Bethesda Softworks released a one-two punch today; simultaneously debuting the Skyrim Creation Kit and a surprise -- new, high-resolution textures for its smash hit. The Creation Kit gives modders access to the same tools the game developers use for updating and creating Skyrim. The Creation Kit is integrated into the Steam Workshop--for those of you who missed the announcement a few weeks back, the Workshop is a community/distribution hub for user-created content. Modders working with the Creation Kit will be able to upload their projects to Steam for sharing with other users.
As you can see, there's a learning curve attached to using the CK, which is where Bethesda's Creation Kit Wiki will come in handy. The encyclopedia offers a number of tutorials and how-to's as well as links to the company's YouTube page and dedicated CK forum. We played around with the Kit and came away impressed with the level of control it offers; serious modders might be well-advised to drop the data files on an SSD. As always, make backups of important game files before you dive in and go spelunking.
The other update today is a surprise set of high-resolution textures. Opinion on the quality of the new textures is divided; the degree of difference really depends on where you look. In some cases, there's an immediate improvement, as is the case with the following NPC:
Then there's areas where the difference is subtle and not necessarily something you'd pick up on while playing the game. In the screenshot below, the left-hand side uses the hi-rez textures while the right-hand side is standard.
Then there's a few instances where there's virtually no difference at all. In the next set of images, the original textures are on top.
The textures aren't small -- the entire pack is a 3.1GB download -- but having checked visual quality for ourselves with and without the update, we definitely prefer the new versions. Those of you with weaker GPUs may prefer to avoid the download; the eye candy comes with a commensurately higher need for GPU horsepower. Kudos to Bethesda for the way it takes care of the PC gaming community--better eye candy is a nice feature to have compared to console versions, but modding tools are what give a game legs over the long term.