Getting Rid of the Blocky Display in Skyrim

I have been complaining about the block display in Skyrim in my previous post. This always happened with WinXP and not with Win7. To switch OSes for one game seemed unjustifiable, so I decided to look into this issue.

The real reason why the blocky display is happening is because the video driver is not able to generate ambient lighting effects in the game. I noticed this because the blocky display would be either around sources of light in the game (such as fires), or in the open (when the sun is shining). The driver was working fine when it came to rendering textures on objects … but how to render ambient light?

Fortunately, Nvidia had come out with a video driver update just for Skyrim. This is the 285.58 driver version, and it addresses this ambient lighting issues. So no more blocky displays in the game!

Curse: A Gamer’s Blessing

Curse

If you are into games as much as I am or if you are either into World of Warcraft of Skyrim, then this post is definitely for you! One of the things that differentiates a good game (such as Torchlight) from an awesome one (the ones I have listed above) is the developer community.

Not the folks who make the game, but the folks who add to the game. Add-ons, additional content, these are the things which make the game experience even more unique for the gamer. The game itself becomes a custom-fit for the player.

The problem of having the community develop add-ons for you is the installation and customization part. Why should the game developer’s support that? Well, that’s where Curse comes in.

Curse is a add-on client which allows for easy browsing and installation of add-ons of your favorite games. You do not have to be techie to do this … in fact installation of an add-on is now simply a click away! I remember in the days of Morrowind when the player has to put the additional game content in a particular folder … well, it still works the same way, but now Curse provides the user friendly abstraction required for mass adoption.

The wow-factor is the fact that whenever the add-on developer releases an update, Curse notifies you of the same and you can update your favorite add-ons within minutes! If you like mods, then this application is definitely the one for you!

Skyrim: Bethesda’s Redemption

elder-scrolls-skyrim-desktop-gray

The History

The first time I heard of Bethesda, was when I was playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The game is an open RPG where the player can freely roam about in the world completing quests and adventuring. Throughout the game, there were indications that there is a theme bigger than the game running through … yes, you are the chosen one. Yes, you will do great things, but there is some story thats bigger than you … what will it be?

Then came Oblivion, or The Elder Scrolls IV. This game takes place in the same world, but a different land. I was curious and started reading more of the lore available in the game (there are literally hundreds of books that you can read, NPC’s that you can talk to, etc). There are 9 different major kingdoms, all of them ruled by the Emperor, and each of these kingdoms has a story of its own.

The Mistake

After Oblivion, Bethesda launched Fallout 3, a remake of the classic Fallout series. Sadly, the game was so badly done and so full of glitches, that the company received a lot of flak for this game. Fans wanting to play the remake were pissed, Bethesda fans were disappointed in the low product quality … you don’t just buy a game and not play it do you? You either want your money back, or you endure the glitches and go through the main quest at least!!

In comes Skyrim

Bethesda has been hitting the right notes with Skyrim. Right through the trailers, the launch, the in-game lore, the superb artistic detail of the game. It’s a treat for the eyes, any fan of the The Elder Scrolls (TES) series would be happy with this game. Ohh … and did I mention that there are dragons :-)

Graphics

skyrim_new3 The game itself starts in the northern region of the kingdom (a lot of Nordic inspiration has been considered). The terrain is rough and mountainous, but Bethesda has literally crafted a beautiful landscape often forcing the player to stop and locations and look at the view from certain locations. This is probably the best looking game I have seen, literally forcing the user to take screenshots at various junctures in the game. The game looks good, and does require a bit of hardware to do it justice.

One problem I faced was that the game does not properly render on Directx 9 – WinXP combination. The rendering was patchy and I could not enjoy the game at first. Fortunately, I also have a triple boot (WinXP, Win7 and Ubuntu), allowing me to switch between operating systems as per the need. The game runs beautifully on Directx 11 – Win7, without any lags. I would recommend having a 1GB graphics card and at least 3GB RAM. For those who do not boast of such hardware, there is an add-on on Curse to make it run smoothly on DX9 here.

 

Skills to pay the Bills

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Some of the game mechanics have been changed (the skill system has been simplified in terms of no. of skills, but the player is allowed to add nuances to certain skills which he/she intends to major in). The one good thing about Skyrim is that unlike Oblivion, you are not restricted to a specific set of skills to level your class.

The class creation is more open than the previous versions, allowing the user to customize their skillsets and specialize one particular style of playing. I have been playing two characters for roughly 40 hours now and it has been a very intense experience with you completely immersed in the world.

Gameplay

The game itself handles itself pretty well, but its not free from glitches. Certain quests which expect the player to hit certain waypoints simply wont proceed if you digress from the waypoints. The monsters scale up pretty well, and unlike Oblivion where the monsters scale up with you, there are certain monsters which you need to stay away from in the early stages of the game.

The game also has some pretty cool effects whenever you score a critical hit/killing blow. I particularly love these slow cut scenes when finishing off targets while being a sneak. Certain character customization elements (such as the star sign under which you are born) have been nerfed, and changed to shrine stones, which allow you to shift the benefits depending on which shrine stone you offer your prayers to. These stones are strewn across the land, where the player is encouraged to explore the world. Another such encouragement are the Dragon Words, which give you access to similar powers that the dragons have.

All in all, Bethesda has silenced all its critics and given faith to all its fans. They have shown that it is still possible to create games without having on online multi-player component built into the game (Blizzard, are you listening?). Plus, I think with the launch of Skyrim, the niche audience which used to play the TES series has really gone mainstream. Kudos folks!