Article by Denis418
20 years ago a dream was born. When Bethesda opened their developer tools to everyone, the fans of the Elder Scrolls set a goal to achieve something that hadn’t been done since the days of TES I: to create the whole continent of Tamriel in the confines of one game. Two decades have passed since that day and neither fans nor Bethesda themselves have achieved this goal. But it doesn’t mean that nothing was achieved at all.
The most successful project working on this dream is Tamriel Rebuilt. This team is recreating the mainland of Morrowind according to the lore and vision of the original TES III. Players can already visit 50% of the province's mainland, which is approximately the same size as the original game, and enjoy over 360 quests in it. You can download the mod right now, and there's a big Tamriel Rebuilt content update that is coming soon. But there exists another modding endeavor that deserves attention from all Morrowind fans – Project Tamriel. This collaboration of projects has recently made an impressive release dubbed Dragonstar. But I know, all these names are very confusing. Why does Tamriel Rebuilt make the mainland of Morrowind, and not all of Tamriel? Why is Project Tamriel a separate project? Why do you want to make Tamriel at all? And most importantly, how long should we wait? Let's find out.
Beauty of the Dawn
It's been more than a year now since I joined Project Tamriel (P.T.) as a developer and I have constantly followed most of their discussions in Discord. Now, I want to share with you everything I know about this fascinating project.
P.T. was born as an independent idea more than 15 years ago. Today it consists of a whole collaboration of different smaller projects that aim to reproduce Tamriel, brick by brick, in the continuum of ТЕS III. The team tries to recreate the continent as if it was made by Bethesda and shipped with the original game. The cornerstone of the project is a book called the Pocket Guide to the Empire – an external source of information on the world of the Elder Scrolls, written by Bethesda and shipped with the game Redguard in 1998. Some even call it the Bible of TES. Tamriel in this book is a marvelous place: vivid, unbelievable and alien. But in the newer games the company stepped back from many design decisions of this book. That's why a dream to see Tamriel of the Pocket Guide still burns hot in the hearts of the fans. And this exact dream motivates Project Tamriel to move forward.
The undeniable leader among the branches of Project Tamriel is Skyrim: Home of the Nords, while another one is following close – Province: Cyrodiil. Both of these modifications have hours of high-quality content that you can already enjoy. Aside from this published content, P.T. consists of several other sub-projects: High Rock 427, Project Valenwood, Hammerfell, Summerset, Roscrea and Elsweyr: Paradise Sugar. All of them remain in the conceptualisation stage and nothing has been done for them in the Construction Set. Instead, the relatively few active developers of P.T. focus their efforts on the provinces Skyrim and Cyrodiil. But where is Black Marsh? - you may ask. To answer this, let's talk about the relationship between P.T. and its elder brother Tamriel Rebuilt.
Both of the projects have friendly and mutually beneficial relationships. For many years, these modding teams have cooperated with each other and they even share many members. Both projects work on a resource pack called Tamriel Data: all 3D assets, textures, books, etc. are stored in it and shared between the projects. Also, developers are constantly in touch in terms of lore, trying to avoid discrepancies with the original game and with each other. That's why P.T. and T.R. together can be viewed as a solid artistic product.
When T.R. runs out of space for their work – that is, when they finish making Morrowind – the team plans to continue in the homeland of the Argonians, the Black Marsh. For this they have created a dummy project called Eye of Argonia, named after the canceled Bethesda sequel to Redguard. The rest of the continent goes to Project Tamriel. The latter started making Cyrodiil and Skyrim from the western edges of these provinces – as far from Morrowind as possible – to give T.R. freedom to decide the shape of the borders of Morrowind. This was also because in the beginning the projects did not communicate as well as they do now. Since then, a lot has changed and both teams are now trying to connect their land masses as soon as possible to give players a solid game-world to walk across. So, let us finally explore every sub-project in detail.
Skyrim: Home of the Nords
The Reach could be mistaken for one of the petty kingdoms of High Rock; it is full of Bretons, Redguards, Cyrodiils, Elves of all stripes, and even a few misplaced khajiit. – Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st ed.
More than anywhere, P.T. has succeeded in the province of the Nords. Its development started more than 13 years ago, even before Bethesda announced the fifth chapter of the TES series. This is partly the reason why P.T.'s version of Skyrim is so different from ТЕS V, which is especially true for the starting point of the project, the region of Markarth.
One of the most striking features of this iteration of Skyrim is the absence of Dwemer ruins. According to the lore of TES III, the Dwemer built their settlements almost exclusively in Morrowind and Hammerfell and they migrated from the former to the latter through the lands of Cyrodiil. The niche of the ancient Elven civilization in SHotN is, instead, held by the Direnni Clan. This Altmeri empire used to stretch far into the south-west of Skyrim. The Markarth Side itself, which is the capital of the Reach, is built on an ancient Direnni stronghold.
In the dark years of Imperial Simulacrum during the bloody war of Bend’r Mahk, three kings of western Skyrim joined forces and conquered territories from the neighboring provinces. Among these were the Hammerfell cities of Karthwasten and Dragonstar, which became a starting point of our Nerevarine’s acquaintance with Skyrim. The team have successfully created two giant cities surrounded by many villages, dungeons, ancient ruins and other interesting handcrafted locales. To fill this, they implemented a full package of quests of every kind: Guilds of Mages, Warriors and Thieves, bounty hunts, miscellaneous one-off quests and a special adventure that introduces a new form of lycanthropy. More than a hundred quests await you in the finished part of the Reach and there is a plethora of new literature and dozens of new characters with plenty of fascinating lore to share.
In the nearest future, SHotN plans to release the final third of the Reach hold, which encompasses the cities of Beorinhall and Markarth Side. At the moment, they are finishing the interiors, after which there will be a questing stage. One of the most exciting of these will be the Reach kingmaker questline that will place the player in the middle of the power struggle for the Markarth throne. When king Barda dies, our Nerevarine will get to support who they believe to be the worthiest candidate to rule the Reach. This promises to be a tense conflict that will touch every political and cultural string of the region.
At the same time, the exteriors department of SHotN has been working hard to implement the land further north and east from the Reach: Falkheim, Haafingar and Falkreath regions. The last one is very interesting from a cultural standpoint, because it used to be a Colovian estate in ages past; hence, the local people and the architecture are more akin to Cyrodiil than the province of the Nords. Here you will encounter the lake Ilinalta, which was named after Pelinal Whitestrake, and some remnants of the Ayleid empire that reached here from the south. Speaking of the south, let us now discuss the next major direction of the project.
Province: Cyrodiil, the largest region of the continent, and most is endless jungle
Thousands of workers ply the rice fields after the floodings, or clear the foliage of the surrounding jungle in the alternate seasons. Above them are the merchant-nobility, the temple priests and cult leaders, and the age-old aristocracy of the battlemages. The Emperor watches over them all from the towers of the Imperial City, as dragons circle overhead. – Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st ed.
This project does not yet have as large land masses available to the public as its Skyrim counterpart. P:C's only release to date is Stirk – a Cyrodilian island in the Abecean Sea. This island is already high-quality, but the authors seek to improve it even more. They plan to add a Mages Guild as well as a branching questline about the intrigues of the three most prominent figures of the island in the face of a pirate threat. Of course, your character will get to decide the fate of the island.
But Stirk is not the only place the team have developed during the past five years. All this time they've been working on the mainland of Cyrodiil, a much more ambitious task. P:C has fully recreated the Gold Coast, including the city of Sutch that was cut from TES IV, and exterior work has even reached the middle of the Colovian Highlands region that is located just north of Kvatch.
And where is all of this content? – you may ask. Here's a problem: there are precious few developers putting their main efforts into Province: Cyrodiil. Most of the team divides what time they have between other P.T. and T.R. branches, meaning that the last few tasks needed for the release have taken a long while. Furthermore, while T.R. is happy to provide their unfinished content to players, P.T.’s policy prevents regular users from downloading the WIP files. This rule was established after some sad misunderstandings on behalf of the players who absentmindedly installed T.R.'s Preview.esp with WIP content and concluded that the whole of Tamriel Rebuilt is just empty lands with no inhabitants and interiors. This is, of course, not true. But to prevent the spread of such misconceptions in the future, P.T. has decided to publish only finished content.
Anvil city and its surrounding lands are very close to being released to the public. This territory also includes the town of Brina Cross and several other interesting locations, such as the Thresvy vineyard. Aside from settlements, we'll also get to see Ayleid ruins, dungeons, mines, Colovian barrows, Reman Empire ruins and modern Legion forts. To release Anvil, we only need a couple more interiors and some two thirds of the questwork that should be expected from an expansion of this size. Of course, you can never predict the exact schedule for community projects such as this. So, no dates can be given for a release. I will speak more of Province: Cyrodiil in a future article, but now let's talk about other branches of Project Tamriel.
The rest of Tamriel
High Rock 427 – Among those projects that are in the stage of conceptualization, this has the most work done so far. The team headed by ThomasRuz is digging out some fascinating lore from the events of the Warp in the West. This cataclysm that engulfed High Rock after the events of TES II: Daggerfall offers a lot of room for fantasy and promises to make High Rock one of the strangest human provinces of the continent. Thanks to the efforts of Asylum and other asset developers there is now a big arsenal of High Rock assets ready to be used.
Project Valenwood – the Wood Elf province has accumulated quite a lot of lore thanks to the efforts of Violet Prophet of Romaneel: books, customs, beasts and politics. This lore is already being used for the Bosmeri diasporas of neighboring Anvil. The Arenthia region in Valenwood is thought out in such detail that, if P.T. were to get a couple dozen new volunteers, we could already start creating it.
Hammerfell - This province accumulated a significant amount of lore back in the late 2000s when Tamriel Rebuilt attempted to migrate to TES IV. That project didn't last, but it left a wonderful book called the Art of Hammerfell, which continues to inspire modern developers. The developer Joanasc is currently on a personal quest to build assets for the city of Rihad, so we may see parts of the province come to life sooner than later.
Summerset - Though there are no near-term plans to start Construction Set work, the province of the Altmer is still of interest to many P.T. concept artists, and they compete nearly every day to find and produce the most amazing art for this colorful country. The city of Alinor is planned out best of all and already has a map.
Elsweyr: Paradise Sugar – This curious name is also given to the project as a reference to the canceled Bethesda game. At one time, this subproject was in active development and a significant amount of architecture and flora assets were created for Elsweyr. But for now, the team has decided to focus their efforts on more complete projects and to keep the country of the Khajiit at the planning stage.
Roscrea – P.T. placed this imperial island north of Skyrim. Roscrea is a personal project of one of P.T.'s leaders, Roerich. The northern half of the island is clad in the ice of a supernatural frost coming from Atmora. Why is it supernatural? Because, as the imperial expedition found out, this frost stops the current of time. The player will have to unravel the mystery of this phenomenon, before it becomes a threat to all of Tamriel.
Eye of Argonia - As mentioned, this project is under the auspices of Tamriel Rebuilt. Its main leader is Atrayonis, who is best known for resurrecting T.R. from fragments after a near-collapse of the project in 2014. The main difference between Argonia and later games will be a departure from the Argonian-Aztec association. The team wants to create a more unique culture that is less of a reflection of the historical peoples of our world.
Outside of Tamriel
T.R. and P.T. aren't the only ones trying to reproduce the locations of the world of The Elder Scrolls. Let's take a closer look at other such mods and understand their relationships with the main projects.
The Padomaic Isles
This project was created only recently with a goal of reproducing the three archipelagos that lie between Tamriel and Akavir: Cathnoquey, Yneslea and Esroniet. The lead developers of the project, Vern, Phenoix12, Pickles and Taniquetil, are also active developers in T.R. They are currently planning out the geography and culture of the three islands, following the amazing lore given to us by famous TES fan creators , including the Bethesda ex-employee Michael Kirkbride, in the 2nd Edition of the Pocket Guide to the Empire, later expanded by WellTemperedClavier in their Pearl Betwixt Empires (Vol 1 and Vol 2). The Chimeri-Quey elves live on four flotilla-cities that sail around Cathnoquey, while the Men-of-Keptu reside on the island proper and follow the mysterious ways of pacifism.
Padomaic Isles technically does not belong under the umbrella of P.T., but they are closely connected to it through shared core developers. The lore of this project has a significant influence on Tamriel Rebuilt too. In the Embers of Empire T.R. expansion, we'll already see some artifacts from these isles, such as weapons, clutter and a regal banner. Moreover, our Nerevarine will be able to visit the Cathnoquey mission in Firewatch and personally meet some Men-of-Keptu, the models for which were recently created by Rats. The main development discussions take place in their Discord server.
Abecean Isles: Stros M’kai
Let us now travel to the other side of Tamriel, the location of Morrowind's predecessor, TESA: Redguard. The Abecean Isles project tries to recreate the Hammerfellian island of Stros M`kai during the events of TES III. The island will be smaller than in Redguard, but still much bigger than would be expected in terms of Morrowind’s worldscale, so as to provide eager players with enough content. The main city of the island already rivals Anvil in size.
The author of the mod, EJRS, aims to reproduce that sweet experience that you felt when first playing TES III – the moment when you step down from the boat in Seyda Neen and see an alien world ahead of you, ripe for exploration. This effect is successfully achieved with the help of new lore and assets from the author. EJRS has built his island almost entirely out of new models, and has even donated many of them to Project Tamriel.
Currently, the mod is in an alpha stage; while roughly 60% of the exteriors and 70% of the interiors for the city (excluding the palace) are done, the quest progress stands at 15%. Still, even with the few quests currently present, you'll have plenty of unique dialogue to read while chatting with the locals. Unique assets are 80% done, though there is always room for improvement, of course. Overall, you'll be surprised by the sheer amount of small and large unique objects present in this mod! New creatures are also a sight worth seeing.
Unfortunately, EJRS has little time to devote to his project these days. But if you want to help, you can easily do that by submitting an interior or a quest to help finish this beautiful island. You can download and participate in the mod in its Discord server.
Beyond TES III
It's not a secret that other TES games also have similar world-building projects. Besides, there is Elder Scrolls Online, a full scale game that aims to one day feature all of Tamriel. How do they relate to Project Tamriel?
Before delving into this, I'd like to acknowledge that there is no point in competition between fan projects (not counting the literal modding competitions, of course), because modding has little to do with money – T.R. and P.T. teams in particular entertain no goals of transitioning into a game development studio – and usually is done out of sheer fascination for the game world. Any mod has all the rights to exist, even if it deals with making an alternative version of a location from another mod or game. There's enough room for everyone in the modding world. And I personally believe that the more variations of Tamriel we have, the better for players. So, now, let's address the elephant in the room.
TES: Online, a game by Zenimax that to some extent follows the same goal as P.T., but with the advantage of an AAA game budget. What's the point, then, in spending effort on P.T., when ESО is already creating Tamriel for us? In short, there are two main reasons: First, Tamriel in Morrowind's worldscale is approximately three times bigger than Tamriel in ЕSО. This means not only larger stretches of land, but also more of everything: more cities, more institutions in these cities, more NPCs and stories, and a much deeper worldbuilding. Second, the old lore presented to us in Redguard and Morrowind dialogues is still unexplored. Even though some of its elements appear in ЕSО, this game was largely a reboot of the franchise.
It seems clear that making Tamriel in the scale of TES III with old lore in mind may be a very interesting endeavor.
Now, let us speak of other games. For TES V, Beyond Skyrim is famous enough on its own. So, let’s look at a lesser known Tamriel worldbuilding project being made for TES IV instead.
The Prism of Hammerfell is a mod for Oblivion that aims to recreate the province of the same name in the world of TES IV. At the moment, Prism is one of the most advanced province mods for the game out there. Its Russian creator, Usher, dreams of gathering the shards of all other province mods for Oblivion to create a seamless Tamriel that could be crossed from one end to another on a horseback. Until recent times, his main efforts were concentrated on developing Hammerfell province in five stages, two of which could now be considered finished.
At the same time, his Ukrainian cooperator, Stasleo, was actively building bridges between other projects and individual modmakers. One of his recent achievements was to invite a talented Australian asset creator, clumsyCatbird, to create the city of Riften for TES IV. Besides that, they also reached out to DaggerfallTeam, who himself was also working on creating the lands of Hammerfell (work originally deriving from T.R.’s Oblivion efforts) and High Rock for Oblivion.
In his mod, Usher uses a special plot device called the Prism, that makes it possible to have multiple interpretations of Tamriel at the same time. This allows the use of lore pieces from different games and even projects like P.T., despite the apparent differences between them.
Sadly, the recent political events dismayed Usher enough for him to abandon modding. He published his current build in Discord and the future development of the mod is uncertain. This version of Hammerfell is in Russian, but Envy123 is attempting to translate it to English. You will find tons of new assets, locations and NPCs to speak to and enemies to fight with in this fascinating mod.
Height Map of the Continent
Finally, I want to mention another project that may have a significant impact on the attempts to reproduce Tamriel. This is the Tamriel Heightmap by Vality7. Using some arcane combination of coding and 3D modeling, Vality has created the beginnings of an almost complete landmass template of the whole of Tamriel. This template, when finished, could be exported to the game and potentially be used as a base for exterior work in P.T. Exteriors are usually one of the most arduous stages of world development and sometimes it can take years to create a satisfactory exterior region. However, if Vality achieves what we expect of the project, exterior creation may become as easy as placing objects on a premade continent.
How long should we wait for all of this?
In short, there is no need to wait. You can already download Skyrim: Home of the Nords and P:C Stirk, and have dozens hours of fully fleshed-out, quality gameplay. Explore the world of Skyrim of the third era with its intriguing cultural and political nuances. Meet its diverse inhabitants and read their fascinating stories. And when you finish all of it, you may be moved, just like me, to join efforts with this talented team to help realise the dream of seeing the original Tamriel of the 1st Pocket Guide.
To get the latest news about our project visit the official P.T. Discord server and our forum. The Project Tamriel team is hardworking but, sadly, quite small if you consider the task that lies ahead. So, every new person has a chance to make a significant impact on the development of Tamriel!
Image credits: developers and players of Project Tamriel.