When we last caught up with Skywind, it was for its second official development diary. But as interesting as the internal workings of this Skyrim mod team are, I'm more interested in the results—a full recreation of Morrowind in Bethesda's latest engine. You can see how far the team have come in this new trailer, which not only provides long and sweeping shots of its alien locations, but also gives a look at the creatures and clutter that will populate the renewed world.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
A new game engine could mean an even longer life for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The engine-replacement project—known as OpenMW—isn't complete yet, but the group of developers working to modernize the now-classic 2002 RPG is nearing the finish line, according to a new update video from the team.
Tamriel's ashy homeland of the Dark Elves is the source for many a Elder Scrolls hero's first memories—exploring ancient Dwemer ruins, sticking a spear into Dagoth Ur, or cursing the very words "cliff racer"—so it's small wonder a number of large-scale mods focus on overhauling the 2002 RPG. The massive Skywind effort is certainly exciting to look forward to, but some older projects are still steaming along quite nicely. Morrowind Rebirth has been around for a few years, and its latest update adds new areas to the game's already massive world.
Sometimes it's difficult to have a surname that can double as an adjective for uncontrollable, mindless violence. Especially when your job is to report on games, which are exceptionally good at making enemies that are characterised by their uncontrollable, mindless violence. The overuse of the word 'savage' in gaming is a completely unwarranted defamation of my ancestors. After all, they were only responsible for around 28% of maulings in the UK's West Midlands area. Still, the damage is already done, so here's the "Savagery" trailer for Skywind, the excellent looking Skyrim mod that aims to fully recreate Morrowind.
After last month's "Call to East" trailer, I doubt anyone would have dismissed Skywind's aim to port Morrowind into the Skyrim engine as an easy task. Now, though, the Skyrim mod's first official development diary will give you an idea of the epic scope of the project, and the ambition and dedication of its 70+ team of volunteers. And all so you don't have to go back to the third Elder Scroll's angular and low-poly giant mushrooms.
Skyrim is a beautifully vast and sweeping game. Also vast: the possibility of its modding potential. The nomadic fans of Morrowind are crossing those rolling plains of creation, as part of their quest to settle within the safety and shelter of this newer game's engine. Their journey started just over a year ago, and now - while still far from the home stretch - they've made great progress. They've even released a trailer showing just how far they've come.
At QuakeCon last night, Bethesda announced The Elder Scrolls Anthology, a special edition retail release containing every TES game, expansion and DLC pack. That's a hell of a lot of prison escapes, grand adventure, and stilted voice acting being packed into a single box. But if you're not tempted by an attractive re-release of games you likely already own, the developer is also packaging the ultimate in PC gaming physical rewards: five maps, covering Tamriel, Iliac Bay, Morrowind, Cyrodiil and Skyrim.
If I had to pick a handful of gaming moments that will stay with me forever, three of them would be stepping into Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim for the first time. Another would be my first few days in World of Warcraft. At face value, combining Elder Scrolls with an MMO should lead to instant RPG nirvana. But the reality of the situation is much different.
While I was in the USA to see The Elder Scrolls Online I chatted to game director Matt Firor and lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle about their experience making the game, the thinking behind the class and combat systems, and why they've kept first-person mode under wraps for so long.
You can also check out my hands-on from earlier today for a detailed breakdown of all the game's biggest features.
Bethesda have made a number of soundtracks from their back-catalogue available digitally, many for the first time. Albums for Dishonored, Rage, the two Fallouts, as well as Jeremy Soule's excellent Elder Scrolls scores have been released. Now you can pretend that simple chores are epic undertakings, re-imagining your vacuuming as a fight against giant spiders and their webs. It's not just me that does that, right?
Skyrim fans have been data-mining patch 1.8 for hints at future updates and posted some very interesting tidbits on the Bethesda forums. The files contains quest markers for the island of Solstheim, the setting for the Bloodmoon Morrowind expansion pack. Bloodmoon locations like Castle Karstaag and Raven are listed alongside new animation entries that hint at mounted dragons.
And so it was foretold. Once every generation there shall be a new Elder Scrolls game, and it shall be in an updated engine. And a band of heroes every generation shall take on a great quest: to convert Morrowind into that engine. This time round, the Skywind project shall heed the call, bringing Morrowind's combat, characters and environments to the latest version of Bethesda's Creation Engine.
Modder, Eloth, has been posting some lovely early shots of the project in the Morroblivion forums. It's still a work in progress, but the mod already has already captured the giant mushrooms and weird architecture that makes Morrowind so strange and memorable. Check out the videos and screenshots below for an early look.
Skyrim unlocks at midnight tonight. If you really, really can't wait that long to get into Skyrim's world, or fancy seeing more of its gorgeous, mountainous geography we've got half an hour of footage below. It shows one man walking from one side of Skyrim to the other, fending off wolf attacks and admiring the sights.
There's no questing, just wandering, but as so much of Skyrim is about exploring it's a little bit spoilery. Still, if you've read our Skyrim review and want to see what got us so excited, you can watch the entire video below.
Don't worry, I'm not going to spoil anything here - I'll steer clear of anything story-related beyond the premise. With another game, that would be tricky. With Skyrim, the stories that come from how the game works are often the best ones.
It's a frozen nation, just to the north of where the previous game, Oblivion, took place. A pleasantly brief introduction sets up the plot: Skyrim is in the middle of a revolt, you've been sentenced to death, and dragons have just shown up. Good luck!
At that point, you emerge from a cave into 40 square kilometres of cold and mountainous country, and that's it. Everything else is up to you.
Even after spending hundreds of hours in Morrowind and Oblivion, the sense of freedom in Skyrim is dizzying. The vast mountains in every direction make the landscape seem limitless, and even after exploring it for 55 hours, this world feels huge and unknown on a scale neither of the previous two games did.
Game director Todd Howard has already mentioned that Skyrim will have unlimited dragons, now he's said to Wired that there will be infinite quests, too.
There's a series of scripted quest lines, of course, which will follow the main plot and a number of subplots like those belonging to Skyrim's various guilds and The Dark Brotherhood, but once you've completed these, Howard says that the Radiant storytelling system will continue to generate tasks. These can involve stealing gems for the thieves guild, or assassinating NPCs for the Dark Brotherhood.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is now available to pre-load on Steam and Direct2Drive, letting you grab 99% of the files needed to run Skyrim. That should be about 6 gigabytes according to the system specs. Then the vital de-encryption data that will turn these files into Tamriel will be shunted to everyone at launch on Friday. Then the game will unlock and we'll all be able to finally play it ... almost.
Once Skyrim is decrypted, you'll then have to wait for another download before playing. Bethesda say that "All platforms going to 1.1 by 11/11/11" with a day one patch that "fixes some minor stability and quest progression issues." Skyrim's going to have a pretty huge world map, and there's bound to still be a few bugs lurking in there somewhere. Oblivion and Fallout 3 had problems with AI getting stuck in doors, objects floating mysteriously and other bizarre anomolies. It wouldn't be a Bethesda launch without a few of those hitting YouTube.
We haven't seen Tom Francis for a while. Oddly enough, his disappearance happened around the time we gave him that Skyrim review code. Where on Earth could he be? He's probably running a marathon somewhere, or studying renaissance literature and generally improving himself. Hopefully he doesn't overdo all that culture and exercise, we need him to turn in his Skyrim review before it gets released later this week.
Oh wait, I've just been informed that Tom's location IS known, and that during the first 48 hours in possession of Skyrim review code, he's spent more than 24 hours playing Skyrim review code, and in the interim, he dreamed about Skyrim review code. Our Skyrim review is likely to be quite thorough, but there may be a delay while we translate it all out of dragon tongue.
A post on the Bethblog on Friday announced that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is done. "We’re pleased to announce that after more than three years of hard work, the team at Bethesda Game Studios has completed over 20 versions of Skyrim — across multiple platforms, languages, and countries. That’s right, Skyrim is officially gold!" cheers the announcement.
The team celebrated with a drop or two of golden mead, which has already played its part in Skyrim's development.
Beyond the excitement of the fact that one of the biggest games of the year is finished and on its way into shops, it's worth noting that Bethesda are cutting this rather fine. Typically games go gold several weeks before release to give the freshly printed discs time to leave the factories and make their way to stores. Skyrim is out this Friday, apparently just seven days after being finished.
The latest "behind the wall" Skyrim trailer gives us a behind the scenes look at the behind the scenes video that will come with the Collector's Edition. But never mind all that, there's a moment towards the end that shows two dragons fighting each other. And there's some beautiful shots of the townships and fortresses tucked into Skyrim's vast, snowy crevices. There are 315 individual areas according to one of the devs in the video. We can't wait to loot all of them. And then loot them all again as a different character. And then bring up each object in Skyrim's 3D object viewer and slowly rotate them going "oooh!" Skyrim is out next Friday.
Todd Howard on Skyrim's toughest monsters: "the more of the main quest you do, the more dragons you'll run into"
We've been speaking to Bethesda game director, Todd Howard about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. So far we've covered small matters concerning crime reporting chickens, a disastrous marriage night and the lessons Bethesda have learned from Fallout 3, but it was only a matter of time before the conversation turned to the creatures that Bethesda have shown the most in this year's Skyrim demos, dragons! When will they appear, and how often will we fight them?
"You have to do a little bit of the main quest - just the initial stuff - for the Dragons to really start appearing, because it sits in with the story," says Howard. "After that point, the more of the main quest you do, the more Dragons you’ll run into. But it's hard to quantify it, they appear every once in a while. Not at a rate that is annoying... it still feels special."