, a Nordic breeze whipping your victory braids while a Hans Zimmer track (optionally) plays in the background. Skyrim's stock textures, however, tend to get smudgy at extreme ranges, and that just won't do for a warrior destined to save everyone and everything. The HD Enhanced Terrain Mod, then, returns the ruggedness to far-off ground with high-resolution grass effects.

Modder Hritik Vaishnav updated ground textures with a 2048x2048 canvas of grass-like foliage noise, a definite upgrade from Skyrim's dive in terrain quality at distance. He offers two versions for download: a high-detail, high-noise variation and a slightly less-detailed alternative that ties more seamlessly into existing textures.

The simplicity of the mod and the ease of its installation makes it a worthy addition to your collection. Looking for more? Check out a bunch of other mods we've found.

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Ex-Dishonored dev on violence in games: we’re too often “blinded by the fear of censorship”">Dishonored alerted City Watch



Many minds have weighed in on the effects of violent games after the December 14 Sandy Hook school shooting. A frequently cited modern example of interactive violence is Arkane's Dishonored, a stealth game which allows the player to choose a path of brutality. In a contributed article to RPS, Joe Houston, who worked on Dishonored before leaving Arkane, stressed that we shouldn't dismiss the debate.

"It’s important as gamers not to simply retreat to the easy reaction, that games aren't a part of the problem,” Houston wrote. “While I think that might be true, I think it’s a pity to stop there. Too often we think about what we might lose as players and developers if forced to engage in that conversation, becoming blinded by the fear of censorship. As a result, we miss out on more creative and effective ways to be a part of the solution."

Houston believes violent games employing non-linear mechanics and a stronger power of choice for the player leave a more lasting "personal ownership in violence." He used Dishonored's multi-pronged approaches to completing a mission as an example, writing, "One could argue this is largely because the game can be played without killing anyone. This doesn't change all the things you might do in the game, but simply by knowing that it allows non-violence you find that every violent act you choose in cast in a sobering light.

"If thrust into a game where the choices aren’t mine to make, violence (even horrifying violence) ends up making a statement about what that game’s creators are trying to express more than it makes a statement about me the player being forced into a role," he continued.

The ever-burning question remains: do video games cause violence in real life? No, contends Houston, but they "do little to prevent it." A game with substantive, consequential, and even "distasteful" choices, he says, "just might do better because they stand a chance of making the player think about what they're doing on screen."
Kotaku

Dishonored Dev Says That Games Don't Create Violence, But They Don't Prevent It Either If you read a recent piece on video game violence, there's a good chance that somewhere in that article, included is a screenshot of a Dishonored neck stab. Last year was the year of the neck stab, after all. Rock, Paper, Shotgun spoke with the developer that coded that move in-game—Joe Houston—and he had Opinions On Game Violence.



For those that haven't played it, Dishonored is a stealthy game in which you are free to choose how to approach a problem. This poses unique questions about video game violence and what a player chooses to do, versus what a game developer gives as an option. Who holds responsibility, the person choosing or the person that gave the option in the first place?



Delving into the issue a bit in relation to actual-life violence, Houston said the following:




So does that mean that linear violent games are better for society than those like Dishonored, those that touch only superficially on violent acts versus those that allow the player to make extreme choices? I argue that linear games that have a lack of personal ownership in game violence actually do so at the disadvantage of society.



I don't believe that game violence causes real world violence, but I do believe that it does little to prevent it. And games with meaningful (and potentially distasteful) choice just might do better because they stand a chance of making the player think about what they're doing on screen.




Linear versus choice-driven games and what they offer/do when it comes to violence is arguable; there's probably no right answer. But the idea of whether or not games even have a responsibility to prevent violence is a curious one.



Do they?



By nature of how ubiquitous the medium is, it's probably irresponsible to not even think about it, at least. Certainly we've had games that aim to educate or make the world better. So it wouldn't be impossible to make a game that tries to prevent violence.



Food for thought between our neckstabs.



Dishonored Dev Joe Houston On Violence In Games [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]


Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

Just before Christmas, Nathan wrote a piece asking for a conversation about the role gaming violence plays in our lives. And as so many have when discussing the topic, he featured an image from Dishonored at the top – a man getting stabbed through the neck. For Joe Houston, the former Arkane developer who created that stabbing scene, this was the prompt he needed to give his own perspective on the subject. >

Whenever I’m clicking my way through game industry opinion articles, I tend to get hung up on pieces about video game violence. This is mostly because the image plastered across the top of the post is a screen grab from Dishonored. You know, the one where a member of the city watch gets his jugular opened in a first-person blast of arterial spray. But it’s not the shock of that image that stops me. No, I pause because I’m the guy that wrote the code to make the player do that in the first place.

(more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Craig Pearson)

Slap yourself and wake up! It's all a dream. This doesn't really exist.... haha, I made you hit yourself They did. They absolutely, utterly, completely modded a new world into Skyrim that’s based on Super Mario. Super Skyrim Bros. adds a new instance into Skyrim, so you at least won’t be converting all of Bethesda’s chilly wastes to the blocky nightmare you see here. Just a corner of it. A nightmare of question mark blocks, coins, Goombas, Koopas, secrets, and even Bowser. Want to see it in action? You’ll need sunglasses and a quiet room to lie down in after. I’m about to hit my sofa and hide under some cushions. (more…)

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Fallout: Project Brazil mod is a full prequel campaign to New Vegas">Fallout Project Brazil mod

Project Brazil preludes the factional fencing matches between the New California Republic and New Vegas' other groups.

Fallout: New Vegas deviated from the post-apocalyptic franchise's extreme isolationism by populating its ruins with lots of people, smelly dogs, and those freaking annoying butterfly-hornet things. The wastelands seemed alive—but the tale of how people flocked to New Vegas remains untold. Until now: The in-development Fallout: Project Brazil mod sets up the backstory.



"Project Brazil is a quieter, more harsh and severe world than Fallout 3 or New Vegas," writes modder Thaiauxn. "It feels like a real place spotted with rare moments of absurdity and fear, split between multiple rising civilizations all trying to fight for what they want or need in a world recovering from the Great War."

Easily earning the spotlight is the amazing intro cinematic seen above. Though the famous "war never changes" line isn't uttered by Ron Perlman here, the narrator's low growl sets the mood. Plus, he sounds slightly like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. Don't you want Bane telling you the consequences of a world consumed by nuclear fire?

As Project Brazil's Mod DB entry states: "This mod adds an all new story around a new player character, an adopted resident of Vault 18, embarking on a quest to a hidden complex called 'Brazil' in the ruins of Los Angeles. Along the way, you'll discover a pitched battle between the Survivalist Army, the New California Republic, and The Super Mutants, which shapes the politics and events leading to the NCR's invasion of the Mojave. The story takes place in 2260—many years before the 'Courier' awakes in New Vegas, while the Enclave struggles to rise again on the West Coast."

Thaiauxn's plans to release several chapters starting sometime in the next few months, with the mod's first split into three parts. The full campaign will eventually contain 16 primary quests and "several side stories, all related to the player's journey through Vault 18 and the wasteland of San Bernardino." It's definitely a work-in-progress, though, and Thaiauxn is seeking additional help from writers, scripters, and modelers.
Kotaku

Help Make A Video Game Magazine Called Sneaky Bastards (With Awesome Dishonored Art)Aussie writer Daniel Hindes, who for a while has run a niche site called Sneaky Bastards, wants to take the idea of discussing stealth games to a more tangible format. Hence, Sneaky Bastards, the magazine.



Promising that the magazine will feature 100% new content (as in, nothing that's been on the site before), the first issue also has a stunning front cover courtesy of British artist AJ Hately, who we've featured here before.



It's hoped that the print run can be a way of "producing more of a substantial, long-form, long-lasting analysis and exploration of stealth gaming in a format that this kind of material is designed to be read and consumed in."



You can check out more, and contribute, below. Which you should. The internet is a wonderful place to read about cats and fake trailers, but this kind of in-depth discussion about such a dedicated topic is perfect for dead trees between your fingers.



Sneaky Bastards [Kickstarter]


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