Thought I'd have a wee break from the coding to write a short piece pertaining to my favourite current flavour of the month Skyrim.
Yes, I honestly thought Dark Souls alone would tide me over for a long, long time, but I bought Skyrim on a lark not really thinking I'd get into it and what eventuated was Dark Souls gathering dust in the corner for the following 3 weeks.
Let's start with the shitty stuff so I can go out with the good.
Skyrim has bugs. The PS3 has a massive, game-breaking (and heart-breaking) lag bug. Your first 60-100 hours will go by smoothly and then you'll start noticing the game freezing consistently, and this gradually worsens until you can't play anymore. God it sucks. It's like having a free train pass that's revoked at half-day and you get kicked off.
As a programmer I can probably guess that the lagging issues are born from the constant fetching and organising of data properties of the zillions of random world objects as they're moved about during play. Tricky one to fix unless you want the game to reset certain objects back to their source points. I'm not holding my breath that they'll patch it efficiently.
The fighting is still absolutely shit. If you had to compare Dark Souls to Skyrim (even though they're chalk&cheese IMO) then this is where Dark Souls wipes the floor with it. It's so naff; you can't tell if you've landed a hit, strikes don't have real sense of impact, and it also seems like the collision detection is a bit off at times. It hasn't improved a great deal from the Oblivion days.
Now don't get me wrong, I still love Dark Souls and I have no doubt I'll be back trolling on it in due time, but Skyrim is ultimately a more lasting and engrossing game. You can't really escape the arcade feel of DS, and despite the best attempts of From to make it have a more open-world feel it's still pretty linear at the end of the day. Skyrim on the other hand is the pinnacle sandbox experience of the generation. A mission can be completed in many ways; the main quest can be abandoned in exchange for random exploration; live to be saviour or consume the world with malice. The replay value is insane.
Anyway enoug blathering on about the obvious bollucks most observers have plucked out in their reviews. We all knew what Skyrim was going to be; bigger worlds, better graphics/less stock dialogue, awesome character development perks. So I'll just talk a little about what impressed me.
The graphics are *so* much better. My Orc looks bulky and muscled without armour- someone put the artists through anatomy class this time round. The mountains look mighty impressive from a distance, with vapour whirling off the high peaks, if you couldn't actually go visit them you'd think they were prerendered animations. And generally the weather systems are very well-handled, beautiful particle effects. You'll want to get caught in a snowgale because it looks so damn *good*.
The audio is great. I mean it's legendary. I love the getting the dragon words, the crescending 'HWOAAH!!' as you approach and begin to absorb the power from them. Not to mention the soundtracks, that are so brilliantly composed with large choirs- so appropriate.
And on that note if I had to pick out the highlight of the game it would have to be the ambience and ethereal poetry of the graphics and audio together; it is simply jaw-dropping at points.
I mean there was one moment when I was running around the plains of Windhelm deep at night, the breeze was blowing serenely through the 3d grass, I looked at my gorgeous in-game wife Adele The Huntress and the incandescent red moon shimmering behind her, Kyne's Peace track playing in the background, and a kind of rush of awe swept over me like I was at DisneyWorld watching the fireworks. I felt at that moment there aren't many other games take me out of my boring life like this one. The game has some real celestial POWER that's hard even to verbalize. More game studio's should definitely aim for that. The guys at Bethesda have a kind of Steve Jobs-like grandiose approach to the atmospherics of their games that I truly appreciate. Craftsman to craftsman, I'm like an amateur magician awed by the skills of the masters playing and analysing the skill that went into making this one.
Anyway, that's what games are for me; portals to the imagination, founded not only on fun gameplay mechanics, they're also platforms for virtual world-building and the illusion of limitless possibilities. The better technology we work on, the closer we inch towards actually stepping into the fleshed-out creativity of people's minds. I can't wait to see what's on the cards for the next 20-40 years.
Last thing I wanted to say is- It's so much fun to be evil in this game. I love getting cheap thrills by robbing people and murdering innocent wandering cattle in the forest ranges. This is a fun troll game. It's a shame it isn't multiplayer, imagine what a laugh it would be to ambush people on the roads with a bunch of mates? I'm sure it'll happen sooner or later.
I'm also blown away by the epic dragon battles, they're cinematic, gripping events and mad fun. My only is that it can be a pain in the ass chasing the bastard until it lands, but it's a small price to pay for the fun of the event. Those dragons kick the shit out of anything seen in Monster Hunter, that's for sure. It just saddens me that my daily allocated time for playing Skyrim is essentially 'till it crashes'.
Okay, back to work. I'm hard at work with Insanity 3; designing the dialogue manager but at the same time I'm a little strapped for the old $$$ these days; therefore I'm power coding a couple of smaller games at the mo.