Modder's Interview: AlienSlof

Modder's Interview: AlienSlof

How long have you been modding and what was your first complete mod?

I've been modding for probably 30 years (not counting when I was a kid modding my toys, yes I really did that!). I started by making maps for Doom that got progressively harder at each level until they were near impossible to complete without cheating. It was possible, as I playtested them without cheats on, but it was tough!

Then came Quake - well, Quake 3 to be more specific, and I made a map for that as well. That was as far as I got modding the game, as playing it required so much time. I played at a high level in international tournaments and practiced 6+ hours a day.

Morrowind was my first major modding spree and what fun that was! The game inspired me massively and before too long I was retexturing things all over the place. I expanded my skill set, thanks to other modders, some of which I still speak to from time to time.

How do you approach modding?

Modding almost always starts when I'm playing a game and see something I want to change or think I can do a better job of. This can range from retexturing horses (my particular passion in life) to making sexy clothes and armours for male characters. (I mostly play males, so I mod for them). Most of my mods have revolved around making new art assets, models and textures, new races, new creatures.

What’s your favourite thing about modding?

Most of all: being able to do it! I like that I can see something I want to change and have the ability to change it. Modding opens up so much more of a favourite game, whether I'm making them or using them. The games I play the most are almost always the moddable ones.

Modding also gives me a deep sense of achievement and satisfaction, especially when things turn out like what is in my head. Even bug-fixing can be satisfying - from the wrangling over how to fix it, to actually fixing it!

I like anything that makes me use my brain to make things better or more fun. I like problem-solving.

What’s your favourite mod that you’ve made so far?

That is a difficult choice. For all the Elder Scrolls Games as a whole, I would say, my Goth Shops for men. (shop 1, shop 2). Breaking that down to specific games:

Morrowind - both Goth Shops and vampire mods.

Oblivion - Goth Shops (shop 1, shop 2) and Playable Xivilai (I had a lot of fun with him!)

Skyrim - my Asymmetrical Horse Project and Goth Shop (even though that never actually had a shop, I made the items craftable instead.)

Is there a mod you are especially proud of?

Probably over all games, the Goth Shop. They started out in Morrowind - and here I want to shout out to the late Qarl, who encouraged me to start them. I was testing one of his mods and I asked if he would make more male stuff. He said no, and then taught me how to do it myself. If it wasn't for him, I don't know where I would be in modding, but probably nothing like I am now. I still miss him a great deal. He is the one to thank for all male characters across all Elder Scrolls games!

The other one I was really proud of, I sadly no longer have, and that was the custom character of Basil, my Morrowind main guy. His files were lost in an irretrievable hard drive crash. The whole drive died, taking with it 10+ years of modding files, including Basil! He was a private mod that I would have never released publicly, but I regret not having him backed up somewhere. I had 5 glorious years playing that fellow, and he reached lvl 105! I had to keep finding the hardest quest mods I could, just to keep him busy.

Are you working on a mod these days?

I have a couple of mods that I consider always in progress, Skyrim Asymmetrical Horse Project and a full texture replacer for Minecraft. It can depend on what game I'm playing at the time, how moddable it is and whether it is within my skill set to make. If the game inspires me enough, I mod the hell out of it!

I have a few ideas always rattling around, just waiting for their time to shine!

How much do you play Morrowind, not counting play testing?

I haven't actually played for years now, but I played it solidly for around 5 years, most of those with my favourite character, big Basil the Bastard! I keep telling myself I will play it again as I loved the main quest in the game, it was weird and very creepy.

Basil the Bastard in Oblivion

I have just bought the game on Steam, as it was on sale, so I might once more be stepping onto Vvardenfell's shores! I am a long way out of the loop now, in terms of mods and what is available.

How did you discover Morrowind?

A friend showed me it at a LAN party when it was still new. It was a completely new way of gaming for me as I played mostly first-person shooters up to that point.

I had never played such a non-linear game before and I quickly got into the game when I realised how much freedom I had.

What makes Morrowind special for you?

Morrowind was the game that changed my whole gaming outlook. Now I play mostly RPG's and not really many shooters! It was also the platform that launched my best mods and that I had the most fun with. It also gave me a creative writing outlet that wasn't just writing about aliens - admittedly, my first Morrowind story was an Aliens/Morrowind crossover (again because of a mod I worked on with another modder, bringing Giger's Aliens into Morrowind).

Slof's Giger Armour for Skyrim

What are the mods you simply cannot play without?

When I played my vampire character in Morrowind, big Bad Basil the Bastard, the 'Unholy Trinity' set of mods was a must-have: Vampire Embrace, Vampire Realism and Vampiric Hunger - plus the Basil-specific mods that plugged into those, that I made with a friend. Then there were my Goth Shops so I could dress him up all sexy! Better Bodies was also a must-have, I was never a fan of brown, painted-on underwear and it was nice to have anatomically accurate male characters!

If I do play the game again, I would have to look at the new mods and see what's available in these modern times. Squidgy Corprus Meat for one - the grossness of that one just appeals to me!

Basil in Morrowind

Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?

I don't know about underrated, but one that is high on your list of starting-up mods is one that allows you to tell NPCs to get out of the way! They had a nasty habit of standing in doorways and refusing to budge, being as immovable as stone! I was glad to see that one is still around.

Would you be willing to tell us about writing Elder Scrolls fanfiction?

This is a huge amount of fun for me and really started in a big way with Morrowind. When I play a game, if it inspires me and I really get into it, then a narrative will start to play out in my head. I elaborate on the quests I work through, add dialogue that should be there but isn't in the game. A fun character (Basil, for example!) will start talking to me, and the seeds of a story are sown.

Basil in ESO

Basil, in particular, has been with me over 4 Elder Scrolls games now, from Morrowind to ESO. He has even had several incarnations: first, he was in House Hlaalu, then Denina (my co-author for many stories), and I both agreed that Telvanni was better suited to him, and Redoran for Leah. Cue another series with those two that went in an entirely different direction. We are currently working on yet another series with those two (still Redoran and Telvanni).

I'm also working on a Skyrim one with Basil, where he meets a distant family member and meets another love of his life.

Like most of my fiction, from Aliens onward, I usually write from non-human viewpoints. I like to explore non-human ways of thinking, telling myself (in the case of Aliens) 'what do they think of humans?' I find Daedra utterly fascinating, so they feature a lot also.

All of AlienSlof's stories (Alien, Elder Scrolls, Vampire the Masquerade) are right here.

Do you play other games?

Yes, I play a lot of games, mostly RPG ones these days. I like Minecraft - it reminds me of Lego, plus I can mod it and it is a great outlet for creativity. I've played Oblivion, Skyrim and Elder Scrolls Online - all with my main character, Basil. I'm having a blast with No Man's Sky and Satisfactory right now too. Away from the computer, I like playing chess.

Do you mod other games?

Yes. I have made mods for Fallout 3 & 4, Fallout New Vegas, Oblivion, Skyrim & Skyrim SE, Minecraft so far. I'm sure there will be others!

Telvanni Tower in Minecraft with AlienSlof's texture pack

And by the way, what's the story behind your user name?

'Alien' is the easy part - I am a huge fan of Giger's Aliens and made my first public writing debut with my Diary of a Xenomorph which became a hit worldwide because it was so different.

The 'Slof' part is not Norwegian as I have often been asked, but a corruption of 'Sloth' - the slow animal that hangs around in trees. It came about from my job which was a signwriter (painting them by hand back then) where I would progress very slowly from one end of a sign to the other! Plus, I just like sloths!