I’ve had many hobbies over the years, some I still dabble with from time to time like painting which I do not excel at. That doesn’t stop me from painting; it’s still a great way to relax even if I roll my eyes at the results every time. Modding TES IV: Oblivion though has turned out to be one of the best hobbies I’ve ever had. It’s a great time killer, which we ask of any decent hobby and it requires constant use of your imagination and creativity, not to mention patience. I love sharing my work with others almost as much as I love making it to begin with.
Modding is something that can be picked up by anyone really but Modding well requires, I think, a certain level of ego and self-assurance. As a breed we modders seem to be plagued with both in spades, some more than others. This is not to say that all modders are superior loners. Far from it! We are in fact a close knit community. We routinely help and support each other and when it’s needed, defend each other. If there is a single group we tend to look down upon, it would be the players. As a general rule, the players who use our mods tend not read the things we give them to read to use our mods well and, when they find something has gone wrong, the modder gets the blame. If the modding community has a motto, it would be RTFM. Read the Fu*&ing Manual, something the average player does little of and whines about the consequences later…but I digress.
I got started in modding with the help of a good friend who convinced me that, contrary to what I thought, I could learn this. I’ve never been gladder to be wrong. Honestly modding is a bit like a virtual extension of my real life fixation on shifting furniture every other month, much to my husband’s dismay. I rearrange the house less often now I have modding to turn to. Indeed my real estate empire in Cyrodiil is ever expanding. My friend has created a monster. Heh heh heh heh
I love creating mods; Touring Cyrodiil to find likely locations, planning the landscape, the type of house, the décor and even the feature most modders groan at…cluttering. Oh how I love it! Building a house and giving it personality is so rewarding. I always see the house in my head before I even open the construction set. Once I do it almost seems to build itself. I create a character in my head for each house, a former owner, and imagine their personality, their story. Then I decorate the house so that it reflects that person. At least I hope that comes across for the people who use my houses. I see it clearly but who knows what my players see.
Some of my homes I’ve created because friends have given me inspiration. One asked for a home on a ship and that spawned the Eska Cair. Another of my homes was born because of a new resource of Hedge maze pieces and a friend whose name includes the word Hedge. So, I built an exterior home from Hedges. Okay it sounds silly but it works for me.
A few homes I created for community modding contests. No I didn’t win but the fun was in the making. I also have a love for building dungeons; devious, lethal, make you cuss dungeons. Mwahahaha Even there my need to clutter and give some personality shows. A dungeon is an altogether different beast than a house but some of the same principles apply. You wouldn’t want either to be bland or boring. Personality is a must to help a player feel connected and to provide the right atmosphere whether it’s an arrangement of clutter on a desktop or roots, vines and plants in a dungeon. Lighting can be the most important factor. We use lighting to highlight some areas or occlude others, to set a tone or create tension by the simple lack of it. It can make a place feel warm and cozy or cold and uninviting. In a dungeon a light source amidst the dark provides the player with a beacon of safety or can lead them unwittingly to some diabolical trap.
The most important ability, I think, for a modder is to be able to use the things given us in ways the developers never thought of. Mashing dungeon tile sets together creates a whole new environment not seen in the original game. Taking house interiors that received a bland treatment originally and turning them into something that actually looks like someone lives there is an art all itself.
Some modders are exceptional at this, my teacher for one. He taught me, from the beginning, to look at the items I have to work with with an eye for more than just their intended use. I like to think I’ve become fairly adept at MacGuyvering what I want in game from the limited resources the game gives me. Of course, there are countless brilliant mods created just to expand those resources. Everything from wine racks to whole new tile sets for homes, dungeons and cities.
I don’t know everything I need yet to be what I would consider a master modder. I’m a demon builder, I can certainly throw a dungeon together faster than most but there are still many core skills I lack. I can’t script nor write quests yet. Two things that are critical to any truly good mod. Up until now I have relied on friends, other modders, to make up for my lack in these areas but I am determined to learn them. I’m not sure I’ll ever be a master scripter, as most of it makes my eyes cross, but I need to learn enough to get by at least. Then again, I didn’t think I would be able to learn my way around the construction set either. Texturing is another skill I’m attempting to master. I can do it at a basic level but I learn a little more every time I try something different. Modeling may be the one area where I don’t tread. Not that I wouldn’t love the ability to create myself the things I want in game and don’t have but I’m not sure I have the patience to learn to do it! I salute those who do and have. They astound me regularly with their skills.
Modding is a hobby that truly speaks to that creative streak in some of us and gives us the opportunity to bring to life the things in our head and even share them with others. I would love to get a chance to teach my brother and sisters how to do this. I think they would love it! One of my sisters in particular who, like me, has a real flair for artistic expression. I can just imagine the things she would create given the knowledge. If you’re looking for a new hobby, something different and involving, you really should try your hand at modding. Age means nothing if you were just about to say you’re too old for this. I’m thirty-nine, which seems to be about middle aged for modders. I know quite a few over fifty and a couple over sixty! It’s a rewarding hobby, even if you don’t feel comfortable enough to share your work with others. I have the privilege of belonging to an exceptional community of modders and players that specializes in teaching new modders and I invite you to come join us. Anyone can learn to do this and you might just find you love doing it as much as I do.
For more articles by me that are not Modding related, please visit my blog at BlueBoxAngel.TESAlliance.org
Blue Box Angel