Modder's Interview: Merlord
How long have you been modding and what was your first complete mod?
I’ve been modding since late 2017, so around 4 years. I had just gotten back into Morrowind and wanted to roleplay as a bard, but I couldn’t find any good bard mods! If only someone had made some sort of mod that simulated a Bard’s Life… oh well. I did find a mod called Lutes 3 that almost did what I wanted, but was quite buggy. So I decided to dig into the construction set and see what I could do to fix it. The end result was my first ever mod, Bardic Inspiration.
Oh I see what you did there Merlord. ;)
How do you approach modding?
I try to play the game, find things that could be improved, or ideas that could be implemented, and then try and implement them. Sometimes it’s quality of life stuff, like being able to exit out of a menu by right-clicking, and sometimes it’s an idea for a new mechanic or an overhaul of existing mechanics.
For smaller mods, I’ll start with a quick and dirty implementation as a proof of concept, to see if it’s worth continuing. If it looks good, I’ll tidy up the bugs, add MCM options, give it a polish, then release it. For larger mod ideas I might start with a design document/brainstorm as a Github wiki before I even write any code.
My workflow has evolved a lot thanks to a range of tools, frameworks and libraries I’ve developed over the years. For example, I recently developed a Mod Packager that is able to copy mod files and add them to a 7z archive, push a release to Github, and even automatically deploy to Nexus, all with a single command. With that, along with libraries such as EasyMCM, Skills Module, and MWSELogger, I am able to go from idea to fully functional mod released on Nexus in a very short amount of time.
What’s your favourite thing about modding?
There’s nothing more rewarding than having an idea, putting work in to create a mod for it, and seeing that idea come to life within the game. It just never gets old.
What’s your favourite mod that you’ve made so far?
The Guar Whisperer. It was made in a rush as part of the Modathon, the code is full of hacks and it has a bunch of bugs… but all that is made up for by the fact that you can play fetch with a guar! It also has some really wonderful interactions with other mods that weren’t intentional. I know I’m not the only one who has been trying to cook marshmerrow on an Ashfall grill only to have my pet guar sneak over and eat it from under my nose.
Is there a mod you are especially proud of?
Ashfall, of course. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I actually finished it, that I achieved everything I set out to achieve, and that the end result is so much better than I could have imagined. I set out to make Ashfall with the belief that survival mechanics didn’t have to be tedious chores filled with micromanagement and piles of menus; that they can be immersive while actually being fun to engage in. Very few survival games, let alone survival mods, have managed to strike that balance, but I believe I have done so with Ashfall.
Are you working on a mod these days?
I always have a few projects on the go at a time. I’m currently working on finalising a major update to Ashfall which fleshes out the bushcrafting mechanic, using my new Crafting Framework which will be released at the same time. I also have a chargen overhaul mod called Chargen Scenarios which is about 80% finished. After that, I might get started on my planned alchemy overhaul or disease mechanics overhaul.
Note: Bushcrafting is now implemented in Ashfall, Chargen Scenarios beta can be downloaded from Github
How does it feel being the overlord and ruler of the Morrowind Modding Community discord?
Being admin of the server means I have to act mature all the time, avoid taking sides in debates and generally be nice to people. I’m not always good at doing those things but I try my best.
How much do you play Morrowind, not counting play testing?
I play all the time, but I so often get distracted with modding/play testing that my characters don’t tend to last very long.
How did you discover Morrowind?
I have an older brother who played a lot of games when I was a kid and would occasionally allow me to play them. The first time I played it I had no idea what I was doing, but it always stuck with me, and I rediscovered the game a couple of times throughout my life after that.
What makes Morrowind special for you?
I feel more attached to my Morrowind characters than I do for any other game. It strikes that perfect balance of giving you lots of choices for how your character looks, what skills they are good at etc while leaving enough room for you to fill in the gaps with your imagination. Add to that a truly unique and fleshed out world, with tonnes of history and lore and intrigue, it makes for one of the most satisfying role-playing experiences out there.
What are the mods you simply cannot play without?
I have a list!
Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?
“Something’s Not Right…” by CliffWorms, which adds flavour text whenever you approach a cave or dungeon. It’s such a simple idea but I love it so much.
Do you play other games?
I try, but I usually get bored after 5 minutes. Occasionally a game will hold my attention for long enough for me to really get into it. Noita is a game that I absolutely love, not just for the gameplay and replayability, but also as a technical achievement and source of inspiration. It’s a procedurally generated game with pixel-by-pixel physics simulation and a spell system that allows for thousands of unique combinations of effects.
Do you mod other games?
Nope! Before modding Morrowind I had aspirations to make a camping mod for Minecraft but I never got around to it.
And by the way, what's the story behind your user name?
It was the year 2000, I was a kid and the internet was a new thing, and I needed to come up with a cool username. So I tried to come up with the two coolest things in the world and merge them together into a doubly cool name. And what were the two coolest things my little 10-year-old brain could think of? A warlord, and Merlin the wizard! The fact that “Merlord” makes sense in the context of Morrowind (mer being the name for dark elves) is a pure coincidence!