Chris Hornbostel

From 1957 to 1987, thirty years of horror in thirty days

, | Features

October has always been my favorite month. It’s the month of cool weather, awesome clothes, and sleeping with the windows open. It is long shadows and the magic hour in prime time. Thanks to Halloween, it’s also the month I love to dive deep into spooky stuff in all kinds of media, from horror story collections to favorite scary video games.

After the jump: “You wanna see something REALLY scary?” Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: devilishly good details

, | Game diaries

I know that the hunter’s camp I’m looking for is around here somewhere. Twain, budding assassin that he is, has a Brotherhood contract and the fellow he’s supposed to kill is at that camp. As ever with directions, it sounded easier to get here in theory than in execution, and I swear I’ve been all over this riverbank looking. Honestly, I’m almost wondering if I’ve got Twain at the wrong bend in the river entirely. It didn’t use to be this difficult to find quest objectives, after all…

…and I love it.

After the jump, greater than the sum of the parts Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: thieves like us

, | Game diaries

Look, I know Mercer Frey is the head of the Thieves Guild, but he has got to be kidding with this one. He wants me to investigate this dude in the city of Solitude. No big deal, right? Well, except for the fact I’m in Riften (where the Thieves Guild is located) and Solitude is all the way across the entire map. This is not some jaunty day trip to the corner store–this is a serious journey, one that should take me across three or four separate climates in Skyrim. This is some serious Lewis & Clark exploration, and it will require some actual planning and attention to detail.

After the jump, join the thieves guild, see the world Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: tool time

, | Game diaries

The Drunken Huntsman in the city of Whiterun is one Twain’s favorite haunts in all of Skyrim. My character is a sneaky guy who kills lots of stuff with arrows, and the Huntsman is a great place to both replenish ammunition and also check for bow upgrades. Twain’s been shopping here since he was a mere level 2 rube visiting the big city to take the Ataxia cure at the temple.

That first visit, Elrindir the proprietor showed the young and impressionable Twain a mix of goods of fairly low quality. If I made no changes to the way Skyrim works, when I’d send him back in to the store at level 10, level 15, and level 20 he’d see incrementally more powerful things on offer to buy. While it’s certainly nice to be able to buy better and better gear as you advance in the game, it also illustrates a problem inherent with vanilla Skyrim.

After the jump, making crafting worthwhile Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: meta and potatoes

, | Game diaries

You might be able to tell by looking at the picture above that Twain — my character in Skyrim — is having something of a crisis of confidence right now. That’s him on the barstool, drowning his sorrows at the Vilemyr Inn, and I can’t blame him for his despair. While Steam tells me I’ve spent nearly 18 hours in Skyrim since I started keeping this diary, I can’t help but notice that Twain’s still wearing the same grungy furs he’s had since early on in the game. What’s worse, I could pull up a menu showing that despite all that in-game time the poor guy is still only level 11. If we were able to ask him, Twain would probably take a swig of Honingbrew Mead and express that he felt like he’d been through all this before.

After the jump, mod-induced deja vu syndrome Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: dawdling & dragons

, | Game diaries

I’m guessing that I smell like a wet dog. Worse than a wet dog, perhaps. It’s pouring in Riverwood, and the locals have had the good sense to get under shelter out of this rainstorm. Me, I’m out in it, dressed from head to toe in animal furs and probably smelling like the crotch of a quarterhorse. I can’t stay in from the weather today — if I don’t hunt, I don’t eat. If I don’t eat, my ability to stab things in the dark takes a big hit. It’s awfully hard to sneak up on people when my stomach is rumbling.

After the jump, a week in Riverwood Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: tales I tell myself

, | Game diaries

By January of this past year, playing Skyrim had become a chore to me. I kept telling myself that when Bethesda released their mod tools–The Creation Kit–that things would somehow get better, that the shortcomings I’d begun to struggle with in the game might be fixed by the modding community that had done such excellent work with Oblivion and the Fallouts. It is entirely possible that I was totally right about that…but I never found out. Just ten days after the Creation Kit arrived in early February, I abandoned Skyrim. I’d hit the wall and was burnt out, but not so much that I didn’t vow to return at some future point in time.

Perhaps it was the cold snap that brought unseasonably cold nights to the East Coast this fall. Perhaps it was just absence making my gaming heart grow fonder. Whatever the reason, recently I started to feel that pull back to Tamriel’s far north province. November marked the anniversary of Skyrim’s release, and after a year of patches, DLC, and fan-made creations, I wondered what the state of the game was. I knew that if done right a fully-modded version of Bethesda’s game could be a brand new experience; a Director’s Cut of sorts. If I chose wisely and installed carefully maybe I could finally get out of Skyrim the experience I’d always wanted to have.

After the jump: Spoiled for choice. Continue reading →

Could Big Huge Games have saved 38 Studios?

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Since Monday’s coverage, highly placed sources inside both 38 Studios and Big Huge Games have come forward with clarifications and new information in the ongoing story of 38 Studios’ demise. A previously fuzzy picture of an unbelievably swift collapse has come into sharper focus as a tale of two studios: one a group of hardy survivors, the other doomed by its own ambition.

After the jump, the best of times, the worst of times Continue reading →

What happened to 38 Studios

, | Features

(Editor’s note: The sudden dramatic collapse of 38 Studios over the last few weeks has been the subject of a lot of speculation and recrimination. Chris Hornbostel lays out the facts as we know them, gives them some important context, and then draws a few conclusions.)

In October 2006, Curt Schilling begins 38 Studios as Green Monster Games in Maynard, Massachusetts. Fantasy author R. A. Salvatore is announced as creative director, and artist Todd McFarlane is art director. On this site’s message board, you can read Schilling’s comments at the time, including this telling million dollar quote: “I am not sure where revenues and subscription bases will be in a few years, but based on todays economy in the game space it’s safe to say both are going to grow exponentially right?”

After the jump, how it actually turned out Continue reading →