Interview with Akatosh Mount mod creator – Saiden Storm

saiden.jpg

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:
http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user…enStorm&p=r

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.

Reader Comments

  1. I would just like to say I have enjoyed your Akatosh Mount immensely and I wonder if you will release the dragons as a creature to ether combat against in a quest or in general. Indeed the mount is wonderful and I hope one day perhaps combating other dragons on my mount in air combat, maybe i have a death wish though, still it would be very fun. And I also want to say that I have enjoyed Morrowind and Oblivion so much and thank Bethsheda for making so much wonderful games that bring me so much pleasure playing and modding. I just wish the StreamMusic function would work properly in Oblivion’s CS. But the rest is awesome and it just keeps getting better, I look forward on playing the next Elder Scroll. Thanks for bringing me such enjoyment.

  2. ok i think i speak for all 360 owners when i say “we feel cheated” its no secret that that the world loves choices and power to create, hince open platform games such as the one in question. there is not a technical or price related reason as to why we cannot have an oblivion editor for the 360. If bethesda or microsoft are worried about overheating or the game freezing, come on what would be new with this picture. give the gamers what they want, they pay for it! im sure im not the first to express this, and im sure this is not the best place to do so, perhaps someone with the right connection will come along and listen to a generation who expects more……

  3. Snorman, there are numerous technical reasons why the TES CS wouldn’t work on the 360, to say nothing of Microsoft’s desire to have some say on who puts what on their console on a whim. Now, you could certainly figure out a way to create stuff on a PC and move it over onto a 360, but it’s their box, not ours.

    Maybe someday.

  4. Hi, I would like to say that I think this Dragon mod is amazing.
    I’m an Oblivion player, (and fan, like my little sister) and also a big comics fan.
    Here in Portugal there is a popular comic made by a Spanish author (Vincent Segreles) named “The Mercenary” that haves an “ambience” similar to Oblivion, but with Dragons. Since last year, I had the idea to create a mod with the “ambience” of the Mercenary, but sadly I have no time.The world of the Mercenary is above the clouds and the dragons are the animals to fly around. I cannot explain with precision the world of this comics, because English is not my native language, but I can leave here the link to the author’s page and you guys can see.

    http://www.segrelles.com/works/mercenary.htm

    Best regards,

  5. Akatosh Mount mod is so good it feels like a part of Oblivion. I cannot imagine playing Oblivion anymore without this mod. And can’t wait for version 2.0.

    PS: Flexibility is what makes PC shine compared to consoles…

    Regards, Mimes

  6. The Akatosh Mount looks so amazing, I just wish my poor computer could handle Oblivion… Oh well.

    It’s very very nice to see the developers getting more involved in the Modding Coummunity. It’s a welcome change.

    Any chance for a interview with a Morrowind Modder?

    Regards,
    Sir-Stabs-Alot

  7. This mod rules but there are two key issues that make it unrealistic, the drakes don’t create enough draft while in flight. It looks more like a lazy fish swimming in the air, the second issue is that well we’re obviously not flying an F16. The drakes look like static drones in mid flight, when you turn with them it shouldn’t be something like taking a walk in the Tamriel forests. The drakes should actually have some scripting telling them to yaw left or right rather than use turn signals, aside from that its one hell of a mod that the likes of which I doubt anyone can reproduce.

  8. ideas for elderscrolls 5! Civil War! After the death of martin septim and the banishing of Dagon the empire has fallen into utter chaos and dispute. All leaders of the provinces have broken apart trying to take control of tamriel. Constant battles exhaust the provinces forces and continuing the war would lead to utter chaos and to the fall of the empire. With the return of Vivec Morrowind rises to try to take their former lands. An ancient enemy has been hiding in the far east of tamriel. The TESCAECI! The serpent folk have been planning to lead a grand assault on the whole of tamriel. While defeating the tiger dragon empire and joining forces with kamal. They lead their attack on tamriel and sail across the sea while. When the nerevarine left to akavir he learned of these horrible plans. He makes a quick descent back to tamriel to tell everyone the horrible news. The dispute ends and the provinces decide that there is no point in fighing over these lands if they’re going to fall to akavir. so they join together and lead legions of nords, breton, imperial, argonian, altmer, dark elf, orc, redgaurds, kahjiit, nad wood elf soldiers to battle the akaviri in i suicidal assault. You play chancellor ocato’s most favored legion commander and lead eight legions to flank the enemy and attack their island bases and send your forces to akavir to attack the enemies and frontline and retake septimia and ionith by force. When Uriel5 lead a campaign on akavir he was deafeated by the tascaeci’s power to control the weather. Now with the help of the battlespire and the 200 battlemages controlling the weather, the tascaeci would have no chance against the empire. Can you lead your forces into akavir and defeat the enemy and lead the whole tamrielic army into the very heart of akavir and defeat the enemy at their capital. Only one Heroic person can defeat the greatest force in all of nirn and take a new province for tamriel. Only time will tell. Be able to join all factions and see all of tamriel and akavir. New everything!

  9. i want to see an official mod that’s free. like seriously man you guys already made millions for oblivion you might as well let have only the expansions mods cost money. Also i’d like to see official mods for foods and ingredients like: yams, dough, water, noodles, tomato, sauce, soup, be able to make foods like, cakes, pies, buns, bread, meat covered with gravy. that would be cool. cause seriously you guys can put more in the game. when u make elderscrolls 5 make sure to put everything on before realeasing the game so that people don’t have to download the mods and have to pay for them. Also think about my ideas for elderscrolls 5. cause usually when an empire loses its leaders it breaks into a civil war.

  10. i also want u guys to make sure that you can see all of tamriel, yokuda, akavir, thras, and, pyadnorea(sorry i don’t no how to spell it). i’d like to see alinor and the ruins of yokuda, i’d like to be able to join the legion and the battlespire, city watch, morog tong, gangs, choose to be evil and instead of fighting the enemy you can join them!

  11. well if a third party made software compatable with the 360 to tamper with the file then mods would be possible- an example of this is donkey kong 64, in which you could get something that could change the files inside the cartrage. although this is really risky be cause you can damage the game wasting 60 bucks you could of spent buying the pc version. any way im going to get oblivion for pc just be cause of this mod. and i want to play it in school lol.

  12. You know, I do have to say, after playing the PC version of Oblivion (Even with my extremely low-grade computer and only nvidia 5500 graphics card) I don’t feel I could go back to the 360 version of Oblivion, or even Morrowind for that matter. I started playing both games as console versions, only recently obtaining the PC versions, and already have I started work on my own ambitious mod (Look for Langorow Castle….sometime soon, maybe) but have also downloaded and started using so many mods from other people that make the game so much better than the original, that going back to the console versions make me feel empty, and I can’t play the way I feel it should be played. I play with many realism adding mods, as well as OOO, Frans, and many other different mini-mods, like pawhistoricalweapons, Ardonnay’s weapons, and a bunch more, which I cannot name. I feel that the companion share mod is a very integral and useful script/mod. Along with those is the sheer skill and intellignece demonstrated by modders. I don’t believe I would be able to write as well of scripts as any of these people can, at least not right now, but I am willing to learn how. (I am going to take a CompSci class in school this year, teaching how to program in Java, and I have used 3dsmax for a little while now, about a year, but not very good yet. Like everything else it is practice which makes perfect, and once I graduate High School, I am going to take college classes to learn 3d design and hopefully get a job in the game industry. (Bethsoft, maybe you can, ya know, hook me up huh huh? lol). Anyway enough of my rambling. Keep up with the awesome modding and maybe throw me a few hints on how to script/model/animate. I could really use the help :D

  13. is it possible that as the ps3 is basically a computer and has the internet, could it be possible to transfer unofficial mods through the ps3 online downloads?

    i will pay to do this

    thanks for your time

  14. Technically, all consoles are computers, and all of the current generation have Internet capabilities. Hardware-wise, they more or less resemble PCs, just with special designs that is only particularly good at games.

    However, getting unofficial mods would be something else entirely; Simply put, it’d be a matter of finding a way to download files not arranged through Sony’s own online download service, as well as arranging for the PS3 version of Oblivion to recognize and use them.

    I know that the Xbox version of Morrowind was tweaked by some and then it readily was able to use mods, though there was significant memory issues. (think: ALREADY it had the infamous “overflow loot bag” problem…) Whether the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Oblivion are similar in the respect that their mod-related code is still similar enough to the PC’s is something I’m not entirely certain of.

  15. the Akitosh mount kicks much….. but i also look at it this way why did you have to do it to beguin with? My opinion you shouldnt have had to do it at all. it should have been done already. allong with several other things…First and formost is multiplayer…..yea yea we dont want to split our focus betwe….. we got it here is an idea. take a look at Never winter nights. single player camain that your friends can shadow. there still there they still interact with the sorroundings and hell can evin advance the story themselves. but it is primarily a single player game. but we dont wan….ok got it max the party size 4 with the option of two parties or some crap like that or hell one pary of 4 is enuff…. you dont have to make deathmatch or ctf just make it so me and a cople buddies can roll as one. issue two is divercity. morrowind was right on with it. you had your standard weapons but you also had more unique names…youve got umbra sufferthorn shadowhuntto name a few of the few. armor was lacking as well it was all bland there was no set of armor in the “vinila” game that i picked up that someone else wasnt already whereing. and three the leveld world needs to go there was no point in leveling up to get stronger only to have the people and creatures around me get stronger. where did the risk go. i would love to read about some unique weapon deep in the hills of somhere sorrounded by sopthing at level 50 and im only level 5… im dumb enuff to try to get to it. who knows i might succeed in it and kick some rear end in the end. or i might die a thousand deaths. but this isnt just me im sure the rest of the comunity would agree. were not asking much just your souls…

    storm i love your mod it allowed me to traval with freedom and it helped me out of some tight spots and if it wasnt for mods like yours i would have stopped playing a month after the game came out.
    i cant wait for 2.0 and an idea for 2.5-4.0 archery off the back just an idea for the both. and now i opoligise for my ranting this is what hapens when i get off 24 hour duty ill stop now

  16. HOW DO YOU DOWNLOAD IT TO THE GAME, IVE DONE EVERYTHING ITS SAID (probably wrong) I DONT UNDERSTAND HOW TO PUT INTO THE GAME. The akatosh mount wont come on the game so i need the “idiots guide to adding akatosh mount to oblivion”
    Plz help

  17. mod is great went searching for it as soon as i saw it on youtube (pc oblivion noob lol)maybe make a quest for it to acquire the use of it where you gotta fight the dragon and basically “tame” for lack of better terms to get the command ability would be awesome but the mod is great the same as it is. Thanks for making a great game even better.

  18. Pingback: Bethesda Blog » Blog Archive » March Modding Honors at Planet Elder Scrolls, TESNexus

  19. i think there should be a free download were u can play with the entire oblivion playing world, i mean that would be asome

  20. I would love to have dragons in my game on Xbox 360. I have seen some of the armor and weapons on you tube also and I weep that I can’t have it in my game.