Modder's Interview: Mort

Modder's Interview: Mort

How long have you been modding and what was your first complete mod?

I’ve been using the construction set for almost 20 years at this point, from the moment I started playing Morrowind I loved being able to change anything I wanted. My first complete mod was probably some quest for non-unique armor/weapons my brothers and I would make for each other. My first published mod was I believe an attempt at improving the Red Mountain Citadels that Greater Dwemer Ruins did not modify. This was 15 years ago, I didn’t do very well but as a personal mod I enjoyed it. Later, Trainwiz did that exact thing and made them look incredible, so I never went back.

How do you approach modding?

I think my approach is similar to many other modders – I find something I wish Morrowind had, and I make it. I wished Morrowind had Fallout 4 Quickloot, so I made it. My inspiration is either other video games or tabletop RPGs. I love how tabletop games abstract complex mechanics into a series of dice rolls, just like Morrowind does. Many of the formulas in my mods are inspired by charts or tables in those RPGs (One of the games used a log-scale for pricing items, I can’t remember which one, but that inspired the formula for Harder Barter).

Have you been influenced by modders?

The biggest influence to me is the passion and hard work people put into Morrowind mods. Whether it's quests, new functionality (Ashfall! Skills Module! Magicka Expanded!), or some of the incredible exteriors people have made, it makes me want to add my contribution to our shared world. I have a secret internal desire to show off to Null and the rest of the MWSE modders, and seeing what kinds of work they do is a huge motivator to me.

I'd say you are off to a great start, mods like Stealth Improved and Distraction are amazing and suddenly make playing a thief viable. They are so good DarkElfGuy picked them for his top 10 mods of 2021!

What’s your favourite thing about modding?

Players get to be involved in the game development process. I think all games should be moddable. It extends the life of the game by letting players add content, or fix bugs, or completely change the way the games are played. Some of the best games are developed as mods first and then spawn genres of their own (Counterstrike, DOTA, Team Fortress). We don’t see that recently as more companies refuse to allow players to mod their games, or severely restrict what can be done. Every game needs a passionate individual like Null willing to hack in lua editing.

History lesson: a couple of years ago, NullCascade took charge of MWSE, previsouly created, expanded and maintained by legendary modders such as cdcooley, Fliggerty, Merzasphor and Timeslip.
The seemingly impossible lua mods we've got these last couple of years exist because of Null's (daily!) contributions to MWSE and his willingness to add new functions as modders need them.

What’s your favourite mod that you’ve made so far? Is there a mod you are especially proud of?

Pickpocket. I enjoy playing a thief, and the entire mechanic being less than worthless was disappointing. I was able to come up with a system that removed the random element from pickpocketing in later games (5% chance? Reload until you get it!). I was also impressed with the time between starting and finishing the mod. I took my existing Quickloot code and changed some functions around, and got it working in about a day.

I’m very proud of my Morrowind Randomizer as well, it randomizes the locations of like 45 objects, all within MWscript! Of course, no one uses it, but I love the concept.

Wrong Mort, I use it, and XeroFoxx recently made his Uncharted Artifacts compatible with it.

Are you working on a mod these days?

I’m working on a series of vampire quests for Tamriel Rebuilt. This will be one of the two new vampire clans in the next release. My clan is ex-legion Orcs who became infected by a very ancient vampire and run their clan like an army. Hopefully, it’s more fun than the vanilla vampire quests!

To help you wait for future mods, take a look at older ones, Mort has given a facelift to a couple of legendary quest mods such as Rise of House Telvanni and Illuninated Order.

Can you tell us a little more about the ex-Legion Orc mod? (or is it top secret, still?)

They're called the Orlukh, and they inhabit an abandoned iron mine in the Roth Roryn region. They specialize in smithing and combat, and fiercely defend their territory from adventurers and other vampire clans. Recently they've been at war with the other new clan, the Baluath, who are more sneaky elves. They hope that by recruiting you, who is most likely not a giant orc (but it's great if you are!), they can counterattack and drive them out of the region. I can't say much about the Ancient, other than he is not an Orc, but he is very, very old.

How much do you play Morrowind, not counting play testing?

It’s my favorite mobile game! I play it on my phone more than the PC now, so any time I travel I will always have Morrowind close by. That means I don’t get to play with MWSE mods, but when OpenMW-Lua adds more functions I will transfer my mods over. I still play on PC occasionally, always when a new TR or PT release happens. I try to not spoil any of the TR quests in progress so I can experience them fresh.

You play Morrowind on mobile, was it hard to install and set up?

Not at all! The only problem is how quickly it drains your battery and you notice you've been playing for 4 hours. It runs perfectly >60 fps even on a multiple-year-old phone, so I'm very happy with the work OpenMW and the OpenMicroWave (the name of the app) teams have done!

How did you discover Morrowind? What makes Morrowind special for you?

My friend told me he had a game where “You can do anything”. I watched him load into Seyda Neen. I said “Punch that guard” and he did, and he got arrested! This was my first non-JRPG experience and I bought it later that day. This, to me, is what makes Morrowind special, even more than other later RPGs. Morrowind allows you to kill anyone, and truly do anything. It doesn’t have the unconscious NPCs or “This lock requires a key” of Oblivion, which is just lazy. It doesn’t have NPC schedules or dynamically moving characters, but it feels so much more alive than later games due to the characterization and world design. Skyrim feels like a shallow version of medieval Europe, Morrowind feels like a completely alien world.

What are the mods you simply cannot play without?

My “essential modlist” is very small. MCP/MGEXE, Patch for Purists,  Morrowind Optimization Patch, Expansion Delay, and the only major gameplay mod – Speed and Stamina Tweaked. Whenever someone asks “how do I make Morrowind more modern?” I suggest that. It makes everyone move faster and makes running not drain fatigue quickly. Due to how Morrowind fatigue works, this has the effect of fixing combat. Instead of a 25% penalty to hit, you get a bonus 25%! Suddenly the combat makes sense and you aren’t missing.

Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?

Everything by OperatorJack. His entire Magic Mechanics series is amazing and very underrated. Homing Projectiles is my favorite, Galerion’s Tools and Astral Pocket are superb and need 200+ more endorsements.

OperatorJack was my guest a while ago, we talked a lot about Galerion's Tools, and Morrowind and modding :D
Here's another underrated mod for you guys, Immersive Corprus by Mort, so your character is not immune to the greatest disease on Vvardenfell until he actually becomes immune to it, you know?

I also think HELLUVA is underrated. Less than underrated, I think a lot of people just regular hate it. Even at the time, people thought it was pretty derivative, but in those days recolors were pretty normal. What I loved, and what your (Danae’s) update of it preserves, is the thrill of finding random loot in a chest. That’s why I love games like Diablo, you never know where you will find the most amazing weapons or armor, it makes you want to explore every cave, and not just the ones with Chrystamere.

Thanks for the shoutout <3 Since we're talking about me, I also took inspiration from Diablo for Unidentified Items. Danae out!

Do you play other games?  

I play just about everything. I love aRPGs (Diablo, Path of Exile), classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Arcanum, newer RPGs like Fallout New Vegas or jRPGs in general. I enjoy games from around 1995-2003 the best, probably due to nostalgia. I love the strange polygons in the PSX games, Cloud’s arms in Final Fantasy 7 are amazing. I play a lot of tabletop games too, Dungeon Crawl Classics and D&D 4e are my favorites.  

Are there features from these games you'd want in Morrowind?

I think action RPGs like Diablo or Path of Exile do a great job at creating items with very unique properties. Just off the top of my head, there's a weapon that creates skeletons when you kill enemies or armor that teleports you randomly ~2 meters away when you're hit. There is a huge span of modifiers and mechanics from these games just waiting to be ported to Morrowind. From Baldur's Gate, I would love to see something like the mod Sword Coast Strategems, which is a complete AI and magic overhaul for every enemy in the game. In most RPGs, you're able to prepare for battle while your enemies are haplessly unaware. Like in Morrowind, before you engage a tough enemy you can drink a dozen skooma, or cast barriers and levitate and make every encounter easy. With a mod like SCS, enemies would be ready for you, and when they see you they would also drink skooma, or levitate, and learn to hide behind rocks or dodge your attacks. Other than animations, I believe an AI overhaul is the last missing "big" mod for Morrowind.

Animations and AI, the last frontier of modding! Will we have to wait until 2090?

Do you mod other games?

I’ve tried my hand at modding Diablo 2, it’s much less user-friendly than Morrowind, and relies a lot on manually hex editing tables to change items. No quest writing or NPCs to write, but the core game is very fun and there are lots of obvious ways to make it better (rebalancing! My favorite!).

Speaking of rebalancing, grab these two other mods by Mort: Bloodmoon Rebalance , Tribunal Rebalance , and Beware of the Sixth House, they are considered must-have by many, myself included.

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

One of my favorite game series is Commander Keen, by id, back before Doom and Quake. Keen’s nemesis is his rival 8-year-old Mortimer McMire who has grand plots to destroy all beings with inferior intellect. I don’t share those plans, but I like the game and like the name, so I chose that 20 years ago, and it eventually it shortened to mort.

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

Thank you for this opportunity! I could talk for hours about Morrowind (and I do). I apologize for my absence these past few weeks, I’m finishing my Master’s Degree in Computer Science this December and between my final classes and my final project it’s been a mess! I hope to return soon and update all of my mods.

Thank you again, Danae!