Some of our best developers working here came from our modding community. They step into their jobs already understanding our tools, processes and pipelines.
So your first step (or one of many possible first steps!) to breaking into the game industry is to make mods. We’re not the only developers who release tools for their games, but assuming you want to make big crazy RPGs like we do, you’re best bet is making mods for our games.
If you are thinking of trying your hand at making mods for Oblivion (or Morrowind), now is a good a time as any. Why? Since Oblivion shipped over a year ago, an enormous amount of documentation, tools and mods have sprung forth along with an amazing modding community to help you learn.
Easy four step process. Ready? Here we go.
1. Check your PC’s system specs. Here are the most important components: at least, 2.0 Ghz processor or higher, an ATI X800/Nvidia Geforce 6800 or higher video card, and most importantly, 1 GB of RAM — 2 GB if you can pull it. You need LOTS of RAM to make mods. This is because you’ll often find yourself with Oblivion and the Construction Set both running at the same time. This takes up lots of memory. The CPU is actually the least important here which is why you can go as low as 2.0 Ghz (though if you plan on doing any work on landscape, you’ll want a 3 Ghz CPU or higher). Note that newer CPUs have multithreading capabilities. Oblivion doesn’t take advantage of multiple threads so you’ll see minimal improvement from them.
Of course, if you can afford it, buy the fastest, slickest PC you can. I’m just letting you know how low you can go without too much pain.
2. You need a copy of Oblivion for PC. Playing it on 360/PS3 is great since you’ll be familiar with Oblivion, however, when making mods, you have no choice but to do it the way we do it. Internally, we build our art (3DMax/Photoshop), we code our, um, code (C++), we create our world (Elder Scrolls Construction Set) – all on PC. Oblivion’s pipeline starts on PC and our internal build process deploys all the code, content and data to all the platforms: PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Fortunately, we make the content once so Oblivion is exactly the same on PC or console – this is all I’m going to say about PC vs console – please keep me out of these holy wars
Anywho, now is a good time to pick up Oblivion for PC since you can find it for as little as $20 if you wait for it to get listed in your local Sunday circular ads. Oblivion GOTY is a particularly good idea since you’ll have Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles content to use as reference, too.
3. You need The Elder Scrolls Construction Set which is available for free. Download version 1.2.404 – which includes support for Knights and Shivering Isles.
Optional: Quick note, if you want to make art, you’ll need Photoshop and 3D Studio Max version 5.
4. Lastly, you’ll want a tool to unzip all the art files from our the game data files – the BSA files. There are several tools available that do this including BSA Commander and MentalElf’s TES4FILES.
OK. So where do you start?
Here’s one way – pick your favorite quest in Oblivion. Find the Quest ID for your favorite quest – I am assuming that because it is your favorite, it is also the quest you are most familiar with. Now, load up the master file, pull up the quest tab, and find your favorite quest. You’ll start to see journal entries and lines of dialogue that should be familiar to you. This is a good way to figure out how quests are implemented in the game. There’s a good chance what I just described to you makes absolutely no sense. That’s ok. Gotta start somewhere, right?
The best way to learn is the decide what you want to do and find an example of a mod or an instance in the game itself that does something similar, and copy it, build on it, make it better. Ideally, you never start from scratch – the fastest way you’ll learn is seeing how we – or other modders – implemented an idea you have.
There’s a lot of learn here once you start poking around the Construction Set. Here are some links that you should check out, must-have bookmarks for any Oblivion/Morrowind modders:
The Elder Scrolls Construction Set Wiki – launched and hosted by Bethesda, this community-driven resource is where you should start. You’ll find documentation on how the Construction Set works, tutorials, FAQs, link to modding tools – in short, imagine having over 16,000 people advising you on how to best make your mod – well, this wiki is it.
The Unofficial Elder Scrolls – this is my personal favorite Elder Scrolls site. Everything you want to know about any Elder Scrolls title is here. Lore, maps, stories, walkthroughs, patch notes, modding advice. It is all here.
NifTools – this open source project lets you create and import art and animations for Oblivion (and Morrowind).
Planet Elder Scrolls is a great resource for downloading mods and getting a feel for what other modders are doing. There are other sites out there that host mods too that are out there, too. See more on our Fan Site links.
The Oblivion Mods forum on the Bethesda Game Studios forums. This is the heart of the community and a must visit for any modder.
By no means is this the definitive list, but here are some places where you can start. Good luck.