Scruggsywuggsy, a Modding Sensei

KKBallroom.JPG

This week’s modder interview is with Paul Connelly, who is better known within the BGS forums as scruggsywuggsy the ferret (perhaps the longest name in the forums). Connelly, who lives on a farm outside of Allentown, PA, is currently working as a college student, though he claims he’s too old to still be there. Since I don’t have a picture, I gather he’s probably an icon for the younger college kids (a la Jeremy Piven in PCU or John Belushi in Animal House…pick whichever generation you prefer). If he’s not, well he should be, because members are our forums are big fans of his mod work and his tendency to lend a helping hand.

How long have you been doing modding on games? What was the first Elder Scrolls game you became involved with?

I started modding with Morrowind. I became addicted enough to modding that my main reason for buying Oblivion was to be able to use the new construction set. I started making games when I was eleven, and sold my first three when I was fourteen.

You started making games at 11?!? What can you describe what these games were like?

I developed four games for a monthly Apple II software publication called Softdisk, written in Applesoft Basic and a smattering of 6502C assembly. They included a trilogy of arcade/puzzle games detailing the adventures of an amorphous blob from another dimension named Coby, whom the player would guide through trap-filled levels collecting fruit and avoiding enemies. The fourth one was called Criss Cross, a variation on crossword puzzles which included an editor that allowed the player to create his own puzzles. That one remained a regular feature even after the Apple II version of Softdisk was discontinued.

Folks within our forums have mentioned how much they appreciate your efforts to help modders out. Do you enjoy helping others as much as you like doing your own stuff?

More, probably, given how much time I spend answering scripting questions. I’ve found you learn a lot more by helping others with their problems than you do concentrating on your own stuff. The nice thing about this community is that there’s so much interaction between modders with different skill sets, so when I provide a script for a talented modeler, the result is a mod which neither of us would have been able to create on our own.

Outside of your work, what’s your favorite mod you’ve come across in an Elder Scrolls game, or otherwise?

Quest Message Popup Removal by androgeny. By disposing of the constant popup messages in Oblivion, that simple mod does more to improve the game than anything else I’ve seen.

Is there one thing you’ve worked on for Oblivion that you feel is your finest work?

Thieves Arsenal, definitely.

Can you give a brief synopsis of the Thieves Arsenal mod?

Thieves Arsenal is directly inspired by the classic Thief series. It brings most of the thiefly tools from those games – rope arrows for climbing, noisemakers, water arrows for dousing lights, and the blackjack – to Oblivion. It also includes stealth-based quests which are being released episodically. The first – Mission Zero – adds randomly generated thieving missions. I’m currently working on Mission One, which includes seven new quests and the beginning of the mod’s main story arc.

How long did that project take to complete?

Over a year. At least half of that time was spent debugging; the scripting language takes a lot of coaxing to accomplish anything remotely complicated, and there are hundreds of ways to crash this game. I like to think I’ve found most of them.

Do you ever lose sleep/miss work working on modding? What’s the longest marathon of “work” you’ve done?

My longest marathon took place when I accidentally announced the release date for Thieves Arsenal as being a week earlier than I had intended. I modded my butt off for two and a half days and got it out a week early anyway. Skipped work the next day, too.

If you were making an Elder Scrolls game, what one idea would you make sure ABSOLUTELY made it into the game?

Lore! Oblivion, for all its improvements to the series’ gameplay mechanics, was a huge disappointment in this area. There is so much untapped potential there. I mean, players held an actual Elder Scroll in their own hands, and yet we know next to nothing more about them now than we did before Oblivion. There’s virtually no distinction, other than architecture, between the Nibenese and Colovian cultures. I want to explore an alien culture, with its own politics, superstitions, religions. That’s why I’m hoping for TES V: Summurset Isle, so we can find out about the Altmer, the Psijics, maybe even see a Sload or two.

You hinted to me that you’re working on something new. Care to talk about it?

I’m working on a stealth overhaul for Oblivion. The idea is to make stealth more rewarding, on a visceral level, for the player. I think the key to stealth gameplay is maintaining a more-or-less constant state of suspense – the feeling that you could be caught at any moment – and the reward is the satisfaction of having outsmarted your opponents instead of hacking them to bits. So I’m working on a real-time audio-based lockpicking system to give players that feeling that they need to hurry up before someone catches them. I’m adding layers to NPC reactions, so when they hear something out of the ordinary, rather than just muttering something under their breath they will actually start searching for you. Friendly NPCs will become suspicious if they catch you sneaking around their homes or shops, eventually calling the guards.

When would you guess that it’ll be available?

After I’m finished with Mission One for Thieves Arsenal.

Will you continue to work on stuff for Oblivion when that’s complete? What’s next…game design school?

I’ll be modding TES games as long as Bethesda continues supplying the tools to do so. I am studying computer science at school, so a career in game development isn’t out of the question.

Interests/anything interesting to add?

I do a mean Ben Folds impersonation.

Reader Comments

  1. Great interview!

    Scruggs is one of the very best modders not only because of the great work he’s done, but also because he is so quick to help others. His impact on the community extends far beyond the things you will see his name on.

    Very much looking forward to Thieves Arsenal: Episode One and the stealth overhaul. Go, man, go!

    :)

  2. Congrats to Scriptmeister Scruggs… considering how helpful he is in the forums and how popular and regarded his work is, suprised his interview wasn’t earlier. Looking forward to the upcoming project!

  3. Nice interview with scruggs! He was one of the first modders to really start using OBSE, and we owe a lot of our popularity to his mods. Keep up the good work scruggs!

  4. It’s humbling to read a demigod’s interview. Great interview, and I’m sure that verdict will be maintained 2 years from now :)

    Keep up the bad work, scruggs !