A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from Stephane Wuttunee (aka Veritas_Secreto) regarding his mod project, Tamriel NPCs Revamped. For this mod, the 39-year-old Canadian recreated nearly every NPC within Oblivion (leaving only guards in the game untouched). I had a chance to ask Stephane a few questions and here’s what he had to say.
Where are you from?
I was born into the Canadian military, so answering that is a bit problematic. For the most part, my upbringing led my family and I to live in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Now I live in Quebec, but I’m unable to say for how long at this point. Probably a few years.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a public speaker on topics relating to the Environment and Native cultures. Since I’m currently revamping my entire material for upcoming presentations I’ve also gotten into photography and freelance web design.
How much time did you devote playing Oblivion before you started working on mods for the game?
If memory serves me correctly, I played Oblivion for roughly one month before getting acquainted with the Construction Set. Initially, I didn’t set out to drastically change anything. Small tweaks was what I was after. Morrowind and its legendary modding community was what initially spurred me to find out what I could about the game and whether or not it was user friendly. Thankfully, I wasn’t dissapointed.
For Tamriel NPCs Revamped, you updated 1,237 NPCs from the game, which is quite impressive. How long did this take you?
Thanks (I mean that, TNR in all its aspects was a TON of work!). Workloadwise, though it’s a guesstimate, I’d have to say over 1,550 hours of pixel smashing, twisting, and pulling went into TNR. In September 2006 when I first started, the average length of time per evening in the Construction Set was around two to three hours. By November that same year, I remember getting up in the mornings, having breakfast and washing up, and going at the faces for well over eight hours for roughly three to four days a week – along with everything else I was doing! I’m a bit of an extremist in the sense that when I start something, no matter how massive the project, I have to finish it. Guess it’s the reason why in ’91 and ’99 I canoed for nine thousand kilometers across Canada – the second time with four great nephews and brothers. Needless to say, I’m single at the moment. I sure never would have attempted TNR if I were with someone.
Was this [TNR] your first mod project on Oblivion?
Well, no. In fact, I had previously created two other mods that allowed me to gain more experience with the Construction Set. They are “Hear-Me-Not”, and “Stealthier Magic”, both of which I do not regret making at all. Anything I made with the editing tools has given me great fun and satisfaction.
Outside of the guards in the game, were there any other NPCs you elected not to change?
Not really. The Dremoras and I never really developed a major bonding, so that kind of fell through, though I’m not saying no to eventually doing them. Same with the Vampires, which I elected not to do due to difficulties encountered with their skin tones switching on and off after the vampire looks were removed. They may be done at a later date. Other than them, no. I revamped everyone I could my dirty little hands on – including many test NPCs that don’t even feature in the game! Of course, these were removed from the mod upon release.
Did you put more effort into upgrading the visuals of more important NPCs to the storyline, or did everyday town dwellers get the same time commitment as someone like Martin Septim?
Excellent question! The short answer is ‘no’. Everyone got fair and equal treatment for two reasons, the first being that since I hadn’t even done any quests or touched the main storyline prior to starting TNR, I really had no clue or idea as to which NPCs were from what quests or plot elements. The second reason is that working with NPCs on a one to one basis, I know it sounds corny, but you actually start forming bonds with them on a mental level, and you treat them as living beings. So each and every NPC I touched received a personal touch in some way. Of course, there are faces I’m more proud of than others (Hastrel Ottus, Claudette Perrick, Solomon Geonette, Fathis Ulis, the Dark Elf Blue Team Gladiator and a few others jump to mind), but that’s art for you. Sometimes you put all you got into something and the end result is crap. Other times you let your heart take over and have no fear in pushing and pulling pixels every which way in a haphazard fashion and the results are genius.
Do you have plans to go back and make any more changes to the work you’ve already done?
Indeed. I do go over the individual ESPs from time to time (especially now that I’m actually playing the game and seeing the NPCs in person in their environment) and perform updates or changes. The Imperials in particular could use some sprucing up to make them look different from each other. They’re not quite as similar to each other as vanilla Imperials were, but a few close cousins remain and that’s not to my taste. Is an artist ever happy? No (laughs). I think gamers can expect a second update of TNR All Races Final by Christmas 2007.
I noticed from your FAQ that your mod isn’t compatible with other “overhaul” mods like Martigen’s Monster Mod Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul. Would you ever consider working with these guys to make your mods compatible?
Actually, Martigen was a part of TNR’s development from the start. His opinions and advice on troubleshooting got me out of quite a few jams. Same with Miriamel and a handful of others. Far as I know, Martigen already has quite a few TNR faces in MMM as separate ESPs or some other arrangement, but they’re called Diverse Faces or such. Perhaps I’m wrong. Anyhow, he did help me quite a bit. As for Oscuro, well, I did contact him a while back to see if he would be interested in having TNR be a part of his project, but that has not come to pass. I do know that TNR is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I can appreciate if modders of large overhauls would only consider TNR as a separate patch or ESP that would have gamers merge it on their own. On that same topic, Wrye has been phenomenal in getting TNR to be compatible with absolutely ANY mod that changes NPCs out there. I owe him such a huge thanks. Same goes to MigThegreat, who initially was making TNR compatible with OoO the hard way. Wrye Bash changed all that and greatly simplified the process.
As for future implementations, I would simply like to add that since TNR is communal property, modders don’t require my permission to include it in their own mod projects or even drastically change them in whichever manner they see fit.
You’ve mentioned that some of your inspiration for the Revamp mod came from previous Elder Scrolls games. What kind of modding did you do with earlier titles, including non-Elder Scrolls games?
With Morrowind, I never made any mods unfortunately. I was so involved with public speaking and various career engagements that little time could be devoted to modding of any sort. I did however, unabashedly become a Morrowind mod fanatic, using Rhedd’s Heads, Leafy Morrowind, Water of Life, Cait’s Critters, and other greats when I did have time to play. When Ghost Recon (the original series) was popular, several game characters must have died in my “Sniper’s Challenge v. 1.01” map pack.
What’s next for you? Do you have plans to continue doing mod work for Oblivion?
Well, I’m quite busy with web design at the moment, along with continuing to revamp my presentor’s materials, so much of my modding time has been gobbled up. TNR was such a huge investment and comittment that I honestly do not know if I will ever engage myself so much in any other (unpaid – hint hint) project. But…Shivering Isles NPCs as well as the vampires for Oblivion could stand some tender loving care, so I suppose I could devote a couple of hundred hours into them at some point this winter. We’ll see.
If you could make one new mod for Oblivion, with no limitations, what would it be?
Oh now you’re playing with fire (laughs)! Well, I suppose that would be to completely revamp all the interiors and make them more engaging and challenging in terms of storyline, mini-quests, and loot placement. My TNR overhaul mod, prior to the Community Dungeons Project, was coming along well and I would probably have finished it by now. News from the Community Dungeons Project has been slow lately, so I’m wondering if it’s still going strong. If it’s died, then I suppose I’ll pick up where I left off at some point and retackle the TNR overhaul – though perhaps not to the same insane degree of devotion I had with TNR. I’ll stretch its development longer in order to keep it fun and not threatening to my sanity.
As a final word, I would just like to sincerely thank the developers and all the others who worked so hard and for so long on Oblivion, and that their next installment in this great series continues to flourish. I wish them well for TESV.