How do you Skyrim? Get the most bang for your gaming buck!

This blog could apply to any PC game; however, I’m going to use Skyrim by way of illustration since they’ve done a fantastic job of supporting the Gamepad and or the Mouse & Keyboard; unlike some other PC Game Ports I won’t mention. So a huge nod and kudos should go towards Zenimax/Bethesda for honoring the PC and not depriving PC Gamers of this much needed option and functionality.

For the purposes of this blog I’m also going to focus in on 4 key gaming scenarios; using my work laptop. They are: 1) The Living Room and Den, 2) The iCafe and Airport, 3) In the Air ~30,000 feet, and 4) Bedroom and Hotel. Note: I’ll be skipping the Home Office/Desk experience due to everyone’s familiarity with this scenario.

The Setup: In this case I’ll be using an HP Pavilion dv6 sporting switchable graphics via either the Intel Sandybridge HD 2000 Graphics, and or the AMD HD 6770M. I’ve used both graphics options while playing Skyrim and it should be noted that Skyrim actually plays pretty well on both. On the Intel Graphics there is some noticeable sacrifice on the quality of the graphics by the dialing down of several features; but it will give you substantially longer battery life. In my experience roughly ~35-45% longer battery life. (Mileage may vary). On the other hand with the AMD Mobile Graphics, you’re going to get better fidelity graphics but much shorter battery life. Both options are great depending on what situation or location the gamer finds themselves in; and access or proximity to a power plug nearby. I’d also like to point out that I have had some hands on with the latest Ivybridge HD 3000 Graphics in an Ultrabook and my story would have to change in that the Ivybridge graphics is near indistinguishable to the AMD HD 6770M. So pretty amazing how quickly things are improving on that front.

Other notes before getting started: While there’s a variety of ways to get the PC version of Skyrim, I personally opted for Steam. Just play the game in offline mode and make sure you sync at least once a week. My other personal reason for going the Steam route was to also tap into all the amazing Mods that the PC Gaming community has uploaded to Steam. It simply boggles my mind to see how many amazing Mods have been created for this game.

So let’s get started.

Scenario 1) Living Room and Den. This could also be characterized as the 10’ – Gaming on your couch scenario. In my case my Living Room, Den, and Home Office are all rolled into one. I have an 82” Pull down screen coupled with a Mitsubishi (HDMI) 1080p Projector. In short PC games are simply stunning on a larger screen. I could make the game look even better than it does here in subtle ways even by using a relatively cheap Desktop PC. In short it simply looks better than the Console equivalent versions of Skyrim and especially so when you can start cranking up the features and options in the game. (e.g. Higher Res Textures, AA, etc) Connecting a PC in the Living Room/Den is a snap - courtesy of an HDMI cable. While HDMi isn’t the only option, it is if you want to use to push resolutions at 1080p which becomes more important the larger the screen is. The other great thing to note here is that as a PC Gamer – you can use something like a Lapdesk if you want to use your mouse/keyboard combo on the couch; or, since the game supports the gamepad one could put the Laptop (or Desktop PC) near a TV and use a gamepad alternatively. (I prefer the wireless version)
In the Pic below the laptop is in the foreground. Colors are also noticeably richer on the Projector than on the native laptop display. Something I’ll have to cover in a later blog.

Scenario 2) iCafe and Airports. Ok great…so now that you’ve played your game in the Living Room or Den you’ve played a scenario for this game that any Console is practically capable of. Time to start delving and tapping into the true beauty and flexibility of the PC which is mobile. I’ve lost count of how many Internet Café’s and Airports I’ve played PC Games in. They work great and especially more so if there’s a good WiFi connection.

In the below Pic – left to right – are four Airports: Portland, Dallas, Reagan/DC, and San Francisco. One of the more interesting things to point out is that in my trip from DC in the layover in Dallas I was playing some Skryim when the woman next to me leans over and says “are you playing Skyrim?” – She turned her laptop sideways to show me that she also was playing Skyrim (2nd Pic). We both got a good laugh out of that. So while she was using the mouse/keyboard in the pic; she mentioned, and showed me the gamepad she travels with as her preferred option.  Again… thank you Zenimax/Bethesda!

Scenario 3) Skyrim on a Plane. Have you played Skyrim at 33,000’? I have a couple of times and it works like a charm. As I mentioned earlier a gamer in this situation may want to switch over to the more power efficient mode or option that their graphics card allows for. Additionally; if the game requires some sort of authentication things can be a little dicey. Although as a proof of concept I have successfully connected via the in-flight Go-Go WiFi service. I didn’t have any luck with Steam on one flight, will try on my next. (So use offline mode) I have however; been able to connect to World of Warcraft (~10-12k MS Latency) but it wasn’t playable. To be fair I have been able to connect to BatteNet and download a patch for StarCraft 2. I know… this probably makes me sound like a nutty PC Gamer.
Here’s a pic of Skyrim (Offline mode) at roughly 33,000 feet!!! Fun times! Many Daedra hearts were collected!

Scenario 4) Bedroom and Hotel. Here’s another scenario that I think warrants special attention. In my house I have a pretty standard WiFi Setup. I’m a bit of a night-owl and my wife isn’t. So a couple nights a week I’m gaming from the comfort of my bed. (In this scenario a good pair of over the ear headphones is highly recommended. Lapdesk is also a nice to have but not necessary) Also; ever been on a road trip and had the itch to play your favorite game? Again.. laptop to the rescue! I’ve used both mouse/keyboard and gamepads in Hotel Room scenarios. Just really depends on the game.

Here’s a pic of the room at the Hay Adams in DC. Good WiFi, or even wired connections can often be had in most Hotel rooms across the world.

So there you have it. Four key scenarios in how I play Skyrim. It’s really hard to beat the flexibility of what today’s laptops can offer for PC Gaming. Additionally; laptops have become extremely affordable. I’ve seen them as low as $350 new, and even lower used. (With very respectable Specs). Sure.. people can spend a lot more but it’s typically not always necessary; it pays to shop around and do your homework.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this blog! I invite you to post your screenshots in places you’ve played Skyrim (or any PC Game) for that matter. Until next time – take care!
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Awesome post Matt!

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I find the fact that HD 3000 Graphics is near indistinguishable to the AMD HD 6770M very interesting. It means Intel are taking a keen interest in their gfx cards too, more competition means more quality at a lesser price.