Posted on October 18 2016
Grab your cold weather jumpers, we are going back up North. Bethesda have announced a little bit of something to tide us over the Elder Scrolls dry patch in the form of Skyrim: Special Edition. That’s right, instead of waiting another two or three years for TES:VI we get a nice collectors repackaging to send us back to the land of zombie dragons and death shouting.
We for one are excited for our new high-rez Nordic overlords and are just about ready for another dive back in. We do have a bit of a wish list though…
1. It's got to be beyond goregous
Like the most artisinally-crafted gaming merchandise, it needs to be beautiful. This box is probably already ticked, but we have got high hopes on pixel pushing. Skyrim was a welcome boost in graphical capability compared to Oblivion, but it wasn’t long before the mod scene had to intervene and push those numbers up. The top mods over at Nexusmods still include 2k Textures, 4k resolution support and enhanced lighting; we have been spoiled rotten by those bedroom developers offering our dreams for free. The prospect of walking back into Tamriel and not hearing the frightened whirr of our graphics cards? Unthinkable.
Good news is that this is about all they’ve revealed so far, so it’s a pretty safe bet we’re going to see some new tech. Apparently we are getting “snow shaders” and “volumetric god rays”, which at our current level of information starvation we refuse to take as a joke. God rays must be something they invented working on Fallout and will blow us all away. You’ll see.
2. It’s got to feel like a finished game
It probably doesn’t need to be repeated that Skryim was a bit of a mess. We love it for its imperfections, but there’s a reason we modded that stuff away day one. Horses chilling out in the air is funny, but dragons refusing to spawn and character models not loading at all is a good way of turning your audience onto a better made game. There is only so many times we can watch a town guard walk straight down into the ground or a carrot launch itself to the other side of the world before we start losing patience with the creators.
This time, however, there are larger stakes. This will be a version of Skyrim without the excuse of being pushed to a deadline, with full knowledge by the audience that the problems are very fixable by amateurs. Any mistake is going to look mighty silly, especially since this is a full-price release for anyone without the Legendary Edition.
On top of the typical “special edition” pressure is the wholly scary prospect of pleasing console players. This will be the introduction to Xbox and PlayStation players of the wonder of Skyrim modding, bridging the PC/Console lifestyle turf war with their first grasp of the magnificence of the amateur developer scene. After years of super resolution screenshots, console players will actually get to experience it themselves. These mods are going to be handpicked as ambassadors of an entire subculture but Bethesda will be taking the hit. It’s a gamble but we think it’s worth it; preach the modding-gospel Bethesda!
3. It’s got to support everything
Like slippers of every size for every foot, it's got to work with everything - just think about it. A massive mod scene. An attention-starved niche audience. All DLC included, even though barely anyone was paying attention by the time they made the good one. The extra content this game has is obscene and we don’t really know how they are going to support it. Or we may have the even more disappointing prospect of not needing to.
After-all, if the game truly is being given a revamp – bug fixes and engine tweaks – we might be looking at a future where the big mods no longer work (or cause their own problems). Bethesda have only spoken about graphical tweaks so we are kind of left in the no man’s land here concerning the future of Mods. The more Bethesda fixes themselves, the more likely mods will run into problems adding to the game. How well might the top graphical mods work with the new snow shading and god ray systems? Will all mods be transferable or will there be a deadzone while they adapt to the new code? Will the mods making it over to console be coming over untouched or adapted?
4. The console mods need to be divine (and transparent)
This may be what Bethesda really means by god-rays, as the mod workshop is going to be where they find out whether they are God or the Devil this year. Their promise of opening consoles up to a “selection of mods” raises more questions than it can possibly answer.
Since we know the Live/Play store has famously exacting standards on compatibility requirements, the mod selection must be determined by Bethesda themselves. So how are they making the decision which ones to submit to these marketplaces? We can imagine relationship with the creators will be important, those most willing to play by Bethesda’s rules will probably be top of the queue when they put their stall out for us to lookover. But what of new mods? What of the back catalogue, so big it fills not only Steam but an army of third party sites? How quickly will mods be added? And most importantly - can we get one that adds Christmas Baubles to all the trees?
Perhaps most frightening, and exciting, is the re-opening of the paid mods can of worms. While the idea was seemingly put to pasture after launch on Steam this year, and was nowhere to be found in Fallout 4’s mod workshop, we can’t help but suspect it’s presence nearing. Since Bethesda obviously felt very strongly about paid mods as the future, we have to wonder if the new version of Skyrim is going to be their platform to finally commit. After all, users can simply go back to classic Skyrim if they find the paid mods poor value or less varied, so the pressure is off in that regard. Modders will likely see a lot less flak arguing that they are developing for an effectively new game, cross-platform, when they start charging for their work. It could be the best possible way to launch, or the absolute worst.
Or maybe the idea is deader than Paarthunax. #lastsentencespoilers