Sunday, December 18, 2011

Skyrim, And The Favorite/Hotkey System You Might Not Even Know About

Let me just start with a bit of a frustrated rant.  I've probably played half a dozen characters to level 30+ in Skyrim - tonight I retired a level 34 assassin because, for whatever reason, the save became too buggy.

NPC's wouldn't talk to each other.  I had a few quests (that I had done previously) bug for no reason.  Things weren't spawning, and even a brand new bug - I killed a boss, his corpse was on the ground in front of me.  I could hit it with spells, shouts, etc. to move it around, but the game would NOT let me loot it, no matter where I positioned the corpse.  It dropped an item for the next step of the quest.  Very cool.  The bugs on this save were by far the worst and most wide spread of any I've had before - it was multiple quests, NPC's, etc.  Really terrible.  Moving on.

What I wanted to write about this go-around was the favorite/hotkey system, which you might not even know exists unless you've played previous Elder Scrolls games, and/or you've accidentally stumbled across it during your adventures in Skyrim.

You can favorite things from any of the menus in game - I'm using the PC version of Skyrim as an example in these shots.  Magic, Apparel, Weapons, Scrolls, etc. can all be marked as a favorite by highlighting them as you see above and pushing the F key to toggle the favorite flag on and off.  Pretty simple, except for that fact that unless you knew this system was in place to begin with, or accidentally click the F key while hovering over something, you probably wouldn't know it existed.  Either that, or you saw the Favorite tag next to the F on the bottom of the screen and guessed your way around the UI.

By the way, this entire part is omitted from any tutorial - it's a tutorial in and of itself, and it only comes up when (wait for it) you push the F key!  So the tutorial for favorites comes up when you already favorite something.  Usability at its finest - I hope the people responsible for this debacle, its complete lack of mention in the basic tutorial, and the overall unfriendly-feel of the entire system get fired.  It honestly just reeks of an afterthought, or an uneducated person deciding where/how to place it into the UI.

But wait, it gets better.  You can also hotkey items, which unless you've played previous Elder Scrolls games - you probably wouldn't know about.  And here comes the icing, you can only hotkey favorite items!

(I actually figured this out by sneezing, as I was in the favorite quick menu at the time and accidentally hit the keyboard assigning hotkeys to items near where my mouse was.)

In this gem (see also: piece of shit) of a menu, accessed by pressing the Q key while not in another menu, you can quick-select from your favorites and change things quickly without having to navigate through a convoluted series of menus that appear on the wrong sides of the screen, respectively.  What a disaster.  Adding to the hurricane of failure amidst a nuclear winter is the fact that you can't sort the favorite quick menu at all.  It's always alphabetical, you can't even sort it by descending hotkey numbers.  Seriously?

So, the numbers to the left of the favorites represent the hotkeys you just read about.  You get them by pulling up the favorite quick menu (press Q - you can't do this from ANY OTHER SCREEN UNLESS THEY'RE ALREADY FAVORITED AND IN THAT MENU) and then once you've highlighted them again inside that menu, you can press a button (only 1-8 though!) and set them to a hotkey. 

To my knowledge, hotkeying something isn't mentioned anywhere - only favoriting is.  And even so, its only mentioned after you've already done it.  Brilliant.

I hope this helps save someone a little frustration.  I was doing FAR too much menu-surfing before I figured this out.