Welcome back for another modding interview. This week we journey to Auckland, New Zealand to meet Mark Hanna (aka Cipscis). Mark is currently a university student (studying Biomedical Enginneering), and when he’s not studying, he enjoys Taekwon-Do, which he took up at age 10.
On to the interview…
What originally brought you to our forums?
I bought Oblivion in mid 2007, which lead me to occasionally browse the Elder Scrolls homepage. I’d never been part of an online community before, but eventually I became curious enough to click on the “Forums” link. I actually managed to spend about a week on the forums without even knowing that mods for Oblivion existed, but once I found the Oblivion mods forum I quickly moved my attention there. I was (and still am) impressed with the community on the BGS forums, which is the main reason why I’m still around two years later. I see now that I was very lucky that my first encounter with an online community was with one as great as what we have here.
What’s the backstory of your forum name?
I’ve been practicing Taekwon-Do with my younger brother for the last 10 years, and it’s a very big part of my life. My forum name, “Cipscis”, is an acronym of the five tenets of Taekwon-Do:
- Self Control
- Indomitable Spirit
How did you get started modding, and can you talk about your first project?
My first foray into the field of modding was a result of some discussion in one of the earlier editions of “Delte’s thread of immersion mods” in the Oblivion mods forum. There had been some discussion of a mod called Real Hunger, which was quite old but had been updated every now and again by various modders. One reader of Delte’s thread, CptJoker, added grumbling sounds to the text-based hunger notifications, and after that I decided that I would try to update the mod so that the alchemical properties of the foods that it affected weren’t changed. Some time later, I managed to put together the “Original Alchemy Edition” of Real Hunger, and I spent the next few months fixing all of the bugs that I’d introduced.
I found that making changes to an existing plugin as opposed to creating one from scratch helped to soften the learning curve a bit, especially since Real Hunger was simple enough for me to follow everything that had been done by the original author. Since my input, Real Hunger has passed into the hands of the very capable Wrye, and I don’t believe it’s been updated since he worked on it.
Aside from Fallout 3, what other games do you mod?
None at the moment. I did a little modding for Oblivion in 2008, but my Oblivion DVD was inside my laptop when it was stolen in September of that year so I’ve done nothing for Oblivion since then. The only mod that I created from scratch for Oblivion was a rather obscure plugin called Corpse Equip, which caused dead NPCs to equip items placed in their inventory so that the player wouldn’t be obliged to leave them lying around naked.
On both your site and The G.E.C.K., you’ve provided some helpful scripting tips. Would you say that’s one of your strengths?
Absolutely. During my time in the Oblivion and Fallout 3 modding communities, I’ve seen many situations in which people felt limited by their lack of familiarity with the scripting language. I wrote my scripting tips and tutorials on both the GECK wiki and my website with the intention of making the scripting language more available to modders who don’t necessarily specialise in scripting.
For those unfamiliar with your CASM mod, can you explain it?
When I was active in the Oblivion modding community, I saw that the most common and useful advice was “save often, and on separate saves.” However, in order to do this in Fallout 3 you have to go through a couple of menus, which breaks the flow of the game and is easy to forget to do. If you rely on autosaves and quicksaves, however, you might find yourself without a decent save to fall back on if you make a mistake. CASM, or Cipscis’ Automatic Save Manager, helps to make saving quick and easy by replacing the regular autosave and quicksave system with one that uses a series of saves.
CASM has many options, so you can set it up however you like (or just leave it to use the default settings), and it allows separate profiles to be selected for separate characters so that saves from different characters won’t over-write one another. You can basically install and set up CASM and then forget about it, and you’ll never need to worry about saving again.
How useful do you find The G.E.C.K wiki?
Being predominantly a scripter, I mostly use the GECK wiki for its function documentation. I pretty much always have one page on the GECK wiki open so that I can quickly search for information on a function, whether I’m writing a script of my own or helping someone else with one. I probably use the GECK wiki more than I use the GECK itself.
Of all your projects, what are you most proud of?
Definitely my website, cipscis.com. While I’ve certainly enjoyed all of the mods that I’ve worked on, most of my work in the modding community has involved helping others overcome scripting obstacles in their projects as opposed to working on my own. Having my own website has given me an opportunity to host all the scripting tutorials that I write, and really helps my aim of making Fallout 3’s scripting language a more accessible tool.
In particular, my Scripting for Beginners tutorial is something that I’m very pleased with, and as far as I know it is the only general-purpose scripting tutorial available that is specific to Fallout 3. My web-based Script Validator has also been quite successful, and I’ve found it very useful myself.
What projects are currently consuming your time?
I’m recently helped the FOOK team’s senior FX artist, Wei Jie Sen, with a new project called EVE. EVE is short for Energy Visuals Enhanced, and as the name suggests it overhauls the visual appearance of Fallout 3’s energy weapons by adding things like new muzzle flashes and critical deaths. I’ve been helping Wei Jie Sen with the scripting for the new critical deaths that EVE adds to Fallout 3, most of which use the script structure that I’ve described in my Staged Timers tutorial.
One of the most exciting things about EVE is that there is no longer just one critical death per weapon type. EVE includes no less than 12 new critical deaths for plasma and laser weapons, which are selected at random for each death, and more will probably be added in the future. Here’s a series of screenshots of one of the new critical deaths, in which the target explodes into a bunch of radioactive plasma bubbles:
Aside from that, I’m also currently developing the concept for a quest mod that I’d like to work on, and I’ve got a few more things in mind for my website.
Can you name a few of the mods you’ve currently got installed?
Most of my currently installed mods are plugins that I’ve created for personal use but haven’t got up to my standard for release, such as a port of my Corpse Equip Oblivion mod. Aside from that, I’m currently enjoying FOOK, Fellout and Enhanced Weather.
What other games are you currently playing/modding?
I’m currently playing BioShock for the PS3, and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for PSP.
If you could implement one feature into the G.E.C.K. or TES CS, what would it be?
It’s tough to settle on one thing, but if I had to choose I’d probably go for a script syntax highlighter. At the moment I do pretty much all of my modding in Notepad++, because I’ve written a custom syntax highlighter for it, but being able to do everything in the same program would be quite helpful. Right now scripts can be pretty difficult to read in the GECK and the TES CS.