Saturday, February 25, 2006

Graphical Evolution: The Elder Scrolls Series

It's amazing to look at how graphics in computer games have evolved over the past ten years. Take the Elder Scrolls series for example. This franchise has been growing since 1993 with the release of Elder Scrolls I: Arena :

Their next installment was Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall in 1996 catalyzing the so-called "RPG Renaissance of 1996-1999." During this three-year period, classics such as Baldur's Gate, Diablo, and Fallout were released. Also significant during this period was the creation of a brand new genre: the 'massively multiplayer online role playing game' with the release of Ultima Online and Everquest. Games in 1996 looked like this:

In 2002, Bethesda Software (creators of the Elder Scrolls series) struck gold with their award-winning third installment in the prominent series: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. This game was originally conceived during the time the released Daggerfall in 1996, but was put off due to creation of expansion packs and storyline add-ons for Daggerfall. Amidst beautiful scenery and intense, deep storytelling, the player was sucked into Morrowind. Conversations with NPCs, descriptions of objects, quests, journal entries...all of these were excrutiatingly detailed with pages upon pages of lore and mythology; they read like novels. This is also not taking into account actual books scattered throughout the game that are novels in their own right. This was the game that never ended. I've been playing Morrowind since it's release and still haven't reaped all that Morrowind has to offer. Morrowind represented a graphical feat not seen before. A true living world, so large, and so huge, that you can get lost and not find any hints of civilization for hours. All of pristine 3D:

One of the most anticipated games of 2006 wants to take this tried-and-tested formula and push it to its limits. In Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Bethesda works in over 1,000 non-player characters who come to life like never before with facial animations, lip-synching, and full speech (yes, they actually talk now, you dont have to read what they speak!). They even engage in unscripted conversations with each other and the player. According to Bethesda, "This groundbreaking AI system gives Oblivion's characters full 24/7 schedules and the ability to make their own choices based on the world around them. Non-player characters eat, sleep, and complete goals all on their own." And don't forget how pretty this game looks. And when I say pretty, my god, this game absolutely blows my mind. Featuring the high-end features of Microsoft's DirectX 9 technology, I'm hoping this game won't bring my system to its knees. I might just have to call up Dell and let them install a 7800Go GTX to replace my 6800Go Ultra in my laptop...which would cost me a pretty penny. (But it is essential!)


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