How long have you been modding and what was your first mod?
My first attempt at making a mod was changing the effects of an ingredient (Hypha Facia, I think) so that it would cause “vampirism.” As you may know, the Vampire Dust ingredient has the “vampirism” effect, alone in the game, from all the ingredients available. So I figured that I would give that effect to another ingredient so that my character could create a potion of vampirism by mixing that ingredient with Vampire Dust. Of course, it didn’t work, and my character just resisted the effect of the potion. The first mod that I actually released is my Imperial Legion expansion mod, which, among other things, adds 8 more quests for the Imperial Legion, new dialogue, a companion, supply chests, a player home, new armor sets, and similar items. A complete overhaul of the Imperial Legion faction.
How do you approach modding? (What inspires you? Do you have a specific workflow?)
It depends on the mod. If it’s a small mod, (like most of my mods) that offers a new choice for a quest, or overhauls an area, I can just get right into the CS and do it under a couple of hours. If it’s a larger mod, with multiple quests, or similar then I first browse UESP and the CS to collect ideas and make sure to remain lore-friendly, as much as possible, then I create a word document with plans, and only after that do I put everything into the CS.
Have other modders inspired you?
Absolutely! There was a modder named Grogdon who released a mod titled “The Life of a Slave” which was about you being enslaved on a plantation. In theory, you would have had to either escape or earn your freedom by pleasing the plantation’s owner with your services. In practice, it was an unplayable, buggy mod, which wasn’t lore-friendly at all. Nevertheless, I have created “Nerevarine Unchained” with Caeris, which is a chargen mod, in which (you’ve guessed it) you start the game enslaved at Dren Plantation and you have to escape or earn your freedom by pleasing the plantation’s owner with your services. Grogdon even gets an honorary mention on the page of the mod for inspiring us. Otherwise, when I write a story that involves an NPC or faction or anything that was touched upon by some of the major mods (such as LGNPC or Tamriel Rebuilt) in several cases I take their vision into consideration so that people who choose to use both mine and their mods would experience consistency. An example for this would be the “Talos Cult Conspiracy” mod which adheres to Tamriel Rebuilt’s vision of the Talos Cult so that whenever they are going to release Talos Cult content on the mainland, my mod would feel consistent with it. However, I have one condition before I consider using unofficial ideas: I should also like it, which in the case of Tamriel Rebuilt’s Talos Cult vision, I do. By the way, not a modder, but I have once even utilized a Michael Kirkbride idea in one of my mods.
What’s your favourite thing about modding?
I mostly make mods that add new quests or overhaul existing vanilla quests (for example with new choices and visible consequences) so I believe that I can say that it’s a mental exercise that gets me out of my comfort zone, but still in an enjoyable manner. It’s all texts, and more specifically: dialogue. I’m a person who is mostly interested in the humanities and the creative side of white-collar jobs. I enjoy history, literature, languages and I read and write a lot. Mathematics, computers and the rigid facts of formal sciences do not suit me at all. Making these kinds of mods is basically creative writing, which suits my aptitude fine: I have to imagine how would a certain story manifest itself in the world of the Elder Scrolls, based on my understanding of the lore and the characters. I have to be careful with my choice of words so that it would suit the character, but I also have to be spontaneous a bit so that my words would pass as actual dialogue happening on the spot, instead of something obviously carefully planned by a writer. Sometimes there isn’t a clear answer about a question concerning the lore, or what a specific character would do if they faced a particular situation, in which case I have to use my creativity and intuition. However, all of this has to be applied in the CS’s horrible dialogue system. I have to switch over to rigid “computer logic” (If this and that condition, then this and that result), sometimes I also have to create a script and sometimes the script used in the mod doesn’t work as intended, and I have to figure out how the computer misunderstood me with its twisted logic. So I get a small taste of something which is not my cup of tea at all, but all in order to achieve something which is my cup of tea. It broadens my perspective and develops me in a field that I’m not really into, but it doesn’t feel like a chore, I get through the rigid computer logic part in order to create stories.
What’s your favourite mod that you’ve made so far?
Honestly, I cannot really choose one. I have made more than 100 mods, so I would just say that since (as I’ve also mentioned above) I’m mostly interested in the roleplaying aspect of the game, and my mods mostly either add new quests or new choices and visible consequences for existing, vanilla quests, I’m certain that almost everybody would be able to find something suitable among them at this point. For example: perhaps you want to complete the Main Quest, but your character also hates the Empire, and the Main Quest forces you to join the Blades. Then my “Main Quest Overhaul” mod, which allows you to complete the Main Quest as an agent of a native Dunmer faction instead of the Blades (among other features) is for you. Maybe you don’t like the fact that you have convinced the Redoran Council to abolish the Mages’ Guild Monopoly, yet Telvanni and independent mages never appear in Redoran territories to offer services, then I would recommend my “The Vanilla Quest Tweaks RP Choices Consequences Super Mega Package - Ultimate Edition” mod (yes, the name is intentionally like that) which – among other features – would implement this consequence for completing the quest. Or maybe you don’t want to eliminate the Talos Cult but want to join them and participate in their crazy plan, in which case I would recommend my “Talos Cult Conspiracy” mod.
Is there a mod you are especially proud of?
Maybe “Past life regressions.” With that mod, you would receive visions of your past lives as Lord Nerevar or one of the failed incarnates (Ane Teria, Conoon Chodala, Erur-Dan, Hort Ledd, Idrenie Nerothan, Peakstar) as you play through the game and visit more and more locations. I don’t believe that anyone has ever tried making something similar to that. I think that it’s an immersive way to learn more about the lore and develop a connection to the story.
You have often collaborated with other modders, does this change your approach to modding?
Surprisingly, I never had a significant conflict when I've collaborated with someone. Teamwork in Morrowind modding seems to work just fine. One modder is responsible for writing the story and the dialogue, (that would be me in most cases) another modder makes a nice model for the new quest reward, a third modder writes the scripts etc. We just all let each other work on their own parts, and we might offer advice, but we never command each other around to modify their parts in any manner. I had a minor conflict once with a co-author when we have worked together on our "Gnisis Docks" mod, which actually made a dock appear on the river near Gnisis, if you stole the land deed of the widow as part of the Imperial Legion questline, because General Darius mentions that the Legion needs the land for that purpose, but in vanilla, of course, the construction of the docks never begin. I wanted this mod to be simple, just have the docks appear sometime after you submit the land deed to General Darius and my co-author wanted it to be more elaborate with tons of features, such as multiple stages of the construction of the docks, workers at the construction site with unique dialogue and such. We have talked about it a lot, and in the end, we have found a middle ground, and I believe that both of us are satisfied with the mod in retrospect.
You recently published a mod for Starwind, a total conversion mod that's miles away from Morrowind lore. What motivated you?
I was just happy that there was an opportunity to contribute towards Starwind. I was always a Star Wars fan, and it's probably the only fantasy world which I'm as familiar with as with the Elder Scrolls. It was natural for me that I would try out Starwind which brings Star Wars into the Elder Scrolls. I was honestly impressed by it, it's a fun mod with tons of content, and even with features that vanilla Morrowind lacks, such as voice acting. The mod authors are strong and wise, and I'm very proud of them.
Alice's Starwind mod is called A Vision of the Dark Knight and can be found on the Nexus.
You often take part in modding events such as MMM and modjam, why?
A better question would be: Why would anyone NOT take part in them? While I'm not really motivated by the prizes as much, I like that there is more exposure to my mods during a modding event and people would be happier to give feedback to me during it. Other modders approach me because they want to work with me. It is during these events when one can feel that there is actually a community here. Also, sometimes there are themes in these events which one must observe when making a mod. It is really fun, and it's a great creative exercise to come up with something when one doesn't have absolute freedom to just make any mod.
How much do you play Morrowind, not counting playtesting?
Nowadays, I can afford to do one or two playthroughs every couple of months. Since I’m a roleplayer, these playthroughs are mostly not the “Hortator, Nerevarine, leader of all factions, Level 50, 100+ hours into the game” kind of playthroughs, but more like creating a character and achieving smaller, roleplaying goals. (For example escaped slave whose goal is to kill slavers, and free as many slaves as possible)
How did you discover Morrowind?
As part of the marketing scheme of a major video card manufacturer company. I was a teenager back then, and I just received my first computer from my parents for school-related work. That computer was already a used, obsolete one back then, but it served its function well. The person who sold that computer to our family also gave all kinds of accessories with it, and one such thing was a bunch of CDs given by the manufacturer of the video card in order to showcase what the
video card was capable of. One of those CDs had Morrowind on it.
What makes Morrowind special for you?
It’s a unique setting, an uncanny world with intriguing lore, and with a lot of opportunities to roleplay (really, you can be anything you want, especially with mods) and with even more hidden details that I keep finding even after playing the game for so many years now. It gives you an amount of freedom which I believe is less common in video games nowadays: you can go anywhere, there are no invisible walls, you can pick up every object, you can kill every NPC. (And bear the consequences that come with that freedom.)
What are the mods you simply cannot play without?
Can I enumerate my own mods here? I mean, obviously, the primary intended audience of my mods is myself, and the way I get the idea for a mod is mostly that I play the game and I think that it would be nice if I was able to do this and that. For example, I had a Temple fanatic character once who liked doing good deeds. There is a quest in which you need to deliver some items to a merchant in Ald-ruhn. The person giving you the quest demands that you swear an oath to Zenithar that you would actually deliver the items. How can you roleplay a believer of the Tribunal Temple who likes helping in this situation? What principle comes first? Observing your religious beliefs or your desire to help? Obviously the belief in ALMSIVI, so the only solution in vanilla here is refusing the quest. I didn’t like that, so I’ve made a mod that allows you to convince the trader to swear an oath to Saint Roris instead of Zenithar, that way I’ve unlocked the opportunity to complete this quest as a believer of ALMSIVI, without going against the doctrine of the faith.
Mods by others? Well, Weapon Sheathing definitely has a permanent place on my mod list. I mean, come on Todd, putting your weapon into your pocket? Not a mod, but OpenMW because I’m a Linux user and it also increases the view distance. The official mods, because I think that it’s part of the vision of the developers and the way they wanted Morrowind to be, even if they might not be the best mods around. Quality of life improvements, such as Improved Followers which makes escort missions less tedious and Chargen Revamped - Expanded Lands because I hate wasting time with vanilla chargen for the 127th time. Patch for Purists, because it fixes a lot of bugs that are present in the game. Some graphical mods that improve characters, armors, weapons, clothes, because I like making characters who look good.
Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?
There tends to be a prejudice in the Morrowind community against “old mods,” and there is an over-simplification that the newer the mod is, the better quality it is. My example is proof that it’s not true. It’s a really old mod titled “Vivec’s Fate: The Ashlander Heresy,” which I believe is what the Tribunal expansion should have been instead of what we’ve got. The mod deals with the aftermath of the Main Quest. Dagoth Ur dies, and ALMSIVI ends the persecution of the Dissident Priests. Some people listen to them and start asking questions about the doctrine of the Tribunal Temple. After all, the Temple wasn’t right about the Nerevarine prophecies, maybe they are not right about other things either? Some people develop an interest in the pre-Tribunal lifestyle, and they make pilgrimages to Ashlander camps to learn from them. Other people go to the Ghostgate and remove the remains of their ancestors that were used to power the Ghostfence, which signifies a return to traditional, pre-Tribunal ancestor worship. Of course, the story isn’t as straightforward as that, because there are also people (especially the Ordinators) who don’t like these developments and react with their swords drawn. It’s a high quality, intriguing story. It’s really intelligent and it makes excellent observations about religion, both about its actual subject, the metaphysical, the divine and its earthly (Nirn-ly) manifestation, which are the religious institutions and the relationship of people and society to them. It’s not black and white, it doesn’t proclaim that the Temple orthodoxy is bad, the Dissident Priests are good (or vice versa) you hear good arguments from both sides, and it will be up to you which side you help, or if you remain independent. All in all, it’s a great follow-up for the Main Quest, and it even develops some of the characters crucial for that, such as Mehra Milo.
Ashlander Heresy is a mod by Brother Juniper, also the author of the Twin Lamps mod. I recommend both.
You have a great Morrowind blog with articles and mods, but also fan fiction. Is writing fanfic much different from creating a mod?
I think that it’s different in the sense that it gives me more freedom. When I make a quest or a dialogue mod, my vision might still be compromised with the technical aspect of the game: for example, what the scripts that the game uses are capable of doing, and do I have the skills at all to put together the necessary script for the event that I want to happen. In the case of fanfiction, there is no such thing, all I have to do is writing. There are only two things that limit me: the extent of my own creativity, and the lore of the Elder Scrolls. In my fanfiction I could write down things that I can never even dream of implementing as a mod. For example, a part of my fanfiction deals with the aftermath of the Main Quest: Dagoth Ur is defeated. I write down that Red Mountain is full of glass and ebony, so the Great Houses and the Empire start colonizing it, with the threat of the Sixth House gone. There is a race going on between the Telvanni and the Mages’ Guild too for the Dwemer artifacts. The blight is gone, so many people speculate that the infertile lands of the Ashlands and the Molag Amur region would become green again so that it might be worth buying lands there while it’s still cheap in order to make a profit later. The soldiers stationed at Ghostgate leave the fortress, and it becomes a pilgrimage site: not for the Ghostfence anymore (as it is gone too) but for the Nerevarine and their deeds. This is what I imagine happened after the death of Dagoth Ur (and then the Oblivion Crisis and the Red Year ruined it all, of course) and there is no way I could implement all of that in a mod, but at least I could write it down in my fanfiction.
On the other hand, several mods that I have released were actually based on my fan fiction too, for example, “Consequences for Looting the Andrano Tomb,” which implements real consequences for said action of the player, (such as, wanted posters of you appearing in public spaces, Ordinators putting guards into some ancestral tombs, a Dunmer militia forming that wants revenge on outlanders, a lot of tensions and even more unique dialogue for individual characters commenting on the events etc.) to reflect how much such a thing is a scandal in Dunmer society, where the ancestors are respected as sacred. I thought that I couldn’t make a mod out of what I have written down in my fanfiction originally, but I could. So who knows, there might be a time when I make the “Consequences for killing Dagoth Ur” mod too.
Do you play other games?
I do, but Morrowind is the only one that I constantly return to. With other games, it’s either that I play them through once and never again, or I do return to them, but only once or twice.
And by the way, what's the story behind your user name?
Alice is my true name. And when I say true name, I don’t simply mean that it is what I use in real life, although I do use it in real life. It’s not the name that my parents have given to me, it’s the name that I have chosen for myself because I believe that it resonates with me the most. The reasons for this are not something rational, like “I have chosen this because it means “noble” (it really means that, by the way) and at one point of my life I have made the conclusion that I’m a noble person,” my choice completely comes from my soul. It’s just right, it makes my heart sing. Why do I have this name here too? Because it just feels wrong to be called anything else at this point, even in a virtual space such as the Morrowind community.
You can find Alice's many mods on the Nexus as well as many articles and fanfic related to Morrowind on her blog.
See you next week for an interview with Drac!