This week we’re talking with Sage_Rime. His mod project, Mountain Tower, has over 100,000 downloads to date…impressive!
How were you introduced to the modding community for the Elder Scrolls?
It was the time of Morrowind Game of the Year edition, and I found my way to the forums as I was looking for mods for the game. Originally I heard about Morrowind mods back at the Infinity Engine modding community Spellhold Studios, then called Forgotten Wars.
I lurked around for some months, mostly checking out the links to mod sites. I finally registered in March ’05 and have been here ever since. While I didn’t do any public modding for Morrowind, I had an enjoyable time playing the mods of people like AlienSlof and many others.
I also remember the time waiting for Oblivion’s release as being very interesting. All the enthusiasm and speculation about the game was something I hadn’t experienced before.
You’ve done a lot more modding for Oblivion than Morrowind. How do you feel modding for these two games differ? Are similar?
I’m looking at this from my point of view, which is basically using the Construction Set and Photoshop along with a couple of tools like NifSkope to do my daily modding. So, while I only did personal mods (i.e. never released) for Morrowind, I feel like the moddability of both games is pretty similar, although Oblivion would get the upper hand in my opinion if we looked at the scene today.
What would you say your modding strengths and weaknesses are?
My greatest strengths in modding are plain stubbornness and perfectionism. If I start a project so that I have actually started building an .esp file and linking meshes and textures, I’ll finish it no matter what it takes. If it doesn’t work, I’ll make it work even if I have to learn something I’ve never even tried before. Perfectionism is good when I’m modding because it keeps my mods bug-free and polished, thus providing functional, easy-to-use and easy-on-the-eyes mods (in case of visual mods).
The drawback of being a perfectionist is that it can take me a lot longer to finish any projects, and there’s always the chance I’ll get fed up with constant modifications to the mod and simply take a few months off (much to the annoyance of everyone who wants the mod I’m sure). To give you an actual example of this; I once worked on one set of textures for 10 hours in one day and in succession. Anyone can see how being that much of a perfectionist can be a weakness.
Recently you put the final touches on your Mountain Tower mod after two years. What made you finally say, this is as good as it’s going to get?
Well, as you said, I had been working on Mountain Tower for over two years by the time I was finishing up on version 6.0. This time around I was finally able to include things that I felt the mod was missing all along — an alchemical ingredient sorter system with full support for both vanilla Oblivion and Shivering Isles ingredients. Thanks go out to WillieSea for the excellent custom jars for the SI ingredients.
I also got around making custom textures for the rest of the tower so that I was happy with the quality and material properties of the textures. I believe the tower is around 90% custom textured now, so anything more probably wouldn’t be too visible at any rate. Other new features like Auto Book-Sorter were added, which made the mod almost complete in my eyes. This is keeping in mind that I originally started the mod to create a home for my mage character (the official Wizard’s Tower DLC wasn’t out at the time).
The final touches to bring perfection to the mod in my eyes were adding in the numerous modders resources shared by many community members. I had been collecting these for months in preparation for this final stage of the mod, so when I was finished implementing them to the mod and otherwise done with the tower structure and furnishing, I was finally content with the mod. It now has everything I ever wanted or needed it to have to be a fully functional mages abode.
Would you say it’s your most complete project?
Without a doubt. It’s not only my largest project, but also the most complete in terms of features and playable content. Of course, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise considering how long the mod has been in the making.
What projects are you currently still working on?
Ah, let’s see… there are couple of personal projects I’m still working on for Oblivion. The one that’s probably worth mentioning here is my Mage Gear Mix which adds several sets of robes, shoes, staves and that sort of equipment to the game for my character.
Otherwise I’m pretty much done with everything related to Oblivion modding. My only regret is that I didn’t get around starting my Skyrim Weapons Add-On for my Skyrim Armory mod. Or at least I didn’t get it past the planning stage. If I had, I probably would have finished it, but it’s only too easy to freeze a project if it’s not in actual development yet.
You worked on StarX’s Vanilla Vampires Revised with StarX. How was that?
It was nice collaborating with another modder on a project as large as Vanilla Vampires Revised. I always felt like the vanilla vampires weren’t up to the grade, so I was following StarX’s progress in the WIP threads. Eventually I sent him a PM and asked if I could help with anything, and we came to the decision that I would make two sets of heavy armors for the vampire houses.
I was developing Skyrim Armory at that time as well, so I was all too happy to make some more armor sets on the side. I had had practice with making new armor sets before this, so the ones commissioned by StarX turned out well in my opinion and his, and even on schedule if my memory doesn’t fail me.
Are you modding other games at this time. How long do you envision yourself working on Oblivion?
I’m not modding any games currently, but I’m considering the possibility of returning to mod for Fallout 3 should it become feasible.
I ended my active modding career for Oblivion with Mountain Tower’s 6.0 release on September 14th, so apart from some private projects it’s unlikely that I release any more mods for Oblivion. Although… never say never, as the saying goes.
All in all, I was happy to mod for Oblivion from the beginning and I really want to thank the community for all their support and interest during these years.
And the $64,000 question. If you worked at Bethesda and could pitch your brilliant idea, what would it be?
My idea would be to keep adding community-requested features to TES games, such as ingredient sorters for player housing, the sort of things that have only been done by modders so far.
Who knows what sort of fantastic new mods modders could bring to bear, if they didn’t have to remake mods for each installation in the series?
Anything else interesting you’d like to share?
I started playing computer RPGs in 2000 when Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn was released, and I’ve played almost every major computer RPG since; including Morrowind & Oblivion + expansions. I dabble in other game genres too, such as RTS, but RPGs have always been my cup of tea.
After starting off with the Baldur’s Gate series I naturally moved on to other similar isometric Infinity Engine RPGs: The Icewind Dale series and Planescape: Torment. If I had to pick a favorite game engine, I’d pick Infinity Engine despite its age and technical limitations.
Other CRPGs I’ve played along the years are the Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic and Fallout series in their entirety. I’m also looking forward to Bethesda’s take on Fallout later this year, and the Neverwinter Nights 2 expansion Storm of Zehir by Obsidian Entertainment.
Naturally I’ve played much more than these games, but I don’t think we have enough room for all of them in this interview, so I end this by giving a special mention to Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, developed by the now-defunct Troika Games.
I’m currently playing the recently PC-ported version of Mass Effect.