Bethesda’s classic fantasy game turns 10

Image of the article titled The Skyrim Decade: How Bethesda's Dragon Slayer Game Transformed the Game

Picture: Bethesda

A prisoner kneels before the executioner’s block, the executioner’s ax already crimson with the blood of a previous victim. Helpless, they bow their heads, bracing for the final blow to fall. But then a cry rang out, supernatural, horrible, miraculous – an “Oooooh yeah! Supernatural and irresistible! An imperial general, suddenly lost, sees something in the sky and cries out in panic:happiness, is that it? But the player already knows this, even before the winged figure in the cowboy hat fell on a nearby tower, flames bursting from his crisp Slim Jim mouth: This is the macho man Randy Savage, and he’s here to end the world.

if it’s not the iconic Bethesda’s opening The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrimwhich is celebrating its 10th anniversary today — that’s at least a iconic opening of the best-selling open-world role-playing game. Both a corporate money-printing engine and one of the purest examples of gamer expression in gaming history, Skyrim stands on a decade that never seemed able to overtake or forget it, not least because Bethesda wouldn’t let people go, resolutely shaking up the game on every platform imaginable, over and over again.

Even the company got into the joke of its relentless and insatiable re-release, recording a video with Keegan-Michael Key in which he played a fake version of the game via Amazon’s Alexa – and, yes, there is some. suitable in the fact that even the studio jokes contain this powerful seed of business cross-promotion.

But the Skyrim The story is more than the endless wave of remasters and repackages that Bethesda helped inspire. (Games Anniversary edition, released today, is something like its sixth or seventh full release, extending its lifespan over three generations of full consoles; not even regularly regurgitated classics like The last of us can quite match that.) It’s also the story of a community taking a game and turning it into a digital playground, sometimes with the tacit support of game business owners, and sometimes not. such.

Which brings us back to Macho Dragon Randy Savage — or Dragon Thomas The Tank Engine, or Dragon Fighter Jets, or one of the other absurd, beautiful, and deadly replacements. SkyrimThe modding community has applied to the game’s iconic antagonists for the past 10 years. The dragons are SkyrimIconic creatures of: loud, visually demanding and technically impressive. More so than the icy landscapes, the Empire-Stormcloak War or the player character the screaming Dovahkiin, dragons represent Bethesda’s great ambitions for the vast world that its designers have brought to life.

Is it any wonder, then, that they were a frequent subject for modders, who spent the same decade projecting their own creative desires, sometimes with the vandal’s gleeful eye, all the way to the freezing north of Tamriel? “Macho Dragons”, by modder FancyPantz, hit NexusMods in January 2012, just two months later Skyrimthe release of; “Really Useful Dragons”, the famous mod that turns all the dragon villains in the game into characters from Thomas The Tank Engine, followed a year later.

These mods are goofy, stupid, sometimes downright broken. They are also, in their own way, Skyrim at its best, taking Bethesda’s core design philosophy of player freedom in an open world and taking it to decidedly meta levels. Based Skyrim asks if you want your Dovahkiin to be a stealth warrior, mage, or archer; amended Skyrim ask if they would like to be a Pokemon coach, a fashion designer, or just, you know, having sex with every single person in the little town of Whiterun. Really, the sky is the limit.

At the same time, there are those legions of modders who forgo flashy or hornt, choosing instead to just try and do Skyrim better. Bigger, prettier, more technically stable, more fun to play. Few games have ever employed a more dedicated, or less paid, tech team; if you have a problem with virtually any aspect of Skyrim, rest assured that someone, somewhere, has thought of a possible solution, usually on a largely voluntary basis.

To Bethesda’s enduring credit and profit, it is always understood that modding adds immeasurable value to its games, extending the lifespan of Skyrim by hundreds of hours and a literal decade of real time. (The company has even removed regulated mod support for console versions of the game, a shocking rarity in the increasingly closed environments of modern consoles.) Despite this, the company, now owned by Microsoft, has at times clearly expressed his discomfort that he does not have the biggest selling point of his own magnum opus; hence, presumably, the occasional effort to monetize, incorporate or otherwise get hold of the balloon of Skyrimthe modding scene.

The most infamous of these incidents happened roughly halfway through the game’s current lifespan, in 2015. That’s when Bethesda announced its intention to start authorizing creators. to officially charge for mods, thus dividing society with society. And while this strategy was quickly criticized by a community that was already well into its longtime obsession with Skyrim, the company tried again a few years later with its Creation Club program, with less muffled contempt. (The Anniversary edition will include approximately 500 pieces of Creation Club content. Also: fishing!)

It is then interesting to note that Skyrim both predates and omen, the most dominant gaming trend of the decade it hangs over: games as a service, the design / marketing philosophy that demands that games function as endless revenue engines for their owners, connecting players for regular drops of paid content and then having them play, basically, forever. (destiny, which helped codify the movement, will not arrive until 2014.) In fact, you can see this trend, at least in part, as an effort to replicate the Skyrim effect – which has seen players return to the game over and over again over the years, typically leaving money each time – without actually having to do Skyrim, a game so huge that it is economically ridiculous by modern standards.

The legacy of Skyrim is therefore that of the paradox: at the same time a bundle of content as rich as that which has never been relentlessly chewed by this industry, while simultaneously being a source and an inspiration for heights of creativity. (It’s not for nothing that The forgotten city, one of the best games of 2021, debuted as Skyrim mod.) Its merits as a game – considerable, if mixed, even a decade later – pale behind its platforming status, something it achieved years before this sort of thing ever happened. become the goal of every editor with dollar signs and metaverse nonsense dreams dancing in their eyes.

It is, and was, such a profitable game that it inspired new and sinister attempts in for-profit science; it is, and was, such a purely broad game that it inspired its players to build new horizons. (Community members are currently concerned that Anniversary editionupdates could potentially destroy years of technical scaffolding on god knows how many mods; it’s hard to imagine that they won’t find a way to get back what is now a lot their game, ultimately.) The past decade doesn’t reflect that until it responds to it. Why build another one Skyrim, the logic seems to work, when Skyrim already exists and, apparently, will always exist?

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