This week’s modder interview is with Aki TeliÃ¶, also known as Skycaptain within the BGS forums. The 24-year-old from Finland is studying Engineering in the Helsinki University of Technology and, like myself, is a strong supporter of frisbee golf. As he puts it, “It’s a perfect past time hobby for a student, I like the fact that anyone can have fun playing the full 18 ‘holes’ without any experience at all, but the more you learn the more you find out there is to it.”
Of course, when Skycaptain isn’t studying for frolfing, he’s spending time modding Oblivion, hence the interview.
So, how did you get the nickname Skycaptain?
One day me and my friends decided to watch the movie “Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow” on DVD. It took like 20 minutes for us to get set up with our
beers and snacks, and all this time the 5-second DVD menu-intro movie clip was rolling on the background, with some guy in the movie calling in the
“Skycaptain Skycaptain! Calling Skycaptain! Over! Skycaptain! Skycaptain, Skycaptain calling Sky Captain! Calling Skycaptain Over! over and over again!
It got into our dreams after we all fell asleep during the movie.
What are your top 5 favorite games of all-time?
I guess I should make clear at this point I have no other experience of other Elder Scrolls games besides Oblivion.
The whole Quest for Glory series must count as one, to make this more interesting. So that would be one…they just have the most immersive storyline and atmosphere, not to even mention the music.
Monkey Island series. Another game series with the characteristics rarely seen in today’s games…those are the funniest games to date and still manage to carry an immersive story, and amazing music! Monkey Island 2 theme is my favorite game track ever.
Starcraft. Unbelievable game for a light strategy game, I’ll still play it again.
Half Life 2….I loved the first one, but the second one blew my mind. I have Oblivion to blame that I still haven’t played the sequels for it…
Oblivion. No doubt, at the moment is all I play…uhm…when I’m able to play. I still haven’t played through the main quest, some of the big mods made me
start over, and then I got a bit attached to modding. That’s exactly what makes it so great. Playing, after all, is a free time activity, which is usually over in a relatively short time. Oblivion gives me more that that — it gives me an extra hobby, and it’s a game that expands every hour.
How did you get started modding games?
Oblivion was my first ever. I knew nothing about the series, the CS, the scripting language. I was irritated about the fact that the combat music warns you about nearby enemies in the game, and wanted to see if I could do anything about it, but back then there was no solution to it, other than turning off the music – which I did. Hurt me pretty bad — playing Oblivion became the only moment in my day when I didn’t listen to any music at all — but the immersion factor and excitement of getting surprised made it worth it.
My actual modding process started out when I realized how repetitive the combat was. I had moved straight from Mount & Blade to Oblivion, and soon found out that the only real strategy for a melee fighter was to keep the block up and wait for his turn when the enemies stagger. I wanted challenge, and went for something I had read about someone suggesting for Mount & Blade — a requirement to time the moment you block. So my first mod was a script to drain the effectiveness of the block the longer you held it up, to simulate the need for active blocking – a stationary shield would be more or less easy to go around. Releasing the button and pressing again restored the effectiveness instantly, so the blocking became a game of anticipating the enemy moves, and catching the blows just in time for full efficiency.
For Oblivion, you’re best known for Deadly Reflex mod for Oblivion. Can you summarize the mod for folks that haven’t’ heard of it?
More interesting fights. Instead of holding the block button, you can actively stagger the enemy with a defensive shield bash or punch with the hilt of your weapon. Or you can dodge with a single key press. On the other hand, the enemy may do exactly the same to you. And they all have different skills in this.
With optional “Timed Block” requirement and upped damage, the combat requires more from you, but on the other hand, it gives you tools to get out from behind that shield and fight like a champion. A bonus extra is the option to fight from horseback. A skilled player is rewarded with balanced critical hits, with chance scaled with enemy health, allowing you to occasionally, for example, decapitate the weakened enemy or crush his skull, to bring a deadly competition of skills to the ending it deserves.
What can fans expect from v 4.0 of your Deadly Reflex mod?
When writing this answer, the release is about two to three days away, and it will consist of essential fixes and features to the missing areas of combat. As for the fixes, I had misunderstood/under tested one essential area or the spell script system I use, and finally found a reason for the occasional weird bug reports, and rewrote lots of stuff, for enhanced stability.
I also tweaked an attack animation to replace the basic weapon power attack with a new kind of thrust, and remade the shield bash animation and sound system, as well as fixed some small stuff and added the “Enemies Explode” spell a support for creatures.
The actual meat for the 4.0 update comes from the criticals added to sneak attacks, bow shots and magic effects. Now the sneaking player will have a chance to stab the enemy to the neck for an unquestioned instant kill, with the proper animations and effects. On the other hand, an unskilled player may be too clumsy and the NPC may detect him and maybe even punch him to the ground by surprise. Also, a direct shot with an arrow to the chest may cause the enemy a critical bleed, making him fall on his knees gasping, holding his chest.
The destruction effects got an effect overhaul, without touching the effects themselves, which keeps the compatibility with other mods. The fire may set the enemy on fire, charring him to a smoking blackened corpse. The shock may shoot the victim off his boots, partially melting his equipment against his skin, and charring parts of his steaming body. The frost may freeze the enemy to an icy statue, leaving him in the middle of the animation with a crust of ice. Any hit will shatter him to pieces like glass. All the new magic criticals work with creatures as well, and it does not matter which spell the player uses, as long as it causes some of the listed “elemental” damages.
How long have you been working on this mod?
I think it was August last year when I started with that Timed Block…so way over an year anyway. The 4.0 update has been under work for approximately three months.
Do you feel like you’ll ever be at a point where you feel the mod is complete?
I don’t think so…in this kind of mod, there are always things one could add. But there is a limit to what’s worth adding. Some ideas would require so much scripting it would start to show on CPU usage, and naturally the workload on me would be insane compared to the results.
So of course there will a time when I’ll just decide it’s done on my part, but I’m too keen on experimenting with the possibilities right now to think about that. After all, modding for Oblivion has actually taught me a lot about the same things I study. Designing a system to get an undefined NPC to react according to an input from a player, and to even decide certain things on its own, is very closely related to the idea of designing intelligent automatics.
Are there other projects you’d like to start for Oblivion, or for that matter, any other games you’re looking to mod?
No other games at the moment I can think of…as already said, I haven’t modded for other games. I guess Oblivion was the first one that made me see a potential fix, was worth it and actually had good tools to make me cross the bridge.
For Oblivion, I come across multiple things a day…I see requests, folks asking for help, ideas…almost every single time my mind automatically thinks of a solution and tells me how I could just go for it. And then I remind myself I can’t handle anything more “right now”, and close it outside my mind. Sometimes I post the idea just in case it would be of some help, but often people have so different styles to approach a problem, that I don’t know how if it helps anyone. Making Deadly Reflex has been a constant fight for something not intended to happen in the game, forcing things over the decisions of the engine, or using clearly unsuitable setup for my purposes, and sometimes I dream of making a normal mod, or anything with which the main problem would not be overcoming he obvious restrictions.
If you could have only one other person’s mod in Oblivion, which one would you use?
Too predictable answer I guess, but Oscuro´s Oblivion Overhaul. I feel that it cures Oblivion of the same predictability I aim to do in my mod, and adds the fair challenge I crave. At the moment though I’m using FCOM, a project by the ever-amazing Dev_akm, that combines OOO, Frans, Warcry, MMM, and Bob´s Armory, a massive combination of gameplay enhancements and unpredictable enemies that define my Oblivion experience as great as it is today…it’s hard to even think of the work by the different authors that summarizes itself in that mod!
Do you ever feel like modding feels more like work than actual enjoyment?
Often. But I’m fairly good at monitoring myself, and easily reject things that feel harmful to me. So when I feel exhausted, I quickly seem to avoid modding and have learned to respect that sign. Sometimes I feel the “heat” and can push myself to the limits with no drawbacks, sometimes it just tastes bad and then I know I need to wait for the tide to turn. I have learned that if you can take a break the instant you need it, the break you take is relatively small and the inspiration comes back to you even faster. And then you’ll find the same enjoyment of creating as it when you started modding in the first place.
Would you consider a career in game development? If so, what kind of game would you pitch to publishers?
Of course I would!!! Hmm…The Elder Scrolls V? VI? Fallout 4?
But really, I guess I would like to be a part of a bigger project, handling one part of a game, alone or together with others, but I can hardly think of a game I would bother making alone – it takes more than a one person to make a great game from a scratch, and I only enjoy games with lots of content. With modding, I have felt like being like part of such a project, with people around me making all different kinds of mods, while I have focused on something that I have ended up and have the experience with. It´s truly a great community, there are so much intelligent and supportive people there!
All in all, I have found myself enjoying scripting, or more generally designing and implementing things, and in game development business I would enjoy creating events, no matter if they would be constrained in 0.5 seconds of combat or half an hour of gameplay. I guess I enjoy the concept of “setting it up” and “seeing it happen.”