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Paul Smith's Blog

Mod of the Week : Natural Environments
Tue, 25 Apr 2006 18:46:00 +0000

by Khajiit

Natural Environments is an attempt to enhance the original appearance of Oblivion's weather and water components. The mod also removes several minor annoyances found in the original product, such as opaque water surfaces, muddy underwater vision, visibly pixelated cloud textures, and nonsensical meteoric conditions. Most of the changes are cosmetic and should not affect the game’s performance noticeably.

Natural Enviroments - by Max Tael

We are proud to announce Oblivion Portals first mod review for our readers! This week we review ( test might be a more fitting word in this case ) Max Taels mod Natural Environments. As you could read above Natural Environemnts offer's a different weather system along with new water effects and gives you a different atmosphere compared to the original version of Oblivion. Natural Environments also includes new sky textures.

Let's get this going!

Now we'll take a look at some comparsion screenshots to really see the difference between the original version of Oblivion, and Oblivion with Natural Environments installed.

Here we can clearly see the difference! The sky has a darker tone and the world looks less bleak with NE installed. Also note the incredible water, with NE the water looks less plastic and the opacity of it is much more realistic.

What an improvement! Bad weater has never been this beautifull before! As you can see NE makes the world slightly darker during rainy days, but in return you get rid of the ugly grey tones. The view distance is also improved and you can clearly see the horizon.

And I who already thought that Skingrad was a bit too foggy and grey! In this case NE makes it even worse.

Stunningly beautiful! Tamriel feels much warmer and cozy with NE installed. Note that NE only replaces the sky textures, all the other textures are the original ones. It's the new and improved weather system that adds the more vibrant colours to the world.

The HDR doesn't seem to be that very intense with NE installed. The sky is a lot darker and the water reflections of the sun is not as impressive, but in return the water reflections with NE are far more realistic, less plastic!

What a difference! NE's sunsets are darker, and in this case more orange. Less fantasy and more realism in my opinion.

Definitely better. The greytones has been reduced and the horizon is much more visible. With NE the night's are dark instead of grey, wich is a big plus!

The forests are a bit darker, especially the green tones. Somehow this makes the forests feel a bit more dense and cozy!

I had a hard time rating this mod, the reason? Well, Natural Environments isn't really one mod, it's three mods! The thing that make's Natural Environments such an excellent mod is that the player can choose wich features he/she wants! Natural Environments has two ESP files, one for the new weather system, and one for the new water effects. You can also choose if you want to use the new sky textures by simply add, or not add them to your textures folder! I recommend this mod to everyone who want's to spice up Oblivion's atmosphere with something new and different!


+ Improved water effects, such as opacity and reflections.

+ The player can choose wich fatures he/she want's to use.

+ Better view distance during rainy weather and night-time by reducing the greytones in exterior cells.

+ Usage of  vibrant colours wich makes Tamriel a more warm and beautiful place!

+ Three mods in one! 


I think it's up to the readers to decide what's bad, because as I said, it's all about personal taste.

There we go! Oblivion Portal's first mod review/test! If you have any suggestions, opinions or questions email me or use the comment section.

If you have a candidate for the next weeks Mod of the Week, email me or use the comment section.


Graphics settings used:

Eveything where set to maximum exept for exterior shadows who where completely turned off. HDR was enabled. 

Other modifications used in this test:

Landscape LOD Texture Replacement by Shaja.

Note: Monitor settings such as gamma or brightness have a big impact on Natural Environments. A lot of people might not see a big difference between the original version of Oblivion, and Oblivion with Natural Environments installed and/or in the screenshots used in the review/test. The result totally depends on what kind of a monitor you have, and how it's configured.


New RPG Vault Bethesda Softworks Interview
Tue, 18 Apr 2006 18:45:00 +0000

by Paul
The folks over at RPG Vault had snaggered the chance to sit down with Bethesda Softwork's lead programmers, programmers , and designers (such as Guy Carver and Bruce Nesmith) and have a few words with them regarding what accomplishment(s) they feel most proud of.

Erik Deitrick

"I worked on interface and mini-games, and I'm very happy with how the lock picking turned out. It's fun right out of the box, and even after 200 hours of playing, even though I'm very good at it, I still have to pay attention or I start breaking picks. Plus a lock pick in German is a "dietrich".

Orin Tresnjak

"I joined the company very late in the development of Oblivion, just after E3; I did odd jobs at first, and soon ended up taking over the distant level of detail system - that's the system that allows us to store and render a simplified version of the world out to incredible distances. So that's definitely what I'm most proud of - although it's a fairly simple mechanism, it really adds a sense of scale to the game and contributes to its distinctive look. There's just something beautiful about seeing Bruma clinging to the mountainside from miles away, or seeing the spire of the Imperial City from the hills near Chorrol."

Bruce Nesmith

"I was responsible for a lot of the game balance in Oblivion, both for monsters and for the economy. In virtually every game in every genre, game balance is considered to be one of the trickiest things to do well. I succeeded beyond my hopes and expectations, particularly for a game of the enormous scope and complexity of Oblivion."

New Oblivion Patch and Downloadable Content Update plans
Fri, 07 Apr 2006 18:45:00 +0000

by Paul
The benevolent folks at Bethesda Softworks have already posted on their forums that they have new patch and content update plans for both the Windows and Xbox 360 builds of TES4: Oblivion. The patch is said to address a number of bugs and issues, and the downloadable content will make the inclusion of things such as "The Wizards Tower". Here's the whole rundown:
We are working on a patch/update for both the PC and Xbox 360. It will address a number of issues that we have found and ones that have been reported to us and confirmed. It is our plan to first release it as a beta patch for the PC when it has cleared our initial testing cycles internally. Since it’s a beta patch you should be aware that issues may come up that we haven’t found yet and we strongly recommend you backup save games and understand it may be necessary to reinstall the game when the final patch comes out.

We are also looking into the localization issues that have come up in Europe and are working to address some of those issues. A European Patch/Update will be available after the English versions.

We’re doing both of these things as fast as we can and will let everyone know as soon as they are available.

Downloadable Content
We have been working on downloadable content since we finished the game in February, and we continue to feel this is a great avenue for us to continue to add to the Oblivion experience.

We have already announced two of them:

The Orrery
The Orrery allows you to help the Mages Guild of Cyrodiil repair the Imperial Orrery, an ancient dwarven machine with mystical properties. Bandits have stolen a shipment of parts destined for the Arcane University; if you can return them, the Orrery will function once more.

* A new, full-featured quest, including dialogue, journals, and rewards
* Access to the Imperial Orrery in the Arcane University, an incredible mechanical marvel
* New powers available for your character based on the phases of the moons

The Wizards Tower
Located high in the Jeral Mountains of Cyrodiil away from prying eyes, this Wizard's Tower, Frostcrag Spire, will become available. Packed with numerous useful enhancements, this structure will prove invaluable to magic-oriented characters.

* A fully detailed tower for you to explore
* A breathtaking view of Cyrodiil from the highest point in the land
* Simple furnishings including a bed for leveling up
* An indoor botanical garden with over 130 specimens... including Oblivion-native herbs!
* Summon Atronach Familiars that obey your commands
* Instant teleports to every Mages Guild in Cyrodiil
* New Spell and Recharge vendor in the Imperial City
* Fully upgrade the furnishings in your lair to suit your needs
* Upgrade to a fully functional Enchanting and Spellmaking station with no need to join Mages Guild
* Upgrade to a laboratory that buffs your Alchemy skill

We hope to have The Orrery available for purchase next week. This plugin will cost 150pts on Xbox, and $1.89 on the PC. The Horse Armor Pack has been very popular, and exceeded what we thought it would sell. Despite that, we’re still trying to find the right spot, so we’re putting a much larger plugin out for less than the last one and we'll see what happens. Your feedback as we move forward in this is invaluable. Tell us what you want to see, how much of it, and what it might be worth to you. No, don’t say you want it free, because these plugins take a surprising amount of time to create, polish, and test (much more then Morrowind's).

Finally, thank you to everyone who has supported not just Oblivion, but Bethesda Softworks over the years. Oblivion has been a tremendous success for us, and we thank you all for making that happen. We hope we continue to earn your gaming time.

Pete (and Todd)"

Oblivion equipment database
Wed, 05 Apr 2006 18:44:00 +0000

by Paul

The people over at GameBanshee has created an equipment database for Oblivion! With over 4000 items in their database you can be sure to find out everything you need about any item, be it weapons or potions!

GameBanshee is pleased to announce the release of their massive equipment database for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  Spanning over 4200 items, the database is the perfect tool for finding the equipment you need before charging into Oblivion.

To aid you in finding the exact item you're looking for, the database allows you to search by:

- Item Category/Type

- Armor Rating

- Damage Rating

- Item Value

- Item Health

- ANY enchantment available in the game


Head on over there and check it out!


Mod of the Week to launch next week
Sun, 02 Apr 2006 18:43:00 +0000

by Paul

Tired of spending hours looking for a decent mod?  Let our resident Khajiit show you to the real gems in his weekly special - mod of the week.

When Morrowind was first released there weren't that many custom made mods out there, but as time went on and the modders started to get familiar with the construction set the modding community started to grow rapidly. One year after release Morrowind had without a doubt the largest modding community on the internet with tons of new content available for download every day, such as armours, weapons, new buildings and a lot more.

The construction set used in Oblivion is very similar to the one used in Morrowind. This is a great plus since all the talented modders out there will be very familiar with the new construction set from day one. Of course there's a lot of new features that you'll need to learn how to use, but that won't stop you, will it?

Believe me, Oblivion will be no exception when it comes to modifications, in all honesty I think that Oblivions modding community will be the largest modding community ever!

This is why we will bring you the mod of the week. We are here to guide you through the endless web of mods that is going to be available for Oblivion, picking out the finest gems that are really worth playing and review them in great detail for our readers.

Mod of the week, soon on a computer screen near you.


More Oblivion reviews
Sat, 25 Mar 2006 18:38:00 +0000

by Paul
As the deluge of Oblivion reviews continue to assiduously decant in, IGN have fluttered up their new 5-page review of TES4: Oblivion, giving it a verdict of a superlative 9.3/10.0 overall. Not to mention that Gamespot has also sputtered up their new 3-page review of TES4: Oblivion, giving it a 9.6/10.0 overall. Here's a nugget from both reviews:
"Once outside the initial dungeon, you'll start to understand just how massive Oblivion's world really is. Opportunities for new quests and stories are everywhere, and there's no pressure as to which path you should follow. Thanks to the map, journal and fast travel system, it's way easier to follow a path once you pick one. Throughout each of Cyrodiil's towns you'll find nearly everyone has something they need done, and each task has a story behind it. Though many quests turn out to be standard dungeon crawls, there's usually a twist or turn along the way. For instance, buying a house at a discounted price in Anvil seems like a great deal. That is, until you actually sleep there and get attacked by ghosts. Upon investigation, you discover there's the corpse of a long-dead Necromancer haunting the crap out of your basement, and he's still pissed off. This kind of attention to detail is present in many of the game's bevy of quests."
"So the breadth of content is as remarkable as ever, but the most important thing is this: The many types of gameplay in Oblivion are well-designed and deeply satisfying, even when taken on their own. That's the main difference between this game and Morrowind. This may be a role-playing game, but you could play it like a pure action game, or like a stealth game, or like an adventure game, and it'd still be at least as good, if not better, than games that are specialized in these regards.

Oblivion does a great job of quickly introducing you to all these different aspects of play, successfully engaging you rather than overwhelming you. You see the world through your character's eyes, but a behind-the-back perspective is also available. Initially you just pick a name, race, and gender for your character, and the game opens with you stuck in a dungeon cell, being taunted by a fellow inmate. Somehow, though, you get swept up in a desperate escape attempt by the emperor and his loyal retinue of protectors. The emperor, voiced unmistakably by Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men), recognizes you from a portentous dream and entrusts you with the search for his illegitimate heir. But first, you'll need to escape from the Imperial City's sewers. As you make your way through this basic dungeon crawl, you happen upon ill-fated adventurers, their stuff, and some ornery goblins, so you immediately get to play around with close combat, ranged attacks, magic, sneaking, lock picking, equipment repairing, and more. How you survive is up to you--it's just as viable to kill your enemies with destructive magic, weapons, or bare hands as it is to sneak or run right past them. And even though the sewer setting might sound unimaginative, the quality of the game's visuals, the exceptionally good atmospheric sound effects, and the realistic physics all serve to quickly draw you in."

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