At the end of last month, in a modding update post, I mentioned the popularity of the Midas Magic Spells of Aurum mod from Xilver. Recently, I had a chance to send over some questions for Xilver (whose real name is Brian Rivers) about the mod. Rivers, whose been writing and modding videogames for the last 17 years is a 33-year-old living in Winston-Salem, NC (home of Pete’s alma mater, Wake Forest) and works as an IT manager for a Fortune 500 company in the area. Among the other games he’s modded are Doom, Unreal Tournament & UT2004.
For those that haven’t tried Midas Magic Spells of Aurum, can you briefly explain the mod?
Midas Magic is a completely new set of spells and effects for Oblivion. It’s designed to add depth to the mage experience, with over 100 diverse spells from earth, water, holy, and force spells to tornados, meteors, hail storms, death rays, and freeze rays just to name a few. The mod boasts a host of summonable creatures; slimes, beholders, balrogs, battle cats, and a flying carpet. Midas Magic has a unique alchemical process for learning the spells which requires gold and other various items from the game. This makes learning each spell a bit of a quest. I’ve put quite a bit of energy into the look of the spells as well as in balancing them with gameplay.
What inspired you to create this mod?
Well, the mod started small. I’d never played a mage character before and I wanted to give it a try, but lugging all that loot around in order to afford spells was tough. So I started with the intent of creating a spell that turns items into gold coins. Ironically, I still haven’t quite figured that one out 100 spells later. But, it led to the idea that the clutter throughout the game could be put to good use. And that was the birth of Midas and his discovery of the magical properties of the common gold nugget.
How much time have you committed to getting this mod out?
I started back in the beginning of 2007 and released the first version with about 20 spells in March and have put a good bit of my free time into it since, and have released 20 updates over the last 6 months.
What was the most troubling issue you came across creating this mod?
That’s hard to say. I’ve touched on just about every aspect of Oblivion modding I can think of; probably, the least successful being Voice Acting. And, I’ve hit speed bumps and learning curves all along the way. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge and learned a lot, but, I’d have to say my most troubling issue, is the bane of every programmer; fighting that little buried mistake in the 1000s of lines of code that cause the inexplicable game crashes. I’ve had quite a few of those over the last half year.
Is Oblivion the first game you’ve done mod work for? What other games have you created content for?
Not exactly; I started writing my own “dinky” video games as a kid a couple of decades ago and haven’t been able to let it go. I followed and extensively modded for the Doom and Unreal series and had a blast doing that, but I’d have to say that this, however, has been the most exciting project I’ve worked on to date.
Are you planning any new updates?
Yes, right now I’m working on the apogee spell for Midas Magic, “Holy Judgment” with a unique quest into the “Astral Plane” (a world of my own creation) to earn the right to use it.
Your mod has been pretty popular. Do you receive a lot of positive feedback from the modding community?
The feedback and support of the community has been amazing. I’ve received 1000s of messages of praise, suggestions and constructive criticism. Over half of the spells in Midas Magic were suggestions from members of the community. As cheesy as this sounds, Midas Magic is their mod, I’m just the one who had all the fun making their ideas come to life.
What’s the most important advice you could pass on to other fans looking to get into modding?
I’d say modding is really a labor of love. You can find it frustrating or even tedious at times but it can be extremely rewarding. Lean on the community. The folks on the Bethsoft and TESSource forums are extremely helpful, and cs.elderscrolls.com was a tremendous help to me when I first started out.
Has your modding experience inspired you to seek a job in game design?
Confucius said, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I told him, “I can’t afford to do that. I need to get paid.” But, seriously, game design has been a passion of mine for a very long time. I do it freely now; what a bonus it would be to do it for a living!
If you had no limitations, what kind of mod or game would you release?
What an awesome question! Well, I’m a devoted fan of the FPS/RPG and my ultimate game would definitely be set in a world of fantasy and super-science; magic vs. technology. The player would follow our hero through multiple lifespans as he hurtles toward his destiny of saving his world from destruction by its own hands of being the catalyst of its demise. His freedom of choice in one life will determine the world to which he is reborn in the next. Massive epic battles, in which the player can direct the battle or lead the charge and join the carnage. And, of course, a character development system that is as deep and rich as that of Oblivion. Oh, and kung-fu, lots of kung-fu.
What are some future projects you have planned?
Well, once I finish Midas Magic. I have plans for a sequel that takes the player into the Soul Cairn to face the Ideal Masters of TES Lore. The focus will be on the powers of vampirism and necromancy, but generally more slanted toward the world and its quests than the spells alone.