This Blog’s Not Dead Yet

by kaminazo

Designing and writing about design are so drastically different and independently time consuming that I am unable to reconcile my desire to do both. However, big hiatuses [hiatii? hiatum? my Latin fails me] yield content. Unfortunately, people can blog without content, BUT they can’t do it very well. So now, perhaps, I have the content with which to blog a bit more.

My last post was a hastily written CTRL+V from my first Skyrim mod upload to Nexus forums. I apologize for the shoddy craftsmanship. The exact blurp was in the description page of that mod when I uploaded it last August; Partly in hopes to get patrons to read this blog, too. But I revised that version of the story much more frequently over the next few weeks to cater to its fans and sidelined you all! I even uploaded 4 new versions and an expansion to that mod without telling you! I realized that I didn’t even put a link in that post to Skyrim Nexus so you could see it!

I’m such a horrible blogger.

Well I’m back, and want to fill in the blanks and update you on the journey. Over the last two months, I have learned a wealth of information about how the Creation Kit works and how to make it work for me. Slowly building up, mod-wise, I’ve gotten to the point where I can build my own parent spaces without relying on Bethesda’s content much. What does that mean?

 “It’s the chance to build cathedrals, entire cities…things that never existed…things that couldn’t exist in the real world.”                                                                                                         –Dom Cobb, Inception

It means I can start with a blank canvas and know where to begin. I don’t have to take something Bethesda already did and copy it, fix it, design around it, or try to add to it. I do what I want. Although, now I’m having trouble figuring out how to end–but that’s beside the point.

I wish at this point I could go back and take all the “Eureka!” moments from tinkering around and post tutorials on here of how to do that stuff. That will have to wait. I am about 3 weeks away from releasing my biggest environment mod EVER. I’m am obsessively finishing it as quickly as possible so I can start BETA testing before I reach my deadline. I put in about 4 hours every night for six nights a week over the last seven weeks so far….you’re good at math, right? So, yea, it’s big.

Granted, a large portion of those hours were sunk into trying to make a miniature dragon companion that would follow you around like a pet: A failed experiment that yielded a very autistic version of my dream. I named him Motunautr, which means companion in old Nordic. The little devil dive-bombs through the floor, is ear-piercingly loud, jitters and jerks like a broken animatronic, and loves to follow you around in the creepiest manner imaginable: by sliding across the ground, crawling with his wing talons at you in quick, erratic bursts like that girl from The Ring.

Despite that failure, I did learn a whole host of valuable lessons about the Actor system, Dialogue, and AI packages that I applied to other things. Motunautr, the autistic dragon lives on in other parts of my mod.

So what is the mod?

Oh right, details. Content. I promised you content. Well, remember the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter? It’s the big secret room full of piles of abandoned junk where the wizards hide artifacts and magical items that are way too powerful or dangerous. I made it. Or at least based my mod on it.

After a few weeks of tossing around names like Chest Home, and Junk Room, and Over-encumberment Chamber, I finally settled on calling it the Room of Encumberance. In-game, your player character can only carry so much stuff, and everything weighs a predetermined amount. Like a scroll weighs 0.5, but a pair of steel boots weighs 8. Once you reach your strength in weight, you can’t move or move really, painfully slow. This is called being “over encumbered.”

You remedy this by dropping things, occasionally in the middle of the street. Sometimes it can be rather funny to come back to a place days later and still see all your junk lying around in the town square. It can also be disappointing to return for an item you wanted but dropped, and it has disappeared. So where does all that stuff end up?

A big dusty room, massively looming overhead built with long-forgotten architecture. Vast pillars leading off into an infinite distance, dimly illuminated by eery blue lights, bouncing from chamber to chamber. Countless tiny particles of gods-know-what float almost motionlessly in the beams of candlelight peering behind and through impossibly towering and teetering mounds of old chairs, statues, bookshelves, and other common items. Sprinkled throughout are well-kept secrets, buried by time and neglect. Some strewn across antique wool rugs, behind barred doors, or locked away in riddled mazes of junk and artifacts–waiting to be found.

This is the parent space I have created. There are two very large child spaces linked to it as well, making it a very ambitious and time-consuming project. In its infancy it bordered more on sculpture than game design, arranging endless piles of static objects in a manner that made them look as if gravity had stacked them there. [Static objects are just that: static. They don’t settle with gravity, or “havok” like other items so you have to do your best to make it look naturally positioned in the world.] It’s grown into a much more interactive space now, leading you around to find things and explore.

There are a few token things apart from the countless hours I spent arranging piles that I’d like to talk about. They’ll be split into a seven-part series of blog posts to give my fingers some motivation. Expect them coming soon upon the release of my new mod. 1. Spike the Hoarder: tortured ghost salesman, 2. Damian Dregg: skeleton bartender, 3. Marna and Bret (Dead people tell tales), 4. Traps, and triggers, and ambushes, oh my!, 5. Adding ambiance, wow this is way less boring!, and 6. Epic prizes and the puzzles who hide them.

I’m also going to go back and revise my last post on the Inventor’s Spire and include the new info about the Inventor’s Suite and some links. I’ll write a little on BBcode for Nexus posts and a little bit on posting a mod, upkeep, and versioning.

Wow, there’s a lot. Baby steps. Much love to my peeps. Keep reading and game on.