Issue time01:03:00 pm, by Damon   6086 views
Categories: Games, Analysis

After 8 hours or more in just two days, and after creating over 50 Sims-posts (most are still queued up and set to be staggered across the next few days since there are so many; only a relatively small handful of available to view) on my tumblr, I've decided to process my thoughts on the game and create a posting about what I think of the game after a while.

This will be a three part posting, because as a Sims fan with experience on almost all the Sims games, I have quite a bit to say about the game, and I can talk about this almost as much as I can talk about an Elder Scrolls game.

I'll start with Create-A-Sim (CAS), which is naturally the first thing you'll see after hitting "Play" on the menu for the first time. It's really the most impressive part of the new game for me, and I'm pleased that the developers have delivered on what they promised (the same can't be said for Ubisoft, but that's for a different post). It's truly the most amazing version of CAS released to date.

I love to make Sims, and it's probably my favourite part of the experience. For me, and the Simmers like me who want to just play around in CAS for hours on end, it's a dream come true. The new way of making Sims, which involves clicking on body parts to modify clothing and tweak minute details of the body is incredible. One I got into CAS for the first time, after I was able to understand the additional filters to narrow clothing selections, and after I was able to get the hang of making the small tweaks to the body mid-design, it went down really fluidly. I was able to get things like long cardigans, put them on somebody, think "I don't like the way that sits", then subtly tweak their waist or arms to adjust it.

A Sim that kinda resembles meThese tweaks come as a major improvement over the game's predecessors, where control over how the body was tweaked came down to clicking a preset body type, and then moving a handful of generic sliders that were never completely specific on what they'd do, meaning that unless you put in the time to practice with the sliders and understood what a 'pronounced cheekbone' or 'eyes up', and all that jazz meant, you became quite limited in what you could make. For me, personally, as a Simmer, that narrowed my creations down to one specific narrow type or set of types that I understood and could consistently replicate, which leads to a lot of similar Sims in the long run.

In the new CAS released with The Sims 4, even if you don't understand what a 'pronounced cheekbone' is, you still know what's visibly appealing to you as a person, so it's easy to click on the cheek and drag it until it looks right, or click on the eyes or hips and drag them 'til they look right, and I feel like that must have opened the doors to creation for a lot of Simmers, not having to work with sliders and all.

Clothing options have been improved, I feel, with a lot of variety added to the game, despite the lack of the Style Creator of The Sims 3, which enabled choosing textures, colours to a specific taste, etc. Each outfit tends to have a range of primary and secondary colours that have been paired, though it's definitely made up for with what I feel like to be increased variety overall, the most notable of which is the fact that there are a lot more shirts are sitting right with jeans on females, which means I don't have to give female Sims risqué outfits to wear at inappropriate venues, which was often the case when you wanted to pair a top with the normal-cut jeans instead of the high-waist ones.

A female Sim created in CASClothing itself is given an improvement, as far as filtering goes. When you're choosing aspects of your character, there are subsets beside the broad category of "Tops" and "Bottoms", etc, and you can filter between sweaters, hoodies, swimming tops, and more, same with the other types, making finding specific items significantly easier. The items in The Sims 2 and The Sims 3 tended to have no particular order to the sorting, I felt, so you could go from shirts to tanks to suits to hoodies to v-cut shirts, etc in a way that didn't usually make sense.

As far as traits and aspirations go, in The Sims 3, you could choose five, but in The Sims 4, you can only choose three, which is moderately restricting as far as personalities go, because everyone is a little more multifaceted than what only three traits can show, though when the emotions introduced to the game (which will be the subject of a future part) are introduced, having only three traits allows the emotional system to shine through, I feel, because that means attention to detail for the things most passionate or peculiar to the Sim are able to receive extra attention to detail.

The last CAS-related thing I'll touch on are the walking styles. Though my current household only has the default walks set, because a normal walk fit their personalities and what I wanted better, there are a fair few different walking types, which enable you to fine-tune the Sim's personality. For instance, while the Sim featured above in the flannel only has a normal walk because he's a little shyer and to himself, the red-head Sim in the next image is a bit snooty, and she has a strut that reflects her imagined superiority, and it adds a nice flavour to the game, knowing from the distance that the Sim walking to you must be a train wreck from how he/she walks and talks to you.

This post is getting long, so I'll call it here, but in a few days I'll return with Part Two of my impressions on The Sims 4, and in part two, we will cover general gameplay and living the lives of the Sims, followed by a part three that, in my current planning, will cover build mode.

I don't generally self-promote, but if you want to take a look at some of my many posts and images of The Sims 4 and get some impressions on gameplay and some screenshot variety prior to the formal posts where I actually analyse things, you can click this link, which will take you to all the posts on my blog that are tagged as being from The Sims 4.

Issue time12:25:00 am, by minor edits   4104 views
Categories: UESP, Analysis

ZoS is releasing Patch 2.0.4. They also released a new article, Reflecting on ESO's First Year, and Bethesda highlighted a fan tribute from Elloa commemorating the anniversary.

We're a little over a quarter of the way into 2015, and so far this year, over 1,000 new ESO articles and counting have been created. That doesn't include redirects, but does include many pages still waiting to be fleshed out. All you lurkers out there: there's nothing wrong with just dumping info, especially if you find a blank page about a topic you know something about. Don't worry about grammar, links, etc., if you don't have the time or knowledge. That's what the rest of the internet is for. But if you know even the bare essentials on a topic, a single sentence is infinitely preferable to nothing at all.

As of the time I write this, somewhere between 25-35 new lore articles have been created this year, not including book pages. Over 80% of them were put together by Legoless. This Irish robot has made over 500 edits in less than a month.

While that's a jaw-dropping rate of activity, Enodoc has been just as active, and Shuryard has had 500 edits in less than two weeks. Speaking of Shuryard, check out this heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Our actual Provisioning page is still woefully incomplete, but thanks to Shuryard, the arguably more important Provisioning Ingredients page is now up to date and beautifully arranged. It will tell you about not only the current arrangement established by Update 6, but illustrate how it differs from the old system.

Only about a dozen other contributors have exhibited activity roughly on the same level this year. I'm too lazy to list you all, but you're all aces in my book. And that's not to diminish the contributors out there who've helped on smaller scales; thank you all for taking the time to assist the project!

Skywind 0.9.6 Progress Update

Skywind is moving forward, but it will still be quite a while before it is completed. You can help keep it moving by becoming a patron.

Trades Welcome!
Dominus Arbitrationis set up a place for ESO Item Requests! Now, you don't have to leave the comfort of the UESP in order to make a trade.

I can't read Dom's name without thinking of this.

Hurricane Jeancey has hit!
Editors tend to go on editing sprees. They're furiously active for a while, take a break, and then come back. As I prepare this, the UESP is being ruthlessly inspected by Jeancey, who's a great example of this pattern. I think of him as a Quality Assurance expert, one of the folks who really sets the UESP apart. He brings unrelenting order to the madness, then disappears, only to return with a vengeance ... actually, a bit like Jyggalag.

Jyggcey ... no, Jeanalag!

Ogling the Mazken

In Daggerfall, the Dark Seducer was a beautiful topless winged demon. In Battlespire, she was still a winged demon, but kept her top on like a bloodthirsty prude. By the time of Oblivion, the Seducer had unfortunately lost her wings, and even worse, put on even more clothing, including a weird shell helmet of some kind. In ESO, she got a bit of cleavage back, which is a good step in the right direction (you got stuck with the mature rating, ZoS; you might as well embrace full frontal). Anyway, now, the helmets seem to be consuming the Seducers' heads? Not sure what's going on there. If there is a quest which requires the Seducers to wear virtual reality visors, then that makes perfect sense.

Answers and Questions
Since last time, as you probably already know, ZoS came out with this bit of awesome, a Crown Store Showcase, and also had another ESO Live.

You can hear Loremaster Lawrence Schick role-play the scholar Phrastus of Elinhir here. I love the lore, but I haven't listened to this yet. I've been cringing inwardly since I heard about it. The last time the devs tried to role-play in public, things got ugly.

This situation seems to be a whole lot different, in that it's just Schick providing some background lore, using Phrastus as a mouthpiece. He's not raping Daedric Princes or contriving an epilogue for ESO ... as far as I know.

Forum Crawling
Currently, players don't seem to be receiving XP for completing Dark Anchor Dolmens. They're fixing it, but for the moment, you might want to find something else to kill time in ESO. Also, the Palomino horse is coming to the Crown Store.

Players reported that they developed super powers as a result of a bug. You know, like Spider-man. Players reported "super hearing"; they could hear audio cues from the activities of other players from much farther away than they were supposed to. I'm not sure if this has been addressed yet; there's no mention of it I saw in the latest patch notes. But in the meantime, you all are honor-bound to use your powers only for good.

Issue time07:14:00 pm, by Damon   4217 views
Categories: Games

Man, I am on a roll with this whole "blogging" thing. Between my personal blog that I won't link to and promote as random spam and my game reviews/impressions that I share on the UESP blog, I'm on my 5th blog post in the last week.

Anyway, I want to do an impressions post on the first couple of hours of my first playthrough of Infamous: Second Son on the Playstation 4. This isn't anything more than a disorganised ramble, because I've accumulated about 5 hours on the game, and I've written down my thoughts beforehand... Each time I blog, I make one draft, and that's what I post with little revision. :p

In short, it's a pretty great game. You play as Delsin Rowe, an Akomish Native American living in Washington. He's dressed up like your stereotypical emo brat with a vest full of patches and pins and an beanie, and the story opens up to him vandalising a billboard on his reservation. Very nice start to the game... Just what I wanted to do was play as an emo Indian.

Anyway, he quickly gets found by his brother Reggie, the local sheriff, and Reggie's berating him is interrupted by a Conduit, a being with supernatural powers that I don't understand because I didn't play the previous titles. Anyway, he accidentally gives Delsin some of his powers, and Delsin becomes a conduit with fire powers, and he chases after the Conduit who turned him, because he threatened the tribe, and then the DUP, the Department of Unified Power, which is a bastardly evil military organisation that's occupying Seattle and the surrounding area in an attempt to stamp out the very few remaining conduits (or "bio-terrorists as DUP calls them), shows up, and they attack Betty, an elderly Tribal lady and torture the tribe searching out the conduits in the area, and Delsin resolves to take care of them.

That's the gist of it without spoiling it. I'm not that far into the story, because once I got to Seattle, I started exploring instead of actually doing the missions. The gameplay is gorgeous, it's fluid, and I was quickly doing awesome stuff with his superpowers, which include turning into smoke and using air ducts to fly up to the roof, using parkour free-running to climb, shooting firebombs, etc. It's quite fun.

Delsin actually isn't that bad of a protagonist as far as emo teenagers go. He's got the kind of banter that reminds me of the old Spiderman PS2 games that had witty dialogue in them for about every scenario, and it's actually fun to go tagging, fighting, or doing random things just to hear what he has to say.

The highlight of the game so far has to be climbing up the Space Needle in Seattle and having the big showdown on it with the first real "boss" in the game. The view was amazing up there! It was incredible to look down and see the whole city and see the mountains and the Puget Sound, although the gameplay does not extend beyond the two islands that make up "Seattle".

All in all, though, it's  a fun game, and I thoroughly am enjoying it. Once I finally beat it, there's definitely going to be a review of this, I believe. It's a great game.

Also, as a completely unrelated nostalgia thingy that has no bearing on this game or the UESP, I found an old video I made with one of my mates when we were cooking fries at 3am one night and needed busy work. 

The original idea was to make a full feature film, but as you kno there was a recession and since it was only 2011 our budget was cut, then there was a catastrophic hard-drive failure, so we had to salvage what we had left and make an iMovie template for the trailer... That is, of course, a complete lie, but it's my lie, so I'm telling it the way I want to. This trailer is just rubbish. :)

Issue time05:50:00 pm, by Damon   4289 views
Categories: Games

Everyone else is blogging, so I might as well do so as well. It's time for another posting from what I'd hope would be considered everyone's favourite guy on the UESP... Me!

In this completely impromput, totally disorganised, and probably very boring "first impressions" post, I want to talk about Minecraft... In Space! The game is called StarMade, and is similar to Minecraft in that it's a voxel-based infinitely generated universe of blocks that can be harvested for crafting. The difference is that while Minecraft focuses on a single planet, StarMade is a whole galaxy. There are tons of planet types, asteroids, space stations occupied by pirates, other factions or are derelict, and more! It's really a fun game, I think, and it hits upon my love of creating that Minecraft used to offer, and it fulfils my love for space exploration.

The game starts you off outside a Traders' Guild space station, a shop where you can buy and sell resources for Credits, and you have enough parts to build a small ship and 20,000 Credits, the currency in-game, to spend as you please. Once you make the ship, you're free to explore the galaxy. You can fit the ships you make (you can make as many as you have money to make, and I happen to have two ships, one for mining and one for exploration and light combat) with cannons to attack enemies, you can attach mining equipment to it and rip terrain and resources from planets and asteroids (which can be totally removed! - although planets are so freakin' huge I've not tried it with them), or you can just explore and look at things... Something I've done a lot of.

On a rambling, off-topic comment, it's very disorientating in space. You're used to "Down" being the direction gravity pulls you towards, but when you're away from a planet, your cardinal directions become completely arbitrary constructs that have no meaning, and so it's tricky to get used to orientating yourself or your ship to do whatever you fancy when you're floating in the black with no nearby planets, stations, or asteroids to use as a reference to call "up" or "down" on.

I've not really gotten into huge epic battles with the pirate fleets or other factions, nor have I done a lot of mining, except when I needed parts/currency to update the main exploration ship, affectionately called the Space Shuttle Dreamer after my best friend who sent me the game on Steam. The mining I have done is nice, though, and it's fun to rip every piece of material worth owning on a planet or asteroid, and then turn around and return to the one I've dubbed "Home" (creative name for a planet with trees and grass, I know) and build more of my large land-based facility above and under ground in order to facilitate my exploration and acquisition of resources...

The next stop will be an eventual space station constructed in space somewhere! That's my end goal, since there is no goal currently in the game, aside from exploration and fun. I want to make a big, glorious looking space-station to serve as my mobile home out away from Home... Why spend forever on the planet Home when I can live in the black and explore ice and lava planets and other cool stuff in a large mobile home?

Since I'm a big fan of the British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, I'd like my space station to be a replica of Red Dwarf, though a ship of that magnitude is a little out of reach for me as far as resources and creativity go. Then, I'd probably fly that between planets and use the SS Dreamer (my combat/exploration vessel) and the "Pickaxe" (my mining vessel, named after Minecraft) as short-range vehicles to harvest resources and other things. (Ships have no fuel, by the way, at least in alpha, and I just want to have a space station to dock to, because why not?)

This post has gotten really ramble-y at things point, but TL;DR: I really enjoy StarMade. As it turns out, the alpha version of the game is currently free and will be free to download and play, although like with Minecraft and other games, you can purchase the game for $9.99 and get to receive the updates through Beta and into the full version when that comes around. And, it excites me, because there's already a lot of amazing things in the game, and it's only in ALPHA right now! This game will only excite me more and more as time goes by and I get to update it into Beta and then the full release.

Anyway, I shall return whenever I have something interesting to say in the future, and once I've had a length of time to get into everything about the game and create a formal opinion on everything about it, I might do a proper review of StarMade. Bye, guys!

Issue time09:13:00 am, by thuum   5477 views
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, Analysis

Author's Note: I apologize for the delay in getting the final part of this analysis posted. A change in my personal life has made it more difficult to find time to get this together in a timely fashion.

 

So here we are. After all that beating around the bush, it's finally time to answer the question that has dogged Skyrim players since the game's release: Which side should players take in the Civil War questline? In the previous part of this analysis, I discussed the role of the One True Dragonborn in the Skyrim Civil War, and how his participation would drastically alter the outcome. My ultimate conclusion was that neither the Stormcloaks nor the Empire were worthy of this mighty warrior's allegiance, and that giving his aid to either of them would have unfortunate long-term repercussions both for the people of Skyrim and for Tamriel as a whole.

 

The only remaining choice, then, would be to negotiate a ceasefire and remain aloof from the war, in what we might think of as allying with the Greybeards. This is the path that nobody seems to consider as being a legitimate option, and fairly so; it's hard to think of it as a true path when there's only a single quest devoted to it, which leads many to dismiss the Season Unending quest as a cop-out for people who can't be bothered to resolve the conflict before completing the main quest. From a gameplay standpoint, I'll admit that there's some truth to that statement. But you can't very well have a questline dealing with your actions in a war after choosing to stay out of it, and I refuse to believe that Bethesda, which goes to Tolkien levels of effort to build lore for the fictional universe they created, would program a quest for remaining neutral unless it could be tied into the lore. The path of neutrality is established not through the actions of the player, but through the game's own narrative in its depiction of the Greybeards, their philosophy, and the events surrounding the Dragonborn and the Civil War; the purpose of the Season Unending quest is to tie these narrative elements together, creating a third option for completing the Civil War which is not only viable, but the most preferable option of the three.

There are several reasons the Dragonborn must not take sides in this war, and I've already touched on some of them. For starters, he's the wild card, the deciding factor in the war. A one man army will cause the side he aids to win through his strength alone, but will make that side dependent on him as both a fighter and a symbol of its cause. If his allegiance changes or he dies (as all mortals do, dragon soul or not), then that side will have lost both a sizable portion of their military strength and a symbol to rally supporters around the cause. Furthermore, a new political entity would have to emerge regardless of who wins the Civil War. For the Stormcloaks, an independent Skyrim would emerge; for the Imperials, the success of the Skyrim campaign would lead to an attempt to retake the other provinces, in the hopes of restoring the Empire to its former glory. If the Dragonborn were to become involved in the Civil War, he would necessarily become a central political figure in the aftermath, as the winning side would petition his help against the Thalmor and other threats. He would become even more involved in the conflict than he already was, but would be unable to withdraw from it without destabilizing the political entity he helped to create.

These considerations are barely, if ever, mentioned in the game, but they are very real consequences of someone with as much power as the Dragonborn participating in political affairs. This is the reason the Greybeards remain aloof from the world: Much like the Dragonborn, they are too powerful. Even if they didn't take any formal positions or titles, their power would give them status and reverence among other political leaders, who would accept their counsel without question. Even in their current, isolationist approach to world affairs, they are already highly respected by the political leaders of Skyrim; Ulfric admits that “I have the greatest respect for the Greybeards, of course,” and Balgruuf outright admits that “They are respected by all Nords.” If they became any more involved in politics, the balance of power would become largely centered around them, and having the majority of power in the hands of a few is rarely a benefit, both to a government and the people it serves. Even if the Greybeards tried to use their influence to achieve more peaceful aims, they would end up doing more harm than good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and even the Greybeards may be corrupted in time, as evidenced by Arngeir's threats after Paarthurnax is killed: “Begone! Before even my philosophy is tested beyond the breaking point.” The Way of the Voice is an essential philosophy for learning to use the Thu'um–lest we forget, the last time a mortal was trained to use the Thu'um without following the Greybeards' philosophy, he used his powers for regicide.

Then again, it would be equally irresponsible for the Dragonborn to do nothing at all with his power when he could be using it to help people. As Delphine so bluntly puts it, “If [the Greybeards] had their way, you'd do nothing but sit up on their mountain with them and talk to the sky.” Delphine's questionable understanding of the Greybeards aside, she brings up a good point. The threats to the people of Tamriel go beyond the dragons, and the Dragonborn has the power to stop these threats as well; consequently, he also has the responsibility to do so. Of course, Delphine would have him use his power to destroy the Thalmor as well, so following her is hardly better. Like all of the other players in the war, the portrayal of the Blades' philosophy provides only a small piece of the puzzle that is the true path intended for the Dragonborn. A hero of his nature has to be very careful about how he uses his power, and that means not getting involved in messy political disputes; his only recourse, then, is to protect people without allying himself with any organizations. By serving no master but himself and protecting innocent people from threats they can't stop themselves, the Dragonborn realizes his true potential as a hero, which goes far beyond stopping a single threat.

 

Being a freelance hero with no true political affiliations is not only the most responsible way for the Dragonborn to use his power, but the most suitable way to do things for the kind of heroes portrayed in Elder Scrolls games: They can't be tied to one group or place, because their power may be needed elsewhere. It's why Modryn Oreyn oversees the daily operations of the Cyrodiil Fighters Guild in the Champion of Cyrodiil's absence. It's why Tolfdir holds down the fort at the College of Winterhold once the Dragonborn becomes archmage. And it's (presumably) why the Nerevarine left Tamriel for an expedition to Akavir, never to be seen again. Now again, it could be argued that this is just a way to account for the nature of sandbox games without introducing plotholes, and again, it is. But anyone who doubts that the Dragonborn works best as a neutral hero need only ask Legate Rikke and Galmar, who will both say the same thing: “I suspect you'll be of greater good to Skyrim out there, in the world.