I’m split between two Switch games this month: Skyrim and (don’t judge me) Farming Simulator, the best zen-out pretend tractor simulator ever made.
I’m revisiting the world of Skyrim, a six year old game that was recently released in carry-around-with-you-mode for Switch, and worth every penny I scraped out of my mad money fund to buy it.
There is a broad, fuzzy, blurry, guilt-ridden no man’s land that is part of every game purchase, a place between Point A when I’ve reluctantly typed my PIN number into the credit card terminal and Point B when I feel like I’ve justified typing my PIN number into that credit card terminal. This justification comes in the form of value: entertainment value, experience value, novelty value, or just general I-now-don’t-feel-like-I’ve-wasted-my-money value.
Having paid for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim multiple times, the math on that value equation is exponentially more complex to compute. One needs to factor in a long list of other variables not limited to but including things like nostalgia, updated content add-ons included in late versions or even one’s previous purchase of a cheat manual that is technically out-of-date but useful enough to nudge a frustrated player through most situations as required.
Ten hours into my third Skyrim playthrough, this time on the Nintendo Switch, and having kicked off writing this series of posts I’m calling my Skyrim Adventure Journal … well… actually I haven’t settled on a proper name yet so never mind that part… but, having kicked off writing this series of posts and videos and general commentary recapping my time in this overgrown land of playing with magic and fighting dragons and picking mountain flowers for hours upon hours, alas, I feel like the math on my value justification is starting to reconcile itself into a positive number.
I’m making progress, in other words, and pushing through the story…
When I bought this game for the first time on launch day in 2011, it hadn’t even slightly occurred to me that I’d even remember Skyrim let alone still be talking about it years later as a six year old title. Yet, here I am about to deep dive back into this game. What a sucker.
A misguided sense of longing for this virtual world has compelled me to pick up this title once again (in two-thousand-seven-almost-eight-teen) and for the third time restart this epic quest from the very beginning and play it through. How far? To the end? To a point of diminishing returns? To the first sign of summer weather and the desire to do something besides hibernate and play video games? A combination of all three, no doubt.
You may choose to follow along.
As the title of this post implies, I have it in my head to write a narrative play along with many parts, chronicling the effort. Perhaps it will justify my raw gaming as something more creative or enduring than just pissing away the hours pushing buttons. Maybe it can help me feel better about the expense of my buying the systems and these games with my own hard-earned money. Or perhaps it will just call me out as a mediocre gamer with a writing obsession. Either way, with the ability to capture thirty second clips and share them on this blog, whenever I reach a threshold minimum of footage– or like I said, until I get bored and stop posting — I’ll write my adventures (back) in the land of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Now would be a good time to tune out and click away if you have anything less than a fanatical interest in role playing video games. No? You’re going to keep reading. Alright. I warned you… let’s play.
So, thanks to a weekend Steam sale, I finally picked up some (steeply discounted) copies of some of 2011’s Elder Scroll V: Skyrim downloadable add-on content: Dragonborn and Hearthfires. I’ve had this game installed on my same computer since release day, so that may account for some of the mild agitation I encountered while trying to install it. Thirty minutes… just trying to get the two dollar add-on to recognize and install.
That doesn’t seem worth it.
As a result, I figured I’d write a little note to future bumbling middle aged gamers like me who (a) encounter the same issue and (b) can’t be bothered to watch the cryptic and awkward youtube tutorials created by countless teenagers who don’t quite get tech support and (c) just want to spend their hour of free gaming time ACTUALLY playing, not fixing issues.
To get it to work I needed to:
1) “Verify Integrity of Game Cache” which is a little button located in Steam > Library > Games > Properties (Right Click) > Local Files
2) This ran for about five minutes, found some kind of error (who cares?) then downloaded an update/patch/fix of some kind.
3) I then hit Play, loaded up the game and on the little windowed launch screen, checked Dragonborn.esm & Hearthfires.esm > Click OK
4) Relaunch the game and everything seemed to work.
Now, hopefully I’ll have some time in the next couple weeks to actually try it out. *sigh*
I found myself playing Skyrim again on the weekend. (I’d blame my daughter whose cross-country-skiing-induced tantrum resulted in a two-hour time-out in her room, and left me on idle-and-frustrated guard duty… but I won’t. Any excuse, really.) I jumped back into my PS3 saved game, which apparently had been sitting ignored for roughly a full year between plays resulting in the observations that (a) I was sorely out of practice and (b) the skills I had nurtured in this particular play-through we deeply dependent on practice and I was essentially left starting from scratch. That’s okay, though… I still love you Skyrim.
Apparently if you write a post with the word “Skyrim” in it you’ll get some traffic. One post and over 1500 hits in two weeks without trying … I’m so in the wrong business.
It was well over a year and a half ago now when I found myself completely obsessed by the open world fantasy role playing game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’d downloaded a release day copy for my PC through Steam and over the span of about three or four months played far more than a mid-thirties guy with a kid and a job really should have.
Insert Abrupt Pause Here…
And then spring arrived. And some running goals fell into the mess. And that darned thing called life got in the way of a perfectly good video game.
I’d poked my head back into the vast and expansive world of Skyrim once or twice since, but my career as a dragon-slaying Nord-ess ended fairly abruptly as my priorities shifted. And, picking back up where one left off after such an extreme shift in engagement… not as easy as it sounds.
But then not completely forgotten, either.
About a week ago the Internet was ablaze with the release of the latest installment of the Grand Theft Auto series. GTA:V, as I understand it, is another vast, open world game, but that’s where it’s similarities to games like Skyrim end. And it’s also where my discussion of that game ends: with me saying the GTA series, as much as I’ve played past versions, are just not my cup-of-tea.
But back downtown, near where I work, is a video game shop in the mall. And on one particular morning last week, when I happened to wander by, a few dozen guys about my age, most in neatly pressed business attire, were patiently lined up waiting to grab their copy of the much anticipated “five” pre-ordered and waiting to be loaded into Playstations and Xboxes across the city and around the world.
“Impulse Shopping” Meets “Been Thinking About It Anyhow”
I decided to be different. Not deliberately, mind you, but when I wandered back to the store at lunch there was a pre-played copy of my long lost friend Skyrim — but for PS3, not PC — for little less than twenty bucks.
- for those who will first off say I’ve downgraded going from a PC version to a console version on the PS3, you are right. But what I’ve lost in graphics and control finesse, is more than made up by the fact I can play on the couch on a giant HDTV instead of in the basement, in a squeaky office chair, on a monitor less than a quarter the size.
- unlike last time when a four-year-old Claire was a little bit too young to even watch me play, the six year old Claire that lives at our house now LOVES the game and, in fact, told me she made up her own game to play during recess at school where she runs around fighting dragons and doing pretend magic in school yard. I’m still the one who actually plays the video game though.
- having decided to deliberately make different character and plot choices — some as early as minutes into the game — I’m surprised at how similar the early stages of the game are to the last time I played.
- it is just as addictive the second time through. Whatever perfect combination of game-play and simulated feedback the game designers stumbled upon in creating this piece — or whether it simply found a gaping hole in my brain to crawl into and set up home forever, I can’t tell — it’s like the obsession bloomed right back into full life only a couple hours after starting up the new adventure.
- I still don’t think it’s cheating to use the game guide and I pulled out my –only slightly dusty– copy almost before the game had finished downloading its initial installation updates.
- my updates are going to be far less interesting here because I cannot do screen grabs on the PS3… so you’re stuck with whatever old or stock imagery I can dig up elsewhere.
To quote another fantasy franchise: Winter is coming. And apparently that means juggling some dragon slaying in with my ongoing marathon training… provided I get to use the TV once in a while.
Deep down, I’m a real big sucker for this kind of thing. Mash-ups in general: definitely. But gamer-mash-ups especially: drool…
I was browsing the Steam Workshop, a creative hub of sorts for people who — not quite satisfied with the game as it stands — have pieced together modifications that can be blended into the original and add new features or tweaks to the game play. Or maybe they’re just exercising their creativity in an otherwise restrictive consumer experience. Either way, Steam and the makers of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (hereafter just Skyrim) not only openly allow this, they facilitate it by providing tools and a venue (ie, the Steam Workshop) to make it easy and manage-able.
Some of the early tweaks I had found and added, way back when I was playing more often, were mods that improved the sound packs, or tweaked some of the user interface. But in the eight or so months since I more frequently played it seems that folks have been getting more creative with their mods.
Subscribe to the MinerFriends mod and next time you log into the Skyrim game an unassuming marker appears on your world map. Explore, wander or fast-travel your way over to the new location and you’ll quickly find yourself in something both uniquely jarring and downright epic.
In fact, I having fast-traveled to the location marked simply as “Craft’s Mine” quickly found myself in the middle of a pitch battle, being attacked by none other than a rogue zombie and a sprinting creeper (neither commonly seen in the snowy mountains of Skyrim, though quite common in the wastelands of my Minecraft server.) Fortunately, between myself and my new buddy Steve we were able to dispatch the pair of baddies with a few brisk swings of the battle-axe… but I was a bit slower on grabbing my screenshots.
Familiar or not with either Skyrim or Minecraft, you might be able to tell from the art that something doesn’t quite fit with the other thing. Hint: The over-saturated blocky-ness of the Minecraft universe stands out quite abruptly from the earthy-toned, oil-painted-esque hues of Skyrim. Thus, a mash-up is born.
I don’t want to gush… at least not too much. The mod — the concept, the execution, the mash-up as a whole — is pretty awesome, and as you might be able to surmise from the screenshots there are a few nifty gems pulled from the familiar pixelated world of Minecraft and plunged into the quite disparate world of Skyrim that had me clicking the screenshot key and pondering writing herein all sorts of ideas here about the nature of art, and the blending of styles, and the very concept of layering games together.
But… well, I’m not really an expert on any of that.
Rather, I’d like to just — perhaps maybe — leave it hanging there as a kind of philosophical question on the nature of art. I mean, some folks would have a serious problem with adding this kind of obtrusion to their game play. Not me, but some. Some folks might call this a break from what an artist — if I can use the term to describe someone who designs the look and feel of a game world — intended. And sure, that’s the question, isn’t it? How do we react when someone, say, rewrites Jane Austen to incorporate a zombie apocalypse? Or name any musical mash-up, movie parody, or, well, whatever…
This isn’t the first. It’s not the last. Think about it. And ultimately? Well, it brought me a little bit of joy on a quiet Thursday evening. So, you know my vote.
Down to the real problem: I’m not sure who owns the art on a mash-up like this. Who do I credit for the screenshots? On the one hand, the world comes courtesy of Bethesda and The Elder Scrolls. On the other, Minecraft and the artwork dubbed over is probably owned by Mojang. But then it’s all been pieced together in the Minerfriends mod in the Steam workshop by a guy alias’d as poisu555. And finally I composed and snapped them. Whoever? I just took some screen grabs using F12, so… share and enjoy.
Oh, Skyrim. I haven’t forgotten you.
I haven’t forgotten you, Skyrim!
I’ve just had other things going on. Running. Living. Being outside in the real world. I know you’ll understand.
Tomorrow being the one year anniversary of the release date of one of my (recent) favorite game titles, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it has been on my mind that despite last winter’s minor obsession with the game I haven’t actually cracked it open in a very long time. In fact, according to Steam, I hadn’t even loaded so much as the title screen since last April, and even then I think it was just to run the updater and see if anything interesting happened.
I decided, what with the bitter cold, snow, and otherwise quiet and free-time-filled morning I was having on this long-weekend Saturday, that I would sneak some time for the game, open it up for another quick peek in the vast and crazy world of Skyrim, and see how all my old NPC pals were faring with their epic dragon war, and such.
It took fifteen minutes to download all the updates, convert the save files, and churn through whateverness before I once again found myself standing on a stone bridge in the middle of some mountain pass being pummeled with arrows.
Here I was, trying to orient my near-invincible, uber-powered-up character and re-familiarize myself with the long-forgotten control scheme, and some dude in the bushes was taking me out one ping at a time.
And then another familiar screen popped up: I got killed. Oops… and reload.
No use re-starting my adventures on a completely sour note.
Let’s start this again: I load back into the middle of a arrow-fight and immediately turn tail and run off down the path. No use re-starting my adventures on a completely sour note.
Last time I played I — apparently — was on my way to some distant corner of the map to visit a city that (in my 60+ hours of game play) had not quite got around to checking out yet: Markarth, a corrupt little hamlet nestled into the side of a mountain, a town who’s economy wrapped neatly around the local silver mine, and a town which, upon my entering, was suddenly shaken by a brutal late night murder in the middle of the street. Insert climactic musical score here. Oh, how convenient that I had arrived just at that moment to be lured into investigating and unraveling the deep seated corruption of the local leader and hidden indentured servitude of the townsfolk.
I went and explored a haunted house instead. Yeah. So, I didn’t want to jump into a grand and epic major story-line plot quite yet… sue me.
Minor side quest? Sure, not problem. Explore this mysterious house, venture off into the wilderness to take on some low-level villains, rescue a weird-priest-kinda-guy from a mystery fortress, and earn some wacky artifact-slash-weapon.
Of course, back in the real world I dug out my trusty game guide. I don’t know that I stirred any controversy with my post, but over four hundred people have read my little article on the value of using a play guide while gaming. And for those folks, here’s yet another argument from experience: when you turn the game off for the summer and then try and go back to it eight to ten months later, the game guide comes in pretty handy in figuring out what the heck was going on again. I don’t exactly file the plots of this huge, epic story in my head for long term storage, dig? And that telephone-book-sized sheath of paper just came in really useful to solve some sudden and possibly important questions: Like, why exactly am I wandering through this mountain pass again? And, is leading some random guy off to be sacrificed to some random alter I found in a random and mysterious abandoned house a good thing for my character? Or, is it even random?
In the end I wandered back out into the streets of Markarth and saved my game. I’m not planning on falling into another deep obsession with the world of Skyrim this winter. I’ll dabble, sure. And the game is designed to suck you in and latch onto your mind so that you start thinking about it more than you really should, planning your next strategic play, figuring out the proper path for upgrading your character with skill points or even writing about your imaginary adv…
I’ve got no affiliation, association, or connection with any of these games. Screens have been captured during my own personal game-play using Steam (press F12) and this is all just my random, amateur opinion. Share and Enjoy.
I was, earlier today while working on some of those mindless tasks at the office, listening to a podcast interview with David Hodgson. Hodgson is (sort-of) known as the guy who writes a lot of game strategy guides, particularly for the games I’ve personally been playing a lot of lately — Fallout and Skyrim, to be specific.
While I didn’t ever pick up the strategy guide for Fallout, I have lately (after clocking over fourty hours of play therein) purchased the guide for Skyrim. The book is a telephone directory-sized tome of small-fonted, screen-capped goodness, measuring at somewhere over seven hundred pages, and detailing locations, characters, sub-plots, and checklists for a whole breadth of in-game complexity. And — though I’m certain there will be some who doubt my honesty in this statement — the only reason I bought the damn thing is that — with so many inter-tangled and cross-linked quests and chores within the game — I’m having trouble keeping track of finer points of the plot in my head. I’m mostly using it for a refresher for loose threads picked up later in my game-play and also a broader-context summary of the story-so-far. Only occasionally will you find me poking at the spoilers.
A “reloaded” post is a quick-clipped summary of a bunch of small things from the past few days. I want to write them down, but I am either lacking in (a) details or (b) time. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Enjoy.
On the Tick
For the fourth year in a row, approximately mid-morning on New Year’s Day, I found myself standing in the start line of Resolution Run garbed in a brand new (blue) race jacket and in some state of freezing and recovery from the holiday past. The five click jaunt around a neighborhood in South Edmonton isn’t meant to be much more than a primed start to the turn of the annum… followed by a pancake breakfast. It had been a warm week leading into the holiday followed sharply by a cold snap which left the considerable melt water as a slick, icy surface on many roads and sidewalks. A few of my running mates an I gathered right near the front of the pack, hoping to avoid the typical glom of mixed-speed walk-joggers who (in this race in particular) seem to populate the middle of the group. I got a good start, was pushed for the first click or so by the need to grab some speed (for the benefit of those at my back) where the passing wasn’t so good, and maintained a solid pace for the duration. My time, personal record and all, was a thirty-minute plus zero second watch time, on the tick. I still hurt.
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
I don’t usually sucumb to buying new video games within any reasonable timeframe of their release. Why bother? Year-old games often sell for one-fifth to one-tenth the original price, have been patched to a state of stability usually not seen during the first few months of any new game, and — heck — I still have a small stack of games to make any progress in already. But, with my co-workers and others talking up the latest Elder Scrolls RPG, and the Steam holiday sale handing it over at a reasonable discount I fell into the Boxing Day shopping spirit and bought a copy late on Christmas Day. A combination of a post-holiday illness, some family-down-time, and lots of free hours between then and now, and I’ve logged (approaching) twenty-odd hours in the land of Skyrim, succeeded in grinding up my character to a reasonably powered tank, and slayed a half-dozen dragons. I find it very much like (by the same developer) Fallout 3, minus the post-apocalyptic wasteland and with the added benefit of less reliance on ranged weapons (Fallout 3 is all guns, which sucks for melee guys like me.) It’s a good game. I’m enjoying it.
A few months ago a scored a copy of Small World for the iPad. I don’t remember why. I’d never played the board game, but the reviews all raved about how this was the best game since Settlers and Ticket to Ride and… hey… I like those games, too. I bought it. I downloaded it. I played it. I didn’t get it. I stopped playing it. Fast-forward a couple months until we attended Chris’ annual games night on New Years Eve-Eve, and someone pulled out a copy of Small World and asks if I want to play. “Yes.” I reply without hesitation. “Teach me. I want to know why this game is so great.” Two hours later, fingers greasy from the pizza that mysteriously appeared while I was playing, I was pronounced the absolute loser in a tutorial-speed game, trounced by an experienced player, a nine-year old kid, and some guy who wandered in to take over from another novice who had to go home half way through. But, in understanding the game, I now can be counted amongst it’s fans. And I can beat the iPad, too.