Playing Games (New Year Edition)

  11:18:07 pm, by Daveh   , 360 words  
Viewed 19208 times since 01/12/10
Categories: Games

To start off the new year I'll begin with what game I've been playing lately, although it might more accurately be titled "Games I'm Not Playing" as my playing time has been limited the past few months with the holidays and work.

  • Wolfenstein -- As I mentioned in the last column, I did pick up this game and play through it relatively quickly. As a FPS I would rate it about average or perhaps slightly above average as I did begin to play through it again at a higher difficulty level.
  • Dragon Age Origins -- I started playing this game on my laptop while working on the road which diminished my enjoyment of the game as it was barely playable. I restarted playing briefly on my desktop computer before Christmas but have yet to continue it and am far from finishing it.
  • Dwarf Fortress -- If you are unfamiliar with the phenomenon that is Dwarf Fortress I would recommend quickly checking it out. While it is an ASCII text game it has an incredible depth and complexity that you don't find in typical strategy/resource games. If you don't mind the inconsistent interface or having your dwarves being eaten by carp occasionally I would suggest trying it out. Be sure to check out the tutorials in the wiki as there is a significant learning curve. Just remember the DF motto: Losing is Fun!

    I've been chronicling my most recent attempt largely for the amusement of others although I've had pretty good luck as the game goes so far. No dwarf-eating carp, elephants or lava yet (just a few wolves, cougars, and moods). I'm currently trying to get a little further than I've previously gotten to in the game including some experimenting with magma, if I can ever find it in the map anyways.

I haven't had much time to see what new games being released this year I might be interested in. There is, of course, Fallout: New Vegas whenever it is released and Diablo 3 might be this year as well. Besides that there is the continuing hope that Bethesda releases some news of ES5 sometime this year as well.

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Why Morrowind Was Better [Guest Blog]

  04:48:19 am, by Cactus   , 1453 words  
Viewed 40903 times since 29/12/09
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, Hobbies

Gosh, it's beginning to look like I can't write for myself. And that I'm bias towards Morrowind. Well, wrong on both accounts. Personally I love both games. Truth is no one has come forth yet for Oblivion. I may have to write one myself. Anyway, it's time for a new guest blog, this time by UESPer Kestral.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind for many was and is the epitome of the Elder Scrolls series. Morrowind came before Oblivion, 4 years to be exact, and does lack some things that Oblivion had. I seek to delve into what is missing on Morrowind’s part, but why Oblivion is still the lesser of the two.

I remember the first glimpses that I saw of Morrowind. A foggy view of the Temple Canton of Vivec, thinking of it as a high and mystical place. I researched into Morrowind very much, and did find it to be interesting. I discovered that to me, Morrowind would be a difficult fit.

There not being Fast Travel, no map markers, and a varied level of gameplay intimidated me. I did not care for the graphics, I accepted Morrowind for what it was and not what it looked like.

I went ahead and picked up an Xbox GOTY version of Morrowind, picked my stats, and went on. I met Jiub, surfaced from the underbelly of the ship, into a strange new land. Seyda Neen, passed the pleasant Redguard, and went into the Offices. I was greeted by the lovely man who asked me what my background was. I filled the forms out myself, and was a tad concerned on what to pick.

I chose for a magic character with a bit of combat in. I went though the offices and I was done with the Char Gen portion. I went through Seyda Neen, passed by the nice little Wood Elf who misplaced his ring; I paid no mind and went on with his ring in my pocket.

Vvardenfell was truly an alien land to me. I knew none of the cities, methods of transportation, skills, people to know, what comes first, and what doesn’t. I followed up on what I was told with and went to Balmora. Not noticing the large bug that I later found that could take me to Balmora easily, I walked to Balmora.

I thought how frustrating it was to walk across a seemingly wide expanse of land before me. And I thought that how difficult it would be to get from here to there in later portions of the game. Needless to say, I continued on and was startled by a loud yell.


A Bosmer mage had fallen out of the sky... certainly not something in Oblivion. I checked his body and took his loot. I figured that I should save and did. I was intrigued by his scroll of Icarian Flight. Unknowingly, I used the scroll jumped, I soon fell to my death somewhere near Balmora.

I reloaded myself, and cursed myself for using the scrolls and told myself to never use them again. I soon discovered a scrib. I had an extensive fight and thought to myself ‘Why can’t I hit him!?’ I killed the thing and went on with my journey. I later discovered that I needed to use a weapon with a favored skill, and a have a better agility skill.

When I reached Balmora, I saved the game and stopped.

For a month.

I thought Morrowind was good and all, but not my thing. I had put it on hold, and kept it tucked away in my room somewhere. I soon was bored one day, and researched further into Morrowind. I learned of what I should’ve done. The early quests, the ring, exploits, and such.

I made a new character and did the aforementioned. I had more fun doing the quests, and traveled to Balmora by the newly discovered Silt Strider. I then gave up at Balmora because I got bored.

It wasn’t for some time- and several instances of playing the game and stopping, and even getting the PC version- until I appreciated Morrowind to its fullest.

I was inspired one day to make a new character, inspired by our resident Cactus. I made my new character, a Dunmer battlemage of sorts, Darvinum, and loved the game from thereon. I played the game, only used exploits for things like speechcraft, and left the rest to pure gameplay.

I went from place to place. I cannot remember which guilds I did, but I remember at least 2 guilds that I went through, I also remember going through the Imperial Cult. I loved that Cult.

I went from here and there and no longer minded the no fast travel. But what I did mind were the directions. ‘Go north from this road until you reach a specific tree, then head east.’ I frequently got lost and had distaste for the Ashlands. I plundered the Vaults of Vivec later on with my full chameleon outfit, and made large amounts of money. I went around, training, and just doing quests. I became Nerevarine, and was known throughout Vvardenfell.

Darvinum must have been my most favorite character I ever made in any Elder Scrolls game. I did so much with him, and remember doing so much in a little amount of time.

Now, this play through let me examine Oblivion to Morrowind in their fullest. Oblivion looked much nicer, I’ll give it that, and Oblivion had a much more similar mechanic, but there was something bland about it. To begin with, the voice actors. Morrowind had fine voice acting, everyone was different from each other. The Nords were Nords, and not Orcs too. The Elves were their own race, and not their own. The Dunmer especially, had a better voice than any other race.

Another was the items. In Oblivion, you’ll merely find a wide variety of the same type of items. In Morrowind, there were many items. Not merely Iron, Steel, Glass, Daedric, Leather, etc. There was Netch leather, Nordic armor, Ice armor, Ordinator armor, guard armor, Chitin, and some more. The same goes for Weapons and clothing. Oblivion had a limited wardrobe, while Morrowind had a large one. The weights and prices were realistic considering. Daedric armor and weapons were to be precious, and not found in every single dungeon. They were to be sprinkled out through the whole land, and not in the hand of every Marauder aspirant fresh from the cutting block.

The quests also were better. Even though Oblivion was larger in landscape, Morrowind was surely more refined and detailed. Almost everyone in town had a quest affiliated with them, and there were a lot of people needing some assistance. That isn’t enough? Join a guild! And not just the Mage’s, Fighter’s, Dark Brotherhood, and the Thieves Guild like in Oblivion; how about the Imperial Cult, or a Great House, or the Legion, or the East Empire Company. Oblivion had a lot do, but Morrowind had even more.

Almost everything Oblivion had, Morrowind had and more. It’s been well over a year since I’ve been playing Morrowind, and I still play with it then and again. Whilst I have played Oblivion more in total in hours, and it still is easier to get more engrossed in Oblivion (my new character already has 20 hours knocked on), Morrowind was still better.

Morrowind takes a different kind of person. Not someone who is more in touch with classic RPG roots, but someone who prefers a more action adventure RPG. Someone who enjoys a richness of an environment, the realism, and the uniqueness of it. If they are a DND’er, perhaps Daggerfall, another fine title, would be more of their choosing, but for me, Morrowind is.

But Morrowind is not everybody’s game. A more ‘modern’ gamer, who is more interested in games with nice graphics, and a more shooter spin on things, would not like Morrowind. I know several people who like RPGs, but who do not like Morrowind. It’s a strange thing, and I find it difficult to think why they dislike it just accept for what it is, and go on.

Morrowind truly is a gem, and I wish to hold onto my copy until the day something unfortunate happens and it is destroyed. Even then, I will still carry on the memories of Morrowind. For those who refuse to try Morrowind, please do; and for those who have, and didn’t like it, so be it. Morrowind truly was the greatest Elder Scrolls title. The series which- as of late -the series is in need of another one.

A Meditation on Beards [guest blog]

  02:19:30 pm, by Cactus   , 765 words  
Viewed 23029 times since 13/12/09
Categories: Welcome

It's time for another guest blogs, gents. This entry, as before, by Forum-goer r. Thanks for the thought-provoking and hilarious entry.

You know, I think the Elder Scrolls games have to be the least beard-centric fantasy games ever made. And I honestly have to wonder why.

Computer games are meant to be a form of escapism, and one has to remember that most people are in a position where they either don't want a beard or it would be socially unacceptable to grow one (if you work with children, are a woman, or ginger, for example). I have a fine crop of face fungus myself, but I'm in a folk band so it's not so much a decision as a duty. And, of course, I often find myself on the receiving end of looks from strangers who are presuming (often rightly) that because I have a beard I have adopted a certain lifestyle choice. I am of course in a minority. Most men are happy to let their stubble grow a bit, then shave it into a funny shape in front of the mirror so they can see what they look like with a Hitler moustache or Colin Meloy's sideburns, then shave it off completely and enter the Real World.

By this reasoning, every computer game should include some form of facial hair. If it's presenting a means of escaping reality, surely all games should make it very easy to have a bit of a chinstrap going on? Not the Elder Scrolls series, apparently.

As usual, it's Oblivion that does it the worst. One area where I will concede that Oblivion has one up over Morrowind is in its use of magic, and it is actually possible to play a purely magic-based character without having to exploit glitches all the time. So, I ask you, why can't you make a character that looks like a proper wizard? Long grey hair can be achieved fairly easily, but the counterpart Gandalf beard cannot. I've always imagined it would be quite a laugh to make Jesus in Oblivion, donning a white monk robe and some sandals, duplicating bread and wine, walking on water and healing people, but as we know, Jesus had quite an impressive beard going on. So, unfortunately, it's not possible to replicate the Nazarene in Oblivion terms. It's not possible, in fact, to get any form of facial hair bar some designer stubble, growing which seems to have the unfortunate side-effect of causing chapped lips and severe anaemia in your character. Even the Nords, who are typically very follically blessed, bear more of a resemblance to the Australian rugby squad (and that's just the women).

Morrowind will allow you to have a proper beard, but only in some cases. You really have to be a Nord if you want a beard, unless all you want is a goatee or Fargoth's blonde shower curtain. I have actually played a Nord monk before, which makes about as much sense as NASA building a diesel Space Shuttle or Lurpak branching out into microwaves. But, you can have long hair and a beard as a Nord (come to think of it, you can make Jesus as a Nord). Hence, I have had quite a few Nord characters. My bold and slightly rakish knight was a Nord. I wanted an Imperial but Imperials apparently aren't allowed to have the Aragorn-esque arty stubble I was after.

And - get this - the two most magicka-geared races, the Bretons and the High Elves, can't have beards at all. It's widely known that any male practitioner of magic must have a beard, whether it's a billowing Dumbeldore-esque setup or a platted warlock goatee. My Altmer wizard had some mean magical abilities, a proud auburn mane of hair and the kind of sartorial elegance that only a senior mage can have, pairing Goldbrand with the Expensive blue and gold robe. But, of course, a beard would have just completed the whole image. I am glad to see, however, that the Dwarves, who are a famously hirsute people, may only be represented in ghost form but the ghosts have beards.

When the next Elder Scrolls game comes out, I don't care where it's set, or what the storyline is, or that getting Joe Pasquale to voice the bad guy may not necessarily have been the best decision, or if the Relentless Levelling Of Everything from Oblivion is still there, I just want to be able to have a beard. Remember - a man without a beard is about as appealing as a woman with one.

UESP Statistics

  08:00:10 pm, by Daveh   , 644 words  
Viewed 17268 times since 12/10/09
Categories: Elder Scrolls, Statistics, UESP

I've recently returned from an extended work trip to Mexico and thought I'd continue my delayed blogging with some statistics on the UESP web site.

  • Daily Hits = 600,000 -- About 95% of the site's traffic is from the Wiki with only about 2% from the various maps, 2% from the forums and less than 1% from everything else. Currently this blog is only getting about 100 views per day, which my being away for 2 months probably doesn't help. Note that during this summer the average daily hits were much higher at around 800k with it reaching near 1000k on the weekends. Weekends always have 10-20% more traffic.
  • Daily Visits = 80,000 -- The typical user of UESP views around 10 pages per visit.
  • Users with Ads Enabled = 70% -- The average daily number of ads served is currently around 400,000 compared to overall average daily of 600,000.
  • Number of Servers = 6 -- While 6 low-to-mid end dedicated servers may be a little overkill for a site of this size it is better to have enough capacity to support unexpected spikes in traffic along with the usual site growth.
  • Daily Bandwidth = 120 GB -- Relatively low for a site with this much traffic mainly because we're content focussed and don't have any downloads to worry about. Some of that traffic also includes inter-server communication.
  • Database Size = 5.5GB in 7 million records -- Most of the database is from the Wiki which is just under 5GB in size with 2.5 million records. By size, most of this is taken up from the Wiki's text table at 4.4GB.
  • Database Queries = 100/sec -- The database server is currently at 690 million queries over 81 days of uptime. About 60% of queries are read-only SELECT queries.
  • Currently Longest Uptime = 287 days (content2/3) -- In general the servers are very stable running CentOS and typically don't require any regular reboots or maintenance (luckily). All of the issues and downtime that have occurred have been due to incorrect settings or user error.
  • Server Cost = 300$/month -- I haven't updated the exact monthly cost since I changed to cheaper servers with a 24-month contract this summer, but its likely in this neighbour. The nice thing now is that all 5 purchased dedicated servers are on a 24-month contract which means not only cheaper overall costs but also no web server fees are due until August of next year (although it will be about 2500$ when that time comes around).
  • Number of Files = 270,000 -- Many of these, 160k, are the UESP Wiki images and thumbnails and about 80k of the remaining 100k are map tile images. This count only includes files serving the various web pages and files. Total number of files on content1 is 575,524.
  • Oldest Files = Dag992.faq -- The version of this Daggerfall FAQ is dated 24 August 1996 although the original text FAQ was started around two years earlier in the fall of 1994.
  • Alexa Traffic Rank = 14,406 -- While the overall accuracy of Alexa can be questioned it is still a useful tool to compare a site's relative rating. The highest Alexa rank we've had was ~6000 in March of 2008. It is also nice to know we rank 644 in Kazakhstan.
  • Average Time on Site = 11 minutes -- The average time is about the same for both the Wiki and forums with the maps averaging a lower 5 minutes.
  • Most Popular Browser = Firefox (47%) -- IE is next at 37% followed by Chrome (6%), Safari (6%) and Opera(3%).
  • Users with more than 100 Visits since August 2009 = 60,000 -- I've only had Google Analytics enabled since August 2009 but the traffic trend has most visitors with 1-2 visits (35%) followed by another group of regulars who have visited 10-100 times (32%).
  • Traffic from Search Engines = 66% -- Most of the site's traffic originates from search engines, primarily Google, with "Oblivion Wiki" being the most popular search term (10%).

I've always liked statistics in general (for reasons I've never thought to consider) and if I had more time there are myriads of more stats from the site I've love to compute and collect.

UESP Forum Turns Four!!

  11:52:56 pm, by Cactus   , 548 words  
Viewed 36475 times since 23/11/09
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, News, UESP

It's just closing up on the fourth anniversary of the forums now. Our girl, she's growing up.:>>

We celebrated this year by holding a few competitions in writing, art, and even a competition for the Mod-team's avatars and signatures. We didn't have quite as many entries as I'd hoped, but it was still fun going through all the entries and choosing the best. Well, fun and difficult. Everyone who entered brought something different and interesting to the table, and at times it was a tough choice. We finally came up with our decisions and posted them earlier today. We even rewarded the winners with a superficial and temporary appointment to Tea Part Mod.&#59;)

The writing was the worst to judge. Every single entry was really really good. Masser wrote an interesting action story involving the enslavement of Argonians by other Argonians. Dragour wrote an exceptional piece about a runaway Telvanni wizard that had a really good ending. Vivec's Tears wrote a great poem about Oblivion vs. Morrowind that I found quite amusing. Urthdigger wrote a very funny piece about the Neravarine fighting the head of House Redoran. And finally r brought his usual intelligence and style to the table in the form of an essay written from the point of view of a Mages Guild scholar. If you didn't catch the link before, you can find all of these writings by clicking this link.

Regarding signatures and avatars, you can just swing on over to the forum and check out the winning entries for yourself. The winner for signatures was Nyk45 and Nyk also tied with Reaper67 for the avatar win. They're really quite good, so please check them out.

While this isn't a competition, it does involve the whole forum. As a bonus to the other festivities we had the idea for Mod interviews. Having no one else to do them for us, we decided to them ourselves. Every mod came up with a series of questions for all the other mods. With five of us, it quickly grew to be a really huge deal and the interviews were huge. In addition, we made a special thread so anyone on the forum could ask us questions. We took those, the tons of questions from the other mods, and compiled them into five in-depth and often very funny interviews. PLEASE, go check these out as they're worth a read. Warning, you'll need some time, so pull up a comfy chair and grab a bowl of crisps and enjoy!:p

And finally there was the art competition. I mention this last because in my opinion, this was the most outstanding entry of all, and I think it deserves special mention. It's a photo taken by user Yeepo and titled "A Knife in the Dark." Hopefully everyone reading this will recognise that reference.
A Knife in the Dark

I'd like to close by saying thank you to EVERYONE who participated in any way, whether you entered into a contest or just asked us a question. So, a shoutout goes to:
Vivec's Tears
Vivec's Tears
Dark Lord
Guy No. 2
The Dog Whisperer
and of course the Mod Team, aka Team C: