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I will admit to a certain wateriness in my eyes when I heard the music. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was and is, I believe, almost more a state of mind than it is a roleplaying game. A strange and desolate place, built upon a foundation of distrust, it is almost aggressively lonely. As an RPG, the precursor to Oblivion and Skyrim is all over the shop, but that never mattered because it was a place to disappear into. The mist, the mushrooms, the menace. The music. Elder Scrolls games since have been playgrounds first and Other Places second, and I don t know how they can go back now.
Going back is exactly the plan. Morrowind is a standalone expansion-cum-relaunch of The Elder Scrolls Online [official site] (ESO), Bethesda s massively multiplayer spin-off of the series that gave us Skyrim. It’s due for release this June and I’ve taken a look.
Valve's for their work did not survive contact with the PC gaming community. When the proposal was announced in April 2015 with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as a pilot game, it was met with a mixture of opposition and praise that Valve called "a dump truck of feedback." The plan was in just four days.
To some, the notion of paying modders was contrary to the spirit of modding. Many suggested a donation scheme for Steam Workshop modders as an alternative to traditional pricing. Others, including themselves, made the case that revenue sharing was long overdue for a group of creators that had produced beloved work over so many years.
"We underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models, and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim's workshop," Valve's Alden Kroll wrote at the time. "We understand our own game's communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here."
Almost two years later, Valve is speaking again about paying modders for their work. In a roundtable interview at Valve attended by PC Gamer and other press on Thursday, Valve's Gabe Newell expressed the company's intention to take a second crack at paid modding on Steam at some point in the future.Responding a question about the topic from editor Jeff Grubb, Newell talked broadly about the importance of Steam producing useful information for creators about their work.
"In a sense you want to have really good signal to noise ratios in how the gaming community signals to developers 'Yeah, do more of that.' Or, 'No, please, don't release any more of those ever.' And [modders] create a lot of value, and we think that … absolutely they need to be compensated, they're creating value and the degree to which they're not being accurately compensated is a bug in the system, right? It's just inserting noise into it," said Newell. "You want to have efficient ways so that the people who are actually creating value are the people that money is flowing to."
This language is stronger than the mostly apologetic blog post Valve left us with ("We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here"), and it makes clear Valve's commitment to bringing back paid mods.
Newell continued to acknowledge that Valve's first attempt at monetizing modding was painful for the company. "The Skyrim situation was a mess. It was not the right place to launch that specific thing and we did some sort of ham-handed, stupid things in terms of how we rolled it out," he said. "EJ [Valve's Erik Johnson] basically said we just need to back off of this for now, but the fundamental concept of 'the gaming community needs to reward the people who are creating value' is pretty important, right? … the degree to which Valve helps contribute to efficiency in the system is one of the ways in which we're adding value to the system as a whole. So, you know, we have to just figure out how to do it in a way that makes customers happy and that they buy into it, it makes creators happy because they feel like the system is rational and is rewarding the right people for the work that they do. Does that make sense?"
Newell didn't elaborate on what Valve would do differently in the future, but it'd be surprising if this eventual second attempt was tied to a big game with a heavily established modding scene such as Skyrim. "[Skyrim] gave us a ton of information. But there was also a little bit of 'That burner is hot. Maybe we wait awhile before we put our fingers on that burner again.'"
Skyblivion [official site], the huge fan project to remake The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as a Skyrim mod, is picking up pace. We had a peek at their progress in December and, the dev team say, that video helped them recruit a load more help. “We have made more progress in the 2 months after the release of our update video than we have in the year prior to it,” they say. Crumbs! So let’s take a look at a new video showing what they’ve done in those two months: … [visit site to read more]
It's no secret that Morrowind is my favorite Elder Scrolls game of all time, and so I very much hope that this Reddit thread, which claims to have datamined a map of Vvardenfell in The Elder Scrolls Online, isn't some sort of hoax. What it teases isn't exactly the land of Dunmer and the Tribunal as it was—there are no Imperial outposts, for one thing, because the island isn't an Imperial colony during the time of TESO—but it comes awfully close.
The poster claims to have found "a ton of new tilesets" for Redoran, Telvanni, and Hlaalu towns, Vivec (the city, not the God-King), Dunmer strongholds, and Dwemer ruins. Seyda Neen, the town where Morrowind begins, is also in there, and apparently uses custom assets that make it look exactly as it did in 2002. Red Mountain appears to be inaccessible, and the foreign quarter in Vivec, the largest city on the island, isn't there either. (Which, like the absence of Imperial castles, makes sense: The Elder Scrolls Online predates Morrowind by roughly 1000 years.)
But there will also be new places to explore, including Redoran and Hlaalu towns, one near the Andasreth stronghold and the other close to Caldera, that weren't present in Morrowind. Based on the development maps, it will also be the largest PvE zone in the game, even with Red Mountain cordoned off—possibly close to twice the size of the Wrothgar zone.
It's all unverified, but as VG247 points out, it's awfully detailed for a hoax. Also relevant is that May 1 will mark Morrowind's 15th anniversary, and given that it's the game that really pushed The Elder Scrolls series into the gaming mainstream, I'd be truly surprised if Bethesda didn't do something to celebrate. Giving players a chance to return to return to Vvardenfell, even centuries prior to the Septim Dynasty, would serve the purpose nicely.
If I was a betting man, I’d have put money on Enderal, the vast Skyrim total conversion, winning the public vote for ModDB‘s mod of the year. That I’d have lost all that money is why I’m not a betting man. Enderal came second behind Stalker: Call of Chernobyl, a similarly vast total conversion for the enduring Stalker: Call of Pripyat. … [visit site to read more]
SureAI’s huge Skyrim total conversion Enderal: The Shards of Order [official site], which builds a whole new game upon Bethesda’s foundations, is getting an expansion of its own in 2017. Enderal’s launch this year was dang impressive – “play this excellent mod,” said Cobbo – but a few bits were cut from the initial release. Now the game’s lead writer has picked those up off the cutting room floor and is polishing them up for Forgotten Stories with 10-20 hours of new quests and new quest lines, along with a few other nice odds and ends. Have a peek in the announcement trailer below. … [visit site to read more]
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.
As another year ends, it’s time to reflect on all that’s been done and all that’s still to come. So they tell me, anyway; I try to drink away any concept of the past or future. But bless ’em, the gang remaking The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion have worked hard and are proud of their work. A new trailer shows off Skyblivion [official site] as it stands now and yep, that’s looking a lot like Oblivion rebuilt in Skyrim. … [visit site to read more]
DOOM, Skyrim and Fallout have been recreated as Pinball FX2 [official site] tables. Because nobody else at RPS has the flippin’ guts to take on such a massive task, I’ve spent a couple of hours with each, and have now judged them. Short version, I like them about as much as I like the games they’re based on, which means one is great, and the other two are a bit of a ballache. To find out precisely what I mean by that, join me below.