For this week’s mod interview, we’re talking with AlienSlof, who is known for her numerous contributions to the Elder Scrolls community — whether it be her Goth Shop mods or her tendancy to help other modders in the community.
A resident of Leeds, when Slof isn’t modding Morrowind or Oblivion, she works as a freelance professional artist. In her spare time (away from modding), she’s also an avid fan and collector of anything related to Giger’s Aliens (yes, those nasty creatures that battled with Sigourney Weaver). Hmm, I suppose that explains why her online name has “Alien” in it.
On to the questions…
Can you talk about the first mod you ever made for a game? How about your first mod for Morrowind and Oblivion?
My game modding goes back a fair old bit â€“ I started back in those heady Doom days modding Doom 2. I made a series of particularly difficult maps and also a complete sound replacer just for laughs.
My first Morrowind mod was a re-texture of another mod I was using – my character at the time was a white tiger and I developed an urge to repaint his fur and make his black stripes more prominent. This was also my initiation into figuring out the jigsaw of textures and how they fitted to a mesh. I later converted the mod to use Better Bodies once that came out. I play mostly male characters, and most modders seem to prefer making clothing for females, so I soon realized I would have to learn to make clothing myself if I wanted to dress my boys up.
My first Oblivion mod â€“ or at least the first one I started on, which I released as my second one â€“ was my re-textured horses. I love painting horses as part of my real life work and this quickly spilled over into the game. This was also my steepest learning experience as I had no idea what normal maps were or how the things worked! It was often frustrating, but it ranks as one of my most fun learning experiences.
What do you think is the biggest thing you’ve learned about modding since you got started?
I’ve learned so much it’s difficult to pin down one aspect that stands out. I think it has to be how modding gives me insights into how games work, how the code applies my changes and why it does certain things. My programming ability is limited to very basic Basic, but I can quickly get an idea how the game uses the information contained in a mod. How things work has always been one of my greatest fascination; I used to dissect my toys regularly as a kid!
In an interview for Planet Elder Scrolls, you said your Goth shop mods for Morrowind and Oblivion were your finest contributions? It’s only been a few months, but does that still hold true?
I think so â€“ at least so far. I enjoy making clothing for my characters and pushing the limits of my texturing skills. My second Goth Shop is still in progress and growing larger with each new clothing idea I have! Thanks to meshes made for me primarily by Robert and Kikaimegami, I have full freedom to create the things in my imagination. I’m also very pleased with my playable Xivilai â€“ thanks to the help of talented people like throttlekitty, XmarksTheSpot, Scanti, Kivan, Kirel, Eldroth and many others, it became so much greater than my original vision. That big brute is so much fun to play!
Do you have updates you’d like to share regarding current projects you’re working on?
I’m working on an Egyptian/Stargate-themed outfit, but otherwise taking a break from intensive modding and the community so I can deal with some serious health issues. After suffering a stroke a few months back, I’m finding recovery to be a slow and frustrating process. I have some more male clothing ideas simmering away as well, but my health will dictate if they ever happen.
If you could only use 3 mods in either game and none of them could be your own contributions, what would you use?
Vampire Embrace: One of what I dubbed the ‘Unholy Trinity’ (Vampire Embrace, Vampire Realism, Vampiric Hunger), Vampire Embrace gave me the opportunity to really explore my character’s vampirism fully. He ended up with over 100 vampire children created from his bite and a similar number of slaves that he fed from! Thanks to this mod, my high elf vampire, big Basil, was my longest-running and most fun character â€“ he and I enjoyed over 4 years of Morrowind! I have since re-created him in Oblivion.
Better Bodies: Just such an improvement for both male and female (I refused to use a body mod until both genders were available), this made such a difference and paved the way for many wonderful clothing mods.
Carnithus’ Armamentarium: A must-have for any evil character. There are many, many choices of armour, clothing and weapons that always kept my evil characters happy.
The Unofficial Patches: These make the game much more stable, give me a better framerate and just catch all sorts of little and not so little niggling things. Wouldn’t play without these now.
LWB Unarmored: One of the most disappointing parts of Oblivion for me was the loss of the unarmoured skill. I play primarily mage characters, most of which prefer a robe or clothing. This mod is quite old now and maybe not so well-known, but is still my favourite for putting unarmoured back in. It works flawlessly, game after game â€“ my lads can look sexy and have an armour rating at the same time!
Timeslip’s Nighteye Shader: This is an absolute must for me. I have very light-sensitive eyes and the default blue shader hurts too much and gives me awful headaches. Timeslip’s shaders gave me a few desaturated alternatives that are much less painful.
What gives you the most satisfaction when working with the mod community?
The sharing of skills and know-how is probably the most satisfying part of it all. I’m always open to advice and offers of skills and will share my own knowledge in return if I can. It always amazes me how clever and versatile people can be, how much I can learn from them. Most modders are willing to share their skills or script and make things for me and that means a great deal. This is probably one of the best online communities that I’ve been a part of. Then seeing screenshots of people’s characters using my stuff is an enormous satisfaction of a job well done.
I noticed you’ve written walkthroughs for Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles. How time intensive was that, say, in comparison with your mod work?
Probably less time consuming than it appeared â€“ plus I had the fun of playing first! My usual method was to play through one quest at a time in its entirety, then write it up while it was still fresh in my mind. This then allowed me to colour the text with a few of my own observations. I find the whole process very satisfying as it contains so many of the things I enjoy doing, playing, screenshooting and writing.
What’s your favorite thing about The Elder Scrolls series, and if you could make one change…what would it be?
The totally free-form gameplay â€“ go anywhere, do anything, in any order you please. Finishing the game is not the end. This was a real eye-opener for me when I first played Morrowind, my initiation into the ES universe. Never in a game had I had so much freedom to do as I felt like doing. I can even play a relatively evil character, which is my favourite type! Up to discovering Morrowind, I was mainly a first-person shooter player on the computer, most of which are strictly linear in gameplay. Morrowind was like a return to those great days of Dungeons & Dragons which I played since its creation when I was younger. There were just so many things to do, and I could do them in whatever order I chose, and take my time doing so. I like to poke my nose into every nook and cranny â€“ I was always good at finding secret areas in games. Also, the rich and detailed lore that was the core of the whole game. I love reading all the books I find!
I’d love to explore the Daedra in more depth. I have a passion for Dremora and would love to expand the game around them and their fellow Daedra. They share so many similarities with demons, which have always been of interest to me (evil characters again!). From reading the books and observing them in the game, the Dremora seem to have a rich culture and set of morals all of their own.
When you’re not modding, how do you like to spend your free time?
I love reading and go through books at an alarming rate. I also make jewelery when I get a spare moment and an idea â€“ again, usually it’s elaborate and unusual just like my modded stuff. If I’m not gaming or doing any of those things, I’m often writing fanfics of my characters and their adventures, sometimes jointly with my friends Kikaimegami and Denina. This also helps me to round out the character’s personality â€“ I’m very much a roleplayer at heart. My poor health means I sleep a lot â€“ this is no bad thing as I dream very vividly and more than a few of my mod ideas (and even a few answers to problems!) come to me in dreams.
Let’s say you were just named as a replacement for Todd Howard at our offices, what kind of game would you focus on making?
Probably another of the Elder Scrolls series, perhaps attempting to combine the beauty of Oblivion’s graphics with Morrowind’s fuller and more varied gameplay and factions. I really miss the Telvanni! The Elder Scrolls lore is so full and vibrant that after many years of play, I am still enjoying my stay in its universe. I’d also like to expand the vampirism and add a faction and set of quests for them.