Skywind and Skyblivion…

Skywind and Skybilivion… after the break…

Skywind and Skybilivion…

This is what happens when gaming begins to pass you by – Mods that would get you excited aren’t noticed until they are well into production.

The Elder Scrolls series by Bethesda may as well be called for what it is – The modern day equivalent of the Ultima RPG series. While the Ultima series eventually sputtered (at least the offline version – Ultima Online, quite frankly, sparked the MMORPG genre to life) and died under the weight of corporate interference, the Elder Scrolls series is most certainly alive (“and well” is a bit too subjective to include, as I am sure there would be people who would take exception to that addition).

The past three Elder Scrolls games (Morrowind, Oblivion & Skyrim) have all used the “Gamebryo” engine to some degree or another. To be fair, all three games do not use the exact same engine – There are significant differences both in the game code and in the game mechanics – but the underlying engine is the same and the design philosophies are also the same. For instance, all of the games are broken down into “cells,” which are sort of like building blocks. Assemble the appropriate building blocks together and you get a room or a house or a dungeon. You can then fill that room with copies of benches and beds and flower pots and treasure chests so that you can eventually create an entire world. The quests are all comprised of “scripts,” which is really just a simplified programming language that tells the engine what to do when certain criteria are accomplished, such as a character walking past a certain point or when they reach a certain experience level or when they talk to another character in the game.

Each of the past three Elder Scrolls games takes place on the exact same world but they each focus on a different part of that world (“provinces,” in technical terms)… Sort of like continents or countries. For instance, Morrowind is set on the island of Vvardenfell (which is technically a part of Morrowind… It’s the big island part of Morrowind). Oblivion is actually the central part of the world, the Imperial part (“Oblivion” actually refers to the game’s equivalent of Hell, which you get to visit) and “Skyrim” really does refer to the “Skyrim” province… Fancy that. In each of the three games, you can’t visit the other parts of the world, just the part that the game is focused on.

Naturally, enthusiasts of the Elder Scrolls series have always wondered what would happen if you could visit Vvardenfell with Oblivion’s game engine or recreate Skyrim in Morrowind’s game engine. Or, for that matter, what would happen if you combined all three regions into one massive humungous game. The concept is, at least, feasible – Bethesda has released the game creation tools to make such a venture conceivably possible for all three games. The only obstacles (besides the legality, which Bethesda has come down as being against) are time, effort and resources.

“Morroblivion” is an attempt at taking the game content of Morrowind and placing it in the Oblivion game engine. That effort has matured to a point where, supposedly, it is playable.

“Skywind,” though, is the latest effort – It is an effort to port Morrowind’s game content into the Skyrim game engine. That effort is ongoing, as well as another effort dubbed “Skyblivion” which is attempting to place Oblivion’s content into the Skyrim game engine.

I have to admit – Nostalgia is a strong emotion. To see the island of Vvardenfell again makes me just a wee bit wistful back to a time when I still had a full head of hair (OK, a fuller head of hair) and more hours to bleed away walking through a make-believe land fighting make-believe creatures then I ever care to admit. The desire to “go back home” and revisit past experiences is a powerful one… Who doesn’t want to walk through their old neighborhood before one event or another changed it significantly? Or their school? Or their first job? Or their first house? Or… Or anywhere, for that matter?

Personally, such efforts are nice but the effort that these individuals ought to focus on is “OpenMW,” the open source rendition of Morrowind. OpenMW is a mature project that will bring genuine nostalgia and longevity to the Morrowind game. Anyone will be able to download it and, using legal copies of the Morrowind game data files, play Morrowind on modern-day computers. With every passing month, OpenMW becomes more feature-complete then ever. I am hopeful that, come June 1, 2014, OpenMW is ready for public consumption. Best of all, OpenMW will be able to branch out where other renditions (such as “Morroblivion” and “Skywind”) can not – By adding new gameplay mechanics and features because the game code will be completely accessible.

The ultimate failings of Morroblivion and Skywind are that they are being rendered on game engines with different game mechanics then the games that they are rendering. For instance, the power of levitation is essential in Morrowind but not allowed in either Oblivion or Skyrim. With each passing game, the game mechanics have changed – This makes rendering the earlier games faulty because you can not recreate the same gameplay experience.

I can’t fault efforts like “Morroblivion” or “Skywind” for trying. However, in the wake of OpenMW, these efforts ultimately pale by comparison. Yes, modern game engines make prior games look exquisitely nice but, in the end, it’s not the same. You’re still playing Oblivion or Skyrim, even if the scenery is Morrowind or Oblivion. OpenMW is merely Morrowind for Morrowind, with a perfectly accessible engine that is open for all sorts of modding capabilities.

I hope that Morroblivion and Skywind succeed,,, But not at the expense of OpenMW.

It’s nice to go home again and while Morroblivion and Skywind make that possibility feasible to a degree, it will ultimately be OpenMW that actually delivers on that promise.

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