Tuesday, 29 November 2011

More Than Mildly Annoyed With Skyrim

I know I have some regular viewers even if I don't know who they actually are...so I'm still alive despite not posting for over a week or thereabouts.

I've been playing Age of Conan again and considering what's been happening with my Skyrim game I'll be staying with AOC, Deus Ex and other mostly stable games for awhile yet if the imminent patch for Skyrim this week doesn't fix the freezes and sudden exits to desktop.  There are the texture bugs as well but that's tolerable, lockups are not.

I started out the game with no problems at all except for only one freeze and a couple of sudden exits to the desktop in over 50 hours that I can remember, but tonight I decided to play after a week's hiatus doing other things, and it froze twice in less than an hour and that includes the time having to hard reset the PC...twice.   After all the drama I've had with HDD failure this and last year I'm not happy having to hard reset frequently because of a game, even if it is a new drive and different brand.

I also spent quite some time between lockups and play attempts researching issues including the ENBSeries dll fix but it still freezes randomly.  Doesn't seem to be a catalyst....for example I can be just walking my horse along a road and BAM....freeze, or a dragon attacks and ...again, freeze.   It's not magic effects or the sound issue some are having, but completely random, even just standing still in the middle of town doing nothing.

No need to suggest all the usual things like drivers, defragging, checking for overheating etc, etc.  been there done it all to no avail.   And it's only this game with issues.  Every other new and old game I have, (besides Oblivion) performs perfectly, except for the very occasional crash in Age of Conan after playing for 8 hours straight.  That can be excused I think.

Ironically, I haven't allowed STEAM to download the second patch as I play my STEAM games in offline mode, but from what I've read that has caused a major uproar among players and is worse than the problems I'm having now.   

I've didn't try the (serious) suggestion to run TESV.exe in Windows 95 compatibility mode...What the hell...in this day and age that is beyond ludicrous.  Maybe I should give it a whirl, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope.  I'm afraid that if the game freezes again I'll do something violent.

Anyway, it comes down to the fact that I'm sick to death of micro managing games.   Oblivion was boring, uninspiring and level scaled without mods and the only way I could play it is with it modded as much as possible.   I don't play it anymore and have no further interest in it not only because of the constant management and tweaking, but mainly because it's had it's day.  I think I've only played it a few short times this year actually.  The contrast between it and Skyrim is light years, if only Skyrim was in a stable condition.

If the forthcoming Skyrim PC patch doesn't sort out these freezes, which are affecting users of Windows XP primarily, but not exclusively according to a very long thread on the Official forums, the game is going in the cupboard until and if something is done.   Whatever the cause, it's recognized as a genuine issue and Bethesda have asked people for their DirectX reports and specific info re the problems.   So, it's not just me and a few others.   If I could afford to upgrade to Windows 7 and buy more RAM I probably would, although I'm still happy enough with XP as it does what I need.

It seems obvious that the tweaked and renamed Gamebryo engine wasn't tweaked enough or there has been some other reason for the problems, like rushing to release on the specified day which is a big mistake in the first place.  It should have been..."When it's finished", not a definite date.   Bethesda should have know better.

Then I have to wonder if these freezes, graphic issues, quest bugs, and animation glitches like activators not working, (switches and puzzle elements in dungeons etc) weren't picked up in testing, assuming it was done on various systems besides consoles and they have their own problems.   Surely someone noticed things weren't in a stable state.

I'm trying  very hard not to be a whiner and complain about the obvious console porting and lack of love for faithful PC users who actually supported the devs over the years only to be kicked in the teeth with a console port.  There's more than enough whining and generally insulting, juvenile behaviour on the Official and Nexus forums, but hopefully that will settle down after a certain number of people have had their five minutes of fame and their user name in a flame thread....often as the instigator.

Anyhow, here's hoping Bethesda come to the party and support this game more than they did Oblivion and if not the talented modders we have may do their magic and fix all ills.....when the Creation kit is released.

I just found this very basic list of things that are supposed to be fixed. for all platforms.  I love how they say "rare" bugs when some of them seem to be happening with annoying frequency to a lot of people.

The author of this article mentions other things he or she would like to see fixed.  I'll add a few I'd like to see way before decorating and marriage fixes.   The ability for horses to step backwards, not be suicidal heroes and the sole attraction for bandits and monsters, more UI fixes than listed there but I guess it's a start, the disappearing or weirdly distorting textures bug, quests fixed and general stability issues fixed.  Not to mention level scaling which is still there for loot tables and general balancing.  I hate level scaling.

Hurry on Wednesday for the PC patch.  (And the Xboxers patch...lol)

Another thing....for heaven's sake, can we have less cabbages.  Phew!!!  What about a few turnips instead.  /jk

Friday, 18 November 2011

Horse Tales (!) And A Dog

I've been playing PC games since back in the 1990's and I can truly say no game has engrossed and enthralled me like Skyrim has and I give a big thanks to Bethesda and everyone involved in it's development.

I have never ever played a game that has gotten me so immersed in it's story and the complete feeling of the game itself.  Not even Oblivion.  The night before last I killed a dragon at a small village where several other NPC's and guards also took part.   When I absorbed the dragon soul they all said "I've never seen anything like that before," and then with awe and respect they cried "Dovahkiin...Dragonborn!"   I know it's all scripted but I actually shed a tear because the voice acting and emotion is so well done.

I found this video on Youtube that translates the dragon language in the main theme.  This theme is just incredible and really stirs the blood.  I can listen to it over and over.   The complete game music package is a triumph of composition.  I usually, if possible, turn off game music in the game ini, or Options because it annoys me after awhile, but I listen to this in game and never get sick of it.

I've had very few problems which I'm sure will be patched or modded and in the whole scheme of things are really pretty minor.  The UI still annoys the hell out of me, but not as much as the map.  That I will never like.  I've gotten used to the menus and having to use the keyboard since there's no other choice, but even that is not perfect.   When  using the keys in menus and dialogue the incorrect response is often selected which can be frustrating in battle or in dialogue with NPC's.   Plus, if one wants to remap their keys it breaks others as some are used for multiple purposes.

A game of this scope and massive content is bound to have a few issues...besides the UI and it annoys me sometimes to see people nitpick the most minor things seemingly to just have a whinge as though they were determined to not like it or find issues.

Another thing I hope is fixed is the horse controls.  As I mentioned in another post the controls are awful.  I've also discovered the horse cannot move backwards, for example to back up out of a corner or the edge of a bridge or cliff that a simple key press often lands me in.  I purchased another horse last night which I will hopefully come to grips with with practice IF it doesn't rush in and get itself killed by a bandit or a dragon.  Horses are suicidal in this game, but as I've said before the biggest gripe is the old problem where enemies target it first and totally ignore me.  That is the worst thing of all.

By the way..."Tales" in the title was intentionally spelled that way. in case anyone wonders...XD. 

I love black and while animals whether it's dogs, cats or horses.  Don't know why but it's definitely nothing to do with a football team because I don't follow footy or any other sport for that matter.

Foot (hooves) soak after a long run.   The stable manager said the horse is a "she" so that's how I know...lol.

My companion Lydia disappeared while I was clearing a dungeon, part of the main quest, and I assume she will be back at my house with the gear I left with her.  I guess she got sick of waiting for me...lol.  I made her and my dog wait because I was also testing some scrolls for a mage guild member and if they got in the way they died from the extended length of the spell.  I have a heal other spell but it still wasn't enough to keep them alive, not to mention myself as the spell scrolls have to be used in melee range.  Healing myself and them constantly just wasn't an option.  

She didn't have anything really important in her inventory but I would like the dragon bones and scales back so I can sell them.  If not, well that's life.  I'll make other arrangements for baggage next time.

This is Vigilance, my war dog.  I purchased him at the Markath stables for 500 gold and he's been worth every coin.  Not only does he keep up with me as I have a fast running speed, unlike other companions who are way, way behind all the time and can't ride horses either, but he has better pathing than the NPC companions and doesn't get in my way in small dungeon corridors or fights.  He is also low enough to escape traps that companions seem to love setting off by walking over pressure plates.

I'm hoping though that Bethesda or modders do something to expand the companion options more like they are in Fallout New Vegas, but they work well anyway, so I'm not really complaining.    I have no interest in the relationship or marriage options in the game as I don't role play to that extent and I believe from what I've read it's only very basic anyway.

This is my character Tukassi in a golden mood.  I picked up some Elven armour which I actually like this time round.  The Oblivion Elven along with most of the other armours, and clothing, is just plain ugly.

A view in a cave.  This doesn't do the scene justice really as the lighting and water in game is just so beautiful, but doesn't translate to a screen shot so well and I refuse to "shop" them as it's not really true to the game.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Skyrim - So Many Distractions

I always tell myself when starting a brand new game, especially when it's an rpg, to stay focused and don't be distracted taking up every side quest, raiding dungeons as I find them and generally going exploring off the beaten track.   Waste of time...never works...lol.

I have a pile of side quests in progress, and part of the Main Quest and I can't help checking into every nook and cranny as I come across them.  I was also going to write a character story but I might just leave that for the next play though.  Too tired to think about it after playing for hours, trying to get some sleep and other real life stuff.   However, I do think this game has probably made up my mind for me re subscribing to Age of Conan as much as I also love that game.  I can't be in two games at once and Skyrim has my attention right now.  Anyway, I'll see down the track a bit.

I recently saw someone ask if there were many Argonians in the game and I can happily inform them that there are and some of them are not at all pleasant.  I'm currently doing a quest dealing with Argonian crooks and thieves...a brother and sister outfit.  The Argonians look absolutely amazing.   Very reptilian and something I would not want to come across in a dark ally.

By the way I love the variety of clothing and armour in this game.  I've found two different circlets as Tukassi is wearing here and which I can later enchant.

Argonian scam artist:

Another thing I always TRY to do is specialize in a character type, but always end up with a hybrid.  That works in Oblivion, but I'm not so sure it will work in Skyrim.   I wanted to try the stealth/assassin type of play which I usually don't have much patience for because it's slower and I usually play battlemage types.  It started out OK, but I soon reverted to being a magic user because I just love magic, although I am building my sneak, marksman and security skills, so maybe it will work.  This is my first play though obviously so there's plenty of scope for new character builds later.

I've always favoured conjuration.  So far I've only taken the basic perk which gives me this very nice familiar which is effective against lower level enemies and provides a distraction for others.  Pity it only lasts 60 seconds but when the Creation Kit arrives I'll probably change it or make a companion out of it.

Wolf Familiar One:
Wolf Familiar Two:

Billy Goat Gruff - not it's actual. name...lol, but it reminds me of the story.   We meet another famous and quite mad character from previous TES games.  Not the goat....I won't spoil it but the goat features in the quest.

Dual caster:

Alone at night in a world of snow and ice. 

I'm going to replace the Oblivion screen shot gadget at the bottom of this blog when I get enough screen shots that I like to make a new album.   Can't see myself playing Oblivion any more, or at least for some time.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Skyrim Continued

Well, despite my whinge about the menus and map I'm enjoying this game so much I can imagine playing it for years to come.   Around every corner I'm finding something to be amazed at and I'm not that easily pleased or impressed.  This beats Oblivion by many, many degrees in my opinion.  Even though I realize Oblivion is six years old it always seemed to be a blank canvas with a lot of heart missing to me, something for modders to finish.

The main story in Skyrim, side quests, music, locales, wildlife, NPC AI....and just everything I've seen so far is totally superior.  It's not about graphics for me as much as actual content and Skyrim does it better thus far, without mods, and I've a long way to travel.

Last night I was in a cave system where bandits hang out and the central cavern has to be seen to be believed.   Even the companion I have with me made a comment about it, which I realize is scripted but I couldn't have said it better.  "Would you look at that."  he said in total amazement.  I had to agree.

Every dungeon I've been in, and that's only half a dozen so far, has been totally unique and outstanding.  At one ruin I was warned off by the villains before getting too close.  I tried anyway and let's just say it didn't go well.   Will revisit that one later....  Thank you Bethesda!

I've killed my second dragon.  Took quite awhile as I had to run and hide behind some pillars, duck out, throw lots of fireballs (frost dragon) and slowly roast it.   I'm a bit sad that I have to kill them really as I prefer the mythos of dragons being higher intelligent beings and semi friendly, if aloof to mortal concerns.

I'm playing on Ultra graphics now with no problems at all and the game looks outstanding to me.  But then I'm not a graphics first freak and I'm also using Windows XP and DX9 so I'm probably not seeing the full potential.

Continuing on from the part I mentioned in the previous post about killing a witch....I now have a contract out on me.  Not only are hired thugs after me, but the surviving sister of the witch has also performed the Dark Sacrament and has paid the Dark Brotherhood to assassinate me.  Not going to work sister....  Although I suppose this means I won't be invited to join the DB any time soon...XD

I gave my character a makeover and name change using "showracemenu."   This time round clicking DONE doesn't affect stats or anything else, UNLESS you change the actual race which is understandable since they have different abilities etc.

This is Tukassi.

It's wonderful to wander the land and see NPC's actually doing things instead of standing around.  Whether it's chopping wood, cooiking, forging or many other things, it really brings the world alive.

This is at a Khajiit camp outside a city.  Khajiits aren't particularly welcome in Skyrim and I think they only tolerate me because I'm the Dragon Born and they think I'll save them from the dragon scourge.

Overlooking the mountains.

Take a wagon ride to hard to get to places.   It's just like fast travel though so there won't be any visuals of the trip in real time unfortunately, but I imagine that would be a tad difficult to say the least.

Ready to help a poor soul rescue his aunt from a necromancer doing nasty things with his dead relatives in the family tomb.  Sadly, he didn't make it at the end and neither did the aunt who was already dead anyway....and I nearly didn't as well.  Thank goodness for reloading saves...XD

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Skyrim - My First Impressions

                                           Finishing move.

I was on the doostep of our local EBgames store at 9am when they opened to pick up my copy of Skyrim.  That was mainly because I had a repairman coming to fix a fault in my phone line and it would be sometimes between 10 and 4 in the afternoon and I didn't want to miss him.  As it turned out he was right on time at 10 am and gone again 15 minutes later.

I decided to play a Khajiit first time round and they do look good.  Argonians look terrifying....in a good way. No digitigrade feet though, but the Khajiit do have whiskers.

Anyway, from the beginning...  The whole game style reminds me of Morrowind which is a very good thing IMO.

Installed through STEAM with no issues at all.  I really like STEAM as it's so easy and problem free....at least it is for me.   A patch downloaded that fixes a few bugs in the game apparently.  I didn't bother to read the changelog too closely as it affects things I haven't even seen or experienced for the most part.

I played for around five hours last night and had no crashes or other glitches.  I did have one graphic anomaly but that was driver related and reloading the game fixed it.   It happens occasionally in other games.  Nvidia are supposed to be releasing new drivers with Skyrim in mind and I think there are Beta ones already available.  I don't test Beta software, especially device drivers, so I'll wait for the real release.

I was a bit surprised to find the graphics are not as high res as expected.  I can run the game on Ultra and it looks pretty, but not outstanding.  At night time things like rocks, trees and other things seem to have a cartoon outlined look about them which looks a bit odd at times.  However, all of that is a secondary consideration as far as I'm concerned.  It's the game content I care about. 

Things I don't like first as there are only a few....so far.

Also, I've noticed that many of the things in this game were implemented in Oblivion by modders or taken from older rpg's, so they are not particularly original as far Skyrim is concerned.  It's how they are implemented that matters though as originality in any field is a rare thing to accomplish these days.

Initially, I hated the menu system but I got used to it even though there are unnecessary steps to be able to hot key an item.   You should also be able to close a container with the same key that opened it, but ...whatever, the game is a console port.

There are three things I do detest and will never get used to:
The in game map.  After opening and closing it so many times when I was trying to find a path up a mountainside (and still haven't) it gets a bit annoying with the zooming and fake 3D Flash console style.  AND once again there's no mini map on screen .  If it has to have the 3D look at least let it be rotated so the base of mountains can be seen, otherwise it's just pointless annoying fluff. 

Thankfully, I got a real physical map with my copy of the game.

I wish they had also put the compass at the bottom of the screen instead of in a distracting place at the top, but that's not as bad as the map.   I do like not having other status bars on screen unless one takes damage etc as that adds to the immersion.  aka BT Mod for Oblivion....

2.  The Perks Tree visual system.  Abyssmal.  What's wrong with a simple list like Fallout 3 and New Vegas where one can easily see what's available.  No, you have to click and scroll through an annoying 3D constellation star map which is also pointless fluff and can't be seen in it's entirety.  Unless I missed something and believe me I looked.   I hope they spent as much time on other aspects of the game as they did with this...and the map because it's atrocious.

3.  Horses.  This is bigger and what a disappointment.  I purchased one with just the right amount of money (1000 coins) just to try it out.  Well, I'm going to go back a few saves and forget about it or maybe try it again later if there are other horses for sale elsewhere.

It's a huge backward step.  If you thought they were hard to control in Oblivion this goes light years the other way.  The controls are so finicky and "loose' for want of a better term, it's almost unmanageable.  The number of times I rode off a bridge or almost over a cliff because of one tiny tap on a direction key....Ugghh!

Dismount doesn't always work immediately when you are attacked.....but what's worse is no matter how far away you leave your horse the enemy will always make a beeline for it and attacks it first.  It's like I don't exist.   The horse will also fight back though and they must be essential because mine should have died to fireballs, and axes (not mine) not to mention wolves, many times.

You would think Bethesda would have fixed this.  The horse models are odd as well, but that's nothing compared to the control of them, or lack of it.

It would have been nice to see a system like Age of Conan has, or even the first Two Worlds game, where you have to learn to ride the horse via buying training for better control.  Also a quick dismount as in AOC would be nice for when bandits or wolves chase you down and ATTACK THE BLOODY HORSE.  I'd be pleasantly surprised if something like this was actually in the game as it is early days yet, but I doubt it there will be anything remotely like it.

On to the good stuff:

The music and voice acting is superb.   Nice variation of voices for all races except maybe the beast races which sound too human, but I can live with it.  I met this recognizable fellow on the road.

I've seen complaints about the body and face models and textures, but I think they look fine and suit the game world very well.   In fact I doubt I will even install a body replacer when they are made and they will be if at all possible.  The rugged and natural look of the people looks realistic and just fits nicely.

Nude body replacers seem to be more important to some people than the actual game which I find a strange priority.   I used replacers (HGEC and Robert's male... both nude) in Oblivion so I could use some of the modded outfits, but it's not necessary here IMHO.  The people I have divested of their garments at death in Skyrim have had varying types and colours of underwear and nothing as ugly as Oblivion's "nappies."

As far as I can see on NPC's and in the character menu there is no obvious neckline, but I haven't really taken a lot of notice.

The character creator takes a bit of gettting used to and it's not that hard to make a nice looking character, but then I don't want a catwalk model or anime waif in a world of violence and strife either.  I shudder at the thought of the anime mods that will be forthcoming....I just detest the anime domination of Oblivion.  I know I don't have to look or download, but it just makes the game appear so ridiculous and out of place and will be worse in Skyrim.  My opinion so take it or leave it. 

There is a nice variety of wildlife and they are not all suicidal.  In fact the only animals that have attacked me so far are wolves and a very nasty troll which killed me in one hit.  I haven't come across the always present in rpg boars yet, but I suspect they are around somewhere.  I've seen rabbits, foxes, deer, chickens, shaggy yaks, a dog, horses, birds and others I can't remember at the moment.  Not to mention dragons...XD

                                              A Boy and His Dog.

I like the variety of armour and clothing which is a nice change and some of it shows skin especially the light armour my stealthy rogue Khajiit wears.

Tried making potions at an alchemy station and I quite like the system.  Unfortunately for the occupant of a small shack in the wilderness the experience was less exciting or rewarding...she took umbrage with something I did and is no more.  Admittedly, I knowingly stole some of her ingredients, but I think what set her off was reading a letter on her table.   Not sure which but she took an instant dislike to me after that.

The theft sytem seems to have been well overhauled and at least and you won't be hunted from one side of the country to the other for picking up a crust of bread.  No-one seems to know I killed this woman although she attacked me first, or stole her gear....so far.

I've only been through one dungeon so far and I imagine it's the same one every new player finds first.   I was impressed at the length, variety, and changing style throughout the ruin as well as the different levels and types of enemies.  Very nice work which I hope is repeated in it's variety further on in the game.

I haven't gotten as far as real crafting as I lack the recipes and most likely most ingredients, but I have honed and improved my sword and made it even deadlier.

Soup anyone:

That's about it for first impressions at the moment and after only a few hours play.  Back with a character story and diary later if I get around to it..  One thing I wish is to be able to change my Khajiit's name.  I got stuck in character creator trying to think of a name I wanted to use because i didn't think of it before entering the game.  Names are important to me and have to suit the character.  Anyway, it seems the showracemenu works as does the other normal console commands so I'll try it later.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Florence + The Machine

Wow!  I discovered this on Youtube today.   Definitely going to buy this album.

Florence + The Machine - Cermonials.  What an awesome voice.

This one is from another album called Lungs. Another must have for me.

Happy Birthday To Me

Well world, today is my birthday and there goes another year.  Since I'm the only one who is going to say it...Happy Birthday to me and everyone else having a birthday today.

I stayed in bed for most of the day as it wasn't worth getting up so I'm typing this at 4PM.  I was going to write a  "feel sorry for myself" heap of crap about friends and family, but it's not really worth the effort.  Plus, I'm not into bagging specific people out or naming them for sport, and no-one would know or care who they are anyway, except for maybe a few who could see their own reflections here, so I'll just write in general terms.

All I'm going to say is this year I've decided to never again put up with family and so called friends who are self serving, only happy when they make other people miserable and like to play the victim when they have done something wrong....and know it.   There are always two sides to a story, or conflict and I'm sick to death of being the one who bears the brunt of other people's insecurities and selfish attitudes.  I have enough of my own problems without taking the blame for stupid things others do because they can't look at themselves and see they cause most of their own problems.   I'm not immune to that either by the way.

I'm not saying I'm perfect or above anyone by any means, but I will at least admit my faults and try to work through them.  It's bloody hard to do that when certain people, family and friends, cut off all communication and avoid issues so they don't have to look too hard in the mirror.

Despite coming to this conclusion, (or revelation) and deciding to look out for myself for a change and stop trying to please others all the time, I can feel my depression sinking down on me like a heavy weight.  The latter part of every year (partly due to past events) is always a hard time for me and I have to battle with myself to keep from doing anything drastic.  I've been down the route of medication which hasn't worked and just masks it all behind a zombified fog, talked to psychologists and all the other suggested solutions and except for an extreme low time around 10 years ago, I manage to keep it together enough to survive.  I exist, that's about all I can say.

And then I still feel guilty for dwelling on my problems when there are so many others with worse things to contend with every day of their lives.  I just want someone to care about me for a change and not what I can do for them and their issues.   I don't think it's too much to ask. 

Anyway, enough of that.  Christmas is going to be the same so it will be whatever I make it.  Much like today.

By the way I'm not looking for sympathy.  It's just how things are.

I also decided to put off my birthday until next week when Skyrim is released so that will be my present to myself.  I'm going to try and write an ongoing diary of my characters travels through the game for my own amusement and I'll post it on this blog for anyone who may be interested.

Have a good day fellow Scorpios.