, one of the heads of the Unique Landscapes project, some questions about his work on these influential mods. I have been using UL since it was first released, and it has grown into a comprehensive re-imagining of Oblivion's greatest asset; its natural environment. See the interview below to learn a bit more about it.
Q: Firstly can you introduce yourself, and tell us your role in the Unique Landscape series?
A: I'm Roger, aka Arthmoor, and also known in some circles as Samson. I am currently a co-admin for the Unique Landscapes Project.
Q: What was the genesis of the project?
A: Some time back in late 2006/early 2007, Addiktive formed the project with the goal of improving the look of Cyrodiil's landscape. The project grew from a couple of mods to the huge project we have today. It's been through several leadership changes as people come and go.
Q: What was your opinion on the vanilla terrain in Oblivion?
A: Personally I thought it was OK for the most part, but after awhile it did seem to run together and there weren't a lot of places where you could just stop and say "wow".
Q: One of the things that appeals to many people about the project is the modular nature of the individual landscapes; how much creative freedom does a modder receive?
A: Modders get very wide latitude so long as what they do doesn't break a vanilla quest, doesn't conflict with an existing UL mod, and the mod is lore-friendly.
Q: How much dialogue do you have with builders of other mods about compatibility? Is there a community there?
A: The official BGS forum thread is where most of our communication with other modders takes place. There isn't a specifically organized community around it but we handle all compatibility issues there. We provide an extensive list of patches for those mods that require them.
Q: Do any of the mods tell a story through the landscape? A history that is perhaps left behind? Or are they merely landscapes to be experienced as a space?
A: There are a few that do, Dark Forest comes immediately to mind with the abandoned village mixed in with the landscape changes. Bravil Barrowfields has a lot of old structures that hint at the past prosperity of the area it covers. To some extent, Brena River Ravine also tells a story of past Ayleid glory mixed in with the current situation there.
Q: Is much research done into similar, terrestrial landscapes before the work begins?
A: I'm not aware of it if any of the modders do that before beginning. I'd say the focus is probably more on how well it will fit in with the surroundings in Cyrodiil.
Q: In your experience, how long does a UL mod take to complete?
A: That depends largely on the size of the area being covered and on the pace of the individual modders. We have some that come out in a relatively short time, others that have been in the works for years. On average, I'd say most of them would take a minimum of 4-6 months to complete.
Q: The modules are known and loved, at least by me, for what lies below the bigger picture; the micro-environments, the little touches that one finds when traversing these places that completely fit with the detailed aesthetic of Oblivion. One of my favorites is in Aspen Wood, the wonderful sense of scale you get as you emerge from the woodland and ascend to that statue. Which is your favorite?
A: I'm probably biased on this one but I'm very fond of Brena River Ravine. The graduated levels of the dam, plus the sheer size of the waterfall there is something that just isn't matched anywhere else in the game. If I had to choose another as a favorite I'd have to say River Ethe for the awesome scenery you go through as you walk along the banks between Chorrol and Skingrad.
Q: Do any of the modders, as far as you know, have experience in landscape design, architecture, or another related field?
A: Not as far as I know but it wouldn't surprise me if some of them did.
Q: What's on the release schedule at the moment?
A: Currently we have 5 that are in progress: Corbolo Fisheries, which overhauls the area around the mouth of the Corbolo River, River Strid, which is a massive overhaul of the river areas along the southern border with Valenwood, Silverfish River Valley, which aims to liven up the surroundings of the Silverfish River, the Eastern Peaks, which is an extensive modification of the southeastern Valus Mountains along the border with Morrowind, and The Jerall Glacier, which covers the northeastern portion of the game map.
Q: Finally, would you like to work on similar projects in Skyrim? Mind you, the landscapes look quite dramatic already...
A: That really does depend on just how good the landscaping is in Skyrim. We haven't really discussed it in detail yet but who knows. I'm pretty sure there will still be interest in more landscaping mods for Oblivion even after Skyrim is out. Elder Scrolls games seem more than capable of standing the test of time. After all, people are still modding Morrowind today.