Modder's Interview: Caleb
How long have you been modding and what was your first complete mod?
I think I started in 2006, either making stuff for Roblox (if that counts as modding) or making texture replacements for AssaultCube. If it was Roblox first, my first complete "mod" was a recreation of de_dolls, a Counter-Strike: Source map, and if my first was AssaultCube, it was a fingerless glove mod (very cool, I know).
How do you approach modding?
Nothing fancy, I see something I want to change and I try to change it. No workflow really, I just work on it if I want to. Sometimes I REALLY get into a manic modding episode, when I was making the mod Familiar Faces I was working on it like 14 hours a day, barely even eating.
What’s your favorite thing about modding?
Just doing it is fun. I didn't know anything about 3D modeling when I started working on Familiar Faces, and I still barely know anything about it, but learning how to do it was captivating. Weirdly enough, however, I don't like modding when it comes to actually playing with mods. It's too distracting when I'm trying to play the game and I start to see things I want to change, and I close the game and spend hours trying to change it. And I'm never satisfied with the end result, so I always end up disabling whatever mod it is I made and just going with vanilla. It's kind of a waste of time in the end, but an enjoyable waste of time. And as for playing with other people's mods, I also can't really enjoy them. There's always a little voice in the back of my head screaming at me that I'm playing modded content, and it makes it difficult to get immersed. Same with even official DLC/expansions.
What’s your favorite mod that you’ve made so far?
I loved making Familiar Faces, but I don't use it myself. The favorite that I actually use myself would have to be "Silver and Nordic Cuirasses Fixed." A simple fix, but the cuirasses clipping into your character's pelvis bothered me more than you could believe.
Is there a mod you are especially proud of?
I'm most proud of Familiar Faces since most people that have given feedback seem to really like it. The creator of Facelift, which is what initially inspired me, even linked my mod in the description of theirs totally of their own volition, which was really nice of them. I also had a brief conversation with Mark Jones, the original artist that created the heads and hair for the game, which inspired me in gear to finish the mod. Like I said, however, I don't use the mod myself these days, even though I made it because I really wanted an in-depth mod that fixed up the old head and hairs. It's too distracting to want to close the game and open Blender and edit one of the heads or hairs. I think I have like 6 different variants of the Imperial male heads saved on my computer from moments like that where I wanted to change them. On the plus side, I got really efficient, and can now waste less of my time than I used to during these essentially pointless mod-making frenzies.
Are you working on a mod these days?
Sort of. I'm "working" on a few things, but it's mainly just to see if I can do it than to actually create a full-blown mod. No guarantee any of it ever gets finished and comes out, but you never know. Anyway, I'm working on an NPC schedule mod, a quest overhaul mod (for the vanilla game's quests), a lot of edits to make Morrowind's world more reactive, and some tweaks to the vanilla game's heads. For the NPC schedule mod, I was able to figure out a decent way to have NPCs sleep in beds, which is really cool to see, but there are still some major issues I don't know if I can fix, also giving so many NPCs schedules with Morrowind scripting would be very time-consuming. The quest overhaul mod has the lowest chance of being released, as it would take ages of work, and I'm not really interested in reading my own writing. There's no twist I could add to anything that I wouldn't already know about while playing, you know? There's also the fact that I'm not a writer, so I have to go back and change things a lot when I read it in-game and can tell it's bad, and who knows how much is in there that I can't tell is bad. I've made some changes to quests that I really like, so maybe some of those ideas will escape as standalone mods, like for instance, I made it so during Synnolian Tunifus's quests (Imperial Cult) after you bring him a non-animal ingredient for a quest he'll plant it in a garden outside of the Cult HQ, which the player can then use for a repeated gathering of said ingredient. That's one of the smaller quest edits I've done, but it's one of my favorites. The "reactive world" mod is something that branched off of the quest overhaul, and what I've made so far works fairly well. I'm really trying to expand the faction rep and reaction systems, even to the point of majorly screwing over certain steps in the main quest, as certain important characters may end up dead, attacking you, not speaking to you, etc. because of things you did in the world. Definitely not a mod for a first-time player. I've also added a lot of speechcraft-related dialogue for after you finish certain quests. Like let's say you kill some NPC's friend, and then you use "Intimidate" on the NPC. One of your intimidation successes may be the NPC cowering in fear that you're going to bury them with their friend, or if you fail hard enough the NPC will attack you in an attempt to avenge their friend. Or also if you try to bribe high-ranking House Redoran NPCs, they'll report it as a crime, and if you're in the faction you'll lose faction rep and if the NPC really doesn't like you, you'll get expelled. Sometimes I even made it so if you kill important people, let's say the Duke of Vvardenfell, you permanently anger several people, and get put on the guard's hitlist forever (Thieves Guild can't save you either!) It's not much alone, but when there are all sorts of changes like this across the game world, it feels more alive, and small interactions feel special. I'm also planning to get rid of almost all cases where an NPC is simply "disabled" after a quest or event happens that disables them. Instead, they'll be teleported somewhere. So if you free prisoners from jail, they'll show up somewhere else. If you free slaves, most of them will still "escape" with the Twin Lamps, but a few may get lost, and if Im-Kilaya is dead, who knows where they'll all go? I can't make changes to the AI itself to make it more reactive sadly, that's out of my skillset (maybe there are small things I can do, we'll see). The update I'm working on for Familiar Faces probably won't be released, as it doesn't really change that much, and I don't want to release unnecessary and nitpicky updates. I'll probably let Familiar Faces exist as is.
How much do you play Morrowind, not counting playtesting?
Quite a lot, it's a unique experience that you can't really have in any other game. I probably have a few thousand hours of playtime. Love playing multiplayer (tes3mp) with my friends too.
How did you discover Morrowind?
I was a big fan of Oblivion when I was younger. I eventually found out about Morrowind through that, and I really liked Morrowind's main theme, but I didn't play it for years. I tried Daggerfall, I tried Arena, I tried Skyrim, and I tried to try Battlespire (wouldn't run on my PC), all before trying Morrowind for the first time in 2017. It ended up replacing Oblivion for me and made me wish for a "true sequel" so to speak.
What makes Morrowind special for you?
The hands-off approach to roleplaying is a big draw for me. The hyperlink dialogue style, while often dry, helps me get into my character's head better than fully written out speech options. The world design is amazing, Vvardenfell feels unbelievably real. The quests are pretty good and really contribute to a feeling of adventure and even simple ones feel like they have a lot of background to them. There's an old advertisement for Morrowind that said: "You Write the Story" which really just says everything about what the devs were going for with the game. They really want to give you freedom in a way little games do, even when it hindered the game designers. Really, how do you develop non-essential characters as part of a long questline when the player can just kill them at any point (just think about how many immortal side characters are in Oblivion and Skyrim's quests)? How do you have any other characters in the world "do" things, when they could already have been killed by the player? How do you have a special scripted event happen when the player can teleport and fly and do all these crazy things? Working on the quest overhaul mod gave me a new appreciation for the game's designers. They didn't add unkillable NPCs, they didn't add unpickable locks, they didn't restrict your abilities to teleport, fly, etc, they tried as hard as they could to make sure the player feels in complete control throughout, even when it seemed like it might be holding them back. Then sadly the mediocre expansions came out and ruined those ideals, and the series never got them back.
What are your must-have mods?
Patch for Purists is obvious, LDM - Context Matters helps me keep my immersion intact (it fixes a lot of bad dialogue filtering), and Convenient Vivec is just a nice little thing to make Vivec more bearable to traverse for non-levitators.
Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?
Both are on Morrowind Mod History, so they're kind of hard to find, but both make Vivec more fun to run around in and look at. Vivec Restructure's interior layout makes little logical sense, and Ordinators constantly kill themselves by accidentally falling from the plaza to the canalworks, but it's still pretty good, and anyone that tries to make major changes to that behemoth of a city has my respect. However, and not to offend anyone who has tried to modify Vivec City (like I said, nothing but respect for those working on that beast) I still don't think there's a "killer mod" that really realizes the fullest potential of the city. Skywind's work is really promising, but that's not going to be out for years, and it's not exactly a Morrowind mod.
Do you play other games?
It's pretty much all I do. I'm physically disabled (many debilitating problems with my stomach and gut) and never leave my house, so games, movies, and books are a big part of my life. Recently I've been playing Demon's Souls, which is fantastic and may have crawled its way into my top 10 games. Ancient Domains of Mystery, or ADOM (NOT Ultimate ADOM), is an equally fantastic and frustrating Roguelike that I adore. You really have to keep your wits about you in that game, and the sense of discovery and mystery is beyond any other game I've played. Hitman, Metal Gear Solid 3, Left 4 Dead 2, Deus Ex, Max Payne, and Garry's Mod, are all great. And Postal 2 is a personal favorite. It's basically Morrowind in Arizona. Some of the Indiana Jones games are pretty fun, but I forget the titles of the good ones. By proxy of that, I also really like Uncharted. And if you like Morrowind, you should definitely check out The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard, even if you just watch someone play it on YouTube. It was made by basically the proto-Morrowind team so there's a lot of their writing in it and it makes it an enjoyable watch. Playing it yourself is another story. It also has an official comic that's worth a read. Shout out to Redguard Unity, let's hope it's finished one day and we can play Redguard with decent controls and a consistent game speed.
Do you mod other games?
Not really, I try to enjoy games as they are for the most part. Morrowind is special to me in that regard. Also, Morrowind has a lot of holes, so as a big fan of the game it's fun to try to fill them, even though it usually doesn't work out how I want it to.
And by the way, what's the story behind your user name?
It's a throwaway username I thought up in a second, didn't think I'd actually use my Nexus account for anything. I don't really have a username I use consistently, so I usually make something up on the spot.