The modding community is an important part of The Elder Scrolls, especially for Morrowind and Oblivion. I am in awe of modders who are able to build amazing things on their own. Some of the talent out there is just phenomenal, and the members of the team who we’ve hired from the fan community continually exceed our expectations.
One of our designers emailed around this incredible video of the Akatosh Mount mod that lets you summon a dragon that falls from the sky. And, as if that wasn’t cool enough, it lets you get on the dragon and fly around. Very impressive. The creator of this amazing mod – Saiden Storm (AKA Kevin Tolbert) – agreed to answer some questions for us so we could find out a bit more about the mod and the modder. The way he created this mod illustrates how strong and collaborative the Elder Scrolls modding community is. You can see videos of all his mods on YouTube.
UPDATE: Updated post with a picture of Saiden. Cheers!
Let’s just cut to the chase – how did you make the Akatosh Mount mod?
I always knew from the moment it was possible to export creatures running off custom skeletal rigs that I wanted to make a mountable flying dragon. As luck would have it, Oblivion already had the dragon model and I though this would be simple considering I had already finished three other custom creatures sporting home made rigs and animations. The model and texture was done — all I would have to do is create a rig, save the skin, and animate everything up and *poof* I would be done.
Or so I thought.
Things are never so simple. I ran into several issues with the model’s scale being about four times larger than any other created by Bethesda, and the game engine likes to do some strange animation speed culling, so I ended up creating a full rig/animation set that would not function in the game. I started over this time at 50% the original size and created a second full rig/animation set only to find this was also far too large and as a last resort cut it yet again by 50%(25% of the original) and did yet another full rig/animation set and luckily it worked !!!
So now I finally had a Dragon ready to go. I released Custom Creature’s Release 2.0 including my 3 creatures plus Akatosh, and it unleashed a flood of posts/pm’s asking if I was going to release a mod that allowed you to actually fly while mounted. There was even already a script made for this purpose – the Pegasus flight script.
I released a small mod using a slightly altered Pegasus flight script, while at the same time personally working on my own script. I worked with just a few goals for what I would consider a successful switch from the Pegasus to my own script:
- Must retain the base horse controls.
- Dragon has to be able to play all animations while in flight.
- Retain all in-game collisions without having to use some sloppy collision emulation code.
After what was maybe 2-3 days, I had a working first script tested in a day, then I released AM 1.5.
From there everything has been almost on auto-pilot — people wanted to be able to give commands like follow, stay, and go home. That grew to include rest, wake, saddlebags. Somewhere in there Mystikhybrid volunteered to create some new textures, which was a great addition to the mod as a whole because it allowed me to expand even further to have different dragon types: shadow, earth, fire, frost, shock. Others followed suit releasing some more re-textures; Ghogiel released re-textures along with some dragon armor.
Currently I am up to Release 2.0, which will feature Mounted Flight and Mounted Combat. I have six different attacks in place: two ground melee attack, one air-based slam attack (I am having an issue with the air slam so that one is on the ropes and may need to be altered :/) and three breath attacks — all three designed to attack specific target areas (target cone distance, target cone melee range, and the last is Dragon Based AoE).
Where are you from and what do you do for a living? If you’re not in gaming industry already, any interest in becoming a game developer?
I am from Stockton, California but I currently reside in Grand Junction, Colorado. I’m a full-time stay-at-home dad of two boys, 11 and 3. I do some online work…nothing special, just to keep myself busy and to keep my skills moving in a positive direction.
I would love to be able to get a job in the game industry. I almost live in 3DSMax as far as any free time I find is concerned. I can model, create complex rigs, skins and also animate. I’m not so great with creating textures but that’s just a lack of practice.
What other mods have you made for Oblivion?
I created a worldspace then started to slowly inhabit area to area with a few of my odd creature creations (I released three of them in a modder’s resource “Custom Creatures by Saiden Storm”), custom designed tilesets built to entertain my own sense of what a fantasy game needs generally: destructible walls, barrels, crates, and the like, along with a ton of secret areas. I like to stuff so many secret areas into one place that I myself forget where they all are when I play test areas.
I also created an animation-based personal mod replacing all the standing one-handed animations with a custom set built to allow the illusion of duel-wielding.
How about for Morrowind?
I tended to create a lot of armor and weapons…a lot of static meshes. This is when I was beginning so it was all non-organic items.
For anyone interested, my YouTube profile full of quite a bit of my Oblivion work:
Some modders play the games they mod for on a regular basis. Other modders actually just primarily enjoy modding. Which would you say you are?
Where games are concerned, I easily fall into the category of primarily being a modder, although I spend a great deal of time playing games as well, it’s ahh…. it’s research for future creations!
My wife, on the other hand, likes to play the games I make mods for, so she likes to give her opinion about what she wants to happen in a mod.
Are you working on any new mods right now?
Nothing new :/. I am when I get the time slowly working out the last couple scripts needed to get Akatosh Mount Release 2.0 ready to be set free. As the last few videos I released show the base package of Mounted Flight/Combat are complete. I did run into a couple snags to get things to work in a manner I found acceptable. I had to sacrifice other bits of functionality and now I need to script those back in.
What do you like best about the Construction Set? What would you improve?
The ease of use. I like that you can read a couple tutorials and get started creating your mod that day. This ease of use is by far the best accomplishment of the creators of the Construction Set.
If I was to name some piece of the Construction Set that could use improvement it would be the World (Heightmap) Editor. Currently it tends to create tears in the landscape even in heightmaps that previously had none. It took me about 2 weeks of constant frustration to get one working heightmap from the world editor.
If you could have any new feature to the Construction Set or tools, what would you want?
I’m not going to confine myself to just the Construction Set for this one
The one feature I would love to have would be the ability to trigger animations at will from script without using the Idle Animation Manager. This is a frustrating piece of the CS that tends to not work how I want or need it to and from the first AM release to this release it is a constant hassle to get the animations I want to trigger on command and have stay in sync with the actions in-game.