The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Of all the ambitious mods recreating areas of Tamriel, Beyond Skyrim is the one I'm most excited about. It's essentially made up of seven separate projects aimed at remaking parts of the Elder Scrolls world—including Cyrodiil and Morrowind—in the Fourth Era, when Skyrim is set. Yesterday, the developers released their first ever development diary, showing just how much progress they've made in each region, and you'll find footage from Roscrea, the lost continent of Atmora and Elsweyr.

The video, above, runs through each region's progress in turn, starting with Roscrea, an island located in the Sea of Ghosts north of Solitude, Skyrim. The first landscaping of the island is nearly complete, quests and characters are largely written, and most of the major towns and villages are designed. The team is even making progress on creating a unique Roscrean language for the island's inhabitants—both alive and undead.

In Cyrodiil, the team has numerous cities, including Chorrol and Skingrad, at the level design stage, while others are still in art development, including the iconic Imperial City. The region of Colovia has nearly reached first-pass level design completion, and the team has begun shortlisting fully-fledged companion characters that will travel alongside you. It's worth noting that the Bruma portion of Cyrodiil is already complete, and was released last year. Chris was impressed by it, and the fact that Beyond Skyrim has already produced something polished is the main reason I'm hopeful about its future.

In Atmora, the lost continent to the north of Tamriel, the team have completed design of the fjord and Staglands regions, and are working on a custom weather system. They've also made progress on the local quests: the finished version will have five main quest chapters as well as numerous side quests.

In the video, you'll also find details about Iliac Bay, Elsweyr and Black Marsh, which look to be earlier in development. The team wrapped up the diary by teasing a "very special announcement" for the Morrowind project in the new year. They've been working hard writing characters for the region's numerous dungeons and towns—could the announcement be that a portion of the map will be playable soon, similar to Bruma in Cyrodiil? I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

For more information on Beyond Skyrim, visit its official website.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind® Game of the Year Edition

After writing about the latest update for the excellent Morrowind: Rebirth mod yesterday, the allure of the best Elder Scrolls game was strong. But I can’t just reinstall Morrowind; at the very least I need to spend a couple of days finding more mods, like Morrowind Enhanced Textures. It might not have a flashy name, but it sure is pretty. 

HD texture mods often look strange and out of place, especially in older games like Morrowind, but this appears to be one of the exceptions. Don’t expect it to suddenly look as good as new, but there are places where it looks not far off Skyrim. The character models still look goofy as heck, but that’s The Elder Scrolls for you. 

The technique used to enhance the textures is called Enhanced Super-Resolution Generative Adversarial Networks (ESRGAN), and gosh people need to do a better job of naming things. It’s an AI upscaling method that generates realistic textures without the artifacts that you get from plain old Super-Resolution Generative Adversarial Networks.

Modder DassiD says they made several passes with the tool and upscaled the textures by four times Morrowind’s original resolution. They’ve included some comparison screenshots on Nexus, where you can also download the mod. It looks impressive, though it’s worth noting that a few other mods have been used in the screenshots to make them look even lovelier. 

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind® Game of the Year Edition

We’ve got a bit of a soft spot for ol’ Morrowind, as evidenced by the fact that we’re still writing news stories about it 16 years later. We’ve also written about Morrowind: Rebirth a few times. It’s an ambitious overhaul mod that’s been in development for seven years. It’s one of the best Morrowind mods, and it just got updated.

Morrowind Rebirth is a pretty broad mod, fixing, changing and adding new things all over the volcanic island. In towns, especially, it works its magic, expanding them with new districts and distractions, though you won’t always notice when you’re exploring new stuff—it fits in perfectly with the rest of the world. 

4.9 continues this by giving the gloomy, carapace-filled town of Ald'ruhn a makeover, placing a new Daedric ruin amid the giant mushrooms of Dagon Fell, throwing a few more enemies into the mix and remaking loads of weapons and pieces of armour. You can even start collecting playing cards if you need some other reason to go rooting around in places you don’t belong.

The city of Ebonheart has been in the process of getting an overhaul, and 4.9 adds a new lighthouse—you can’t have a port without a giant torch—and additional defences in case anyone wants to square up to the Empire. Some farms have been added, too, since the fortress would need plenty of food in case there’s a siege. It’s an appropriately wide-ranging update, but I especially appreciate the logic behind the additions. These farms and the lighthouse don’t have any mechanical functions, but it makes complete sense for them to exist, and they make Ebonheart just a little bit more tangible. 

If you’re looking for an excuse to start another playthrough of the best Elder Scrolls game before the year is done, you’ve got one. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Shirley Curry told us a couple of years ago what it was like to become a YouTube celebrity at 80 years of age, a feat she accomplished when her love of Skyrim, and her gameplay videos, came to the attention of Reddit. "Grandma Shirley" now has more than 412,000 followers on YouTube, where she posts videos on various topics and games—she recently seems to have gotten into Call of Cthulhu—but Skyrim still dominates her playlist. 

She was understandably disappointed, then, when The Elder Scrolls 6 was "announced" at E3 with the caveat that it won't be out for many years yet. "Well, I guess that puts the nail in my coffin, literally!!!" she wrote last month in a comment on another streamer's video. "When Skyrim 6 comes out I'll be 88!! So I probably won't get to play it, so I'm going to quite [quit?] dreaming for it!!! :(" 

Her comment was picked up and shared on Reddit over the weekend and quickly morphed into a call to incorporate her into The Elder Scrolls 6 in some way, be it an NPC, a location, a unique weapon, or in some other appropriate fashion. There's actually precedent for this—the Skyrim NPC Erik the Slayer is a tribute to Erik West, an Elder Scrolls fan who died of cancer six months prior to Skyrim's release—but response to the petition was a little slow out of the gate, and internet petitions aren't exactly binding legislation to begin with. 

Thus, while the petition continues to collect signatures, wheels are also turning on Plan B: Modding Curry into Skyrim. Redditor phanton-scribbler said Curry is "enthusiastically on board" with the idea, and has given permission to use her likeness and her voice, and even offered to record any specific dialog that might be required. 

Fan-made projects can be inconstant, let's say, but the biggest challenge facing this one is apparently the sheer volume of material at hand. Phantom-scribbler said volunteers are required to watch Curry's videos and pick out the best lines: Location-specific dialog, expressions of wonder and disgust, "kill quotes," and anything else that might be useful.   

"How cool would it be to come across an elderly Breton who wants to kick some ass and asks to come along with you. Her story is even perfect just as it is," redditor anachronisticUranium suggested on the Shirleysgrandkids subreddit.   

"She's twice widowed and has four kids and nine grandkids. She calls all her subscribers 'grandkids.' So, maybe she has a sword that both of her husbands died using. She calls it 'Widowmaker.' She takes it up and puts on some armor, says, 'Come on, Grandson/daughter!' and you're off to tackle whoever gets in your way. Who wouldn't want her as a follower?

The "Widowmaker" angle is maybe a little weird, but I love the idea of incorporating Curry into the game somehow. She's a positive, welcoming voice on YouTube, and her Skyrim fandom is obviously beyond question. She knows a thing or two about running a gang, too—handy knowledge for any worthwhile NPC. 

Thanks, Eurogamer

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

It feels like an age since the last Elder Scrolls game was released (seven years, to be precise), and it's probably going to be several years more before we see the next one. It's an agonising wait, and for some older fans, it really is a race against time. But thanks to an online campaign, fans are hoping at least one Skyrim-playing grandma will be involved in the next game. In at least some sense of the word.

As possibly the coolest grandma on the internet, you may well have already heard of Shirley Curry. She's an 82-year-old YouTuber who primarily records herself playing Skyrim, and has pretty much won the hearts of everyone in the Elder Scrolls community. Referring to her subscribers as "grandkids", she goes out of her way to reply to every comment on her videos, and her let's plays are basically the most wholesome thing you can find on the internet. And, if you still doubted her credentials, last year she even made it into the Guinness World Record book as the oldest video game YouTuber. Here's her latest Skyrim video, should you want a look:

Her place at the centre of an internet campaign, however, began after a Reddit user spotted her comment on a YouTube video analysing the comments Pete Hines made to Eurogamer about TES6's release window. "I guess that puts the nail in my coffin," Curry wrote. "When Skyrim 6 comes out I'll be 88! So I probably won't get to play it."

Read more…

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

This story was originally published in February of 2013.

I love my Skyrim wife, Mjoll the Lioness. She carries my spare gear with no complaint, she never runs out of arrows, and she doesn't mind accompanying me when I murder a bunch of farmers because I can't find a common axe. However, I've just informed her I don't want her following me any longer. I've been playing the Dragonborn expansion pack for Skyrim, and I want to try out (and write a column about) the new followers it offers.

Mjoll seems a bit crestfallen, but tells me she'll be in Riften should I need her again. As she walks away, however, a thought occurs to me. If we were currently in Skyrim, she could just walk to Riften, but we're not: we're on the island of Solstheim, a completely different continent where the new Dragonborn content takes place. How, exactly, is Mjoll going to get back to Riften? My original column idea is instantly forgotten as Braul the Easily Distracted Orc decides to investigate this incredibly important mystery.

The only way I can travel between Skyrim and Solstheim is by paying a ship captain to ferry me between the cities of Raven Rock (in Solstheim) and Windhelm. Is Mjoll capable of doing that? If she's not, how will she get off the continent? Also, what happens in general when you brush off a follower? Do they really remain persistent in the world for their entire journey back to their home city, or does the game just pluck them up and drop them off once they've walked out of sight? I decide I'll find out by simply not letting Mjoll walk out of sight. I'll follow her stealthily (or as stealthily as a giant orc clad in Daedric armor can) and see how she gets to Riften first-hand.

Technically, we're not even on the island of Solstheim at the moment. We're on another island off the coast of the island of Solstheim. I swam over to to this little island a minute ago because I wanted to see if anything lived on it. (Nothing does. Anymore.) Now, as I watch, Mjoll strides into the water, headed for Solstheim. I follow, swimming at a careful distance.

First observation: she is an incredibly slow swimmer. Second observation: she is doing her incredibly slow swimming along the very bottom of the channel, which is making her even slower. Like all gifted detectives, I start drowning almost immediately. After coming up for air and healing myself, I dive back down and realize I've completely lost her. A minute after deciding I won't let her out of my sight, I've let her out of my sight. Did the game already wink her out of existence already and plop her back in Riften, or is she still paddling around somewhere?

I swim across the channel and stand around on the main island for a bit to see if Mjoll will actually emerge from the water at some point. A few minutes later, to my surprise, I spot her to the east of me, still swimming. She eventually climbs onto land and begins walking in the direction of Raven Rock, far to the southeast. I take up a position about twenty yards behind her, and grimly prepare to spend the next couple days staring at her back.

As the sun slowly wheels across the sky, Mjoll slowly stalks across Solstheim, passing through a town, over a bridge, through a mountain pass, across a couple corpses, and along the steps of an ancient temple strewn with dragon skeletons, not showing much interest in any of it. It's dusk and we've crossed half the island before any danger presents itself.

If firing my loyal wife, making her walk home from a foreign country, and spying on her all day doesn't make me sound like a terrible husband, this probably will: I decide not to help her fight off the various threats that begin to appear. As anyone who has spent time in Skyrim knows, simply walking near an NPC will cause them to stop in their tracks and talk to you. If the NPC is walking somewhere, they will sometimes even walk off in a different direction than they were headed before they stopped to chat. I'm trying to avoid even casual interaction with Mjoll, because I don't want to muck up whatever travel plans she has. See, I'm doing this for science, and not because I'm a horrible uncaring jerk.

So, when she's attacked by some ash hoppers (giant crickets found in Solstheim), I watch her kill them. When a Burnt Spriggan sets her on fire, I watch as she hacks it into charred lumber. Further down the road, an angry wood elf conjures up a ghost wolf and some sort of elemental guardian, and I watch as she has considerable trouble dispatching the latter. An hour later, she comes across an Ice Wizard and a Fire Wizard, who are going toe-to-toe in an attempt to answer the eternal question: which is mightier, ice or fire? Mjoll answers the question for them, and Mjoll's answer is Mjoll .

It's the middle of the night when Mjoll finally reaches Raven Rock. She strolls to the docks and climbs aboard the ship I use when I need to travel between Skyrim and Solstheim. She doesn't speak to the captain, she simply walks across the deck, appears to reach out and touch a barrel... and then fades from sight.

Okay! I guess that's how NPCs handle cross-continental travel: magic barrel-poking. Question answered. Though... now I'm kind of curious if I can catch up to her in Skyrim. I pay the captain to take me to Windhelm, but when I arrive I don't see Mjoll anywhere. Maybe now the game has transported her to Riften? If not, where would she have gone? South, I guess. I jump into the icy river to see if she's paddling sluggishly around near the bottom, but I can't see much, so I run up the bank on the opposite side. There's a female NPC walking around near the bridge that's south of Riften, but it's not my wife.

I run around a bit more, and eventually spot a figure walking across another bridge, off in the distance, headed west. It's her! For some reason, she's taken off her ebony armor and cult mask and is instead clothed in her original duds. Weird. On the other hand, cool! I found her! Now to continue following her for days like a bizarre creep. I also can't help but notice she's not walking in the direction of Riften. She seems to be heading west and soon crosses a river to head north, aiming for Dawnstar. Why would she be going there?

I'm puzzling over this when a dragon rudely lands right in front of me and starts turning me into a popsicle. Come on, stupid dragon, I'm trying to keep a low profile while I stalk my wife. A couple hacks from my enchanted battleaxe and it's dead. Mjoll calmly strolls right through the middle of the disintegrating dragon, and then of course there's the usual pompous noisy business as I devour the dragon's soul, so I think a low profile might be out the window at this point. At least she didn't stop to talk to me.

As I clump after her through the night, periodically watching her get into pitched battles with marauders and murderers, it occurs to me that perhaps I should not be standing around, twiddling my gauntleted thumbs, while she has to repeatedly fight for her life. Maybe I can help, without being too obvious about it, by going out on point and handling anything threatening before it reaches her. Also, if she has to continuously stop to fight every man and monster that comes roaring out of the underbrush, this trip is going to take forever.

I skirt around her and sprint ahead along the route she's taking, looking for danger to de-dangerize. A snowy sabre cat leaps out at me, giving me a good chance to try out the new Bend Will shout I learned in the Dragonborn content, which lets you tame dragons but can also pacify other hostile creatures. When Mjoll finally catches up, all she sees is a random guy dressed exactly like her husband with a peaceful giant tiger monster sitting next to him. Once she's walked by, I kill the cat (the shout's effects don't last terribly long), and sprint ahead again, looking for more threats.

The morning comes, and Mjoll continues her uninterrupted stroll, perhaps curious about at all the fresh corpses now littering the road ahead of her. She walks past several dead sabre cats, a couple dead wolves, two dead frost trolls, a beheaded skooma dealer, and a living giant frost spider oddly indifferent to her presence, almost as if someone had shrieked magical will-bending dragon curses in its face.

There's an even more unusual sight as she reaches the top of a hill: someone dressed like her husband, lying on the ground, completely paralyzed. Seems he maybe got a little bored waiting for her, and maybe decided to pass the time by eating some of his alchemical ingredients to determine their effects, and one ingredient from Solstheim, Netch Jelly, maybe has paralyzation properties, and so he maybe keeled over onto his back like a big dumb statue. Maybe . As she passes his stiff body, he clambers to his feet, looks at her, and then races off into the trees. Whoever he is.

A little further ahead, I spot a wolf and a horse fighting to the death. Naturally, I side with the horse, and I'm surprised to discover that the horse turns out to be my actual, owned horse, who I haven't seen in months. I have no idea what he's doing out here, but it seems like the whole Braul family is back together for this dysfunctional roadtrip. Speaking of dysfunctional, every time I dismount to kill something, my horse starts walking away, so I have to spend twice as much time chasing him down. Eventually, I just let him leave to wherever he's going. I don't have time for horse-following, I'm busy wife-following.

Night is falling again as we approach Solitude, where I've remembered I own a home, which I assume is where Mjoll is actually headed instead of Riften or Dawnstar. It also appears she's going to be doing some swimming again, since she's approaching it from across the bay. She walks into the water and disappears, and I follow, though I almost immediately lose sight of her. Then, from behind me, I hear her angrily shouting "This ends now!" I swim back and pop out of the water, only to find her standing near the shore, aiming a bow at me. Jeez! What the heck did I do, besides creepily follow you around for days and almost let you die several times?

Turns out, she's actually attacking (and verbally threatening) some slaughterfish that swam too close for her liking. I begin bellowing at swinging my axe as well, before realizing the fish are a good twenty feet away and I'm just chopping air. Mjoll quickly kills all three fish at range, walks past me wordlessly, and starts paddling across the bay. I haven't felt that stupid since, well, yesterday, when I paralyzed myself in front of her.

Emerging on the far bank, I realize I'm not even sure how to walk into Solitude, since I generally opt to poke it on my map and materialize inside it. Mjoll knows, though. She climbs through a pass and finds a door built into the rock that I didn't know was there. A circular staircase leads to a tunnel, the tunnel leads to the streets of Solitude, and the streets lead to the back door of our home (I also had no idea we had a back door.)

I walk up to Mjoll in our dining room. "How nice to see you again," she says sweetly, as if it's been days since she's seen me. As if she didn't just see me swinging my axe impotently at fish that were nowhere near me. As if she didn't see me repeatedly chasing my stupid horse all over Skyrim. As if she didn't see me chow down on handful of jelly and keel over like a stroke victim. That's tact.

I know I originally set out to write about the new followers in Dragonborn, but with a wife like Mjoll, why would I ever need another?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - (Fraser Brown)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is as much a platform for mods as it is an open-world RPG about dumb dragons and dumber Vikings. Over the last seven years, an inconceivable number of them have been crafted, and while plenty have fallen by the wayside, others have become essential mainstays in anyone s mod library.

With Skyrim Special Edition, things got a bit more complicated. Some old mods worked, some exploded, some sort of worked and then exploded – they were unpredictable. Now, though, things have calmed down. Most of the big mods have been ported over, and there are alternatives in those cases where they haven t been. Regardless of which version you have, your biggest obstacle will be setting aside the time required to sift through them all. That s where this list comes in.


DOOM II - (Dominic Tarason)

We’re just shy of Halloween here and the stars are aligning, allowing unholy powers to warp Doom into strange, near-unrecognisable forms through the powerfully dark act of modding>. Out tonight is Total Chaos, a survival horror mod so grand in its ambition that it leaves almost nothing recognisable as ‘Doom’, with detailed 3D environments and modern horror style. More traditional but still impressive is an early demo of The Crimson Deed, a vampire-themed dungeon crawl. Check out trailers for both below, plus some Quake-related surprises from 3D Realms. (more…)

Fallout: New Vegas - (Dominic Tarason)

Fallout 76 may be on the horizon, with Bethesda preemptively warning players of ‘spectacular’ bugs, but fans hungry for a more traditional, solo apocalypse are well served today. Fallout: New California might technically be a mod for Fallout: New Vegas, but it’s closer to a whole new game. Set out in the New California Republic twenty years before The Courier got shot in the face, there’s a new map two thirds the size of New Vegas, and a branching, voiced story that developers Radian-Helix Media reckon can take between six and thirty hours to finish. Below, the trailer.


Fallout 3

It's easy to understand why brutalism has been such a potent source of architectural inspiration for games. The raw forms - solid, legible and with clear lineation - are the perfect material for level designers to craft their worlds with. Simultaneously, these same structures are able to ignite imaginations and gesture outwards, their dramatic shapes and monumental dimensions shocking and attention-seizing.

Brutalism is a branch of architecture that spans roughly 30 years (1950s-1970s). It was borne out of the devastation of two world wars, when there was a need to rebuild. In this aftermath brutalism became a vital global phenomenon. If you live in a city, you've no doubt passed by a hulking example.

The term derives from a French invention: b ton brut, meaning raw concrete. This is the structure's most prominent feature - sheer concrete surface, often left rough, exposed or unfinished. Significant in the emergence of brutalism was the architect Le Corbusier and his Unit d'Habitation. Built from reinforced concrete, the housing unit was an attempt to create what Le Corbusier called "a machine for living" - a place that met our every need. It was a thoroughly modern, progressive and even utopian conception of architecture. Regardless of the visual force of brutalism, it's impossible to divorce it from this socio-historical background.

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