Modder's Interview: Neoptolemus

Modder's Interview: Neoptolemus
Wyrmhaven by Neoptolemus

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

Showing my age here, but in the 90s I used to do some Doom modding, and there may still be something of mine hiding in some far-flung corner of the internet. As far as Morrowind goes I was making mods pretty much from day one. My first release was a joke mod called 'Mummified Dunmer Unbandaged!' (the name being a play on several mods that all had 'Unleashed!' in the title) which added Dunmer mummies as a misc object to the cinerary urns in Ancestral Tombs.

Mummified Dunmer Unbandaged

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

Most of my early mods were inspired by things that I felt were lacking in the original game. Morrowind Comes Alive was a way to make the world less static, and my various creature mods (The Undead, Ranked Dremora, Minions of House Dagoth), were about adding some variety, as I was sick of killing the same twenty monsters over and over again. For my Wyrmhaven mod, there is a bit of Tolkien in there. Many of the NPC names come from the 'History of Middle Earth' series, which I was reading at the time, and when creating the Order of Kynareth itself I took a lot of inspiration from my days playing an old Lord of the Rings MUSH (in the days before MMORPGs were a thing), where I roleplayed a Swan Knight of Dol Amroth.

Morrowind Comes Alive

What's your favourite thing about modding?

I think it was the satisfaction of getting an idea, and then having the ability to actualise it. I would be playing Morrowind and think 'Wouldn't it be cool if...', and next minute I'm firing up the Construction Set and making it a reality. I used to love that. And being able to customise the game for myself, until everything was exactly how I wanted it.

Ships of the Imperial Navy

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

Has to be Wyrmhaven. I had so much fun making that one, even though it had a long and tortured development - mainly due to me severely underestimating the amount of work involved in creating a landmass + quest mod. I started it way back in 2005, hoping to get it finished before I went travelling for a year without access to a computer, but only managed to get the landscape done. Then I sat on it for several years and finally returned to it at the beginning of 2013. I'd recently moved into my own house, was single and without much of a social life, so I wanted something to keep me occupied in the evenings. I figured I'd dust it off and knock out the questline in a month (ha!) so I could finally get it out there before everyone had forgotten about Morrowind entirely. It ended up taking the better part of a year, but it was a labour of love. I especially enjoyed coming up with the history of the island, and inventing and fleshing out the various characters: the Manticore who only speaks in rhymes; the weird Bosmer girl who collects pillows; Centurion Marhaus, the last honest man in the Imperial Legion, who's constantly in danger of being murdered but sticks around because as long as he's there it's only 99% corrupt; and my personal favourite, the Knight-Marshal Lucius, who everyone respects because he's a badass and an effective leader, but is actually completely immoral, and quite happy breaking the rules in order to enforce them. I also got to implement a lot of fun things that aren't in the original game, such as introducing stat checks to complete certain tasks, random voiced NPC conversations like in Oblivion and Skyrim, a battle taking place on a massive warship, and a quest where you have to carry a dead body, which you actually see slung over your shoulder in first person (I was quite proud of that, even if it turned out a bit clunky). Of course, Wyrmhaven was nowhere near as popular as Morrowind Comes Alive, although people tend to either love or hate that one, with no middle ground. I think that's partly due to issues with earlier versions that have since been fixed but have caused irreparable damage to its reputation!


Are you working on a mod these days?

No, I don't really have time for modding these days, but I may continue to update my old mods from time to time. I recently updated Wyrmhaven to make use of the 'Tamriel_Data' assets, and I probably need to make MCA and a couple of others compatible with the latest Tamriel Rebuilt. I know there is a workaround people have been using, but it would obviously be better if it worked 'out of the box'.

The Undead

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

Not much now, but every now and then I will load it up and have a little run around Vvardenfell for old times' sake. But I played so much of it in the 00s that I feel like I've had my fair share.

Ranked Dremora

How did you discover Morrowind?

My friend, Lance, told me about this amazing upcoming first-person RPG where the map was just one big open space, and you could go anywhere and do anything. Up to that point, my only experience with RPGs had been the Infinity Engine games, which I loved, but the concept of actually being 'in' the game world in 3D seemed like a revelation, so I obtained a copy on release. It absolutely blew me away - even though I was playing it on a 32MB RIVA TNT2 graphics card, which was so slow that my fps was often in single digits. It was so bad that in exterior cells the only way to get playable fps was to look down at the ground, reducing the number of polygons it had to render. So in those early days, I think I saw more of the ground textures than the actual landscape.


What makes Morrowind special for you?

I guess the fact that I played it so much back in the day, and everything is so familiar to me. Now that I don't really play it, it's an instant nostalgia trip back to a time in my life when I had far fewer responsibilities.

Bury Your Treasure

What are the mods you simply cannot play without?

The usual graphical mods, Vurt's trees, MGE with distant land and grass, etc. Morrowind was a nice-looking game in its day, but it's definitely showing its age now, so needs all the help it can get in the graphics department. I also can't play without Nevena's Twin Lamps mod: I love clearing out a bandit cave, then freeing the slaves and equipping them with their former captors' gear, and leading them to a safehouse.

Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?

My favourite mod that I almost never see mentioned is Waterfowl of Morrowind (I think by Kagz?), which adds ducks, geese, and swans to various lakes, pools, and rivers around Vvardenfell. It brings me joy every time I stumble upon a pool or waterway and discover a flock of geese or a family of ducks and ducklings. I also have fond memories of playing all the old, pre-TR landmass mods, like Havish, Attack on Ynys Mon, Annastia, Dulsya Isle, Ald Vendras, and Lothavor's Legacy. Tamriel Rebuilt has obliterated/obsoleted most of these by building over the areas where they were located, and it's a shame that Morrowind never allowed for independent exterior world spaces so they could all exist simultaneously (maybe OpenMW has this? I don't know).

Do you play other games?

I'm a big fan of Skyrim and the first-person Fallout games (never played the old isometric ones). Also S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the Far Cry series, and Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Anything first person and open world is my jam. Plus a bit of Raid Shadow Legends, which I know is pay-to-win trash, but the art design is fantastic, and it's a game I can play on my phone on a slow day at work without my boss noticing...

Do you mod other games?

As mentioned before I used to mod Doom back in the 90s, but apart from that just Morrowind. I never made the transition to modding Oblivion and Skyrim. Oblivion was a bit too 'generic fantasy' for my liking, and I think I only ever did one playthrough. I love Skyrim, but I was very late to the party on that one and didn't play it until 2016. My impetus for modding was always a desire to add things that I felt were missing from the game, and by the time I got around to playing Skyrim the modding scene had already provided everything I could possibly want. The Radiant AI negates the need for a 'Skyrim Comes Alive', because it already is 'alive', and I certainly couldn't imagine ever doing anything as time consuming as Wyrmhaven again.

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

Neoptolemus was the son of the hero, Achilles, in Greek mythology. I've always found him to be an interesting character, from a psychological perspective. Most of the literature that survives depicts him as a violent sociopath, with all of his father's skill as a warrior but nothing to moderate it. He infamously murdered the elderly Trojan king Priam during the sack of Troy, and (in some versions) Astyanax, the infant son of Hector. There's even a painted Greek vase showing him beating Priam to death with the dead body of Astyanax! Brutal. I like the idea that he was basically ruined by a combination of genetics and circumstance. He grows up with this innate talent for war and killing, but unlike Achilles he never had a tutor like Chiron or Phoenix to teach him how to apply it - and most importantly, when not to. Then when barely out of puberty he gets snatched up by the Greeks to become a stand-in for his deceased father, wearing his armour and leading his troops, and losing his own identity in the process. Everyone is constantly telling him how awesome his father was, how much he looks like him, etc, and it's as if his only worth is because of who his dad was. He's treated as a totem by the Greeks, so they can fulfill a prophecy and pretend that Achilles isn't dead, and they unleash him on the Trojans as a killing machine. No wonder he was messed up.

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

Am I allowed to shamelessly plug my books? As you can probably tell from the paragraph above I'm a massive Greek mythology nerd and have put together a few books on the subject. I have a series called 'Reconstructing the Lost Epics of the Trojan War,' which looks at the lost sequels and prequels to the Iliad and Odyssey, and another one called 'The Troy Myth in Medieval Britain,' which translates some weird and wacky medieval versions of the story into Modern English. So any other Greek mythology nerds that are out there may want to take a look.