PC Gamer
Windows 8 storefront

An analysis of the Windows 8 app certification requirements by programmer and tech blogger Casey Muratori suggests that games with a rating over PEGI 16 or ESRB Mature will not be allowed on the Windows 8 storefront.

This means we won't be seeing many of the current crop of games on the store, or, given the proliferation of rating-baiting neck-stabbing seen at E3, many of next year's either - not unless publisher's are willing to heavily sanitise their content.

The guidelines are pretty explicit about creating a walled-garden within Microsoft's hitherto anything-goes OS. As section 6.2 of the certificaiton requirements state: "Your app must not contain adult content, and metadata must be appropriate for everyone. Apps with a rating over PEGI 16, ESRB MATURE, or that contain content that would warrant such a rating, are not allowed."

As Kotaku pointed out, this might not be such a problem in the US, where relatively few games receive a mature rating, but it will be very significant in Europe, where games such as Dishonored, Skyrim, Sleeping Dogs, Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty all fall foul of the restriction.

Of course, you'll still be able to buy and install these games on the OS - you just won't be able to get them from the official Windows storefront. So is this a problem? Perhaps - games that don't make the cut won't be able to make use of Windows 8's bespoke features, and by bifurcating the platform Microsoft risks fragmenting the PC gaming marketplace. If games are rated as mature in one location and not in another, will that create stark regional differences? And what's more, from a creative perspective, it may force developers to censor themselves in an attempt to reach that wider audience.

It's a curious direction to take for a platform which prides itself on being open, and the reaction among devs is sure to echo the fears already annunciated by the likes of Gabe Newell, Blizzard's Rob Pardo, Notch and others.

PC Gamer

The air fills with the screams of the dying and the streets run crimson with the blood of the dead. As arrows whistle past me, I brutally hack through the neck of a Stormcloak soldier, and his head tumbles away like a dropped melon. My wife and companion, her sword coated with gore, sprints off to plunge her blade into the belly of a distant archer. High above, my summoned dragon wheels about in the sky, lands beside me with a crash, and spits a tremendous gout of fire onto several more city guards, setting a wooden walkway ablaze in the process. Amid the carnage, as I decapitate my next victim, a single thought rises in my head:

It didn't have to be this way. I just wanted to build a house.

Meet Braul, my level 31 Orc, Dragonborn, leader of the Companions, savior of Skyrim, destroyer of The Dark Brotherhood, hero, and all-around swell guy. He's powerful, wealthy, and owns several houses, but today he and his wife, Mjoll, are looking for something new, something much more than a house. They're looking for a home.

With the new Hearthfire add-on installed, I fire up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and begin playing in the fashion of anyone who has installed a Bethesda add-on: by sort of standing around in the world and wondering exactly how this new DLC will present itself in the game. I know I now have the ability to purchase land and build a home, and I know that when you buy stuff, it's usually in a city or town, so I fast-travel to Whiterun to see if the DLC will pop in and greet me. Sure enough, a half-naked courier jogs up and hands me a note from Tekla, the Steward to the Jarl of Falkreath, inviting me to buy some land. I fast-travel to Falkreath, and while absentmindedly devouring the soul of the dragon I just I killed outside, I chat with her about the plot of land, and buy it for 5,000 gold.  She helpfully starts giving me directions, but I just run out of the room. Relax, lady, I just consumed a dragon's soul in front of you, do I look like the kind of Orc who needs a lot of hand-holding?

A few dead bandits and one dead cave bear later, Mjoll and I reach our small plot of land northeast of Falkreath. Nearby, there's a chest, a couple tables, an anvil, and a book called The Beginner's Guide to Homesteading, which I don't actually bother to read. Look, I'm the Dragonborn: I saved the world without ever reading a book or even letting anyone complete an entire sentence. I think I can handle building a small house without doing my homework. I use the drafting table to select the small house layout, scoop out the contents of the chest, which contains, somehow, enough stone to build the foundation, then hit my hammer a couple times on the carpenter's bench. Just like that, I've got the foundation built.

While admiring the shiny new base of my future home, I notice a nearby lumber pile, and beside it, a wood chopping block. Okay, I think I have this whole process figured out. You get iron, you whack it on the anvil. You get lumber, you whack it on the chopping block. Then you whack everything together on the carpenter's bench. It's a whack-based home building system. I start trying to whack my lumber.

Thing is, I realize I have I have no woodcutter's axe with which to whack the lumber on the chopping block. How is that even possible? Oh, right, because I'm a wealthy, accomplished adventurer, not some poverty-stricken townie who needs to split wood for pennies. Even if I picked up a woodcutter's axe at some point, it would have been sold by now, or dropped in some dungeon to make room in my inventory, or possibly thrown into the ever-growing piles of worthless junk that live on the floors of my many houses.

Well, how hard can it be to find a woodcutter's axe? There are chopping blocks and lumber mills and stores all over the place. I fast-travel back to Falkreath, pop into the local shop, and find they are fresh out of woodcutter's axes. Next, I try the nearest lumbermill, where I find a chopping block, but no axe. I visit Dawnstar next, where I talk to both the blacksmith and his wife, neither of whom carry the item.

Okay, this is taking a bit longer than I expected.

I zip over to Solitude, where I know the blacksmith stocks everything under the sun, but he doesn't have an axe for sale, either. I scour my memory, trying to recall every place any character of mine ever chopped wood. I teleport over to Windhelm, searching the stores and the streets, and still, no axe. Irritated now, I back travel to Whiterun, arriving in the middle of the night, and stand stock still in the middle of town, letting the hours slither by until the stores open. Ulfberth, in Warmaiden's, has one of every bladed weapon in the world but, again, no axe. Outside, Adrianne doesn't have one either. I sprint over to Belethor's General Goods. He has goods, general ones, but no axe to sell me.

I step outside, fairly angry now. It's been almost an hour of gaming and I can't find this most basic of items anywhere. Then, I hear a thunk, and my eyes narrow. Was that the sound of the door closing behind me? It almost sounded like... I hear it again. Thunk. Ah-ha! That's the sound of someone chopping wood! That is the very thing I myself would like to be thinging!

I sprint around the entire building, finally finding someone using a woodsman's axe on some logs. His name is Sigurd, and he's got the woodcutter's axe I need. I try to engage him in conversation, but he does not stop chopping wood to talk to me. I try interrupting him by poking the chopping block repeatedly, but, without my own axe, the stump does not deem me worthy of halting him. I'm ticked off. This simple non-Dragonborn citizen is chopping all the wood he wants, while I, the hero of the land, stand there helplessly, unable to disrupt him. My patience is at an end. My fast-travel gland is exhausted. I decide I'm not leaving Whiterun without Sigurd's axe.

I see two options. I can wait patiently for a few seconds for him to finish, and see if he leaves the axe behind when he walks away. Or, I can use the ancient skill of magic shouting to encase him in a block of ice, and see if he drops the axe. After carefully not thinking about it for even a millisecond, I bellow cold angry dragon words into Sigurd's face and he flops to the ground, trapped in a prison of my ice yelling. Now, I just need to search the ground to see if he dropped the axe when he froze.

No problem, except: problem. Mjoll, loyal wife that she is, interprets the sight of me screeching ancient dragon curses all over Sigurd as a sign that I felt Sigurd was some sort of threat, draws her sword, and starts trying to slash his inert, helpless body into ice cubes. This in turn convinces a bunch of nearby Stormcloak soldiers that Moll and I are some sort of psychopaths bent on freezing and chopping up the innocent civilians of Whiterun.

Sigurd breaks out of ice jail long enough to stand up and helpfully die, so I take a break to examine his fresh, cold corpse. No axe in his inventory. I start scanning the ground for it, which is a little hard to do carefully when one solder is stabbing you and another is shooting arrows into your face. Exasperated, I start swinging my axe. My two-handed, hand-crafted, flame-enchanted Ebony battleaxe. Yes, the irony is as thick as Sigurd's dead, frozen torso, as this entire search for an axe has been conducted with an enormous axe strapped to my back, an axe the game deems capable of cleaving dragons to death with a single blow yet somehow not appropriate for the splitting of logs.

Happy to have an outlet for my annoyance, I wade in and start cutting soldiers into flaming chunks. Four or five dead Stormcloaks later, I've managed to carefully look around Dead Sigurd, but there's no sign of where he stashed his axe while he was dying horribly of ice magic and sword lacerations. Citizens are running around in alarm, and more soldiers are arriving. Filled with rage, I batter and hack at them. I! Just! Need! An! Axe! I screech, in time with every blow of my axe, which must briefly confuse the soldiers before they die from axe wounds. We make our way to the gates, step outside the city, and are greeted with arrows from archers in the battlements and walkways. I'm far too annoyed to run up and kill them all in person, or even to ready and aim my bow. Instead, I use magic to summon my pet dragon, and a few moments later he appears and begins cooking soldiers alive with his flame breath, setting wooden structures on fire in the process.

So, yeeeeeah. Things may have gotten a little out of hand. I'm now using magic to summon an ancient dragon to kill soldiers simply because I can't find a common lumber-related tool. It'd be easy just to restart everything from an older saved game, before all the death happened, but I'm in a black mood now. I will find an axe, Skyrim, if I have to turn this world, and its inhabitants, inside out. Once all the soldiers are dead, I consult my map again. Farmhouses. They're all over the landscape near Whiterun, and I begin stalking them, one-by-one, like some kind of horror movie boogeyman, letting myself in, rifling through the inhabitant's personal belongings, then killing the farmers and rooting around in their body cavities. I come across one poor dope foolishly chopping wood as if it's not a crime punishable by death, and get enraged all over again. Like Sigurd, he manages to use his last moments of existence to somehow hide his axe somewhere it cannot be found. Then, in another farmhouse, I find a woodpile with an axe laying across it!

Wrong kind of axe. The game is mocking me. Is this how you want it, video game? Fine. I can do this all day.

I do this all day. I become even more vicious: instead of searching their homes first, I immediately kill anyone I see, loot their bodies, then look through their foyers and bedrooms almost as an afterthought. I search my map feverishly, picking out farms and homesteads, visiting them, and hunting for axes among the blood-splattered remains of citizens whose only mistake was not devoting their lives to stockpiling standard woodcutting tools. How many have to die, Skyrim? How many have to die so I can build my house?

Finally, finally, I visit Solitude Sawmill and break into the owner's home. At last, on a shelf in the back of the house, I find my prize: a woodcutter's axe. Unfortunately, an enormous armor-plated Orc breaking in, rifling though cabinets and drawers, and stealing an axe while not making any attempt at stealth is somehow noticed by the home's keen-eyed inhabitants, and they start running around and freaking out and Mjoll has to calm them down to death.

Back at our homestead at last, the screams of my victims still echoing in my ears, I chop some logs before returning to the workbench and noticing the instructions don't actually say anything about chopped logs. The house needs only sawn logs. Which I already had a bunch of on my log pile.

I didn't need a woodcutter's axe after all.

Ah ha ha! Ah ha. Ah, hum. Um. Sorry? My bad? Guess I should have read that book or maybe briefy glanced at the on-screen instructions or something, instead of not doing that and spree-killing a couple dozen people with my wife and pet dragon. Turns out, the true irony wasn't that I was axe-murdering people for want of an axe, but that I didn't need an axe in the first place. Home ownership, right? The perils, the pitfalls, the trail of dismembered bodies.

I quickly and sheepishly build my house. Mjoll, to her credit, says nothing about the mass murders we just committed for no reason. The finished house is small, too small to hold my possessions, my spare weapons, or my deep shame over dozens of pointless murders, so I immediately start working on an expansion, though I find I need some more iron to complete it. Luckily, there's a vein of iron right next to the house. I walk over to mine it.

Pickaxe, huh? Well. How hard can it be to find one of those?
PC Gamer

I've lost count of the number of times I've looked down at my Skyrim Shetland pony and wondered, with a long sigh, "Why are you not on fire." The obvious answer is that my clothes would disintegrate and the horse would eventually die, but perhaps the sheer spectacle would be worth it. Skyrim mod Blaze of Eventide fulfills that dearest wish, replacing boring horse hair and fetlocks with a coat of everlasting flame.

Specifically, Blaze the horse features "true flame effects", "fiery footprints", immunity from fire damage, plus it can "explode for massive damage" on cue. Of course, something as awesome as Blaze doesn't just appear out of thin air - you have to yell the magic words first. Once memorised, from a book in a small cabin to the northwest of Whiterun, you'll learn two shouts: Blaze Summoning and Blaze Deployment, the latter causing Blaze to detonate all over enemies of your choosing.

To add this wonderful self-immolating horse to your game, all you need do is follow this link to the mod's Steam Workshop page. Once installed, you'll never feel cold in Skyrim's snowy climes again.

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

Bethesda send word that the latest Skyrim DLC, Hearthfire, arrives on PC today, after its pointless period of exclusivity on whichever console it was. It costs $5. The DLC will enable Skyrimfolk to build their own home – rather than simply buying an existing one – and then furnish it with “an armory, alchemy laboratory, stable, garden” and, as I understand it, adopted children. There’s some more craft stuff in there, too, with workbenches for the fashioning of things from wood and clay. Despite this healthy-sounding shopping list I understand that’s not particularly in-depth, so don’t expect The Sims with cat people.

The trailer lurks below. (more…)

PC Gamer

Mario on PC Gamer? Mario on PC Gamer?! But wait - before your temporal artery explodes from the side of your face in sheer exasperation at this tainting of our pure PC space, let it be known that this is a Skyrim mod and thus legitimate PC news. Honest!

In fact the mod itself avoids crossing the streams too much - you can install it without affecting your Skyrim game. Instead of replacing anything in the icy lands of the Nords, Super Skyrim Bros introduces a separate kingdom, accessible via a bed in an abandoned house. It's all a dream, you see, so the Skyrim lore is preserved - phew!

It's a dream that involves kidnapped princesses, fire flower staves, collectible coins, talking toadstools and all the other trappings that make the Mario games an oddly narcotic experience. There's even a sidescrolling platforming section.

It does depart in some ways, however - you have to kill Goombas as you would any Skyrim beastie, rather than simply bouncing on their heads, and you won't grow in size when you eat a mushroom. Still, there's five worlds and between one and three hours of play. It's recommended you are at least level 20 before entering.

For more awesome Skyrim mods, you should have a look at our 25 best Skyrim mods feature.
PC Gamer

Adventuring ain't for everyone. Why bother smashing dragons to bits with a mace possessed by a malevolent Daedric Prince when you can farm turnips from a frigid field? Now the Skyrim Hearthfire DLC has launched on Steam, the domestically-inclined Dovahkiin can do that and more with a massively expanded range of home-making mechanics.

For the sum of £3.49/$5, the DLC allows you to buy land within the game, plan and build a house with arduously-quarried stone and settle there for the rest of your days. Buildings can be as simple as single room cottages or sprawling mansion complexes, to which you can add armouries, alchemy towers, trophy rooms, greenhouses, fish hatcheries and more. But some will look upon your creation with lusty eyes! You may find yourself having to defend your property from home invasion by bandits, kidnappers and even swarms of skeevers.

You can even fill your property empire with a horde of adopted children, which is definitely in no way sinister.

Wherever I lay my horned hat is my home, I say.

PC Gamer

Adventuring ain't for everyone. Why bother smashing dragons to bits with a mace possessed by a malevolent Daedric Prince when you can farm turnips from a frigid field? Now the Skyrim Hearthfire DLC has launched on Steam, the domestically-inclined Dovahkiin can do that and more with a massively expanded range of home-making mechanics.

For the sum of £3.49/$5, the DLC allows you to buy land within the game, plan and build a house with arduously-quarried stone and settle there for the rest of your days. Buildings can be as simple as single room cottages or sprawling mansion complexes, to which you can add armouries, alchemy towers, trophy rooms, greenhouses, fish hatcheries and more. But some will look upon your creation with lusty eyes! You may find yourself having to defend your property from home invasion by bandits, kidnappers and even swarms of skeevers.

You can even fill your property empire with a horde of adopted children, which is definitely in no way sinister.

Wherever I lay my horned hat is my home, I say.

Product Release - Valve
The Elder Scrolls V: Hearthfire is Now Available on Steam!

With this official add-on to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you can purchase land and build your own home from the ground up - from a simple one-room cottage to a sprawling compound complete with an armory, alchemy laboratory, stable, garden, and more. Use all-new tools like the drafting table and carpenter’s workbench to transform quarried stone, clay, and sawn logs into structures and furnishings. Even transform your house into a home by adopting children.

PC Gamer
Skyrim Diary 8 - Wolf

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.

I'm seriously low on health, completely out of mana, and trapped in an awkward corner with a lightning mage bearing down on me.

And at that point, the ghost of an angry wolf leaps at her. What the hell is happening? While she deals with it, Belrand runs up and crushes her with a dramatic swing of his axe.

Once both the mages are dead, the ghost wolf trots to Belrand's side, then collapses in a heap of ash. Oh, OK, I guess that's a thing he can do. That's fine, Belrand. You got your own thing going on there. I guess it's cool if you're going for that 'actually useful' theme. Personally I prefer more of an 'impotent cowardice' motif, but horses for courses if that's what that phrase means.

A passageway leads to Frostmere Depths. Sounds nice.

Whoa. There's a forest in here, an actual coniferous forest. The cave also seems to contain a whole cloud - I can barely see a thing. Little balls of light swerve through the mist with an eerie scraping noise, and somewhere below the earth groans. I wonder if I can somehow buy this place.

There's an altar in the center of this cavern, and a bandit standing at it. As we approach, there's a blast and the Pale Lady appears. It is not Anne Hathaway at all.

The Pale Lady fires Things That Hurt at me, so I run. Belrand charges in, with endearing lack of self-preservation. But the balls of light follow me, and now they hurt too. Screw you, balls of light! I cast Fury at one. It seems to stop hurting me, and I hope it's hurting one of the other balls of light but I can't really tell. God it's been a weird day.

When I heal up and get back to Belrand, he's on his knees and the Pale Lady is barely hurt. My spells don't work on her, but they do work on Belrand. Courage, Belrand! Literally, here's a ball of Courage that forces you to get up and keep hitting her. I'm going to run away again now, catch you later!

I hide in another corner while he does all the hard work, and discover a treasure chest nestled among the ferns. Sweet! While grunts of pain and fleshy impact noises echo through the cave, I set to work picking the lock. Ooh, there's some gems in here! Maybe I can buy a new dress.

I'm attacked by light-balls again, but this time take the wiser course of Calming them until they float off. I don't come out of my hiding place until a message pops up announcing that I have completed the "Vanquish the Pale Lady" quest. Belrand and his ghost dog are standing over a pile of glowing dust. The sword is on the altar, so I nab it. It's not very good. I'll sell it later.

As we leave, I can't help reflecting on the ethics of this quest. A bandit stole this sword back from the other bandits, to bring it to its rightful owner and put the Pale Lady's spirit to rest. We just showed up, killed her and took it. Shame on you, Belrand.

Next Thursday: Real Warriors
Announcement - Valve
Now until Thursday at 4PM Pacific Time, save big on the Elder Scrolls Collection as this week's Midweek Madness!

This collection includes the award-winning titles Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim along with the Dawnguard DLC for Skyrim!

Choose from hundreds of weapons, spells, and abilities. The legendary freedom of choice, storytelling, and adventure of The Elder Scrolls is realized like never before!