Modder's Interview: OperatorJack

Modder's Interview: OperatorJack

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

I have been modding since 2004 or 2005, I believe. Since I was in elementary school, at least. I never accomplished much back then, but it was fun and got me interested in computers. In fact, MWScript was the first programming language I learned. It eventually led me into Computer Science and my current profession. After toughening myself against Todd’s language, everything else seemed fun.

My first complete mod was an unpublished quest mod involving some Nords. I don’t remember much that it was about, except that it had some cringe dialogue and excellent scripting. My first published mod would likely be the Astral Pocket, which you can find on my Nexus page.

The Astral Pocket is essentially a portable house mod that you access by casting a spell.

How do you approach modding?  

My modding inspiration is almost always influenced by the game itself. I keep a “main” install with all of my favorite mods on it, which I will pick up and play every few months as I get bored with other hobbies. That gameplay will jump-start some mod idea in my mind, and then off I go. The inspiration can be anything: gameplay, like in security-enhanced, or quest-related, like my recently released The Underground 2 mod.

I have a specific workflow in that I heavily abuse MWSE, GitHub and Wrye Mash while modding. All of my mods are stored in GitHub so they can have version control and backups. All of my mods use MWSE where possible to simplify my work (I’m not touching MWScript, ever again). All of my mods are reinstalled through Wrye Mash after each change in a clean test environment. This way, everything I do is traceable, timed, and organized. This prevents issues where I could package a mod and miss files, upload the wrong ESP, etc.

Furthermore, I try not to shelve projects. Many of the mods on my Nexus page were things I didn’t really care to complete, but I did anyway. For example Wands, Simple Combat Mechanics, and Miscast Enhanced. This mindset is helpful for modding, as it prevents me from building too large of a backlog and depressing myself with unfinished work. That being said, there are things I have completely canceled, like my NPC Variant mod, which dynamically used different body textures for NPCs (for example, Argonians could be blue, black, red, etc, instead of the same color everywhere).

Generally, I try to see things through to completion, even if it takes me a while.

What’s your favourite thing about modding?  

Morrowind has always been one of my favorite games, despite never having played a fair amount of the content in it. Considering how early I started playing it in my life, it is very nostalgic. Having the ability to control and modify something I grew up with is very fun to me and is probably the real reason I keep coming back. No matter what hair-brained idea I have, I can realize it through modding. The advent of MWSE stepped that up a notch, by letting me use my professional knowledge to make major changes with less effort. That is what really pulled me into modding and encouraged me to release my work.

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

Surprisingly, not a MWSE mod. My favorite work would have to be either OAAB – The Astral Pocket or Galerion’s Tools.  Both are simple quest mods with minor MWSE mechanics, but they are primarily world-building exercises. The Astral Pocket provides a player home within a unique hellfire dimension, while Galerion’s Tools adds a new quest to our favorite person, Mr. Fyr. Neither received as much recognition as many of my other mods, despite them being my favorites.

Galerion's tool lets you extract an enchantment from an item and place it into a soul gem

Is there a mod you are especially proud of?  

I am most proud of the Magic Mechanics series of mods: Enhanced Light, Enhanced Invisibility, Enhanced Detection, Enhanced Telekinesis, and so on. Each of these mods is doing some crazy things in the background in order to build entirely new mechanics for lackluster vanilla magic effects. Kurp is a wizard with VFX, and I believe that we truly improved the game with our efforts in those mods. Maybe one day we’ll be able to continue that work.

Are you working on a mod these days?  

Aren’t I? From a game mod perspective, I’m working on multiple. I recently released a repackaging of The Underground 2, a precursor to my overhaul of the legendary mod. I have been working on that for a while, here and there. My primary game modding focus is on Vampyr, my total vampire overhaul mod. It adds entirely new magic systems, player mechanics, sun damage VFX in the vein of Magic Mechanics, and so much more. Vampyr is steadily nearing completion, with most of the remaining work being in the CS. Lots of dialogue to write.

From a non-game mod perspective, I have recently started working on a new modding tool with Greatness7. Numidium, as we call it, is planned to be a mod management and editing tool. Imagine Wrye Mash, Mod Organizer 2, MWEdit, and may others all combined together into one simple interface. We’ve made steady progress on it so far, so stay tuned.

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

It comes in spurts. Right now, none. Sometimes I’ll do nothing but play Morrowind for a week. Generally, if I am modding, I am not playing Morrowind.

How did you discover Morrowind?  

One of my friends in elementary school brought a copy of the original Xbox game to class and gave it to me. The rest was history.

What makes Morrowind special for you?  

I’ve been playing it since I was eight years old. It’s been a major part of my life ever since then. Modding has had a direct influence on my career and is still one of my favorite hobbies. Morrowind is special to me in the way that a family member is: a central part of my life, often taken for granted, but always there when I need them.

What are the mods you simply cannot play without?  

MGE XE would be the main one. I can play without most else, although I prefer not to. I enjoy Better Bodies and related mods (Oh, the horror!), as well as many unobtrusive content mods like Beautiful Cities of Morrowind. Although I often do play without it, The Underground 2 is one of my favorite mods due to its sheer lunacy and scale.

Are there any underrated mods that you really enjoy?  

Not specifically, but I would say quest mods are often overlooked. They never received the same praise and discussion as graphics or scripting mods. I enjoy the Wolf of White Lokken Mountain, The Underground 2, The Rise of House Telvanni, and many of the other massive quest mods from long ago. I encourage anyone to go back and give them a play. If you like them enough, why not give them a facelift into 2022, as many have done?

Mort updated Rise of House Telvanni and The Illuminated Order, another great quest mod.

Do you play other games?  

I do, although not as much as I used to. I am currently playing Cyberpunk 2077, Project Zomboid, and Minecraft, although my interests wax and wane fairly regularly.

Do you mod other games?  

I install mods for some other games, but I make them exclusively for Morrowind.

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

I saw a youtube video by someone named OperatorDrewski. I liked it, so I stole the Operator part and appended my name at the end. Very original, I know.

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

Aside from modding, my other main hobby is writing. Some may have noticed I went on a bit of a hiatus last year – I was writing a novel! I successfully completed it, a four hundred page whopper of fairly-dark high fantasy, and am now in the process of editing and reviewing. If I am not modding, playing a game, or reading, then I spend my time writing. Aside from my completed novel, I have written a few dozen short stories (somewhere between 30-40). I am now in the process of writing a Cyberpunk-style novella, which I should be completed soon.