Skyrim Kinect Support Coming

So as you may have heard already, Bethesda has announced that they will be releasing Kinect integration for Skyrim at the end of this month. This means over 200 voice commands, from Axe to Zun Haal Viik. Some voice commands are simply cool, more intuitive new approaches to old tricks: Now you’ll be able to actually sit in your living room yelling FUS RO DAH at the TV like the nerd you are and have your character fus her enemies down in response.

Other commands add not only the verbal dimension to the game, but also functionality that hasn’t previously been available on the XBox. Players will now be able to hotkey weapons or magic and then switch to them by simply saying their name. No awkward menu opening in the middle of battle (No word yet on whether the act of eating 50 apples while shooting fireballs at draugr will be streamlined at all). There will be other neat voice commands available, some seemingly more useful than others. You can see them all in the trailer posted below.

Some people may feel that the integration is lacking without motion detection, but I’m not convinced that that would be useful in a game like Skyrim. If Bethesda were to add motion detection to the Kinect support, they would have to switch all the controls over, or not at all. Having one hand on the controller to move while you have the other wielding an imaginary sword is just not a possibility. The voice integration seems elegantly done and makes sense. I think we’ve all been waiting for the option of yelling dragon shouts at the screen. Motion detection seems like it would just encumber the game unnecessarily.

Of course, as Jp said to me as we watched the trailer, this is the perfect opportunity for him to mess with my game. (Darn, I didn’t even think of that!) I exploited this to the best of my ability with the Kinect voice integration in Halo Anniversary, and I think I may have had him ready to wring my neck as I yelled GRENADE GRENADE GRENADE at the screen as he tried to play. (Though, due to the fact that the XBox apparently doesn’t like my voice, his character only responded by throwing a grenade about half the time.) I can just see it now: I will be deep in conversation with our great commander, Ulfric Stormcloak, when, from the depths of the dining room… FUS RO DAH! Aaaand I will watch in horror as my unwilling character shows Mr. Stormcloak the real meaning of “unrelenting force.” Still, despite (and perhaps in part, because of) the likelihood of this being used to troll me, I think this update is going to be a positive addition to the game.

Collection Development in Skyrim

The Arcanaeum. From elderscrolls.wikia.com

Being a lifelong student studying library science, I guess it makes sense that when I started playing Skyrim back in November, I gravitated toward the Winterhold college quest line. (For those unfamiliar with the game, Winterhold College is the mage’s college and if you complete a somewhat involved quest for them while a student there, they promote you from gawky freshman to Arch-mage with nary as much as an undergraduate conjuration course required.) So while I was completing this quest line and hanging out at the college carousing with my mage-y cohorts, doing mead keg stands and the like, I discovered the Arcanaeum.

The Arcanaeum is Winterhold College’s library, there for the research needs of Destruction Mages and Restoration Mages alike. The books are kept, for the most part, inconveniently locked up in cabinets and display cases, so browsing is generally not feasible. There is also a marked lack of computer terminals or card

Care to take a load off, chug a bottle of Nord mead and read a bit of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Whiterun” between classes?
Skulls of the patrons who didn’t bring their books back on time. It’s a rough world, Skyrim.

catalogs, so your ability to find research material in this library is entirely dependent upon the expertise of the staff. There is a nice little open area in the middle of the room,

however, with several tables available. Apparently this library is very forward thinking in some respects, too. Not to be outdone by libraries housing coffee shops, this one apparently allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages as well.

Oh, and the ambiance is fantastic! In addition to all the cool, old books and bottles of wine and mead everywhere, there are skulls. Lots and lots of skulls. There’s nothing that makes a library feel more inviting to me than skulls, I can tell you that much.

The Librarian

Urag Gro-Shub

Oh, and the Arcanaeum is blessed with its very own super dedicated keeper of the books, named Urag Gro-Shub. Whatever possessed an orc to become a librarian escapes me. (Jp and I call him the “orc-brarian.”) He’s known for saying things like “Disrupt my Arcanaeum, and I will have you torn apart by angry atronachs.” He doesn’t really seem to know the meaning of the phrase “user-centric,” and he takes his work seriously. Like really, really seriously. I think it drives him to the hooch to be honest with you, as he’s often hanging out in the corner with his mug o’ mead, and I found extra bottles stashed behind the circ desk.

Head of Collection Development

So anyway, upon discovering this little enclave of scholarship in a harsh world torn apart by civil war and dragon attacks, I also discovered that I could go on quests to help Urag Gro-Shub expand the college library’s collection. Now, in Skyrim this doesn’t mean the same thing as in our world. I don’t order the books off Amazon or buy them in a book store. People rarely donate anything. No, I have to go into dungeons and giant camps and fight ferocious, blood thirsty enemies in order to secure ownership of these books. And since the wussy orc-brarian isn’t the one putting his life on the line to grow his

This is what I wear to work. What? You don’t wear a Konahrik mask and dragon scale armor at your library?

collection, I decided to dub myself “Head of Collection Development” at the Arcanaeum. Hey, I can do that. I am the Arch-Mage after all.

So when Urag Gro-Shub wants a new book, he tells me where to go to get it and I fight my way to the prize. Pretty straight forward. Today, he wanted me to get a book called “Chimarvamidium: Ancient Tales of the Dwemer, Part VI”. Not sure how that is of particular use to mages, but I’m always up for a challenge, so I made the arduous journey to the book’s location. I fought a dragon, two bears, a skeever, a few wolves and a troll. Then I found it in a chest with some glass arrows (score!) and 35 gold

I’m sorry sir, we only have one copy of Chimarvamidium. I had to kill a frost troll to get it, and it’s out until April 2nd. Would you like to be put on the holds list?

pieces. This may sound like a pain but believe me, I’ve seen worse. This book was relatively easy to obtain.

Then it was back to the Arcanaeum for me to give our new addition to the orc-brarian.

I have to say though, sometimes I feel like he’s not totally appreciative of the lengths I go to in order to improve our collection. When I hand him the book, he responds with a nonchalant “Looks like you’re still in one piece. And more importantly, so is the book. Thank you.” Um, at least he said thank you?

On a slightly different note, I have to say here that I think the degree to which books and reading are integrated into Skyrim is very cool. I don’t read every book I pick up in the game, but I think it is a really nice touch that you can. Another thing that I find cool: You can download all of the in-game books in either EPUB or Kindle format and read them on your E-Reader anywhere. For help downloading the file to your device, just ask for help from your not-so-friendly neighborhood orc-brarian.

Imagining Skyrim Achievements

So, as most of my friends are well aware, I have been spending a lot of my free time playing Skyrim. Now, needless to say, it’s a really fun game. I am a person who spent much of my childhood aspiring to be the female IRL version of Indiana Jones (until I became aware of the relative lack of adventuring in IRL archaeology). So there is great appeal to me in a game that has so much exploration involved (even if the guards in every darn town I adventure to have the same things to say to me about sweet rolls and arrows in the knee, which can kind of kill the suspension of disbelief.) Since the game came out, I have delighted in finding all manner of odd and intriguing locations

harvesting mammoth cheese in game
Discovered some yummy mammoth cheese!

and scenarios. It’s a game that encourages delight in the new and unexpected. Two dragons fighting a giant? Sweet. Cannibals? Wowee!

So with this all in mind, I have one complaint. Well, I guess it’s really more of a polite yet untimely suggestion.

Players on the XBox 360 are of course all too familiar with the concept of “achievements”– points awarded in-game for completion of various tasks. Sometimes, achievements are accrued by simply completing standard benchmarks: reach a level 20. Complete a certain portion of the main story arch. Make like Scrooge McDuck and hoard a certain vast amount of in-game gold. Sometimes, however, achievements are for lack of a better term, delightful. I’ll never forget the moment when, pre-Skyrim, JP and I were playing co-operative Portal 2 and as I stood on a bridge waving my little robotic arm gleefully at him, he pushed a button and the bridge fell out from under me…and he got an achievement out of it, the jerk! He didn’t know he would, but the game rewarded him for being mischievous. The achievements in Portal 2, in general, to me represent the pinnacle of how the whole achievement process can work. They don’t just reward you for playing. They reward you for playing around–exploring, being silly and getting into trouble.

Now, Skyrim, for all its strengths, doesn’t have this particular one. Despite the fact that much of its fun comes directly from the wonder of exploration, the achievements do not seem to encourage playing around. They mostly center around completing portions of the main quest lines, joining various guilds and achieving progressively higher and higher levels. And this is all fine and dandy. Achievements for progressing through the story arch make sense. But what I would like to see is some more fun achievements.

Suggestions JP and I came up with:

  • Sputnik — Get launched into orbit by a giant
  • Mass Mur-do-rah — Fus 3 people at once off a bridge to their death
  • Nordic Librarian — Collect 80 different books in your home
  • Bender — Have a drink in every inn in Skyrim
  • Sticky Fingers — Steal 10 sweet rolls
  • Former Adventurer — Shoot an arrow in an enemy’s knee

Of course, I doubt all these particular things would even be trackable in the game. We were just brainstorming for fun.

Any other achievements people think it would be funny/interesting to see?