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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Horse

"Hey, Horse. Let's go on an adventure!"
"Sure thing, Justin!"
"This is awesome!"
"Hold on, buddy! There's some bandits heading our way."
"I can't... I can't cast spells while I'm riding you. Do I have to get off?"
"Okay. Just wait here while I--Where are you going?"
"I'm going to kill those fuckers! I'm going to kill them with my hooves!"
"What the hell is wrong with you, Horse?"

When Vigilance died, I was tearing up.
When this stupid god-damned horse died, I threw a bunch of fireballs at it.

If only horses were better protected. Some kind of armor, perhaps.

(That's the only DLC I ever bought for Oblivion. My horse looked PIMP.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Something Not Skyrim

I was digging through my e-mail archives, looking for something that someone sent me years ago, when I came across this e-mail written by a total douche. It was really self-obsessed, and arrogant, and not funny, and all I could think was, "Who the hell is this asshole?"

Turns out the search I ran was digging through my Sent folder and the e-mail was from me.

And just like that, all my hostility kinda pooped out into confusion.
Granted, it was pretty neat to experience a genuine moment where I got to step outside of my own ego and take a good look at myself, but on the other hand, what a dick. I always assumed that if I ran into myself in a sci-fi sort of circumstance then we'd get along pretty god-damned well, but now I don't know what to think.

Fuck it. Let's go back to Skyrim.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Winterhold: Defense Against the Dark Arts 303

Lesson 1: Dual-casting is For WIZARDS

Being a wizard, you'll never produce the DPS that a warrior can generate, but the one thing you do have going in your favor is dual casting. One spell. Both hands. And that dual-cast perk on the Destruction skill tree. You'll need that.

Just dual-cast a cheap, single-shot spell, like Firebolt, and you're almost guaranteed to stun your enemy, which is just about the best defensive measure a wizard can have, but remember to wait until your opponent is completely finished being stunned before dual-casting another spell, or it won't reset the stun.

Lesson 2: Never Pull Out Your Biggest Gun

This troll is just asking for a firestorm to char him faster than dragon's breath, but control your urges, Wizard, and reserve your power!

Whatever your biggest, most destructive spell is, you should never use it. Always use the second-strongest spell in your arsenal and dole out your magicka responsibly.

Of course, while this is logical advice, I've never been too good about following it, myself.


Lesson 2.5: Never Pull Out Your Biggest Gun, Unless it's Awesome

A lightning bolt is a beautiful thing, but oh my god is it expensive.

Lesson 3: Stun and Cook

This pic doesn't have anything to do with casting a wall spell on a stunned enemy, but I just thought it looked cool.

The wall spells are super cheap to cast, and if you can get your opponent to stand on top of one they'll suffer an incredible amount of damage. A well-timed, dual-cast Firebolt works perfectly to keep the badguy on top of your damage trap. The Paralyze spell from Alteration is even better.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Winterhold: Defense Against the Dark Arts 202

Tolfdir does a reasonable job of teaching novice wizards the ropes, but I thought I'd add a few things.

Lesson 1: DO NOT launch a spell into this.

Unless you're this guy, just hold back the magic and save your energy

You'd be amazed how many times an ally can jump in front of a fireball at the last possible moment. It never, ever goes well.
Either wait until someone personally goes after you or use a spell that chooses it's own targets, like grand heal.
The same goes for when you're travelling with a companion. Take the time to reposition yourself and perform clean shots. Otherwise, just use restoration magic. It's safer than a lightning bolt.

Lesson 2: Restoration is More Efficient than Destruction

If you ask me if I'm a priest one more time, Lydia, the next spell I send in your direction is going to cook you from the inside out.

This is assuming you have a buddy/summon or two to employ healing spells on. A master healer can survive just about anything without losing any magicka at all, whereas a master of destruction magic can still run out of power really fast without doing much damage at all.
I hate to say it, but in Skyrim, destruction magic has a real curve on how useful it can be.

Lesson 3: Wards Are Not Shields

This is what a functioning ward looks like.
If it's transparent, it isn't working.

  • Wards drain your magicka faster than you can imagine.
  • Wards are only good for stopping spells and dragon's breath. Arrows and axes go right through.
  • Wards take about two seconds to charge up before they're capable of stopping anything.
  • Never hold up a ward in the middle of a magical duel unless you're charging the enemy or running for cover. You'll lose all the magicka that you should be using to cast fireballs with.
  • To make wards work in your favor, wait for the enemy to create their own ward, then summon a spell into your hand but don't release it. The enemy wizard will be too damn stupid to save their magicka and waste it all holding up a ward against a spell you never even threw.

Lesson 4: Always Hit Hard at the End of a Wizard Duel

Don't blow your magicka wad right at the beginning. Most wizards know restorative magic, although they never pull it out until they're really low on health. Don't give your enemy enough time to heal.

Take your time with these sorts of fights, maintain a healthy reserve, wait until your enemy's health bar is at least below 25%, and then unleash your true power.

And remember that when you're holding a prepared spell, you can't regenerate magicka.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


"Only five-hundred septims, and the dog is yours." The man told me. The big, shit-eating grin never left his face.

I looked down at the scrawny mutt and tried to figure out how any animal could cost five-hundred septims. Better yet, why the hell was I considering spending my mead money on a travelling companion? In all my adventures, except for that one time with that stupid priest, I've never traveled with anyone in Skyrim, and now I'm going to pay money for a dog to follow me around? I'm a wizard, and wizards don't need backup.

The second thing that was upsetting me was the dog's name:


Who names a dog Vigilance?

I'll tell you who: Some stuck-up dog breeder who forced this poor animal to learn tricks and crap since he was a pup and never once let the little guy just be a piss-on-the-carpet, eat-the-garbage dog.

And then he gives the animal a stupid fucking name like Vigilance (which isn't even a real name; it's an advertisement!) and tries to sell the dog off because he never gave a shit about him, anyway. It's always been about the money.
The poor thing's probably never had a moment of freedom in his life.

I reached for my money pouch, "Give me the fucking dog."

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Priest and the Wizard

I arrived in the town of Dawnstar just after the sun had set. The town welcomed me more warmly than they'd welcome the average college wizard, which is to say they didn't chase me into the hills.

Passing the barracks, I overheard a conversation. Something about bad dreams. Worse than bad. Nightmares.
The eyes of the soldier were bloodshot and sunken. He looked absolutely miserable.

A group of miners walked by, heading for their homes. They were trading dark humor about the sleep they wouldn't be having that night.

Everyone I passed, everyone in town, looked like they haven't slept in days.

Something unnatural was happening in Dawnstar.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Good In-Game Reads in Tamriel

The Doors of Oblivion - This is the account of Morian Zenas' apprentice, who shared a psychic link with his master and was able to pen the wizard's ill-fated travels to Oblivion. The story, as a whole, has a Lovecraftian edge to it, and if you've already read Morian's On Oblivion then this feels like a behind-the-scenes look at the Daedric realms.
The Daedra themselves are supposed to be Tamriel's version of demons, but the way they present themselves reminds me more of faeries who are really into metal, and their Daedric lords are as dysfunctional and powerful as a Greek pantheon. Stories about them are always interesting.

The Black Arts on Trial - Should Necromancy be taught as a legitimate school of magic? This intellectual debate on the arcane art's most controversial subject might make you think twice about bringing something back from the grave.

Racial Phylogeny - Some pervert muses in an academic manner about all the different fantasy races in Tamriel, and whether or not they're compatible for fucking each other.

The Elder Scrolls is the only series that allows you to walk into a fictional library, pick up a fictional non-fiction book, and read it.

I love that!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winterhold College

I have arrived!
An entire castle full of magical talent. A lifetime worth of knowledge.

And no, I don't know what that glowing pool is for, but they've got those things all over the place--Even in the living quarters, which doesn't seem very accommodating.

Those magic pools make a lot of noise.
You eventually get used to the sound, though. Like a washing machine.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Purple Trees

In Morrowind you couldn't throw a stone without hitting some ancient wizard, and Cyrodiil's guild of mages has a chapter house on every corner.

But Skyrim?
Wizards are a rare, unappreciated breed up in the north.

Court magicians are barely tolerated and the only legitimate center of learning for us erudite Hufflepuff-types is a decaying academy hanging from the edge of a cliff on the edge of the map.

And that's where I'm going! Screw epic dragon battles. I wanna read ancient tomes in some moldy, old library. How awesome is that?

I guess I could've taken a coach, but a true adventurer travels the countryside on foot.
It's more epic that way.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Good News! Skyrim Doesn't Suck!

Check out my dude!

When a game asks, "How big of a beard do you want?"
Then the only proper answer is, "How big do they get?"

You know how some people like to make their character look exactly like themselves? Well, I decided to create a character that will look exactly like me after I'm finished playing Skyrim.

In case you couldn't tell by how awesome he looks, my dude is a wizard. I don't bother with swords and crap. I don't even strap on any armor. I just crawl out of bed, throw on a robe, and that's all I need to scare the shit out of the local bandits, because when I lift up my hand, people die.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Holy crap Skyrim. Gonna play it. Who knows how long. Maybe it'll suck. Probably not.

I've stocked the pantry with food. I've mothballed all projects. I've even scheduled an oil change early tomorrow, which is on the way to Gamestop, so I don't have to worry about my car a week from now when I'll be lucky if I'm not wearing a catheter.

My greatest nemesis at this point is fate.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just a Week, Now

Skyrim is coming out really, really soon. All pretense of holding onto my shit is gone. I have no shit.

This mouth-frothing level of anticipation has only happened for me two other times:

My first oh-shit-I-must-have-this-game-now psychotic breakdown was for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. When this game was delayed for a few months I was inconsolable. At one point my mom told me that there was a truckers' strike and that's why Toys 'R Us didn't have the game yet. I still don't know if that actually happened or if she was just looking for some way to shut me up.

The second was Final Fantasy 3 (FF6, if that's your thing, but we both know what was written on the fucking box). I had this tiny preview of the game in Nintendo Power that I would literally fawn over for hours. When the game finally released and I had a copy, my life should've been perfect, but I had two stupid brothers with equally distinguished taste in video games.

We all dreaded that stupid egg timer we kept on top of the television, but it was the only way we maintained any order in the house. By the end of the first day, we'd played the game a measly two hours each. Just enough to whet our appetite. Just enough to let us realize that all of the hype we'd built up for this game didn't even come close to justifying how good it was.

I'd just played the best game ever, I only played it for two hours, and now I was supposed to go to bed?

I'll admit, I got greedy, but there wasn't a chance in hell of me sleeping that night, and if my brothers were capable of slumbering when Final Fucking Fantasy 3 was sitting in the house then didn't that prove that I deserved to play the game more than they did?

Nobody knew I was up all night. Nobody, that is, but Final Fantasy 3, which logs every second of playtime and displays it right on the file selection screen.

When everyone woke up and realized that I was hours ahead of the pack, I wasn't allowed to play for the entire day. It was horrible.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Some Dude Yells About Megaman for Twenty Minutes

Egoraptor made his fame creating shorts about video games that looked like they were drawn during art therapy in a psych ward.
And that's all I knew about the guy. He was some kind of nut-job with talent.

But I had no idea the son of a bitch also had a solid grasp on game design.
Seriously, when I started watching this video I looked at the twenty minute timer and thought to myself, "There's no way this dude is going to spend twenty whole minutes talking about Megaman."

And then he does. And I was humbled.

And I found another, which is just as good:

To anyone who isn't a game developer, this stuff is probably going to come off as pretty boring, and even if you are a gamedev then you might find Arin's style to be annoying.
But to the three guys left, pay close attention because this dude really knows what he's talking about.

I hate to admit it, but I learned more from watching these videos than I ever did during a legitimate class on game design.

Friday, November 4, 2011

PennDOT Plays a Practical Joke at My Expense

I ran into a traffic jam while commuting home. About ten minutes into the jam I scooted past a sign that said, "Left lane closed in half a mile, merge right."

So most everyone was merging to the right. Or trying to. This was a two-lane highway, and while I'm sure other states are guilty of this (I'm going to single PA out, anyways, because even PennDOT says to do this), when Pennsylvanians see a "merge left/right" sign they don't wait until the road actually becomes a single lane to begin merging but instead they immediately force themselves into a single lane of drivers, even if that means for the closing lane to just stop completely and wait for an opening. In light traffic, sure, this works great; but in heavy traffic this isn't the ideal way to merge.

But I'm not writing about how to do things the right way. I'm writing about how Pennsylvanians do things their way, and it's sort of an unwritten rule to absolutely fuck over the closing lane, so you can bet that the second I saw that sign I joined the herd before a vigilante sixteen-wheeler leaped out in front of me and braked hard, which is a tactic they use around here because they're all fucking psychos.

About a quarter-mile after the last sign I pass another one. It reads, "Right lane closed in half a mile, merge left."

So now everyone is confused. You've got some drivers trying to merge left, others trying to merge right, but most of them are convinced that they're in the correct lane and that they're entitled to the right of way and need to do their best to keep the other lane from merging into theirs. Just imagine a traffic jam, only everyone is twice as angry and frustrated as normal. It was fucking dangerous.

After about fifteen more minutes of tense stop-and-go, the traffic begins to clear up and I get to accelerate out of the mess.
There was no lane closure. No construction crews. Nothing but those two signs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Run, Isaac!

What the hell is wrong with game developers?
You couldn't just have an elf or a barbarian running around a dungeon, battling orcs? You had to go with a naked boy who uses his tears to kill mongoloids?

Video games are so edgy.

(Isaac is part of the latest humble bundle, in case you were needing a fix for a really good roguelike)
((And Newgrounds offers a demo))