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The Spawn Room by SMSHDW

The Spawn Room is a gaming, eSports, and virtual reality blog by Sam Shadow.

Skyrim VR Realistic Mod Setup

Note: this is an updated version of the original post I created for vanilla Skyrim.

Why should I bother?

Skyrim is an amazing game, but if you’re like me and have spent hundreds of hours playing the original version (or special edition), then Skyrim VR will be repetitive despite the added immersion of virtual reality. The mods I share below (and in the original post) serve to create a new experience with as minimal effort as possible. The goal being to create disposable and lethal narratives.

How do I setup mods for Skyrim VR?

Here is the best Reddit article I found covering Skyrim VR mods. If you’re like me, I wasn’t able to get the Nexus Mod Manager to automatically download and install my mods (check the “Manually installing” section). There has also been an update to the article about Vortex, but I haven’t tried that method personally.

Here are a few additional tips to know before installing mods for Skyrim VR:

  1. WARNING: installing mods for Skyrim VR disables achievements! If you care about Steam achievements, then you need to play the base game first.
  2. After manually downloading a mod, extract the contents to your Skyrim data folder here: \Steam\steamapps\common\SkyrimVR\Data. It’s ok to overwrite files as long as that’s what you want the mod to do. For example, I am using the “Static Mesh Improvement Mod” (SMIM) and many of the mesh/texture files require an overwrite. Since I want the improved textures, I overwrote all the files it asked and achieved the mods full functionality. If you’re really worried about it, copy your original data folder as a backup and restore it later if there’s a problem.
  3. Many mods, like SMIM for example, are structured like: 00 Core, 01 Thing A, 02 Thing B, 02 Thing C, 03 Thing D. These are sequential installs with 00 Core being the main files for the mod and 02 Thing B vs 02 Thing C being options. Start by extracting and copying over 00 Core. Then figure out which version of 02 you want to install (if either of them). You can usually find out the differences on the mod page on Nexus. For some mods, you might not even want most of the additional items besides core. For instance, I installed the Vivid Weathers mod, but only used the Core files because I didn’t want the other options it provided. Everything will function properly as long as you installed the Core files first.
  4. Once you’ve picked out all your mods and installed them, download LOOT and sort them. To do this, you need to open the LOOT settings screen, find Skyrim Special Edition, and paste in the full install path: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\SkyrimVR. Close that screen and select Skyrim Special Edition from the games drop-down and it should load in all the mods you just installed. Click the little sort icon in the top right corner and wait for it to run. Once complete, it will have optimally sorted your mods, BUT because this is Skyrim VR, you will probably need to manually sort the plugins.txt file to match. When I tried clicking Apply, it generated a new plugins.txt file in a different folder and didn’t appear to work properly.

Realistic Damage and Immersion Mods

All the mods recommended below have been personally tested by me and stable on my computer after about 20 hours of play. The only two issues I’ve experienced are noted below on the particular mods (No Essential NPCs and Random Alternate Start). Here are my recommendations to create a new lethal and fresh experience for Skyrim VR:

  1. Here is a brief list of standard mods with high endorsement ratings on Nexus that immediately improve the visual immersion of Skyrim VR: Total Character Makeover, Skyrim Flora Overhaul, Static Mesh Improvement Mod, Realistic Water Two, and Vivid Weathers.
  2. Another high endorsement mod that most everyone considers critical is the: Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch.
  3. Next up is Enhanced Blood Textures SE which make combat and death much more visceral.
  4. Amazing Follower Tweaks allows you to entrance the innocent citizens of Skyrim into joining your party. Be sure to adjust their settings after taking control. I recommend turning OFF post-combat recovery, combat regen boost, and boost follower stats. I also set them so they can permanently die. These settings make your followers fragile and boosts the immersion of raiding bandit camps and exploring dungeons. Here is the mod readme so you can better understand what each setting does.
  5. No Essential NPCs theoretically allows everyone in Skyrim to die. I have run into a few here and there that still recover though. Not sure what the issue is exactly, but at minimum it allows 99.9% of NPCs to be killable. This is especially fun when testing your combat skills by killing entire towns of people with your party of 5 via Amazing Follower Tweaks. One WARNING though: turn this plugin on AFTER the opening beheading sequence because there is a possibility your cart will run over an essential NPC which traps everyone in an infinite loop.
  6. Realistic AI Detection 2 SE is another great little mod that alters the detection of enemies and NPCs. A great example is at the beginning when you’re making your way through Helgen keep and encounter the bear in the tunnels below. Normally you can sneak by the bear without alerting it, but with this mod on it will definitely wake up. You can still safely get by before it fully detects you, but it adds to the immersion in my opinion. What bear would allow you to get within 20-30 feet of it without waking up? This is especially apparent in VR.
  7. Smilodon with Realistic Damage add-on + increased difficulty – this setup is what makes every encounter lethal and challenging. Even wild beast like wolves can do some serious damage and archery feels very satisfying. I recommend both the main Smilodon mod with the Realistic Damage add-on (available via the files tab). After both are installed, bump up the in-game difficulty to Expert or Master and prepare to feel the anxiety of truly intense battles. You’ll need to master timing and movement to survive, dodge arrows that would immediately spell your death, and watch allies cut down or be cut down in a realistic fashion. It’s spectacular!
  8. Lastly is Random Alternate Start Reborn SE which allows you to skip the opening beheading sequence and start a new character randomly in the world. This is the mod that allows you to experience Skyrim from a totally new perspective. If you’re a Dungeons & Dragons fan like myself, this mod allows you to define your character’s narrative and purpose in the world. Maybe you wake up in a cave full of bears because you’re a hunter or a poacher. Maybe you wake up on the edge of a dark town because you’re an assassin sent to take out a prominent figure. This mod allows you to explore Skyrim in a totally new and fresh way. Part of the fun too is that you never know where you’ll wake up in the world and it’s fun to develop the narrative as you go. The only WARNING here is that the mod does NOT work by default. You need to add: bLoadVRPlayroom=0 to the SkyrimPrefs.ini under the [VR] header otherwise you’ll start the game with two overlapping menus that are not clickable.

VR Settings and Reversed Audio

For those inclined to do the research, you can add some additional immersion by researching “Skyrim VR INI settings” on Google. There are some great tweaks that can’t be made via the in-game settings like removing enemy health bars.

Another problem I had (and saw elsewhere on the net) was reversed audio. For example, NPCs speaking on my left were coming out the right speaker which severely broke immersion. Some people were claiming that our headphones were backwards! This of course is ridiculous because other games work perfectly fine. Instead, completely unplug the VR base station (not just the HMD side), plug everything back in, and restart Steam VR and Skyrim. This should permanently fix the issue.

That’s it, thanks for reading! If you want, check out my YouTube channel where I’m uploading some of my Skyrim VR gameplay.

The almost-but-not-quite HTC Vive VR 2018 List

Last updated: 2018-03-25

This list contains all the VR experiences I’ve played that almost made by best of 2018 list, but had some glaring issue I couldn’t overlook. It contains a mix of free and paid VR experiences, order is not important, and it’s a work-in-progress.

If you’re looking for the best FREE and PAID VR experiences click those links.

  1. Colosse (FREE)- cool art style and fun little story, but too short and nothing to interact with. If you’re looking for a free and quick install and want to spend the 5 minutes to watch it, go for it, but otherwise it’s probably safe to skip over.
  2. Allumette (FREE) – this probably should be on the best free list, BUT I’m biased against the story. It just wasn’t that interesting to me, but overall this is probably worth checking out. It was really well done, it was a solid 15 minutes, and the scale was fascinating. There’s also a moment in the middle that’s worth seeing that took me by surprise.
  3. The Bellows (FREE) – this has some genuinely freaky moments and I had fun swearing in my room as things jumped out at me, but overall I felt it was a little corny or forced. It’s close to being on the best free list, but something about it just isn’t quite there. Props to the free locomotion option though and some truly terrifying moments. Oh and the zero-G effect was cool too.
  4. Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul (PAID) – I really enjoyed this game and physically jumped and recoiled in terror a few times. The story is alright and everything worked well overall. There’s at least a couple solid hours of content, although it feels a bit expensive for what you’re getting. I’d wait for a good sale to pick it up. Not quite best of material, but close.
  5. Trials on Tatooine (FREE) – this was a fun little experience that looks great and is better than their Droid Repair Bay game (although that one is longer), BUT it’s super short. If you’re just looking to experience different things in VR, I’d say check it out, but don’t expect much more than 5 minutes of content.
  6. Wake Up (FREE) – this is an interesting dream-like VR experience that has a solid 30 minutes of content. There’s very little directions so prepare to be patient as you figure out the puzzles. They also don’t have a free locomotion option, which is always sad, but it probably didn’t make sense for this game anyway. Overall, it’s good, but I can’t quite put it on the best free list.
  7. Acan’s Call: Act 1 (FREE) – fun, well-made linear dungeon crawler experience with sword and shield combat. Games like this excite me for the future when they make Dark Souls or Skyrim with full VR. Overall, it’s a good game, but short.
  8. Abbot’s Book Demo (FREE) – I can’t quite put this on the best free list because it’s so short, BUT the vibe was creepy and awesome. It felt like a scene from Dark Souls brought to VR. If you don’t mind it being super short, check it out, otherwise it’s probably ok to skip over.
  9. The Red Stare (FREE) – this is a great game and probably deserves to be on the best free list, BUT it’s slow and you need a fair amount of patience to get into it. Some of it felt a little tedious too, almost like it needed one more game mechanic mixed in to spice it up. Oh and don’t make the same mistake I did putting the card in the wrong slot on the fax machine.
  10. Insanity VR: Last Score (FREE) – this game is downright creepy and disturbing. It’s probably one of the best scary games out there and has a decent little chunk of content, but I can’t put it on the best of list because I wasn’t a fan of the movement system and when you failed it wasn’t quick to jump back in and restart. Worth playing, but not quite a best of experience. Also, just to reiterate, this game is actually disturbing so be prepared.
  11. Quanero (FREE) – an interesting and unique free game with a decent chunk of content, but another that requires some patience to get into and solve. Definitely worth checking out, but not quite best of material.
  12. INVASION! (FREE) – another fun little animated movie with a cute bunny and some silly aliens. It’s too short to be on the best of list, but it’s probably worth the 5 minutes to check it out.
  13. Octopus Bar (FREE) – this misses the mark because it’s so short, but overall it was a weird and fascinating game. Definitely worth the 5-10 minutes, but not quite best of material.

Best Paid HTC Vive VR Experiences 2018

Last updated: 2018-04-13

I’m planning on updating this article periodically throughout 2018 with the best paid HTC Vive VR experiences on Steam. I’m sure many of these games work for Oculus Rift and on other platforms, but I only have a HTC Vive and play pretty much exclusively through Steam.

Note: order is not important, I’m just adding them sequentially based on when I played or when I remembered to add them. This also includes games from all time, not just 2018. And lastly, this is a work-in-progress.

If you’re looking for the best FREE HTC Vice VR experiences head over here.

  1. Portal Stories: VR – this game is free, BUT you have to own Portal 2 to play it so it doesn’t really qualify to be under the best free list. It’s also a tad short and the puzzles are easy, but I had fun playing it and seeing the Portal world up-close and personal was great. There’s also some bonus content at the end that I thought was awesome. Biggest drawback is that there’s no free locomotion option.
  2. Fallout 4 VR – it’s Fallout 4 in VR, of course it’s great! There’s a ton of content and replayability like you’d expect, the controls feel intuitive, and overall it’s a great game. There’s probably more to complain about the base game itself over the VR version of it, but it’s definitely worth playing. Be sure to tweak your graphics in the console/ini because there are some adjustments you can make to significantly improve the visuals without losing performance.
  3. Climbey – this game was surprisingly fun and addictive and the movement/controls felt really natural. Overall I was very pleasantly surprised and would recommend picking this up at some point. Just be aware that you’ll be flailing your arms like a madman and I accidentally punched my nice gaming monitor 3 or 4 times before I had to take a break.
  4. Pavlov VR – if you like Counter-Strike, this game is addicting. It’s competitive, well built, and brings the shooter experience to another level. I can’t wait until CS is fully ported over or the community for this explodes and they add matchmaking. That might be the end of my life outside of VR…
  5. Skyrim VR – I have been patiently waiting for this for months now and it’s finally here! I had such a blast playing the original Skyrim and immediately knew this would renew my addiction. I do have to admit the game feels the same overall, BUT experiencing it in VR is jaw-dropping. Crank up the settings, install some mods, and spend hours immersed in this endless fantasy world.

Best Free HTC Vive VR Experiences 2018

Last updated: 2018-03-25

I’m planning on updating this article periodically throughout 2018 with the best free HTC Vive VR experiences on Steam. I’m sure many of these games work for Oculus Rift and on other platforms, but I only have a HTC Vive and play pretty much exclusively through Steam.

Note: order is not important, I’m just adding them sequentially based on when I played or when I remembered to add them. This also includes games from all time, not just 2018. And lastly, this is a work-in-progress.

If you’re looking for the best PAID HTC Vice VR experiences head over here.

  1. Fantasynth: Chez Nous – no locomotion, no real interactions, but a sick experience if you like Milkdrop-style visualizations and electronic music. I was blown away and hope they release more tracks or a procedural experience like Milkdrop.
  2. The Body VR: Journey Inside a Cell – this is one of the genres I am most excited for in VR. I think learning about our world through VR experiences could change society. This is an excellent first example of that future and I was in awe learning about the human body. Some basic interactions, no locomotion, and overall felt polished.
  3. We Were Here – another genre I’m really excited for in VR. My friend and I started with little explanation and had to figure out how to communicate and solve puzzles. Some of them had the pressure of time against you which added such a great element to the game. I can’t wait to play the sequel.
  4. Google Earth VR – very cool VR experience that upgrades the Google Earth experience significantly. I live in Denver and it was fascinating exploring the city from this perspective. Only draw-back is that many areas are still flat (no cool 3D building effect). Overall, definitely worth installing and one of those apps you keep installed forever.
  5. Waltz of the Wizard – this game was SO cool. I loved every minute of it and there were some mind-blowing experiences. Whoever made this is some sort of genius. Be sure to thoroughly explore the whole thing. There’s about 30-60 minutes worth of content. Hopefully they make a sequel or a full version at some point.
  6. Belko VR: An Escape Room Experiment – I felt a real sense of urgency and tension in this game. The puzzles were somewhat easy to solve, but overall I thought this was really well done and the ending was shocking. I can’t wait to see how the escape room genre evolves in the future.
  7. The Lab – a must install VR game that’s basically on every best VR games list imaginable. Let’s just leave it at that.
  8. Accounting – short, weird, free, and hilarious. Definitely worth the install.
  9. Rec Room – another one of those must install VR games that provides a good chunk of content, weird social encounters with other players, and some genuinely fun mini-games.
  10. Bigscreen Beta – don’t skip out trying this app like I did when I first got my Vive, it will seriously upgrade your movie watching experience. Obviously the resolution is lower than a HD screen, BUT the trade-off of watching on a simulated 50 foot screen in the middle of space is fucking awesome!
  11. Gnomes & Goblins – this one is teetering on the edge of being in the almost-but-not-quite section because it’s so short, BUT what a cool experience overall! It felt so magical and friendly and cozy. It was like they brought a childhood book to life. I can’t wait for the next release!
  12. Senza Peso – wow! What an amazing VR experience. This brought back memories of Myst and Riven and Molten Core from World of Warcraft. It’s only 5-10 minutes long, but I loved every second of it. Hopefully there is more to come!
  13. TheWaveVR Beta – what did I just see? I felt like I was in the realm of the gods. Mad gods who create worlds without meaning or purpose, just because they can. Amazing and fascinating are two words that might describe this game.
  14. Welcome to Light Fields – this is another teetering on the edge of not making this list because it’s short and simplistic, BUT it’s worth seeing. This demo showcases an aspect of the future of VR: photorealistic environments. It’s also just well made and has some really interesting shots.

10 things that will make you immediately better at CSGO

Here are 10 things to help casual and amateur players become immediately better at Counter-Strike.

1. Don’t die to exposed threats

I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched teammates die to exposed AWPers or run through doorways which were clearly covered. Each hoping they’ll get the glory of the kill. These are stupid risks. Always assume your enemy is accurate and ready. Instead, you should reassess and realize that running in blind is a last resort. I would rather a team run out the clock attempting strategies than lose to stupid risks. At least that way you’re experimenting with what works as opposed to reinforcing the idea that running in is a valid option. Over time this will reduce your deaths, reduce mistakes and stupid risks, increase your odds of winning, and expand your understanding of what’s possible.

2. Don’t over-commit to a kill

Getting a kill is rewarding, but injuring the enemy can be even more effective. By obeying our impulses it’s easy to chase enemies through doorways or around corners in an attempt to secure a kill, but often this can lead to an unnecessary death. It is important to catch ourselves in those moments and be patient instead. Let a supporting teammate throw a grenade or simply hold the position so they have to walk back into your advantage. Let them rotate into your other allies or slowly flank them together. There are many options which don’t sacrifice your advantage, but can still result in you getting a kill. Wait for opportunities when possible, don’t become someone else’s opportunity.

3. Be patient

When things don’t happen immediately I will often seem teammates rotating or revealing their position. Often times it seems like the moment they do, the enemy shows themselves a couple seconds later. Had they been more patient they wouldn’t have exposed themselves to an increased likelihood of death and could have maintained an advantage over the enemy. Sometimes just staying quietly hidden in an area forces the enemy to move slower, allows you to hear their presence, and then gives your team more time to rotate in, as opposed to impatience leading to an immediate firefight, your death, a quick bomb plant, and less time for your allies to rotate in. Be patient and move when you have more information.

4. Don’t panic!

It can be intimidating when the enemy floods into your bombsite or you find yourself clutching a round. I’ve seen players get nervous when the weight of a round rests on their shoulders, understandably so. However, I take solace in these moment when I think about statistics. My teammates may want or expect me to win, but the numbers suggest otherwise. In those moments the likelihood of success drops considerably and so it’s less about winning and more about smart decisions. Are you carrying an expensive weapon? Then maybe focusing on survival is the best option. Do you need to clutch because your eco is low and the enemy is gaining momentum? Then don’t engage, but don’t expect to win, instead attempt to injure. Use hit and run techniques to extend the number of opportunities you have to engage and possibly get a kill. Let the other side get greedy and chase into your positional advantage or keep them busy and let the bomb finish off a player.

5. Have situational awareness

Spread out, don’t move into firing lines, don’t bunch up, and don’t get greedy. Let your team support you as you support them. Share kills. Make sure someone is watching the rear. It can be comical at times how much like a herd we act, all looking in the direction of a recent kill or rotating to support an ally and leaving a position wide open. I’ve seen allies block doorways and one-by-one step through to their deaths instead of all rushing as was planned. A good player needs to recognize what role they should fill from moment to moment.

6. Rush in!

This one is simple, but fails all the time. When your plan is to rush a bombsite, don’t stop because someone shot at you. It sucks to be the first two guys into a bombsite, but it has to happen. Do your job, take the fire, call out the positions, do damage if possible, but don’t stop running. The moment you stop you bunch up which increases the likelihood of enemy fire hitting someone, it increases their effectiveness of grenades, and often blocks teammates from shooting enemies. Give yourself every advantage in those strategies because you’re already operating at a massive disadvantage.

7. Don’t use grenades so much

Don’t think of grenades as weapons, think of them as tools. If you want to kill your enemy a grenade is not an effective option. A bullet to the head is infinitely better. Instead use grenades to delay, distract, and injure. There is just too much time between switching weapons to make it a good tactic. In fact, I’d suggest early on to avoid purchasing grenades at all so you don’t get into the bad habit of pulling them out at bad moments. It is better to stay alive, keep your weapon out, and learn other parts of the game. Master grenades later on or rely on team communication to instruct you when to use them.

8. Don’t throw grenades at your allies

This sounds obvious, but it happens constantly. Allies will get overzealous and injure their teammates or, even more likely, blind them. As I mentioned above, use grenades as tools and call out what you’re about to do with them. More importantly, don’t get greedy and throw HE grenades to try and secure kills when your teammates are chasing the enemy.

9. Don’t reload so much

Early on in my gaming career I had the bad habit of constantly reloading. Game after game I let this bad habit get me killed until I finally addressed it. I know there is an impulse to be prepared and not get caught with your pants down, but reloading is another strategic element of the game. Don’t reload when engaged with the enemy, it makes you too vulnerable. Instead, conserve your shots, back up, and try to find safety if possible. If there’s no way you’re going to make it and the count is low, switch to your pistol, that’s what it’s there for.

10. Plant the bomb!

Always know who the bomb carrier is and be sure to never miss an opportunity to plant. This doesn’t mean choose bad times to plant the bomb and get yourself killed, it just means don’t forget to plant the bomb after securing the site. It also means, plant the bomb when the odds are against you to secure money for your team instead of trying to survive 1-vs-whatever.

11. Bonus: use suppression fire!

This is something I rarely see players do, but suppression fire is real. Don’t worry about wasting ammo, usually you’ll never run out, and delaying a push can give real advantages. Especially if you’re focused on injuring enemies, like mentioned above, suppression fire can be an even stronger barrier to an injured player.

Notes from Behind the Play – CSGO

When I was actively creating YouTube content I produced a series called Behind the Play which reviewed strategy and tactics in competitive games. Here are the notes from studying Counter-Strike: Global Offensive:

Suppression

Remember with CS:GO, things like suppression fire and pressuring don’t work as obviously in something like LoL or Dota 2 where you can deny farming. But they DO exist. You can suppress and pressure enemies out of areas to buy time for bomb plants or save allies.

Advantages

Highly skilled players must recognize a running calculation that determines their team advantage. The higher the skill, the more this mindset is considered. Kills are the most obvious form of advantage, but there are many exploitable options in CS:GO. For example, if you can afford 1 second of suppression fire, that is better than 0 seconds. Even if the advantage gained is minuscule, a well synergized team can exploit it or enact other actions that stack a growing advantage for your team. For instance, 1 second of suppression may be long enough for a vulnerable teammate to switch from a grenade back to his rifle to better protect himself. Or drawing fire because you’re at a further range or not in possession of the bomb.

Movement Advantages – It’s important to take note of where players move from the spawn position. Once a route is selected it is rarely changed because lost time equates to better timing and positioning for the enemy (same with indecision). Although if done intentionally it can confuse the enemy team as long as your players are positioned correctly.

Timing Advantages – Choosing your timing for particular strats are incredibly important. At higher levels of play, and even inadvertently at lower levels, timing of just 1-3 seconds can completely change a round. For example, a split rush on bombsite B on dust2: if the terrorists in tunnel begin their attack at the right moment, the CT watching mid will turn his back to reinforce his ally who’s just called for help. Done correctly, the terrorist at mid will enter just as the CT becomes vulnerable, taking an easy kill and helping secure B. However, if the tunnel Ts are delayed by even a second or two, the CT at mid will see the T coming, NOT turn his back and level the playing field in terms of who wins the gunfight. Now B cannot be secured in a timely manner because the mid CT may live to delay the bomb plant, which in turn allows CTs from A to reinforce faster, along with denying positioning advantages for the Ts.

Awareness Advantages – An important aspect of this game is positioning, you need to dynamically cover positions as the variables change. Starting with 5 players, you take your initial positioning and begin gathering intel. Based on enemy movements, you begin your adjustments to counter whatever it is they’re doing. When engagement occurs it is often very easy to get caught up in the physical confrontation, but it’s equally important to keep a running record of variable changes so you can continue adjusting your strategy. Failure to do so will place your team at a running disadvantage. It’s useful to develop a pattern for eye movement, frequently glancing around the screen to gather intel (minimap and ammo count).

Positioning Advantages – There are also positioning advantages to take into account when performing a “mixed buy”. This means a couple of “wealthier” teammates are heavier weapons, while the rest save. The point being that the heavier weapons are placed in key positions (strong positions) where they can secure kills or at least suppress enemies (defend plants, etc.). They are also placed in positions where teammates can easily recover the weapon should the teammate die. Here is the full explanation via Reddit user btattersall:

“Firstly you would need to be playing with a TEAM that knows what is happening and how to coordinate their positioning. The point of a buy like that is to put a heavy weapon in two key positions (likely bombsites, or adjacent) and to ensure that your teammates can recover the weapon before the other team does. Probably makes most sense when you have two people who are hard-fragging, and three who are lower on cash and kills. The two who are juiced with kill cash make the buy, distribute the weapons as necessary, and even up the economy for the whole team, so they can make the rest of their decisions together. The rifles take a longer-range sightline with good cover, and the others play closer positions with nades to try and bait the other team into over extending where they don’t realize there is a heavy weapon. Not easy to pull off, even if you have practiced the strategy, but might be able to win you a marginal round if the other team is caught off guard, but at worst your economy levels out and you are able to run your standard save or buy strats which you have probably practiced more.”

Weapons and Economy

Conservation of Ammo and Reloading – Don’t worry about conserving ammo. Utilize suppression fire and pre-fire techniques because you will rarely run out of ammo. Additionally, don’t reload unnecessarily or at inappropriate times. It can be somewhat compulsive to keep your gun stocked with bullets, but frequent reloading at inopportune times will only result in a disadvantage.

Spray Patterns – Keep control of your firearm by either firing rounds manually or controlling spray patterns. Understand how each gun fires in rapid succession so you can maximize the statistical likelihood that your rounds make contact.

Headshots – Aim for the head. This may sound obvious, but in Counter-Strike it is especially important. In other games, the penalty for body shots first, is less, but in Counter-Strike it is steep. Professional and even just moderately skilled players will generally place their first round as a headshot. If you are aiming for the chest, which may seem intuitive since it’s a larger target, you will be placed at a severe disadvantage.

Grenades – Decoy grenades emit a gun shot sound to trick enemies, exploding at the end of its lifespan. Grenades also have a variety of strategies attached to them. They can delay rushes, distract enemies, and bait rotations. They can also cause enemies to fire their weapons in response which can reveal how many enemies are in a certain area.

SMGs – SMG buys need to be more strategic than simply “I don’t want to, or can’t, buy a rifle, so I’ll get an SMG”. Instead coordinate with your team, the rifle buys should position themselves in stronger, more advantageous positions while the SMG buys float or play more aggressively. The point being that they are the first to get killed, BUT weaken the enemy team. The rifle positioning should be further back to cover bomb sites and finish off the enemy players who’ve been weakened by SMG fire. It’s also important that the rifles don’t get dropped early on, or far up, for the enemy team to pick up and use. Your team should try and recover the rifles because they are in good positions to do so. So for someone in my position of playing support / clutch, I should almost always have a rifle. You can also bait with SMGs to draw enemies into your riflers. These strategies also level out your economy by having high income players distributing rifles to low income players.

Miscellaneous

The bomb carrier can force a commitment if he dies with the bomb in a bad location.

Grouping too closely increases a single enemies chance of each round hitting an enemy player.

When it’s hopeless (1-v-5), your objectives are different:

  • Kill anyone because it forces a buy.
  • Plant the bomb for money ONLY.

If the enemy knows where you are, then you can safely exploit suppression fire (if they didn’t, doing so would reveal your position):

  • For instance, in dust2 tunnels, you could suppress the stairs if you need to buy a few seconds before rushing into bombsite B.
  • The reason suppressing fire doesn’t work a lot is because it’s either better to just go for the kill (camp the stairs), most situations don’t allow for it (you’re already in the bombsite), grenades are better for this, and it reveals your position.

On anti-eco rounds (2nd round after a 1st round win), hold longer positions so you can’t get killed by a pistol and instead gather intel. Hold back, see where the enemy is weak, get picks, and then move out. The reason for this is because CTs like to stack after a 1st round loss which means one side of the map is super weak and one side is really strong. Find the weak one, call it and rotate.

Having a lurker is good and the position can change depending on the rotate:

  • For instance, on dust2, a long A push could have a lurker in lower tunnels watching for the flank (cat walk, mid push towards spawn-long A).
  • Another example would be a long A scout that reveals a stack on long A. The team rotates towards B but leaves 1 guy at long/mid to lurk and watch for flanks.
  • Basically this role is: unpredictable, camps, ambushes, stops/delays flanks, etc.

When pushing a bombsite it’s important to have proper spacing and positions for your teammates. Having the bomb carrier and an escort rush up while 2 hold further back for support, allows the support riflers not to get flashed and grenaded by incoming CTs. That way if the rushing T’s get lit up or blinded, they aren’t immediately killed because the support riflers can lay down fire and get picks.

Remember, along with not worrying about ammo count and just laying down fire, you should also be using your grenades. If you’re dying with them then you’re basically losing out on some serious potential advantages. It’s much better to use them and increase your odds of winning because they’re relatively cheap. The potential gain is thousands of dollars while the potential loss is only hundreds.

eSports Interview Questions Template

One of the best ways to gain some traction in the eSports community (as a non-player) is by conducting interviews. It gets you noticed, it’s something the community wants, and keeps you engaged with ideas and events. When I was more involved in eSports I attended a few live events, covered online tournaments, and conducted a brief interview series called, “Getting To Know…” on YouTube. The goal of this article is to provide some insights I learned along the way and a template for jumping into eSports interviews.

Tips & Advice

Introduce yourself and ask politely if you can interview the player, organizer, or attendee. Be sure to tell them who or what you’re doing the interview for.

Be prepared. People are busy and will quickly notice if you’re just spit-balling or someone that’s on their game. Don’t force them to wait around while you dig out a laptop and connect to a wifi network.

Start your interview with simple introductory questions: Who are you? Why are you here? What do you think of the event so far?

Remember, not all your questions and their answers need to be shared in the final piece. Sometimes you ask questions to break the ice or bridge into another topic and they’re not worth wasting your readers time. Publish the most engaging content.

Get your information straight. Don’t get their name wrong. Don’t forget to link relevant social accounts or a website. Don’t get the event name wrong or forget to include a major sponsor if they’re a part of it. For instance, I attended the Midwest Meltdown which was organized by the Teh Pwn Gaming Club, but the Collegiate Star League was a primary player. Ask how the event should be officially referenced.

When you’re done, make sure to thank them and reference the website where the interview will be posted and how soon.

Interview Questions

Simple Starter Questions:

  1. Who are you? Why are you here?
  2. How long did it take you to travel here?
  3. How often do you attend live events or compete online?
  4. What other games or game types do you play?

Community Questions:

  1. How involved in eSports are you?
  2. Where do you think eSports or your particular game is headed?
  3. Is there anything that bothers you with eSports or your particular game?
  4. Is there anything you’d like people to check out or get involved in?

Player Questions:

  1. Are you currently on a team?
  2. If yes, how long have you been with them?
  3. If no, are you aiming to get recruited by any particular team?
  4. What’s your training regiment like?
  5. Have you ever considered switching games?
  6. How do you stay motivated to keep playing? Do you ever get bored of your game?
  7. What are your long-term aspirations in eSports?

Organizer Questions:

  1. How long have you been planning this event?
  2. How does the turnout compare to expectations? Why?
  3. Have you organized or contributed to many of these events?
  4. How many people are involved in something like this?
  5. Who are the event sponsors? (bonus points for giving them a chance to support their supporters)
  6. Where are you hoping to take these events? What’s the future like?

Caster/Commentator Questions:

  1. How did you get into casting? How long have you been casting?
  2. What games do you cast? What’s your favorite?
  3. How often do you cast per week?
  4. What’s the hardest part about casting for you?
  5. Do you have any secret advice for hopeful casters? (beyond just “cast more!”)
  6. How do you handle downtime? Do you prepare content and jokes ahead of time?

Closing Questions:

  1. Do you have any advice for players/fans/casters/competitors out there?
  2. Are you planning on attending or competing at any upcoming events?
  3. Where can people find out more about you?

Overall coming up with basic interview questions is easy, but asking compelling questions that people will actually read is not. It is helpful during interviews to imagine who the current question serves and what it could accomplish for them. If you’re interviewing a player, your audience is probably hopeful competitors looking for insight about how to practice more and achieve better results. If it’s an organizer they might be looking for industry knowledge to help them drive more spectators or close a marketing deal with a sponsor. For casters it’s probably ways to advance their careers and get noticed in the community. And for fans and community members it’s about revealing the inner workings of eSports. Just imagine that the person you’re interviewing has secret knowledge and you’re trying to expose it to the community. You’re cataloging a movement so find the highlights that people will want to read in the future.

An intriguing new way to play Skyrim

I love Skyrim, but I think I’ve played enough that even after a long break I don’t feel immersed in it like I used to. Managing my inventory and figuring out where I left off seems like a chore and the gameplay is kind of stale now. So I turned to the modding community to see what they’ve cooked up over the years and that’s when I discovered a fresh and compelling new way to play Skyrim.

Note: I initially used the Steam Workshop for some of the plugins, but ultimately found the Nexus to be a better resource. I also used the Nexus Mod Manager which is a little wonky, but gets the job done and makes installing a two-click process. It also might seem a little tedious getting all this setup, but start to finish this might only take 10 minutes. None of these plugins require anything fancy like editing ini files. It’s all just download, install, and enable.

What do I need and why?

  1. Install SKSE – this is a scripting something something something that is required by like every plugin ever. So just install it. If you don’t have SkyUI either, I’d get that as well.
  2. Install the Combat Realism – Weapons Armor and Blocking plugin – this is key to making the game challenging. Even on the hardest difficulty, enemies can take a flurry of swings to cut down and it ruins the immersion. There is no way a guard should survive a dozen direct sword swings under any circumstances. This fixes it and makes the game lethal and unforgiving for everyone.
  3. Install the Amazing Follower Tweaks plugin – with the ramped up difficulty of more realistic combat you quickly realize you need a team to support you. Amazing Follower Tweaks allows you to recruit any NPC in the game and create a group of 5 followers (a party of 6 including yourself). This gives you and your team real power to survive a battle and defeat your enemies. It’s also a lot more fun running around with a small army to protect you and the battles can be really interesting to watch. It’s also nearly impossible to survive multiple engagements alone so having a full team before entering a bandit castle is a must.
  4. Install the Random Alternate Start plugin – the goal of this article is to describe a new role-playing + arcade-style way to play Skyrim. To achieve this the Random Alternate Start plugin keeps everything fresh and casual. With each death you return to the initial save of your new character and “wake up” somewhere in the world. This means that you don’t have to go through the process of actually creating and customizing a new character every time you die (or sit through the Stormcloak beheading scene). It also allows you to develop a unique narrative about your current character’s life. Why did they “wake up” in a cave or the woods or on the edge of town? Where are they going? What is their objective? I had a lot of fun creating on-the-spot storylines based on where my character started which influenced my next steps in the world.
  5. Optional Plugins – there are three other plugins I ended up installing, but that aren’t required for this new playstyle to work. The first was “Kill Moves – No Blur” which does exactly what its title implies: it removes the blur effect so kills are more brutal. I think it adds a level of immersion and could be coupled nicely with something like “Enhanced Blood Textures,” but isn’t necessary by any means. The next was “Kill Every NPC” which, again, does exactly what you might imagine. Unfortunately all these “kill everyone/kill essential” plugins seem outdated and so they only partially work. I ran into a couple NPCs that were unkillable, but it did allow me to kill more than before which helps with immersion. Lastly, I installed “Dodge Mod” which, take a wild guess, adds dodging to the game! This is pretty damn useful and, while it’s not required, it definitely increases the odds you’ll survive longer. I found it especially useful when facing off against archers who, with the damage mod above, will one shot you given the chance.
  6. Last step: configure your in-game settings and start a new game – once you launch the game, head into SETTINGS and increase the difficulty to “Master” (not Legendary). Legendary is too unforgiving to be fun. I’ve blocked dagger attacks with a shield in Legendary and died in a single hit whereas Master has a much more balanced feel. I also turned off all notifications, markers, the crosshair, and set HUD opacity to 0. This leaves you with a completely blank screen which greatly heightens the level of immersion. You will need to teach yourself how to actually use a bow and when you do manage to hit it will be extremely rewarding. You will actually get to discover locations and be forced to use road signs and landmarks to discern your location. It makes the experience incredibly interesting and since the goal isn’t to complete quests you don’t need anything the HUD offers. The only downfall in my opinion is that you never really know if your allies are injured and need healing. Although now that I think about it, there’s probably a plugin out there to display those signs. I’ll post an update to this article if I find a good one.

Some Additional Notes

If you’re bored of reading and want to go test this out, now is the time. If you can stomach a little more, here are some additional notes and ideas that might be of interest (especially the “Building Your Team” section).

Performance and Stability Concerns – I’ve always been a bit skeptical of community plugins for performance and stability reasons. I also think they tend to clutter up your saves and put them at risk of corruption, however, since these are short disposable game sessions half of those concerns are immediately insignificant. I also haven’t had any issues with game instability or performance loss using these plugins, which kind of came as a surprise. The only advice I’d share is to not use these with your actual saves and disable all the plugins if you want to return to them. Other than that, its been smooth sailing!

Spending Skill Points – to help keep your fragile character alive I’d recommend spending your first skill points in block and armor proficiency since they can directly save your life. After that I’d spend a single point in my primary weapon type (generally single or two -handed weapons), then archery, and then sneak. All of the first tier skill points provide a big boost to those basic abilities. If you happen to live long enough, I’d also consider restoration so you can heal yourself and teammates. After that I’d redo the same order and increase survivability, then damage, then utility.

Building Your Team – one of the best aspects of this playstyle is building out a badass team of warriors and there are numerous combat styles and settings to choose from in Amazing Follower Tweaks. You can learn more about the options by checking out the full readme here (specifically “3. Combat” and “7. Settings”). Here are my recommendations to make the game more challenging:

  • Turn Off: “Followers ignore friendly fire” – this isn’t as bad as you think and I rarely see my allies cut each other down, although sometimes they do fight each other to the death which can be both amusing and frustrating depending how much customization you did.
  • Turn Off: “Followers catch up on weapon draw” – this teleports your allies to you on weapon draw which just ruins immersion and they do fine without it.
  • Turn Off: “Followers never refuse commands” – this has never actually happened, although I don’t use the commands feature very often, but I’m hoping it will play a vital role in one of my storylines someday…
  • Turn Off: “Followers never run from combat” – it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it’s kind of interesting. I ended up having to kill one of my team members because they refused to fight and we couldn’t have that sort of insubordination in the party.
  • Leave On: “Followers avoid traps” – it seems like, for immersion, it would be good to turn this off, but followers are too stupid to avoid traps that have been revealed by you. They also take enormous damage from traps which sometimes doesn’t make sense like stepping on a fallen rock, glitching out, and dying for no reason.
  • Leave On: “Follower Skill Synergy” – this one might come down to preference, but I like that it levels you and your team together. Ultimately it just means you level faster and since these are disposable game sessions it’s really nice to come out of your first team battle with 2-3 new levels under your belt. That way you can guarantee some basic skill points like block and armor proficiency which can help keep you alive.
  • Turn Off: “Boost follower stats” and Leave Off “Boost Follower Damage” – these are fairly self-explanatory and make your allies more vulnerable if they’re off.

Why do all this?

Skyrim is an amazing game out-of-the-box, but like everything it grows old after awhile. This unique mix of plugins completely changes the way you play the game. Gear, loot, and money become much less important. Combat becomes challenging and dangerous. Allies bring intrigue and safety to the battlefield. Some areas become too dangerous to explore. And the added immersion expands roleplaying possibilities. Here are some examples of the novelty this provides:

  1. It’s more fun to play with allies – Building your team by traveling the world and “mesmerizing” citizens to join you is fun. Don’t just grab any random person, find ones that fit your needs or match the storyline you’ve created. It’s an interesting experience when you’ve been through multiple encounters, lost a half-dozen good men, but one or two from the original party still remain. They become more important than the new recruits and when they inevitably die it’s kind of sad.
  2. It’s more fun when it’s dangerous – The level of danger in some situations is so high that you simply need to turn and flee. There is no save to fall back on and when your allies die, you become incredibly vulnerable. I’ve run into crypts and Falmer dens, lost men, and booked it out because I was invested in my current character. I’ve had ghosts in tombs yell at me to leave and obeyed immediately because in real-life I definitely would have. The entire experience just becomes more believable.
  3. It’s more fun when it’s challenging – You’re punished for being greedy and stupid. In the original Skyrim I might have looted a body mid-battle out of convenience, but this becomes a dangerous activity as archers take aim when you stop moving or come out of cover. It also discourages stirring up the hive and getting into one-sided battles. Instead I’ve had to engage in guerrilla warfare to clear out enemy locations. For example, in one instance I engaged a half-destroyed house of bandits who all came out looking for me. I was forced to use my bow and take cover behind trees and rocks, sneaking around to split them up so I could slowly pick them off one-by-one. It was an incredibly intense fight compared to my old characters who were more hack-n-slash.
  4. It’s more fun when you get to create the story – Each new life inspires a new storyline about a random citizen in Skyrim trying to be a hero. Your starting location, where you go from there, what you end up doing all feels like a choice rather than a scripted narrative. Mundane activities like hunting suddenly take on more importance because your new character needs to practice using a bow. There is no fast travel because it’s a new character so the world feels larger as you explore on foot. And since you don’t care about saving or screwing up quest lines, you can engage in noble endeavors like ridding the world of the Thalmor or raiding an Imperial camp for Stormcloak honor. On one character I made it a mission to end the Vigilant of Stendarr cause while in another I was a bandit leader for a marauding group of orcs that terrorized small communities. You get to choose a destiny that wouldn’t otherwise be available in the normal game.

Thanks for reading!

 

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