Bethesda’s Skyrim Getting Kinect Support!

Bethesda has recently announced later this month they will release an update which enables Kinect support for the Xbox 360, with Kinect’s support the game will have more than 200 different Voice Commands. The voice recognition will allow players to perform Dragon Shouts, Hotkey Equipping, Follower Commands and all menu’s with just your voice, new special map functions, hotkey options and the ability to organize items in your inventory by name, weight and Value.

With these new updates Bethesda is taking a great game and improving it even more, fans should enjoy these new updates and with Kinect support Bethesda will have more copies flying out of game store shelves.

 

Skyrim HD, 2K and Normal and ENB round-up

Skyrim has an ongoing list of super mods available, users are able to modify so many aspects of the game it’s almost crazy. We’re not going that far into the exploration just yet, instead we’re focusing on the visual engine and how many tweaks are just waiting to get used out there. Before jumping into that I’ll go over the hardware used in the testing and the software we used.

Test system:

  • AMD Phenom 9750 (Stock)
  • Jetway 790GX ComboL
  • 4GB Crucial DDR2 PC6400
  • ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU (950 core / 1100 memory)
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtrememusic

Software:

  • Windows 7 x64
  • 2K Texture pack for Skyrim Version 1.4
  • ENB Series mod (ENBPM 2.03 Beta)
  • Fraps (monitoring FPS and screen caps)
  • ATI Catalyst 12.2

Settings:

  • Resolution: 1920×1200
  • FXAA: On | SSAO: On (slow) | AA: Off

Skyrim is no doubt amazing to look at from a distance, the textures at their worst come off with clarity and drive home the sense of fantasy. Up close though… that’s really a different story, the textures look blocky and blurry upon closer examination (walking over them). One of the first moves from the community to restore the immersion was the 2K texture mod, a project completely revising the look of the game textures. Recently Bethesda tried their own hand at releasing a full HD kit of their own to update the PC version. The question now is, what gets it done the best and that’s what we’re looking at now.

Outdoor comparison:

 
Normal Textures – (Left: no ENB | Right: ENB on)

 
2K Texture Pack – (Left: no ENB | Right: ENB on)

 
HD Texture DLC – (Left: no ENB | Right: ENB on)

Biggest thing to take out of the outdoor shots? 2K demolishes both without hesitation, in fact it’s a huge difference walking through the world and over land masses. Sure if you fast travel everywhere it doesn’t matter as much but that’s not exactly for everyone and after a while you need to explore to find those extra hidden areas in the map. ENB manages to help polish up all 3 options as well, you can be on normal and get an entirely new sense of depth to Skyrim thanks to the ENB mods being made.

Where does the HD DLC really kick in then? It’s actually indoors that I noticed the biggest kick, with the 2K kit establishing a large lead I left the next comparisons down to the normal and DLC textures instead.

Indoor comparison:

 
Normal Textures – (Left: no ENB | Right: ENB on)

 
HD Texture DLC – (Left: no ENB | Right: ENB on)

Here we see the HD pack shine, it adds definition to the sheets for threads and revises the chest completely, floor textures like the rugs and coverings all get a revamp for higher clarity. While the outdoor scenes may not show it, tighter spaces make heavy use of the revised HD textures. The primary difference to the 2K pack is the illusion of bump mapping and depth to the textures in the 2K pack for more realistic walls and added depth to tables. This all comes at a cost as we’ll see in the performance section. Before going there, we’ll take a close up with character models and the HD pack update to clothing and overall design.

 
Normal Textures – (Left: no ENB | Right: ENB on)

 
HD Texture DLC – (Left: no ENB | Right: ENB on)

Huge shift in the shirt is the first thing I picked up, clothing gets a massive overhaul to give actual definition to the characters. Faces, hair and other items also take up a boost but that shirt… it’s like it’s from a different game. Odd enough if you’re running ENB you’re able to potentially mask some of the horror in the blurry textures thanks to the post processing effects masking it with heavier shadows and blur.

It’s amazing what can be done with just a revamp, but these do come with their own damage. Lets take a look at the Memory and FPS hit running these mods.

Memory in GB (1.46GB before starting Skyrim):

bamfas.com

FPS:

bamfas.com

Memory wise it’s almost confusing why Skyrim HD DLC takes up nearly as much memory as the 2K pack given how it performs outdoors, it seems likely the bulk of it focuses on armor, models and structural spaces more than anything. The 2K pack is the clear winner for overhaul sake but it also does require a large amount of memory and it has the biggest performance hit out of the list. When using heavier ENB mods like ENBPM you’ll drop FPS in half if not worse which is a gamble unless you have the hardware to back it up. Either way they both work to leave the stock pack of textures in the dust and it should be a clear recommendation to at least get the HD pack if you have the memory to spare. For those more adventurous there are users also combining the two for an ultra texture mod of traditional art and the 2K pack.

For those wondering if ENB always takes that much power away, no. It’s strictly on a case by case basis and many of the mods don’t induce that hard of a performance hit but finding the perfect one for your setup may require investing some time in tweaking the configuration yourself.

Thanks for tuning in with us and if you have questions feel free to ask in the comments.

Downloads: 2K Texture Pack (Skyrim Nexus) | ENB Series Presets | ENBPM 2.03 beta | ENBPM Feedback

Skyrim Content Creation Kit goes live, packs High Resolution Textures too!

It’s on now, the race to convert files over to handy packages for the content creation kit. On top of that, Bethesda has gone forward with their own texture mod for the game given that your system can tolerate it. I’m currently running the 2K texture pack but I’ll remove that and do a comparison gallery of all 3 to give you guys an impression of what it all looks like in the end.

I’d give you a link to the update but all you need to do is let Steam do it for you. For any additional details check out the official Skyrim website for more.

*Update: Changed out video, Bethesda direct feed keeps dumping errors

Bethesda reveals Content Creation Kit video for Skyrim

So you’ve worked through Skyrim and you’re hoping for easier ways to get mods or even create your own? Today Bethesda releases their first teaser on the Content Creation Kit for Skyrim, it will be arriving soon via Steam as a freebie to work with. Still we lack a hard date on the release but it’s still good news for the community to have some official tools to work with and a great level of mod ability outside of just the graphic packs. Time to get to work on all of those new stories and worlds!

Check out the video below for the teaser. We’ll keep you posted when it breaks.

Day 14: The Steam Holiday Sale Encore

Yes it’s the fabled day, the end of the great sale of Steam. But it’s huge and you’re going to love what they just brought out.

Missed Skyrim? No problem. Missed Arkham City? No problem. Check out the list and feel the love.

As you can see, they’re blowing out as much crazy goodness as they can, you have another 3.5 hours to still get the games from yesterday too such as Hitman. Score up while you can, you wont see something remotely like this until the summer sale.

For final objectives, there are none, go out and capture everything you’ve missed!

Day 6: Steam Holiday Sale brings a Skyrim Deal!

Yep I blew it already, Skyrim is 33% off today and you know it’s gonna sell like mad. Here’s the list, I know you don’t really need any other offers to motivate you.

You get a lot of deals today but it feels like they padded for Skyrim so other games wouldn’t feel left out of the mix. Personally I might hit the Tom Clancy stuff given that I have Skyrim already, maybe Borderlands finally as well or Prototype.

For those hunting goodies check out these objectives for the day.

  • Crimecraft Gangwars – Snow Ballin’ – Earn a total of 200 points from snow brawl matches
  • Hard Reset – Blizzard (Special) – Kill 50 enemies with electricity
  • Jamestown – With your nose so bright… – Complete any mission playing as the red charge ship
  • Wings of Prey – It’s Winter! – Complete any mission on winter locations
  • Renegade Ops – Naughty or Nice – Receive a present from Santa Claus in Coldstrike DLC
  • And Yet It Moves – Shown White – Ride on a severed branch in chapter two for 20 meters without touching the ground.

Good luck and good deals, I’ll still be reporting tomorrow on the Christmas day sale to see what pops up.

Bethesda releases Skyrim 1.3 Patch to PC

So Bethesda broke the game for a moment there but now it’s fixed or at least they’re hoping it’s all fixed again with today’s 1.3 patch for Skyrim. Xbox and Playstation users will need to hold out an extra few days as Sony and Microsoft run the patch through their approval systems, kind of a pain but it’s always that way for those platforms. PC users will notice it already loading over Steam as a game update and everything should be fine from there.

The total changelog is here:

Update 1.3 Notes (all platforms unless specified)

  • General stability improvements
  • Optimize performance for Core 2 Duo CPUs (PC)
  • Fixed Radiant Story incorrectly filling certain roles
  • Fixed magic resistances not calculating properly
  • Fixed issue with placing books on bookshelves inside player purchased homes
  • Fixed dragon animation issues with saving and loading
  • Fixed Y-look input to scale correctly with framerate

The team also plans to address 4GB memory spaces officially, users having issues can already download a patch from Skyrim Nexus to attack this directly.

Source: BethBlog

Skyrim PC 1.2 issues? There’s a fix for it

So you downloaded the 1.2 patch for Skyrim or Steam shoveled it down your PC’s throat and now your resistance is gone and Dragons are moonwalking in the sky. Instead of waiting on Bethesda to get a patch approved and out for the masses you can skip all that nonsense and grab the SKSE mod by an independent team to fix this and get your game playable. We love Bethesda but seriously, releasing a game breaking patch is a hell of a thing.

Download: SKSE Mod 1.02

You’ll also need WinRAR, Ultimate Zip or 7zip to open the file.

Credit to the community at large and The Black Horse Courier for keeping everyone in the loop 

 

Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim | PC

Skyrim is here, most of you already know that and are fighting your way through endless quests and missions. For those of you who have not ventured into the latest offering for The Elder Scrolls we have our review on the PC for everyone. Here are some details to help things along though. With the 1.2 patch out I do find it fair to note what I started on for the review so that any issues mentioned might fixed in later patches.

Version Reviewed: 1.0 + 1.1 patch (1.2 patch just arrived today)
Drivers: Catalyst 11.11a (11.11b came out today to help with Skyrim Ambient Occlusion)
Modifications: None

Suggested mods: – Skyrim just got a bit better – Graphic mod mania!

Hardware:
AMD Phenom 9750
ATI HD 4850 512 (710/1100)
4GB Crucial DDR2 800
Samsung 1920×1200 LCD 16:10

With that said’ lets roll into the review and see how the latest installment of The Elder Scrolls can deliver.

Story:

The Elder Scrolls has always been about story, telling new legends with each installment and consuming a lifetime the player in the process. Skyrim is an evolution on that idea, making the entire world more involved and attempting to place stories within the world so that it never ends. The primary quest revolves around dragons invading Skyrim, they’ve been gone for ages and have faded into the pages of history but a drastic change has come and the world is on the brink of chaos again.  You take on the role of the Dragonborn, a legendary figure granted divine power by Akatosh to level the field between the dragons and the humans so that order and balance can exist. It sounds like a hardcore story full of rugged adventure, mystic finds and amazing battles right? Well it is and as you step in, you only sink further and further into each mini story that appears.

If dragons, the end of the world and being a mystic warrior were not enough, you get the added perk of being on the verge of a complete civil war between the Empire and the Nords with the Thalmor eagerly watching in the darkness to strike for control of Skyrim. The last of that bunch, the Thalmor will probably be the most frustrating bunch to meet throughout the game, the arrogance and attitude just grind away as unrest fills the air. Players must pick a path during the story that allows them to side with one faction or simply fade into the pages without directly impacting either side, stack in the issue that both sides have their own downsides and it becomes a mess for any player to decide where their loyalty rests. Of course there’s also another option of being a complete demon and bringing death down upon everyone and having absurdly high bounties wherever you go, it isn’t exactly a quest though, more like something you do on a separate save file.

While Oblivion could eventually be completed to some level, Skyrim is the opposite, with dynamic stories and involvement that keep players adventuring for months or even years through expansion content from the users and Bethesda. Everything takes time in the game and only those in a rush will be able to finish the primary aspects of the game anytime soon. Want to pursue a skill? That’ll take a while, not just because of money, time and leveling but also due to the size of Skyrim, it’s huge and they make no effort to hide that fact. As a result it takes forever to cross from a fast-travel point to a new location, if you’re anti-fast travel it’ll take you even longer to get there as you battle through enemies, sleep, recover, take on more side quests and whatever else pops up. For many it’s a what they’ve hoped to get all along, tasking in the game actually feels like a task instead of just going A to B and being done with it.

If you’re a bit crazy and only out there to do just the main quest it will still set you back in time invested, you need to train like crazy and fight and learn the shouts so that you’re competitive against the dragons.

Gameplay:

How deep do you want to go is the question you need to ask yourself, Skyrim essentially allows you to go get as involved in the world as you feel comfortable and to remove yourself just as fast. An example of this is while running around doing quests and pushing on, I realized I needed a place to store my goods outside of an inn for the day or the mages guild. In Oblivion you do have limited chances to purchase homes, depending on where you frequent you might want to live in a specific area though, in these cases you need to earn the trust of the city and do some good deeds questing for the citizens, these stack up on your time and often distract you from the main quest as more mini-quests pop up. Stack in developing your house after you buy it and there’s an entire mess to the madness, I had to pull back for the sake of the review to stop from buying other houses or nothing would get done.

The changes go beyond just the story and quests though, instead of simply walking into shops with a wad of cash or finding the biggest guy to beat the life out of, Skyrim really makes you work for the weapons you want. On top of that, if you want to really make use of the game you need to learn the art of mining for ore as the new smithing skill revolves around it for weapon and item creation. How strong your armor and weapons are is up to you and finding ores without any mods is a bit of a pain given how dense the landscape is this time around and how limited some ores are to make bars from. Add in the need to work through multiple guilds to properly level up your gear and training and the game gets a bit more complex.

Speaking of training, hoping to break into the mages guild and just rock the world? You’ll need to figure out how to get there first after you break out of your shackles and avoid death by dragon fire. Unfortunately there are a lot of bandits, a ton of animals and general difficulties getting out into the mountains and into the right cities. Leveling up to make the trek would be a good idea, keep in mind you’ll need to beef up against the intense cold in the area as well, so many zones are full of blizzards and ice that it’s difficult to survive. It’s not impossible and the benefits are plenty once you get there, you can develop key defensive spells and combinations through research and training to fight dragons, factions and anything else that gets in your way.

Presentation:

Graphically, Skyrim looks amazing out of the box. The time it takes to paint in and organize and arrange every little facet of t he world, the wisps of snow and ice over mountain edges, the glow of the night in each city and the arrangements of grass and brush throughout the world just lifts it into another level. Even with countless mods to Oblivion, it doesn’t compare to the base engine and design quality of the game.  The water, the trees, everything just shines with quality to provide a great modern experience. Higher poly models, higher resolution textures and a new experience are difficult to top and the community has already reacted to support the game with 2K (2048×2048) texture mods, improved water, optimized shaders and more. Any details Bethesda missed are already being addressed with HQ packs from the community to make the game shine and they’re free as well.

Character creation is back of course, enabling male or female races with an improved UI to handle the shape and look of your character, instead of a flood of sliders they’ve taken time to slap everything into clean categories and control the extremes the slider can go to. As a result you can get some very interesting characters to develop and even mimic some real-life actors or figures if you wish. The hair would be the biggest drawback at this point simply because it’s extremely… uhm, messy. Short of that, they really nailed the options for character development and the ability to really personalize a character without having to make them alien or freakish.

The audio department is no slouch in Skyrim, beautiful orchestrations flow throughout the world, calm songs playing as you make your way through the game giving a cinematic feel. As you meet enemies or animals you get a twist with some extra energy and a faster pace, as you fight dragons it gets more intensity and drama to the sound. Part of the immersion that comes from the game is based just around the attention to detail in the audio, walking the mountain paths in the storms hearing the blizzards whip around from side to side. It’s a unique experience and they worked hard to tailor it as best they could for the gamer. I do suggest trying to experience the audio in more than a 2.0 or 2.1 configuration. I was using a 4.1 setup with everything positioned properly and the audio shined, allowing for positional audio to work at full potential and environmental effects to circulate while walking around.

Control:

Some may feel compelled to use a game controller to play Skyrim on the PC but it’s really not required, the keyboard commands are simple and the positions have gone under great consideration so that the hand remains stationary during gameplay. Casting shouts is a simple swipe of the pinky, interaction, drawing or hiding your weapon is a swipe of the index and middle fingers, it’s all in one place and the mouse is harnessed to allow for additional actions as well. The response and flow are great, the only issue one might have is if they wiggle or bump their mouse during a conversation, suddenly the camera will track off quickly and take seemingly forever to position back over the person you’re talking too. Locking the mouse when you need it to interact with dialogue sequences would be a bit much though and even the camera needs to shift when sequences come up with multiple AI.

Bugs:

Bugs are present in the PC build for sure, the most notable in the play-through came from Esbern, his vocal files were glitching and as a result it was a guessing game getting things going again. Meeting him at the door provided endless headaches of reloading and shaking the door handle over and over. Eventually I downloaded a vocal pack to install directly into the data directory that got things back on track. If you keep going that way you’ll hit issues with him during multiple points of the game as he’s part of the main story line. How this ended up as an issue I don’t know, it is frustrating and logs online show that it ruins game play if you’re unlucky enough to be sacked with it. Other glitches include instances where the engine isn’t able to initiate parts of the story properly, during a flashback I sat for 10 minutes waiting for the rest of the sequence to finish, after loading it again it played through within minutes. With such a large amount of data processing at once in the engine it’s easy to understand hiccups but they’re still a point where the user breaks out of the groove.

Conclusion:

Is Skyrim everything I hoped it would be? Yes. Is it something Elder Scrolls fans will no doubt enjoy and mod the life out of for years to come? Yes. There’s so much they did right that it’s easy to ignore the Esbern moments or the cinematic glitches because you get so into the game and the story and the mentality of the character that it’s a small sacrifice for the reward that you get. The story and quests have a deep involvement that drag players in even if they think they can resist it, plan to go lone wolf? Too bad, you’ll need a house eventually and then some furniture and then a collection of something to showcase in there, on top of that you’ll need to make nice with the community in the city and by then it’ll be too late. Expect to lose hours of work, school, social time and family time to Skyrim, it’s extremely good and even though I powered through to some extent I know I’ll most likely start it all over just to take my time section by section because the story is that good.  Sometimes having regrets about not helping find that missing loved one or the precious artifact lost. About not taking time to clear up some of the corruption in sections of the world when I could have, rushing for a review does have some down sides but it is critical to experience that core story in the game even if after that it’s just a footnote in a larger situation between the Empire and the Nords.

Many RPG’s have come out this year but Skyrim just presents it with a unique touch that is hard to resist, the formula is so honed and simple and the experience is always enjoyable. Pick it up for your winter break this year and you’ll have plenty to keep you busy through the new year. If you’re coming from Oblivion, think of that as a vacation, you see the sights you try the customs and you have a good time, when you come to Skyrim, you move in you live it in every single step.

Gameplay:★★★★★★★★★★ 
Story:★★★★★★★★★½ 
Features:★★★★★★★★★★ 
Visuals:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Overall:★★★★★★★★★½ 

Overall: 9.5/10

Skyrim just got a bit better – Graphic mod mania!

So you’re on a PC, you’re running Skyrim and loving it like mad and… you’re a bit frustrated at some of the visuals in the game. If you have a strong video card you’re not in trouble. The following tweaks will get you insane visuals without a lot of stress but you will take a performance hit if you’re on a lesser system.

Recommended Video Cards:

NVIDIA: 8800GTX,9800GTX,260,280.295,460,470,480,550,560,570,580,590

ATI: 3850/70, 4830/50/70/90, 5770, 5830/50/70, 5970, 6770/90, 6850/70, 6950/70/90

Why the crazy suggestions? Lots of power and lots of memory are a must, 256mb variants and cards not able to keep up with the instructions may fall to the wayside. Even Oblivion mods took the game to levels where the CPU and GPU fell under the demand. With that said let’s get going.

Skyrim HD – 2K Textures

Loving the look of Skyrim but tired of the dull textures tending to slow things down? Love how things look great from a distance but have you cringe up close? If so, this is a must have starter pack to show some results. The mod updates your existing image files to higher resolution textures and gives Skyrim a huge injection of awesome in the process. This is still in progress so keep checking in for new additions to areas that might be on the to-do list though.

 

No More Blocky Faces

You run into people alllll the time in Skyrim, sometimes their faces just seem a bit… off. This mod fixes nearly all areas of the face so they look less choppy, smooth noses, faces, chins and etc are all there. Xenius the creator notes that eyes and brows are the only thing left on the list to wrap up, the rest of the features show immediate improvements and should make talking to someone or slashing them in the face just that extra bit more pleasant. Personally I didn’t notice the issue until after I saw this mod, then it started appearing quite often.

 

Detailed Faces v2

Xenius seems quite busy, detailed faces accomplishes what Bethesda had to hold back on,  the character textures step up in resolution and allow for tighter lines and finer details. No longer are skin pores huge and cracks dangerously large, combine this with the blocky face mod and things take a huge step up, even on the big uglies that run around Skyrim. It’s a basic tweak but again, you’re always running into people or they’re tracking you down to find their brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews, aunts, sisters penguin.

 

STEP – Skyrim Total Enhancement Project

Sometimes it seems a bit insane to keep up with all this, for casual players and less tech savvy users, the STEP mod is going strong and it’s looking great. It packs in all the base tweaks, textures and items you need for an overhaul of Skyrim without the need to constantly check for mod updates on everything you’re running. I would recommend this for hardcore users or casual ones as it’s a great base to work from and you can only improve after that. Also for casual users the author promises to update the files and mods within the STEP file until the release of TES6 so you’re good for the next 5 years or so haha.

 

Skyrim Enhanced Shaders

The shaders in Skyrim seem to do the job fine, although when you see things like the Enhanced Shader mod you realize there are some off moments that you might overlook from the pure action going on. Dragon fire in the night blazing through the sky and everything failing to react to the red-orange glow bellowing out is just one of those issues. Add it in and get immediate results to clear those areas you might start picking away at now that I’ve said this.

Changes include Adaptive Bloom, Enhanced HDR and HLSL sharpening to help boost the visuals even more. Skyrim does the  job with their HDR actually but the color palette could use some work as shown to the right.

 

 

 

 

Glowing Ore Veins

Doing the little things is a pain in Skyrim, as a last note in this post I’ll throw in Glowing Ore Veins, some sections of the game including the caves just get unbelievably dark and hard to ID ores and other items within. This takes off some of the stress but if you’re going for hardcore realism then it would be best to avoid this one.

Ores are identified by glow so you wont mine a single color and just hope it’s the one you need with no way to remember. The latest update turns Iron from purple to a reddish-orange as well.

Big thanks to the folks at Skyrim Nexus for bringing together a strong mod community. We’ll have more posts in the future highlighting other mods as everyone gets a bit more time.