Modder's Interview: Kateri
How long have you been modding and what was your first complete mod?
I started modding around 2005, probably? Just messing around with textures, at first, I think a hair recolour pack might have been the first thing I released - nothing I'd even made myself, just an expansion of another mod, to include more races. No real creativity, just toiling in the nifskope mines, but I learned about meshes and stuff. Next, I made some wildly lore-unfriendly clothes for a laugh, and figured I could add a NPC to sell them in-game. So I found some dialogue tutorials, and wow it was complicated, but getting a person to stand there in Morrowind, spouting my words? That was fun. I'm a terrible artist, so I quickly forgot about textures and started making weird little imaginary idiots to hang out with.
Note: The two mods mentioned are still available on Emma's website.
How do you approach modding?
I'm powered by curiosity and the learning process. I get obsessed with figuring out how to do something, and once I've figured it out, I get bored and move on to something new. At the same time, I can't do small things. I always end up with big, sprawling projects, because feature creep happens, and I keep thinking of new things I could try to include. So I end up with these big, messy, years-long, over-ambitious things, and then I don't make anything else in that creative area ever again, because once I actually managed to finish it, I move on. This is an attempt to explain why I've only made one Morrowind mod of any note!
What about Dance of the Three-Legged Guar, the mod you worked on with Princess Stomper? You don't count that?
It's very kind of Princess Stomper to keep my name on it but honestly, it's almost entirely her work, with just a line here and there that I wrote. Originally, the plan was that she would write Arnand, and I would write the second half of the mod, involving his sister Evie, but I totally failed to deliver! I'm not good at collaborating, unfortunately, if it's not my own idea, it's difficult for me to stay focused.
What’s your favourite thing about modding?
The community. Always. I released Julan right after Oblivion came out, so I was resigned to the idea that nobody would ever play it, because everyone would be playing Oblivion, now. That's not what happened, and it's because Morrowind fans are a special breed of weirdo, who are probably gonna keep hanging out in Vvardenfell, on and off, for our entire lives.
What’s your favourite mod that you’ve made so far?
I have made, as mentioned... one mod. He's an Ashlander called Julan Kaushibael, and he's kind of a disaster, but he'll follow you around and comment on stuff. I've been updating it sporadically for 16 years at this point, so every time I open it, I find another example of something stupid I wrote when I was in my early 20s, so it's also a constant exercise in humility. If you bastards would just stop playing it, I could leave it alone! But people, amazingly, still play it and send me pictures and questions and the most hilarious stories of all the stupid shit Julan's been doing in their game. (I can't take credit for most of it. He's a Bethesda NPC, after all.) So, yeah, again, it's my favourite because it's a creative collaboration between me and whoever uses him as part of their Morrowind story, and I love hearing about it. Even the stories where someone murders him horribly. Especially those ones, actually (sickos.jpg).
Note: The latest version of Julan, Ashlander Companion (3.0) is available here. Version 2.02 is available here.
Is there a mod you are especially proud of?
I have made ONE! MOD!!!
Are you working on a mod these days?
No, because I fell into a Unity dev hole, and I'm working on a standalone game right now. (It's called Chymicalia, and it's an alchemy-sim/visual novel about making dodgy alchemical elixirs in a shitty modern-day Yorkshire town and trying to fix the problems of the total disasters who live there, usually by giving them new ones.) But I do plan to finish the endlessly-beta 3.0 version of Julan eventually, and I probably will, because, see next question...
How much do you play Morrowind, not counting play testing?
I always come back to Morrowind every few years and do some kind of big playthrough, in which I want to add/fix a ton of stuff in the Julan mod and end up releasing a new version. I think so far it's been like... 2006/2010/2014/2018... wait is that just the winter Olympic cycle? IS THERE A CONNECTION? Anyway, I skipped 2022, so I'm due another one after I finish my game, but it's a big project, so maybe 2024?
How did you discover Morrowind?
I bought it for someone else, actually. I was transfixed by the cover and description, but didn't think I had the skills to play action RPG - I have no hand-eye coordination and used to be turn-based combat all the way. Then I watched them play it, realised I could totally mash an attack button as well as they could, and also I NEEDED to be playing this. They stopped playing it after a few weeks, at which point I ran away with the disc, and here we all are, two Booby decades later, holy shit. Can I swear in this interview? I hope so. If not, please replace all swears with breeds of birds or something.
What makes Morrowind special for you?
Morrowind is special because it provides just the right kind of space for creativity to flourish - a perfect storm of culture and detail and strangeness and mystery. We all want to bring our own ideas into the space, share them, and mingle them, and whether they're lore-friendly hyper-philosophical additions or deranged meme-laden nightmares (or both), there's room for it all. The best thing about Morrowind is that it's totally viable for something to be both.
What are the mods you simply cannot play without?
Honestly, none. Don't get me wrong, my modlist is more chaotically crowded than a multistorey carpark full of clown cars, but I could totally play Morrowind without anything extra. She's always beautiful to me! And I bet I'd still be finding stuff I never knew was there.
Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?
I don't know if it counts as underrated, exactly, but The Underground by Qarl feels like the sort of mod that might easily slide into oblivion because, like the glitchy rotating-skull-gifs of the Goth websites it was born of, it is EXTREMELY of its early-2000s time. For better and worse. It's a sprawling mess, it's wildly problematic, it's buggy as hell, and it's lore-hostile to the point that lore has filed a restraining order and bought a gun. I still love it. Miss you, Qarl. I hope you died as you lived, thinking way too much about goth girl tiddies.
Do you play other games?
I could list a ton of random games here, but it might be more useful if I picked out just one other game I love because it gives me a similar sort of feeling of exploration and mysterious weirdness as Morrowind: Darklands, the medieval-Germany RPG. That's another one I come back to every few years, just to mess around in and make characters and tell stories to myself.
Do you mod other games?
Nah. I love plenty of other games, but none of them offers the same sort of creative possibility space that Morrowind does.
Anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t talked about?
You know what, I'm just gonna link to the story I told on tumblr a while ago about the time I modded Morrowind to steal a baby.
Note: Kateri's website is available here. Her Twitter is available here.