Welcome back to another Elder Scrolls Mod Interview. This week we’re chatting with Morrowind modder Vality. Hailing from Lower Hutt, New Zealand, Vality is currently in school with aspirations of working as a Network Technician/Administrator. When he’s not modding, he spends his time drawing, writing, listening to and playing music, driving, biking, hiking and camping. Wow, sounds like he’s got a lot of time for fun stuff.
How did you get started modding games?
I’ve always loved the idea of being able to change a game to make it what you want, so I’ve modded almost every game I’ve ever played that has allowed it. I wish every game came with an editor.
When I was younger, I toyed with simple programming languages like Qbasic trying to make my own games. The first game that I ever seriously modded was Blood, then I moved on to Duke 3D and a few other games based on the Build engine, then the Quake engine after that. Another tool I spent a lot of time with was RPG Maker, making Final Fantasy style games.
All the modding I’ve ever done has been experimental, doing a bit of everything, learning new techniques and skills, and as many aspects of modding and game design as I can. It has all been great practice for what I do now, and I’m still learning new things every day.
These days I don’t play as many games as I used to, I mainly just like to mod. I bought a new PC last year so I could start modding newer games, like Crysis for example. It’s great having new engines to work with, though I’ve yet to find one that I enjoy as much as Morrowind.
Between Morrowind and Oblivion, which do you prefer to mod?
I haven’t done much modding for Oblivion yet. The things that interest me most about Oblivion are its newer graphics features that aren’t available in Morrowind, so I am interested in doing some mods for it one day.
I will probably always prefer to mod Morrowind, I guess the best way to put it is that with Morrowind, and the Morrowind Construction Set, to me it feels more like home. I got Oblivion the day it was released, and I have enjoyed the game a lot, but in a way, Oblivion to me always felt kind of like a place you go on holiday, and you see lots of beautiful sites and pretty things — it never felt like a replacement for Morrowind.
What stands out the most to you in terms of how community modding has changed between Morrowind and Oblivion?
While I have been following the Oblivion mod community since day one, I haven’t had that much of a part in it. I guess the first thing is that with the newer graphics and capabilities of the engine, it opens up a whole new area of modding that couldn’t be done with Morrowind. You also have a lot of new lore, and a lot more new ideas that never would have been thought to be done before. Oblivion has definitely inspired a lot of Morrowind mods since its release, so Morrowind modding has changed in that sense.
I would say the biggest and most obvious difference is the number of people that are involved in the Oblivion community compared to the Morrowind community. I guess that’s mostly a positive thing, as there are lots more people to come up with new ideas, more people to help you make your mods, and to help expand ideas and give feedback. However, despite the numbers difference, I don’t think the quality of modding or modders is any different, there are still a lot of mods coming out for Morrowind that to this day still impress people.
Some of the environments you’ve created in your modding are pretty stunning. Which mods would you recommend that folks download?
I’m always working to improve upon and bring a new look to the environments of Morrowind, I’ve made a few mods which can be found at my website.
My favourite mod of my own at the moment is definitely my new grass resource. It’s coming out soon, both as a resource, as well as a mod which will place grass all over Morrowind, thanks to a program that is being worked on by Yacoby. The grass will be placed automatically, and will cover most of Vvardenfell except for the Ashland type regions. I’ve put up some screenshots and videos showing my progress here.
My other favourite mods are probably my tree mods, which add speedtree-like trees to the regions of the Bitter Coast and Ascadian Isles. They fill in the gaps and bring a lot more density and detail to the environments. I would never play without them.
Two really great pieces of work that I recommend people should check out, first of all Morrowind Graphics Extender, by Timeslip. It’s not exactly a mod, it’s a program, and it adds so much to the game graphics-wise, its features include infinite view distance, bloom/HDR shaders, as well as a lot of of other options for improving Morrowind graphically.
My other recommendation would be to check out Connary’s texture mods. He’s made some really great texture replacers for Morrowind, and always continues to impress with every release, and he has more coming – they stick to the look and tone of Morrowind’s original textures, so for me they’re a must-have.
Elder Scrolls universe aside, what else inspires you when coming up with new environments for the game?
There are a few games that I’ve played recently that inspired me to make my rainforest mods, those being Crysis and Lost: Via Domus. The jungles/forests in those games were so beautiful, that I wanted to see if I could recreate my own dense looking forest in Morrowind. The rainforests near where I live also gave me a little inspiration, even my backyard too I guess. For the most part though, I’ve always looked to Oblivion for inspiration and ideas, a lot of my mods have been attempting to bring a similar dense and detailed environment to Morrowind.
What do you enjoy about modding the most?
I love to experiment, that’s what my modding work has always been about. I enjoy learning new things, new modding techniques and skills, trying to do things that haven’t really been done before.
Exterior work is what I spend most of my time on, making beautiful environments, shaping the landscape, and working on terrain and heightmaps. I enjoy texturing, I do a bit of modelling, and I love putting them together and seeing a finished model ingame. I haven’t done much scripting yet, but when I make even a simple script and see it working ingame as I intend it to, that is really a joy to see. One area I’d like to improve upon more than anything is modelling, and perhaps try out animation.
Sharing my work is another part of modding that I enjoy, knowing that other people enjoy it as much as I enjoy making it. Just being involved with the community in general has made modding a lot more enjoyable. Morrowind was the first modding community I ever joined, and it has helped me a lot to improve on my skills in a way that I never would have otherwise, plus I have met a lot of cool people and made some good friends.
Do you see yourself keeping up with modding for years to come? Anything you’d like to start working on?
With modding in general I would say yes, I will probably always be modding some type of game, hopefully one day making my own. With Morrowind modding, I have no idea how long I’ll be around, but having spent so much time with Morrowind, I will no doubt be very interested to see what the game has become in say, 5-10 years time, and I do see it lasting that long, so if I ever disappear I will definitely be back one day.
I have lots of stuff left that I want to do in Morrowind, so for the foreseeable future, I will be modding Morrowind. I’m always coming up with new ideas and leaving my old work unfinished, so I have a lot of stuff yet to be released. Once I release my grass mod, and finish off my tree mods and a few other little mods I’m doing, I’ve been thinking of getting back to Solstheim and giving that a bit of a makeover, as well as perhaps giving the darker regions of Vvardenfell (Ashlands, Molag Amur, Red Mountain, etc.) a makeover also, I’ve already gathered lots of ideas for making them interesting.
I started up a Skyrim mod a few months ago, but kinda gave up on it. I do want to get back into it soon, once I’ve got my other work out the way, so there will likely be a release of some sort in the future, perhaps even just a small portion of it. I’ve learnt so much since I last worked on it, and I have a whole lot of great resources and ideas for it that I don’t want to go to waste, so it may turn out a small mod, but a quality mod.
I’ve also noticed you have an interest in map making. How did that come about?
Through my love of fantasy books I guess, which I used to read a lot of, I’d often look for the ones with cool looking fantasy worlds in the back cover, and that got me interested in drawing and designing worlds of my own, as well as studying atlases of our own world. Once I got a computer, back before the days of Google Earth, I learnt how to download and utilize real world height data taken from satellites to make 3D maps of where I live, which in turn got me interested in making my own heightmaps. One of my first mod releases was a series of 3D map meshes of various provinces of Tamriel, some of which have been put to use in mods. I’ve made several Elder Scrolls related maps — hopefully one of these days I’ll get around to making a full and detailed map of Tamriel and beyond.
Do you have aspirations of becoming a game developer?
Yes, definitely, ever since I started playing games. All my life I’ve either been playing games or modding them, so I’ve always been interested in taking part in making a proper game, and perhaps one day making my own.
Let’s say you landed a job as a producer at Bethesda. What would your dream game be like?
I think my dream game would be a role-playing game, designed around the basis that there is no story, no main quest, nor ending, you simply make your own story as you go in a world detailed enough that would allow such gameplay. It would also be heavily based around true choice and consequence, with consequences that can really have the potential to change the entire game world and have a true lasting effect, and the consequences should all be random too. It would have lots of dialogue, lengthy and realistic conversations that are always different. A huge realistic world scale, with a realistic number of characters, total interactivity with the world, and aging of both yourself and the world, even the ability for the world to learn and evolve in a unique way every time you play. There would be no censorship or limitations on its content, and specifically designed for a mature audience. Maybe a mix of genres, so that it has a bit of everything, but would mostly be a role-playing game at it’s core. I guess, put simply, as realistic and life-like as possible, but set in a fantasy world.