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It's been quite a while since my last blog post, and there's a very good reason for that. I've been busy, very busy! It's not all been Nexus work, but most of it, and perhaps more than I'd like, has been Nexus work. I'm writing this latest blog to keep you all updated with what's going on right now, and some of our plans over this coming year.
Something obvious that you'll notice coming to a Nexus site near you over the coming days is a move to a central domain at nexusmods.com. Each Nexus site is going to move to a subdomain of nexusmods.com (so tesnexus.com will become tes.nexusmods.com, skyrimnexus.com will become skyrim.nexusmods.com and so on). There are lots of different reasons for doing this, some point to the here and now and some point to the future. But primarily I really want to centralise things more because as it stands right now each Nexus site is like its own island tentatively linked together by the forums. Apart from the domain change you're not going to see a change in the appearance or functionality of the site, and we're not planning to mash all the sites in to one or anything like that. What a mess that would make. Having said that your login will be global across the Nexus sites, so if you're logged in on one you'll be logged in on them all. A nice by-product of this move. The current Nexus domains will still work and automatically redirect you to the current subdomain address, so you don't need to worry about updating any links.
And now for more exciting things. Since the site redesign back in August I relinquished my role as the sole programmer and coder for the Nexus sites as I brought Axel on board, full-time, to work on completely "professionalising" (that's what I like to call it) the code for the Nexus sites. The premise was simple; if you want to build a network that will stand the test of time your foundation must be strong. And to continue the cliché I'll refer to the parable of not building your house on the sandy land: we've got lots of plans for improving and expanding the sites, but before you build your house you ensure your foundation is rock-solid. And that's what our current work is all about. It's a phrase that I've repeated many times over the years and it's why my focus has always been on consolidating and strengthen my sites, constantly revaluating, improving and tweaking them, rather than expanding them and spreading my resources and time thinly and biting off more than I can chew.
Naturally sites that are as complex as the Nexus sites take a long time to recode properly, and it's not just a matter of sorting out the code, but working with the huge database files and ensuring that all the data can be retained as we transition from old to new. Things have taken longer than I would have liked them to and I've had to learn to deal with delegation rather than doing everything myself. It sounds like that should be a good thing (because I'm doing less work and focusing on other areas) but when you're used to being in complete control of your work and deadlines, it's hard to push that on to someone else.
One real advantage I've had with Nexus sites compared to others has been the ability to adapt to circumstances and react quickly. Very quickly. There's a lot to be said for having a system as far away from bureaucratic problems as possible, so when I want to add a new feature to the sites I plan it out, perhaps discuss it with the mod authors or the users on the forums, code it and then commit to the sites for people to use and test. It's a very simple process that is not hindered by the bureaucracy others might have to deal with, like the designer having to write out a design document, who has to pass it through his project leader, who has to OK it with the higher ups, who then pass it to the coder who has to code the system, thoroughly test it, perhaps pass it on to a QA team and then commit the code. It's what I like to call the "no dilly-dallying approach" to site coding. It works because you guys are pretty cool about being used as the beta testers because, I think, you're pretty confident I'll fix the glaring bugs quickly.
I want to hold on to this sense of fast and quick site updating as we finalise our current work and look to improving the functionality of the sites again. This month I have hired on a second coder so we can get to the point where we're pushing through some super awesome new and improved functionality for the sites on a very regular basis.
The fact is we've got lots of really cool and exciting ideas and not enough time to get it all done, and it's starting to get on my nerves! We want to get this boring recode out of the way so we can start pushing out some of the functionality I've been promising, or dreaming of, for a long time now. To list a few of these proposed plans off the top of my head:
- We've got designs and ideas planned for improving the visibility of otherwise invisible files that get lost in the quagmire of the Nexus file databases and really highlighting some of the hidden gems that you might never have otherwise seen. Some of them quite fun and interactive.
- We're completely recoding our file uploading and management system to be fool-proof and much more powerful for mod authors, and this will link up great with the Nexus Mod Manager.
- We'll be completely re-doing the tracking system to make it super powerful and useful so you'll never miss a beat on the files and authors you really like. If you're friends with others on the Nexus then you might get some hints from the stuff they really like as well.
- We'll be adding an achievement system for all users for a bit of fun. So the more you use the site the more achievements you'll earn.
- We're going to create a complete playlist/mod collection showcasing system so users can share their mod lists with others, without trying to complicate the already bad situation of users not actually reading file descriptions/readmes.
- Our moderation system is going to be completely reworked and much less black (you're banned) and white (you're not banned). Moderators will get lots more tools to make their job much easier.
- Continued improvement of the Nexus Mod Manager.
That's just a taste of what we have planned, and we hope to get these features rolled out hard and fast, as soon as this recode is done. The beauty is that some ideas I would never have been able to implement because of my lacklustre coding skills are now a very real possibility, so I can cook up some truly awesome ideas for site functionality that I could have never contemplated before.
As we finalise the recode of the Nexus sites I'll be engaging with the community a lot more on what they would like to see from the sites. And I'm sure that this upcoming Steam Workshop integration with Skyrim will give us all some food for thought. I'm quietly confident that we can happily adapt to any changes or curve-balls that the integration might throw at us, as we have in the past, and I think that we're excellently positioned right now to not only do this, but push on with our plans for expanding and improving this community.
November's File of the Month winner is Darkrder, creator of Reclaiming Sancre Tor. Reclaiming Sancre Tor won with 82 votes. As we have in previous months, we have interviewed him, and these are his answers.QUOTE
What was your inspiration for creating this mod?
I was mostly inspired by Oblivion itself. The lore Bethesda included around Sancre Tor made me want to see it returned to a sanctuary for the Blades. At the very least I wanted to see it used for something other than that one leg of the vanilla main quest.
What did you find most enjoyable about the creation process of this mod?
Definitely learning the craft and seeing my vision coming to life on the screen. Having my sketches and notes start coming together and popping to life was really rewarding.
What were some of the challenges you came across making this mod?
Challenges are just opportunities to do something you hadn’t envisioned yet and there were plenty of those opportunities in RST. I had my share of the usual modding bumps, folks offering to help with something then disappearing, struggling to promote the mod and keep it in the public eye,
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the Oblivion tools?
My favorite part is being able to drag files from the Data folder and drop them into the CS in bulk, which was a real timesaver. My least favorite is a tossup between the broken lip synch feature and the face edit bug where your CS crashes if you don’t remember to view the whole body before choosing the face tab. Such a pain and a bug I didn’t have before Win 7 so it was a hard habit to get into.
What are some other common tools you used in your development?
GIMP mostly; I did a lot of the texture work on RST. Also Photoshop, Nifskope, BSA Commander, InsanitySorrow’s MOM, Blender, Audacity, FRAPs, Switch Sound Converter, TES4 Gecko, TES4 Files, TES4 Archive, and TES4 Edit.
Roughly, what was the total time it took for you guys to put this mod together so far?
I started the dev plan draft for RST in April of 2007 and I put anywhere from 60-80 hours a week into its early development during 2008-2009, that lessened in 2010-2011, when it was more like 30 hours a week because my daughter was born and family life expanded.
Do you plan to add any more new features in your mod? Specifically, anything not listed on your mod's page on the Nexus?
There will be a fully voiced version, and I intend to add some new features to the apprentice companions that will allow them to actually be trained by the player and advance their skills. Those are the only things I plan to add at this point.
Do any of you have other mods you are working on or do you plan to create other mods as a team? If so, what might those be?
Actually RST is not a “team” mod itself, that’s one of the big RST myths. I did outsource some work to others here or there, my helpers. Over the years there were many hands that dipped at least once in the pot for a request, and I wouldn’t slight one ounce of credit from those folks who helped me; they went above and beyond for me always and they will always have my gratitude and respect. The majority of the work though is mine: the idea, its development, the creative vision and drive of the project was all my solo work. In hindsight, having a team could have been really useful and may have cut the dev time, but I think my vision would have been diluted and it was worth the extra time and work on my shoulders to maintain that creative control.
Before Skyrim released I was planning a Winterfell (from Game of Thrones) mod, had done some drafting on the dev plan, and researched the location details. I’m not sure though if I’ll be moving forward on that plan. While it’s small compared to RST, having since played Skyrim it feels a bit like white noise next to Whiterun, Winterhold, and Windhelm, so I may shelve that idea. I do have plans to make a personal tweak mod and release that publicly for folks who would enjoy some the tweaks I plan on making in Skyrim for myself. Having just come off RST, I’m really enjoying some breathing room from a serious modding commitment. I’d like to court a few developers for work and start working on my next writing project for publication.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where you are from, what are some of your other hobbies outside of games?
I am an English Lit Undergrad, and a writer. I hail from a bit of here and there following my Dad’s military career. I lived and gone to school in the UK and Italy, and lived all over the US. I settled in the Midwest about 15 years ago now, where I met my wife. Outside of games I’m an avid martial artist, I’ve practiced Aikido for many years. Web-design and development are two of my more recent hobbies since starting TES Alliance. I also like to read, anything from science fiction to eastern philosophy. Most days now though, are spent corralling my toddler daughter who is cut from the same gamer cloth, she already grabs her gamepad whenever the Xbox is turned on, and she is only 14 months old.
What are some of your other favorite games if Oblivion isn't the only game you play? Any other game genres besides the RPG style games that Bethesda publishes?
I’m a big fan of the Assassins Creed Series, as well Uncharted, and I’ve recently given Dragon Age and Dragon Age II a whirl; some really great games coming out now, though having a modders eye carries over to other titles too, the magic is gone. LOL.
Do you have any advice for aspiring mod authors?
Yep, keep it simple. I see a lot of modders trying to make things super big and complicated and all that does is make their ideas impossible to achieve. Some seem to think modding has to be complicated or you’re not doing it right and that’s just not true. If you can work a mouse, you can mod, just start small and keep it simple.
And finally, do you have anything you would like to say to our readers out there?
Hmm, I suppose I should say something more profound than “Hi Mum!” so I’ll go with, be good to one another. This digital age has brought us together in a way our ancestors never imagined, but the source of our strength has always been our spirit of cooperation and togetherness. Don’t use the internet as an excuse to get all angsty and fill your heart with hate. Keep it open and your mind and good things will always find their way back to you. There’s a great community here, and lots of really talented folks drawn together, I’m proud to be a part of such a group, let’s keep working together to keep it great. Thanks for this opportunity and for voting RST File of the Month in November!
Well, that's November's File of the Month interview with Darkrder, and don't forget to vote for January's File of the Month!
With the release of Skyrim Nexus and the success of the modding scene to date the Nexus server infrastructure has been stretched to its very limits, and so have I. Working 18 hour days for the first couple of weeks (along with Axel) I began to question the work load I put in to running the Nexus and the obvious options were to tone down the scope of the sites or to bring on some more professional help to alleviate some of the stress placed on myself and the servers.
I have enjoyed immensely working in and being a part of this community, I have so many fond memories of times past and friends who have come and gone, and I do not want to let go of 10 years of hard work I've spent running these sites and trying to develop sites that are a true service to this community, with the community's best interests at heart. I'd like to continue to do that, providing scope and direction for the Nexus sites (and to continue to do all the crap in the background I bet none of you think need doing, like the dreaded VAT returns of doom!) and leaving the clever stuff (like the coding) to the clever people.
The last time I asked for help back at the start of April I was lucky enough to find Axel, who has been coding like a true Dovahkiin (as all true Dovahkiin's do...) ever since. He's very close to rolling out the PHP framework he's been working on since he first started and then we can really start moving. You might not notice any differences to begin with, but over the next couple of months you'll begin to notice some pretty major improvements. On that note, I'm looking for another PHP coder. Axel and I have grand aspirations and want to bring modding to the masses, but we need your help to do it.
We have a full-time, paid position open for a PHP developer who is an avid fan of the games the Nexus sites support and who wants to get paid to work on bettering this great community we've created. You'll work closely with myself and Axel to improve the Nexus sites and expand their scope and reach while remaining true to our free sharing and open community. This position is open to people in the UK and the EU. Head on over to the job opening page to read up on what we're looking for.
Just to let you know there is going to be some down-time early tomorrow morning around 8am GMT (which is 3am EST) as all the blades we currently used are moved and reconfigured in the data center. The hope is that this down-time will not last more than 30 minutes, but bearing in mind sods law, I'd gamble on it being closer to an hour.
You'll probably have connection issues and/or MySQL errors during this time.
Fingers crossed all goes to plan!
Another apology to make first guys. We hit a bit of a rough patch for an hour or so this evening with the Skyrim server. Every day we're hitting new traffic highs (525,000 unique visitors and 4 million page views today!) which means we're having to constantly adapt to the demands placed on the servers, continually optimising queries and config files and goodness knows what else. Thankfully we found the cause of today's issue relatively quickly and the server has been running sweet and sound since then. So hopefully we're good until tomorrow when another ridiculous amount of people come in search of Skyrim mods! I'm only getting about 3 hours sleep a night at the moment, so I'm going to need to take a holiday when this is all over!
On to happier news and Kaburke has just informed me he's put up version 0.12.6 of the Nexus Mod Manager which will contain more fixes and tweaks for users of the software.
And something really cool, Nexus user Gopher has added a really great introductory video to YouTube that brilliantly explains what NMM is, what it does, how it works and why you should be using it. It's brilliantly done and I'd recommend it if you're new to the modding scene here, don't understand why you'd need NMM or are just completely clueless! Thanks Gopher.
We have just released the latest update to the Nexus Mod Manager, 0.12.3. This is a bug fix patch that should help to resolve some of the problems that users have been experiencing so far.
If you load NMM (and can get to the mod management screen) then NMM will automatically tell you there's a new version and offer to download it for you. Simply follow the setup process and NMM will be updated. If you haven't been able to access NMM up until now, or you haven't got it at all, head on over to our NMM download page to grab the latest version.
I'd like to thank all the people who have posted up bug reports in our bug tracker so far. Not just for bothering to let us know, but for providing us with exactly the feedback we asked for so we could resolve your issues (e.g. the crashdump files!). It's great when we can rely on lots of users to provide us with useful feedback, and the more useful the feedback, the more quickly we can patch bugs and get working on new functionality.
Here's the bug fixes for version 0.12.3:
- Crash when activating Skyrim ArchiveInvalidation (here)
- Crash when a URL in a mod is not in a recognized format (here)
- Crash when a game executable is missing.
- Crash when a file being downloaded does not exist.
- Downloads not starting when the download button on the Nexus sites is used.
- Crash when the download button on the Nexus sites is used. (here)
- Crash in Windows 8. (here)
- Crash when Install Info and Mods folders are chosen to be in a UAC protected folder. (here)
It is with great excitement that I am happy to announce that the Nexus Mod Manager (NMM) has entered open beta and is now available for public download.
NMM is the product of 11 months of work creating a simple yet feature rich tool that everyone can use to download, install and manage their modifications for the games the Nexus sites support. It is the successor to OBMM and FOMM so if you're a user of either then you'll want to move over to NMM to gain continued support and features. We currently have support for Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and New Vegas and the Nexus sites have been updated with new "Download with manager" buttons on file pages on these sites.
When you have NMM installed you will be able to click these buttons to instantly start file downloads (no ads, by the way!). Another click when the download is finished will install the mod. You can start as many file downloads as you want and NMM comes with full download pausing and resuming, so even if you exit the program the next time you start NMM it will resume your unfinished downloads from where they left off.
NMM is the successor to OBMM and FOMM, created by the programmer who took over from Timeslip, Kaburke.
Using the Nexus Mod Manager is completely optional, you don't have to install it to get mods from us, and your modding experience can remain exactly the same if you so wish.
I want to remind you that this is an open beta test which means that NMM is not a finished product. In all likelihood it will never be a finished product as we'll be constantly working on it to add new features and additional game support but right now, NMM is at it's "core" stage. That means we've added in all the important functionality that you need to download, install and manage your mods and we're at around the same level as OBMM and FOMM were, but we're in a much stronger position to really push on and make an even more awesome mod manager for you. We'll be adding in lots more over the coming weeks and months. This open beta is designed to allow you, the users of the program, to provide us with important feedback when it comes to any bugs or crashes you come across when using NMM. If the program doesn't work for you and you don't tell us, we can't fix it. So it's really important you provide us with the information we need if you come across any bugs or errors!
There's lots more information available on NMM, including information on the project, how and where to post bug reports and how you can help us with the development on NMM in our project subforums. It all uses the same user account as your Nexus user account so don't worry about that!
NMM is completely open source software. That means we're releasing all the code to the program so that you, or anyone, can look at what we have done. It's released under a copy-left GPL license that means you can help us to develop NMM, or you can create programs that work or integrate with it if you wish.
We are a modding community and we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for people sharing their work with others, be it the game developers sharing their toolsets with us, programmers sharing their utilities or mod authors sharing their work. Without people sharing their knowledge with others we would have nothing, and that's why releasing our code as open source is important to us. It means that:
- You can trust that what you're installing has no hidden files, no spyware, no adware and nothing nefarious
- You can modify and use the source code in whatever way you wish, so long as it adheres to the GPL license
- You can help us with the development of NMM through our SourceForge page, or create your own tools and utilities that work in conjunction with NMM
- Rather than only having a small team of closed developers working on the program, anyone and everyone can help contribute with their own skills and ideas
- NMM is a community-driven project based on sharing knowledge with others, rather than coveting it and using it to turn a profit
If you come across other sites and programs that do something similar to NMM, ask the authors why they haven't made it open source yet.
I would like to apologise for the down-time experienced today between 5pm and 8.30pm GMT. Our software and hardware have been battered by the massive influx of traffic for Skyrim and to make matters worse, today, we've been under a continued DoS attack which was the last straw for our hardware.
We've moved ourselves over on to a new routed setup but our US carrier is currently experiencing difficulties working with it, so right now all traffic is going through our UK provider. Good if you're in Europe, not so great if you're in the US. Hopefully we'll get it all back to normal soon enough.
I'd like to thank the majority for their kind words of support and encouragement over these past few days as we work hard to ensure your experience is as good as possible. I myself have only had about 10 hours sleep since Skyrim was released 4 days ago, so rest assured I'm not just sitting about twiddling my thumbs.
Keep your eyes on the news guys.
So here we are, week 4 of our Facebook and Steam group competition. This is the final week of results before the release of Skyrim.
As promised upon reaching 2,500 members in the Steam community the number of winners has gone up from 1 to 2, and, literally just this minute, our Facebook page has hit the 10,000 likes mark (I wonder why it took me so long to announce the winners today...) and so there will be 2 Facebook winners as well.
Lets do the Steam winners first. TwistedNav and No Name King are our two lucky winners of a free copy of Skyrim. I've got their unique profile addresses saved so don't even think about trying to change your name on Steam to get a free copy! You two will have to PM me a link to your Steam profiles along with your steam email addresses so I can send you your prize.
Lastly, our final Facebook winners. Stand up and take a bow, Vladimir Zasypkin (aka Vlad the Impaler in my notebook) and Pete Zimmerman. You've just won a copy of Skyrim each. You two will have to PM me a link to your Facebook profiles to verify you're the correct people, along with your steam email addresses so I can send you your prize.
That, as they say, is that folks. Thank you for your continued support and I hope those of you who haven't won the 7 free copies of Skyrim I've handed out will still be able to get the game on release! Less than a day and a half now guys. Not long *bites nails*
One thing I hear a lot from people when browsing the file databases is that finding a file that suits what you're looking for can often be quite hard when browsing categories that have hundreds and hundreds of files in.
The tagging system was brought in a couple of years ago to help with that problem by allowing you to only see files in categories with specific tags attributed to them that provide a bit more drill-down depth in category browsing. However, what if there's a specific tag that you're really not interested in? Shouldn't you be allowed to pick tags you're not interested in as well as tags that you are interested in? Well now you can!
There is now a new tag blocking preferences page (accessible from your member area, or from the "more tags" drop-down menu in categories if you lose the link) that allows you to select any tags in the tag list that you don't want to see files for. For example, select the "Adult-only" tag and you'll double up on your Not Safe For Work protection. Don't want to see files in other languages? Select all the tags that are in the languages you don't speak and you'll not see any files in other languages when browsing categories.
A few notes on the effect and affects; this only affects the category view and not search results (it could be changed to affect search results, if needed), and files with no tags (like very old files) will be visible no matter what you select. Your tag selections are Nexus site specific, so they only work on the Nexus site you are changing them on as each Nexus site has different sets of tags.
I'm going to be doing a bit of tag spring-cleaning soon, adding some new tag filters and making some modifications so we can continue to categorise individual files as much as possible. I know, for example, that "skimpy" armours are a marmite situation: you either like them or you don't like them. And some people don't like them enough to feel the need to tell me they don't like them. So if mod authors were able to categorise these files with specific tags, then those folks who are uninterested in them could block those tags and hey presto, no more skimpy outfits for people who don't like them.
I'll update you on tag changes in the coming days/weeks.
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