This week we’re talking with John Gray, otherwise known in the BGS forums as Spartan VI. John is a 21-year-old from Walnut, CA. For a living, he does item processing and tech support for Western Corporate FCU. I was going to ask John a bunch of questions about credit unions, but figured that wouldn’t be too interesting for you guys — so we’re talking about his mod work instead. Speaking of which, John has been working on mods for a large portion of his life — dating back to when he was modding Doom.
What got you started in modding games? Do you mod games outside of the Elder Scrolls universe?
I modded almost whenever the tools were available to the public. DOOM was probably the first game that I REALLY got into and the level editor just made me enjoy the game that much more. I’d really like to take this opportunity to encourage developers to continue to include modding tools. I made WADs (maps) for DOOM/DOOM II when I was a kid, made an entire multiplayer campaign for StarCraft and Age of Empires II, and I’ve done some statistics tweaking and retextures for Rome and Medieval 2: Total War. It wasn’t until Oblivion when I started sharing my work with the community, and it was Oblivion’s community that drove me to improve.
Of the work you’ve done, what are you most proud of?
I’m actually mostly embarrassed. Most of my mods either piggyback on other modder’s content or heavily rely on their content. However, I definitely like to share my Diverse City Guards mod with people. I thought it was original, something I hadn’t seen done before, and it took a helluva long time to modify Ghogiel’s armors, import them into the CS, then modify every guard NPC so they’re all unique statistically and visually. I actually enjoyed making it more than playing with it.
You mentioned to me that Diverse City Guards is probably your most complete mod you’ve worked on. Can you briefly summarize the process you went through to make this mod.
Diverse City Guards wasn’t a planned project at all. I had such a large collection of weapons and armor modifications and 90% of the time, I’d never see the content used in game. So I decided I’d start giving the NPC’s some of the content. Then the moment I modded a guard I realized the scope of my mission. I didn’t want to give the guards crazy exotic, shiny, flaming armors, so I chose pieces that I thought would fit and I think all of them were Ghogiel’s armors (except for a helmet from Cryo). Took some time to retexture Ghogiel’s armor to fit the social status of each town then balanced each guard. Poured a couple weeks into the project and modded almost every guard NPC.
What do you find to be me the most difficult aspect of modding?
Modeling. I’m terrible at it. Take my Spartan Armor for instance, if you take a close look at the helmet, you’ll find out that it’s actually the vanilla Lich helmet that warped around in Blender. The nose piece? It’s actually the vanilla Legion Guard’s helmet, I just made the rest of the armor transparent. I had to work around so many obstacles simply because I’m not skilled in modeling. Modders like Jcarl, Ghogiel, and such would breeze right through such things. You could almost see the scotch tape in my hack jobs! But modeling, texture mapping, texturing, and finally importing the work into CS was always hit or miss for me.
Beyond the Elder Scrolls and its lore, what other works are inspirational to your mod projects?
European history, probably. I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Rome and Greece, although I can’t pretend to be an expert.
How many projects would you say you’ve worked on?
About five, I think. I did a small mod, Helmet of Gaia, to add to Sinblood’s Armors of Gaia. Also did two versions of the Spartan Armor. Then there’s my puny Arrow Velocity Mod, which wasn’t a new concept, but I figured I’d do it myself and also include Shivering Isle’s arrows. And I played a very small role in Cryo’s Ordinator Armor, I simply retextured vanilla Legion gauntlets using Cryo’s textures. I also lent a hand in texturing the Spartan King’s armor in the 300 modification.
What projects are you currently working on?
None, at the moment. Last week, I started working on my Spartan Armor again to include a female version, but the CS crashed when I tried to render the armor. So I got mad and went to sleep.
What mods do you use that other members of the community have made?
I use about 80 and most are outdated, but here we go!
Martigen’s Monster Mod w/Francesco’s Leveled Creatures/Items
JaySuS Vampire Mod by JaySuS
Toaster Says Share by Talkie Toaster
Beautiful People by Midnight Voyage
Expanded Hotkeys by Scruggs
Leviathan Soul Gems by Earrindo
Realswords Argonian by waalx
Crowded Cities by bkwrym13
Bartholm by JSera
Epic Dark Brotherhood
Dude, Where’s My Horse? by Scruggs
…just to name a few
Are there any mods that make you wonder, “Why wasn’t this in the game in the first place?”
Arrow velocity! I mean, they have a speed settings in the CS, but they’re all the same (1.00). It’s like they forgot to make better arrows more accurate and faster. Then keychains, horse locater, and companion recruiting are all things that I’d almost expect now. I use them so often, I can’t imagine playing Oblivion without these essentials.
If you could only play one game for the rest of your life, what would it be? Rome: Total War, played the game for over two years. Can’t get tired of it.
Can you pitch to me your ultimate game idea?
It would be an Elder Scrolls game. I’d like a blend of Morrowind’s complexity (bring back medium armor and all the weapon classes), Oblivion’s gameplay, and more RPG elements (think Fable). I’d like to see a dynamic PC development system that adds more depth to the player’s character. For instance, a primarily melee combat character would get bulky, accumulate battle scars quickly, and be able to break/hurl objects otherwise impossible for less strength oriented PC’s. A ranged/stealth character would be slender and athletic looking. A magicka hurling character, anything in between but could also have some sort of aura (perhaps glowing eyes, hands, hair, whatever). This should also all be in the PC’s control to some degree so that the player doesn’t take on physical traits that they feel is unfavorable. An aging system would be present; no longer does your PC stay 18 forever. I’d also like to see the PC finally begin to talk and be more included in the plot. There was always something missing in Morrowind and Oblivion where I never quite felt like I was a part of the story, yet I was there. Almost like the story was happening to you, instead of you interacting with it. There PC’s shouldn’t act as a proxy, we need more of an attachment to our player characters to increase immersion. Lastly, I’d make the entire Elder Scrolls world available; go to Hammerfell, Vvardenfell, Skyrim, Tamriel, etc. The game would be huge and nearly impossible to finish!