For those with the guts to try it, the first beta release of the Skyrim 1.4 patch for the PC is now available on Steam.
Updates for console games follow a very set, time-consuming process. The studio creates an update, taking all due care to ensure that it's fit for human consumption, but then must submit it to either Sony or Microsoft for "certification" to ensure that it's all copacetic and not going to break anything too terribly important. Once it's been checked over and given the green light, it finally goes out the door to the long-suffering players.
But PC games are handled a little differently. The developers do what they do and then gamers cross their fingers, grab their sacks and jump in with both feet - or not, as the case may be. The obvious upside is that things get done far more quickly, but with the good comes the bad, which in this case is the slight but ever-present possibility that the patch will fix one thing and break three others.
Right now, you have just one question to ask yourself: do I feel lucky? Well do you? If your answer is "yes," then allow me to draw your attention to the Skyrim 1.4 beta update now available on Steam. PS3 and Xbox 360 owners are still waiting for "testing" to be completed but as a member of the PC gaming elite, you don't have to wait - you can do the testing yourself!
If this sounds like a good idea to you [and how could it not?] then all you need to do is log into Steam, go into the Settings menu, hit the Account tab and then change your Beta Participation options. Select "Skyrim Beta" from the dropdown menu, then hit the OK button and wait for Steam to restart. As soon as it does, Skyrim will automatically update to the latest available beta version. It's that easy!
To be clear, the above does not constitute an endorsement of this beta, so if you try it and trash your game, it's all on you. Bethesda likewise warns that the installation of this patch is an "at your own risk" deal and recommends that you only install it if you're afflicted by one of the admittedly-many issues listed in the fix notes.
And now, having sufficiently established that nothing could possibly go wrong with this update, have at it! Full instructions and other details are up at the Bethesda Blog, so you might want to give them a once-over first. Oh, and don't forget to back up your saved games! You know, just in case.