Thursday, April 27, 2006

Warning Signs

Natalie sent me this picture. Whether it is a genuine advert or a bit of fun, I thought it was worth sharing!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Optimising Oblivion

The article I referred to before has been updated to v3.0 here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blog Flop

Hmmm, blogger died yesterday....
Managed to save articles to draft, but publishing wasn't possible.
Anyway all up to date again!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Oblivioned Out

Well I am having a break from Oblivion. Its turned from a great game into a frustration to me so I need a break.
I've been playing X3 again and the new patch (1.402) has really sorted out 99% of the issues I had with the game.
Having restarted after the 1.4 patch my empire is slowly growing and I have two factory complexing producing Alcohol and Crystals for much profit. The former is illegal but in high demand... the latter is just in high demand!

Dr Who on Saturday was great, although I almost wanted it to be delayed by the football going to extra time - I think I am becoming a closet Chelsea FC fan! At least they are my local Premiership Club (and will remain so until QPR get back in the top flight!).
We now know the origins of the Torchwood Institute... Clearly there is going to be serious plugging of the new Torchwood series due to start in the Autumn.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dr Who and EBay Numpties

This morning I finally watched Saturday’s season opener for Season 2 of the new Dr Who. I really enjoyed it, although the papers this morning gave the story a bit of a panning. Who cares – I reckon the base story was a bit weak, but then it launched a few hooks for the future (always a bonus – Babylon 5 was the master of this) and involved a few familiar faces for those of us who watched Season 1.
I really like David Tennant as the Doctor and I think Billy Piper is becoming a great sidekick. It certainly looks like the scriptwriters have decided to give her equal billing with DT and it looks like she is capable of acting. If you haven’t watched it yet – Sorry – but I loved one of the ironic bits of dialogue. When Rose is first possessed by Cassandra she looks in the mirror and exclaims “Oh my God I am a Chav!” I had to laugh! I await more episodes with baited breath (and at least you can’t download them in advance off the net, unlike most of the US series we get)!

I am still staggered by the numpties who bid on items on EBay. I have been hunting for a few nick-nacks for a while and I know exactly how much they cost online. People consistently pay 10-20% more than the normal regular online purchase price when buying off EBay. Its as if they don’t notice that the vendor has added extra postage onto the item to bolster his profits… These people should be slapped!

Finally - do we believe Gareth when he says that he is going to try blogging again? If he does then I suppose we should relink to his website......

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Quick links

Quick post to say we all found the Dark UI mod to be useful for Oblivion. Makes those pesky menus a darn sight easier to read!

This and loads of other goodies (see Jase's previous post re. portable hole and saddlebags) were found at Planet Elder Scrolls below:

Let us know if you discover anything else funky on the web.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Levelling Frustration and Mods

This game is frustrating at times.
James and I have both experienced over active levelling. You wander into a dungeon and before you know it your skills have ploughed upwards and you have levelled twice before you can sleep. This is bad as all skill-ups from the 2nd level don't seem to generate any statistic multipliers so you may get a few x5's on the first level but the second will always be resticted to 1s.
This almost forces you to leave a dungeon part complete and find somewhere to sleep. Not always practical.

Pradeep has helped us optimise both our desktop and laptop PCs for Oblivion and the game is running really well on both. I'll post a link to the optimisation site when I get home (as I don't have access to it from work).

We have also been playing around with Mods, such as the Portable Hole and Saddlebags, both of which are really fun (although the prtable hole costs about 20K to buy - it gives you a small portable room in which you can store stuff).

I see that Bethesda have released the first official Mod for the game, which is a pay to download file (only $2) containing Horse Armour (aka Barding to those of us who are anal about these things)!
This doesn't interest me, but it seems to have create an uproar on the official boards. I don't know why though? Bethesda advertised that they would be launching both free and pay for add-ons for the game when they started talking seriously about it a year ago. The pay for add-ons are no different from buying an expansion pack and are not essential to play the game. I think the majority of complainers are coming from the XBox community - console gamers aren't use to having to buy extra content!
Bethesda have already stated that patches will be free (charging for those would be a bit of a cheek) but it will be interesting to see if the pay for Mods will be included in any subsequent expansion packs - that would cause a real uproar in those people who already bought them!

I remember something similar with Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies. Sony included one of their earlier expansion packs for free in a later expansion and people were annoyed that they were paying for the same thing twice. I think this is just stupid (from the gamer's perspective). If Sony had annouced that they would be giving away their latest add-on free in six months time when the launched a subsequent add-on I still think that the majority of players would shell out the cash for the add-on now rather than waiting six months.

Over the last few years I have watched the expansion of official gaming "boards" with interest and it frustrates me the number of people who complain about how bad a game is. The fact that the software developer has created a forum for you to discuss their product and is interested in finding out what you believe could be improved upon or needs fixing is a very good thing in my eyes. Just typing criticisms with no constructive feedback is a waste of space.

I will use Egosoft as my example. Since its launch in October 2005 X3 Reunion has had four patches, all of which improved upon the game drastically. The Egosoft forums are a lively place and the amount of flaming has drastically reduced with each subsequent patch. It looks like the message is getting through to the gamers that Egosoft do care and do listen and that if you have a bit of patience and give them useful feedback then things can be changed.

However if you compare that to Sony and the debacle of Star Wars Galaxies. Increasingly the boards became more and more hostile as it was clear that Sony were not listening to its client base. The board administrators did a remarkable job, but in the end they all quit in turn as they got frustrated with not being able to deliver good news. The end result.... SWG is now dead (pretty much).

OK enough ranting for one post!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lock Picking 101

Using an old gamesave (as Eriador is currently in Oblivion - Hell - at the moment), I had a play with the Security Minigame (Lockpicking). Here is my guide to breaking the law!
First up - Quicksave. This gives you infinite retries!
OK, so you are looking at a side view of a lock with 5 tumblers.
Depending on the lock's difficult 1-5 of these will be closed and the rest open.
For Very Easy locks only 1 will be closed, so it is trivial to knock it upwards (move mouse up) and open the lock (left click).
For Easy upwards you need to open 2 or more tumblers which means you need to take one tumbler at a time and jam them open.
Each tim eyou knock a tumbler upwards the returning spring varies in its strength, so sometimes the tumbler pings back down quickly and othertimes more slowly.
To jam the tumbler you need to left click when the tumbler is at its highest point (there is an audible click in game when it gets there). If you time it right then the tumbler jams open. If you time it wrong then it springs back down and breaks your lockpick. Failure can also result in some of the other open tumblers falling back closed. As your skill improves the penalties for failure reduce with less open tumblers falling closed.
So what does this mean....
With patience, practice and copious reloading you can open any lock with only one lockpick.
This means you can always break out of prison (as you always get to keep one lockpick when you are arrested - assuming you have one).

As a brief aside I accidentally started the Assassin's guild quest during my trip to Oblivion this morning. When fighting some mini-demons my guard compatriate strayed into my line of fire and took a fireball in the back, dying. A message popped up "Your actions have been observed by unseen parties!" This means that next time I sleep I will be invited to try out for membership into the "Dark Brotherhood". I think I will save that quest for much later, when I have completed the Mage, Fighter and Thieves Guild quests, as murder generally goes down badly. (Plus the thought of me as Archmage of the Guild, and associate assassin has extreme comedy value! - Especially as one quest will involve stealing something from myself!)


The manual and options both refer to a "Grab" key (Z) and for the life of me I couldn't work out what it did.
It wouldn't activate things. It wouldn't perform wrestling moves in unarmed combat etc etc...
And then I hit it by mistake whilst looting the fallen body of an annoying bandit. Suddenly the corpse had moved. I had dragged it across the ground.
Playing about I found I could move things much more precisely using Grab, than the old pick up and drop routine, which scatters things around you.
This definitely has potential!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Advancing, Archery and more

So time for another Oblivion update.
PC Zone came yesterday morning and they have reviewed the game, giving it 95%. I predicted this score on the nose when talking with Serena at the weekend.
I’ve explored a small amount of the game now (which took hours) and can see definite disadvantages to advancing your character up the levels too fast! I deliberately travel to new locations either on foot or on a stolen horse just to explore the world a bit more.
Doing quests you do get steady skill advancement, with a couple of skill-ups in weapons, armour, sneak, athletics and acrobatics pretty much guaranteed. This is great unless you have a lot of these skills as major skills and suddenly you get the message telling you that you have levelled.
If you have read my earlier posts you will have picked up that it is best to be prepared for levelling up by practicing some minor skills to guarantee x4 and x5 multipliers on your key stats. If you get caught out by a level up it is almost worth dropping back a save game and interrupting what you are doing to practice (as soon as you get the level up message any skill ups, including minor skills are counted towards your following level up). This is annoying – but then it appears I am a bigger power gamer than I thought! I even started writing down my 21 skill scores so I can easily work out what multipliers I will get! SAD!
To test the theory out I have created a new Female Nord Paladin type character whose combat skills are all “minor” and her “major” skills are all easy to train, but hard to get skill-ups accidentally (if you play the game “correctly”). This should give me much greater control over when she levels up and I shouldn’t get random increments from playing the game “fighter” style.
I intend to boost her strength and endurance up quickly to give her a real edge in combat and slowly bring up her other stats in a strict rotation (although Personality may get an early boost whilst I grind out her Speechcraft).
Despite it being much easier than in Morrowind, the archery in game has been giving me some difficulty. It does appear that the game adjusts your accuracy (rather than just damage) based on your skill level, so I may not be as bad on the mouse as I thought.
James was telling me that he was very pleased to get a critical hit with an arrow to kill a nasty necromancer and when he approached to loot the corpse he found the arrow sticking out of the guy’s head. Well I duplicated that feat and when I approached found that the silly girl bandit had my arrow stuck in her wrist! I must have hit an artery!
I do love the fact that the game leaves the arrows both in your target and in you if you are hit! I just wish you could pull the arrows out of your own body and shoot them back! (You can recover most of the arrows that you shoot and those incoming ones that miss you, but those that hit you are lost!)
Now all I need to get the hang of is Blocking and the Security mini-game, which is apparently easier than I had thought – I was just doing it wrong! The Speechcraft minigame is now trivial to me! I will write that up another day.
OK enough for now… More to come!