What we’re reading…

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Sometimes I get the impression from parents, politicians, and Fox News that if you’re playing videogames, you’re not reading. So when I decided we should do a “What we’re reading” post this week, I was pleased to see so many responses. It’s worth noting that a handful of folks relate reading to videogames in their answers — but I suppose that’s fair game. On that note, I hear there’s tons of optional reading in Lost Odyssey. After getting an email from Gavin, I’m think it’s one game I need to read up on:

“The plot (at least so far) revolves around one character trying to build this giant station called. ‘Grand Staff.’ So you get lots of lines like ‘I must complete work on Grand Staff!’ or ‘Grand Staff will make our magic stronger!’”

I couldn’t agree more. On that note, let us know what you’re reading. Have a great weekend!

Erin Losi: Gluten Free Girl, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Grazia (my new favorite British gossip mag)

Steve Meister: Just finished The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, which was extremely good. I also recently finished Scarlet, by Stephen Lawhead, the second in his re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend, which was also very good. I am now reading The Wanderer’s Tale, book one in the Annals of Lindormin by David Bilsborough, and I’ve got to tell you, this is one of the worst books I’ve read in a long time. It really has no redeeming qualities. Avoid it.

Brendan Anthony, Programmer: Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, The Pillars of the Earth, Michio Kaku’s Visions.

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Bright Shiny Things: XNA Games

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If you followed Microsoft’s GDC press conference this week, you probably heard a little about their XNA service for the 360. XNA is a way for the community to create their own games, have their games reviewed by their peers, and then make them available for other 360 owners to download. Kind of like YouTube…but with games. If you’re interested in developing games via XNA, you can download XNA Game Studio 2.0 for free — though a paid membership to the XNA Creators club is also required ($49 for 4 months or $99 for 12 months). As I understand it, released XNA games would then be something you’d be able to purchase via Xbox Live.

Wait a minute, isn’t Bright Shiny Games all about trying things cool things on the cheap (and preferably free)??? Well, as announced during Microsoft’s keynote, there are seven XNA-developed demos available on Xbox Live. Some of the demos are relatively short, but you get enough time with each game to get a flavor of what they’re like. I’ve spent a few hours over the past few days playing them, and I’d recommend that anyone with Live do the same.

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Around the Web: More Lists

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You probably figured out already that we’re not doing a lot of talking at GDC this week — it’s been pretty busy around here with everyone cracking on Fallout 3. Still, if you need a break from all the GDC news, here are a few newsworthy mentions I thought I’d share.

I noticed Destructoid has shared the results of their “which one game has eaten up more hours of your life than any other game ever has” debate, and both Morrowind (#6) and Oblivion (#2) made the top ten. Even combining votes, these games would still end up trailing World of WarCRACK craft. No surprise there.

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Conquest hitting Europe this 1st Quarter 2008

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This morning, our new London office, ZeniMax Europe, put out a release that sheds some light on the European release of Star Trek: Conquest. The press release confirms that the game will be coming to PS2 and Wii this quarter in the following territories: United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Australia. So if you’ve been waiting to play the game, your chance is on the horizon. When we have more details, we’ll keep you updated here on the blog.

With this news, we decided extend our Conquest “Meet the Devs” challenge. The new deadline for the contest is 11:59 PM (EST) on April 6th. For more details on contest rules and how to win a Landing Party statue, check here.

Emil on Next-Gen

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Emil was named one of Next-Gen’s Top 25 Developers for 2008, coming in at #24. Here’s a snippet:

“Before coming to Bethesda, Pagliarulo hung with the greats at the sadly defunct Looking Glass Studios, lending design work to well-respected classics like Thief II: The Metal Age.”

For the rest, head over to Next-Gen and check out the other 99 folks on the list. Also keep your eyes open for an interview Emil did in conjunction with this list that may be popping up one day this week during GDC.

Pop Quiz, hotshot!

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Now that you know a little more about The Imperial Library, it’s pop quiz time. Over on the site GoToQuiz, I found a new 20 question quiz for Oblivion. The questions are actually pretty good, and I only managed a 60% — I suppose I should have grabbed the strategy guide from my shelf before taking the quiz.

Anyhow, check out the quiz here, and feel free to post your score.

History Lesson: Getting to know The Imperial Librarians

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A couple weeks back, within a suggestions thread we have for mod interviews, it was suggested that we should also have an interview that focuses on the fans that deal with the loremasters that deal with the Elder Scrolls. I thought it was a good idea, so I contacted Xanathar over at The Imperial Library. He agreed to the interview and got some other guys from TIP to chime in. Here’s how it went…

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Todd talks Fallout 3

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A new interview with our very own Todd Howard has gone up at videogaming247. Among other things, Todd discusses Fallout 3′s cross-platform launch, how decisions you make will help determine the game’s ending, and how Cormac McCarthy’s book, “The Road,” has been an influence on the game’s development. Here’s a sample of what he had to say:

Q: The “post-disaster” genre isn’t particularly well visited in games, certainly not as well as in movies and books. Do you look outside games for inspiration? We’re thinking along the lines of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, and so on.

A: You picked one of the big ones, yes. “The Road” is fantastic and came out in the middle of our design phase, so it became required reading for many of us. We looked at many post nuclear movies, some very disturbing, things that deal with Hiroshima and such, and it gave us a good look at that type of nuclear destruction. Other general ones we looked at were things dealing with survival or how people deal with the effects of any war or rebuilding.

To read the rest of the interview, click here.

Oblivion Modding Update

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Welcome to another update on the Oblivion modding scene. Here’s a few community happenings and projects that caught my eye in the past couple weeks.

DarkOne from TES Nexus has put up a Files of the Month section similar to what TESSource previously had. Currently, Apachii Goddess Store ranks as the site’s most popular mod. This mod, from Apachii, adds a shop with Goddess Merchants that sell weapons, armors, clothes and more. If you’re not looking to buy new items, you can also visit the shop for training purposes.

At the Oblivion Files, this week’s honoree for ES IV File of the Week is Moving Paintings by Kevin P. Cook. Still in beta, this mods adds animated textures to paintings. Hmm, is this Cyrodiil or Hogwarts? :)

Because everyone loves unicorns, I thought I’d share Turamarth’s Umarithial the Unicorn Mount (version 2), which I spotted over at Planet Elder Scrolls. This mod adds the ability to ride a self-healing, armored unicorn. Oh, and you can summon your trusty unicorn anywhere that horses can normally go.

Finally, we’d like to wish a belated happy birthday to The Elder Scrolls Fan Union (TESFU). Last month, the site celebrated their one-year anniversary. The site is a nice place to discuss lore, fan-fiction, and of course, mods. Take a look here to see some of their projects.