Modder’s Interview: Half11

Modder’s Interview: Half11

How long have you been modding and what was your first complete mod (published or not)?

I started modding in 2017 when I started working on Patch for Purists. I wanted to play Morrowind again and got stuck on which unofficial patch to install. UMP 1.6.3b? MPP 1.6.5d? MPP 1.6.5b (BTB edit)? MPP 1.6.6b? MPP 1.6.6b (Stupid Changes Fix)? Every version seemed to have something going for it, but there was also a lot of criticism surrounding these patches. There were also a ton of loose fixes since the patches had not been maintained for years. Whether they were needed was often unclear. Stuff like Poorly Placed Object Fix, Mesh Fix, Texture Fix, Morrowind Text Patch etc. Not to mention all the individual fixes for minor stuff scattered around the internet due to the absence of an actively developed patch. It was one big confusing mess, and I wanted to do something about it. So yes, Patch for Purists was my first mod. Way too ambitious for someone with literally zero modding skills.

How do you approach modding? (What inspires you? Do you have a specific workflow?)

I like to improve what's already there. Morrowind, to me, is an unpolished diamond. I honestly think that most mods are claiming to enhance (or expand) the game fall short in this regard. I always cringe when I see people recommending all kinds of gameplay mods to newcomers. Although it is very personal whether a mod is an improvement (apart from the essential stuff, fixing the most significant flaws), this game, in my opinion, needs little to shine.

What’s your favourite thing about modding?

Fixing bugs. My favourite kind of fixes to make are the ones that reveal parts of the game no one ever experienced. Often these are quests that never worked properly. But also things like how Ahnassi was never able to say, "Ahnassi thanks you again and again." after the player takes care of Daren Adryn because of a faulty dialogue filter. These are small things but the idea that a developer has been typing this out, and no player has ever come across this in the nearly 20 years we've been playing Morrowind is sad. It brings a smile to my face knowing small details like this will be shown when playing with Patch for Purists.

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

Patch for Purists would be the obvious answer, but I have some fond memories of making Blight Is Coming. The mod resulted from implementing a creative idea with just Morrowind scripting. All within the 48-hour limit given by the 2020 Morrowind Winter Modjam. I like this mod for its perfect blend of simplicity and randomness. The Morrowind Modding Showcases video narrated by PoodleSandwich (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7VOKHFT11U) was the icing on the cake. I've lost count of how many times I've watched that. It’s just so good.

Patch for Purists is a big project, can you tell us more about it?

Patch for Purists is an unofficial patch for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Game of the Year Edition, which attempts to continue where the latest official version left off. Morrowind, like most Bethesda games, is infamous for being buggy. Although some fix packs scattered around the internet, most of them were poorly done and not compatible with each other. A complete and tested community patch was needed. A pure patch that polishes this diamond of a game without adding any questionable content or changing the gameplay in any significant way (hence the “purist” moniker).

I decided to make such a project a reality. I spent time researching the game, its internal workings, and how to work with the Construction Set. It's been a long way, but with the great help of so many fans from all across the globe, this patch was made a reality.

As I said, Patch for Purists was a way too ambitious project for someone with literally zero modding skills. The first versions were me trying to merge all available fixes that looked sensible while still finding my way around the Construction Set. When I found out that the initial patch base (UMP 1.6.3b) and the information from “Gluby's Comprehensive Catalog and Guide to Bugfixes for Morrowind”  did not meet my quality standards for bug fixing, Patch for Purists became its own thing, instead of being a Frankenstein’s monster that didn't deserve to see the light of day. I saw that version 1.0 ESM file was over 35MB in size in my patch archive. In comparison: the current version is less than 4 MB. And that includes the hundreds of new fixes I added over the years.

Are you working on a mod these days?

The second part of my Synthesis Series is in the making. The conceptual phase is done, and it is partially implemented and playtested. I'll keep the themes a secret for now.

The series is about fleshing out two different aspects of the game in a logical and thoughtful way. The first entry aims to overhaul creatures and their diseases based on lore. The second is a secret, Half11 would not tell me, so we'll have to wait!

How much do you play Morrowind, not counting playtesting?

After starting Patch for Purists, I never made a serious attempt to play the game again. I have this crazy belief that the game has to be finished before I can play it myself. That's the cruse of being a patch maker. One day, when all bugs are squashed, Tanum-Kei the Argonian Healer, born under the sign of the apprentice, will be taken from the Imperial City's prison, first by carriage, and then by boat. To the east, to Morrowind.

How did you discover Morrowind?

One summer in France, I was on vacation with my nephew, and he told me about this new game. It was a magical summer with nice weather, catching exotic insects, visiting a castle, discovering ruins of old buildings in the wilderness, and that magical feeling and rich imagination that you still have as a child. I fantasised about adventuring through the game before seeing it with my own eyes.

What makes Morrowind special for you?

Morrowind has so much going for it: the unique environment, richly detailed world, the epic story, the diversity in regions, the soundtrack, the art direction (that still holds up), the scale of the game, the lore conveyed through immersive dialogue, the interwoven factions, and politics, the ambiguity of the epic story, you name it. Even the infamous dice roll combat system is something I adore. The character's attributes determine if you hit your opponent if they dodge or block, not how well you can dance around and push the buttons like in action role-playing games.

But what makes Morrowind really special to me is the degree of freedom the game gives you. You can go anywhere and do whatever you want. Without artificial or natural boundaries (like the Gothic series has, for example), nothing stands in the way to become too rich or too powerful. So to me, the real “challenge” is to restrict myself from the power gaming mentality of abusing the flexible mechanics. Adjusting yourself to play the game effectively (e.g. efficient levelling, dragging everything with you to sell) is absolutely no fun at all in my experience. It is also unnecessary; the game is actually relatively easy once you get the hang of it. The lack of restrictions creates so much freedom to makeup and playout, your own stories: it’s an invitation to roleplay. So for me, Morrowind is a platform to create my own stories. I tend not to reload when faced with unfortunate outcomes. When you accept the things that go wrong as part of the stories you are creating – that's where Morrowind becomes really interesting.

What are the mods you simply cannot play without?

Aside from the essentials that pretty much every up-to-date modding guide suggests:

A good time as ever to point out a couple more mods from Half11, some of them considered essential by many: Expension Delay and The Publicans.

Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?

My favourite modder is Bolgo The Madd. His mods are inconsistency fixes that fit seamlessly into the vanilla game. It's a shame that mods of such quality are virtually unknown. I think his reasoning, presentation, and implementation are unmatched to this day. These mods inspired me to use deductive reasoning for Patch for Purists to determine the intended workings in the game when encountering less apparent bugs.

Unique Banners and Signs is another underrated mod that adds some flavour to the game. There’s also a high-definition version made by MysticElodie for those who play with texture replacers.

Do you play other games?

I play Slay the Spire on and off. I played a lot of Hearthstone in the past, but nowadays, I'm avoiding all these online free-to-play games because they take a lot of time and never really leave me feeling satisfied like a single-player game can. On my list of things to play are some classic RPGs such as the original Fallout games, new stuff like Wildermyth, and horror games like Dead Space. However, recently my interest has shifted to the wonderful world of board games.

Do you mod other games?

Not really. However, I delved into modding Diablo II (the pre-Resurrected version). I was looking into making a patch for single-player/LAN play that combined different aspects of game versions. I have always been mainly interested in the base game and felt that the expansion was a setback in many ways. With my patch, I planned to bring fixes to earlier versions retroactively. Who knows, I might pick this up someday.

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

Eleven is pronounced as 'elf' in Dutch. So you actually pronounce Half11 as 'half-elf'. But yeah, that only works in Dutch. I came up with the user name when I was like 14, and the name stuck. At the time, I played a lot of Neverwinter Nights and had to come up with a nickname for a school project movie. So there you have it.

Anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t talked about?

The Morrowind challenge Living Off the Land (that first originated on the old Morrowind Summit Forums) isn’t talked about enough. It's a great way to bring back a challenge for those who have played the game many times before and want to experience excitement again.

Here's a link to the challenge in a google doc format. (Thank Denina!)