Welcome to the very first episode in a new series called Morrowind Modding Interviews! These are podcast style video interviews with modders from around the community, including popular modders, project developers, and newer and more unknown modders alike! I have to admit, this interview wasn’t conducted the best, I went for a more traditional Q&A instead of a more conversational approach, but future episodes will hopefully be better in this regard!
Full Transcript Below for those who prefer to read:
Greetings and welcome to the very first episode of Morrowind Modding Interviews. I’m your host Darkelfguy, and with me today is Starwarsgal9875, popular author of such mods as Skies IV and Detailed Rugs. Thank you for being with us tonight.
Thank you for having me
So we’re going to start out with a few basic questions, the first one of which is when did you start playing Morrowind and the Elder Scrolls in general?
I started playing Morrowind back around 2007. I got Morrowind for the Xbox, I was only 14 back then, and I had never played a game like that before. And then I heard about the expansions and Tamriel Rebuilt, and the Construction Set and I had to try it out for myself so I got the GOTY for PC and the rest is history.
So you didn’t start out on the PC with modding then?
As I said I started out first playing the game on the Xbox, and I had a load of fun on that, but I wanted more out of the game so that’s why I got it on the PC. The idea of adding my own content to the game was something I really hadn’t thought was possible at the time and so I got into that, and it’s been really rewarding for me.
Alright, that sort of leads into my next question, what was your first mod and how did you get the idea for it?
I think if my memory serves my first released mod was called Your Own Telvanni Manor and I just kind of wanted to create a house mod that was modest because I had seen a lot of house mods at the time that were really expansive and had this huge massive house, and I also wanted a house in the Ascadian Isles because I like the Ascadian Isles, it’s pretty. I was in the game and I found this little island and I thought “Oh, this would be a nice place for a house” and I just went into the CS and I started fooling around with everything and figured out how to make a house and put it there. I gave it a little interior with some storage space and released it and people liked it and that was cool at the time.
What would you say draws you to modding videogames in general?
Well, I feel like modding enables people to change things to a scale that they wouldn’t be able to change in real life. I was just thinking about this earlier and for example, I wouldn’t be able to build say a massive structure that’s significantly larger than myself within a week. It’s just not possible even with a whole team of people, I wouldn’t ever be able to do that, but in Morrowind I could just open up Blender, open up Photoshop and make some meshes and textures, put it in the Construction Set and I have a massive structure. And that’s something that’s really cool for me. I’ve just always been a creative person and modding is a great way for me to practice that and develop useful skills, like how to use photoshop, how to use blender, how to compress textures for videogames and use the CS. And share that with other people, which is what’s kept me going as a modder. Making things and getting to see what people think about them and then making new things and the process just keeps going and going.
That sort of brings me into another question, do you consider Morrowind to be a good gateway into a creative outlet?
As far as modding goes, I definitely think so. I mean, for all different types of modding the game I guess, like if you were working on quest mods you would develop some good writing skills from that, or if you were working on graphics mods you would develop the skills to be able to create assets for your own game or you know work on a team with other people to make stuff like that. I guess for other parts of the Construction Set… I mean, it’s a SDK, so even using it you’re exposing yourself to the kind of stuff that videogame developers are dealing with on a day-to-day basis, including all the other programs that modders use. Even outside of games, there’s tons of applications for the skills, you know I’ve developed a lot of skills using PhotoShop and Blender and I use that for graphic design and other things.
Sort of jumping ahead, would you say that through Morrowind you got the desire to learn these other programs like PhotoShop and Blender and use them in more creative ways?
I think the first real program that I started learning that was sort of similar to all these other programs was Flash, back then it was Macromedia Flash, but I had a really cool teacher in Elementary school that taught us how to use Flash, and I would just make little animations and stuff and I kind of wanted to learn how to use the other Macromedia programs as well. So I got myself Macromedia Fireworks, it’s similar to PhotoShop but it’s more oriented to web design and graphics design. I taught myself how to use that and also learned how to use Dreamweaver and taught myself HTML and CSS, and eventually I ended up teaching myself PhotoShop because it was a very industry-standard thing that a lot of other people would use, and it was able to do a lot of things that Fireworks wasn’t oriented towards. And Morrowind was a big push for that, because making textures in PhotoShop is a lot more practical than making textures in Fireworks which is not designed for doing that type of work. So it’s definitely been what’s pushed me to learn a lot of these programs, especially Blender, I have to say I probably wouldn’t have tried to learn Blender if for Morrowind.
So for someone looking to start out making a new model or texture for Morrowind, would you recommend those sort of programs in particular?
I would definitely recommend Blender for people who want to do 3D, because it’s free and it’s continuously being developed. And you know, if you want to do stuff for Morrowind, you have to use an older version of the program… Well, you don’t have to, you can do this process where you save the blender file and then import, but I never figured out how to do that because I just stick to the older version. But anyway, I do definitely recommend Blender, because it’s free and it is very rewarding to learn. And yeah, there’s a ton that you can do with it. PhotoShop is fantastic, if it’s not a problem to get a copy of PhotoShop because it is a very expensive program, I’d say go for it. There’s other programs like Gimp, Paint.Net, I’ve used CRETA in the past, I don’t know if that’s for Windows, I was using a Linux computer when I tried that… But yeah, those are really great programs and I would definitely recommend using them with Morrowind.
Sort of switching tracks, do you do any planning before you start a mod?
I mean, once I get the idea, like for example with my rugs, I have an organized folder for all my work in progress stuff, and then I make a sub-folder called Detailed Rugs, and I just shove all the vanilla textures in there, and then make a sub-folder in there called Afters, like before and afters. Then I just load them all up in PhotoShop, and then when I get something I’m satisfied with I just save them in the Afters folder. For a larger mod, like my Stros M’kai, I have tons of little notes and subfolders, and I made a little web forum where I can post stuff and organize my ideas, and even though I’m the only one who frequently posts there, it’s a good place to go to store all my ideas. And yeah, my Skies, it’s gone through multiple different versions now, so now my folder for Skies is just a bunch of different subfolders for the different things. Yeah, it’s kinda gotten out of whack, the folder structure for that mod. But yeah, mostly what I try to do, once I get an idea, is I try to put together all the things that I’ll need to make that idea go smoothly, and then start working on it.
Now you’ve released quite a lot of mods over the years, were there any that you had to cut some planned features from before the final version was released? Like feature creep?
Well, for my Skies really has been the mod that’s kinda had the most features I’ve been trying to shove into. But like, due to the limitations of Morrowind’s game engine, cause it is very limited with what you can do with the weather in Morrowind. You can’t add new weather types to Morrowind, you can’t really change how the skies are rendered, I mean I did by changing the mesh, but there’s very limited amount of things you can do to change it. I’ve wanted to do horizon clouds and volumetric clouds like that are 3D, like dynamic objects, rainbows, cloud-to-cloud lightning, sundogs, skies with a bunch of different layers of textures. One thing I really want to do is make a night sky that changes over the course of the year, but that’s not going to be possible until OpenMW opens up/de-hardcodes the weather system. Which I’m very much looking forward to so I can go fiddle around and make new weather types and stuff. I mean, I’ve tried making things for Skies like that, tried to get them to work in game, but a lot of the stuff I ended up trying doesn’t work, ends up crashing the game or looks really bad, so I pull it out of the final version and release all of the stuff that works. As well of course multiple iterations of textures that I’ll scrap, or remake, or go over a bunch of times so what’s there at the beginning of making the mod is very different from what’s at the end, final release.
Sort of going into that, what do you set out to achieve with each mod you release?
My main goal other than achieving my idea, like say with my rugs, the idea was “hey, I want to make these more detailed and higher-resolution”, asides from doing that, I set out to achieve with every new mod is to improve upon my own standard of quality. So, I mean I’ve been trying out new things like normal mapping and reflection mapping, which I updated my Ghostfence to have normal maps, and that was cool. I’m kind of working on getting normal maps working for Stros M’kai, because I figure I probably have enough time that OpenMW will be at least 1.0 by the time I get that released, so I figure that normal maps would be a good thing to add. And you know, improving the quality of everything, and making it a learning experience as well as just improving the game, in my opinion anyway, other people might think what I do is awful… But, well what am I going to do about that?
So, which of your mods would you say you’re most happy with?
Well the mod that I’ve been the most happy with is probably the most recent release of my Skies. Because, you know, version three, there were kind of a lot of…well, the release didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted to, there were a lot of artifacts in the textures, and because my internet connection wasn’t very good at the time I didn’t include the right night sky mesh, and I had to upload it separately and then because it wasn’t part of the main download a bunch of people would complain that it wasn’t working, and then complain that it was hosted on a weird website. But I didn’t have the internet connection to re-upload the whole thing again, so I really wanted to make sure with my new Skies that things went really smoothly at release, so I did an open beta and got everyone’s feedback and made sure everything was top notch and ready to go. And then the release went really smoothly and I’m very satisfied with that, and it’s all I could have hoped for in the release which I’m very happy about.
Now is there something you would love to see in game but don’t have the time to do it yourself?
As far as what I would want to see in game, most of my ideas are quest mods, which is probably something people wouldn’t think of me doing, since I’m mostly known for doing textures and stuff. But, I end up getting distracted by all of my other projects, so I don’t have time to do anything. I mean, I have some ideas for quest mods, like an alternate path for the main quest where you don’t have to join the Blades, a overhaul to the Thieves Guild, a quest that involves Firemoth being restored, because I thought it was silly that the Empire would abandon such a strategic location. And then I have this idea for a house mod that would allow you to build your own player house wherever you choose. Which I would eventually like to do, but I have a bunch of other projects that I’m trying to push out the door, so those come first really.
Going into a new direction, are there any Non-TES games that you’ve drawn inspiration from or been influenced by when you make a new mod, or a new texture or model?
I mean I draw inspirations from a lot of sources, like the art in the Assassin’s Creed games is something I’ve enjoyed a good bit. Diablo 2 has a great art style. But most of my inspiration comes from things in history or from things I see in real life. I mean, I’m kind of an interesting person to walk around with, cause like I’ll look at the sky a lot, and then I’ll look at the ground, and all the textures everywhere, and kind of get ideas from just looking around myself. Look at the buildings, get architectural ideas, if I go on a trip somewhere then I’ll always be looking around at things for inspiration on all of my different projects. But most of my inspiration for the Elder Scrolls and Morrowind comes from inside the TES universe, like Skyrim and Oblivion, and especially Redguard for my Stros M’kai mod since Redguard takes place on Stros M’kai.
So would you say the kind of mods you make have been influenced by your educational background or real life relationships? I know you mentioned a teacher earlier…
Well, yeah my teacher in grade six, she kind of pushed and started me in graphic design and web design and 3D… Well, she was the catalyst for me learning a lot of different things, I think. I mean I’ve done occasional graphic design courses, but most of my kind of influence comes from my own urge to do so. Quite a few talented people over the years, but I think just the rewards of making mods, and getting to see what people think and what comes from all of that is really what pushes me.
Are there any new projects you’re working on right now? I know you mentioned your Stros M’kai mod earlier.
Yeah, that’s the Nerevarine Chronicles, which is…a lot of people wonder why it’s chronicles since the mod I’m working on right now is just one thing, but the idea is that it follows what the Nerevarine was doing after Morrowind takes place. While the first couple parts of it, which are Stros M’kai and another mod that I would like to announce… because I would be getting way ahead of myself if I told people what I was thinking of. I mean, those two mods you don’t have to finish the main quest to play through those mods, but the idea is to kind of follow what the Nerevarine was doing after Morrowind. Because Bethesda left a lot of things up in the air, you know there’s a lot of different rumors in Oblivion and Skyrim about what happened to the Nerevarine, that kind of lets you write that story for yourself by providing the slate to do it. So, that’s the Nerevarine Chronicles, and the first one is Tiuj Kiuj Restis which is on Stros M’kai, and it sets the stage for the rest of the mods in the series. It’s been great fun working on.
I’m also working on the GUI Overhaul, which kind of redoes all the aspects of the interface, and you know a bunch of new splash screens, new main menu, menu buttons, really try to make the game look like it came out yesterday or released… What the interface we have now would like if it came out today is kind of what I’m trying to do.
What’s been on the backburner for a while for me has been my landscape overhaul, MADW, Morrowind – A Detailed World, which I’m working on the Sheogorad right now, and that’s been really fun. I’ve been really satisfied with how much of a difference adding a bunch of rocks around the…to kind of set the shape of the hills, and add big cliffs and things, and it really makes the landscape pop and seem more real. I’m excited to release a bunch of screenshots out, if people are interested in looking. As far as other mods, I have a bunch of other little work-in-progress things, but the things I mentioned are kind of my major projects. I do plan on making a new version of my Skies in the future, but I’m probably going to wait for OpenMW for that so I can do some of the ideas that I mentioned earlier.
About your landscape overhaul, do you see that being like Wollibeebee’s Solstheim Overhaul?
Yeah, I was very happy when I found out about that mod, because overhauling the landscape of Morrowind is something that I’ve been wanting a mod for, for quite a bit of time. I know Trancemaster’s Morrowind Rebirth has a lot of changes to the landscape, but I mean it also changes a lot of other things about the game which has made me kind of reluctant to try it. Although, I might end up trying it in the future at some point. Wollibeebee’s overhaul has been really fantastic, exploring Solstheim again. Exploring Tamiel Rebuilt has been really cool, that’s been a big source of inspiration.
Alright, sort of backtracking, I was kind of curious, why Stros M’kai for your Nerevarine Chronicles mod? What made you decide on that location?
Well, I kind of wanted to make my own landmass mod, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to take on a whole province or something like that, and Stros M’kai is a relatively small island, so I thought it would be a good place to start, and then I started to develop these other ideas following the story of the Nerevarine. I also thought Stros M’kai would be a good setting, because it allows for a kind of follow up to Redguard, which is chronologically released before Morrowind, and we haven’t heard from Stros M’kai since Redguard, so it would be good to sort of expand on what happened since that game, and most people probably haven’t played it, so it would probably be good to expose them to a lot of art that’s been inspired from that game. Which I really recommend playing Redguard, because I mean if you can get past the wonky controls and get it working on your computer, it’s quite a blast.
That sort of goes into my next question, what do you think of the other Elder Scrolls games? Like Skyrim, Oblivion, Elder Scrolls Online and Redguard?
Well, Skyrim has been quite a bit of fun, I got bored of it after a while because I felt like a lot of the questline and stuff were a bit linear, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for the Elder Scrolls and I’m looking forward to what Bethesda’s doing with Elder Scrolls VI, but I mean we’ll probably see Fallout 4 before then. I mean, I don’t really care about ESO to be honest, I think it’s kind of generic and uninspired.
I played quite a bit of Oblivion, I love it’s writing and it’s quests, and I like the art in Oblivion, but I think the art style they chose was a bit too generic, like too much standard fantasy fare, so you’ll see minotaurs and imps, which they look like demons, and that seems really uncharacteristic of the Elder Scrolls to me. And then Cyrodiil looked like generic Europe, like a generic Europe setting, and all the Imperials sounded like British people, which nothing against British people, but I just didn’t think that Oblivion really did justice to Cyrodiil considering the descriptions of Cyrodiil in the books.
Redguard, I talked about Redguard a little bit, it’s been the largest sort of inspiration for Stros M’kai, and besides having amazing writing by Michael Kirkbride, the art style is also like the same quality as Morrowind. It’s really unique and gives off a lot of the same vibes that Morrowind does, but it’s in a completely different way, because it’s in a setting that sort of feels more middle eastern. I haven’t played any of the other Elder Scrolls games, like Arena, Daggerfall and Battlespire, I do plan to eventually, but for now I’ve got modding and other things to do.
Speaking of modding, have you used the Creation Kit in Skyrim or Oblivion at all?
I mean, I’ve popped open the Oblivion construction set to like see what the differences were between Morrowind’s CS and Oblivion’s CS, but I never really ended up doing anything with it other than that. I’ve never even opened or downloaded the Skyrim CK, so I don’t have a opinion about that. I think the extent of modding that I’ve done for Skyrim or Oblivion is converting textures from…or getting textures to work from my Skies in Oblivion and Skyrim. I put my moons that I made for Morrowind into Skyrim and they looked really great in that game. Which I thought was fitting actually, since Skyrim’s moons were where I drew a lot of the original inspiration for the moons in my latest version of Skies.
Now after about 12 years the Morrowind Modding Community is still going pretty strong, now what do you think makes this community so vibrant after such a long period of time?
I think that Morrowind’s just a really unique game and it has an art style like no other, as well as writing like no other game, and since it’s like a openworld sandbox RPG, it lends itself really well to replayability, it’s really a game that people are just sort of drawn to… Like no other game provides the same atmosphere and freedom that Morrowind does, so the people who do play it keep coming back for more, and the people who discover it are just drawn to it as much as we were the first time we played the game.
Expanding on that, do you think there’s anything the Morrowind Modding Community should be doing to continue to grow and expand in the coming years? Like should we be doing more promotion?
I mean, what I think we should be doing, is kind of doing what we continue to be doing, as well as continue to expand the game’s content and support projects like OpenMW, MGE XE, which will allow us to mod the game in ways that we were never able to before. At the same time, support projects like Tamriel Rebuilt and the province projects, because the release of a lot of fan content is what drives or keeps a lot of us playing the game. And of course, continue releasing your own little mods as well, little and big mods, because like I said, that stream of fan created content is really what keeps people playing the game, having new things to do. After 12 years, most people have probably moved on to games like Skyrim, but if we can show them that Morrowind has a lot of the same appeal, then it’ll serve us very well.
Do you think the community should be doing more for advertising about these large projects, like Province: Cyrodiil, Tamriel Rebuilt, Skyrim – Home of the Nords, and OpenMW?
Honestly, I don’t think anyone should be obligated to try and advertise things in the community, because modding itself is quite a bit of work on its own, and I think that continuing with releasing mods and providing new content is really what will continue to keep the community alive. I think that advertising really is something that modders themselves shouldn’t really have to worry about. But you know, people who use the mods, both modders and non-modders alike should really continue to spread the word of mouth and telling everyone how great Morrowind is and why we keep playing a game that’s twelve years old.
Now is there any advice you’d like to give to budding new Morrowind modders out there looking to release their first mod?
Well, I mean I know when I first started modding, I thought the stuff I did was terrible, and what I have to say about that is no one is as terrible as you think you are. So it’s perfectly fine if your first mod is terrible, because you’ll get a lot better and then it won’t be as hard as you think it is. Don’t worry about doing everything perfect, and don’t try to do a super large project right away either, just do a small little thing and work your way up and you’ll be spending all your time modding the game sooner than you think.
Now, are there any modders or mods in the community right now that particularly have your attention?
Tamriel Rebuilt of course has been a constant source of excitement and I’ve been following that for as long as I’ve known about the project. Melchior Dahrk’s work is something I’m really a fan of, I’m usually very picky about landmass mods, because I don’t want to play with any landmass mods that aren’t strictly derived from places mentioned in TES lore, but Lyithdonea has made me make an exception to that rule, and I’m definitely going to try out Lyithdonea out when any portion of it is released, and you know his other mods are fantastic as well. Illuminiel’s work is really fantastic, I’m not sure what she’s working on right now, I can’t wait to find out though. I love the Retorts and Calcinators she recently released.
I used to be a project lead for Province: Cyrodiil, I was kind of the person who would organize all of the models and textures for the project, and then I eventually became an admin. Then, you know, Scamp, SamirA, and the rest of the current team took over, but I still check out what they’re working on, and like read the parts of the forums that regular users can’t, and check out their work-in-progress work, which I have to say is really stunning, and I think everyone should look forward to that because you’ll be in for a treat really when it gets released.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to the community as a whole, or someone you’d like to give a shoutout to?
I don’t really know of anything to say to the community as a whole, but I’ll just give a shoutout to my partner who has been a constant source of love and affection and support which has been really great for me. And then a shoutout to everyone who’s played my mods and given feedback, and everyone’s who’s releasing mods as well and working on things as well, and everyone who’s playing the mods we make really. And of course a shoutout to Bethesda for making such a fantastic game, because I’m sure none of us would be here right now without Morrowind.
That’s all I have, so thanks for doing this interview, it sounds like you have quite a few projects going on.
Yep, so many projects… I have to keep reminding myself not to give myself more projects.