This week’s Elder Scrolls mod interview is with Trollf — a humble modder whose projects I discovered a couple of weeks ago. Trollf lives on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea and thinks he’s around 32 years old, but he’s not sure since he doesn’t remember being born. While Morrowind and Oblivion might not be his favorite games, he’s definitely a fan of modding them.
What are your favorite games of all-time?
First place would be Quake 3. I spent more hours playing Q3 than Morrowind, Oblivion and their expansions combined. From cRPG genre, the game I’m most fond of is Vampire Masquerade: Bloodlines. Even while I had a not-so-decent PC at that time, the game was interesting enough to keep me busy in spite of that. There’s also the Jade Empire, I really had much fun while playing that. As for Morrowind and Oblivion… well, these games are not even in the best five on my list, BUT if you ask me about most favorite game tools, probably Oblivion’s Construction Set would be at the top.
How long have you been modding games for the Elder Scrolls?
Since May 2005. And it was rather a coincidence. I was somehow a purist at the beginning, and when playing Morrowind, I didn’t have any mods installed. Then it started with a house, quite suddenly and unexpectedly I must say. All the original manors, which you can buy in Vvanderfell are in very isolated locations, far away from cities. And I just only wanted some ‘cosy hole’ closer to civilization. I had browsed through many house mods and found only one quite promising and almost suitable in its form for my character. But there was a catch. Well, there’s always a catch.
The lights in that place seemed so intense and colorful that I couldn’t stop thinking about Christmas — even though it was almost the middle of summer. I installed the CS for the first time and that’s how it all started. Instead of changing those lights I started everything from scratch. After few weeks working on my first TES mod, Mysterious Manor, you could see the the lack of light in the night. I think it was quite a specific house at that time — with scaffoldings inside, many sources of lights you can turn on/off, and some movable elements (animated via scripts) — like secret wardrobe or lamp which hangs from the ceiling.
What mods that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?
I’m not proud of any of my mods. I know that they could be done even better but I was either too lazy or too bored to do that. It’s a hobby after all, so there’s not any pressure here. I’m just glad that I was able to finish something at all. And while I create mods only for myself (though almost never use some of them later, silly me…), when I see people’s comments about my creations, votes and download counters, then I think that it was somehow worth to release all that junk…
Anyway I’m most content with Loading Screens Themed Replacer so far. Definitely. Utterly. It’s somehow a compendium of mods which I have created, other people’s mods that I used and screenshots I have made. All these things are shown there. And it’s one of these few mods that run better on low-end PCs than decent hi-tech machines. The slower PC you have here, the better.
And there’s Actors In Charge of course. Currently my most downloaded mod. Sometimes I think that if I would like to make another such popular mod, I would have to take this one down from any download site first.
And how could I forget about Armamentarium! Over a year ago I thought that Blender was like some kind of toothpaste — don’t ask me about any details her. Now I know a little bit more. It definitely is not distributed in tubes. Well, forget that. Armamentarium is a little display of my mere Blender skills since my previous mod, Farmers Strike Back! And I still learn something new with each passing month. Maybe that’s why I’m working on second part of this almost never-ending story…
Do you have any projects that you hoped to complete, but were unable to for any reason?
The most serious obstacle is the lack of time. I can ‘sacrifice’ only four or five hours for modding every couple of days. That’s not that much, so when I do something I try to make it quick. And because of this, every mod I’ve created is only about 50% of what I originally planned to make.
I have many ideas every minute. I’m bombarded by them constantly. Sometimes it’s very hard for me to stick to my current projects and not to switch to something else and start with completely new, fresh and ‘brilliant’ idea. I have to make a proper decisions almost on daily basis if I want to finish any of my existing mods that I’m working on. I just try to ‘convert’ some of those ideas from separate beings to extensions and additions to my current works. Focus is the most important here and the voices inside my head are not that much helpful in keeping me sane. Unfathomed Tower is the clear example of this. That was an entry for Oblivion’s Real Estate Open Homes Challenge. And actually I had no intentions to make something like this. I just wanted to make a camp — a strange camp in fact, where a bedroll, a tent, a fireplace and some sacks are placed on a flat rock, and all of these can be lifted by some mechanism above treetops in the forest. After an hour or two, I noticed that I actually was retexturing one of Oblivion’s towers instead of making such a camp.
We talked about Hunter’s Performance Review on the blog last week. Did you “get” my Commando reference?
Predator comes to my mind instead of Commando when I try to think of this in such way. Anyway nothing beats the Bloodiest Movie Ever
What’s your favorite animation that a character can perform with your mods Actors in Charge and Actors in Madness?
I don’t have any favourites from AiC. Maybe that’s because most of animations there are quite common like walking, running, swimming or fighting. But if I have to chose then Spriggan’s or Lich’s animations seem to be quite original.
As for the AiM, well, I don’t remember many animations from it. Really. I had Shivering Isles official expansion installed for two or three weeks only after its release. I just finished its main plot without any of miscellaneous quests and created two useful ‘tools’ for other people to enjoy. Those were Forecaster’s Will and Actors In Madness. Apart from quick beta-testing, I have neither installed nor used AiM since then. That’s because I still create my mods messing with the first version of Construction Set.
Outside of your work, what are your favorite TES mods?
Let’s start with Morrowind first. That was quite a bit ago and I was playing the game with not so many mods active for a short time, but still I remember a few that seem to be quite unique and exceptional to me.
Carnithus’ Armamentarium definitely FTW if you think about the stuff for “not that good” characters. While some of my characters were vampires all of them always were dragged mindlessly to that fine and extraordinary place. Just like moths fly to the light. I would love to see this one ported to Oblivion!
I also enjoyed Balmora Expansion much, as it made the city at least twice the original size with plenty of new shops, houses and public places. Not to mention it added a bunch of other items like weapons, armors and other junk. Great!
Then there’s Solstheim Castle, which I remember from screenshots. It could be one of my favorities too. Well, actually it is. Though I never had a chance to see it in the game. Oh, those colors, lights, arrangements and details! Feast for the eyes, music for the ears.
And Oblivion…if I was a player of the game (and I just don’t play Oblivion much), there would be a great chance that I would pick the FCOM project as this one combines a few of the biggest fishes on the market into one sardine tin. Mmmm, tasty. And those big fishes are: Francesco’s Items and Creatures mod, War Cry, Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul and Martigen’s Monsters Mod.
Anyway I prefer all mods that increase visual aspects of the game like Natural Environments, Beaming Sunglare, Qarl’s Texture Pack III, etc. If you want to know more about such kind of mods just check TOTO page. I really don’t care about game’s performance here because I spend far more time taking screenshots for my gallery and modding the game than actually playing it
Besides, one of my mods, Loading Screens Themed Replacer is kinda tribute-like to other modders and their mods that I used. It comes with ReadMe file in HTML format with the links to all mods which are shown there. It might be a list of my favourite mods as well.
If someone was looking to start modding our games, what advice would you give them?
Modding is all about practice.
First and foremost, you must know exactly what you want to do. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can be helpful. Maybe you had some programming experience in the past thus writing scripts and dialogue will be quite interesting for you? Do you have any experience with any 3D modeling applications and maybe you want to port some of your models to Oblivion? Are you familiar with textures? Photoshop? Or just messing with everything in Construction Set is enough to make you happy? Do you want to make a home? A dungeon? A town? An isle? A quest? New weapon or armor maybe? And so on…
Knowing what mods have been made by other modders is also a good thing. It somehow shows what the game’s engine is capable of and what possibilities have been discovered so far. It doesn’t really matter whether you start with small or big project first and whether you finish it or not. The most important thing at the beginning is to gain some experience. The more familiar you are with the tools you need to turn your idea into something more tangible, the better.
Reading many tutorials and asking other people how exactly your next mod should look like won’t make you any wiser. But having your own plan and following/adapting tutorials related in one way or another to your project… well, that’s a good start.
Anyway, most of things you would like to know about modding of TES games (but don’t be afraid to ask) are on CSWiki site. That’s the best place to start if you have any questions. And don’t forget about official TES forums where people are really helpful and know everything about modding. Good luck and have fun doing this — otherwise it won’t be worth the hustle.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share some “top secret info” on?
I have three projects in progress right now. The first one is an add-on for my Loading Screens Themed Replacer with an additional 280 loading screens and with quotes from The Imperial Library — thus it will be quite lore-friendly. And it’s almost completed but I must find a muse to finish it.
The next one is for Unique Landscapes Project. I’m working on surroundings for the Panther River. In fact everything I do will be some kind of improvement in comparison to original landscape there. That’s because Panther River and its banks in unmodded game are almost empty. Anyway, I set my standards quite high for this one. Not much to show yet as I started it not so long ago, but here is one screen, and here’s another [also shown above].
The last one is the second incarnation of my Armamentarium mod. There will be many more weapons, some clothes, armours and other types of junk (free samples here). These three projects probably will keep me busy for a couple of months.
Do you see modding only as a hobby or would you like to get involved in game development?
Modding is like a hobby for me. Nothing more, nothing less. And participating in game development is another matter. In fact, I never thought seriously about this. But if there will be ever a chance and/or lucrative (in one way or another) opportunity to do something like that, then who knows? I always wanted to design a quest where player will have to dig his own grave during a violent thunderstorm… is that weird enough to became a part of any game development team???
Imagine we’ve just provided you with unlimited tools for the CS, what would be your dream mod project?
Well, I don’t know. It probably won’t make any difference to me. Having even the best tools doesn’t make you a great artist right away. I’m rather like a “Jack of All Trades ” and master of none. I’ve made a couple of various mods, some of these got quite popular to my surprise, but if I would be in need of such ‘ultimate tools’ then it possibly mean that I want to make something ‘big’. And creating great things requires some time. In fact a lot of it. And I don’t think that I want to spend more hours on modding TES games than at present. So if I could I will definitely pass such ultimate tools to TES Community. There’s no better option than that :)!
Actually there’s only one thing in the Construction Set I’d like — an “instant preview” mode. Just press the button and after few seconds you’re in game in the same cell you have active in CS. It could speed up all testing quite a lot. Running both CS and the game open at the same time is not an option here because it isn’t rather stable and hangs my system quite often. Many times I spend more minutes watching how CS and game load than actually making something. And that is possibly why I created my Loading Screens Themed Replacer mod.