This week we’re checking in with Sam Mangham, otherwise known as TheTalkieToaster within our forums. Sam is a 21-year-old student at the University of Bath in, where else, Bath, England. When he’s not modding or studying Physics and Chemistry, he spends his time walking, seeing movies, and baking cakes.
How did you first get involved in the Bethesda game modding community?
I originally bought Morrowind on Xbox, but after taking a quick look at the community online I was amazed by the volume and quality of mods people had made so I quickly traded it in for the PC version. I first started using the CS to alter a couple of mods to play nicely, and then when Oblivion came out I decided I’d try and make a few of the mods from Morrowind I couldn’t live without.
Do you remember what the first project you worked on was?
My first mod was Companion Share & Recruit. It was based on CM Partners, one of my favorite Morrowind mods, which added recruitable NPCs in towns who could adventure along with you (or use as meatshields, as I had a flimsy Altmer mage). I thought I’d remake it for Oblivion, but on checking the wiki I spotted AddScriptPackage, and was amazed that you could potentially get *anyone* to follow you. So I made Companion Share & Recruit, and then decided to see what else there was to play with.
Telekinetic Mastery is a pretty impressive mod. What inspired you to create it?
It was another one inspired by a single script function. When the 1.2 patch came out, the PushActorAway function was added (the one that lets the Gatekeeper push people around). I figured I’d just try every possible combination of uses of it I could think of, and it turned out to be really fun (if quite imbalanced), especially with some snazzy graphics provided by X Marks The Spot.
Other mods you’ve worked on, like Adrenaline-Fueled Combat, also focus on combat. Are combat/magic mods among your favorite projects to work on?
Pretty much. I prefer mods which add new possibilities to the game, having a dozen different but equally useful ways to approach a situation makes gameplay a lot more interesting. Adrenaline-Fueled Combat was an attempt to give melee characters the same variety of attacks and effects that spellcasters have. I can’t say whether or not it succeeds, but it was entertaining to make and particularly to design — balancing it gives you an excuse to run all sorts of unusual combats to see if the moves really are useful.
As a modder, what do you think your greatest strength is? Weakness?
Well, I’m not sure if scripting is so much my greatest strength as my only talent :p. My biggest weakness is certainly my tendency to get distracted by new ideas — my Data Folder is littered with half-finished projects that I’ve got to get around to finishing someday but never will. There’s just too many mods that can to be made, if the CS was less useful I’d have a much easier time of things :p.
I’ve noticed that you’ve started modding for Fallout 3? How’s that coming along?
It’s coming along great. The GECK is similar enough to the CS that I’ve pretty much been able to jump in at the deep end. Since they have so many similarities I’ve been able to start messing around with animations and more complex scripts than I started off with in Oblivion.
Have any of the added features in the G.E.C.K. helped you out?
The GECK has added so many useful new features I don’t know where to start (so much so that there’s an entire category on the GECK wiki devoted to them. The perks are a goldmine, and the ability to talk to creatures without a lot of faffing around is very useful. On top of that, the GECK itself is better organized than the CS, and most importantly of all the spell checker seems to work better.
Do you think you’ll be focusing more on Fallout 3 now, or balancing your mod work with the TES CS?
Fallout 3 has so many improvements and new possibilities that it’d be hard to go back to modding Oblivion. With the Fallout Script Extender team getting off to a flying start Fallout 3’s going to be even more entertaining to mod than Oblivion, particularly since I’ve always been more of a sci-fi fan. I’ve still got plenty to wrap up though, but the novelty of modding for Fallout looks like it’s going to take a long, long time to wear off before I start looking back.
For modders just getting started, what the #1 thing you would tell them about modding?
Experiment, try everything, look around. If you’re ever stuck, five minutes scanning the wiki or clicking buttons at random will usually solve it, and if not you’ll probably find something new to play with anyway. Plus, trying to find things out yourself is more useful than asking someone else how to do them, as not only do you end up knowing how to do something, you learn how to find out more in future. If that make sense.
Do you have a fondest memory of modding? Can you share it?
My fondest memory would probably be when I was testing version 3 of Companion Share & Recruit. I started up a new character to check to see if all the functions worked in actual play, headed off to the Shivering Isles and then didn’t do any more modding for two weeks, as I adventured around in there with a party of assorted loons. I was really pleased that I’d managed to make something I’d gotten so into, as I tend to spend much more time modding than playing.
Outside of your own work, what other Elder Scrolls mods do you recommend folks download?
Skycaptain’s Deadly Reflex is a spectacular piece of work, that makes combat much more fast-paced. I’m also a big fan of Hel Borne’s Chitin Armour, which looks great and is just like the original. Scruggs’ Thieves Arsenal is another excellent mod for stealthy characters. It’s pretty fun to use them all together to play as a Morag-Tong-esque swift assassin.
What other games are you playing these days?
I’ve picked up Fable II and Crysis Warhead recently, but I spend too much time playing various Command and Conquer games old and new, with my housemates. Nothing’s quite as satisfying as beating someone when you can hear them yelling at their screen next door, although the Soviet’s Hell March track comes a close second. I’m also still playing Left 4 Dead, which is never going to get old.
What are your favourite games of all-time?
Of course, Morrowind has to be one for how fascinating the setting was. Then there’s the classics like Deus Ex and Half Life, but I think Gas Powered Games’ Supreme Commander (and Forged Alliance) are definitely in the running for the incredible scale and the scope for strategy. I can’t wait for Supreme Commander 2.
Have you thought about a career in game development?
I think every gamer wants to be a game developer at some point, it seems like a dream job. That said I’ve never really thought that seriously about it — I don’t consider modding so much playing at games developer as an adult version of building things out of Lego.