Modder's interview: Denis418

Modder's interview: Denis418

How long have you been modding and what was your first complete mod?
I've been modding for less than two years, a rookie I am. But my first attempts with CS go back to teenagehood some 15 years ago when I tried to create a perfect NPC for Oblivion. I'm really fascinated with this game's AI, despite how goofy it may be.
When I returned to video games in modern times, I was immediately drawn by the idea of the province mods. I joined the TES 4: Black Marsh project 5 minutes before its collapse. And then I found out that Morrowind province mods are the most high-quality among similar TES projects. DarkElfGuy's podcasts and Zarik Zhakaron's interviews with the developers proved to me that these guys take their hobby seriously. After lurking on their discord for a couple of months, I made a showcase with no prior Morrowind modding experience, and six days later I joined the team as an interior dev in January 2021.
You can count my first real contribution as the first mod I made. It was an enchanter's store in Andothren. It's so nice to visit this city now in a complete state (barring some questlines) and see that this enchanter is a part of it. Maybe my opinion will be unpopular, but I think Andothren is the most beautiful city among the province mods so far. Simply by how detailed and diverse it is as a game location. It will be the main quest hub for the upcoming Dominions of Dust release (DoD).

Andothren, a Hlaalu metropolis south of Vivek. Just look at the verticality!

And my first standalone mod (out of two) was a player home in Karthwasten. I made it when I saw that existence has almost no house mods for Skyrim: Home of the Nords.

What inspires you?

What inspires me is the ever-big endeavor to recreate the lands of the Elder Scrolls universe in the game world of Morrowind, the most cohesive TES game. And particularly our current roadmap for TR and PT. I can spend hours pondering the maps and claims, dreaming about all this new content. Every bit of progress excites me, and the game world feels like a growing forest that has something new in it every day (“You should’ve spent these hours in the CS!” - I can almost hear my teammates saying).

Since I was so fascinated by the progress, I soon started to create small posts in projects' discord channels to showcase what the team has achieved during a certain period of time working on Dominions of Dust, the Embers of Empire, and other subprojects of TR. These posts turned out to be highly appreciated. Because, apparently, the developers don't usually see the progress they make as everyone works on their part, and often misses out on the progress of other claims.

Firewatch castle courtyard. A lot of questlines go through it.

TR had no big release in several years. The same is true for the Province: Cyrodiil. We need these releases even more than the players. Getting Anvil, Andothren, or Firewatch to the public will boost the morale of the team so much! The work the guys have done is phenomenal. I don’t think there was ever such a combination of size and quality in the history of province modding: 160 quests in DoD with 1 giant city and 5 smaller ones; 70 quests in The Embers of Empire (EoE) with another giant city and 5 settlements overhauled from the ground up; Strident Coast release for Cyrodiil has the biggest city in existence, almost done, with 3 smaller settlements and a Stirk overhaul. Decades of meticulous work come to their fruition. I hope it’ll bring more people to the project ^_^

What’s your favourite thing about modding?
Probably, the fact that time, budget, or marketing demands do not have a say in the world of modding. Fan-made projects are more important to me than modern AAA video games.

What’s your favourite mod that you’ve made so far?
It's my second mod, a quest that starts in Addamasartus near Seyda Neen. There's a Suthay Khajiit slave who pleads you to take him to Old Ebonheart. This small mod is an attempt to bridge TR with the base game. Currently, the player has little reason to leave Vvardenfell in terms of story. There should be more mods or quests inside province mods that would connect the base game with new lands plot-wise.

Dra'Vashai in the Old Ebonheart.

Is there a mod you are especially proud of?
Since I don't have any more mods to boast about, I'll speak about my interior contributions. So far, I work mostly on city buildings, as I enjoy decorating spaces inhabited by people. And my favorite would be the Chapel of Kynareth in the new Helnim (EoE). I shed several liters of tears, trying to make it fit its small exterior shell and still have the feeling of a grand religious building.
The old chapel looked like a basement because TR devs of the time had to rely on vanilla shell pieces. And this new one will impress you (I hope) with its high ceiling, warm-colored walls, and an unconventional placement of the staircase leading to a unique tower interior. Many people helped me along the way: Hemaris gracefully calculated the rotations of the tower's 9-sided room; Aeven created a retex for a round chapel window; Taniquetil reviewed and polished the interior and added the NPCs; Evil Eye reimplemented the questline of the Imperial Cult; and a dozen more people provided valuable feedback (like that one person’s suggestion to add tapestries hanging from the ceiling). I always enjoy seeing how the presence of others makes your work as good as it would’ve never been.

It's such a joy to playtest a faction questline in the building of your making.

How much do you play Morrowind, not counting play testing?
Well, playtesting doesn't break immersion for me : ) I oftentimes start the game to wander around Andothren or Anvil, chat with people, explore the interiors, and test questlines. It is highly engaging for me because every typo or bug I find will help the projects get their release sooner. Another reason that makes me enjoy playtesting is because individual contributors get excited when they see someone play through their work. This is very encouraging to me and them alike.

People at PT lovingly call Skyrim: Home of the Nords a hiking simulator thanks to its level design.

How did you discover Morrowind?
It was very funny. My video card died, so I wasn't able to play Oblivion anymore. So then I tried its predecessor since Morrowind was running on my in-built video memory good enough. I missed the havok physics and NPC schedules, but otherwise, TES 3 proved quite cool. My fondest memory is me, as a Khajiit, fighting cliffracers with a claymore on a mountain top during a blight storm. That felt very epic. I love cliffracers.

What makes Morrowind special for you?
When you grow older, you see the difference in world-building between the games. I think TES 3 is the ultimate winner in this regard. And extending its world proves more efficient because you don't stumble on game design flaws as often. Like, there was a project for TES 4 that tried to create the Illiac Bay. But then the author realized that you can see Daggerfall city across the Bay from the streets of Sentinel as if they were divided by a river. The world of Oblivion is just that small.

What are the mods you simply cannot play without?
The answer is obvious at this point since I'm obsessed with province mods. I hope I don't lose any friends by saying that I am not very interested in vanilla lands anymore. Even though they remain a starting point for any project, I am eager to see what's beyond them. New towns, new people, new stories. And the more lore-friendly they are, the more they feel like an extension of the original game world.  

Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?
Yes, I have two in mind: NPC Functionality is a very neat dialogue mod that introduces a great variety of options. You can ask any NPC to lend you money, to follow you, to cast a spell on you or on themselves, and a lot of other minor inter-activities. The author made everything balanced and fair, so a complete stranger won't be very helpful, while your friend can functionally become your follower. And it's made with basic Morrowind scripting.
Another one is Persuasive Speech for OpenMW. It's very simple and allows you to ask any friendly NPC to become your companion. The only advantage over the previous mod is that it allows inventory share. Both mods work really well with your Friends&Foes mod that adds so many new NPCs into the game.

NPC Functionality. Ask master Aryon to cast levitate on you.

Do you play other games?
I host Pathfinder sessions with friends sometimes. It's a pen-and-paper relative of D&D. No video games aside from Morrowind, though.

Anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t talked about?
Yes, I wanted to thank you for placing the Project Tamriel overview on your site. And for your offer to torment your readers with this interview :P
I also want to express my thanks to the communities of TR&PT and the MMC. You help me stay mentally afloat. And some people even reached out to me with the intention of supporting my family in current calamities. This is very cool, and I don't know if there are other gaming communities as wholesome as ours.

And by the way, what's the story behind your user name?
I never liked to be called by nicknames. I feel a strange sadness that people won't know the real me. So I typed in my name and I had to add some numbers to it. The numbers aren't random, but an allusion to my favorite Bible verse, 1 John 4:18 (which is also my Nexus name, that I assigned accidentally and can't change): "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." I like it because it teaches us that love is the base of courage. When you level up in love (not romantic love, that is), you become stronger. And everything good comes from someone's expression of love. Like the best mods come from the love of fans to their game : )