Category Archives: gaming

Let’s look at ALLL the new things in COD: Ghosts (generally speaking)

COD Ghosts new female soldier (http://icdn4.digitaltrends.com/image/cod-ghosts-mp-325x337.jpg).
COD Ghosts new female soldier (http://icdn4.digitaltrends.com/image/cod-ghosts-mp-325×337.jpg).

Note:  This article will be updated as new information becomes available.  Updated and rearranged  on 08/23/13.

Ok, onward to the new fun things in Ghosts, in concise list form for your convenience.  😉

  • Audio and Visual.  As expected, of course, these have been improved.  The sound in particular, however, has been redefined.  Ripping bullet and explosion sounds will be more realistic relative to your specific environment.
  • Maps.  Maps are now “dynamic” with interactive elements.   There will be limited instead of no environmental destructibility, where at least some buildings and objects can be rigged and triggered, and some maps will be changeable with certain kill streak rewards.  The mini map in the upper left corner is bigger and better, and the leader board is replaced with a mini score board in the upper right corner (it can be enlarged for more data when desired).
  • Field Orders.  All modes (but campaign) will now have field orders, found in a randomly generated brief case on a dead body.  These are little “quests” you can try to accomplish before you die, and if you’re successful, you get a care package.
  • Modes of Play.  There will be 20 modes in Ghosts, unless they decide to lower this number as many in the COD community think this many modes will spread the players out too thin (there are 12-16 in Black Ops 2, depending on how you count them).   The “Infected” mode from COD MW 3 is being brought back, to the cheers of many. “Cranked” mode is timed and therefore intense.  If you don’t get a kill within 30 seconds you “explode” (no gory scene shown), but as long as you stay in you get speed bonuses.  Other new modes are “Search and Rescue” and “Blitz.”
  • Emblems.  Thankfully, custom emblems will no longer be a part of COD except with clans (discussed more below).  In one way, this is unfortunate, since it was a fun aspect of the game and some emblem creators/artists came up with some great stuff!  My son enjoyed making emblems too.  BUT, too many immature fans created inappropriate emblems, and these were not moderated.
  • Your character/Custom Class.  Using your weapons will feel different.  There is jumping and sliding while shooting; overall, moving and interacting with the environments has been redefined.  Your character is now customizable, and the female soldier was added.  There are over 20,000 options for soldiers and since you can create up to 10 separate soldiers, this large number begins to make sense (although competing with other Men’s Fashion Games is a wise business move).  Apparently, then, there is no more custom class where you have to wait until you prestige to get another set of gear to use.  Instead, squad point currency is used to buy soldiers and customize them.  And since you can use them in squads, I’m assuming you can obtain them much more quickly than changing gear in the old custom class system. All this customization, coupled with the new perks system, allows for a whole new level of strategic thinking.
  • Perks.  There are many more perks and a new system of using points for these should prove fun.  Some points from customizing your character can be transferred to your perks instead.  (See Anon in the source list below for more info.)
  • Squads.  Tweaked version of Black Ops currency, where you receive squad points along with XP, allows for building and customizing squads.  There will be a squad mode with submodes to choose from, including single player where you play your squad against a total AI squad.  Or, you can choose to play any mode in the game with squads.  (See Kuchera in the source list below for more info.)
  • Kill Streaks.  20 kill streak rewards have been added, like choosing to be in Juggernaut Maniac mode (drift0r via Youtube opined that this kill streak was overpowered at the time of testing at Reveal).  Strike packages will now include support and specialist.
  • Death Streaks.  Removed.
  • Weapons.  Over 30 new weapons, with one new class: Marksman (with fast single fire rifles).  Scoping will now be different, more advanced.  Instead of the view outside of the scope being generic, it will be the world around you, only blurred.  Quick scoping has been majorly changed.  It will be much harder to do and it will feel different.  (See Victor in the source list below for more info.)
  • Game data transferability, mobile devices, new game for new console.  All game data is now transferable between all devices – and even all consoles, including PCs.  You can play using your character on your friend’s Playstation just as easily as on your own XBOX.  Being able to use your data on mobile devices should prove especially useful between clan members.  Also, if you bought Ghosts while you still had XBOX 360, say, and then later you decide to purchase an XBOX One, you’ll be able to get a new version of Ghosts from Gamestop for $10.
  • Clans, Clan Wars.  Clans aren’t new, but the system has been changed and added to.  Teaming up with other clan members is now easier, and there’ll be a new fun app, “Clan Chat.”  A new clan feature is clan wars; these last for two weeks and the winning clan gets a nice XP bonus.  Clans can have a customized emblem.  These emblems are created through the COD website or an app, and the designs are moderated.  The new streamlined way in which clans are matched up to play will hopefully prove to be faster and less frustrating.
  • Dedicated Servers.  Yes, there will be worldwide dedicated servers with XBOX One users.
  • Live Stream and Theater Mode.  Both of these features will no longer be available with the game.  Live stream, however, will be a standard feature of XBOX One itself and other new consoles, so to have it in the game would be redundant.

The next two paragraphs were previously the introduction to this blog post, but they weren’t helping people to read what the article is about.  I hope you’ll enjoy them anyway, especially the second paragraph.

Ok, so my son – who helped with this post – said I should really write a blog post on all the COD:  Ghosts changes (from COD:  Black Ops 2; release date Nov. 5th).  I expressed my surprise at his suggestion, since it seems the world would be filled with such blog posts and articles in very short order.  But, he said, many authors or YouTubers are claiming to cover all the changes, yet they don’t.  Ok . . . so I finally watch COD:  Ghosts Multiplayer Reveal, have him explain things to me while doing so (since I’ve been a spectator to the game only), take notes, look up a few things, and voilà . . . present to you a concise rendering of all things new (that have been revealed so far) with COD:  Ghosts.

Let me just mention something of an aside first, something that my son laughed at from the beginning of Reveal, and from out of the mouth of Activision CEO Eric Hirschberg.  Hirschberg said that COD had the “best fans.”  In reality, they may have the worst fans.  About a month ago there were days (who knows, maybe it’s still going on) of a COD:  Black Ops 2 developer receiving more than 100 vile (many extremely vile) threats every hour.  This huge overreaction came after the developer helped to make some changes to a few of the weapons in the game (yes, that’s all he did).  You can read about it here, Passion of the fanboy: What happens when angry kids threaten to kill you over a game, and at many other internet sites.  Ahhh, glorious fodder for those who are opposed to video game violence and lobby for changes.  As a note, one good thing about COD games is that you can mute out the other players, and so blissfully ignore the verbal abuse and filth such fans spew while playing.  If we couldn’t mute COD, this game would not be played.

Other Sources:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (by drift0r, who played the game at Reveal); Squad mode will let Call of Duty: Ghosts fans play online without fear of assholes (Kuchera); The (known) WEAPONS of Call of Duty Ghosts -Weapon List UPDATED (Victor); Perks (Anon); Call of Duty: Ghosts – Infected Mode, Theater removed . . . (TmarTn).

Video game violence: Skyrim vs Fallout 3

If you’ve read any of my Skyrim posts, you’ll know that I like Skyrim quite a lot and recommend it.  I’m writing this little post for parents, basically, who don’t know that much about video games.  When I wrote my first post on Skyrim, I knew that there were games that were more violent and had more gore in them than Skyrim, of course.  But after playing Fallout 3 – another Bethesda game with similarities to Skyrim, I wanted to share some thoughts.

Fallout 3 (2008) is violent and gory, no doubt about it.  It is rated M for mature, but so is Skyrim (2011).  Now, Fallout 3 is far gorier and has much more foul language in it (especially when the DLCs are added in), than Skyrim.  So, how can anyone know about these games unless they play them?  I mentioned in other posts how Skyrim has “passive gore” (bloody skeletons lying around), but that the game can become gorier if the right “perks” are chosen.  With Fallout 3, one cannot turn down the gore.  Comparing these two games, I’m surprised Skyrim isn’t rated T for teens; if the gore couldn’t be “turned up,” I imagine that it could be so rated.

Fallout 3 is definitely a grown up game, if anyone is interested in playing games like that.  It is a high quality game, with lots to do and actually much humor.  It has a lot more humor in it than Skyrim, and it is far far less glitchy, too.  It is more challenging, for sure, and the atmosphere and information in it are worth thinking about (the game takes place 200 years from now, after China and the USA have a major nuclear war).  It is like a morbid, crazy, and humorous Easter egg hunt for grown-ups.  But, all in all, these games are for people who want to relax and have the time to do them.  When I was a young adult, I was interested in my education and career, and rarely even watched TV.  I’m not sure how alluring these games would have been to me, since they are quite “addictive” (who wants to stop looking for eggs in the middle of the hunt?), however.   I believe this is something to consider when addressing game play of any kind with one’s kids.

From a Christian-cultural perspective, there’s one thing I think is neat about Fallout 3, and I wonder if it holds true for Fallout New Vegas (2010) or for the upcoming Fallout 4.   This is the fact that Jesus is held to be the epitome of good in the game.  Jesus is not talked about (that I know of right now), but when you behave well in the game and seek to be a good character, the term “karma” is used, but the image shown for the best levels are an image easily recognized as Jesus.  While the game makes fun of people following any old thing in the name of religion, it obviously gives a nod to true good.  There’s nothing wrong with pointing out how people make up religion and follow false prophets – it is something Christians should probably talk about publicly more, in fact.  Are we interested in people knowing the truth and getting into heaven, or could we care less that people are so easily led astray?  We are compared to sheep in the Bible, after all.

Note:  If you’re interested in finding out more about the Fallout series, my related articles are:  Fallout 4. Sometimes Bigger Isn’t Better (Overview),   Fallout 4. Sometimes Bigger Isn’t Better (Story); a detailed look at the Honest Hearts FNV DLC and its By the Waters of Babylon theme; and Fallout New Vegas: Comments from a Christian earlier.  Thanks for checking them out!

Dragonborn DLC Playability and the Skaal Religion

Statue of Talos in Whiterun, with Shrine in front, Dragonsreach to left, giant Eagle in middle, and old Companion's home to right.
Statue of Talos in Whiterun, with Shrine in front, Dragonsreach to left, giant Eagle in middle, and old Companion’s home to right.

I wrote about this dlc already (at dragonborn dlc wordpress)  but wanted to convey some more information about the Skaal’s religious views, and generally about the playability of the new dlc content.  So basically this is an addendum to the linked article; please see it if you would like more coverage of the Dragonborn dlc.

Dragonborn DLC playability.  First. when we got the DLC I was playing a game where I had a high level character, over 60, and I was getting close to wrapping all the quests up.  Playing at this level in Solstheim is relatively easy.  Only Karstaag was a difficult opponent (surprising battle, that was!).  But, beginning a new game and going through it so far – I’m now level 11 and had gone back to Solstheim after first going there at level 6 – I can say Solstheim is not a place you’ll get through easily for a while.  Of course, the game level setting can be adjusted to its lowest level, but I’m going to bet that fighting off random lurkers will prove pretty impossible for a low level character.  I wanted very much to make it to Neloth and so I swam there.  The only real problem I had was when my companion, Lydia, wouldn’t just swim along and ignore a Lurker.  *People ask when “the quest” starts with the DLC.  There are various quests, but the main quest with Miraak will activate after you go and see the Greybeards for the first time.  A couple of his cultists will meet you somewhere and attack you.

The Skaal and their religions views.  The Skaal are most interesting, as their visiting researcher (like an anthropologist amongst a far away and dying tribe) frequently points out.  Unlike the majority of Nords, they believe in an All-Maker god and not in the pantheon of deities.  If you never read the book, Children of the All-Maker, or don’t talk to Frea after the main quest is over, you would very much think that the Skaal believe in a Judaic type of God.  They talk or write of going to be with the All-Maker after they die, and seeing others that have passed on there too. They also allude to spirtual consequences that are Western, not Eastern (there is the call of the All-Maker, and ignoring it has consequences).

YET, oddly, the two sources I mentioned say they believe in reincarnation, even for humans.  So, it doesn’t make much sense (you can’t be with the All-Maker visiting relatives while also being another person on earth).  Interestingly, there are real-world people groups in Asia that, when found by missionaries in the past, have shown that they believe in God and even had premonitions of Christ.  But this is not what is happening with the Skaal.  I would give Bethesda some credit for actually taking apparent early Norse belief in reincarnation and adding it into the game (as evidenced in the real-world Norse Poetic Edda).  However, having the religious leader (“shaman”) pray in an Eastern religious fashion takes away from this seeming historical reference.

* Added to post on December 29, 2012,

 

Funniest or Weirdest Searches to My Blog in 2012

The dark side of Hello Kitty?  (Author photo)
The dark side of Hello Kitty? (Author photo)

I don’t know about you, but one of my little enjoyable pastimes is to read the searches that have led people to my blog.  Most are pretty straightforward and it’s obvious why the person decided to check one of my posts out.  Others are just unexpected and funny, and still others seem too general or off-the-subject; of the latter, I’m glad the person visited.  I wish very much that these people (anyone who visits here, really) would leave comments or questions – that would be fun!

“the samarathon woman”  She probably was in good enough shape to run a marathon after constantly lugging around jugs full of water in the middle of hot desert days.

“stormcloak officer armor revealing”  Really?!

“adam lanza christian fanatic”  Why not “adam lanza muslim fanatic”?  Just wondering . . .

“christian poem on the tongue”  (No comment . . . ha ha, perhaps they’re referring to James chapter 3, which has some very harsh words regarding the use of our tongue in conveying lies, evil and hurt.)

“butter my heart three person’d god”  This has made me laugh out loud more than once.  Of course, it’s supposed to be “batter” my heart, not butter my heart . . . makes me feel like a turkey being prepared for God’s oven.

“hellokitty skyrim”  I wonder what they’re looking for?  Knowing Sanrio, they’re working to contract something with Bethesda, surely.

“skyrim 1800s”  ?!??!  Seriously?

“evil bible king’s famous instrument for telling time”  If anyone can explain this one to me, I’d be grateful.

“can christians play skyrim” (“skyrim seems like a bad game for christians”)  CAN they?  Do they need permission from some pastor?  You know what’s bad for Christians?  Living in this world with so much evil in it!  I’m not questioning God’s motive for having us live in this world, I’m only making a point.  Skyrim is a game, and by today’s standards, a quite clean one that actually enjoys playing around with religious ideas and culture, and the complexities of people and politics.

“how women should play skyrim”  =D  Well, they could ask . . .

“god is evil quotes”  Just weird and sad; glad they stopped by, though.  But then again, maybe they were simply doing some research.

“what do christians think of hello kitty story”  Is there a story?  If I knew the story, I could form an opinion.  As far as I know, Hello Kitty is simply a very successful product venture.  There are some unsavory HK products out there, but if some people want to abuse the cute feline, that’s their business.

“short intellectual quotes”  Out of all the pages the searcher must have gotten from this search, I’m surprised they found my page url . . . and actually stopped by.

“religious poems for dads that died”  I know it’s perhaps morbid to call out this one, but it still made me laugh a bit.  How can you give a poem to a dead person?  Did they want poems about dads that died, or a poem for the children whose dads died?  My dad died when I was young and it was completely devastating; I never thought of writing any type of poem about it.

“unthink christmas card”  Not sure about this one . . . but please, don’t unthink Christmas, unless it’s the commercial aspect of today’s holiday.

There’s a search that, even though it’s from more than a year ago, I still remember and consider the oddest one to lead someone to my blog (my old blog, which DID have a recipe for a great sandwich on it), so I just wanted to share it, though it’s adult material (sort of!):  “Is there a good sandwich that can make up for bad sex?”  Well, a pile of McDonald’s fish filets (with some fries on the side) just might do it for me.

Skyrim: Dragonborn DLC, a Christian’s View

Seeker from Bethesda
A Seeker in Apocrypha. Copyright, Bethesda.

The “Dragonborn” addition to the Skyrim video game, which came out earlier this month (December 2012) for XBOX, has – I think – the most “Christian” oriented content overall (in Skyrim, not the other Elder Scroll games).  I wish I had written down certain dialog as I played it with my high-level character, but I simply wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary to takes notes on!  (If I start a new game, it will be some time before I can get to those dialogs again – for now, this commentary without quotes will have to do.)

This latest DLC adds additional land mass via a large island known in the Elder Scroll series as Solstheim.  (Update of Dec. 24:  it appears to be playable from the beginning of a new game, as I went to Soltstheim at level 6, after I fought my first dragon and made my way to Windhelm).  It is no doubt loved by Elder Scroll fans since it brings in elements from Morrowind (the home of the Dunmer, or Dark Elves), and indeed, the flavor of the place is quite a bit different from Skyrim (the home of the Nords).  There are various quests to be found and accomplished, but the main quest involves the defeat of the first dragonborn, Miraak, who still exists after ages because of his service to Hermeus Mora, the powerful spirit being of knowledge and fate.  Miraak desired power and thus made a “pact with the devil” – a safe allusion to Mora and his top minion.   The DLC takes place when Miraak has used his powers to enslave the sleeping minds and bodies of the denizens of Solstheim, whom he is using to build a temple to himself.  Miraak has only a small amount of dialog, but that small amount sounds an awful lot like satanic desires and promises.  In addition, he has his hypnotized followers say things that are a copy, and thus a sick mockery, of true spiritual expression.

What’s interesting, from a Christian-in-the-current-world point of view, is that Hermeus Mora’s realm is called Apocrypha.  (“Apocrypha” are extra-biblical writings of various qualities some are legitimate but have some textual or factual issues, while others are outright forgeries with false “witness”).  It is dark and hazy and is made up of books (literally – the walls are made of books), and all underneath and around walkable areas is a very black sea.  This “sea” has black slithery arms coming out of it all of the time, and they will whip you and hurt you if they can.  The most dangerous creatures that stalk the place look very much akin to the old “creature from the black lagoon.”  The other dangerous creatures are “seekers,” whose hideous appearance includes a lamprey-like mouth where their stomach is.  These seekers of “knowledge” are never satisfied, but devour what their gut desires and not what their heart and mind discerns as true.  This is my take on them, anyway, which I see as the problem with seeking and using secret – usually false – knowledge, and which is the point of this dark and eery place.

When it comes to Christianity, God chose to communicate with man and it was His desire to be known and understood.  Those who purport to have “secret” knowledge of Him in order to steer someone away from God’s revelation, are not working within God’s desires for mankind.

On the other side of the coin are the Skaal of Solstheim.  They are Nords of the ancient way and claim to have been given Solstheim by the All-Maker.  They believe in one creator God, and the way they talk about creation and how we are to be in it, generally fits in with the Judeo-Christian biblical message.  You can have an interesting conversation with Wulf Wild-Blood of the Skaal, who asks you if you can find his run-away brother whom he believes turned into a werebear (like a werewolf, only a bear).  His brother could go down that path only be rejecting the call of the All-Maker.  While the Skaal have beliefs that mesh with scriptures, they have others that do not – they believe in reincarnation.  Conversations with fellow Skyrim players  about how reincarnation doesn’t at all mesh with a loving creator God, and how it is wholly incompatible with Christ’s message and work, is a possible real-world benefit of playing this game.*

If, as a Christian, you will only play games that have pure Christian messages and signs, then Skyrim and Dragonborn aren’t for you.  But if you want to play a game that actually gives a nod to God and certain Judeo-Christian beliefs and virtues in today’s world, then Skyrim is an OK game for that.  I wrote about Skyrim earlier, here.  That review by no means covers all the aspects of Skyrim.  There are things about the game I don’t like and scratch my head at, wondering about the game maker (Bethesda) every time I think of them (there are aspects of the game you can only play if you decide to do bad and dishonorable things).

Hopefully I’ll be able to flush this review out in the future, with quotes and such.  In the meantime, enjoy the Dragonborn and listen to the new leader of the Skaal:  do not follow Hermeus Mora, but follow the path laid out for you (and to the Skaal, this would be by the All-Maker).

* These last two sentences were edited in after the initial posting of this review (12-20-12).

A post that updates, or adds to, this post can be found at Dragonborn DLC Playability and the Skaal Religion.   Thanks!

I lost the men in my family to DayZ

DayZ Official Site banner.

In line with encouraging circumstantial thinking, like “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” I’m making the most of the video game DayZ by sharing with you its addictive qualities.  The men in my family team-it-up in this multi-player online game, and the survival aspect is so intense it’s like they’re literally out in a gorilla warfare battlefield.  Consider yourself forewarned if you haven’t played DayZ yet, and I’m assuming that’s the case since if you had, you’d be playing it right now instead of reading this.

DayZ is actually a mod made for the military simulation game, ARMA 2.  This mod places the player in an apocalyptic zombie world of survival, but it’s the other online players that are more often the real danger.  This game is not anything like shooter zombie games such as Left4Dead.  Sure, you shoot zombies if you want to, and no doubt you’ll have to, but they are often slow or relatively easy to deal with.  Well, during the day, anyway.  Most online players, however, are just really horrible individuals.  I say that so generally because as far as I and the men can tell, the vast majority are snipers, bandits, hackers, etc.–we’re guessing 80% to 95% of all players fall into these categories.   Most will shoot you on site, which is really a “jerk” (that’s putting it kindly) move since when you die, you lose any of the hard-won items you may have found.

A good little background summary from Wikipedia:  “The mod places the player in the fictional post-Soviet state of Chernarus, where an unknown virus has turned the population into zombies.  As a survivor with limited supplies, the player must scavenge the world for supplies such as food, water, weapons and medicine, while killing or avoiding both zombies and other players – in an effort to survive the zombie apocalypse.”

When you first spawn, you start out with only a flash light, a bandage, and pain-killers.  Wow!  Nothing to fight off zombies with.  You must scavenge for even the most rudimentary weapons, such as an ax or crowbar.  There are of course a whole variety of guns in the game, but you must find ammo too, and unlike many online games, you have limited backpack space.  You can become injured easily in the game and require morphine, blood packs, or even hospital care, in order to survive; playing as a team, the men help each other out with drugs, blood transfusions, that sort of thing.  You might very well  imagine playing the game for some time without really getting too deep into it yet, before some unpleasant fella (gamer, not zombie) murders you.

Which brings me to a well-known YouTube player called FrankieonPC.  He’s generally a good guy and has done some pretty awesome stuff, with the help of some friends.  He has shown that the game has a surprising range of multi-player capabilities.  In one video where he has gotten rid of some bad guys (he, along with some other hero players, rid the servers of snipers and bandits – this really takes skill when the snipers simply bump people off upon spawning) and raided some hacker stashes, he calls all good folk to a church.  They arrive on a bus.  Can you believe it?  There are usable buses in the game, and you can see all the people – online players – riding in the bus.  Anyway, Frankie has dumped the weapons from the hackers in the church and anyone is free to take what they want.  This is very cool and warm and fuzzy, and then . . . someone bombs the church!

Besides buses, there are helicopters, trucks, cars, ATVs, and even bikes, though none of these are common.  Vehicles can be found (or stolen), though they may need to be fixed.  Not surprisingly, you will make a desirable target as a vehicle driver.   The game is open and huge, and has an awesome markable map available.  Servers vary in their difficulty level (there are fewer people on the higher level servers), and they may have other differences, like vehicle spawn rate, day or night only play, and so on.

The men that I’ve lost to DayZ say that what they like most about the game is killing bandits and saving bambis (that is, newb players that are easy targets for the snipers and bandits).  They like working together under pressure, helping each other survive, and finding vehicles and fixing them.  The difficulties they’ve encountered include hackers with over-powered weapons, fatal glitches (like from doors and stairs), and not being able to see at night, at all, as if it were always a new moon.  And, of course, they love the challenge of surviving longer than the average time of 1 hour and 8 minutes, or whatever the current figure is, as kept at the DayZ site.

Hearthfire (Skyrim): The Quest for Butter

Original home with main hall being added. http://bethsoft.com/en-us/games/hearthfire

(If you’re looking for more of an overall review of Skyrim, please see this article as well:  Christian Parents, Should you let your kids play Skyrim?)

The newest Skyrim DLC is a mini one, called Hearthfire (this review is based on the XBOX 360 game).  It allows the player to build up to three houses on property outside of the cities or towns, and to adopt one or two orphaned children.  The trailer promised more flexibility in building, in my view, so at first I was disappointed in Hearthfire on that ground.  But, after playing it for some time and building all three homes, I am disappointed and annoyed even more.  Not totally disappointed, mind you, and I’m not advocating not buying it and trying it out, but I do want to present what is annoying and what needs to be fixed.  HOPEFULLY, Bethesda will get around to making some fixes and making some additions to this DLC.

Let’s take a look at adoption first.  Instead of simply allowing you to adopt the children already orphaned and being forced to live in the Riften (yuck!) orphanage, you have to decide amongst the four new orphans in the towns and them.  There are now more orphans than ever to choose from . . !  No matter what you do, there will always be orphans.  When playing Skyrim before, I wanted only to adopt some out of the orphanage, but now there are others – it just never ends and you are not allowed to adopt more.

Anyway, the kids are a nice addition for the most part.  (If you don’t want children bugging you to play with them, maybe you should forget about adopting any in the first place, however.)  It’s fun giving them things, and they will give you things once in a while, too.  One day my son gave me a unique and odd green robe to wear.  They love when you give them daggers.  You can improve and enchant their wooden swords, and duel wield them yourself if you want a bit of a fun challenge.  A problem with giving them items, to me, is that you are very limited in what you can give.

Now, for the building bit – I’ll get to the hunt for butter after this.  The three homes you can build are on three specific pieces of property you can buy from the Jarl’s or their stewards.  One is near Whiterun, although it’s part of Dawnstar hold.  Another is outside of Solitude, with a view of the land bridge that is that city, though it is a part of Morthal hold.  The third is close to the lake south of Riverwood – a beautiful area that is like having a vacation home in the woods – and is a part of Falkreath hold.

I am not going to go through all of the addition choices, but will mention a few that give notice for some reason.  You can build what is in a provided list for each room/addition, but you don’t have alternate choices within the list.  You don’t have a choice between a bed and a table for a certain spot, for example – there’s is only one thing designated for that spot – you can only add it or leave it open.  And, you cannot demolish a wing later in case you change your mind about the kind of house you want.

All the homes start off with a small starter room (home!), and in order to add the specialty wings, you must build the main hall attached to the first starter room.   The starter room has a bed and fire pit in it, and so it is livable as is.  However, if you hire a steward – very advisable since not all the mill owners will sell you wood, as the add-on claims – then where do both of you sleep?  This is actually more of a problem later.

You will have the ability to add two small beds and a double bed in the main hall for you and your spouse, and your  kids (forget “choice” – there is no other options for this area, nor any other, in these Hearthfire houses).  However, the steward and housecarl always sleep in the beds that are for the kids, or one of them may sleep in your own bed.  This is a problem with the game.  If you choose to build the bedroom wing, this is not a problem.  But if you choose to build a different wing and use those main hall beds, then good luck!  The problem is only compounded by the fact that there is only one bed left in the original building for both the steward and the housecarl.  This obviously was not thought through by Bethesda, and I find it quite astonishing.

The storage room was a very major disappointment.  Seriously, Bethesda couldn’t spring for a dragon claw holder and some other holder for specific items – like the various named jewelry you can find – especially since everything always pops out of display cases and off of shelves?  This really fries me!  Come one, Bethesda . . . really!?!  Give us something for the money.  The cellar is a bit interesting in that way:  you can build a shrine holder and all the shrines to the gods.  But a storage room that doesn’t store all those specialty items?  Wow and weird.

The homes do not incorporate anything from the Dawnguard DLC.  It seems like the ability to add new plants and new creatures, like from the Soul Cairn and the Vale, at least, should have been designed into this new DLC.  It becomes obvious that this add-on was planned from the beginning.  Skyrim had orphans and they asked to be adopted, yet you could not adopt them.  There is no Dawnguard content in Hearthfire, except for one thing: you can give your child an armored dog from Fort Dawnguard (a nice surprise).  So, why wasn’t this simply part of Skyrim to begin with?  My “other half” is really into the Elder Scrolls, though Morrowind specifically.  He told me that in the past, an add-on such as this would’ve been free.  It seems Bethesda held some of the content out in order to make some more cash, while providing a not so great product.

Which brings us to the butter quest.  There’s not a formal quest for butter, of course, but there is an actual one.  Butter is as hard to find as gold- if not harder – as far as I can tell.  You will want butter if you build the kitchen wing (it probably has the best looking wing interior), which has an “oven” for baking.  Butter is an 0ft-needed ingredient, but good luck finding it!!!   You can’t make it, even though you can own cows now and there is a butter churn in the kitchen.  So far I have only received one butter out of the churn.  I have searched high and low for butter, looking to find it in various places, and to buy it.  I never find it (it isn’t laying around like soup or stew), and have been only offered it to buy about three times from various vendors.  Wow.  Who knew baking could be so hard?

So if you want to have something new to do in Skyrim before the next big DLC comes out, and you like having children, then Hearthfire would be worth the $5, in my opinion.  But otherwise, the choice is of course up to you, especially if you want to bake but don’t feel it worth hours of your time in a quest for butter!

November 9 Update (XBOX):   After months, the churn finally had a new bowl of butter in it.  BUT, within a short time, it had butter in it again.  Perhaps there was an update that loaded that we didn’t notice, or perhaps it’s very random!  Also, the best places I’ve noticed to buy butter are from the town stands, from the vendors selling vegetables and other foods (that is, the dark elf in Riften and the two humans in White Run and Windhelm).

 

Christian Parents: Should you let your kids play Skyrim (now with Dawnguard and Hearthfire)?

(For a peek at what Skyrim looks like, and a short write up on Skyrim violence and language, see my New Skyrim Playthrough Let’s Play with Babe’s Got Bow.  Don’t worry, the “Babe” is clean and mod free.  June 22, 2015)

This post could be opening up a whole can of worms, but so be it.  Why all the possible worms?  When my son was very young I thought – based on so much of what I read and heard from Christians – that video games were just all from hell and will lead to hell.  In more recent times, I have posted online with some Christians who still feel the same, though I’m hoping they don’t really think “Harvest Moon” or “Hello Kitty” games provide a direct ticket to the brimstone dungeon. There are nasty games out there for sure, games that relish dishonesty, crime, blood, gore, and killing.  But does that make all video games bad?  Putting aside the issue of time spent by the Christian on past-times (hobbies, entertainment, etc.), are certain video games not only fun and cathartic, but also potentially useful for stretching the mind and for witnessing?  I think yes, so let’s take a look at Skyrim with its Dawnguard expansion (Hearthfire, added September 4, 2012, adds pleasantries to the game).

Skyrim environment with flying dragon
Beautiful Skyrim environment with flying dragon.  Author screen shot.

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The time frame in Skyrim seems to correspond nicely with the Iron Age in Northern Europe and/or France and the British Isles.  Skyrim refers to a region in the continent of Tamriel, and is one of a number of games in the Elder Scrolls series.  The region makes up the north central part of the continent, and its Nordic inhabitants are akin to the real world Norsemen (Vikings).  For example, what is like heaven to the Vikings was called Asgard, and the honored hall Vahalla.  In Skyrim, these are referred to as Sovngarde and Shor’s Hall (Hall of Valor), respectively. The Imperials, which very obviously correspond to the Romans, have kept order in Tamriel for some time, though they are present in Skyrim now in order to crush a rebellion.  This isn’t just a little rebellion, but a power play that would affect all of Skyrim and its relations to the rest of the Empire.  Spoiler alert:  In typical historic fashion, the son of a king killed his own brother in an attempt to be high king.  Each region in Skyrim has a king, and these kings choose a high king from among them.  This was a spoiler since only one or two characters in the whole game actually tell you that the king killed was the usurper’s brother.

Map of Tamriel. (c) Bethesda, but found here: http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/File:Map_tamriel.jpg

The point about this power play, however, is that the usurper, Ulfric Stormcloak, had gotten many in Skyrim behind him because he claimed that his primary goal was to reestablish the free worship of the god Talos.  Talos used be just a man (Tiber Septim), but was made a god by the other gods (somehow – how this happened is unclear) and thus became worshipped, not just revered as a Dragonborn or for uniting Tamriel in the distant past. Why was the worship of Talos banned?  To end a major war the Imperials and other leaders had signed a treaty with the High Elves, and part of this treaty prohibited Talos worship, as the High Elves considered Talos to be a false god.

Despite the treaty Talos worship was going on quietly, but Ulfric’s uprising changed that.  Because of the rebellion, the High Elves began persecuting Talos worshippers, thus giving the Stormcloaks fuel for their fire. There are subtle complications added to the game to make the decision regarding which faction to follow not necessarily an easy one; it certainly shouldn’t be rushed.  While most people in Skyrim revere Talos, there are some things said to make a player wonder about him.  For instance, the self-proclaimed mouth-piece of Talos in Whiterun is annoying and may seem mad (he definitely is depicted as a melodramatic street preacher), and indeed, his feverish support of the Stormcloaks ignores both the reality of what is going on behind the scenes with the Imperials (many of whom also worship Talos) and the conniving and tyrannical nature of Ulfric and his Stormcloaks.

The Stormcloaks are pretty nasty, saying that if you don’t join them you’re against them (an enemy), yet the Imperials say no such thing.  There is much more to seemingly righteous rebels behavior vs Imperial behavior, but I’ll leave that for your exploration. The Stormcloak rebellion is one of the two major plots/quests of the game, the other being Dragonborn’s (the player is the Dragonborn) destiny to rid the world of Alduin, the world-eater dragon.  The quests are not totally separate.  Without paying close attention, a player may totally miss that Alduin and Ulfric are intertwined.

For the Christian, Alduin is of great interest since he is a Satan figure (without the Satan figure, one could maybe take Talos to be a pagan mythological man-god).  He claims to be the first born of the great god Akatosh (and some even worshipped him as Akatosh himself), but in reality he was created, and for a specific purpose.  He defies Akatosh regarding his purpose, interferes with man, and is arrogant. Skyrim is full of hints and references to religion, folklore, history, and literature, although much of these are not wholly analogous.  As might have been inferred by now, talking with someone about Skyrim can be a starting point to talking about Christ and even the existence of Satan.

An inquisitive player may decide it’s worth his or her time to look into the real-world peoples and such in the game.  Besides the examples already discussed, there is the goddess Mara, who quite obviously corresponds to Mary, mother of Jesus.  Elves are of course derived from folklore (as are the Dwarves), and their demise followed the acceptance of Christianity in European areas.  The magical High Elves came from a large island to the southwest of Tamriel, and so this alludes to Atlantis.  There are Bretons in the game and there are real world Bretons.

As with much fantasy in modern times, the game includes Orcs.  Where did Orcs come from?  Well, from the mind of JRR Tolkien (author of Lord of the Rings)!  In Skyrim they are not just like Tolkien’s Orcs, but they are still a corrupted form of Elf. Without getting into a lot of detail, I was disappointed with the game in some ways.  Skyrim seems to favor doing bad things, despite the character played being the Dragonborn, a person who brings good and who is in line to become Emperor.  The game has achievements, and many of these involve doing evil things.  This is unfortunate, and while a player is not at all required to do these things, some aspects of the game are closed-off if a player ignores these activities.  The new expansion of the game, Dawnguard, seems to make up for this somewhat.

Dawnguard Fortress. (c) Bethesda http://www.elderscrolls.com/skyrim/add-ons/

Most of the hype was directed towards the evil side of this expansion, involving vampires, but really, as far as I can see, the “good side” gains here.  I also have to pat Bethesda (the game maker) on the back for making the vampires in fact gross and bad.  Some may have a problem with the main vampire character being “good,” but at least they included dialogue for you to choose that shows your disdain for the whole idea, if you so choose to use that dialogue; there is also the possibility that this character will willingly give up her vampirism (become cured).

These games are made for the masses and they are not in business to lose money, so one has to take the good with the bad and make the most of it; in real life this is often murkier and harder to do than in games like Skyrim.  That being said, the Dawnguard include in their ranks a witty, funny, smart, and spiritually active ex-priest.  He adds a positive spiritual character that is a counter to the street preacher that so many players actually want to kill. Finally, I’ll leave you with basic good and bad points of Skyrim/Dawnguard/Hearthfire, and this quote from John Battle-Born of Whiterun.

This statement may very well be Bethesda’s commentary on the gaming world and not Skyrim, since there appears to be no connection to it and anything in the game–except perhaps that everyone that you encounter in the wild seems to want you to kill them!: “You know what’s wrong with Skyrim these days? Everyone’s obsessed with death.” Good points:

  • Truly beautiful to look at and wander around in:  HUGE.  Our world beautiful, not abstract, though there are awe-inspiring places that mix underwater concepts into air-breathing spaces.
  • Complicated main quests and min-quests that require you to listen to many characters to decide what’s best (if you do it right).
  • Religious and political aspects and some real-world history, along with the fantastic.  Real world lessons in deciphering the truth, in seeing through people’s blind ideologies or loyalties.
  • No sex and little swearing.
  • Fun and rewarding; tons of play time and things to do including blacksmithing, mixing potions, exploring, etc., besides fighting bandits and doing the quests.
  • Absolute loads of books, notes, recipes, etc. (I believe there are over 1,000), promote reading and the value of the written word.
  • The new Hearthfire expansion allows the player to – finally – adopt children, as well as do some fun housebuilding.

Bad points:

  • Passive goriness along with some slow-mo killing scenes (however, using magic makes for really awesome slow-mo scenes).
  • There is much fighting, which might not appeal to some.  Play yourself to decide (use the Dawnguard crossbow and you just might get hooked – forewarning you).
  • In Skyrim, the bad seems to be rewarded more than the good.  The new Dawnguard and Hearthfire expansions seems to even this out some.
  • The longer you take to finish the Vampire quest, the more citizens die in the towns – regular citizens, not just stand-ins.
  • Glitches, apparently the more you play the more there are.
  • This isn’t BAD, but just saying – it could’ve used more humor (there is some subtle dry humor in the game).
Skyrim, Sparks and Familiar spells
The sparks spell and cast familiar spell, against a lively skeleton (well, it WAS lively).  Author screen shot.

For more thoughts on Skyrim, particularly regarding its darker aspects and dealing with them with your children, see On Skyrim: A Vent from a Christian Parent (a mom who plays). November 5, 2012.   I just found this out so I thought I’d pass it along, from the Bethesda Softworks site on October 26, 2012:

Earlier today, Skyrim came away as the big winner at the UK’s most prestigious gaming award show, The Golden Joysticks. The game captured the night’s biggest award, Ultimate Game of the Year, as well as awards for Best RPG and Best Moment (visiting the Throat of the World).

Skyrim women want respect, and maybe more--to be feared.
Skyrim women want respect, and maybe more–to be feared. Author game capture.