Sunday, November 27, 2011

On Skyrim, Part II

According to the handy-dandy save counter, I'm up to 46+ hours on the game now, so I thought I'd throw out a few more observations -- as well as stuff I missed in the last run-down (hate it when I get rushed during a post).

Being who I am, and playing the game the way I do, I'm primarily interested in companion NPCs -- their capabilities, functions, and the AI in general.

And it seems that AI is alive in well in this new iteration of the engine.


Uhh... anyway, so this is Lydia in her default outfit:

In an interesting departure from previous games, Lydia reverts to her default outfit whenever not in your party. Any equipment you give her stays in her inventory; but she's forced to equip the iron armor and shield, and no helm -- though she'll continue carrying the best weapon she has regardless of where it came from.

I had complained before about her generally piss-poor behavior, but I'm happy(er) to note that the behavior is improving as I log hours. Lyds has begun to actually use her shield, and with good armor and an armload of healing potions, her staying power in a scrap is greatly improved. She's particularly good at using a bow for harassing fire to keep a dragon's attention off of me while I kill it...

Bullshit, I say!

...Maeva, what the hell are you going on about?

Don't "what" me, Master! You know perfectly well what my problem is.

You haven't found a bishie to brutally rape lately?

No -- and you're still an asshole, by the way -- you want to know what my problem is?

I'm assuming you're not going to let me get back to my post until I ask, so sure.

Look at me!

Looking. Let me know when to start wolf-calling and offering singles...

I'm six-six, red haired, and am quite capable with a Big Fucking Sword! I am a Viking wet dream!

Don't forget the raging alcoholism and ability to devour an entire side of beef in one sitting.

Point. Get to one. Please.

Why am I not in Skyrim?!

Probably because it's kind of hard to add NPCs to the game when the fucking toolset hasn't been released yet, genius.

A likely excuse.

She's telling the truth, you know. No construction set, no TESVEdit -- you can use the old version of TESSnip to read the Skyrim.esm partially... but as far as I know I've got no means of adding NPCs at all; to say nothing of writing scripts or editing faces. Plus there's the little detail of your hair and eyes not being ported over, no custom bodies, your textures won't work...

...I suddenly haz a sad...

Look, I've been clearing out bandit caves and shipwrecks and shit; I've got a decent sized stash of mead built up. It's yours if you let me get back to my fucking post.

...Nordic honey-booze, you say? Gimme!

Ooh, that's good. Give me the rest of the case and I'll go sexually harass Natasha and leave you guys alone.

Fine, it's yours. I don't drink, anyway.

Hee. You know, she still hasn't forgiven me for the elf-rape I was making allusions to in that post you deleted. Tonight's going to be fun after all...


There, there. Would tits help?

Not while I'm trying to type, thank you...

So, as I was saying before I was interrupted.

Lyds' AI does appear to be getting its act together for the most part; though she (and all other NPCs) seem to have huge pathfinding problems. Trying to walk over, or through solid objects when sandboxing; and in the wilderness, she flat refuses to follow me through nearly all rough terrain -- even between rocks that the gaps are wide enough to walk through easily.

While I obviously can't fire up the suck and check it out, it feels almost like many areas aren't navmeshed.

To her credit, Lydia will plot another path to get to wherever I am -- oftentimes a very circuitous route -- so the problem obviously isn't that she's losing her follow package... it's pure pathfinding; that she can't figure out how to get to where I am the way I got there. It's annoying though, since it's not unusual for it to take close to five minutes for her to get to me; and more than once she's caught up to me after picking up an enemy or two along the way.

I'm thinking viable companions in Skyrim are going to require distance based teleporting code. Blessedly, there doesn't seem to be any delay in follower NPCs following through cell-change doors; so it won't need that block of teleporting code, at least. Maybe... ten thousand units' distance, trigger the teleport? It's rough; determining proper teleport distance without breaking combat behavior...

On the up side, at least some of the new armor is great. I dolled Lyds up in ebony:

I swear, I've seen armor that looked almost exactly like that -- right down to the color -- in an anime somewhere. A cyborg bad-guy, I think... but it's been so many years I can't place it. I want to say in the AD Police/Bubblegum Crisis universe, but I'm not sure; I think it may also have been one of the Patlabor films. Not that I mind them reusing the look, it's great and all... it just annoys me when I can't place something. Damned steel sieve of a memory.

The new glass armor isn't bad looking either; though I wish they'd fire whoever keeps insisting it be green.

Is smoky quartz glass armor too much to ask? Nice, neutral, slightly translucent gray.

Thankfully, I maxed out my smithing skill last time I was playing, and could finally make use of the dragon scales I'd been collecting:

The armor rating isn't that much better than glass, but it looks less elf-y...

Elf rape! Woo!

...God damn it, I'm going to have to taze her by the end of that case, I just know it...

That helmet/mask, by the by, is not part of the dragon scale set:

On the whole, I still really like the crafting system. Daedric equipment is frustrating, as each piece requires a daedra heart to craft -- and we don't get Oblivion gates to go find the owners of said hearts. The only place I've found them regularly is for sale at alchemists, and they're not cheap. I foolishly used the first two daedra hearts I came across as alchemical components; should have saved them for creating top-end weapons -- I ended up using the last one for a daedric bow, and it is indeed quite the murder machine.

One thing that's continually giving me a WoW-vibe from the game is how you gather components for crafting. You can buy metal from smiths, of course, but you can also gather it yourself:

There are ore veins all over the game world, in various types of metal; and you can enter some actual mines and mine there. Ore veins are pretty hard to see from a distance though. Essentially, they work by having a pick-axe in your inventory, and hitting "use" on the vein. The camera skips out to third person, and your character is shown chipping away at the vein. The animation goes on ten or twenty seconds, and you get a random number of ore chunks (usually two to three) before the vein is depleted and changes to another texture that shows only the rock remaining. Unlike plants, I've not seen the ore veins respawn yet, so it looks like there is a limited number of ore hunks to recover from the world without buying it from merchants. Mining ore also nets you random gemstones sometimes, for selling or jewelry making.

I've read tell that you can have your companion mine, as well. Skyrim's default followers have a new dialogue option: "I want you to do something for me" or some such. Once used, they interact with the next world object you "use" -- if they have a pick-axe they'll mine, a wood cutter's axe will let them chop wood, presumably they can convert animal hides in their inventory into leather if told to use a tanning rack. I haven't tried it myself yet, so it may just be rumor; but if we can use such functions without a script extender this time around, it promises to make companion systems far more versatile.

One of the interesting things about merchants this time around is how often their inventory respawns. It seems to do it daily, now. I've gotten stuck in a smithing loop in Whiterun more than once now -- spending the day "grinding" my smithing skill with components bought from the blacksmith shop there by the gate; go to bed in my place to start adventuring again the next morning; hit the shop again to see what they got in, find a big enough stash of ingots and leather to get me started on the day's work all over again...

It's good for my skill level, but bad for getting much accomplished quest-wise.

Another new feature this time around will probably seem familiar to Morrowind players:

While it's not the same as TESIII, they did give us a transport service this time. You can hire a carriage at any town stables to carry you to any of the major cities (for a fee, of course). This is an interesting way of getting the fast travel markers without having to walk everywhere once; and for players who don't believe in using fast travel, it lets you get to questing spots faster without breaking "immersion" or whatever. Though I -- as usual -- run a reduced from default timescale in the game, I've noticed that the carriage still takes several hours worth of transit time once the screen fades back from black. Going from Riften to Solitude took like six hours, I think.

Sadly, we don't get to see your follower climb into the wagon to ride with you; but they're still there when you appear at your destination. It's a small thing, but I'd like to see that changed someday. No idea what scripting would be involved, though, so it may not even be practical.

I've killed several dragons now, and I'm pretty disappointed in them. They're billed as the big scary monsters of the game, but the last one I fought would've had trouble killing me if I weren't fighting back. I took his breath weapon full-on two or three times in the fight, and it barely caused my health bar to move. It was so bad I didn't even have to fight -- Lydia (unmodified, remember) could have killed him while I held his attention. Her arrows ended up eating more than half his health bar. Steel arrows and a Dwarven bow -- not even anything special.

As I also predicted, Shouts are pretty crappy. Flame and Frost breath won't even kill bandits; the super dash shout is stupid and pointless; I have no idea what the "throw your voice" shout is supposed to be good for other than getting NPCs to look somewhere else when you're sneaking... about the only useful one is unrelenting force, which at words one and two shove your enemy away and stun them. Word three blows them fifty feet back -- which sucks because by the time you've reached them to melee attack the stun has worn off. Like I said in the last part of the review: gimmicky. Shouts are a tarnish on an otherwise solid combat system.

The quests also, are a black mark on the game. I don't mean their content, I mean how poorly they're coded. I forgot to bitch about it the last time, but I actually ended up dying during the tutorial, the first time. Not to spoiler too much, but you start the game in line to be executed. A dragon attacks, scattering the Imperial bastards and saving your life. While your hands are still tied (can't use anything, search corpses, or fight) you have to follow an Imperial soldier to someplace safe. All well and good, except the blowhard led me into a clearing the first time, and just stood there. The quest marker didn't change, the log didn't advance... he's just standing there. After a couple minutes, a dragon comes along and turns me into a Nos-kebab.

Second try, it was even worse. At one point in the flee to safety, the dragon is supposed to destroy the wall of a tower; thereby allowing you to jump into the next building over. The dragon attacks... flamey flamey... the wall collapse animation never triggers. My quest marker updates, telling me to jump... through a solid wall. Had to TCL past that one. When we reached the clearing, soldierboy hung again and didn't tell me where I was supposed to keep going; but I had a fair idea and went on anyway, avoiding scorched death. Once inside, it seemed to run okay; but their ability to precisely set up and trigger scripted, animated events is apparently still just this side of complete shit.

Lastly, I figured I'd close with screenshots of some of the nature-y goodness I raved about before.

Loathe though I am to upgrade my PC, I have to say again this game would be fucking amazing in ultra high.

I also noted with more than a slight grin that one of the things the guards say to you in this game is "watch the skies". I know they're talking about dragons, but still... between that line, and the reintroduced Dwemer ruins...

Welp, that about exhausts my list-o-talking points this time around; so I'll shut up now.

Edit, next morning:

Despite my attempt, it looks like I did forget something again after all.

You may notice in the helm-less screenshot, that Lyds' irises are visible and do not look like shit. This is because I installed a new eye textures mod. I've actually installed a few:

Colored Map Markers -- changes the color of your quest target marker to green, and cities to blue; making them stand out on the map. A small detail, but a very nice one.

A Wench Outfit retexture -- retexes one of the barmaid outfits to be predominantly red, rather than filthy used-to-be white. Another small detail, but looks much better. I recommend the "Less colorful" version, that's a bit more subdued and seems to fit the society of the game a bit better.

High Quality Eyes -- Must-have mod. This one redoes the eye textures so that they don't suck. With this installed, you can actually discern eye color without a magnifying glass.

No More Blocky Faces -- this mod reworks the faces slightly, making them smoother and less crappy looking. Another small detail; but to me it helps greatly with keeping the faces from subconsciously feeling "wrong" when looked at.


  1. If nothing else, Skyrim does seem pretty to look at. The look of the water in the last image is amazing, and you are not even on that high of image quality!

    Reading your posts and Herculine's is getting me more interested in playing Skyrim, but I still want to hold off for a while and wait for another patch or two, as well as the game editor and some mods to come out. The armours you have shown here look great, and I have to agree with you that the ebony suit you have Lydia in does look familiar, but I am rather clueless as to its origins as well.

    I just loved Maeva's comments! Lmao!

  2. It does look nice, though it sounds like you're getting twitchy about the lack of your combat team :)

    Regarding the bugs, I couldn't help but notice that the unofficial patch project started on the day of release. Not so much a lack of faith in Bethesda as faith in their ability to screw up...

  3. I've also experienced pathfinding issues a-plenty with Lydia. I finally made my way to Solitude, lost her somewhere in transit and have not seen her since. If she's dead somewhere I'm probably out of luck. Last time she died I "cheated" and console-ed her back to life, but I gotta be able to see her to do that (unless there's another way I'm unaware of).

    I've also experienced an instance of a quest script not firing properly. When I first encountered the Graybeards to learn about all the shout stuff, when they sent me into the courtyard I found myself at an impasse because I ended up out there alone with no idea what the heck I was supposed to do. Upon loading the auto-save from the cell-change, the monks then came outside and we were able to get on with it.

  4. @Herculine:

    Have you tried fast traveling? It always pulls her back to me when I lose her (which is fairly often).

    Failing that, you can move her via the console; but it requires her Hex ID, which I don't have handy. I think I can dig it up though if the fast travel thing doesn't work.

  5. I fast-traveled 3 times and had no luck. The poor Nord must be lying dead somewhere. I suppose I should RP and go try to find her body; I know the general area she should be in and I too have changed my timescale so perhaps wolves haven't eaten her yet.

    Sure would be nice to have a reliable, well-scripted companion system for this game...

  6. Well, we've been partially screwed over this game, it seems.

    I did quite a bit of testing this morning, and it seems you can no longer move around NPCs in the console by calling their HexID -- and you would not believe how long it took me to recover those via TESSnip, damn it all.

    Anyway, I dug through my depressingly in-depth mental database on how the game engine works, and came up with another way to do this.

    While it doesn't like object IDs anymore, and we can't use the Hex-RefID directly (no more ID.MoveTo Player from the console) we can still use PRID.


    Open your console, type in "PRID 000A2C94" (without quotes, obviously). This should select a reference just like you clicked on it. Type in then "MoveTo Player" and close the console. When the game starts running again, Lyds should appear right next to you; alive or no. If dead, she can then be hit with the Resurrect command.

    Setting essential is apparently impossible via the console now, as well; regardless of which ID you use. I got it to take the command with her Hex Object ID; but an IsEssential command immediately after returned a value of zero.

    I've had good luck loading her up on healing potions, though. I know she uses them when hurt, and since I started keeping her stocked on them, Lydia hasn't tried to relocate to Valhalla.

    Frustratingly enough, Bethsoft didn't use "Lydia" anywhere in her object ID, either. She's "HousecarlWhiterun"; with a RefID of "HousecarlWhiterunRef". The other housecarls follow the same naming convention; but I didn't bother to grab any of their Hex-RefIDs. You can retrieve said ID yourself from in the game by opening the console, and clicking on the NPC. The HexID should appear in parentheses; though this time around their text-RefID doesn't appear, so it can be tricky to be sure you've got the right object selected (a quick disable/enable will verify what you have selected).


  7. Thanks for digging that up; it worked perfectly!

    For the record, she was still alive; apparently she was just REALLY lost someplace.

    Shame we can't use the console to set actors to essential. Stupid devs...

  8. No problem. It kind of annoys me that they flatly refuse to throw together an added/changed/removed command document for these engine reworks.

    Nooo; instead we have to trial and error this shit for weeks or months learning what still works and what don't the hard way...

  9. "New and Improved" is sufficient in their minds I think. It's the new game so it must be better than the old game, that's all players need to know.

  10. It gets me because the document probably already exists.

    One would assume that a not insubstantial portion of the crew that worked on Skyrim had also worked on the earlier games.

    So odds are they'd need to know the new and altered console commands for testing -- beta testers especially -- and it's easier to throw together a word document than to get called every ten minutes and asked which command does what.

    Just seems like they're always hanging us players out to dry.

  11. @Herculine: I can't tell if your cynicism is towards the devs or the players.

    Or is this a two for one deal?

  12. there's a mod on the nexus that makes followers essential. I haven't tested it out yet. there's 2 I see, actually.

  13. @Kirtai:

    That was mainly directed toward the devs but yes, since the release of Skyrim I've witnessed a flood of "Skyrim iz thu bestist evar" forum threads. I think Skyrim has many redeeming qualities, but it's not the best game I've ever played.


    Thanks for bringing that to my attention; I'm gonna try it out now...

  14. I can't figure out how to get the game to load additional files now.

  15. @Herculine:

    The "loader" doesn't work right.

    Also, Timeslip has retired, so the only guy we get is his ostensible protege whose soul is apparently owned wholesale by the Nexus network. The only choice for Skyrim mods seems to be the Nexus Mod Manager.

    It works about as well as the site -- which is to say warm up your vocal chords, 'cause there will be a'cursin' incoming.

    You have to log in to the Nexus sites before you can use it, but it won't save your password under any circumstances; once ArchiveInvalidation is activated it can't be cycled or turned off; the "download from within the manager" feature doesn't work for the last two or three versions; and I had to run it as administrator, else it wouldn't actually activate any mods. It's pretty much a piece of shit; but it's all we apparently get this time around.

    I can't wait for someone to port over a Wrye client. I will be switching so fast there will be a sonic boom...

  16. ...and since it can't be set to always run as administrator, I'm prone to forgetting to launch with a right click rather than a double-left, so it just deactivated all my fucking mods again...

  17. Jeez... isn't there a way we can load mods in the .ini or something? I've been adamantly avoiding the Nexus Mod Manager because... well... because it's the Nexus Mod Manager.

  18. Wish we could avoid it. I was trying my best too; but several Google searches have turned up nada. There is nothing else, right now. No TESVEdit, no Wrye port, no patch of FOMM to Skyrim.

    It's NMM or do without mods, near as I can figure.

    Although they did update NMM today (didn't find out until I had already commented) and the new version explains why AI can't be removed -- apparently Skyrim doesn't use an AI.BSA file; it just back-dates the existing archives so that the game sees the third party resources as newer and uses them instead (why they left the "remove archiveinvalidation?" question in there then is beyond me...); and the last time I ran it was not as administrator, and it didn't blank my mods... though I'm hardly willing to call it a worthy replacement for FOMM at this point.

    That login-to-play bit is still fucking annoying; doubly so considering it's on top of Steam's login requirement.

  19. @Nos:

    Lookie here...


    I activated that mod with the Wrye thing, then killed Lydia and waited two hours but she ain't gettin' up. Either the mod doesn't work or Wrye isn't working properly.

  20. ...Do you ever get tired of showing off like that?

    Regardless... DOWNLOADING!

  21. I'm not surprised you didn't find anything, all the discussion about Bash I've found was on Beths own forums, which, for some insane reason, seem to block Google.

    Fifth page when I just checked :P

    There's both a rewrite and a quick port in progress.

  22. Hmm, that admin thing makes me think you have Steam in Program Files? That's a Bad Thing(TM) if so.

  23. @Kirtai:

    No, neither Steam nor NMM is installed in Program Filez. (Teh eeeebil directoreh)

    Threw me for a loop, too -- I've never seen the issue outside of a C:\Program Files installation location.

  24. My problem mentioned above was because Wrye didn't activate the plugins even though I had checked them, so I just tried to launch Syrim with Wrye to see if it would work that way. Black screen. Had to unplug the system to get back in. Bad. Very bad.

  25. Just ran the game via Wrye; sweet mother of all that's unholy is that ever better.

    No login required, it actually activated my mods (craftable soul gems woo!), maintained my load order, and fired up the Skyrim executable instead of that damned loader!

    Herculine, I'd try to kiss you if not for the fact that you'd punch me.

    ...and then my owner would punch me harder; and I kind of like having both my kidneys and all...

    Now if you'll all excuse me, I'm going to try to set the record for fastest uninstall of NMM and never speak of the incident again...

  26. "Had to unplug the system to get back in. "

    Weird problem.

    Is your Python up to date?

  27. I have to admit I'm glad to see Bash supporting all the games, using FOMM/NMM made me want to twitch.

    I wonder why they did NMM instead of a downloader that worked with Bash?

  28. @Nos:

    Thanks for the reminder. I DLed a Python update, launched the game with Wrye and Lydia is now indestructible! She'll get dropped to one knee, but will not die.

    Now, about her scripting...

  29. "Now, about her scripting..."

    Tell ya what, you use those unholy file-finding skillz of yours to find me a working toolset, and I'll see what I can do about Lyds' scripts.

  30. Oooh, are we witnessing the dawn of Nos Companions That Don't Suck for Skyrim? ;)

  31. Well we all know companions are going to get written for my own use if nothing else; and I tend to share many of my private mods with Herculine anyway; so it's less a question of if there'll be NosCo brand Skyrim companions -- and more one of whether I'll be able to be convinced to upload said framework to the Nexus.

    This is mostly academic though; since we still don't know when or if we get a toolset, or how much trouble writing new companions will be.

    I kinda hate to announce stuff only to have to later retract it, y'know?

  32. Yeah, I can imagine the outrage from self-entitled users who think you betrayed them by not catering to their whims. I wish I was exaggerating.

    Regarding the Nexus, I've noticed a few modders have moved to sites like TES Alliance and Wolflore. I don't know if that would be any good for you though.

  33. @Nos:

    I totally empathize. I haven't stopped working on projects for a certain favorite game that I've mentioned from time to time, but I don't dare mention any specifics or projected release dates because my track record has shown that, not entirely due to my own failings, I'm prone to at any moment just throw it all on the ground and stomp on it, yelling: "FUCKYOUMOTHERFUCKERS!"

  34. As I was reading though the long list of comments today, I noticed the wish for using Wrye Bash for Skyrim and was going to mention that a port was in the works, but Herculine beat me to it. I have know about it for a week or so, but just never thought to mention it before. Please don't throw things at me...

    As far as posting mods places other than the Nexus, given the problems for authors there, I agree that TES Alliance might be a good place, and maybe the VGU Network as well (used to be f3Underground). There are significantly less trolls there, and I don't think you have to become an Approved Member before you start posting mods. Herculine might know more about that than I would.

  35. @Druuler:

    Before I uploaded anything to VGU Network I did the 30-posts thing and submitted a request to one of the admins for approval. I'm pretty sure that's their SOP.

  36. The main problem being that VGU last I looked had near zero traffic. Very few new posts, very few posters.

    It was predominantly endless repeats of the same three posts that were already fucking moronic the first time they were posted on the Bethsoft forums.

    I have the greatest mod idea EVAR! ...except that I can't mod so I need someone who's willing to be my bitch and follow my convoluted and unrealistic plans while I get all the credit. Any takers?


    This game is stupid and we need to use mods to make it just like Dragon Age/The Witcher/Daggerfall/HALO/The lastest pile of shit with 'Modern Warfare' slapped on it!

  37. VGU does indeed have far less traffic than the Nexus; sometimes I find myself glancing at the Nexus forums more than once a day while VGU I can go a week without looking at and not miss a thing.

    My sole reason for joining was due to the whole EARACHE42 banning and the repercussions it had on my RR Scouts. Though I must admit, I'll know exactly where to go if I ever decide to clad my Oblivion or Fallout characters in armors ripped from every other game ever made...

  38. "Though I must admit, I'll know exactly where to go if I ever decide to clad my Oblivion or Fallout characters in armors ripped from every other game ever made... "

    So... I'm guessing VGU is lacking in copyright Nazis?

  39. The lack of copyright Nazis, in my opinion, is probably the only thing that's keeping the site from being crushed beneath the Nexus juggernaut.

  40. VGU does have a different interpretation of copyright laws, that is true. They also have a much smaller membership, numbering around the 8000 mark last I heard. There are a large number of modders from the Nexus that are there, partially because they and the Nexus have clashed; they are tired of all the trolls on the Nexus; and/or just prefer the greater "flexibility" due to the different interpretation of copyright law.

    I am a member of both sites, and happily so. The majority of my mod downloads come from the Nexus. The sole exception to that being Corehound's work. I just suggested it as there really are not many gaming sites I am a member of, or familiar enough with that I could suggest as alternate places to host any future work on. *shrugs*

  41. I'm not on VGU but then most of the non-Nexus modders I follow are on TES Alliance (Duke Patrick etc)

  42. Kodlak's room in Jorrvaskr in Whiterun has a respawning Daedra heart that shows up every 2-3 game days. I'm not sure if you need to be the leader for it to spawn, or to get away with taking it, but just FYI.