Dee Count updated to v1.5 for iOS6 changes. Now also requires minimum of iOS5.1.
Tip: Play at master difficulty. Good perk planning makes the game too easy. For more challenge, choose less combative skills.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim provides a variety of magic user options and fun gameplay. Enchanting is my favorite skill, but can make the character overpowered—not necessarily a bad thing. Building a mixed-class character (mage-fighter or mage-rogue) tended to capture me in previous Elder Scrolls, but a pure mage in Skyrim can enjoy the role of fighter or rogue at higher levels.
Reisha (Nord) is a pure wizard employed as an assassin. She’s adept at sneaking and one-hand combat, but with minimal perk training in those areas—minimum in 1-hand to get decapitation and only first rank in stealth bonus plus perks to get to Assasin’s Blade. Magic and enchantment turns her into a stealthy assassin.
Tip: Practice enchantment and find a magic item that reduces casting cost in your top wizard skill. Every few levels make new set of apparel (head gear, clothing, necklace, ring) that reduces casting cost.
Practicing primarily in Destruction and Alteration schools of magic, Reisha set out to be a combative wizard. On the side, she also trained in Illusion for better stealth (Muffle and Quiet Casting) and Conjuration to supply something to take hits (plus I love necromancy.) Reisha joined the Dark Brotherhood early in her career and later a vampire clan.
Tip: The Lord Stone (+50 armor, 25% magic resistance) is great for wizard survival or anyone refusing to wear armor.
Tip: For combat, pick a school of magic (Destruction, Illusion, or Conjuration) and work it like crazy. In Destruction you want dual-casting and impact perks as soon as possible. Illusion can replace Destruction by being a less combative wizard—get the enemy to fight each other.
After mastering Enchantment, Reisha created the following as her primary gear:
- Reisha’s Black Dress: Destruction and Conjuration 25% less to cast.
- Reisha’s Gold Diamond Ring: Destruction and Conjuration 25% less to cast.
- Reisha’s Emerald Circlet: Destruction and Conjuration 25% less to cast.
- Reisha’s Ruby Necklace: Destruction and Conjuration 25% less to cast.
- Reisha’s Vampire Boots: 37% fire resistance, +40% one-hand damage
- Reisha’s Blades Sword (Legendary): absorb 19 health, target takes 18 points shock and 9 points magicka damage.
Her apparel gives her free casting in Destruction and Conjuration for endless combat. Note that lower casting cost is much more important than magic recovery speed since combat uses magic very fast with little time to recover.
Note: magicka recovery rate may appear slower during combat, but it’s the same rate—notice the clock: time passes slower during combat (or faster when traveling) to balance gameplay (since the world is not real-time.)
The only reason for fire resistance is to offset her vampiric nature, otherwise magic resistance or another combat bonus might be more effective. She also has alternate attire for sword fighting (more bonuses to one-hand combat and Alteration cost reduction instead of Destruction.)
I chose female for this wizard because previous Elder Scrolls games (Morrowind) offered a few alternate quest-line choices and different dialogues. I’ve found none in Skyrim besides the pronoun switch.
Screenshots are from the game without alterations. Game details are set to High with the high-resolution texture pack. Click on a screenshot for full resolution at 2560×1440.
One annoying feature of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Softworks is the scenery popping into place—which is to say the high resolution textures replacing the low resolution textures—worst of all the appearance of frozen waterfalls. Sometimes it seems one has to get awfully close to the waterfall before the gorgeous animated water appears. The fish leap up the ugly block of water without a care. Setting distance sliders to maximum doesn’t help the waterfalls. If the artists had created nicer looking low-resolution waterfalls, this might not be as much a bother.
I’m not the only one concerned. Players found a solution within weeks of Skyrim’s release. Read the details on this post, “uGridsToLoad Skyrim.ini Comparisons and Explanation,” at Bethesda Softworks Forums. The short answer is to set three keys in the skyrim.ini file under [General]:
uExterior Cell Buffer=64
According to the forum thread, uGridsToLoad may be 5 (default,) 7, 9, or 11 and the other two must change to match the formula:
uExterior Cell Buffer=(x+1)^2
Two trade-offs include a performance hit for higher values of x and unsafe to load games saved at higher x-values than playing due to saved file corruption. So, experiment and keep x before playing or continuing a real game.
I’m playing Skyrim at “High Details” with some distance bars pushed up slightly at 2056×1440 resolution, and ended up choosing x=7. At a single bump the landscape popping distance is far enough not to bother me nearly as much, and my playing experience doesn’t take a hit. Here are some comparison pictures, zoomed-in (cropped image) of the falls outside Whiterun:
Notice the frozen waterfalls in the top screenshot and the lack of land detail compared to the second screenshot. Below is the full view.
Another comparison overlooking Ivarstead, cropped images:
Why didn’t Bethesda Softworks increase the uGrids value in the higher details presets? My guess is stability. The game had some texture loading issues in the early versions, and apparently they could not find a workable solution if the player decides to lower their detail preset without corrupting the saved-game file. Maybe a future patch will fix things.
I like OS X for development including Windows development which is my primary job. OS X provides access to Unix tools, building and testing using virtual machines, and an efficient interface for multi-monitor and multi-desktop work. Of course, a Mac is necessary for building iOS applications. Doing all my work on a single machine taking up little desk space seemed very attractive, and that’s what I did in 2009 with the purchase of an iMac.
One problem cropped up: I started avoiding LightWave 3D (CPU intensive 3D modeling and animation software) due to heat. Although the aluminum body on the iMac dissipates heat well, it’s not good enough for CPU intensive tasks running more than a few hours. Placing a fan on the desk moving air behind my iMac helped, but wasn’t desirable. With my iMac getting on in age, I decided to look for another solution.
The only breathable desktop Apple offers is the Mac Pro, but the current selection of machines are based on three-year old technology at overinflated prices. (Apple doesn’t normally reduce prices over time.) Intel was late delivering new Sandy Bridge Xeon processors, but once they did Apple didn’t update the Mac Pro line. Rumor claims, an update may come next year. I don’t need more than 32 Gb of RAM, so I’d be happy with something between a Mac Mini and Mac Pro that supports desktop graphics cards. This xMac doesn’t exist. Might it come next year? If Apple plans on redesigning the Mac Pro, this might be a good time to adjust their desktop selections.
I decided to give building a “hackintosh” a try to see how a mini-Mac Pro might work out. Following the guides on tonymacx86.com (remember to purchase a copy of OS X from the Mac App Store and get it onto a USB drive,) I selected parts targeting OS X Mountain Lion:
- Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H motherboard (BIOS tips at tonymacx86.com)
- Ivy Bridge i7-3770 CPU
- Asus nVidia GTX570 graphics card
- 16 GB Corsair Vengeance RAM
- Cooler Master HAF 912 case with 120mm fan
- Arctic Freezer 13 CPU cooler
- 1 TB Western Digital hard drive (for Windows)
- 500 GB Western Digital hard drive (for OS X)
Quiet is good. I replaced the stock CPU heat sink with the Arctic Freezer, and the case fan with a larger 120mm fan. The Asus GTX570 consuming three slots remains quiet under heavy load.
I installed Windows 8 Preview on the new drive for reference and make sure all my hardware is functioning. After running a stress test, I installed OS X following the guides. Some say hackintosh installation has become much easier in recent years, but it’s still not something I would recommend to those without PC building experience.
The process of installing the software isn’t push-button easy, but made simpler by choosing known compatible parts. I had to pull my graphics card out for the first phase, relying on the HD4000 in the CPU (which worked perfect.) After first OS X boot with the basic Multibeast files, I put the graphics card back in and everything was happy after that. Note the Multibeast instructions carefully (try this one at macbreaker.) Checking the wrong box may mean restarting the entire installation. Add one thing at a time and reboot after each to make sure OS X starts and the added hardware driver works before going on to the next. My biggest problem turned out to be the audio, which still doesn’t work.
I ran some benchmarks to make sure everything is working properly. The Cinemark test surprised me at 44.5 FPS as I wasn’t expecting full 3D OpenGL acceleration with the GTX570, but scored lower than in Windows 8 at 56.7 FPS. The following charts include the 2009 iMac with i5 for reference.
“LW Sum” represents the sum of three single-frame renderings in LightWave 3D 10.1. According to Geekbench (Primate Labs,) the new machine is nearly twice as fast as the iMac scoring better in Windows 8. In LightWave, tests show near dead even between OS X and Windows 8 at more than twice the speed as the old 2009 iMac.
Except for the audio problem, the HackMac seems to be in working order. I’m uncertain if I want to depend on HackMac for regular work as I hate to be interrupted when I’m deep in the creative process. At this point I’m considering keeping my iMac for iOS development, Photoshop, and VM testing. I’ll use the new machine for LightWave 3D in Windows 8. Besides, I’ve always felt two computers are better for heavy multi-tasking than one monster computer. (Raytracing 3D images can take many hours.)
Using the iMac as a monitor has one curious issue: the iMac puts out a bit of extra heat while in Target Display Mode and the fans don’t seem to want to speed up. To compensate, I use smcFanControl to bump the minimum fan speed a little (+300 RPM.)
My brief book review of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is at Goodreads. I enjoyed it, but felt a little short on it leaving some things open for the next book. My only complaint is the main character’s (Katniss) inner conflict is not as well told as the action, but it did not detract from the story enough to lower my enjoyment.
I haven’t seen the movie yet.
My review on Goodreads:
Overall a fun and exciting story in a post-appoclyptic-style America where the mortal combat arena has returned as popular entertainment. The intro is short taking us right to Katniss volunteering in place of her sister, Prim, chosen as one of two tributes from District 12. The story fills in more details about Katniss and her family’s past as the story evolves. The pace is great moving from the tribute preparation, building character, into the arena where Katniss deals with survival and also her inner conflict with self-image. Her relationship issues are only partially resolved, but the ending prepares for the second book.
The first-person perspective works well for the most part including pulling the reader into the action, but struggles in other areas in particular to Katniss’s inner conflict with her self-image and relationships. The reader is given too much knowledge about her co-tribute’s feelings that Katniss almost appears stupid. Pulling the reader tighter into her self-image would negate this shortcoming and work better with the first-person present tense. I find this is only a minor bump, not enough to detract from the story.
I’ve been busy fixing up my new home taking care of the essentials and sprucing the place up. Essentials include fixing broken items, removing dead critters from dark recesses, yard maintenance, and rescuing a neglected deck. When there’s extra minutes to spare I clean, polish, and paint. All that and I continue working near normal hours, maybe a little less. It’s exciting—including the dead things.
Writing fiction is on hold for a while at least until my imaginary friends start bugging me again.