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Found 25 results

  1. So we're getting a new addition to the Elder Scrolls series with the long-awaited announcement that The Elder Scrolls VI will indeed exist. All we got on that front was a logo and some very pretty mountains, so who knows when we'll actually be able to play the next 300 hour+ adventure. In the meantime, Bethesda has a mobile remedy for our role-playing needs with the announcement of The Elder Scrolls: Blades. The game features three play modes with The Abyss an endless dungeon, Arena with one-on-one combat and Main mode where story and quests will live. As far as story goes, you'll play as an exiled Blade trying to restore your hometown. Dungeons will be both hand-crafted and procedurally generated. Both two-handed landscape and single-handed portrait screen orientations are supported. Preorders went live after the conference concluded on June 10, with the full release slated for fall this year. Registrations for early access start this week. The Elder Scrolls: Blades is coming to mobile platforms as well as console and PC. In more mobile Bethesda news, E3 2018 marks Fallout Shelter's three year anniversary. To celebrate, players can build their very own shelters on PlayStation 4 and Switch as of June 10. View full article
  2. So we're getting a new addition to the Elder Scrolls series with the long-awaited announcement that The Elder Scrolls VI will indeed exist. All we got on that front was a logo and some very pretty mountains, so who knows when we'll actually be able to play the next 300 hour+ adventure. In the meantime, Bethesda has a mobile remedy for our role-playing needs with the announcement of The Elder Scrolls: Blades. The game features three play modes with The Abyss an endless dungeon, Arena with one-on-one combat and Main mode where story and quests will live. As far as story goes, you'll play as an exiled Blade trying to restore your hometown. Dungeons will be both hand-crafted and procedurally generated. Both two-handed landscape and single-handed portrait screen orientations are supported. Preorders went live after the conference concluded on June 10, with the full release slated for fall this year. Registrations for early access start this week. The Elder Scrolls: Blades is coming to mobile platforms as well as console and PC. In more mobile Bethesda news, E3 2018 marks Fallout Shelter's three year anniversary. To celebrate, players can build their very own shelters on PlayStation 4 and Switch as of June 10.
  3. Bethesda swore they weren't going to talk about it. The official sequel to Skyrim was supposedly so far away that they couldn't even conceive of talking about it. Turns out, that was at least a little bit misleading. The Elder Scrolls VI has been confirmed to be in the works by Todd Howard himself. The trailer rolled quickly and unexpectedly after the closing reveal of Starfield, an upcoming sci-fi adventure set in a completely new IP. We don't see much, but we can glimpse the general landscape - hills, valleys, mountains, and a roaring sea in the distance. The brief look at the new lands waiting to be discovered heralded by the blaring of the familiar, remixed tones of the Elder Scrolls theme. It's exciting, interesting to speculate on, but that's about it. No concrete information is known about The Elder Scrolls VI, but we won't be learning more until next year. In fact, it's very likely that we won't be seeing VI on store shelves until 2020. Still, that's one heck of a way to close an E3 press conference.
  4. Bethesda swore they weren't going to talk about it. The official sequel to Skyrim was supposedly so far away that they couldn't even conceive of talking about it. Turns out, that was at least a little bit misleading. The Elder Scrolls VI has been confirmed to be in the works by Todd Howard himself. The trailer rolled quickly and unexpectedly after the closing reveal of Starfield, an upcoming sci-fi adventure set in a completely new IP. We don't see much, but we can glimpse the general landscape - hills, valleys, mountains, and a roaring sea in the distance. The brief look at the new lands waiting to be discovered heralded by the blaring of the familiar, remixed tones of the Elder Scrolls theme. It's exciting, interesting to speculate on, but that's about it. No concrete information is known about The Elder Scrolls VI, but we won't be learning more until next year. In fact, it's very likely that we won't be seeing VI on store shelves until 2020. Still, that's one heck of a way to close an E3 press conference. View full article
  5. One of the main focuses of the Sony E3 2017 press conference was showcasing support for its VR headset. Keep reading below to see all of the upcoming games coming to PSVR. Sure to please a slew of Elder Scrolls fans, Sony started out its VR showcase with Skyrim in VR. In the trailer, we got to see various combat systems including the title's signature dragon shouts. Next up was Star Child, a third-person new IP with a sci-fi setting appropriate for its name. Final Fantasy XV Monster of the Deep focuses on the fishing mini-game from the main game. The game has a release date of September 2017. The Inpatient explores a vintage mental asylum and teases "discover who you are before it’s too late." The setting is familiar to those who have played Until Dawn. Players will be in Blackwood Sanatorium 60 years before the events of Until Dawn. Bravo Team is a first person shooter set in a "fictional " modern day Eastern European city. The last of the VR games of the 2017 conference was a title called Moss that focused on a mouse. The adorable little critter roams around in a fantastical natural world. Which games are you excited for in VR? What titles do you want to see? View full article
  6. One of the main focuses of the Sony E3 2017 press conference was showcasing support for its VR headset. Keep reading below to see all of the upcoming games coming to PSVR. Sure to please a slew of Elder Scrolls fans, Sony started out its VR showcase with Skyrim in VR. In the trailer, we got to see various combat systems including the title's signature dragon shouts. Next up was Star Child, a third-person new IP with a sci-fi setting appropriate for its name. Final Fantasy XV Monster of the Deep focuses on the fishing mini-game from the main game. The game has a release date of September 2017. The Inpatient explores a vintage mental asylum and teases "discover who you are before it’s too late." The setting is familiar to those who have played Until Dawn. Players will be in Blackwood Sanatorium 60 years before the events of Until Dawn. Bravo Team is a first person shooter set in a "fictional " modern day Eastern European city. The last of the VR games of the 2017 conference was a title called Moss that focused on a mouse. The adorable little critter roams around in a fantastical natural world. Which games are you excited for in VR? What titles do you want to see?
  7. Recognizing the enthusiasm behind its modding community, Bethesda announced the launch of Creation Club during its June 11 E3 press conference. The feature will support The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim: Special Edition and Fallout 4. Creation Club will be a "collection of in-game content" where players can create new weapons, armor, outfits, accessories, crafting, and housing features and new gameplay enhancements. A credit system will be used to grant assets in-game. The content itself is reportedly made by Bethesda Game Studios itself as well as outside developers and "the very best community creators." This influence from outside devs apparently made it so that the content provided through Creation Club will be compatible with save games, achievements and official add-ons. Expect to see Creation Club's launch Summer 2017 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Are you a Bethesda modder? How would you use Creation Club? View full article
  8. Recognizing the enthusiasm behind its modding community, Bethesda announced the launch of Creation Club during its June 11 E3 press conference. The feature will support The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim: Special Edition and Fallout 4. Creation Club will be a "collection of in-game content" where players can create new weapons, armor, outfits, accessories, crafting, and housing features and new gameplay enhancements. A credit system will be used to grant assets in-game. The content itself is reportedly made by Bethesda Game Studios itself as well as outside developers and "the very best community creators." This influence from outside devs apparently made it so that the content provided through Creation Club will be compatible with save games, achievements and official add-ons. Expect to see Creation Club's launch Summer 2017 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Are you a Bethesda modder? How would you use Creation Club?
  9. With music one would not usually associate with the serious dreary winters of Skyrim, Bethesda released an official look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the Switch . After reminding viewers of the gorgeous landscapes of the beloved game, a character seemingly out of sync makes an appearance: Link. Or at least Link in his Amiibo form. A hand then appears to tap the Breath of the Wild Link interact with the Switch Screen. Then we hear the oh-so-familiar treasure chest soundbite, and a piece of the Zelda universe is in the world of Elder Scrolls. The player then opens a chest and gains some signature gear, the Master Sword and Link's blue ensemble. We then get a look at the controller capabilities. In a move that embraces Skyrim's core gameplay, each of the controllers represents a weapon in dual-handed combat. Both controllers are used when handling a bow as well. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim releases for Nintendo Switch this fall. What do you think of Link's gear making an appearance in Skyrim? How do you think the Switch will handle a massive game like Skyrim? View full article
  10. With music one would not usually associate with the serious dreary winters of Skyrim, Bethesda released an official look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the Switch . After reminding viewers of the gorgeous landscapes of the beloved game, a character seemingly out of sync makes an appearance: Link. Or at least Link in his Amiibo form. A hand then appears to tap the Breath of the Wild Link interact with the Switch Screen. Then we hear the oh-so-familiar treasure chest soundbite, and a piece of the Zelda universe is in the world of Elder Scrolls. The player then opens a chest and gains some signature gear, the Master Sword and Link's blue ensemble. We then get a look at the controller capabilities. In a move that embraces Skyrim's core gameplay, each of the controllers represents a weapon in dual-handed combat. Both controllers are used when handling a bow as well. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim releases for Nintendo Switch this fall. What do you think of Link's gear making an appearance in Skyrim? How do you think the Switch will handle a massive game like Skyrim?
  11. Bethesda kept things short but sweet during its late night conference on June 12. Many signature titles were revisited and reimagined with some crossover taking place. Bethesda Rolls Out Creation Club Modding Suite - Bethesda announced the launch of a new way to customize its games. Gaming News: VR Versions of Doom and Fallout 4 Are On The Way - See in-game footage for Doom and Fallout 4 in VR. Heroes of Skyrim Expansion Coming To Elder Scrolls Legends - Learn about the update heading to the card game. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider Coming This Fall - See the trailer for the new standalone Dishonored expansion. Skyrim on the Switch Detailed, Link Makes a Cameo - We get a look at Skyrim on the Switch with some familiar items making an appearance. The Evil Within 2 Brings The Scares In Time For Halloween - The Evil Within 2 was announced, see its trailer. Editing Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Depicts The Horrors of Nazi-Occupied America - Bethesda ended the night with a trailer for a new Wolfenstein title. For all things E3, keep it tuned into Extra Life. And let us know what titles you're excited to hear about. View full article
  12. Bethesda kept things short but sweet during its late night conference on June 12. Many signature titles were revisited and reimagined with some crossover taking place. Bethesda Rolls Out Creation Club Modding Suite - Bethesda announced the launch of a new way to customize its games. Gaming News: VR Versions of Doom and Fallout 4 Are On The Way - See in-game footage for Doom and Fallout 4 in VR. Heroes of Skyrim Expansion Coming To Elder Scrolls Legends - Learn about the update heading to the card game. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider Coming This Fall - See the trailer for the new standalone Dishonored expansion. Skyrim on the Switch Detailed, Link Makes a Cameo - We get a look at Skyrim on the Switch with some familiar items making an appearance. The Evil Within 2 Brings The Scares In Time For Halloween - The Evil Within 2 was announced, see its trailer. Editing Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Depicts The Horrors of Nazi-Occupied America - Bethesda ended the night with a trailer for a new Wolfenstein title. For all things E3, keep it tuned into Extra Life. And let us know what titles you're excited to hear about.
  13. The modding community that grew up around Skyrim is legendary among PC players of Bethesda's open-world RPG. However, a large segment of that community stretches all the way back to 2002 to the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. That segment has organized to try to streamline modding efforts, eventually resulting in the formation of Beyond Skyrim, an organization that streamlines multiple teams and departments of modders to help unique and creative Skyrim mods become a reality. The current mission of Beyond Skyrim is as follows: The ultimate goal of all of our teams is to create a single end user experience allowing players to travel around Tamriel in as immersive and seamless a manner as possible. This is the guiding philosophy behind everything which we do. We must always consider the final experience first and foremost, ensuring that all of our products are completely compatible with each other, both in terms of technical and gameplay matters, as well as the lore that we’ve developed for our projects, so that they all add up together into a single cohesive world. Beyond Skyrim is in the process of tackling the entirety of The Elder Scrolls' continent of Tamriel, one region at a time. There are teams working on the following adventures/areas: Black Marsh: The Roots of the World Elsweyr: Sugar and Blood Expedition to Atmora Iliac Bay: Tower of Dawn Morrowind: The Star-Wounded East Roscrea: Voices of the Deep Thras: The Coral Kingdom Cyrodil: The Seat of Sunderd Kings These projects have all been in development for years, and finally the first part of the Beyond Skyrim: Cyrodil mod is slated for release next month. Titled Beyond Skyrim: Bruma, this new addition to Skyrim allows players to take part into an entirely new adventure. It spans an area larger than the official Dragonborn DLC from Bethesda. According to the modders, Bruma is larger than Dragonborn by a half. The mod includes over 24,000 new lines of voiced dialogue and three hours of original music. New quests and storylines fill out the new area to provide structure for players to explore the new chunk of Tamriel. And, of course, a large number of new weapons, armor, items, spells, and creatures accompany Bruma's release. Beyond Skyrim: Bruma releases for PC on July 1. The modders behind it say that their progress on the rest of Beyond Skyrim: Cyrodil is chugging along at a rapid pace, so perhaps it might not be a huge wait for subsequent parts of the mod. View full article
  14. The modding community that grew up around Skyrim is legendary among PC players of Bethesda's open-world RPG. However, a large segment of that community stretches all the way back to 2002 to the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. That segment has organized to try to streamline modding efforts, eventually resulting in the formation of Beyond Skyrim, an organization that streamlines multiple teams and departments of modders to help unique and creative Skyrim mods become a reality. The current mission of Beyond Skyrim is as follows: The ultimate goal of all of our teams is to create a single end user experience allowing players to travel around Tamriel in as immersive and seamless a manner as possible. This is the guiding philosophy behind everything which we do. We must always consider the final experience first and foremost, ensuring that all of our products are completely compatible with each other, both in terms of technical and gameplay matters, as well as the lore that we’ve developed for our projects, so that they all add up together into a single cohesive world. Beyond Skyrim is in the process of tackling the entirety of The Elder Scrolls' continent of Tamriel, one region at a time. There are teams working on the following adventures/areas: Black Marsh: The Roots of the World Elsweyr: Sugar and Blood Expedition to Atmora Iliac Bay: Tower of Dawn Morrowind: The Star-Wounded East Roscrea: Voices of the Deep Thras: The Coral Kingdom Cyrodil: The Seat of Sunderd Kings These projects have all been in development for years, and finally the first part of the Beyond Skyrim: Cyrodil mod is slated for release next month. Titled Beyond Skyrim: Bruma, this new addition to Skyrim allows players to take part into an entirely new adventure. It spans an area larger than the official Dragonborn DLC from Bethesda. According to the modders, Bruma is larger than Dragonborn by a half. The mod includes over 24,000 new lines of voiced dialogue and three hours of original music. New quests and storylines fill out the new area to provide structure for players to explore the new chunk of Tamriel. And, of course, a large number of new weapons, armor, items, spells, and creatures accompany Bruma's release. Beyond Skyrim: Bruma releases for PC on July 1. The modders behind it say that their progress on the rest of Beyond Skyrim: Cyrodil is chugging along at a rapid pace, so perhaps it might not be a huge wait for subsequent parts of the mod.
  15. The company behind the critically acclaimed Skyrim and Fallout 4 announced a major shift in their stance on reviews yesterday. In a blog post titled "Bethesda & Game Reviews," the video game company explained that it would not be sending out review copies except for one day prior to release. "While we will continue to work with media, streamers, and YouTubers to support their coverage – both before and after release – we want everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time," read the official reasoning for the change. Bethesda tested the waters with this practice with the release of Doom earlier this year. They sent out review copies one day prior to launch, which led many media outlets and professionals to question whether Doom would be a disaster. A company not sending out early review copies typically shows a lack of faith in the product. Companies who doubt how well their game will be received historically try to maximize profit by sending late review copies in order to rake in as many sales as possible before the game gets panned by critics. However, Doom wasn't a colossal flop, garnering critical and commercial success. Because of that success, Bethesda is pointing to Doom as a model for future game releases. The company wants to draw a parallel between Doom and all of its future releases. Obviously that only works if all future game releases are guaranteed to be of the same quality as Doom - a guarantee that's impossible to give. People often talk about Bethesda in a general sense when it is actually composed of two different companies: Bethesda Softworks and Bethesda Game Studios. Softworks operates as the publishing arm while Game Studios develops their in-house titles. This decision regarding review copies affects both parts of Bethesda. While many people might have faith in future installments of The Elder Scrolls or Fallout, what about the games Bethesda publishes? What about the future games they publish that take after Rogue Warrior or Brink? "At Bethesda, we value media reviews. We read them. We watch them. We try to learn from them when they offer critique. And we understand their value to our players," read the opening lines of Bethesda's announcement. What should people who want to make informed game purchases do? Luckily Bethesda has an answer, "We also understand that some of you want to read reviews before you make your decision, and if that’s the case we encourage you to wait for your favorite reviewers to share their thoughts." To paraphrase: Bethesda understands the value of reviews and the effect they can have on our sales. If you value reviews, just wait. Wait for them until after we've made money off the people who didn't wait and bought on release day. It's time to be blunt. Bethesda can't predict the future. It can no more guarantee that its future games will be universally amazing than it can guarantee that you will live forever. Bethesda also doesn't care if everyone experiences their games at the same time, despite their official line on the matter. Bethesda is a company, not an altruistic patron of the arts and certainly not your friend. Bethesda exists to make money, and if it can do that more effectively by blocking potential bad press until a few days after release, it will. They got away with this anti-consumer behavior with Doom and now they will be trying to get away with it again for the release of Skyrim Special Edition and Dishonored 2. To clarify: We have never received early review copies from Bethesda. This piece doesn't come from a place of spite. While the decision to only send out review copies one day prior to release turns reviewing a game on the scale of Skyrim into a grueling race for many media outlets, that's not a problem for our reviews. The real disservice here isn't to media, it is to Bethesda's customers - to you. If you want to show Bethesda that their tactics to keep you uninformed until after you buy their games won't work - take their advice: Wait. Don't pre-order. Don't buy on release day. Don't make your purchase before reviews come out and you can make a decision while armed with information. If enough people do that, Bethesda will be forced to adjust their practices accordingly. View full article
  16. The company behind the critically acclaimed Skyrim and Fallout 4 announced a major shift in their stance on reviews yesterday. In a blog post titled "Bethesda & Game Reviews," the video game company explained that it would not be sending out review copies except for one day prior to release. "While we will continue to work with media, streamers, and YouTubers to support their coverage – both before and after release – we want everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time," read the official reasoning for the change. Bethesda tested the waters with this practice with the release of Doom earlier this year. They sent out review copies one day prior to launch, which led many media outlets and professionals to question whether Doom would be a disaster. A company not sending out early review copies typically shows a lack of faith in the product. Companies who doubt how well their game will be received historically try to maximize profit by sending late review copies in order to rake in as many sales as possible before the game gets panned by critics. However, Doom wasn't a colossal flop, garnering critical and commercial success. Because of that success, Bethesda is pointing to Doom as a model for future game releases. The company wants to draw a parallel between Doom and all of its future releases. Obviously that only works if all future game releases are guaranteed to be of the same quality as Doom - a guarantee that's impossible to give. People often talk about Bethesda in a general sense when it is actually composed of two different companies: Bethesda Softworks and Bethesda Game Studios. Softworks operates as the publishing arm while Game Studios develops their in-house titles. This decision regarding review copies affects both parts of Bethesda. While many people might have faith in future installments of The Elder Scrolls or Fallout, what about the games Bethesda publishes? What about the future games they publish that take after Rogue Warrior or Brink? "At Bethesda, we value media reviews. We read them. We watch them. We try to learn from them when they offer critique. And we understand their value to our players," read the opening lines of Bethesda's announcement. What should people who want to make informed game purchases do? Luckily Bethesda has an answer, "We also understand that some of you want to read reviews before you make your decision, and if that’s the case we encourage you to wait for your favorite reviewers to share their thoughts." To paraphrase: Bethesda understands the value of reviews and the effect they can have on our sales. If you value reviews, just wait. Wait for them until after we've made money off the people who didn't wait and bought on release day. It's time to be blunt. Bethesda can't predict the future. It can no more guarantee that its future games will be universally amazing than it can guarantee that you will live forever. Bethesda also doesn't care if everyone experiences their games at the same time, despite their official line on the matter. Bethesda is a company, not an altruistic patron of the arts and certainly not your friend. Bethesda exists to make money, and if it can do that more effectively by blocking potential bad press until a few days after release, it will. They got away with this anti-consumer behavior with Doom and now they will be trying to get away with it again for the release of Skyrim Special Edition and Dishonored 2. To clarify: We have never received early review copies from Bethesda. This piece doesn't come from a place of spite. While the decision to only send out review copies one day prior to release turns reviewing a game on the scale of Skyrim into a grueling race for many media outlets, that's not a problem for our reviews. The real disservice here isn't to media, it is to Bethesda's customers - to you. If you want to show Bethesda that their tactics to keep you uninformed until after you buy their games won't work - take their advice: Wait. Don't pre-order. Don't buy on release day. Don't make your purchase before reviews come out and you can make a decision while armed with information. If enough people do that, Bethesda will be forced to adjust their practices accordingly.
  17. FUS RO DAH! This week the gang tackles Bethesda's sprawling open-world RPG, Skyrim. The 2011 title released in an incredibly buggy state, but became one of the first major cases of post-release patching. Critics heaped acclaim onto Skyrim, praising the Norse designs, revamped gameplay mechanics, and the vast world. It also helped to popularize the Steam Workshop. Does Skyrim hold up after several years later with a revamped release coming in a handful of months? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 'Whiterun' by mellogear (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02636) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  18. FUS RO DAH! This week the gang tackles Bethesda's sprawling open-world RPG, Skyrim. The 2011 title released in an incredibly buggy state, but became one of the first major cases of post-release patching. Critics heaped acclaim onto Skyrim, praising the Norse designs, revamped gameplay mechanics, and the vast world. It also helped to popularize the Steam Workshop. Does Skyrim hold up after several years later with a revamped release coming in a handful of months? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 'Whiterun' by mellogear (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02636) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  19. Looks like October 28! Kotaku article! ALSO! Amazing. Not an awful start to E3
  20. Many wondered what Bethesda would show at their pre-E3 conference this year. Would they show a Skyrim remaster? Prey 2? Evil Within 2? Bethesda threw a mixed bag at its audience this year with some predictions coming to pass, some only slightly happening, and others not appearing at all in their announcement line-up. The pre-E3 Bethesda press conference began with a bang that many weren't expecting so close on the heels of Doom's release. A new entry in the Quake series, Quake Champions burst into glorious existence in a hail of gunfire. The team at id Software supposedly have the title running at an impressive 120hz with an unlocked framerate and the cinematic trailer that heralded Quake's revival looked fantastic. The multiplayer arena shooter boasts new characters with unique abilities, each one catering to a different playstyle. Several of Quake's champions show their signature moves in the reveal trailer. The conference then moved through a brief retrospective of what had happened over the past year. The surprise success of Fallout Shelter, The Elder Scrolls Online hanging on and managing to survive, the release of Fallout 4 and Doom were all touched upon. Bethesda then described The Elder Scrolls Legnds, a card game that delves into the lore of The Elder Scrolls universe. Told by a Moth Priest named Kellen, Legends follows the legend of Elder Scrolls lore and pairs that with a strategic card game. The intro cinematic was shown and allowed to speak for itself as to what Legends will be about. Players can join the beta of Legends on the Bethesda website. Moving on to Fallout things, three new expansions to Fallout 4 were briefly teased during the Bethesda showcase. The first, Contraptions Workshop, will allow players to build all kinds of new things in their settlements like elevators, conveyor belts, racks for weapons and armor, ball tracks, and more! Contraptions becomes available on June 14. The second Fallout 4 expansion shown, called Vault-Tec Workshop, grants players the ability to build their own Vaults. Of course, it appear that building a new Vault comes with its own unique challenges, like angry underground monsters, raiders, and more. Once the Vault attracts some residents, players can start conducting experiments on the new inhabitants. The final DLC was revealed with a short camera pan up from the Wasteland to an abandoned Nuka-Cola-themed park. Appropriately enough, this expansion is titled Nuka World and takes place in a long abandoned theme park. No release dates were given for Vault-Tec Workshop or Nuka World. Rounding out the Fallout news, Fallout Shelter's 1.6 update overhauls combat, adds questing, new items, characters, and locations. The addition of questing has apparently bolstered Bethesda's confidence in the mobile title enough to bring it to PC. The update and PC version will be releasing sometime next month. And yes, Bethesda is working on a Skyrim remaster. Titled Skyrim Special Addition brings massively overhauled graphics to the world of Skyrim for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, along with full PC mod support for the consoles. Since the announcement of its existence, Bethesda tweeted that those who own Skyrim and all its add-ons or own the Steam Legendary Edition will receive a free upgrade to Skyrim Special Edition. Skyrim Special Edition releases on October 28. Perhaps the most surprising moment of the night was the reveal of Prey, Arkane Studio's reimagining/reboot of the 2006 Prey. Instead of highlighting spiritual aspects of Native American culture as gameplay mechanics and story beats, the new Prey puts a psychological twist on everything. Forsaking former protagonist Domasi "Tommy" Tawodi, Prey centers on the tormented struggle of Morgan Yu as he awakens on the Talos 1 space station. With a mysterious alien force in pursuit and a growing sense of urgency, Morgan will need to harness his mind-bending abilities to uncover the secrets of the station and get through his ordeal alive. While certainly not the Prey 2 that was once teased in years long past or even the remnants of that amazing "what could have been" game, Prey looks like an interesting project to keep an eye on. Arkane states that Prey will release in 2017 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. A multitude of free new updates are on the way for Doom's SnapMap, allowing players to create new single-player experiences to share online with new props, logic options, and visual themes. New multiplayer content is on the way as well, with new game modes like Exodus, Sector, and three free-for-all modes. Next month a premium DLC pack will release. Called Unto the Evil, it will focus on multiplayer with three new maps, a new demon, a new gun, and more. Perhaps the coolest part of the Doom announcements was the nod to Doom's roots as a shareware title. Following the Bethesda conference, anyone who does not own a copy of Doom can play the first level of the title on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC for free. Bethesda followed up the Doom portion of the presentation to talk about The Elder Scrolls Online. A Japanese release of the MMO is on the way, opening up the community of seven million players to Eastern markets. The majority of the ESO talk focused on the release of the The Dark Brotherhood DLC for PC/Mac today and Xbox One/PlayStation 4 on June 14. Bethesda then announced their Bethesda VR initiative which allows players to take a virtual tour of Hell in the world of Doom and play Fallout 4, wandering the Wasteland in full VR. Fallout 4 VR will be possible with Vive support later this fall. The crowning part of the evening was an in-depth look at the gameplay of Dishonored 2 through the eyes of new protagonist Emily Kaldwin. New powers, expanded verticality, and powerful gadgets await players who wish to dive into all that stealth has to offer. Honestly, it looks very slick, so just watch the gameplay. Dishonored 2 releases on November 11 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. That wraps up pretty much everything that Bethesda touched on during their press conference. You can watch the full broadcast on Bethesda's YouTube channel. For more E3 press conference news, check out our coverage of EA's press event!
  21. Many wondered what Bethesda would show at their pre-E3 conference this year. Would they show a Skyrim remaster? Prey 2? Evil Within 2? Bethesda threw a mixed bag at its audience this year with some predictions coming to pass, some only slightly happening, and others not appearing at all in their announcement line-up. The pre-E3 Bethesda press conference began with a bang that many weren't expecting so close on the heels of Doom's release. A new entry in the Quake series, Quake Champions burst into glorious existence in a hail of gunfire. The team at id Software supposedly have the title running at an impressive 120hz with an unlocked framerate and the cinematic trailer that heralded Quake's revival looked fantastic. The multiplayer arena shooter boasts new characters with unique abilities, each one catering to a different playstyle. Several of Quake's champions show their signature moves in the reveal trailer. The conference then moved through a brief retrospective of what had happened over the past year. The surprise success of Fallout Shelter, The Elder Scrolls Online hanging on and managing to survive, the release of Fallout 4 and Doom were all touched upon. Bethesda then described The Elder Scrolls Legnds, a card game that delves into the lore of The Elder Scrolls universe. Told by a Moth Priest named Kellen, Legends follows the legend of Elder Scrolls lore and pairs that with a strategic card game. The intro cinematic was shown and allowed to speak for itself as to what Legends will be about. Players can join the beta of Legends on the Bethesda website. Moving on to Fallout things, three new expansions to Fallout 4 were briefly teased during the Bethesda showcase. The first, Contraptions Workshop, will allow players to build all kinds of new things in their settlements like elevators, conveyor belts, racks for weapons and armor, ball tracks, and more! Contraptions becomes available on June 14. The second Fallout 4 expansion shown, called Vault-Tec Workshop, grants players the ability to build their own Vaults. Of course, it appear that building a new Vault comes with its own unique challenges, like angry underground monsters, raiders, and more. Once the Vault attracts some residents, players can start conducting experiments on the new inhabitants. The final DLC was revealed with a short camera pan up from the Wasteland to an abandoned Nuka-Cola-themed park. Appropriately enough, this expansion is titled Nuka World and takes place in a long abandoned theme park. No release dates were given for Vault-Tec Workshop or Nuka World. Rounding out the Fallout news, Fallout Shelter's 1.6 update overhauls combat, adds questing, new items, characters, and locations. The addition of questing has apparently bolstered Bethesda's confidence in the mobile title enough to bring it to PC. The update and PC version will be releasing sometime next month. And yes, Bethesda is working on a Skyrim remaster. Titled Skyrim Special Addition brings massively overhauled graphics to the world of Skyrim for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, along with full PC mod support for the consoles. Since the announcement of its existence, Bethesda tweeted that those who own Skyrim and all its add-ons or own the Steam Legendary Edition will receive a free upgrade to Skyrim Special Edition. Skyrim Special Edition releases on October 28. Perhaps the most surprising moment of the night was the reveal of Prey, Arkane Studio's reimagining/reboot of the 2006 Prey. Instead of highlighting spiritual aspects of Native American culture as gameplay mechanics and story beats, the new Prey puts a psychological twist on everything. Forsaking former protagonist Domasi "Tommy" Tawodi, Prey centers on the tormented struggle of Morgan Yu as he awakens on the Talos 1 space station. With a mysterious alien force in pursuit and a growing sense of urgency, Morgan will need to harness his mind-bending abilities to uncover the secrets of the station and get through his ordeal alive. While certainly not the Prey 2 that was once teased in years long past or even the remnants of that amazing "what could have been" game, Prey looks like an interesting project to keep an eye on. Arkane states that Prey will release in 2017 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. A multitude of free new updates are on the way for Doom's SnapMap, allowing players to create new single-player experiences to share online with new props, logic options, and visual themes. New multiplayer content is on the way as well, with new game modes like Exodus, Sector, and three free-for-all modes. Next month a premium DLC pack will release. Called Unto the Evil, it will focus on multiplayer with three new maps, a new demon, a new gun, and more. Perhaps the coolest part of the Doom announcements was the nod to Doom's roots as a shareware title. Following the Bethesda conference, anyone who does not own a copy of Doom can play the first level of the title on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC for free. Bethesda followed up the Doom portion of the presentation to talk about The Elder Scrolls Online. A Japanese release of the MMO is on the way, opening up the community of seven million players to Eastern markets. The majority of the ESO talk focused on the release of the The Dark Brotherhood DLC for PC/Mac today and Xbox One/PlayStation 4 on June 14. Bethesda then announced their Bethesda VR initiative which allows players to take a virtual tour of Hell in the world of Doom and play Fallout 4, wandering the Wasteland in full VR. Fallout 4 VR will be possible with Vive support later this fall. The crowning part of the evening was an in-depth look at the gameplay of Dishonored 2 through the eyes of new protagonist Emily Kaldwin. New powers, expanded verticality, and powerful gadgets await players who wish to dive into all that stealth has to offer. Honestly, it looks very slick, so just watch the gameplay. Dishonored 2 releases on November 11 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. That wraps up pretty much everything that Bethesda touched on during their press conference. You can watch the full broadcast on Bethesda's YouTube channel. For more E3 press conference news, check out our coverage of EA's press event! View full article
  22. Earlier this week, I wrapped up my review of Divinity: Original Sin and one of the minor problems that I briefly mentioned was the lack of narrative direction. I understand why it isn’t there; Larian studios didn’t want to funnel their players into any one predetermined path. Doing so would undermine the entire appeal of their game and diminish the sense of freedom Original Sin allows its players. As I thought about my experience with Larian’s modern take on old-school RPGs, I couldn’t help but feel like this was something of a missed opportunity. Original Sin was certainly entertaining, but will I ever feel compelled to replay it? Will I remember the details of its well-worn plot or the characters in a month or two? The somewhat somber conclusion that I came to was a flat no. I’ve always been a proponent of games as both a vehicle for both narrative and enjoyment. However, it seems that when one sacrifices narrative for enjoyment the entire package suffers as a whole. I still get the itch to play the first Mass Effect and experience the adventure again, despite the fact that the gameplay is clunky at best. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I rarely feel the need to go back and revisit Guitar Hero, though it was amazing amounts of fun when it initially released. And that isn’t saying that all games should have narratives; it is merely an observation that fun seems to be this ethereal and transient thing while well told stories last. I have a running bet with a friend of mine on which game people will still talk about in twenty years: BioShock Infinite or The Last of Us. It is a silly bet with $50 on the line, but if I am completely honest, people will probably still talk about both titles. The dialogue will continue, not because they were both fun (though they are both quite enjoyable to play), but because of the stories they tell and how they go about telling them. I wouldn’t be willing to place a similar bet on there being ongoing discourse about the narratives in Divinity: Original Sin, Crackdown, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Dark Souls, or Grand Theft Auto 4. The greatest strength that these games provide, player agency, seems to diminish the effect their stories might have otherwise exerted. This brings me to what I feel is a valid question: Why? Why is it that open world games seem to have fewer stories that connect with players? The first conclusion that I find myself drawn toward is that open world game design clashes with traditional narrative structure. There is a concept in Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ that stipulates many stories have a ‘call to adventure’ wherein the narrative beckons the protagonist to begin their quest. There is also an addition to that idea referred to as a ‘refusal of the call’ where the protagonist for various reasons declines the initial appeal. Though ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ was written with traditional, linear narratives in mind, these two ideas are useful when talking about open world structure. An open world completely destroys almost any attempt to create a similar type of story, and yet many of the narratives we find in open worlds cling to a linear structure. Since the players in most video games are the protagonist, this means that the hooks meant to invest them into the story must be effective or else most players will find various reasons to ‘refuse the call’ while going from initial plot point A to important plot point B. This was exactly my problem while playing Skyrim. I sank over one hundred hours into Bethesda’s open world and never made much progress on the main storyline. There was always a new cave to explore, a new sidequest, a new dragon shout clue. Any dramatic tension that might have been built up disappeared the instant an unexplored map marker appeared. I’d guess that many of you have similar experiences with open world games. The opportunities and incentives to refuse the call simply win out through sheer numbers over the singular call to adventure. You might argue that this is a problem that could be solved through design by including more motivations to follow the core storyline. I’ve heard ideas thrown around ranging from providing a timer to create tension like those found in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask or Dead Rising. Another idea would be to incentivize the main quest with better loot or various other digital rewards. That sounds all fine and dandy, but when you bring the idea of curbing or influencing player behavior in an open world game to the players themselves, you are met with a resounding, “LOL, NOPE.” Creating effective drama in a narrative is like shooting a bow and arrow. The string of the bow tenses as it is pulled further and further. If you hold the arrow back for too long your arm begins to get tired and there is the possibility that the string or bow will break. Releasing the arrow after it has been fully drawn causes it to shoot far and fast, but if you let the string go slowly slack, the arrow will just clatter to the ground harmlessly. Drama demands a certain amount of tension; tension which most players in open world games dislike because it makes them feel like they are ‘on the clock’ so to speak. This gives people a sense of being rushed or forced down certain paths, which they then resent. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the people who don’t care and do what they want anyway, which has the effect of deflating tension until it is non-existent, killing the drama. At this point, it might be fair to question the point of having a narrative in an open world experience at all. Perhaps it is best to look at how narrative in the genre has evolved to its current state for additional insight. Open world games began as text adventures in the 70s, but the first graphical attempt at an open world came in the form of 1979’s Adventure on the Atari 2600. While the game itself gave few clues as to what story, if any, was being told, the instruction manual provided players with the tools to contextualize the collections of shapes on-screen. In 1986, The Legend of Zelda refined the idea of an open world by adding engaging combat and puzzles, though the narrative was still largely contained within the game’s manual. Then, in 1998, Ocarina of Time released and became the go-to example of how to pull off an open world. To this day Ocarina is considered one of the greatest games of all time, lauded for its tight gameplay, exploration, and narrative. For the first time, an open world game had a narrative that was not only successful in a functional sense, but also in a way which seemed like it captured the essence of adventure. That part of the game might seem tired and less revelatory over a over a decade and a half later, but when it released people were amazed by the cheeky Princess Ruto, the odd society of the Gerudo, and the journey of a young boy to save the world. Ocarina of Time managed to tread a very thin line; one that encouraged and rewarded exploration while also minimizing distractions from the player’s pursuit of the narrative. Have you ever noticed how a lot of the areas you initially pass by in Ocarina of Time have paths and secrets you can only access with gear later on; gear that you only acquire by progressing through the story? Ocarina manages to gate various areas in this manner, but it never feels distracting or irritating. I’d guess that’s because it provides incentives to proceed, both in terms of new gadgets, but also by using what has become one of the most iconic gaming annoyances: “HEY, LISTEN!” Players who get overly sidetracked are reminded that they’re supposed to be saving the world and not wasting quite so much time competing in fishing challenges or fighting chickens. These gates and mechanics result in a tightly controlled story which funnels the player from dungeon to dungeon. While players might have accepted this in ’98 and have come to accept it as a staple of The Legend of Zelda series, they certainly wouldn’t appreciate such tactics in a game like Far Cry 4. Ocarina balances the openness of its world against its narrative needs very well, but it isn’t perfect, something that has become more apparent to me over time. It is a classic hero-saves-the-kidnapped-princess story, a tale we have all heard more than a few times. Sure, it has a few unique twists, but that isn’t enough to make the narrative feel completely new. It is an old story told very competently, which is high praise for a video game, but it isn’t Shakespeare, Dickens, or Dumas. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of developers at the turn of the century took the success of Ocarina of Time to mean that bigger open worlds with more things to do was what players truly wanted, not recognizing the need for a change in storytelling tactics. That leads us to the current day. Rapidly advancing technology has given developers more tools with greater power than ever before, ballooning the costs of development for open world games and causing more developers to play it safe by sticking with providing larger and larger worlds. Many gamers and developers seem to be stuck in the idea that bigger is better when it comes to open world video games, while forgetting the lessons of Ocarina of Time. With a smaller game world than most open world games since, Ocarina of Time is more successful on a narrative level than Skyrim’s massive realm. I feel the need to clarify that I don’t mean to talk smack about Skyrim. There are many, many things that it does much better than Ocarina of Time and its scale is utterly gorgeous, but on a narrative level it calls flat for me. The problem is that when a game touts its massive game world and sells millions of copies, many other developers attribute the success, at least in part, to how large the game world was. That’s the reason we see CD Projeckt hyping The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as having a game world larger than Skyrim and 30 times as large as The Witcher 2. As a side note, it seems a bit backward to me to tout how large a title’s in-game world is before players have gotten their hands on it. What if the general reception of the game is terrible? Doesn’t that just mean there is more of it to find unenjoyable? A great parallel of this mindset can be seen in the film industry. On the one hand we have Transformers, a series of films that trots around the world with giant robots beating the crap (oil?) out of each other that succeeds in being huge, loud, and flashy, with each film trying to be bigger than the last; and it is all so incredibly boring. On the other hand, we have 12 Angry Men a classic film from 1957 about a jury arguing over the guilt of a young man on trial for murder. Almost the entire film takes place in a small jury room and it is riveting. The film makes good use of the small space, shooting from interesting angles while dramatic tension is created between the various members of the jury. The size of the set isn’t what makes a film interesting, and neither is the size of a game world. It seems kind of like we are stuck when it comes to storytelling in open world games. Developers can attempt to tell a story that our players can completely ignore, which leads to lazy, uninspiring narratives; they could lightly sprinkle the narrative into the game in such a way that it is both unimportant to the player and the game itself; or we can tightly control the gameplay options to restrict the open world and tell our story appropriately. All of these options seem to come up a bit short if a developer wants to tell a meaty, interesting narrative in an open world. It might seem odd to look for a solution in linear titles, but that seems to be the only recourse to find a moderately comparable solution, since there are nothing quite like open world games in any other form of media. Observing some of the most interesting narrative titles from the last decade or so reveals what could be an interesting answer and possibly the future of video games: Game mechanics as storytelling tools. There is a tendency to view mechanics in games as simply a means to an end; that they are just how games work. It is a shame that we look at the basic means by which this medium functions and just shrug them off. But those underlying mechanisms are one of the characteristics that set video games apart from other mediums. Perhaps that is why some of the best games of our time have made use of mechanics to aid in storytelling. Look at Jonathan Blow’s Braid which uses its core time reversing mechanic to devastating effect. It completely turns the tables on the accepted theme of princess rescuing that many games have adopted as a shorthand for adventure. It reveals a troubled protagonist who has created his own version of events while ignoring the truth of what happened; someone who desperately desires to rewind the clock and take back what they did, but ultimately finds that this is one thing that can’t be fixed. For a more blatant example, look at this year’s Transistor from Supergiant Games. The mechanics of the combat contain several layers of meaning. On a surface level, they build the world of Transistor and reflect the digital nature of Cloudbank. Each combat ability stems from a person who has been absorbed into the Transistor and must be combined in different ways to unlock each individual’s history. Using these abilities, these souls, naturally brings up questions about humanity and the moral questions of what you, and by extension the characters around you, are doing. These mechanics are both core to how the game is played and compose the heart of their respective games. This is what open worlds need to strive to do. Developers can escape the confines of linear storytelling if they ingrain the mechanics with weight and meaning. *spoilers for Shadow of the Colossus ahead* The melding of mechanics and story was a concept that Shadow of the Colossus (one of my favorite games of all time) understood very well. In fact, I’d be willing to argue that it is the only open world game that has succeeded in doing so in a nearly flawless manner. Every single mechanic in Shadow of the Colossus tells us something important. What’s that? Wander swings the sword clumsily? That makes sense since it is revealed later that he stole the sword. He rides his horse Agro very competently and it comes when whistled for? They probably have a deep bond that will be exploited later for dramatic effect. He shoots arrows very well? He was probably hunter or an archer of some kind. Within the space of several minutes with no dialogue the player can make some accurate assessments of Wander’s character. As the player progresses through Shadow of the Colossus, they slay enormous magical beasts for a mysteriously imprisoned entity in exchange for the soul of a deceased loved one. For every colossus that Wander kills, the game makes it clear that this is a sinister task with grave consequences via inescapable dark energy which pierce Wander’s body. At first the change is so subtle many players don’t notice, but after several of the creatures are dead, Wander begins to change, both on the outside and the inside. Small horns begin sprouting from his head, his hair turns black, and his skin goes white, eventually taking on the look of someone near death. But as these changes occur, he also gains more stamina and health, tangible things in the game that help the player overcome the remaining colossi. Wander’s willingness to give up his humanity over the course of Shadow of the Colossus speaks to the lengths to which he will go for the sake of his love, a sacrifice that becomes all too clear in the final moments of the game. Though the world is open, the minimal design ensures that there aren’t many distractions beyond the beautiful views encountered en route to the next colossus’ location, thus naturally overcoming the player’s urge to wander and break dramatic tension. It seems to me that in order to tell a completely successful narrative in a video game, developers need to embrace the things that make video games different and use them to tell their story. For too long, open world games have relied entirely on player agency while neglecting to consider the importance of what their mechanics are saying. And this isn’t just a problem for open world games, but something that a lot of linearly designed games also get wrong. Integrating mechanics meaningfully into the narrative will be what brings video games into their own. The industry is on the cusp of a change in design philosophy and I can’t wait to see what comes next. View full article
  23. Jack Gardner

    The Challenges of an Open World Narrative

    Earlier this week, I wrapped up my review of Divinity: Original Sin and one of the minor problems that I briefly mentioned was the lack of narrative direction. I understand why it isn’t there; Larian studios didn’t want to funnel their players into any one predetermined path. Doing so would undermine the entire appeal of their game and diminish the sense of freedom Original Sin allows its players. As I thought about my experience with Larian’s modern take on old-school RPGs, I couldn’t help but feel like this was something of a missed opportunity. Original Sin was certainly entertaining, but will I ever feel compelled to replay it? Will I remember the details of its well-worn plot or the characters in a month or two? The somewhat somber conclusion that I came to was a flat no. I’ve always been a proponent of games as both a vehicle for both narrative and enjoyment. However, it seems that when one sacrifices narrative for enjoyment the entire package suffers as a whole. I still get the itch to play the first Mass Effect and experience the adventure again, despite the fact that the gameplay is clunky at best. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I rarely feel the need to go back and revisit Guitar Hero, though it was amazing amounts of fun when it initially released. And that isn’t saying that all games should have narratives; it is merely an observation that fun seems to be this ethereal and transient thing while well told stories last. I have a running bet with a friend of mine on which game people will still talk about in twenty years: BioShock Infinite or The Last of Us. It is a silly bet with $50 on the line, but if I am completely honest, people will probably still talk about both titles. The dialogue will continue, not because they were both fun (though they are both quite enjoyable to play), but because of the stories they tell and how they go about telling them. I wouldn’t be willing to place a similar bet on there being ongoing discourse about the narratives in Divinity: Original Sin, Crackdown, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Dark Souls, or Grand Theft Auto 4. The greatest strength that these games provide, player agency, seems to diminish the effect their stories might have otherwise exerted. This brings me to what I feel is a valid question: Why? Why is it that open world games seem to have fewer stories that connect with players? The first conclusion that I find myself drawn toward is that open world game design clashes with traditional narrative structure. There is a concept in Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ that stipulates many stories have a ‘call to adventure’ wherein the narrative beckons the protagonist to begin their quest. There is also an addition to that idea referred to as a ‘refusal of the call’ where the protagonist for various reasons declines the initial appeal. Though ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ was written with traditional, linear narratives in mind, these two ideas are useful when talking about open world structure. An open world completely destroys almost any attempt to create a similar type of story, and yet many of the narratives we find in open worlds cling to a linear structure. Since the players in most video games are the protagonist, this means that the hooks meant to invest them into the story must be effective or else most players will find various reasons to ‘refuse the call’ while going from initial plot point A to important plot point B. This was exactly my problem while playing Skyrim. I sank over one hundred hours into Bethesda’s open world and never made much progress on the main storyline. There was always a new cave to explore, a new sidequest, a new dragon shout clue. Any dramatic tension that might have been built up disappeared the instant an unexplored map marker appeared. I’d guess that many of you have similar experiences with open world games. The opportunities and incentives to refuse the call simply win out through sheer numbers over the singular call to adventure. You might argue that this is a problem that could be solved through design by including more motivations to follow the core storyline. I’ve heard ideas thrown around ranging from providing a timer to create tension like those found in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask or Dead Rising. Another idea would be to incentivize the main quest with better loot or various other digital rewards. That sounds all fine and dandy, but when you bring the idea of curbing or influencing player behavior in an open world game to the players themselves, you are met with a resounding, “LOL, NOPE.” Creating effective drama in a narrative is like shooting a bow and arrow. The string of the bow tenses as it is pulled further and further. If you hold the arrow back for too long your arm begins to get tired and there is the possibility that the string or bow will break. Releasing the arrow after it has been fully drawn causes it to shoot far and fast, but if you let the string go slowly slack, the arrow will just clatter to the ground harmlessly. Drama demands a certain amount of tension; tension which most players in open world games dislike because it makes them feel like they are ‘on the clock’ so to speak. This gives people a sense of being rushed or forced down certain paths, which they then resent. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the people who don’t care and do what they want anyway, which has the effect of deflating tension until it is non-existent, killing the drama. At this point, it might be fair to question the point of having a narrative in an open world experience at all. Perhaps it is best to look at how narrative in the genre has evolved to its current state for additional insight. Open world games began as text adventures in the 70s, but the first graphical attempt at an open world came in the form of 1979’s Adventure on the Atari 2600. While the game itself gave few clues as to what story, if any, was being told, the instruction manual provided players with the tools to contextualize the collections of shapes on-screen. In 1986, The Legend of Zelda refined the idea of an open world by adding engaging combat and puzzles, though the narrative was still largely contained within the game’s manual. Then, in 1998, Ocarina of Time released and became the go-to example of how to pull off an open world. To this day Ocarina is considered one of the greatest games of all time, lauded for its tight gameplay, exploration, and narrative. For the first time, an open world game had a narrative that was not only successful in a functional sense, but also in a way which seemed like it captured the essence of adventure. That part of the game might seem tired and less revelatory over a over a decade and a half later, but when it released people were amazed by the cheeky Princess Ruto, the odd society of the Gerudo, and the journey of a young boy to save the world. Ocarina of Time managed to tread a very thin line; one that encouraged and rewarded exploration while also minimizing distractions from the player’s pursuit of the narrative. Have you ever noticed how a lot of the areas you initially pass by in Ocarina of Time have paths and secrets you can only access with gear later on; gear that you only acquire by progressing through the story? Ocarina manages to gate various areas in this manner, but it never feels distracting or irritating. I’d guess that’s because it provides incentives to proceed, both in terms of new gadgets, but also by using what has become one of the most iconic gaming annoyances: “HEY, LISTEN!” Players who get overly sidetracked are reminded that they’re supposed to be saving the world and not wasting quite so much time competing in fishing challenges or fighting chickens. These gates and mechanics result in a tightly controlled story which funnels the player from dungeon to dungeon. While players might have accepted this in ’98 and have come to accept it as a staple of The Legend of Zelda series, they certainly wouldn’t appreciate such tactics in a game like Far Cry 4. Ocarina balances the openness of its world against its narrative needs very well, but it isn’t perfect, something that has become more apparent to me over time. It is a classic hero-saves-the-kidnapped-princess story, a tale we have all heard more than a few times. Sure, it has a few unique twists, but that isn’t enough to make the narrative feel completely new. It is an old story told very competently, which is high praise for a video game, but it isn’t Shakespeare, Dickens, or Dumas. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of developers at the turn of the century took the success of Ocarina of Time to mean that bigger open worlds with more things to do was what players truly wanted, not recognizing the need for a change in storytelling tactics. That leads us to the current day. Rapidly advancing technology has given developers more tools with greater power than ever before, ballooning the costs of development for open world games and causing more developers to play it safe by sticking with providing larger and larger worlds. Many gamers and developers seem to be stuck in the idea that bigger is better when it comes to open world video games, while forgetting the lessons of Ocarina of Time. With a smaller game world than most open world games since, Ocarina of Time is more successful on a narrative level than Skyrim’s massive realm. I feel the need to clarify that I don’t mean to talk smack about Skyrim. There are many, many things that it does much better than Ocarina of Time and its scale is utterly gorgeous, but on a narrative level it calls flat for me. The problem is that when a game touts its massive game world and sells millions of copies, many other developers attribute the success, at least in part, to how large the game world was. That’s the reason we see CD Projeckt hyping The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as having a game world larger than Skyrim and 30 times as large as The Witcher 2. As a side note, it seems a bit backward to me to tout how large a title’s in-game world is before players have gotten their hands on it. What if the general reception of the game is terrible? Doesn’t that just mean there is more of it to find unenjoyable? A great parallel of this mindset can be seen in the film industry. On the one hand we have Transformers, a series of films that trots around the world with giant robots beating the crap (oil?) out of each other that succeeds in being huge, loud, and flashy, with each film trying to be bigger than the last; and it is all so incredibly boring. On the other hand, we have 12 Angry Men a classic film from 1957 about a jury arguing over the guilt of a young man on trial for murder. Almost the entire film takes place in a small jury room and it is riveting. The film makes good use of the small space, shooting from interesting angles while dramatic tension is created between the various members of the jury. The size of the set isn’t what makes a film interesting, and neither is the size of a game world. It seems kind of like we are stuck when it comes to storytelling in open world games. Developers can attempt to tell a story that our players can completely ignore, which leads to lazy, uninspiring narratives; they could lightly sprinkle the narrative into the game in such a way that it is both unimportant to the player and the game itself; or we can tightly control the gameplay options to restrict the open world and tell our story appropriately. All of these options seem to come up a bit short if a developer wants to tell a meaty, interesting narrative in an open world. It might seem odd to look for a solution in linear titles, but that seems to be the only recourse to find a moderately comparable solution, since there are nothing quite like open world games in any other form of media. Observing some of the most interesting narrative titles from the last decade or so reveals what could be an interesting answer and possibly the future of video games: Game mechanics as storytelling tools. There is a tendency to view mechanics in games as simply a means to an end; that they are just how games work. It is a shame that we look at the basic means by which this medium functions and just shrug them off. But those underlying mechanisms are one of the characteristics that set video games apart from other mediums. Perhaps that is why some of the best games of our time have made use of mechanics to aid in storytelling. Look at Jonathan Blow’s Braid which uses its core time reversing mechanic to devastating effect. It completely turns the tables on the accepted theme of princess rescuing that many games have adopted as a shorthand for adventure. It reveals a troubled protagonist who has created his own version of events while ignoring the truth of what happened; someone who desperately desires to rewind the clock and take back what they did, but ultimately finds that this is one thing that can’t be fixed. For a more blatant example, look at this year’s Transistor from Supergiant Games. The mechanics of the combat contain several layers of meaning. On a surface level, they build the world of Transistor and reflect the digital nature of Cloudbank. Each combat ability stems from a person who has been absorbed into the Transistor and must be combined in different ways to unlock each individual’s history. Using these abilities, these souls, naturally brings up questions about humanity and the moral questions of what you, and by extension the characters around you, are doing. These mechanics are both core to how the game is played and compose the heart of their respective games. This is what open worlds need to strive to do. Developers can escape the confines of linear storytelling if they ingrain the mechanics with weight and meaning. *spoilers for Shadow of the Colossus ahead* The melding of mechanics and story was a concept that Shadow of the Colossus (one of my favorite games of all time) understood very well. In fact, I’d be willing to argue that it is the only open world game that has succeeded in doing so in a nearly flawless manner. Every single mechanic in Shadow of the Colossus tells us something important. What’s that? Wander swings the sword clumsily? That makes sense since it is revealed later that he stole the sword. He rides his horse Agro very competently and it comes when whistled for? They probably have a deep bond that will be exploited later for dramatic effect. He shoots arrows very well? He was probably hunter or an archer of some kind. Within the space of several minutes with no dialogue the player can make some accurate assessments of Wander’s character. As the player progresses through Shadow of the Colossus, they slay enormous magical beasts for a mysteriously imprisoned entity in exchange for the soul of a deceased loved one. For every colossus that Wander kills, the game makes it clear that this is a sinister task with grave consequences via inescapable dark energy which pierce Wander’s body. At first the change is so subtle many players don’t notice, but after several of the creatures are dead, Wander begins to change, both on the outside and the inside. Small horns begin sprouting from his head, his hair turns black, and his skin goes white, eventually taking on the look of someone near death. But as these changes occur, he also gains more stamina and health, tangible things in the game that help the player overcome the remaining colossi. Wander’s willingness to give up his humanity over the course of Shadow of the Colossus speaks to the lengths to which he will go for the sake of his love, a sacrifice that becomes all too clear in the final moments of the game. Though the world is open, the minimal design ensures that there aren’t many distractions beyond the beautiful views encountered en route to the next colossus’ location, thus naturally overcoming the player’s urge to wander and break dramatic tension. It seems to me that in order to tell a completely successful narrative in a video game, developers need to embrace the things that make video games different and use them to tell their story. For too long, open world games have relied entirely on player agency while neglecting to consider the importance of what their mechanics are saying. And this isn’t just a problem for open world games, but something that a lot of linearly designed games also get wrong. Integrating mechanics meaningfully into the narrative will be what brings video games into their own. The industry is on the cusp of a change in design philosophy and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
  24. Gaming Heads has made a 1/6 scale replica of the shrine to Skyrim's deified king, Tiber Septim, and it looks divine. The statue stands approximately 14 inches tall and depicts the mythical king standing above a giant serpent, poised to give the finishing blow. With only 350 statues going into production, owning one of these bad boys will cost $199.99. Keep in mind that Gaming Heads has only opened the statue up for pre-orders, so customers shouldn't expect to receive their shrine until mid-2014. For more images of the shrine or if you are interested in purchasing one for yourself or a loved one, check out Gaming Heads' website. View full article
  25. Gaming Heads has made a 1/6 scale replica of the shrine to Skyrim's deified king, Tiber Septim, and it looks divine. The statue stands approximately 14 inches tall and depicts the mythical king standing above a giant serpent, poised to give the finishing blow. With only 350 statues going into production, owning one of these bad boys will cost $199.99. Keep in mind that Gaming Heads has only opened the statue up for pre-orders, so customers shouldn't expect to receive their shrine until mid-2014. For more images of the shrine or if you are interested in purchasing one for yourself or a loved one, check out Gaming Heads' website.
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