Elder Scrolls Modding Interview: Sulteric Drums

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This week we have a new modding interview with Sulteric Drums from our forums.

How did you first get involved with modding for Oblivion?
It all started when I was looking for companion mods. The available companions were good but they weren’t exactly what I was looking for. There was no real interaction with the female companions other than just commands. I missed the glory days of Baldur’s Gate II — Shadows of Amn, when I could romance an NPC and even flirt with them. After reading the tutorials on the Wiki site, I thought it would be easy. I had no idea what I was in for!  I started planning a “Flirt” mod but I soon realized how difficult it would be to hook it into existing companions. I poked around, got permission to use an existing companion (thanks to Jumonji and The Priest) as my base and I took it from there.  Three companions later and here we are.

What attracted you to making Companion mods?
The biggest reason is because a lot of us older players feel abandoned. We liked what BG2 did and the gaming industry simply gave up on it. Many of us were saddened by this. Why not release an appropriately rated add-on to the game? It seems that a huge gap exists in RPGs in the romance department. It was done so well so many years ago, why give up on it when it adds so much to the game? I resolved to change all this.

I wanted company in the game and I guess I wasn’t the only one!  I wanted an intelligent immersive companion. Someone who will follow my orders but will also talk to me once a day. I wanted someone I can flirt with, someone who makes comments behind me as we’re traveling or if I’m stealing something. I wanted immersion and that really means someone to experience things with. These companions tried to satisfy all that.

How does companion modding differ from other modding forms?
Companions are easily the most unappreciated of the mod categories. Companion mods in general could not have been brought to this point without the hard work of Blackie, Simyaz, Jumonji, ThePriest, Rsdnt-Evl, Deepfreeze, Montana and many others that came before me. They did the hardest work, I simply took what was there and gave it life, so to speak. It really is a group effort and some of us do share code when one of us gets stuck. The complexity of the AI is sheer insanity and there are a lot of weird glitches you need to be aware of.  It took well over a year to get  the AI engine truly perfected with a great deal of work by Shavn1985 with Viconia and Deepfreeze with Viconia — Return to the Underdark. In fact, it’s still a work in progress. Once a feature is done or a bug fixed I port it all backwards to the previous companions as time permits.

You do a lot of voice work yourself, was that from necessity? Or something you enjoy?
That was true with Stoker Wolff but not with the others. Saerileth was voiced by the original modder who did Saerileth for Baldur’s Gate II. She gave me permission to use her voice files and to do the port. It is not an exact port but I made it so the player would have the ultimate adoring fan, a very cute woman who is instantly infatuated with the player and isn’t bad in a fight. Viconia Chapter One was voiced by Grey DeLisle, the original voice actress for Viconia DeVir in BG2. It took me months to get permission and just tracking down who to ask took weeks in itself.

I recently released the second part of Viconia DeVir — Return to the Underdark and I found some of the best voice actors ever. This is a quest through The Underdark mod done by Aoikani and his team. That mod is huge and it’s still expanding. Since this new extension of Viconia was all original I had to find a voice actress and Greenwarden stepped up the plate. She did an absolutely amazing job. The first time I got lines back from her I literally fell out of my chair. Others did a lot of work as well;  Old Book and Rav Winston are top notch. They helped me write  the Monty Python and the Amulet of Kings skit, which is stage 57 in Return to the Underdark. They did all the voicing for those two. Rav also voices Viconia’s brother, Valas, and will be voicing Drizz’t Do’Urden in an upcoming mod. WhoGuru did a great job on Lolth and Old Book’s wife does all of my Drow Matrons. PurpleGandalf did a great job as Lolth’s handmaiden. I love the English accent! My wife did the High Priestess of Shar. If you ever watched Hogan’s Heroes you will appreciate it.

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I voiced Stoker Wolff myself because it was easier that way and allowed me to place a bit of myself into the game. Stoker Wolff was released after many requests by the ladies to do so and I obliged. It is my real voice.  I also voiced the Drow who appears in that by pitch shifting my voice. As a bit of trivia, I voiced Lolth in Viconia’s first mod as well. I probably could have gotten someone to do it but for the sake of time I did it myself.

My current mod, The Vampire Hunter, is the same crew as Return to the Underdark. Viconia will make a cameo appearance. As usual I will be voicing Stoker again. My wife will voice a Succubus in this mod and we had a lot of fun doing the work. My friend and voice actor Stephen Leazer does many of the Duergar voicing. Since I am a musician and recording “artist” I have my own digital studio that allows me to easily do this kind of work. I do not use a desktop microphone, I use a Sure SM-58 through a PreSonus Firepod.

What was the first mod you created?
Saerileth was the first to be released. I worked out a lot of the bugs in the AI engine with that mod and although it was a painful learning experience, it was well worth it. Saerileth was a very controversial mod back in the BG2 days, as people either loved or hated her and I even had someone threaten me online for porting her.  I thought that was rather amusing! Saerileth is based off of the Corean Elf mod, an incredible race mod. After that came Viconia, then Stoker, then Viconia’s second mod.

Which of your companions are you most fond of?
Viconia DeVir is by far my favorite.  I am trying to convince Greenwarden to revoice the first release of her as I would like to combine what is now Chapter One and Two. Because of the use of the old voice files and the way BG2 worked, what is now Chapter One only has the first line of every conversation voiced and I would like to change that. The new resulting mod would be over 140+ stages long and probably way, way over 1,000 voiced lines of dialog. Viconia was always my favorite companion of all time and it simply had to be done. I still get regular endorsements on Chapter One after all this time and she recently made it to #2 in the other companion category on TesNexus. That really is an honor, I cannot say thanks enough to everyone who shares my love for her character.

Artists often put themselves into their work; do you see yourself in your creations?
Stoker Wolff is essentially me in Oblivion. I always play assassin-type characters and he fit the bill. Stoker originally began as a CM Partner by Sunsi. Leomorg did his Crimson Scar armor. She contacted me long ago about doing a version of him using my AI engine and I obliged. He really fits me perfectly. It was another reason I wanted to voice him. I only wish I had made that mod longer but that goes to the next question.

What are your working on currently?
I am currently working on The Vampire Hunter. This mod is the prequel to the events of Viconia DeVir — Return to the Underdark. The Vampire Hunter goes further into explaining how Viconia got to Tamriel from Faerun, which in turn helps explain the connections to the Underdark and how they occurred.  It also delves into the Crimson Scars and their history. Some time ago I was brought on board for quest development for the Underdark and myself and Aoikani tried to be as lore conscious as possible when doing these. We wanted to make sure there were events that explain why The Underdark came to be connected to Tamriel. This and the Viconia mods are there to help explain it.

Viconia DeVir — Return to the Underdark was born to do exactly that. It made sense to bring Viconia back to where she was born and the mod has some earth shattering consequences for the denizens of the Underdark. Now that I am doing this quest development for the Underdark I’ve rearranged my mods so that they fit into what is now The Underdark Saga. What was Viconia Devir Chapter One — Banished, the original mod, is now part one of TUS.  Return to the Underdark is part three of TUS.

The Vampire Hunter is part two of this tale. It brings Stoker Wolff into a full quest setting and fills in many “behind the scenes” plot points regarding Viconia’s quests. There is a full thread for those who want to romance Stoker and another for the rest who  simply want him as a friend and comrade. Playing the mod either way will be pleasing experience. Stoker’s father was a Crimson Scar and there’s a lot of history there that I felt was unexplored.

As of this writing the mod is about 100 stages in length. In the beginning the player has about a month game time to go through the Oblivion standard quests and any other mods while getting all the background on Stoker, his father, and the Crimson Scars.  During this time the party starts getting attacked several times by vampires. There are also some other things to keep the player busy that give hints as to what is really going on. Stoker eventually realizes what has happened and the party go to visit Viconia. Because this is a prequel some players will know more than Stoker does about what’s going on and it actually gives you a unique perspective.  Towards the middle of the mod it is a rapid descent into the Underdark, into the actual second level of it, the Middle Dark. In one part Aoikani designed a point where the player has to cross a tightrope over a lava field with Duergar on one side and Drow on the other. The Underdark is mind blowing stuff and I am honored to give people a reason to trek through it.  Oh, did I mention there’s a Balrog and dragons? Good stuff. The first time I saw a Beholder in Oblivion I just sat there staring at it in amazement while it kicked my butt.

When you’re not modding, how do you like to spend your time?
I’m a Principal Software QA Engineer so I take my mod support very seriously. I started out programming in Assembly language and eventually made my way into QA and have been doing that ever since with a focus on automated testing, both GUI and API level (I love C#!). I have a small farm in central Massachusetts. I am married now fifteen years and have a twelve year old son. I play drums in the metal band Sulteric and write a great deal of the lyrics as well. We are releasing our first CD this fall and have a promoter that is looking to get us into Europe.  I enjoy ATVing, gardening, target shooting, camping, and playing Oblivion, the best RPG on the planet! I most enjoy keeping my six acres of woods Elven. People have said it looks like the Black Forest but that was before the killer ice storm of 12/11/2008. I have a lot of work to do to get it back in shape. Considering everything I have going on it’s amazing I even have time to mod!

Are there any new Sulteric Companions planned in the future?
The fourth part of the Trilogy will feature Viconia as a playable companion and have a highly complex quest featuring Drizz’t Do’Urden.  It will also more importantly feature a post-Lolth Underdark, something that is truly ground breaking in so many ways. Old Book and I have yet to write the full story but we have an outline. This one is going to be my most complex to date by miles. There is so much to work with and I am going to try and contact RA Salvatore to get his blessing on it. He lives two towns away from me.  This is currently on hold for a period of time while I help the Middle Earth Role Playing team out with some quest development.  It was a real honor being selected for this. Thanks for giving companions some spotlight! Here’s some links to check out…

Thanks to Sulteric for the interview. If you know of someone in the community that you’d like to see interviewed, feel free to leave a comment here.

Reader Comments

  1. Companion mods such as yours add something great that was really missing in Oblivion (unless you let Jauffre and Martin follow you around forever XD). I’ll have to check that mod out, by the way, actually live in Massachusetts myself :) .Love the Iron Maiden shirt, up the irons!

  2. An amazing person. He even knows the magic of Assembly Language. Talk about epic cool.

    Thanks for the inspiring read Sulteric Drums. Will have to check out your mods. All that voice acting has me curious :D

  3. Companion modders are among the modders I’m most in awe of because it’s such a difficult thing to pull off. It covers so many disciplines – scripting, quest-writing, dialogue – and creating an NPC with genuine “personality” is a very hard trick to pull off.

    Thank you for sharing all your hard work with us, and for giving us such complex and innovative additions to our games.