Other Commentary

Posts that aren't specifically related to games

  • Harrowhark Playthrough,  Modding,  Other Commentary,  Skyrim

    Spoiler-free short review of the Forgotten City mod

    When I put out a call for what mods were recommended for a modded Skyrim run, one of the strongest recs I got was for one called The Forgotten City. This thing got a Writer’s Guild award for the strength of its plot, and the team that created it went pro and turned the overall plot structure into a standalone game, even.

    I can now say that I’ve run this mod in Harrow’s run, and I enjoyed it immensely. I had a couple of small quibbles with it, but these were minor quibbles indeed. So if you’re in a position to run mods on Skyrim, I do highly recommend you consider checking this out.

    I’ll be going into depth about my experiences with the mod in Harrow’s next full post. But by definition, that post will be chock full of spoilers. If you think you might want to run this mod at all, you might want to skip that post until you do.

    In this post, I will limit myself to spoiler-free commentary, just enough to offer up a few tidbits and let you decide if you think the mod sounds like fun to you.

    Deets (again, spoiler-free) behind the fold.

  • Kendis Playthrough,  Other Commentary,  Skyrim

    Bailing on Survival Mode in Kendis’ playthrough

    Calling it at level 32 of Kendis’ run: I am officially bailing on Survival Mode.

    What did it for me: a few things.

    First: reaching the part of the College of Winterhold plot where you get back with the news of where the Staff of Magnus is, only to witness Ancano taking over the Eye, and causing the death of the Arch-Mage. You have to run down into the town to save it from an outbreak of magic anomalies.

    Here’s the problem with that in Survival Mode: Winterhold’s climate is fucking brutal. Every single time I’ve set foot in the town in this mode, the air has been either “frigid” or “treacherously cold”.

    And this time, running down there to try to kill the anomalies, I rapidly proceeded from “Chilly” to “Very Cold” to “Freezing” to “Numb”. And I actively got frostbite. I had to run into the inn to prevent myself from dying from exposure to the elements, which meant I didn’t even get to help kill the last few anomalies. Lydia, Faralda, and Arniel did.

    (And also Meeko, though Meeko, noble hound, did not survive the fight. RIP Meeko!)

    As the player character, I am supposed to be the one leading the charge to kill attacking beasties. It’s just not fun to have to hide in the inn instead, lest I fucking freeze to death. Particularly when I am the only character impacted by the weather at all.

    And when the College of Winterhold is one of my very favorite parts of the game, it kicks a lot of the fun out of it for me if I have to run the risk of frostbite or freezing to death while doing anything at the college. 🙁

    Second: related to previous, it doesn’t help that a huge swath of the map is considered “freezing” territory. And if you want to get anywhere in those portions of the map, you have to go overland through them. I can take a carriage to Winterhold, which only mitigates and does not solve the problem–because I can’t take a carriage out again. Winterhold has no carriage. I have to ride out or walk out.

    Which means if I want to get anywhere at all in those parts of the map and not freeze to death, I have to haul camping supplies with me. Five or six sets of them. And camping supply sets are heavy.

    Which is a pain in the ass when your carry weight has been nerfed.

    Third: Speaking of carry weight getting nerfed, as anybody who regularly follows this blog knows, I get chronically overloaded in any Skyrim playthrough, never mind Survival Mode. Now, if it was just a question of my carry weight alone being nerfed, I wouldn’t necessarily mind that so much. I kind of like having to think harder about which things I do and do not want to bring out of a dungeon.

    But when I combine that with not being able to fast travel out of a dungeon, and in at least a couple of cases having to slog back while overloaded to wherever I left my horse… yeah. That got tiresome.

    So, that mode’s off now. Kendis’ run will continue without it.

    I’m a little disappointed by this, really. I feel like I should have held to the challenge! But on the other hand, if it stopped being fun, I also feel like I’m justified in just not frigging doing it.

    I will have to consider in a future modded playthrough if I can replicate the parts of Survival Mode that I like, and try that. For now, though, Kendis will return to a more standard run.

  • Other Commentary,  Skyrim

    Alternate possibilities for the Blessings of Nature quest

    I got into writing this up while working on my latest playthrough post for Harrowhark. But I found I had enough to say about this that it warranted its own post. After running this plot again with Harrow, I’ve decided that by and large, I really don’t like either option it gives you.

    So here’s a long post about how I’d fix this plot, either in a story, or in a mod if I had the necessary skills to make it.

  • Other Commentary

    How to do game captures on the Steam Deck

    One of the few things I like about the Nintendo Switch more than the Steam Deck is that the Switch has a built-in button for doing video captures. I hit that button, it records the last 30 seconds of what just happened on whatever game I’m playing. Super convenient! And I can yoink the resulting video right out of my captured data, right up to my computer.

    While running Shenner’s playthrough, I really rather missed having that ability. I really like playing on a laptop, but don’t currently have a way to do video capture set up on my Win11 VM. Nor, until last night, did I have any way to do it on the Deck.

  • Other Commentary,  Skyrim

    Some thoughts on the Anniversary Edition of Skyrim

    I’m not yet done with my first official playthrough of the Anniversary Edition of Skyrim, but I’m close enough to the end of it at this point that I feel like getting some thoughts down about the AE in general is now a thing I can do. So here are those thoughts!

    All of this so far is entirely based upon Shenner’s playthrough, as well, even though Faanshi’s playthrough now has access to AE content. I may have additional thoughts later about the AE specifically on the Switch. For now, though, I’m focusing on the experience of playing on the PC and Deck with Shenner’s game.

    Deets behind the fold.

  • Morrowind,  Other Commentary

    Morrowind doesn’t work on my Win11 ARM VM

    I cannot imagine there are too many people in the world besides me who meet the following criteria:

    1. Interested in playing Morrowind
    2. Are primarily Mac owners
    3. Own a M1 MacBook Pro (this is my new computer Lydia)
    4. Prefer to use a controller rather than a gaming mouse
    5. Has a Nintendo Switch Pro controller as current controller of choice
    6. Have set up a Windows 11 ARM build as a VM on said M1 MacBook Pro explicitly for gaming
    7. Have attempted to run Morrowind in that VM

    But if anybody else out there actually does fall into this extremely niche case, it may interest you to know that I learned tonight that at least out of the box, I cannot run Morrowind well in my VM.

    It does load and I can get into my prior save files from the Steam Cloud. But the game does not want to talk to my Switch Pro controller. I can’t move with it at all. Given that I have learned from setting up games on my ancient PC laptop (Savah) that I prefer to play with a controller, not having my controller of choice working in this scenario is sub-optimal.

    It’s also confusing, at least somewhat. This exact same controller is working well when I play Skyrim in this VM.

    But on the other hand, Skyrim is eleven years old. Morrowind is twenty. I’m frankly kind of stunned that Morrowind loads on an ARM build of Windows 11 at all.

    So now I’m torn between conflicting impulses. On the one hand, making Morrowind work in this VM is not a priority. I have a fully viable Morrowind set up on my Steam Deck, and arguably, the play experience is nicer on the Deck anyway, since I can take advantage of the back buttons there.

    On the other hand, I now have a technical problem before me! And it’s probably going to nag at me until I figure out a solution, or at least a plausible cause.

    As near as I can tell, Steam on both this VM and on Savah are defaulting to the same controller configuration for Morrowind, i.e., a keyboard (WASD) + mouse setup. But Savah is picking up on the controller anyway. The VM isn’t, and I’m not sure what step I missed.

    It’s clearly not a question of Windows in general not seeing the controller, because I can use it in Skyrim. What’s going on here appears to be entirely Morrowind’s fault.

    I’ve even tried the PS4 controller we had unused in the house (it’s not mine, but neither Paul nor Dara were using it, so I’ve co-opted it for use in ESO), and that controller shows the same behavior as the Switch Pro controller does. Morrowind’s EXE just doesn’t acknowledge that it’s there.

    Windows sees the controller. So does Steam. Morrowind, not so much.

    At this point the only other thing I can think to try is to doink around with the EXE’s compatibility settings, and see if that helps. I will report my findings when I try that!

    But other than that, if anybody has ideas for other things to check, let me know!

  • Elder Scrolls Online,  Other Commentary

    Some thoughts about ESO+

    I haven’t been playing Elder Scrolls Online for very long, but I’ve been on the game long enough that I’ve already been able to form an opinion about the ESO+ stuff. I’m putting this into a separate post since this commentary is not directly related to any playthrough, and I have enough to say here that I feel like it deserves its own post.

    Let me be abundantly clear: I’m sick to death of everybody on the planet making their users pony up for subscriptions. The banking software I’m using went to a subscription model for its latest version. Microsoft Office does it. Certain other pieces of software I have on my system do it, like software I’ve got for scanning my drive for duplicate files. Hell, several of the plugins I’m using in WordPress for this very site do it. So do apps on my phone and iPad.

    Streaming services do it too, and of course there are eighty bajillion streaming services now, so you have to get a bunch of them if there’s content in multiple places you actually want to watch.

    It’s not a question of whether I can afford it–I can, for which I am grateful. Rather, it’s a question of my being annoyed that the capitalistic society we live in is geared around so many providers of software going “let’s try to milk our users for as much money as possible.” Because that shit does add up. And people who are less able to afford this kind of thing than I am are screwed if they don’t have enough money in their budgets to account for buying additional shiny things in whatever software they’re trying to use, whether it’s a game, Microsoft Office, banking software, a streaming service, or what have you.

    Also, while I can afford these things now, I grew up poor, and to this day that informs my choices about how I want to spend my money. I am extremely reluctant to pay for a subscription service unless it’s absolutely critical to something I need to do.

    How this specifically relates to ESO for me as a player: it means I have a powerful and instinctive aversion to the idea that if I throw the game an additional fifteen bucks a month, then I get access to a whole bunch of shiny things. But if I stop paying, my access to those shiny things stops.

    (Also, hi, i’m old, and I remember the days when buying a particular software release just meant you got that specific release. If you wanted an upgrade to it, you paid for the upgrade. I miss that business model. It was a lot more straightforward.)

    Now, I’m coming into ESO after over a year and a half playing Skyrim. A game which, let me also be abundantly clear, I’ve loved passionately enough that I’ve paid for Skyrim content four times already–once for the base game on the Switch, once on Steam to get the PC build, once on Steam to get the Anniversary Edition upgrade, and once on the Switch to get the AE there too when it recently dropped.

    Relatedly, while I was still playing Dungeon Boss, I threw a stupendously stupid amount of money at that game, too.

    The difference in these situations vs. ESO+: it was entirely à la carte. One-time transactions that got me immediate benefits, which could not be then taken away later if I stopped providing money.

    As I’ve said in previous posts, intellectually, I am aware that ESO is an MMO and as such, it has to make certain accommodations that a single-player, not-online game doesn’t have to care about. So I am willing to put up with limitations on my carry capacity for now.

    In Skyrim, now that I’m able to play the AE on all my gaming-capable things, I can have a staggering number of houses to live in, all of which have their own storage space. And the game lets me carry as many things as I want, with the cost of having to be hampered in movement speed unless I get on a mount.

    Morrowind is a lot less forgiving about this. I don’t have a house yet in my Morrowind playthrough, and also, that game does not let me carry an infinite number of things in my inventory. If I go over carry weight, I cannot move.

    ESO so far feels more like Morrowind to me in this respect, even though its processing of carrying things seems to be more oriented around “how many carry slots you are allowed” rather than by “actual item weight”. And I actually don’t hate that. It means that right now, on ESO, I have to apply a strategy similar to what I do in Morrowind: i.e., I need to be prudent about which things I pick up. Do I really need another six hide scraps? Do I really need that steel helm dropped by that dire wolf I just killed? Do I have enough space in my inventory that I can get boss loot once I finish the dungeon I’m in?

    And I feel like that actually improves my immersion. Because realistically speaking, my character shouldn’t be able to pick up an unlimited number of things while adventuring.

    But that said: because Skyrim was the Elder Scrolls game I fell in love with first, that’s the one whose model I tend to prefer. I like being able to amass a dozen different kinds of armor and weapons, and show them off in my character’s living space. I like to be able to switch between different types of gear as whim dictates.

    So I can tell right now, even after only a handful of days spent on ESO so far, that additional storage space is the thing most likely to make me want to give the game extra money. But I will strongly prefer doing that on an à la carte basis, i.e., buying a certain number of crowns and then spending those on the additional storage space.

    Likewise, I feel like there’s a distinct possibility that once I feel like I’ve adequately explored what areas of the game I currently have access to, I might drop additional money on buying new content DLCs. And since I do enjoy playing the Thieves Guild in Skyrim, there’s a non-zero chance that I’ll want the DLC for that in this game too.

    All the above said, I’m not going to completely discount the possibility of ever buying into ESO+. If I find that I want to play this game as long as I’ve played Skyrim, I may well tilt over to the side of “this game is giving me ongoing entertainment and it is worth it to me to pay some money to its ongoing ability to exist.” And right now, even after just the short time I’ve played it so far, I can tell that that possibility is on the board. See above commentary re: throwing money multiple times at both Skyrim and Dungeon Boss.

    And let me also be clear on this: if you’re an ESO player and you do feel like ESO+ is worth it to you, great! I’m happy for you! Everybody should play a game the way they best see fit, including how much money they feel comfortable spending on it. All of this commentary in this post is one hundred percent just about me, not about anybody else’s choices in how they spend their money.

    I am just not yet ready to commit to ESO+ yet personally. We will see what happens as I continue to play.

  • Elder Scrolls Online,  Other Commentary

    Update on my ability to play ESO on my Mac

    As I mentioned in my earlier post about starting Gyllerah on ESO, I filed a support ticket with Bethesda about how the ESO launcher crashed out on me as soon as I hit the Play button, when trying to run natively on my new Mac.

    Unsurprisingly, their primary answer to this was “sorry, we don’t support the game on M1 Macs”. They likewise also had to tell me that they don’t support playing in VMs, either.

    I was not surprised by this answer. There is an announcement Bethesda put up that basically says the same thing, and I’d already seen that announcement. And speaking as an SDET who’s had quite a bit of experience with software development, even if I haven’t worked on something as huge and complex as a worldwide MMO, I can see where they’re coming from when they say it’d be a huge deal for them to try to rework ESO’s code base to make it support ARM machines.

    (Further extensive geekery about this behind the fold.)

  • Elder Scrolls Online,  Other Commentary,  Site Updates,  Skyrim

    Gaming surprise of the week No. 2: new M1 MacBook Pro!

    I’d already called out in my pages for the Anna Play Skyrim site that I’d been planning to upgrade my primary laptop and get an M1 version of the MacBook Pro. Dara’s also recently upgraded her laptop, but I wanted one with the fancier M1 Pro Max chip, because I knew for sure that I wanted to game on it. And I also wanted 32GB of RAM.

    The surprising part that comes in here is this: Apple dropping a bunch of security updates and Catalina, the version of the operating system my prior machine has, not receiving any. Apple never actually announces these things to the public, but that round of security updates strongly suggested to Dara and me that Catalina had fallen off their official support matrix.

    Which meant that that machine, Aroree, is probably now unpatchable. Which is not acceptable for any machine actively talking to the Internet.

    So I’d been setting aside some funds already intending to save up for the new machine. The security update situation, though, accelerated my and Dara’s timetable for when we were willing to get me a machine, too. I went ahead and ordered one a couple of weeks ago.

    And now Apple actually shipped it to me this week, a whole week earlier than expected. 😀

    I’ve gotten it set up now, including with a Windows 11 VM. Which means that this new machine–dubbed Lydia–is now in play as a thing I can game on.

    I’d hoped to try to run Elder Scrolls Online on this machine, but that’s proving problematic. (More on this in my next post.)

    So for now my primary gaming intentions on this machine are going to be Skyrim-focused. Primarily, that’s going to be Skyrim Together Reborn. I have STR functional on the Deck now, but doing it on the laptop will actually be better, because I’ll have a bigger screen and a full keyboard at the same time. And can plug in headphones for voice chat purposes.

    That said, it’s also pretty much guaranteed that I will experiment with mods on this machine as well! It may be even better for modded playthroughs than the Deck, I dunno yet. It’ll be fun to find out!

    I’ll be updating relevant Anna Plays Skyrim site pages to include this new addition to my gaming-capable electronics! And I’ll have plenty to say about the machine in general over on the main annathepiper.org blog soon.