The FEZ of Skyrim mods

by kaminazo


Much like the creator of Fez, Phil Fish, I have trouble finishing things.

The three-month mod extravaganza I had expected upon the release of the Room of Encumbrance mod for Skyrim backfired…or rather didn’t fire. Turns out that I can’t figure out how to make ROE work for anyone but myself. There was a fatal glitch in the BETA and V1.0 releases which prevented anyone from starting the quest. The BETA release started with a letter courier approaching you once your character reached level 10 or higher. That wasn’t the problem, upon reading the note the main quest line is supposed to trigger, which gives you further instructions, hints, and map markers of where to go/what to do to proceed. That was the problem. No one could get the darned thing to start! There were also about 1 out of every 10 people who couldn’t get the courier to visit them with the note, either, so I decided to simplify things. In the v1.0 update I erased the courier and made the quest start after reading a loose note on the Thieve’s Guild master’s desk. Again, people were finding the note, but the quest just refused to trigger. Yet, I’ve followed all the quest designing tutorials to the tee. I’m running into a reoccurring problem with modding: I can get things to run perfectly on my own systems, but the moment someone else tries it, it won’t work.

Poor Phil Fish had the same problem, but on a much grander scale with his indie game Fez. His BETA was riddled with fatal glitches, too. I watched a documentary that followed him and several other indie game designers during the creation of their games. It’s called Indie Game: The Movie in case you’re interested. I highly recommend watching it if you have any desire to create games or even do level design like me.

Phil has actually made a lot of progress on Fez in more recent history, so props to him for his dedication. I, however, tinkered around with my mod file endlessly, and still have not been able to resolve the issue. The mod page on Nexus was actually declared “dead-in-the-water” by a few commentors recently. I don’t blame them, it was a huge disappointment on many levels and I abandoned the mod page for a month or so in shame. Despite it not working and my lack of answers, I did have a few devoted people struggle through it with no help. A few actually found their way into the room itself, but without a questline/story to guide them, it was a bit discouraging. They sent some very nice emails telling me not to give up. Yesterday, I finally went back and posted an explanation of what happened. I decided to donate the work I had done to the Nexus community in the hope that someone who is a bit more talented at programming quests for Skyrim could make my art work.

In hindsight, one of the major issues with a mod like this was biting off more than I could chew. I knew it was an ambitious project and on a huge scale for a single person to deliver glitch-free. Also, a project that takes this long to produce is bound by certain inadequacies based on the knowledge I had when I started the project and when I finished it three months later. In that time, I learned ways to create environments, arrange objects and lighting more efficiently, not to mention make them more stable and performance friendly. I also did a lot of “fooling around” with things I didn’t understand during the creation process and saved a lot of mistakes into the master file. If I could do it over, I would definitely start differently. New modding tools are popping up every few weeks. One of the ones that severely exposed my modding flaws is TES5Edit, a user-made tool that searches for and weeds out conflicts and consistencies between your mod and the game’s master file. Things that could cause fatal errors, and conflicts with other mods or “dirty edits.” Upon examination with TES5Edit, ROE was riddled with them.

In a nutshell, it sucks. I made a really fun and thought-provoking mod with a lot of cool design and nifty things. In the process I learned a ton of stuff. But now I have to question what I actually learned if I can’t get any of it to work for anyone else. The best thing I can do, since the mod still work flawlessly on my system, is record a video of me playing through it. That’s the only way for me to document all the work I did and prove to myself that it could work, given the right person could fix it. Second-hand experience is going to be the best I can offer to anyone who was interested in my project, and the only proof of all the work I did.

With that said, I haven’t given up completely. I started a new project in the Creation Kit for Skyrim and have been slowly checking it every step of the way for errors and dirty edits. So far, so good. As for the million part series explanation of how I did all the “cool” stuff in ROE…that would seem a bit wrong now since none of it really works. I’d hate to give anyone wrong information of how to do things in the Creation Kit and them end up having the same problems. I’ll wait until I can produce something that actually works 99% bug-free. There’s always going to be that 1%, but I can deal with that if you can. 😉