Modder's Interview: Vitruvian_Guar

Modder's Interview: Vitruvian_Guar

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

That's quite a story actually. I started modding about ten years ago. Playing Skyrim made me nostalgic and I returned to Morrowind. Previously I had avoided installing mods because I wanted to play the game as it was intended by the developers, but that time I decided to try some improvements. Completely by accident, while originally looking for armor mods, I stumbled upon a huge Russian project, called Chaos Heart, which changed nearly every aspect of the game. I tried it out and was severely impressed by the power of modding and it broke some mental restrictions inside my mind. From that moment I started looking for new things that could be improved rather than accepting the game as it was. One thing led to another,  and in a couple of months, I joined Chaos Heart developers as a quest writer and scripter. One of its releases is technically my first finished mod!

Later I became the project's leader, then got a huge burnout and abandoned Morrowind modding for good as I thought at the time. Then, years later, once again, completely by chance, I learned about the new MWSE-Lua functionality. It gave me an enormous bump of motivation to try again as one of the reasons for my burnout was my disillusionment with the scripting capabilities. I started with small gameplay mods and slowly increased their scale. Seeing how the things that used to be extremely hard or even impossible are now easy and straightforwardly implemented was a delight. I joined MMC to learn more about MWSE-Lua and slowly switched to the English modding scene. The main reason for that was probably the English modding community which I turned out to enjoy much more than the Russian one. This happened about two years ago, I think? So in one sense, I'm a pretty experienced modder, on the other hand, I'm kind of a new face in the MMC.

Alchemical Knowledge

How do you approach modding? What inspires you?

My inspiration comes from the game itself, its lore, its quests its mechanics, and how it all works together. When I notice some inconsistency, or just some elements not working to their full potential I have a very strong urge to fix it, by enriching the gameplay. You may notice how most of my mods are motivated by it. Class Skill Limit and Class Starting Spells improve upon the class system, Silver Tongue, Buying Game, Locks and Traps Detection and Nimble Armor take the existing mechanics related to specific skills and make them a bit more coherent, interesting and immersive. A different source of inspiration is other games and mods made by other modders. Seeing a new thoughtful and well-implemented idea is a pleasure and it can push my imagination in a new direction. Alchemical Knowledge, for instance, was hugely influenced by alchemy from Skyrim. And sometimes a mod is great but I feel that something is missing, that it can be improved upon, which hugely motivates me as well. As for the workflow, I usually just do whatever I planned long ago unless I'm incredibly inspired to work on something else right now. My bottleneck is the time that I can dedicate to modding and I really wish I had more of it. My to-do list currently includes lots of entries, huge concepts for new questlines, and overhauls of the existing ones which I'm sadly not able to start just yet because there is always something else. New ideas often come faster than I manage to implement the existing ones and there is never enough time.

What’s your favourite thing about modding?

When you make a mod, you have to operate in an already existent world, within its rules and restrictions, be it current game mechanics or lore. Finding a way to fit your new idea despite or even because of these restrictions to enhance the game can be a challenge, but when you succeed, you get this feeling of pieces falling into the place to fit exactly right. It allows you to experience the game on a deeper level, to see the synergy between different parts, and to hold in mind all the outcomes instead of just one. I generally find this experience more engaging than just playing a game. And of course, the notion of actually creating something new, nevermind something that other people may enjoy and be grateful for, is very fulfilling.

Is there a mod you are especially proud of?

My current magnum opus is Necrocraft. I started working on it a long time ago, first versions didn't even require MWSE and used ridiculous hacks instead. It's my biggest mod in English and the first one that includes quests, instead of just game mechanics. I'm very satisfied with the way I've integrated necromancer quests into the game world. The way how they actually require you to practice necromancy and let you learn new abilities in an immersive way and how these abilities can open the path to lichdom but only when used creatively. Creating such an in-game puzzle with multiple elements was a pleasure and I hope that many players will experience the satisfaction of solving it on their own.

Are you working on a mod these days?

Multiple, as a matter of fact. I'm adding more content to Necrocraft, currently, two Vvardenfell Necromancers are lacking quests, and this is going to change soon. And I've already started the project of integrating Necrocraft with Tamriel Rebuild content. Mainland necromancers have a great potential for unique quests and interactions and I'm going to deliver on it. I'm also continuing the work on my visual-storytelling-driven Balmora overhaul: Balmora - The City of Contrasts. It's currently one of my less appreciated works, probably due to the fact that the initial release was accompanied with bugs, but now they are fixed and I hope it's going to get the attention it deserves. It's a city overhaul, combining and improving upon the best ideas from such mods as BCoM, Dallara Balmora, and Balmora Waterworks. And, as I'm first of all quester and scripter and not a level designer, I'm trying to optimise for interesting gameplay interactions and quests, instead of pure aesthetics. Multiple vanilla quests are indirectly improved by this paradigm, either by providing new ways to solve them, or new challenges to overcome. Also, there are already three new quests, related to the places the City of Contrasts introduces, and even more to come. None of them is a heroic adventure. They are small tales of the city, revealing its different facets and struggles that common people have to face.

My two latest WIP projects are the continuation of the work I started with Morag Tong Secret Identity: reimplementation of the Morag Tong overhaul I made for Russian version of the game, a couple of years ago, but with some improvements, modularity, and better compatibility. The first project will focus on the Morag Tong part in the justice system of Morrowind, allowing the player to become the target of writs for their crimes. The second is a comprehensive improvement of vanilla Morag Tong writs, making them more challenging and satisfying to execute, with non-linear gameplay and opportunities to use such assassins' skills as sneak, acrobatics, and security, while the targets use different strategies to survive. Something akin to what Dark Brotherhood missions were in Oblivion, but with more focus on social stealth and other Morag Tong specifics.

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

Sadly, nowadays I do not play Morrowind at all. At some moment I stopped treating it as a game that I could play and relax and now my mind is constantly looking for new things to improve new ideas for mods, and new ways to release my creative energy. I have a hope that at some moment when I make enough mods and implement all of my ideas, I'll finally be content and will be able to fully immerse myself in Morrowind once again. But I don't see it happening in the next few years. I'm mostly satisfied with such state of affairs. As I said, I find modding more fun than just playing.

What makes Morrowind special for you?

It was my first open world rpg game and for this Morrowind will always have a special place in my heart. But also I'm in love with its depth, the lore, the metaphysics, the initial strangeness and unwelcoming of the world which motivated you to explore and understand it and as a result later starts feeling as hard-earned home. I think this is what's missing in later TES games. They are not weird enough.

Do you play other games?

Every hour of spare time I spend on playing a game is an hour I could've been modding instead, so I play games only when I burn out or feel that I'm very close to it. In such moments I prefer strategy games such as Civilization or Stellaris. There are some rpg that I'd like to try eventually, I'll probably check out TES VI, for instance, but I doubt that it will be on the release.

What's the story behind username

A person I knew drew a picture of a Vitruvian guar and I instantly liked it. Guars are adorable and are connected to some of my significant Morrowind experiences. And such ideas as blending mathematics and art or accurate measurements which lead to the synergy between multiple elements, are related to my modding philosophy. So I embraced it as my identity.  I'm using this picture as an avatar ever since.