Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Morrowind Mods Update

Alright, I realize this post comes more than a year late, as the German version of it has been online for that long already. There have been some new additions and changes since then which I am going to incorporate in this post to show the current status of my Morrowind mods. The Morrowind mods page of this blog has also been updated.

First of all, I like to point out that I recently created a Nexus page for small and work-in-progress mods, so that people can find and access them more easily, as I had only posted them in different forum threads before, like my WIP thread in the Bethesda forums. Most notably, there is a mesh and texture replacer for the guar cart that can be found in various towns throughout the game, and improved models and textures for cavern beams and plants. But there are several more things worth checking out.


 

In early 2015, I made new meshes for the ebony weapons. The vanilla meshes of this category are particularly problematic in many aspects, so I hope I have been able to improve them in a way that does them justice. However, I have to point out that in order to make a real visible difference and increase the distinction of the weapon set as a whole, I took some liberties with the shapes of some of the weapons, especially the sword blades, which are originally very thick and straight and remind me more of the rubber swords used in live role play than of real weapons with sharp and deadly blades. Now I made them slightly curved and with sharp edges to resemble the appearance of obsidian, which is kind of the real world equivalent of the ebony ore from the elder scrolls games. I hope once I get to making new textures for them I will be able to further enhance that look.




In addition to new meshes for all ebony meshes from the original game and the ebony scimitar from the Tribunal expansion, there is a completely new ebony claymore which can be found in the game by using the included plugin. If you don't want to find it for yourself, there is a special readme which tells the place where you can find it. It can also be used as a replacer for the unique Umbra claymore. The reason why I did not make it that by default is that there already are so many great replacers for Umbra to choose from.


The next mod a mesh and texture replacer for the Kwama eggs and egg sacs. Again I took some liberties with the vanilla design and realized my own vision of them rather than trying to stick to the originals as much as possible. I envisioned them as slimy, organic things, streaked with blood-red veins, so I made the eggs lie on some kind of tentacle pillow. I even added a pulsing animation to them to make them seem alive. This can be seen in the following video, which should be viewed in full screen to see it most clearly:



Then I returned to my plant modding roots by making a new mesh and textures for the fire fern. This is another plant that is not really all that detailed in the original game and that I wanted to improve for quite some time, as I had already done before with the comberry bush and he hackle-lo plant. As with the comberry bush I completely remade mesh and textures for the fire fern from scratch and included a version for the Graphic Herbalism Mod as well as a complementary mesh for the alchemy ingredient which can be harvested from it.




That was it for the moment. If you visit the mods page of this blog, you will notice some additional things, like a new Oblivion mods page and the Morrowind creatures I made together with PeterBitt. I intend to showcase them in individual pages, so they are not mentioned in this one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dreams of Thaera reawakens...

...at least I hope it does. It's been a while since the last post here (especially on the English blog), and there were good, though unpleasant reasons for that, but hopefully, there is going to be a little more activity around here from now on again. But first, let's have a quick recap of the past, first year (with a little delay, but anyway):

Originally I had launched this blog mainly as a platform to present my different creative works, which seemed to work well at first, but then again I mainly showed things I had done earlier already. I wanted to regularly promote my Sketchup and Unity project, of which I have shown the Great Temple of Ilaisias in the very first posts, though soon I realized that I had started to do too many things at once, but most of it never got to a stage at which I considered it worth presenting. Additionally, working with Unity 4 was not always as pleasant as I had hoped at first, and I was limited by what features the free version provided to me, so I didn't get on with it as I originally intended. On the other hand, I was quite productive when it came to Morrowind modding, so at least this ensured somewhat regular news on this blog, but that was not what I had had in mind. Furthermore, I had begun writing a number of posts on different topics, but I often lacked motivation to finish them, so this blog itself kind of became an "unfinished project", though I realize it cannot be "finished" in the literal sense. Which is ironic because I actually wanted to achieve the opposite: Focus my creative energy better and concentrate on finishing more things, as I now have a good place to present them. So, besides other things, I have spend the last six months trying to sort my thoughts and ideas, so that now I hopefully can work a little more focused.

Anyway, after a long time of absence I'm back and quite a few things have changed since the last time I posted here. Most importantly, with the recent release of Unity 5 and the fact that it is now completely free for everyone, including all features of Unity 4 Pro and more, I have had quite a creative and productive boost over the last few weeks. At the same time, the Sketchup Plugin "PlayUp Tools" was updated to a new version and now exporting models and whole levels is much improved, as the exported models are combined into a single mesh and much better structured than before.

By the way: Since the release of SketchUp 2015, which now supports 64-bit for the first time, 3D modeling is even more fun, especially together with several new and updated plugins.

All in all, I have now a lot more possibilities than before thanks to these developments, and after I exported a few test models into Unity 5 I soon realized that it allowed me to greatly increase the quality of the graphical display of my models - which is why I exported all my already finished models into the new engine in a short period of time (not without improving on many of the textures) and even finished a few new ones. I now intend to take on the whole project (which at the moment is a graphical representation of a whole, three-dimensional fantasy city of somewhat realistic proportions) much more structured, for example by consistent naming of Objects and textures. This way I will hopefully be able to maintain a high level of texture quality. Until now, this works quite well and I hope that this leads to more frequent updates here - and my project to actually look like a city of some kind. Just right in time, my primary source for textures - CgTextures.com - has launched a completely new website, now called Textures.com. The most important thing about this is for me, that now it is possible to download seamless textures in 1024x1024 pixels with a free accound, whereas before they only had 700x700pixels. So, the circumstances have improved quite a lot for me in terms of 3D modeling, and I hope the following pictures make that clear. And therefore I just skip any further explanations for now and let the pictures talk for themselves (with a few annotations):

Two timber-framed houses.
This shrine of the God of Light, Ilaisias, shines in new splendor of the Unity 5 shaders...
...just as the Great Temple itself. At the right border the senate building
can be seen, of which I will soon show more.
Of course, the landscape is still rudimentary.
With Unity 5, lighting is greatly improved.


In this picture, the global illumination from a directional light source
outside the temple is disabled.
There is more to show, but I don't want to give it all away at once. Also, the other models deserve a little more explanation. But it won't take too long, I promise!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tutorial: Bow Animation for Morrowind with Blender

This is a tutorial on bow animation for Morrowind in Blender. When I was working on my steel weapon meshes mod I realized that at some point I would have to animate the bows, but I couldn't find any tutorials about how to do that in Blender, so I had to figure it out by myself. After I successfully animated my first bow I thought that others might also benefit from my efforts, so I decided to write a tutorial about the procedure.

Although only the animation is covered and not the creation of the mesh, the tutorial has become quite extensive, explaining everything in great detail. But I have put a summary of the entire process on the first page, so that you only have to go through the complete tutorial once and can hopefully use the short version afterwards.

As I'm not that proficient with Blender, I might have missed something that would make this better or faster, so if you notice something, don't hesitate to point it out to me.

Also, although I consider myself well-versed in using the English language, I'm still not a native speaker and there might be some things that sound strange or are just plain wrong in the tutorial, but I hope you get the picture. Actually, translating the Tutorial from German into English was in a way easier than writing it in German because of the many graphics-related and Blender-specific expressions and procedures I described.

This is the short version, for experienced Blender and Nifskope users:
  • Import already animated bow mesh (e.g. from the original game) and the new mesh you wish to animate
  •  If necessary, adjust size and position of the new mesh, apply transformation! (Object --> Clear/Apply --> Apply Scale/Rotation to ObData)
  • Create base shape key (Shapes tab --> Add Shape Key)
  • Delete base shape key of the original Bow, to have Key 1 as a reference for the new mesh
  • Add Shape Key 1, edit mesh: - go to edit mode, move and rotate vertices in proportional edit mode until the mesh has the desired shape - most importantly, the part of the bowstring where the arrow is nocked needs to be in the same place as in the original shape key
  • Repeat the two previous steps with shape key 2
  • SAVE!
  • Delete everything except the new mesh
  • Re-import and select the original mesh (because we previously deleted it's shape keys)
  • Change to action editor window, copy animation (button with black arrow pointing down)
  • Select new mesh, paste animation in action editor(black arrow pointing up)
  • Set interpolation mode to "linear" (Key --> Interpolation Mode --> Linear)
  • (make sure that the animation takes 66 frames in the timeline window)
  • Select all in the 3D view, export as .nif with animation
  • Optional: copy the animated mesh from the exported .nif-file in one of the original bow meshes with NifSkope. This step is not really necessary, but the structure of the exported nif is a little different from the originals, so this might be a little cleaner
  • Finished!
You can get the full, much more detailed tutorial here on my "Tutorials" page or on Nexusmods.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Morrowind Mod: Improved Steel Weapon Meshes

Over the last twelve years since the its release, a huge number of mods have been created by fans to improve the graphics in every way imaginable, even way past the original capabilities of the engine, for example with the Morrowind Graphics Extender. The biggest category of graphics mods are certainly the so-called texture replacers, which, as the name suggests, replace the textures of the original game with new, often much bigger and more detailed versions, which can greatly improve the graphics. But many texture replacers are only effective to the degree that the actual 3D models, which they are mapped onto, allow. And in this area, Morrowind still shows its age, even with highly modded graphics. When Morrowind was released in 2002, hardware accelerated 3D graphics were still a relatively new technology, and the graphics performance of PCs was very restricted. The enormous, completely open world of Morrowind was only possible in exchange for having quite crude, low-polygon 3D meshes (which still looked great at the time) and horrendous hardware requirements for this time. Of course, the graphics performance of today's computers is a multiple of those back then, but even the best textures can only impreoves the graphics so much, if the 3D model it is mapped onto has not many details or bad texture mapping. With the from today's point of view tiny textures of the original game (most of them only being up to 256x256 pixels big, with a few exceptions, like the skies, which have 512x512 pixels), the bad mapping is not so obvious in most cases, but as soon as you use bigger textures (1024x1024 pixels and more) on them, the irregularities and distortions due to bad mapping stand out very clearly. There exists a number of mods which aim to improve the meshes, but they either only improve the mapping, while the actual mesh remains unchanged, or the meshes triangles are simply subdivided and smoothed with a subsurf filter or a similar technique to reduce its blockiness. In some cases this may be a reasonable strategy and can improve the appearance of the object ingame, but in most cases it leads to a great number of unnecessary polygons, which disproportionally increases the complexity of the mesh and the required processing power. In extreme cases, originally flat surfaces can get divided into hundreds of small triangles which cannot even be seen in the game and put unnecessary strain on the machine.
Another problem is, that on the other hand, better meshes can only fully show their quality with matching textures. As the original textures were not meant to be used on better meshes and texture replacers usually keep the original texture layout, just with higher resolutions, they still lack additional details which would show on a better mesh.
 
Probably the best example for the need for better meshes AND textures to really improve the graphics as much as possible are the trees, and so there are numerous replacers for them which include both new meshes and new textures. Often these mods can change the look of an entire region. Neither only new meshes nor only new textures could have improved the graphics in the way the available replacers do.

The so-called mesh improvement mods (of which some are still recommended to be used, even if they mostly contain subdivided versions of the original meshes) cover many different objects of the game, but for some reason, the weapons have been neglected, maybe because just subdividing them would probably not work in most cases. There are some mods which replace both meshes and textures of the weapons, but they often diverge greatly from the original design and are not recommended for fans of the unique Look of Morrowind. Apart from that, there are mainly Darknut's weapon textures mod, which stays true to the original look, but mostly consist of upscaled and sharpened versions of the original textures, which means they often do not provide additional detail and in many cases the weapons do not look like made out of steel or wood any more, but more like they were carved in stone, because of the relief filter Darknut was using on the textures. Also, the problem with the low-poly models remains, which in my opinion is way apparent with the weapons in particular. Not only that the weapons meshes are among the objects the player probably sees the longest time and from the closest distance as they are just in front of the player when he is in a fight in first person perspective. Also, the often quite bad texture mapping leads to the player seeing just the most ugly parts of the meshes, since the used projection techniques result in texture distortion and obvious mirroring on the sides of the weapons which are facing the player when holding the weapon.
To my knowledge, only Psymoniser really addressed these problems with his Iron Mesh Improvements and Oriental Mesh Improvements mods, which replace the original iron and oriental weapon meshes with completely new, more detailed models with improved mapping, but stay close to the original design and use the original textures. Some of these meshes also have a few to many polygons, but they are by far the best you can find in this area.


These were the main thoughts behind my last mod "Real Reflective Weapons - Iron" which use Psymoniser's Iron weapon meshes as a basis. I wanted to make completely new textures similar in style to the originals, which would be on a par with the newest texture replacers, but I realized that I would only be able to achieve the look I wanted with better meshes, so if I wanted to continue with retexturing other weapons I would first have to create these meshes myself. I decided to do it the same way as Psymoniser and first create these meshes very much in the style of the originals and still with original textures, but with more details and smoother shapes. These new meshes would then be used for new textures. As I had already created a completely new model and textures for the steel mace while making the RRW Mod, which is also included in this mod as a bonus weapon, I decided to "downgrade" it to use the original textures again and then create new meshes for the rest of the steel weapons. With 27 different weapons, the steel category is the biggest in the game. As Psymoniser already did the oriental weapons already and the Steel axe uses the same mesh as the steel war axe, there are 22 weapons left, of which I covered 21 in the end. I did not make a new mesh for the steel crossbow, as there already is a great mod by WH-Reaper which has a new crossbow mesh, that is somewhat different from the original design, but looks awesome and matches the other new meshes nicely. Maybe I will provide a new mesh which is closer to the original in the future, but I don't feel the need to do this at the moment. The crossbow from the mod is great and can be used as a replacer without the mod's plugin file. But instead, I included the imperial swords in the mod, since the steel broadsword and the imperial broadsword have the same mesh, anyway and I only had to create a new one for the imperial short sword.
The only mesh I did not create from scratch was that of the steel throwing star. As it has a very simple shape, I did not find it necessary to recreate it and only modified the blades a little to make them more pointed. I also deleted some unnecessary geometry inside the the model (I wonder if anyone ever noticed that before).
About the steel throwing knife: The original Morrowind master file has a bug that assigns the steel dagger mesh and icon to it instead of the correct files. The Morrowind Patch Project corrects this, so you will get the right ones if you use it already, otherwise I recommend you install it. But I also included a plugin file which changes the mesh and icon of the throwing knife, which can be used if you don't have MPP and don't want to use it for some reason. But it is not necessary for the rest of the meshes to work.



In addition to the core files of the mod I also added some bonus files again: There is an improved texture for the steel arrow in Darknut's style, as this was not covered by Darknut. As I recommend using Darknut's textures together with these meshes, I also recommend using this texture. Also, there are alternative meshes for the steel longsword and the steel dagger. In the other weapons categories there is usually a more uniform design througout the different swords and the dagger, so that they can be recognized to belong to this particular category quite easily. But they are quite different in design in the steel weapons category, and especially the dragon design of the steel dagger could be considered a little too extravagant for such a common weapon. For this reason, I have included these alternative meshes which look more similar to the short sword, for those who wish for a little more coherence within the steel weapons.

Once again I mainly used Sketchup for creating the meshes, which not only required me to go through the quite complicated export procedure I already described in an earlier blog post, but I also took the opposite route and first imported the original meshes, including textures, to Sketchup to have them as a reference for the new meshes, so that I could get size and shape as close to the originals as possible. I used .obj import plugins for this, but the complete import with textures required some additional adjustments. Apart from that, this time I also used Blender even more than before, and I learned quite a lot about editing meshes and texture mapping. As I could not always get the mapping right in Sketchup, not even with the already mentioned plugins SketchUV and ThruPaint, the final adjustments were made in Blender most of the time. When creating the meshes I paid attention to staying as close to the original design as possible, while at the same time adding new details where it made sense and still trying to keep the polycount rather low. So instead of 6 circular segments for round parts as in the original meshes, my new ones mostly use 12 now, which is enough to make them look round in my opinion. Psymoniser used 24 segments on his iron weapons, which I find a little too much. I had the rough goal to have no mesh go over 100kb file size in the end, in some cases even no more than 50, and now I mostly achieved this goal, the only mesh which has more than 100kb is the longbow's, and that is just because of the animation it includes. So I hope to have succeeded in providing  the best look possible without putting too much strain on the game's performance (if any). In comparison to the original meshes, mine now altogether are about three times as big, which I find reasonable given the sometimes extremely crude geometry of the originals.
 
 As I wanted to get these meshes as good as possible and to create the best replacer possible for the steel weapons meshes, I decided to open a WIP thread in the official Bethesda Forums, where I not only provided comparison screenshots for all meshes I had done so far, but even posted a link to a Dropbox folder where they could already be downloaded and viewed either in NifSkope or the actual game. The extensive feedback I received in this thread helped me a lot to get these as good as possible, at least that's what I hope I have. In some cases, because of the original texture layout, it was difficult to make use of the advanced mapping techniques I would have had at hand, such as quadface or cylindrical mapping, which could have provided a regular, seamless texture mapping, only the textures often did not allow it. But since I wanted these to work with the original textures, respectively Darknut's improved versions of them, I sometimes had to make compromises. So to really get the most out of these new meshes, I will need to make new textures altogether. But in my opinion, these meshes alone are quite an improvement over the originals, while I managed to keep them true to the original look. I hope this makes them equally interesting for fanatic modders (such as myself) and purists who don't want to diverge from the original look of the game.

I am a little undecided about what to do next. There are at least three possibilites to continue this project: First, I could follow my original plan to create new textures for these meshes in the style of the iron weapon textures I released two months ago. I already made them for the steel mace, and I would like to do the rest of the weapons in a similar style. Yes, it is a little different from the original look, but in my opinion, the original textures mostly do not really look like steel, anyway. But I would imagine it might take some time to create new textures for all 22 meshes of the mod, though I am planning to do this eventually. Second, I could take on another category to create new meshes for. On the long run, I kind of hope to have new meshes for all vanilla weapons some day, and the other weapons styles deserve to get new meshes just as much as the steel weapons. An as all other categories consist of fewer weapons and therefore would require less new meshes I could get them done faster, given that I spend as much time and dedication on them as I did with the steel weapons. I could very well imagine doing the ebony weapons next. And third, I could, just as Psymoniser did with his Iron Mesh Improvements - Uniques mod, go on to create new meshes for unique weapons which until now use the standard models. I already thought a little about that and even did some first drafts for possible variations of the steel staff to be used for unique weapons. Also, I could imagine making the alternative design of the steel dagger the standard one, while giving the dragon design to a unique dagger. Psymoniser did a similar thing with the iron warhammer.




The fourth possibility, which I would like to pursue at least partially, would be to take a break from Morrowind modding and focus a little more on my other projects again, especially my Unity project that I mentioned in the first posts of this blog. I hope there will be some news about this again in one of the next posts. But still, I will continue this weapon remodeling and retexturing project, just as some other Morrowind-related things I have already begun working on. But more about this once I am done with it. Until then, I hope you will enjoy the new steel weapon meshes!

Download at Morrowind-Nexus

Dropbox Download

Monday, March 24, 2014

Morrowind Weapon Models

Just a small addition to my mod release from last week: I would like to expand this mod project to other weapon styles as well (stell, silver, etc.), but no improved meshes exist for them and so, new textures would only improve the look up to a certain extent. So I began creating new weapon meshes myself, but first they will use the original texture paths. Once I have finished the meshes of a category I intend to do new textures for them.

The first style, which I am doing right now, are the steel weapons, which are really in great need of better meshes. As this is a work in progress, I have decided to upload them one by one as I create them, before officially releasing them in a complete package once I have done all of them.

As I don't consider these to be finished I do not allow them to be used by other modders yet, or to upload them anywhere else. But most likely they can be used in the game without any problems.

You can look up the current status of the project and pictures of the new meshes here:

[WIPz/RELz] Improved Meshes (weapons)

The meshes can be downloaded from this Dropbox folder: WIP - Improved Meshes

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New Morrowind Mod: Real Reflective Weapons - Iron

It took me a long time, but now my new mod is finally finished and ready to be published! Once more it is a graphics replacer, this time for the meshes and textures of some of the weapons, the iron weapons to be precise. Iron weapons are probably the weakest weapons in the game and so they look quite crude and worn out, with rusty and battered blades and wormridden wooden shafts. With the very small original textures, those attributes are merely hinted at, and naturally they don't match the numerous high-res graphics replacers for landscape, armor and basically almost all other things any more. Of course, there are the very well-known and widely used weapons textures made by Darknut, and they are a big improvement over the originals. But they are mostly upscaled and sharpened versions of the vanilla textures, which means they don't include additional details and many weapons look as if they were carved from stone because of the sharpening technique. Also the game still uses the same crude 3D meshes, but for the iron weapons, there are the improved meshes made by Psymoniser, which work particularly well together with Darknut's textures.
All my retextured standard weapons
After I had spent a lot of time last year to try out graphics enhancing mods for Morrowind and also create some myself, I decided to make some new weapons textures. I began with the swords of the iron weapons set, as I had Psymoniser's improved meshes as a basis and they only use two textures: one for the blade and one for the handle. Also, longsword, broadsword, shortsword and claymore use the same textures, so I thought it would be a quick little project to do. I also tried adding reflection maps to give the weapons a metallic gloss. The textures were made from photographs, and in the end they looked a little more like bronze than iron, but I was nonetheless happy with the result: Those textures were the beginning of this mod and they are still included in this released version. And one by one, I continued to work on the other weapons, first the dagger and the club, then the sabre and the spear, until I decided to create new textures for the entire iron set. At the same time I began to modify the meshes to make them compatible with my textures. Psy's meshes are very good work, but some of my new textures required modifications of the UV map to look good. Also, I added some more details like threedimensional nailheads (for exaple on the halberd or the club) and tried to remove unnecessary polgons, especially on the warhammer. So the project got bigger and bigger, but at the same time I learned a lot about texturing an modeling for Morrowind. Once again I used Sketchup to modifiy the meshes, but for the first time now I also used Blender more extensively, and not only for importing and exporting the meshes.
Axes, sabre and throwing knife
The textures for the axes, the mace and the miner's pick posed a special challenge. For the swords and some of the other weapons I could make use of photographs and simple seamless textures, but the specific shapes of these weapons made it necessary to paint the textures completely from scratch. This probably took the most time in making this mod, but now I can provide a complete retexture of all the iron weapons in the game. I even made compatible meshes for Psymoniser's unique iron meshes from the Psymons Iron Mesh Improvements - Uniques mod. They are included in the download and can be installed over the original meshes from the mod, but the original is required.
Swords, dagger, arrow, and bolt
Also, I have added bump maps to some of the weapons. Thanks to Hrnchamd and his Morrowind Code Patch, it is now possible to display them more or less correctly ingame, although the engine does not actually support them. So in order to use this mod it is required to have the Code Patch installed with the bump map option checked. I would like to thank Melchior Dahrk from the official Elder Scrolls Forums to point me to the way to improve the rendering of bump maps/normal maps ingame significantly. Normally, when they are added with NifSkope, they are displayed very pixelated ingame. With the correct configuration as described in the post in the official forums this problem can be solved. This came exactly in the right moment for me, shortly before I wanted to release this mod, so I decided to rework the normal mapping again and also add some more normal maps.
(from top to bottom) Halberd, miner's pick, mace, club,
spear, warhammer
I hope that I succeeded in creating a replacer which on the one hand fits nicely into a heavily modded game and on the other hand keeps the feeling of the original textures. I would like to hear your thoughts on this! It is likely that I will come back to this mod at some point in the future to further improve some of the textures. At the latest with the release of OpenMW there will most likely be an adjusted version of this mod to make use of the improved graphical features.
The compatible unique meshes (from top to bottom): warhammer alternative,
Temreki, Seasplitter, Light of Day (iron variant)
As a bonus I have included two additional weapons, which do not belong to the iron set, but I don't want to keep them under wraps. The first is an improved mesh for the spiked club, complete with matching textures. Especially the spikes have been reworked and the original mesh has been smoothened. The second highlight is a completely new mesh for the steel mace made by me, also with new high-res textures. I had made this some time ago when I wanted to try some modeling and texturing techniques. I intend to remake some of the other steel weapons, too, but this may take some time. Maybe I will first do it like Psymoniser and create improved meshes which still use the original textures and then later add my own textures to them. I have already adjusted my steel mace mesh to use vanilla textures (or that is to say Darknut's improved textures) and it still looks a lot better than the vanilla mesh. I am quite certain that there will be some progress on this in the future.
The two bonus weapons: spiked club and steel macae
Until then, have fun with the retextured iron weapons! Do not hesitate to comment on the mod directly here on the blog, on the download page or in the release thread!

Download at Morrowind Nexus
Dropbox Download

Release thread

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Morrowind Mods - Released so far

Not only the graphics of Morrowind can be greatly
improved with mods

I have already submitted a lengthy post about why The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is such a great game and one of the main reasons for this is its mod-friendliness. There exists a vast number of mods which change virtually every aspect of the game, in terms of gameplay as well as graphics. Almost every texture of the original game has been replaced by modders with high-res versions, and for many of the original 3D Models, which mostly look crude by today's standards, new and improved meshes can be found. When I had realized the power of mods to improve the visuals of the game I quickly aspired to emulate the many talented modders and create my own graphics enhancements.
Atmospheric scene in the Bitter Coast swamps
After I had used a guide to improve the graphics on my German version and added some additional mods I had found myself, the game looked much better while mostly remaining quite close to the original atmosphere. So the question was what I could add to the immense fund of already existing modifications, created by many talented modders over the last more than ten years. And so I started to play the game first and over time I began to spot little things here and there which I thought I could still improve, maybe a texture which did not look good in its place or a 3D mesh that was not on a part with its surroundings. When this happened, I first searched the internet for existing mods that would improve this particular aspect of the game, and if I could not find one or it was someting that only required a small correction, I tried to do it myself. At first this were mostly single textures, then I gradually learned to manipulate the meshes, first with NifSkope, later also with Blender. But these had only been very small modifications specifically for my own modded installation and nothing that could be released as a standalone mod.

The island Solstheim from the Bloodmoon Add-On
can also benefit a lot by graphics mods
So my first serious attempt to create a mod that I could release to the public was when I realized that many of the game's plant meshes were extremely simple and lacked detail. There are many great replacers for the various trees to be found in the different regions of the game, especially those made by Vurt. But for many of the smaller plants which are used as containers for alchemy ingredients there are only texture replacers which can improve their look only so far. The comberry bush, which can be found in the Ascadian Isles Region, struck me as especially ugly, and high res textures just were not enough to raise it to the same visual level as the modded environment. So I decided to create a more detailed and realistic 3D model along with matching new textures. I mainly wanted to replace the berries, which are just painted onto the texture in the vanilla version, with actual threedimensional objects and achieve more variation in the branches and foilage. As I had tried to create trees with Sketchup before I decided to use Sketchup for this, too, since i had not enough experience with Blender and the rather complicated procedure to create a Morrowind compatible NIF file from a Sketchup model by importing and exporting it with Blender was still quicker to do than learning to use Blender properly.

 My first Mods: Plant Replacers

Vvardenfell's flora becomes much more
beautiful with mods
So I created the first version of my new comberry bush. It was not perfect, but it was already an improvement over the original model. But I underestimated that an organic object like a plant quickly consists of way too many polygons to be suited for a game like Morrowind. Especially the brances and of course the threedimensional berries increased the polycount, while the foilage on the other hand was not as detailed and natural looking as I had wanted. So I decided to go back to the start and create a completely new model from scratch. I decreased the amount of segments of the stem and branches, made the berries a little less round but still round enough to look good from not too far away and at the same time changed the way the foilage was spread over the branches so that it looked more natural. This way I managed to reduce the amount of polygons by half and after properly exporting it with blender the file size even more. Since I created and released version 2 I have only made some minor additions and adjustments, like a set of textures which are closer to the original style and most noticeably a new mesh and textures for the alchemy ingredient, as the original mesh was not compatible with my new textures. Compatible meshes for the Graphic Herbalism mod were already included in the first version and can of course be found in the current version, too.

Download Pherim's Comberry Bush at Morrowind-Nexus

Screenshots:

The second mod I released was again plant-related, but this time I did not create a completely new model. When I had progressed a little further in the game and visited the Grazelands region for the first time, a few issues with the Hackle-Lo Plant caught my attention. These would probably not have been as apparent with the original textures, but as I had installed high-res textures they were quite obvious to me, so I decided to fix them. There had been some distortions and visible seams on the stems of the two different models of the plant, also the texture mapping of the leaves was all over the place and did not fit well with the common texture replacers. Last but not least, there had been a transparency issue with the parts of the plant which had an alpha channel. So my changes to the original models were quite small, but in my opinion they enhance the visual appearance of the plant ingame, especially with high-res textures. To complete the mod also provided a new texture for the trunks and an edited leaf texture which originally was part of Morrowind Visual Pack. It is still possible to use other replacers with the corrected meshes, only the leaf textures should be seamless in vertical direction to fit the new mapping.

Download Hackle-lo Fixed at Morrowind-Nexus

Screenshots:

I have not released any other graphics mods since then, but I have been working on another project for several months now, which turned out to me much bigger than I had expected. But it is almost done and I expect to release it soon. It is not related to plants this time, but there are certainly more plants left in the game that would deserve a makeover. It is possible that I will do some more work on them in the future.

Miscellaneous Mods

Apart from these graphics mods I have released two other small mods so far that I also want to mention here.

Mountainous Red Mountain Puzzle Canal Fix is a small plugin which solves a problem with Mountainous Red Mountain by Piratelord. More info on this can be found on the mod page of this blog.

Download (for English Version)

Better Balanced Boots of Blinding Speed is a gameplay modification with the aim to make the Boots of Blinding Speed less overpowered by removing their speed increase whenever the player has drawn a weapon, has raised his hands for spellcasting, or sneaks. As it becomes no problem in the later stages of the game to neutralize the blinding effect of the boots with magic resistance, they normally become way too powerful in battles in my opinion, especially in ranged combat. With this mod at least this advantage gets somewhat balanced out, though the boots can still be used to circumvent fights or flee from enemies.

Download at Morrowind-Nexus

All these mods can now be found here at the mod page under Morrowind. While the graphics replacers are language-independent, I have linked to the English and German Version of the MRM Fix, and at the download page of BBBBS, both language versions can be found.

More mods are to come in the future, stay tuned!
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