Hailing from Canada, Sarah is a trained jeweler, illustrator, graphic designer, editor, and writer who currently works as a freelance fiction editor and book cover designer. Some of her most popular Morrowind mods include Uvirith’s Legacy, Books of Vvardenfell, and recently The Tea Mod and Uvirith’s Legacy (released after the time of this interview) for Morrowind.
How did you get involved with modding?
My brother gave me a copy of Morrowind in 2006, and I later bought both expansions for it. At the time, I’d been making minor mods and maps for Civilization IV, but never got heavily into it. I played Morrowind for a week or two before delving into modding. I was disappointed with the first stronghold I got in the game, Rethan Manor, so it didn’t take long for me to jump into the Construction Set to try to improve it. My first mod was a mess, and so was the next–unpublishable–but while learning I discovered the modding community. I remember distinctly how Fliggerty made me the most welcome and helped answer my most complicated scripting questions. I’ve tried to pay it forward ever since.
Six years since you originally released it, Uvirith’s Legacy has been updated to v 3.0 this year. Can you talk about the project as a whole and what it’s been like to revisit something for so many years?
Uvirith’s Legacy began as a set of personal improvements to Uvirith Inside. I worked on it for at least a year before I felt I had something worthy of releasing to the public, with enough of my own fingerprint to call it my own. Nevertheless, I made sure to contact DopeHatMan and get permission before doing so. He told me about the aborted project Uvirith Awakened and gave me his blessing, along with permission to use their resources to complete my mod.
Around 2007, Building up Uvirith’s Grave was released while I was still working on UL. Its instant success made me re-evaluate my own mod, and think hard about what it offered to the player beyond what was already available. BuUG was meant to blow all competing mods out of the water. For a while, it did. However, I saw its incompatibilities with other mods as a fatal flaw, especially when competing with great mods like LGNPC and Rise of House Telvanni.
I asked myself what I wanted as a player, and I wanted mods to merge seamlessly together, rather than having to toss out mods I liked because they conflicted with other mods I liked. The best way to do that is cooperate with modders working in the same areas, so I downloaded and studied their mods and contacted them. I worked with every modder whose content overlapped my own, including Building up Uvirith’s Legacy, a version of BuUG compatible with UI and UL. We made compromises to suit each other’s mods, and tossed ideas back and forth. Years later, our mods are considered a seamless package by many players, and almost always recommended together.
UL was in public beta from 2008 – 2010. I took in a lot of feedback and adjusted my mod accordingly. My projects have had many contributors, from modelers to players. Once I released v. 2.0, I decided to retire from modding altogether.
I didn’t intend to revisit UL, because over the years I’ve invented my own story world to play in and finally decided to do something with it. For the next two years, I wrote a 100k word story bible for a 10 novel series, then finished the rough draft of the first novel. It’s currently awaiting final editing while I work on my second novel. Years of modding helped me gain the confidence to take on original projects. It also taught me attention to detail, and how to use those details to build characters. For example, you can say a lot about a character through objects they own and how they keep their house. I think that’s how UL has come to be praised as “immersive”. I don’t go into as much detail in a novel, because it will bog the story down, but I know how every character lives before I start writing. In turn, I’ve improved the dialogue, and added even more character to my NPCs in Uvirith’s Legacy.
Continued support for my mods, by a still active community, finally convinced me to revisit them. I took into account new mods like the Graphics Overhaul and Tamriel Rebuilt for UL 3.0. I decided to make my own graphic overhaul for Tel Uvirith, but tried to maintain the original Telvanni flavor. Most of my texture work has a heavy Persian influence, and a worn, old-world look designed to blend in with the original desert setting. It’s more 1001 Nights than Knights of the Round Table.
What do you think makes the Morrowind modding community so vibrant after more than a decade?
I believe the modding community builds on itself. Morrowind was a stunning, unique, and richly detailed game when it was released, and modders have carried that spirit along. Much credit goes to Bethsada for making their game so open-ended and mod-friendly in the first place. One reason I return to it again and a again is because I love the setting, but the other reason is because I love the community.
The Morrowind community is one of cooperation and support. Some modding communities discourage using other people’s resources, forcing ambitious mods to become cascading layers of dependencies. Having to download 5+ mods to make the one you want work frustrates players and modders alike.
In the Morrowind community, if I can’t do something, I can find someone to help. I can focus on making my ideas happen. This community has always been one to help you find a way to make it happen, whether that’s allowing you to build on existing work, helping debug experimental scripts, or making a brand new model for you. You just have make something great, and pass on the goodwill. Anyone can make a mod based on my work. Anyone can use my resources. Because that’s the same courtesy people gave me to help make my mods happen.
Are you working on any new projects?
I have one mod project in limbo because my professional work takes precedence, so it may be a long time before I finish it. Once I release UL 3.2, I need to get back to working on my writing for a while.
The novels I’m working on, currently titled Freecloud and Vava Calypso, are part a science fiction series. I’m not sure which publishing route I’ll take once they’re ready. In any case, they’ll have to run a gauntlet of brutal beta readers before they’re ready. I owe a lot to beta testers. I owe the quality of my work to the quality of their feedback.
Do you spend anytime working on projects for other games? Skyrim? Oblivion?
I’ve never been drawn to other games in the same way. Morrowind’s setting has more appeal to me than standard fantasy settings. I did consider modding Skyrim when the Telvanni tileset was released, because I love building mushroom towers, but I haven’t found the time.
What other user mods are you currently enjoying?
I fell into the modder’s trap, where you play for ten minutes, find something you want to tweak, and open the Construction Set instead. I don’t think I’ve played the game in five years. I barely play games at all these days. However, I have a lot of modders to thank for making amazing stuff over the years. I’ve tried to list all of them on the credits page of the Uvirith’s Legacy website.
A big thank you to Sarah for the Interview!