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Bethesda has revealed some information about the new technology being used for TESV: Skyrim. In a GameInformer article, "The Technology Behind Skyrim," Bethesda outlines four aspects of Skyrim's technology: the new Creation Engine, improvements to Radiant AI, a new collection of features named Radiant Story, and the implementation of the Havok Behavior system.
The Creation Engine
Bethesda has created a new engine for Skyrim named the Creation Engine, which will probably turn out to be the most significant aspect, good or bad, of Skyrim's technology. GameBryo may have problems, but we don't know yet how the Creation Engine will turn out.
Little information has been released about the Creation Engine so far, but what we do know makes me optimistic. Bethesda has created the engine specifically for their games, which seems like a better idea, at least in theory, than trying to wrangle GameBryo (or any existing engine) to accomplish what is needed. SpeedTree has been replaced by a new system that allows greater artistic control over how foliage animates and reacts to the environment. Since the game takes place in Skyrim, snow is of course a necessity, and Bethesda has luckily not returned to the flawed precipitation system in earlier games (where rain and snow fell through, well, everything). Snowfall is now calculated in-game and accumulates on surfaces. The level of detail for distant objects and landscape has been improved, and dynamic lighting and shadows are now "on everything."
Bethesda has been talking about improving the Radiant AI system, which was somewhat restrained in Oblivion. NPCs will now have real jobs or tasks (farming, mining, etc.) instead of simple sets of actions. NPC reactions have been improved to relate more directly to the NPC's relationship with the player. One example given is "a friend would let you eat an apple in his house," which certainly sounds better than every NPC throwing a fit if you touch that inkwell sitting on their desk. These changes look like they will help the world seem more alive, which is always a good thing.
Radiant Story seems to be the feature Bethesda is most interested in hyping, like Radiant AI for Oblivion. Radiant Story is actually a group of features all related to presenting the player with more content. First, Bethesda has created a system of random and dynamically generated quests and events. You may be asked to assassinate an NPC or find an object in a dungeon, but the conditions and objects are not predefined. The game will also attempt to send you to locations you haven't yet explored. Radiant Story also functions as another method preventing quests from becoming inaccessible. In an example given in the GameInformer article, if a merchant with quests is killed, his or her child may take over the store and offer the same quests. Of course, Bethesda warns that if you killed the merchant, the child may seek revenge.
Bethesda has also implemented an omniscient "Story Manager" which works to create dynamic events based on the player's actions. If you drop a weapon in town, an NPC might try to return it to you, or NPCs may fight over it, or maybe nothing will happen. NPCs might ask you for help, training, or a duel. NPCs you become friends with may ask for help later, or even become temporary companions. In the wilderness, you may encounter creatures being attacked by other creatures, or an NPC who directs you to a random quest.
Some of these features do sound innovative, while others just sound like improvements to existing systems such as the "random" encounters in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. The Story Manager actually reminds me of Left 4 Dead's Director. We'll have to see how Radiant Story functions once Skyrim is released, since Oblivion's Radiant AI turned out to be substantially different from the pre-release information about it.
Havok Behavior (Animation)
Bethesda is again returning to the Havok system. Beyond just the usual physics people usually associate with Havok, Skyrim will be using Havok's new "Behavior" system, which allows for improved and more easily designed animations. Havok Behavior can blend together various animations automatically, such as the transitions between walking, jogging, running, and jumping, or the flow between combat animations. NPCs and creatures can become stuck in spider webs and will struggle to escape. The system is also being used for Skyrim's dragons, allowing their animations appear natural instead of "mechanical" or scripted.
Havok Behavior is being applied to improve the dialog system. Instead of freezing time and focusing the camera on the NPC, time will continue to flow. You can look around during your conversation, NPCs may continue whatever they were doing (working, eating, etc.) or even move to take a seat.
GameInformer did ask Todd Howard if Havok Behavior could or would be used for player mounts such as horses or mammoths, but Todd gave a non-response. We'll have to wait and see on that subject...
Bethesda Softworks uploaded 10 screenshots and five pieces of concept art to their company blog on 11 February.
The screenshots and concept art have appeared in print format and on gaming websites before but this is the first time they have been available for viewing and download online at Bethesda's website.
The files can be downloaded by clicking on the pictures to be directed to Bethesda Softworks' Flickr channel. Selecting view all sizes under the actions tab will forward viewers to the download page.
Perhaps one of the most under used features on the Nexus sites is the file tagging and searching system. In a nut-shell file tagging allows files to be categorised much more deeply than just being placed in a single category that may contain thousands of files. It's a great way to drill down in to the thousands of mods on the Nexus sites and look for something much more specific using the "Tag Search" link found in the right navigation.
There is however an issue with the amount of untagged files on the sites. Files can be tagged by both file authors and logged in members; if an author tags a file it becomes instantly tagged where as 3 normal members need to approve a tag for a file before it becomes confirmed. A confirmed tag allows that file to be found using the tag search. The current number of tagged files on the sites is as follows:
- TESNexus: 8,868 tagged files out of 24,393 = 37%
- FO3Nexus: 4,644 tagged files out of 11,049 = 42%
- DANexus: 953 tagged files out of 1,606 = 59%
- NVNexus: 2794 tagged files out of 4,530 = 62%
Those figures would suggest that the smaller percentages on TESNexus and FO3Nexus are a result of the tagging system being introduced after many files had been uploaded and authors had moved on from the scene. These files become the responsibility of the community to tag themselves. As a result I have added the number of tags a file has to the Tags tab on a file page (bracketed as usual). Files that have no tags will be highlighted red so that you know this file needs tagging. Tagging files not only helps the community but, once confirmed, will give you Activity Points on the site.
Having said that New Vegas Nexus was launched after the tagging system was introduced which suggests that close to 40% of mod authors are not tagging their files. Tagging your files increases their visibility in the community so more people can find your files and it takes about 20 seconds to do. There's no reason not to!
As most of you should know Bethesda has released information containing the release date of the next Elder Scrolls game, Skyrim, which is 11/11/11. Easy enough to remember, right? As with every iteration of the series Bethesa are planning to upgrade pretty much all of the systems from Oblivion for Skyrim.
Skyrim will contain a new menu that is supposed to look and feel better than vanilla Oblivion's... well, not so good interface. Other new features include forging your own weapons and some new creatures such as the Ice Wraith and trolls. Similarly Todd Howard has explained the combat system where he confirms that dual-wielding will be possible.
The speed at which the player can run backwards has been reduced so the player can't just walk backwards and avoid hits. Shields will no longer be of much help by just holding it down; you'll have to meet the opponent's strikes with your shield. If you do hold it down, however, it will cause a shield bash which may stagger your opponent. Stealth and bows have also received an overhaul; Ammunition damage has been increased, but in turn has been made more scarce where as a successful sneak attack may do severe damage and kill an enemy in a single hit. Daggers are also getting boosted so the thieves may not be so weak anymore.
Magic is also getting an upgrade. When you hold the same spell in both hands rather than wielding a weapon it gets a power boost at the cost of more magicka. It can also be a stream of magicka instead of a projectile. Mysticism has been removed and it's spells absorbed into the other schools. Duelling with magic is much harder than before and attacking and defending must be timed to be successful.
Let's hope these features all remain in the final game!
The hiring process is now closed for the time being. The response to the position has been great and I look forward to working with the people that have been invited in to the role and hopefully, in the near future, showcasing their work to you all :)
The Nexus has begun to reach that stage now where one person alone can't do the sites justice. I have some great plans for the future of the network as well as hopes for some more games to add to the Nexus catalogue of sites in the future but in the mean time there is something I've always wanted help with but have never been in a position to ask.
News. We all like to be updated on what's happening across the community and there's no reason why the Nexus can't be abreast of the happenings going on in the Elder Scrolls, Fallout and Dragon Age modding and gaming communities. I have opened up a new Jobs at Nexus section on the sites where I will be listing positions for volunteer work over the coming months. At the moment I'm currently looking for some budding news writers/reporters to help bolster up the news content on the sites.
While unpaid this position would be great for someone looking for a future in video game journalism or for anyone who wants to practise and hone their article writing abilities.
Head on over to the news writers job description page for more information.
Many files across the Nexus sites depend on other files, official expansions or official DLCs in order for them to work properly. Up until this point the only way for people to find what files a specific mod needs has been to look for the information in the author's file description or in the ReadMe file. Some files have many, many file dependencies and finding all the mods can become a bit of a chore for all involved.
The latest feature addition for file authors is a new option in your "Manage files" section for all your files called "Required files". Using this page will enable you to select which official expansions and DLCs your file requires in order to work properly. Similarly it will allow you to find and select files on the Nexus sites that your file needs or provide external links to files not available on the Nexus sites for users to download.
It's all sexed up with some efficient AJAX/jQuery coding (so you'll have to allow the scripts in your script blockers if you use them) so all your additions won't have to wait for the page to reload. Finding mods on the Nexus should be much easier with an auto-fill input box that will find the most relevant files based on what you put in to the box.
Once you've added your requirements a new tab will be added to your file page called "Requirements" that will list all the requirements and provide links to the file pages so your users can head off and download all the necessary files. Similarly there is a new entry under the "Options" box that provides the number of files that require your file in order to work (with a link to a page that lists all the files that have a dependency on your file).
My current focus is on reducing the amount of clutter mod authors need to put in to their mod descriptions in order to get all the necessary information out there. Mod descriptions should really be for, guess what, describing the mod! Unfortunately lots of authors have lots of information they need to get out there and the actual mod description, i.e. what the mod actually does (!!), can get lost in-between change logs, news, troubleshooting, etc.. Hopefully this new feature should help to reduce this clutter.
As always this addition requires some work on the part of the mod authors in order to work properly and if there are any problems then leave a comment on this article and I shall explore it.
A couple of weeks back the Nexus sites silently recorded their 2 millionth registered member which is a great achievement. As dictated at the last registration milestone, the millionth member, I decided the next milestone would be 2.5 million members, and 5 million members after that, and we're slowly creeping up on that figure day-by-day.
Each milestone is greatly coveted by me. The milestones are a trophy for the strong support of the modding communities behind the Elder Scrolls, Fallout and Dragon Age series and indeed the success of the Nexus sites within these communities.
Just like the previous milestone I am going to hold a modding competition to celebrate the occasion and hand out some nice prizes to the winners. Hopefully these competitions will become tradition for those users who stick around with us long enough to see each milestone.
The theme for the competition is not going to change from the last and revolves around that of the community we are in. I'm hoping to see some great mods that cover users in the community that might have influenced you during your time here, the various sites of the community that you are a part of (it doesn't just have to be the Nexus!) and what you like about the community.
The type of mod you make, be it a quest, a new landmass, a house or castle, NPCs, weapons, armour, etc. is totally up to you but I will look more favourably upon entries that have a quest in them because I'm a sucker for a good quest! That doesn't mean a mod with a quest in is going to win, however, and if you come up with something really unique then I'll probably love it! A Nexus defence mod, for example, where you defend fort Nexus from a horde of trolls with your fellow moderators wielding ban hammers by your side is something I've dreamt about...
This competition is for Oblivion, Fallout: New Vegas and Dragon Age: Origins. While I understand some modders have not made the move from Fallout 3 to New Vegas (or indeed Morrowind to Oblivion) I did not want to dilute the entries or the prize pool to accommodate these earlier games in their respective series. Sorry to all those disappointed by this.
For full details on what to do and how to enter go visit the competition page. This year the prizes have been tripled in value from a prize pot of $500 to a prize pot of $1,500 and we're covering Dragon Age, too. Top prize for winners is a $350 Amazon.com voucher, with $100 prizes for runner-ups and $50 prizes for mods with the highest potential.
The competition ends 10 days after the 2.5 million member mark is reached so by current estimates that's about 8 months away; but there may be more Nexus sites on the way in the mean-time that makes that figure likely to change, so jump on it quickly to avoid disappointment.
For those without the creative edge or time to create modifications we are currently running a raffle competition on the Nexus Wiki whereby any helpful articles you add to the site will count as a raffle ticket to go towards a prize draw for a $100 Amazon voucher that will be decided at the same time as the 2.5 millionth member competition. So there's something for everyone here.
Further updates will come as we get closer to this milestone. Feel free to voice your intentions to enter this competition and, if you wish, share your plans with the community. Good luck to everyone!
Some of you might have thought that this was a given while others, like myself, wanted to wait for official confirmation from Bethesda before we got all excited and had to change our underwear.
Today Bethesda have announced via their blog that there will indeed be an SDK for Skyrim.
Here's the blurb:QUOTEBethesda has a long history of supporting the modding community, and for good reason. It’s a science fact that mod tools make the world a better place: they make modders happy because they can mod, they make developers happy to see modders gaining experience, and they make fans happy to see an endless stream of content they can mess around with. So today we were pretty happy to finally confirm our plans to continue that support with Skyrim.
As Game Informer confirmed on Monday, Skyrim’s new engine has been dubbed the “Creation Engine.” Accompanying that engine will be the Creation Kit, our suite of level-building tools that we’ll be releasing to the community, much like the Elder Scrolls Construction Set for Morrowind and Oblivion.
The Kit was recently mentioned in the Game Informer article on the tech behind Skyrim. While we have nothing further to announce regarding the Kit at this time, give that article a read for more details on just how powerful these tools will be.
This is excellent news and I, personally, am grateful Bethesda have quickly nipped any doubts in the bud and just come out and said it. Some of you will remember how they handled the G.E.C.K. for Fallout 3 where they didn't announce their intentions until after the games release. It left many of us in limbo. It's great to see Bethesda be progressive in this matter, listen to their fans, and continue to support their awesome modding community.
No doubt more details about the tools and a possible release time frame for the Creation Kit will be announced closer to the release of the game. Lets be patient now, happy in the knowledge that all is well in the land.
Recently I've been working in the background on getting an acceptable Wiki in place for use on the sites. As much as the article database integrates in to the sites they're limited in their functionality, especially when it comes to articles that are relevant to more than one site (such as help with the Nexus sites, or certain modding techniques applicable to the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series).
The Nexus Wiki is a simple Wiki set up to replace the article database on the sites and provide a more central area for helpful articles and tutorials to do with the Nexus sites, the games and modding in general. The mission statement is in no way to attempt to replace any popular community wiki's (such as the UESP or the official SDK wiki's for the various games). It's designed to share information on making modding easier and provide tutorials and help for people struggling to install modifications or use the sites. MediaWiki as a platform is far more versatile than the article database ever would have been so it makes sense to do this switch.
The Wiki login system uses your Nexus username and password so you won't need to sign up again. Once logged in you can create new pages and edit current ones as you would any other wiki. Normal wiki etiquette applies and remember; everything is logged and vandalism will be handled and moderated as it would on any other section of the site (with a swift strike of the ban hammer).
The articles and tutorials in the Wiki are sparse right now and each article and tutorial of worth needs to be manually added to the Wiki from the old article database and rearranged to fit the Wiki template. It's a time consuming process that I've been working on when I can but I could definitely use some help.
As an added incentive for any budding wiki users I will be running a lottery on the Wiki from now until the end of the (soon to be announced) 2.5 millionth member competition. For every new helpful article or tutorial added to the Wiki your account will be entered in to a lottery draw to win a $100 Amazon gift voucher (or an amount of same worth in your own currency). If you write 10 helpful articles or tutorials you get 10 tickets. The draw will take place once the 2.5 million member mark is reached, so hop to it!
I will keep the article database on the sites in their current location (e.g. http://www.tesnexus.com/articles/ for the TESNexus article database) until I am satisfied all the articles currently in the database have been transferred over to the new Wiki.
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