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Back again with another Staff Picks, the regular feature where we spotlight some of the amazing work that is found on Nexus Mods. These mods may be old or new, popular or unknown, serious or silly - anything goes!
For the first time, Dark0ne has submitted a pick, and I have to say it's a real gem. Can definitely see this one being add to my 'necessary mods for Fallout 4' list.
Just remember that other mods on the site may do roughly the same thing, so keep your eyes peeled and understand that these are just our personal picks. That said, hopefully, you'll find something you may not have seen before and who knows, maybe we'll even learn a little about each other along the way. ;)
Mod: Push Away Companions
Game: Fallout 4
Personally I think the way NPC followers are done in most games is just plain crap. They're wooden, dull, mostly useless and more often than not get in the way rather than help. Fallout 4 is no exception, so I was happy to spend the points on the "Lone Wanderer" perk in my first play through and simply go without the hassle of having one of these walking liabilities follow me everywhere I go.
"Push Away Companions" by CDante does exactly what you'd expect it to. Perhaps even more than you'd expect it to considering your companions get more "hurled" than they do pushed. The pushing animation adds a fun, practically comical take on the concept which is particularly nice for someone like me, who'd be more than happy to give "helpful" pushes to followers when walking over bridges and other high locations. You know, to get your own back on the fact they'd stood in front of your mini-nuke launcher in the last fight, or heck, just for the pure sadistic fun of it.
This mod provides a nice twist on an otherwise game-breaking vanilla companion issue for me.
Mod: Banished PLUS
There is something I enjoy about games where you create, expand and provide upkeep to villages, maybe it's because I hold little-pixelated villager lives in my hand, or it could be because I just like to create beautiful looking scenes - who knows?
What I do know is that I love this time-sink of a game. The premise is simple, you've been banished and have moved to regions unknown, now you need to create a community and keep them alive, it's like a survival game and a strategy game had a love child.
The visuals are brilliant and give life to the homesteads that you create, subtle details like chimney smoke, seasons and weather increase the immersion and make the game a joy to play.
This mod can make things a little easier through changes like storage barns and yards having more capacity, more locations to build and increased yield from fishing and hunting. It also adds the ability to build half into mountains which may not be to everyone's taste, but like all mods, they're subjective. For me, it aids in being able to play a far more relaxed game just to chill out with.
Mod: Dwemer Hacker (Skyrim)
Mod: Dwemer Hacker (Skyrim Special Edition)
Game: Skyrim Special Edition
The Dwemer are an ancient race shrouded in mechanical secrecy, but with enough skill, this mod will allow you to unlock some of those mysteries, quite literally. Rather than being a strictly passive skill, Dwemer Hacker allows your lock-picking skill to become an active part of your arsenal. By successfully lock-picking an unsuspecting Dwemer Construct, you are given access to its control gem which, upon removal, will handily dispatch it. A perfect addition to any clever characters who may prefer brains over brawn.
This is a new mod from a long-time contributor, Lofgren. Self-described as a "simple" mod, I find it to be quite intuitive and well implemented nonetheless. Providing more varied opportunities to interact with the game world is something I always enjoy seeing in a mod, and this certainly is no exception. It's available for both Skyrim and Skyrim Special Edition.
Mod: More Items
I just recently picked this game up and started playing it as I was doing a bit of research into new games with modding support. It’s a fun little dungeon diver, and while I normally stay away from Early Access, I see a lot of potential in this game.
Being that the game is still in Early Access, it is still a pretty bare bones game. Picking up the same items over and over gets a bit... dull. I’m sure the developer will be adding more content over time, but in the meantime, TeslaCuil has got the ball rolling with More Items!
Right now the mod simply adds a handful of new weapons, a few new armors, a couple of new rings and an amulet which is enough to add some nice variety to looting and exploring. I look forward to watching the mod grow with the game.
Mod: Rise of the White Wolf Enhanced Edition
Game: The Witcher
After finishing the awesome game that is The Witcher 3, I just wanted more and more content from its universe. Starting with the original Witcher game, I was promptly stopped by how much it has aged. Even though we all know graphics aren’t everything, it certainly took away from the experience, especially after playing The Witcher 3 which itself was a graphical masterpiece. But this mod, while not perfect, makes the gameplay experience in general much more bearable. While it doesn’t fix the dreaded combat system, it’s still a major upgrade.
Sprucing up the textures, completely remaking the UI and retouching some cutscenes isn’t even everything. If anyone has wanted to start the story of the White Wolf from the beginning, this might just be your chance.
btw: The combat gets better in the second game!
Every week, we feature a few mods that have caught our staff’s attention, as well as some that were submitted by you, the Nexus Mods community. If there is a mod you’d like to see on this list, send the name of the mod, your site username and a brief (less than 200 words) description of why you like it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll consider adding it to the list.
If you haven’t already, feel free to follow us on our social media channels where we'll keep you up to date with the latest site news, articles and much more.
Thanks, and have fun modding!
* please note: the links in this article take you to Calientes mod pages which contain nude images which are NSFW
Today we chat to Caliente, the author of one of the most downloaded mods on Nexus Mods, CBBE (Calientes Beautiful Bodies Edition), which has reached nearly 10 million downloads and is now in the process of being ported across to Skyrim Special Edition. We catch up and discuss gaming history, inspiration and what Caliente likes to do to chill out and relax.
Firstly I would like to thank you for the time you are giving up to speak to me; it’s most appreciated. To begin with would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
I’m in my 30s, live in the tremendously thrilling Midwest U.S., and do software engineering as my day job. I’ve loved video games since I was young, and shortly after learning that humans make games, I wanted to be one of those people. I taught myself computer programming (mainly C++), and continued an even older hobby of art, slowly trying to pick up all the skills one might need to create games. After getting a degree in computer engineering, I was faced with the reality that companies that make games exist as far away as possible from where I lived, so I joined the forces of business and security software makers.
Before we get into the modding side of things, would you mind telling us all a little bit about your gaming history?
My first real game system was a Nintendo Entertainment System, which saw uncounted hours of use, and many a sibling battle over whose turn it was. Those unable to claim the Nintendo MMA championship were forced to fire up the rickety 386 and brave the tremendous array of bargain bin Apogee and Sierra games. I remember it feeling like an exotic frontier of experimental gaming, and over time grew to love the platform’s diversity. There were always more games to play, and such a terrific variety, that I was endlessly entertained. My preferences ranged from platforming games like Mario or Duke Nukem, through RPG games like Ultima and adventure games like King's Quest, and to the original FPS games like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM. Since then, I’ve always maintained a fairly updated console ownership, and my PC games library fills with games and MMO’s I don’t have time to play.
If you had to try and choose a favourite game, or at least the one you have the fondest memories of, what would it be and why?
My classically favourite game is Ultima 7. It was the game that first opened me up to the sort of open-world RPG concept, with what seemed to be endless content, places to explore, and secrets to discover. I hadn’t played any of the other Ultima games at the time and paused my first play through so that I could go and play all the previous Ultimas, I loved every one. I can still practically recite the Guardian’s taunting speech from the introduction, and the in-game song “Stones” gets stuck in my head constantly. It’s the game that made me fall in love with RPGs and keeps me buying games like Skyrim.
What about other hobbies, what do you tend to do if you’re not modding a game?
I have a pretty big list of things that I like to do, and I cycle through them in phases. Mostly, I tend to gravitate toward creative things; digital art and programming are two big hobbies of mine, but also writing and music. The phases move into more passive forms when the creative energy burns out, and those include reading, movies/tv, or simply getting hooked on an MMO or video game.
I do a lot of things, but nothing expertly, because I shift between them too often. In some ways, I’m jealous of people who have that one big thing that they absolutely love and are passionate about… it gives them a ‘happy place’ and something they’re extremely good at and proud of.
I think I already know the answer, but can you let us know where the handle ‘Caliente’ comes from?
Doubt it! It actually comes from an old tabletop roleplaying game character I made years ago. It was a mob enforcer style character, and ‘Caliente’ was intended very much to mean “heat”, as in “packing heat” the idiom for carrying a weapon. Of course, it also had a double meaning, but that second meaning was always ‘spicy’, like jalapenos. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me until after I made the mod using that handle that it has a connotation of ‘sexy’ to native Spanish speakers. The choice was sort of accidentally on the nose :)
Did you know that a music artist by the name of Jay Santos has created you your own dance track - ‘Caliente’? What do you think? :D
Haha, I’ve always wanted a theme song! Unfortunately, I doubt Senor Santos has ever heard of Skyrim, Fallout, me, or my mod, so I don’t think I can take credit for any inspiration there. I really like dance music, and this is a fun song, esta buena!
What first attracted you to begin modding? Did you have any previous experience?
Apart from making a few DOOM levels, my first modding attempt was creating animations for Oblivion and Fallout 3. Perhaps strangely, for me, things like bad art or unnatural animations for the character I’m playing greatly saps my ability to enjoy the game. In both of those games, I was rather dissatisfied with the idle and walking/running animations, so I set about replacing them with my own. I could never quite get the animations to sync properly in Oblivion, but the Fallout 3 ones worked, and I used them for a long time in my own game. I never thought to release what I made at the time.
My first “real” mod was CBBE for Skyrim. In that case, I was exceedingly bored by the “Wrapped In Tapestry” look of all the robes and clothing, so wanted to make more sleek and interesting adventuring clothes. Also, while not terrible, the vanilla body artwork wasn’t terrific, and I knew that as soon as a new body came out all the good clothes would be made for that body, and there would be a good chance I wouldn’t like that body either. In order to avoid having to redo an outfit for someone else’s body, I made the body instead and released it. It took off fast, and I never got a chance to go back and do what I originally planned. It was my first real modding attempt, and I think it was pretty clear from the quality of my initial offering.
To further your modding, you must have to learn new skills all the time. What would you say is the best resource to do this?
I have, over the years, picked up a lot of the general skills it’s taken to put together the content of my mods. As far as actually producing a mod, I had a lot to learn about formats and getting things working together.
For me, the best way to learn is just to start doing it. I find I get distracted or bored with actual study, so the traditional learning resources tend not to be much help.
For art, it’s about observation and practice, learning to remove the shortcuts and filter that your mind puts on things and try to understand what’s there. Then, practice to be able to take what you can see and put it back down as you want. Then more practice. The tools you use are largely immaterial, and it’s mostly about finding something that gets out of your way and doesn’t hinder you. For all of this, watching videos of artists working their magic is a great way to see the process and figure out how to approach various challenges.
Tutorials are generally unhelpful for me, but snippets and books that show an artist's method of construction and simplifying can be extremely helpful when complexity makes you try to do too much at once.
For programming, I have even less helpful advice. There are lots of great resources out there, I’m sure, but I don’t know enough to recommend any. Here, again, just jumping in and trying things, simplifying problems and tackling them one step at a time is the process that works best for me.
Do you have anyone that you can turn to if you ever get stuck with any aspect of a mod?
In the Skyrim days, as far as powering through problems if I were stuck, I was largely on my own. Either I was trying to do something nobody else had done before, or by the time I understood my problem well enough to articulate it, I was able to solve it. Also, some of my less charming personality traits are stubbornness, and an unwillingness to ask for and accept, help. More recently, however, in the Fallout 4 world, I was able to get a lot of help with puzzling things out from Ousnius and the folks from the NifTools group.
So do you check out other mod authors to either compare or learn from?
I certainly look at, use, and admire the work of lots of other mod authors. The bulk of my efforts have been during times where what I was doing hadn’t yet been done, but once other similar mods are out there, I use them as points of reference for things to improve in mine. My work is never the best possible, and keeping an eye on how other people work through similar problems helps me try and make my stuff better.
You've said that you admire lots of mod authors, are there any in particular that you look up to or inspire you?
In every field, and every niche, there’s someone out there doing something that looks like magic, and making it look easy. Sometimes they inspire me to learn about what they’re doing; sometimes they inspire me to work harder at being better at what I already do. I look up to anyone who devotes time and hard work into a skill, and who has the passion and dedication to put it to use. The modding community is full of people like that, which is one of the great things about it.
Do you work in a team of modders? If so, how do you divide the work and how do you communicate with one another?
Yes, I’d say I’m part of a somewhat informal modding team comprised of myself, Jeir, and Ousnius. Both of them were passionate devotees to the original CBBE and selflessly started devoting enormous amounts of time supporting my mod as it grew in popularity. My available time waxes and wanes considerably, and it would have been impossible for me to keep up with things without their help. I’m forever grateful to them and the numerous others who’ve been so helpful.
We seem to naturally split up tasks, and communicate about what’s needed primarily over Steam instant messaging. Ousnius has become quite a leader with pushing Bodyslide forward and keeping updates rolling, even when I go AWOL for whatever reason. Jeir has been an incredibly valuable help with testing, suggestions, and doing any number of onerous community management tasks that are, sadly, the first things that fall off my plate. In many ways, my mods are as much their work as mine.
Your most downloaded mod by far is CBBE for Skyrim, what first put you onto the idea of the mod?
My main goal, at the heart of it all, was to be able to make and have prettier clothing for my character. Beneath the clothing was a body that I wasn’t happy with, either, for the character I wanted to play -- too barrel-chested, too masculine. I set out, initially, to create a body that I could use as a base for reshaping and remaking clothing. Additionally, I was aware that body mods are used as a foundation for other mod author’s custom outfits, and I wanted to get a shape out there I was happy with for them to use. Things like nudity and shape exaggeration were at least partly done to increase potential popularity -- the more people using a body shape, the more likely it is that an outfit will be made for it.
All that makes it sound a bit more premeditated than it actually was. Mostly it was along the lines of “All the robes are ugly. I bet I could make one I like better… but I’d better tend to that body first.”
What were some of the core design decisions that you had to make when developing the mod?
I did almost no planning whatsoever. One minute I was grumping about the clothing options for my Skyrim character, the next I was sculpting a new body in ZBrush. Many of the design decisions were made on the fly, which led to some questionable results, and which were better avoided during the Fallout 4 transition.
I knew I would need two body sizes for low and high weight, and I knew I wanted a particular body shape (eg, wider appearing hips). So I planned to create two sizes with the shape I wanted somewhere in the middle. Knowing that texture stretching would be an issue, I began with the largest exaggerated shape. Once I started seeing success in getting my modified body into the game, I started sharing the results, which locked in the expectation of exaggerated proportions.
Almost as soon as the initial version was out, requests for variations on the available shapes started coming in. Happy to have people interested in what I was doing, I tried to accommodate the requests, which swiftly began taking lots of time.
To make the variations less onerous on my time, I worked to create the first version of Bodyslide for my own use. Thinking others would find it useful as well, I released it, along with several new sliders, and set in place the real cornerstone of my modding efforts -- customizability.
With body customizability came a real issue with outfit compatibility, so I rushed to improve Bodyslide to help address that, first with “Slidermaker” which later gave way to Outfit Studio.
In short, I accidentally lashed my arm to a horse that started galloping away, and then tried my best to make the ride less bumpy for everyone.
Did you expect the mod to become as popular as it did?
No, I definitely didn’t expect the success I got. I hoped I’d get enough popularity that some people would make some outfits for the body I made, but generally I expected that someone would shortly release a better body and everyone would start using that.
I mainly attribute the success to simply being first, and then working to be helpful and accommodating after that. The popularity I got was humbling and amazing, and I’m sure I didn’t truly deserve it, but mostly I’m really happy so many people chose to use and enjoy what I made.
How hard was it to port the Skyrim CBBE over to Fallout 4?
It took far more hard work to get things working for Fallout 4 than Skyrim. Once again I was at the front of the charge to get custom meshes into the game, and even with code in Outfit Studio at my disposal, it took a lot of work to decode the new formats. The new files are better in many ways, but a departure from how things have traditionally been handled in Bethesda games, and very tricky to puzzle out. I was fortunate this time to be able to work with folks in the NifTools IRC chat while we hacked through the hexadecimal forest.
Once the formats were understood well enough, updating CBBE And getting it into Fallout was fairly easy with the use of Outfit Studio.
Bethesda would make things a lot easier in the future if they’d just publish a document covering the format of their asset files at release time :)
Bodyslide also became a huge success, opening up the ability for regular users to create body shapes and transfer clothing between characters without the need to go into a program such as Blender.
What made you create the mod and did you find it difficult to develop?
Bodyslide was initially intended as a tool to help me manage the variation requests coming in from early CBBE days. Before that I was manually editing and exporting nif files from Blender using a file with all the possible shapes in it. Once I had it in hand, releasing it made sense, and has since become an incredibly important part of my mod offering. I’m very proud of the tool, and extremely happy people are able to use it to create outfits and morph between bodies.
As is typical with software, 80% of the development wasn’t much of a challenge. The last 20% contained some difficult challenges that took a while to overcome. The bulk of the work was creating a tool that would create valid nif files (mesh files) when some of the important data was unknown. I put in a bunch of little hacks that only recently got ironed out as we discovered more about the format.
Another area of difficulty was making reasonable guesses at a user’s intent, and making it usable -- the people Bodyslide is meant for are people who don’t want to care about the internals of a .nif file, and aren’t likely to understand why a reference skeleton is required by the program, or why UV seams often cause vertex counts to differ between source data and nif data. Hiding all that so you can drag and drop mesh files from your hard drive, click to conform, and in a few minutes have a brand new outfit in Fallout 4 is where the real magic is.
Do you worry about mod compatibility when you develop?
Yes. Compatibility is very important to me. Unfortunately, because of the type of mod it is (asset replacement), it is by nature exclusive to other similar mods. It’s one of the biggest reasons for creating Outfit Studio, and providing ways to convert outfits between bodies. I am personally all for as much variety and choice as possible, so providing ways for outfits made for a different body to work with CBBE, as well as vice versa, is something I’m very interested in.
Also due to the type of mod it is, it has a limited “footprint” with respect to working with other mods. Generally, there are few compatibility issues between them. Any time there are problems, I try to correct them as best as I can, of course.
How do you take criticism from users? Do you find it useful or frustrating?
Criticism is very important to me. I don’t have any reason to believe that what I’ve created is anywhere near perfect, and as the person staring at it for hours, it can be very difficult to realize what’s gone wrong. It’s also great to help steer the project in the right direction, or get new ideas that I hadn’t considered. The comments, suggestions, and requests did, in a large part, drive the bulk of what made the mod what it is today.
It can definitely be frustrating, especially when the comments are pointing out well-known mistakes that are on the list for correction, can’t be corrected at all, or are even something that can be understood by simply reading the mod description. But, generally, I realize that for the people commenting it seems like a new issue, and try to not let it bother me.
I also find it frustrating when people are discussing the mod in other forums, many times spreading false information that fosters some negativity. I’d much rather they bring their criticism to me so I can either make the mod better, or help provide a better experience for that person.
There are also a very small number of people who like to troll or lash out with hateful remarks.
Fortunately, there are a very limited number of these, so it’s fairly easy to ignore. And for the hateful folks, I’ve found a reasoned discussion of the points they’re trying to raise seems to go a long way toward cooling them off.
In general though, I’ve found the community to be extremely positive and helpful, and I’m extremely appreciative of everyone who’s left comments, both positive and negative. Without them, the mod would likely never have gotten much further than the very basic initial version!
Do you ever get hate from people who just don’t like the idea of a naked body in a game?
I did early on, but not as much recently. A few people would send me angry or chastising messages, and there’s always a level of disdain for the content that bubbles up on various forums. Whenever I’ve been confronted directly, I’ve tried to politely explain why I did what I did. Usually, they cool down or simply go away, and I’ve never really been bothered by it. To me, it seems strange to be offended by nudity while at the same time being completely fine with, say, dismembering corpses for fun.
Any plans to begin creating specifically for Skyrim Special Edition or converting any of your existing mods?
Yep, the Skyrim Special Edition version is on its way, along with a few enhancements to Bodyslide. The new version will be more similar to the Fallout 4 version in terms of mesh density and default shape, but should still be able to fit everyone’s old skyrim preferences. The enhancements are still in the works, but I’m hoping to offer a normal map generation function (better lighting no matter what shape is made) and a UV slider, which might provide compatibility with texture mods created for other meshes.
Outfit conversions to the new body will hopefully be coming too, but I’m notoriously bad about getting those done. The tools to enable others to port content over is a bigger priority for me.
You mention that art is an old hobby for you. In what regard? Are there any particular styles, artists, or pieces that continue to inspire you?
I enjoyed drawing since I was very young… I used to try and draw scenes from books I was reading or characters I imagined. I would draw using pencils and paper, often times when I was supposed to be doing things like homework. As I got older and got interested in making video games, I returned to art, now using digital methods, to create graphics for the things I was making. I bounced between art and programming, improving both, and learning whatever digital art tools I could get my hands on.
Generally, I much prefer representational art. My favorite pieces tend to be portraiture, character, or concept art, though nearly any style can catch my eye. I often spend hours on Deviantart or Pinterest or Zbrushcentral browsing works of digital art, saving anything that I really like to an inspiration folder on my hard drive. I have a big selection of 2d and 3d art that I periodically admire or set to my desktop wallpaper, and use as inspiration when working on something of my own.
While there’s no one artist that I specifically call out as a favorite, there are a ton of artists that I love every single thing they create, and constantly wish I had their skill. The old grandmasters are a given, but also various artists well known for novel covers, comic book art, and amazing game concept art are filling my inspiration folder.
As a software developer / mod author, what sort of tools / software do you consider indispensable to your workflow?
For software development, I typically use Microsoft’s Visual Studio when working on Windows software. The IDE is very well put together and extremely familiar to me. I also find notepad++ indispensable, as well as 010 hex editor, and system tools like Process Hacker.
If you could offer any advice to our users who want to get into modding what would it be?
First of all, make the mod for yourself. If it isn’t something you’re really interested in using, you’re not going to enjoy putting in all the work and time to support it, and the quality will suffer. Make something you really want, and you’ll likely find other people who really want it too.
Second, listen to feedback, be friendly and professional in communication, and take seriously opportunities to improve your work. People who are rude or stubborn, or even insulting others who make suggestions, have a much harder road to success than those who are willing to let the community participate. Being a mod author has a large customer service component, and being rude doesn’t make you any friends.
Finally, don’t try to remake the world. Tackle a small-ish task that you already have the skills to accomplish, or can learn quickly. Build on that. It’s easy to have huge grandiose ideas, but when you get down to implementing them, you’ll get frustrated and give up long before you can get anything released. A small, successful start can attract interest faster, helping motivate you to do more, and possibly even attract other people who are interested in helping.
Many thanks for taking the time out to chat with us today.
You’re very welcome, thank you for the opportunity!
We're back again with another "Staff Picks", the regular feature where we will spotlight some of the amazing work that can be found on Nexus Mods. These mods may be old or new, popular or unknown, serious or silly - anything goes!
Just remember that there are other mods on the site that may do roughly the same thing, so keep your eyes peeled and understand that these are just our own personal picks. That said, hopefully you'll find something you may not have seen before and who knows, maybe we'll even learn a little about each other along the way. ;)
We'd love to hear some of your mod picks, it's great to find something we haven't tried before and give it a whirl. If you have some ideas drop us an email at the address listed at the bottom of this post and we'll look to get it into a future article.
Game: Borderlands 1&2
Mod: Borderlands Ultimate Mod
Borderlands is a series that brings back some very fond memories for me. The cell shading was a stroke of genius and gave the game real character and an unmistakable look that was one of the big reasons attributed to its success, team play and that incredible loot also increased the allure and longevity of the title.
I played co-op for many hours with friends of mine and it gave me a permanent smile each and every time I played it. Both Borderlands 1 and 2 had a story that was interesting to follow, comedic, full of funny and well thought out NPCs and just kept you and your team engrossed from start to end. I have the 'Pre-Sequel', but am yet to play it, though that is now most certainly on my list.
This ‘Borderlands Ultimate Mod’ does a few things to minimise distractions in the game, firstly it removes the annoying start-up logos (a pet peeve) allowing you to jump straight into the game. It also opens up a few console commands to allow you to play in third-person mode, play with the hud switched off (though picking up items doesn’t really work this way) and a lot more.
Game: Dark Souls
Mod: Dark Souls Flora Overhaul
As much as I had fun with DS2 and DS3, there was something fresh and new about the first that absolutely captivated me. Perhaps I’m wearing nostalgia tinted glasses, but there is something about DS1 that its successors just didn’t capture in the same way.
That being said, when going back to Lordran after some time away, it quickly becomes apparent how dated the visuals feel. While there are a ton of retextures that exist for the game, it was exciting to see one of my favourite modders, Vurt, had made the crossover. No more pixelated leaves and paper cutout shrubs!
Seriously though, go look at the comparison shots.
Game: Witcher 3
Mod: Open menu during dialogues and cutscenes
The Witcher 3 is a masterpiece by almost all accounts and much of that is attributed to the amazingly written dialogue and cinematic in-game cutscenes. To help ensure that you miss as little of this amazing experience as possible, this mod allows the menu to be raised during dialogue and in-game cutscenes, effectively pausing the game in case you are distracted. Obviously, this also grants access to other features of the main menu such as graphics options as well, allowing you to make quick quality comparisons during in-game cutscenes (though they will restart from the beginning after the graphics changes are applied). Pre-rendered movies unfortunately cannot be paused but thankfully the menu is indeed made available during playback.
By default, this is intuitively accomplished by pressing 'ESC' but if you're a gamepad user like me (*gasp!*), be sure to read "Step 2" in the mod's description for notes on proper configuration.
A simple and elegant solution to an annoying problem that's easily installed and available for all current versions of the game. Lovely stuff!
Guest submission - Thandal
Game: Dragon Age
Mod: FtG Quickbar - Center and Multi Rows
The "FtG Quickbar", by FollowtheGourd, is one of several excellent improvements to the DAO user interface from this author. To quote from the mod Description, this provides "A quickbar modification that allows you to use up to all fifty quickslots at once, while also providing options to center the quickbar. It also fixes the game where the quickbar broke when expanded too far on very wide displays."
As someone who thoroughly enjoys the entire DA-series, (most recent save in over 20 DAO playthroughs was this September, not bad for an 8-year-old game) this is one of my must-have mods. It removes an extremely annoying aspect of the vanilla UI; having abilities but not being able to trigger them directly from the screen.
When playing as a Mage, who at the higher levels might have dozens of spells, having to pause the action and search through the lists for the specific one needed at the moment when a single mouse-click should be possible is... incredibly frustrating! With this mod, problem solved!
Every week, we feature a few mods that have caught our staff’s attention, as well as some that were submitted by you, the Nexus Mods community. If there is a mod you’d like to see on this list, send the name of the mod along with a brief (less than 200 words) description of why you like it to email@example.com and we’ll consider adding it to the list.
If you haven’t already, feel free to follow us on our social media channels where we'll keep you up to date with the latest site news, articles and much more.
Thanks, and have fun modding!
Here on Nexus Mods we have a very vibrant, busy and incredibly talented screen-capture community. I'm going to be spending time getting to know our artists and introduce them into this series to showcase some of their work, find out what makes them tick, what tools they use and if they have any tips for others.
Though to begin, I reached out to someone outside the community who I also hold in very high regard, the very humble and often elusive professional screen-capture artist Duncan Harris from ‘Dead End Thrills’.
His specialty is capturing beautiful images for not only his personal satisfaction but also for publishers/developers the world over. What started in life as a hobby for him has deservedly bloomed into a full-time career.
I first came to witness the work from Dead End Thrills when I was browsing one of the gaming publications that I subscribe to. The images I saw, though taken from a computer game, were worthy of space on a gallery wall. Truly pieces of art and I was in awe. I spent a good few hours browsing his website, after which I was determined to find the man behind them. Like I say, he is quite elusive.
I hope that you all enjoy this interview and give Duncan some Nexus Mods love.
Trying to find your name on your site is virtually impossible, and you don’t have any watermarks on any of your images. Though it seems you appreciate anonymity, would you mind letting us know a little bit about yourself and as to why your name doesn’t appear?
I don't plaster my name all over the site because I'm strong believer that the story should be the games, the art belongs to the developers, and that someone covering those in a vaguely journalistic capacity should be as invisible as possible. (Says the man currently doing an interview.) Few things get my back up like people who get that backwards, who make themselves part of the discussion. This does backfire a bit when people assume the site is run by some shadowy enclave of Flickr users, but I'd sooner that than spend any more words on the site than it needs. Gaming has more than enough of those already.
Can you disclose some of the titles you have worked on?
Horizon: Zero Dawn, Hitman, Adr1ft, Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Dishonored 2 and PlayStation VR Worlds are some recent ones that come to mind - the ones I can talk about, at least.
Have you always grown up with games, be it either in the form of consoles or computers?
Definitely. I was lucky enough to grow up alongside Britsoft during the ‘80s and ‘90s, owning computers from the Oric 1 to the C64, ST, Amiga, etc. My dad managed a Currys, so I doubly lucked out in that respect. Programming and hacking were inseparable from gaming back then, so it’s probably no wonder I’ve ended up with such a weird job/hobby. That was a time when you not only felt you owned every byte of the games you bought but were encouraged to mess with around with them.
Where did the name DeadEndThrills originate?
I think it was the title of an essay someone wrote about JG Ballard, though we’re talking almost a decade ago now. I was pretty desperate for a blog title and ended up on Google. Probably too late to change it now. The band Cubicolor just used it for one of their new tracks, which has completely messed up my vanity searches (which were rubbish anyway).
Although you say you’re not a photographer, there are examples of composition theories such as the golden ratio and the rule of thirds, did you ever get any form of training or research composition?
I certainly know of them, as they’ll often crop up in conversations with art directors and the like. I’ve never knowingly used one, though, in the sense of arbitrarily using one to try and make something work. That said, aesthetics is a science to some degree, so most of what looks good conform to one theory or another.
What first got you into screen-shotting games? How did that transition into a career?
I used to work in magazines, back when screenshots of games were seen as a vital companion to the text. Days would often be spent trying to find what looked best on the page, which is as much about the arrangement and choice of shots as their individual merits. Bear in mind we were doing this just with the game camera on things like PS2. Dead End Thrills came about around 2007 as a personal blog featuring (bad) shots of Oblivion, Prey, and later Wipeout HD. The idea was to at least try and improve the quality of screenshots used in the press, though it was just a lark in truth.
A publisher asked for some community stuff done, and it snowballed from there. I had a prior background in software engineering and graphic design so that mix of problem-solving, technical know-how, and working around the game industry for so long made it possible to speak the languages of both marketing and development, which I think was something of a rarity.
Is your niche in the industry tightly knit? Do you know other professional screen-capture artists?
Are there other artists out there whom you look up to and admire?
There are lots of professional screen-capture artists, and most are a whole lot better than I am. I don’t think people quite appreciate how many professionals there are who simply do this anonymously without ever seeking public approval or an outlet. You’ve got agencies building shots from scratch; marketing artists hired specifically to ‘pretty up’ shots based on WIP assets, game artists moonlighting when needed … a whole industry.
When does your work begin during the development cycle? Are you often working with titles well before they are released?
It varies. I’ve worked on games where billboard scenery from PS2 was still being used as the placeholder; where the bloom was so bad it looked like someone was dropping nukes inside the characters; where the enemies had no hair, no skin… every quirk and fuck-up you can imagine. To varying degrees, editors and workstations never work. Some of the circumstances are dire, to be honest, but that’s development. There has to be a certain body of assets there to work with, though. I suppose ‘alpha’ is the earliest stage I’d come in, for what that term’s worth.
When you receive a build of a game from a developer, what kind of process do you go through to get the shots you are after? Do you work from a brief at all?
Yeah, there’s always a brief. The reason so little of my professional stuff ends up on the site is that the brief is often quite different to what I’d do for fun. You’re making the best of a bad situation with most promo shots, whereas I try and make the best of the best situation on the site. The process with publishers (it’s usually publishers rather than developers) begins with a lot of ‘umm’ and ‘you realise that’ and ‘oh for f-’ until you figure out what’s possible in the time you’ve got. The trick is doing all that in such a way that you cost the publisher as little as possible. To be brutally honest, I’m not proud of the stuff I’ve done professionally. That’s not really how it works.
Like modding, I imagine you need certain tools to get the shots that you’re looking for. Do developers provide you with any support to that end?
I do a lot of hacking nowadays. Debug builds of games aren’t ‘screenshot builds’, and there’s a lot that still needs to be done before you have all the tools you need. If you look at the Street Fighter V or No Man’s Sky shots on the site, I had to pretty much dismantle those games to do those. You can never really know enough in that regard, so I can spend dozens of hours on a game I never end up doing anything with, but it never feels like a waste of time. It’s homework. You have to bear in mind that the last thing a developer has time to do is help the screenshot monkey do something there isn’t a feature for, so that’s on you, really.
Some of the screenshots you have taken are often from fast-paced games (such as the Streetfighter series), yet the image is pixel-perfect timing. How are these achieved?
Okay, So for something like Street Fighter V. I break the game in such a way that when I hit pause, none of the pause menu shows up - it’s frozen. I’ve hooked the camera - two cameras, actually - so I can move that around by modifying the coordinates in memory. I’ve hooked DirectX so I can track and move the individual characters while the game’s paused, including rotating them. I’ve hooked PhysX so I can run and manipulate the physics simulation while the game is paused, avoid clipping. I’ve hooked the depth of field component of Unreal Engine 4, and the animation timescales for the individual characters so I can find complimentary poses. I’ve disabled the game’s opacity stencil technique, which is what effectively renders the 3D characters in 2D to avoid mesh clipping; that means I can have proper interaction between limbs, etc. I’ve disabled the hit FX and the glow shader on the characters. I think that’s it - unless you include all the usual modding to access unreleased characters, etc.
You have said that you can get screenshots upwards of 8K in resolution. Do you need a beefy computer setup to get these? How are they created?
Let’s stick with Street Fighter. Unreal will render at whatever size the window is. Using SRWE, which Skyrim modders might know already, you can tell it to render at HUGE resolutions for just the seconds it takes to grab the image. I’m doing Fallout 4 at the moment, though, and you don’t get that luxury there. Then there’s something like Quantum Break where I’m still trying to figure out how to render at over 4K.
With the release of Overwatch, the developers gave the player the ability to take 8k screenshots, though limited in where the camera is, what kind of tools would you like to see developers implementing into their games?
I’d like to see tools which the developers would use themselves. Though I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t like tools which are more like toys - where there are weird limits placed on things like camera movement and rotation because the developer’s vanity has suddenly kicked in post-release, or for some other strange reason. I don’t like it when console games are promoted with downsampled shots the public ‘photo modes’ can’t do. The last one is more of a technical issue, admittedly - games can trade performance for certain debug features during development - but I certainly wouldn’t waste my time taking 1080p shots of anything.
What are your thoughts on Ansel, the new screenshot tech recently released by Nvidia?
I helped with that to a small degree during development, and I think it’s a worthwhile venture. There're ways it can improve in terms of UI and user experience, but they seem to have found their audience for it.
Some of your images can evoke strong emotion, such as pity or sadness (for example some of the Tomb Raider series), suspense and horror (such as some of the Alien Isolation series) or awe (such as some of the Skyrim series). Do you intend to make an emotional response within the viewer?
I think it’s only natural to do that with any image. Why else would you bother? I suppose a lot of screenshots are taken just to show off a game’s technical fidelity - bragging rights and all that - but those are here today, gone tomorrow. The interest for me is in knowing that there’s a gap between how a game wants to feel and how it does, and that’s often necessitated by gameplay. When you take the gameplay out, just how far can you go?
One of my favourite shots is from your ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ series and is called ‘Rooftop Paradise alt’ (though I also love the standard ‘Rooftop Paradise’), do you have any favourite shots or ones you are most proud of?
Yeah, well, don’t get me started on the ‘alt’ business. I try and limit the number of shots published to avoid repetition, as just the slightest bit of that creates fatigue in someone browsing them. There’s also an argument to say that if you’re torn between two shots of the same thing, you just haven’t taken the right one yet. Or maybe that’s self-defeating. So yes, the alts are kind of a compromise there. My problem is that I often end up liking the alts more than the originals, to the point where I delete the original and confuse everyone.
There are a lot of shots I’d consider my favourites. I treat the site like a garden in a respect, and like walking through it from time to time. Ideally, they’d all be my favourites, as they don’t have to be far off for me to delete them. Any shot which is essentially perfect - where the composition works, where the fidelity is consistent, where there is atmosphere and drama - is a favourite. But there has to be a fair amount of creativity at my end for it to be worthwhile. That could be hacking, finding the right pose or lighting, or the multitude of things that go into a Bethesda RPG shot. In that sense, the shot you mentioned is okay, but it’s really just me snapshotting the developer’s work.
Do you ever get negative feedback or comments from people? How do you deal with this?
They’re not made directly, though. People sometimes repost the stuff on Reddit for whatever reason, which being a cauldron of negativity often responds by claiming the stuff’s Photoshopped or whatever. But that’s what happens when you put people into that kind of echo chamber environment. There’s no actual thought or reasoning behind those statements, so it’s not hard to ignore them. I do sometimes respond to them, though, if only to drop some facts into the equation.
When you play a game for casual fun, do you ever stop and think that a particular moment would be a good place to capture or are you able to ‘turn your work brain off’?
This is casual fun for me. I could literally count the number of games I’ve played traditionally on the one hand. Arkham Knight (which, internet be damned, I loved), and right now Thumper. I’m struggling already! I did try and play Fallout 4 properly until a quest bug destroyed my whole campaign, but I’m enjoying it more for the mods and shots. Then there are the games my kids play, but that’s more a case of me moaning the whole time about how cynically they’re emptying my wallet.
What would you say is your favourite genre of game to play? What is your favourite genre to capture?
Easy. Bethesda RPGs. I love the worlds. I love the modding scenes. I love that those games are, despite the occasional hiccup with patches, etc., open to modding by default. I love that it’s almost impossible to play these games on PC without sharing them in ways that reflect your tastes and peculiarities. I don’t begrudge people complaining about Bethesda’s (and indeed Valve’s) genuine screw-ups because I think it’s everyone’s job to ensure they stay true to what they’ve started. That said, it did make me laugh when Skyrim came out, and people complained that Creation Engine was ‘just Gamebryo again’. Did they not think how catastrophic the alternative might a have been: a closed, unmoddable, sleek and thoroughly boring new technology? Screw that. Gamebryo for life, baby.
Have you ever come across a game that is truly beautiful from start to finish? Where every moment you think to yourself, this would make an awesome screen?
Rise Of The Tomb Raider. Maybe GTA V. Probably Bloodborne. Blur, the racing game by Bizarre Creations, is one I often bring up. Thumper’s just come out, and that’s a basically a masterpiece in terms of focus and execution, not just in terms of visuals. I’m not saying all these games are beauty ‘from start to finish’ because in a game like GTA or Tomb Raider that’s impossible, but the technology and ambition of those games is overwhelming.
Are there any games coming up that you’re are really looking forward to getting hold of?
Tekken! Can’t wait for that to finally come to PC, especially as it’s Unreal Engine 4. I *suppose* I’m looking forward to the new Mass Effect, even if their cinematic vocabulary seems limited to the exact same shit they’ve always done. The cutscenes in that latest gameplay footage, in terms of what actually happens, could be from ten years ago. I’m actually quite keen to see what they’re adding to No Man’s Sky, as I believe it’s more than people are expecting. That game needed to offend just about everyone so it could shrink down to the Early Access title it always should have been, and I think it could be quite comfortable there. Just a shame it wasted to so much of people’s time and money in the process.
We have a very active and passionate screenshot community, if you could give any advice on how to pursue this as a career what would it be?
I honestly don’t know what to say! Bear in mind that there isn’t even enough work there for me to make a living out of - I shore it up with writing books, doing consultancy and the like - so I’m not even sure there is a career as such. If it wasn’t for the fact my wife is a doctor who puts up with a whole tonne of shit for a living, I doubt I’d be speaking to you right now. This continues to be a hobby that’s got out of control for me. It’s also worth restating that the professional side is almost completely different to the hobby side, and I’m not sure I’d call it fun unless you like problem-solving under strict and thankless conditions. I guess the recommendation would to go the journalistic route, and treat this as a way of appreciating and discussing games. Make it part of something complementary, as you’re far more likely to enjoy it that way, and you might even afford to eat something.
Finally, it’s been a pleasure to view your work, and I’d highly recommend to any of our community members that are reading this to go and check out www.deadendthrills.com, it’s truly beautiful!
We're back again with another "Staff Picks", the regular feature where we spotlight some of the amazing work that can be found on Nexus Mods. These mods may be old or new, popular or unknown, serious or silly - anything goes!
Just remember that other mods on the site may do roughly the same thing, so keep your eyes peeled and understand that these are just our personal picks. That said, hopefully you'll find something you may not have seen before and who knows, maybe we'll even learn a little more about each other along the way. ;)
Game: Far Cry 4
Mod: Far Cry 4 Open World Mod v1.10
I've always been a huge fan of the Far Cry series; I love the open worlds that they create and the feeling of freedom as you choose your way around the maps. So when I saw this mod allowing me to jump into the North Island at game start, I thought I would download it and give it a whirl. It certainly doesn't disappoint.
The beauty of this mod is it does far more than the name suggests. It allows you to buy any weapon without having to go through the rigmarole of unlocking them. Access to the various skills and traits are available from the start, and it also skips the annoying intro videos so that you get into the game that much faster.
Now I can go and explore right from the get go, and I love it.
Game: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Mod: Infinite Heaven
Just in case you didn't have enough reasons to keep playing and replaying this marvellous game, here's a few hundred more. Infinite Heaven adds several hundred configurable options to MGSV:TPP with the intent on extending gameplay. These settings include being able to adjust enemy behaviours, loadout options, invasion conditions, and hundreds more. If you love the MGS series as much as I do, and are looking for an excuse to play more TPP... let this be that excuse.
The only thing to be cautious of, when using any gameplay changing mod for MGS, is making sure that you are offline while using this. Similar to GTAV, using mods while online may result in a ban from the MGS servers. I never really got into the whole MGS online thing so, for me, this is a perfect way to add plenty of replayability to the single player game.
You can find a full YouTube playlist going over the wealth of Infinite Heaven options here
This was also suggested by our community member morbidslinky, they said "I would like to recommend tinmantex's Infinite Heaven for Metal Gear Solid V as a mod for your Staff Picks feature. Infinite Heaven is a staple for modding MGSV. The mod author has updated the mod regularly for the past year as he, and a small group of modders, unravel more information from the game's source code. The mod is nearing it's 200th update, and I want to show appreciation to tinmantex for all his effort."
Mod: Dine with Followers
Meals are always best when shared with company and for those of us about to celebrate Thanksgiving, this mod may be especially appropriate. Dine with followers allows you to, well, dine with your followers! This mod adds a lot of meal-related interaction and functionality to your companions, most of which is customizable via MCM. Mix in a few other appropriate mods (such as Luka Pumpkins by ElioraArin) and you'll have yourself a recipe for a good time... *rimshot*
While there is some tentative SSE support, Share Your Meal by flexcreator is an alternative but similar mod, built specifically for SSE, for those who may be interested.
Mod: Rise of House Telvanni
Ever since I first started getting lost in Morrowind I've been a fan of the Dunmer, especially Dunmer Sorcerers. So naturally, I went with House Telvanni when I played Morrowind. While the Telvanni questline is great in and of itself, Rise of House Telvanni just takes it to a whole new level. It basically expands everything Telvanni and makes it so much more interesting and intriguing. Together with 'Uvirith's Legacy' (which is unfortunately not available on Nexus Mods at this time), the entire Telvanni experience is elevated to a new level of awesomeness!
Every week, we feature a few mods that have caught our staff's attention, as well as some that were submitted by you, the Nexus Mods community. If there is a mod you'd like to see on this list, please send the name of the mod along with a brief (less than 200 words) description of why you like it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll consider posting it. Thanks, and have fun modding!
This week we move to the critically acclaimed Dark Souls series and chat to a young modder who goes by the name Cavou. Fed up with the tiling of the textures in the vanilla game, he set out to replace each offending texture to give a more immersive experience.
Hey Cavou, thanks for chatting to me today, it’s most appreciated. Jumping straight in, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
I’m currently 21 years old, though I was 19 at the time of making The Texture Improvement Project. I got into modding when I got my first decent PC back when I was 12. I’ve lived in British Columbia, Canada my whole life. My biggest passions in life are video games, art, creativity and imagination. I have a younger brother who is two and a half years younger than me and is an avid gamer as well, although he doesn’t do nearly as much modding as I do.
Do you have any hobbies outside of the gaming world?
I enjoy writing, I’ve even been working on a novel for the last few years on and off. I’m working on a different creative project entirely at the moment though - it’s in RPG Maker and has been my main focus for the last few years. Other than that, I like reading and going on walks and occasionally watching movies, but video games are by far my biggest hobby.
Before we get into the modding side of things, would you mind telling us all a little bit about your gaming history?
I first got into gaming because of my father, who bought a Nintendo 64 game console when I was less than a year old. He told me that I would watch him play games like Banjo-Kazooie, until around the age of 3, when I was finally able to play with his assistance.
I got into the ‘Legend of Zelda’ series after I played ‘Ocarina of Time’ round my cousins house. He had been playing for a bit with me watching before handing me the controller while he was in the ‘Temple of Time’, I ended up wandering into ‘Destroyed Castle Town’ only to get so scared by the ReDeads there (when one attacked me) that I jumped off the couch and turned off the console. My cousin thought that it was so funny that he lent me the game, which he has let me keep to this day.
I played various other games on my Nintendo 64 such as the Star Wars games - Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron. My parents later got me a Gamecube and DS, and many years later a PC, PS3, Xbox 360, and 3DS.
My brother and I earned and saved enough money to get a WiiU, PS4 and more recently an Xbox One. While I grew up loving Nintendo and still consider many of their old games to be masterpieces, I have recently been very disappointed in their games and their treatment of series such as Zelda and Metroid (among others). I have stuck with PC gaming for many years now as my primary gaming platform.
If you had to try and choose a favourite game from throughout your gaming history, which does seem pretty vast, what would it be and why?
My favourite game would probably be “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”. I played it when I was perhaps 5 or 6 years old and it was the first game I played without any assistance from my father, and with him only seldom watching. I was terrified by the dark, surreal atmosphere of the game and I played it over the course of years, slowly unravelling its mysteries and learning how to play all on my own, it was quite a journey.
I had a young fascination with fear and the emotions it could evoke, I loved anything with a “spooky” atmosphere and at the time it was limited to tame Halloween episodes of kids TV shows. But, I remember vividly how I felt the first time in Majora’s Mask when the moon crashed into the world, that pure sense of dread as I watched the world get obliterated by the giant falling moon. After having been familiar with the mostly lighthearted world of Banjo-Kazooie, Majora’s Mask was a morbidly fascinating change of tone that helped me mature as a person from a very young age, it no doubt inspired my love of Dark Souls over a decade later.
So if you had a love for Nintendo, you must have seen the release trailer for the Nintendo Switch, how do you feel about a console that attempts to be everything from a handheld to a fully fledged system? Is it enough to tempt you back to Nintendo?
From my perspective, it looks like Nintendo is going to repeat all the mistakes of the Wii U with the Switch. The portable nature will hold back its potential performance as a current-gen console, and from all indications, the games will be very lacking, especially at launch. This is not helped by their needless hush-hush attitude on the Switch as if they see it as some amazing secret that will change the world, this will only amplify the problem people had with the WiiU of not understanding the function and intent of the console.
The only confirmed launch titles for the switch are a Mario game and a port of Splatoon from the WiiU with arbitrary console-exclusive content that will result in a split in the player population. Reportedly “Zelda: Breath of the Wild” will not come out at launch, and there are no other known games coming to it.
3rd party support doesn’t mean a lot to me as I own every other console that is currently on the market and a powerful enough PC to run any game at nearly maximum settings at 60fps and above; in comparison, reportedly “Breath of the Wild” struggles to maintain 30fps on Wii U, and Nintendo stated there will be no difference between the WiiU and Switch versions - which doesn’t bode well as the Switch probably won’t be much more powerful than the WiiU, if at all, due to its portable nature.
And besides, due to “Breath of the Wild’s” overly-large world with a focus on system-based gameplay, attacking enemy outposts and its unstructured sandbox gameplay instead of narrative, it is more like Far Cry than what I valued so much about Zelda in Majora’s Mask or Ocarina of Time, and interests me far less as a result.
As for Mario, while I loved Mario games growing up, especially Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario 64 DS, the Mario and Luigi RPGs on the GBA and DS (especially Superstar Saga and Partners in Time), Paper Mario 64, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, and to a lesser extent Super Mario Galaxy, I haven’t had much interest or enjoyment in modern Mario games. I played and finished New Super Mario 3D Land and Paper Mario Sticker Star back in high school, I have played a bit of the New Super Mario Bros. U on the Wii U, and I also played a bit of Mario and Luigi Dream Team, only to find myself not liking really anything about any of those games.
Mario platformers play it incredibly safe and come across as very sterile products without any real personality or creative spark. They're just platforms over bottomless pits with the same cycle of generic environments that try to be creative by changing small details to fit a very loose theme that doesn’t affect gameplay, and even playing New Super Mario Bros. U in co-op with my brother in multiple sessions to give the game a fair chance wasn’t enough for me to really enjoy it, and my brother agreed with my sentiment about the game. I really don’t expect Mario Switch to be any better in this regard.
So, unless I hear truly good things about Nintendo’s games for the Switch, I likely won’t have any interest in playing what games they release. I do not want this to be the case, I want to find reasons to like Nintendo, but I simply cannot at this point. I also do not appreciate Nintendo’s heavy-handed approach to taking down Youtube videos with Nintendo footage or taking down fan projects, which simply compounds my issues with them. I hope something with them will change for the better, perhaps all the negative feedback snapping them out of their complacent stupor, but I won’t hold my breath.
What first attracted you to begin modding? Did you have any previous experience?
I first got into modding when I was around 12 or 13 after playing Half-Life 2 and Garry’s Mod for the first time. I loved the feeling of freedom and the seemingly endless possibilities that it gave you. I had always wondered if it was possible to add new things to the game since I never wanted any of my favourite games to end. I like to think that I’m a creative person and I always want to express myself, so I learnt how to install mods for Garry’s Mod - which I have to say resulted in various degrees of frustration whenever something conflicted, had missing textures or crashed my game. Crashes and conflicts were a lot more common and installations were very easy to mess up, especially for an inexperienced 13-year-old.
I have so much gratitude for the existence of Nexus Mods and Nexus Mod Manager since it not only makes it more convenient for me and prevents me suffering those frustrations and easily-avoidable user errors, but also makes modding so much more accessible for a new generation of modders.
I also got involved with a few mods for Half-Life 2 such as a horror mod “Black Flames” as a writer, and more recently a mod for Portal 2 “Combined Technologies” as a voice actor. Sadly, neither project saw completion, but such is the nature of modding and game development.
So how did you actually gain the skills necessary to create mods?
I mostly relied on the advice of other modders and Youtube tutorials while learning what I needed to do to make mods. I also had a friend who was familiar with Paint.net to give me some pointers.
You’re known for your Dark Souls II texture mod - Texture Improvement Project which gives the game enhanced textures, how come you chose the Dark Souls series to mod?
I immediately fell in love with the Dark Souls series. A high school friend recommended Dark Souls 1 to me and told me to install DSFix, which led me to discover the small but tight-knit Dark Souls modding community.
A lot of other series such as Skyrim or Fallout have incredible modding communities - which I had plenty of experience with, I spent 733 hours in Fallout New Vegas, 170 hours in Fallout 3, and 448 hours in Skyrim - but the Dark Souls modding community looked like it could use some more contributors compared to the large amount of attention given to Bethesda RPG modding.
When Dark Souls 2 came out I got hooked instantly and played it from day one on PC all through the DLC releases, so I was familiar enough to feel comfortable modding it. I ended up spending a total of 542 hours in Dark Souls 2, nearly 300 in Dark Souls 1, and many more hours in Demons’ Souls, Scholar of the First Sin, Bloodborne, and most recently Dark Souls 3. I think that is good enough evidence of how much the series means to me.
You’re only 21 and created the Texture Improvement Project a few years ago, do you think modding is a good way for young people to get into game development?
Yes, modding is a great way to get familiar with game development and learn how to dissect games, it helps you find out how they work internally with a first-hand experience.
I am currently also working on an RPG Maker game which I will hopefully release on Steam, which I have been gradually working on since I was around 16 years old.
When you created your mod, where did you gather your textures from?
I modified the textures I extracted using GeDoSaTo by Durante, then modified them to eliminate the obvious tiling effect of the vanilla textures using Paint.net. As a result, I had to remove a lot of the high-contrast lines on them and other distinctive marks by “smudging” and blurring them. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it is all I could do given how the textures had been poorly applied to the environmental geometry within the game.
Durante is very well known for his DSfix, it also assists with things like texture modding and resolution. Did you chat with Durante at all during the creation period of the Texture Enhancement Project?
No, actually. I figured he’s probably a very busy guy, and I never found it necessary to ask him for help as I never really struggled with any aspect of my mod. To be honest, I never really needed any technical help after I received those few initial pointers from a friend of mine about the basics of using Paint.net, but a few different users of my mod did help me with certain parts of the project.
It must have required a lot of planning to ensure that each texture is accounted for, how did you manage it?
I kept a journal of each and every texture I found while playing that needed fixing, even in the DLC.
The basic way I would work is play the game until I spot a texture that needed modifying, then exit the game near the texture’s location, open GeDoSaTo and then go back in the game so the loaded textures would be extracted.
Then I just needed to fish out the textures with the tiling issue out of the folder of extracted textures (this could be quite a few if the texture was in a large area), modify it and install it in the folder for replaced textures. I would tweak it over and over by entering and exiting the game and making small incremental changes each time until I was more or less satisfied with what I had done.
What would you say your go to suite of software is?
GeDoSaTo and Paint.net were the only two programs I had to use, and both did a great job at allowing me to do what I wanted to do.
Are there any Mod Authors that you look up to or who inspire you?
EvilDeadAsh34 was a very devoted Dark Souls 2 modder who created plenty of mods, he stuck with the game until its community dissipated with the release of “Scholar of the First Sin”, this was tragically unmoddable and as a result the mods for Dark Souls 2 became irrelevant.
Other modders for other games such as Puce Moose inspired me with his incredible quest mod for Fallout New Vegas, that mod has stuck with me in my memory to this day.
How do you take criticism from users? Do you find it useful or frustrating?
I find criticism very helpful, and I never mind helping people who have problems as long as they are mature about it - I like constructive criticism. Occasionally someone would have a crash which I’d be unable to replicate that they’d attribute to my mod, I would check them out, but they were never large-scale complaints and usually panned out to be down to something else. I’d also occasionally get comments saying that the original textures are better, which never bothered me since I only really made my mod for people like myself who were bothered by the repeating textures.
After completing my mod, I even did a request from a mod user who wanted me to make icons match armour and weapons reskins in other mods, which I have happily helped with.
I’m guessing that there aren't any real compatibility issues when you create textures?
Mod compatibility isn’t really a problem with Dark Souls texture modding, since any texture replaced would just be overwritten if another mod tried to change the same thing, which I never saw happen even after using almost every mod available for Dark Souls 2.
Finally, If you could offer any advice to our users that want to get into modding what would it be?
The best advice I could give is to simply focus on something you feel passionately about, don’t rush yourself, but keep yourself motivated. Set your expectations low and don’t start with something too elaborate. A texture mod is a great place to start out because of how simple but effective it can be!
Thank you for your time today Cavou, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Welcome to the new "Staff Picks", a new regular feature where we will spotlight some of the amazing work found on Nexus Mods. These mods may be old or new, popular or unknown, serious or silly... anything goes! Hopefully you'll find something you may not have seen before, and who knows, maybe we'll even learn a little about ourselves along the way. ;)
Game: Dying Light
I’ve always been into the whole ‘Zombie’ genre, right from the original Dawn of the Dead movie, so was beside myself when I saw the first trailers for the game Dying Light - I mean, it was Dead Island, but GOOD. So when it was released I jumped on it like the undead craving brain and absolutely loved what I found.
Luckily for me, the development team of Techland also opened the game up for modding and a slew of decent mods have been released.
Timepiece is a small, but for me, quite essential mod that allows the player to look at their wristwatch when they are outside of a safe zone. This is essential as the zombie horde become faster, stronger and generally a lot harder to kill come darkness. Now I can keep track of time on the go and make sure I make it back to safety in time.
Game: Fallout 4
Mod: Remove Ugly Flat Trash
Ever wonder why floors stay filthy even though NPCs are sweeping all of the time? Well someone did, and author inawe has started cleaning the streets quite literally with a clever little mod that removes most of the trash and clutter from a few commonly used floor textures in Fallout 4. This can result in a slightly more ‘lived-in’ feel for many of the places you visit in the wasteland, indoor and out. While some may say this creates a slightly less immersive experience, after what feels like a lifetime in the filthy wasteland, I think a little tidyness can definitely be appreciated.
I’m a sucker for simple mods that make a noticeable impact on an entire game and this one is a great example.
Game: The Witcher 3
Mod: HUD Positioning and Scaling
One of the first things I look at, with every single game I play, is the user interface (UI) and heads up display (HUD). It’s one of those things I think most people don’t think about too much, but can make such a huge difference in the way a game feels. As such, I always tend to look for HUD/UI mods first, as there is almost always something I think could be done better. Specifically, I tend to look for mods that let me customize my HUD by moving things around, resizing, hiding, and so on.
Enter “HUD Positioning and Scaling”. This mod allows you to resize and reposition pretty much every HUD element. Simple as that. No more oversized and poorly positioned HUD encroaching on your screen space!
I highly recommend combining this with Friendly HUD by wghost81 for the ultimate HUD tweaking experience. (Yeah I just snuck a second mod into my staff pick. What of it?)
(Guest submission) DuskDwellers Pick
Mod: Alternate Start - Live Another Life
This mod is great for a number of reasons - it's perfect for people who enjoy creating several characters and not having to sit and wait through all of the lengthy introduction sequence each time. It allows you to start in different and interesting locations, with a character who has a totally different background to the main game which in itself increases the game longevity hugely.
But one of the best reasons for me, a Nexus Mod Manager developer, is that it has saved me countless hours in testing time as it throws me directly into the game - for that, I thank you Arthmoor!
Every week, we feature a few mods that have caught our staff’s attention, as well as some that were submitted by you, the Nexus Mods community. If there is a mod you’d like to see on this list, send the name of the mod along with a brief (less than 200 words) description of why you like it to email@example.com and we’ll consider posting it up. Thanks, and have fun modding!
A team of like-minded modders, coders and creative individuals, an idea, and a strong desire to deliver a story they are passionate about to the gaming world. Oh, and of course, humanoid bears with swords, shields, and mystical totems!
Witanlore: Dreamtime isn’t just a game; it's a love affair. Following two failed Kickstarter attempts for their game “Unwritten: Echoes of Twilight,” the Druid Gameworlds team scaled back their idea to concentrate on just one race - the Ursines. Now, following a successful Kickstarter campaign, lots of time, effort and dedication, the team is ready to release their first demo.
I got to spend some time with them today to have a chat about the game and how they have found the development process.
- Cole MacLean - Senior Project Manager
- Herb Ospina - Lead Level Designer
- Matt Bone - Quest Designer
Hi guys and welcome to Nexus Mods, would you mind giving us a quick rundown of who you are and what your role is within Druid Gameworks?
Herb: Hi there, I’m Herb Ospina, lead level Designer on Witanlore - I graduated from Full Sail with a Bachelors degree in game Design.
Matt: Hi, I’m Matt Bone, Writer & Game Designer.
Cole: Hi, I’m Cole MacLean, Lead Game Designer and Project Manager. I do what needs doing :)
Herb: He is indeed, “the man of many hats.”
Where did the name Druid Gameworks come from and how did you all meet / get involved in the project?
Cole: The name Druid Gameworks was sort of dual meaning, most of us have Celtic heritage and it was also a way of tipping our hats to the idea of old school game development. The company started out from my Oblivion Expansion project Reclaiming Sancre Tor, it was on that project that I met co-founder James Ford and several of our current team mates.
The folks who have been on the project the longest were all modders first, people whom we met through sites such as Nexus Mods. After they were on board we recruited and filled seats from freelance and student pools.
So if you were modders first, I presume you have been on the Nexus a while?
Cole: I think all of us have been Nexus community members a long time, I think we first met up on the official Bethsoft forums but Nexus is the go to for good mod hosting so many of our handles are probably familiar to Nexus users.
I’m Darkryder, we also have Zaldir, Arthmoor, jjc17, IonistheBear or Ionis, lilith, joshezzell and WindmillTilter. Between us we have created a number of mods that I hope are enjoyed by the community.
Your first game Witanlore: Dreamtime has just been successfully Kickstarted, making twice what you were after. Did you expect such a positive response?
Cole: I would say no, that was unexpected. We knew we had put together a strong campaign and the game Witanlore: Dreamtime resonates with a lot of folks, but I don't think we considered it would do that well so kept the goal fairly short.
Can you give us the premise of the game?
The premise is that Witanlore is a story-based RPG set on an island populated by humanoid bear tribes. We take a lot of influence from Native American tribes in their design, whilst throwing in a lot of our own flavour. As for the main story, you start the game as an ursine about to undergo the Chut'que, or Dreaming - a coming of age ritual, in which you travel to the Dreamworld to meet the Great Mother, goddess of the ursine, to learn of your destiny. Without giving away too much, I'll say that like all good stories, it doesn't go quite as expected.
Matt, the studio has obviously written all their own backstory and lore for the game, what were your inspirations and how have you found the process?
Matt: Fortunately for me, a lot of the world lore and the story specific to this game was in place when I came on board. But I have helped to flesh a lot out since, it made things a lot easier when it came to writing the dialogue and quests.
I noticed in the demo that there are a lot of books scattered around, many of which are readable, is there a team in place to write these?
Matt: I've written all the books currently in episode 1, though we definitely want to add a lot more, so will likely enlist a few others to contribute. And yes, that means I'm to blame for "Urg's poetry".
Herb: I love Urgs experiments.
Matt: He loves a bit of science!
Herb, the game world already seems large and very open. How big will the game be upon initial release and how are you going to deal with expansion through each episode?
Herb: The game world is roughly 11 x 10km, episode 1 will be a fraction of that. Each episode unlocks a portion of the continent and lets you progress through the story. Off hand their are roughly 3 or 4 large dungeons/caves to explore in EP1 along with other smaller adventuring areas. There are also points of interest to find.
With the game being episodic, a lot of areas will be bounded off until we release that episode. However, once all episodes are complete and the full saga released the game will be fully open world, to explore as you please.
How are you stopping the player from venturing into the next part of the game world, will it be invisible walls or is there some kind of blockage in the way (fallen tree etc.)?
We’re using invisible walls, though the fallen tree thing is a good idea for some smaller areas in the future ;)
I have read that the game will feature a lot of chaos theory/butterfly effect moments, make one choice and it affects something down the line. I played the demo earlier and in a conversation with Tuala (the female Ursine you meet at the beginning), I noticed questions leading in many different directions. Is this hard to plan out? I can imagine that the game is like a tree with a huge amount of branches the player can take!
Matt: Hah, it can be a nightmare when it comes to writing dialogue and quest outcomes. You end up with a final dialogue tree that has to account for a hell of a lot of variations. But I think it's incredibly important to do that. It makes the player truly feel like their decisions and dialogue responses matter.
Also, the voice actors hate me.
The female Ursine in the demo (Tuala) is actually a good example. There's some seemingly incidental responses in that dialogue that can lead to some big changes in the quest - and the choices she makes as a character - down the line.
Am I right in saying that your character could end up being ‘Evil’?
Cole: Yes that's definitely possible
What made you choose bears to be the basis of your Ursine race?
Cole: Dreamtime started as an alt start questline from our original Witanlore title Echoes of Twilight. the bear race, Ursines, were one of 6 playable races for that game. We felt their culture was unique and diverse enough to be central to a standalone spin off.
I love the character design sketches that have adorned your Steam Greenlight page, they look incredible. I noticed that there seems to be a number of different classes - will these be available for the player to choose at the beginning or do they become these through the choices they make?
Cole: The player can choose their character's class at the start of a new game, they can also piece together a custom class if they want specific traits.
Each class comes with a totem animal assigned, so if they want to pick what their totem is they will need to choose custom class and make the choices they prefer.
The totems look a really nice feature, do they act like a companion? How are they activated and utilized by the player?
Cole: Totems come in several incarnations that they cycle through as the player levels them up. At first they are a charm on the player's HUD, this represents the internal connection of player and totem. The charm glows when hidden items are near, when enemies are tracking them, or when a quest is close by. Reacting to these cues, for example talking to a quest giver the totem alerted you to, levels up the totem. When the totem levels up enough, and the player unlocks their connection to magic, the totem can manifest an ethereal spirit form. This spirit can be summoned but is somewhat limited. The final incarnation of the totem is a physical spirit guide, this works more like a companion traveling beside the player, following and dismissing at the player's whim.
Magic doesn't unlock until Episode 2 by design so in Episode 1, the totem animals are charm forms.
There are actually 14 totems in total and each has different buffs and bonuses. Wolf, Fox, Bison, Horse, Otter, Dragon, Hawk, Owl, Snake, Rabbit, Snowcat, Wolverine, Rat, and Bear.
You’ve said that most of you have come from a modders background, would you say any of your inspiration has come from mods you’ve used or worked on in the past?
Cole: I would say our time in the modding community gave us a good frame of what sort of extras gamers would like to see as part of the core game, like survival needs [hunger, thirst, etc] or role playing elements for example.
So have there been any games that provided you or your team with inspiration?
Cole: We definitely took some of our inspiration from the Elder Scrolls series, we are big fans of those games since at least Daggerfall, as well as games like Dragon Age Origins and the Witcher series. That said though, our approach has always been "This is what they did, what can we do differently or improve on?"
Matt: Inspiration-wise for me, it's pretty much any good, story-driven RPG. Witcher 3 is an obvious one, as it really represents a high point of the genre. Though on a more indie scale, games like 80 Days show how far great writing can take you.
Herb: I’ve been playing Elder Scrolls since Daggerfall and any other major RPG. My inspiration comes mostly from those games. I’ve always liked how Bethesda changes up the flow, in dungeons, to break up the linearity.
You’re introducing something you’ve named the RP menu, can you tell us a little bit more about this nifty feature? Will it be expandable / modifiable in the future?
Cole: The RP menu was my brain child and it actually almost didn't make the game because it was a really last minute addition. Basically, while playing other RPG games, it bothered me that I couldn’t sit down whenever I wanted. So I thought, what if we gave players the ability to call certain behaviors on the fly? It started with sitting anywhere, building a campfire, smoking a peace pipe, summoning companions. Working closely with programmer Filipe Tessaro we expanded the idea to include things like fishing, and building an actual tent, as well as adding buffs for performing these behaviors.
There were other behaviors that didn’t make the cut so I think some intrepid modder could certainly build on the idea :D
So the game is going to be moddable? Will you be providing tools?
Cole: We're using Unreal Engine 4 for development and Epic has opened a pipeline to make moddable games possible. We'll be following their guidelines for sure. We also have a toolkit of our own that we'd like to finish developing and roll out for our modding communities to use specifically for our games. At the moment the toolkit is on hold but once the core programming is finished for Dreamtime the programmers plan to revisit the toolkit and get it on its feet for distribution.
That’s brilliant to hear, I’m sure the community at Nexus Mods are going to have a field day expanding and modding the game! You must have come from working with the Creation Kit, how did you find the move over to the Unreal Engine?
Cole: There really isn’t a comparison between the CK and UE4, it's just a different animal. We spent the first 5-6 months learning the engine before any significant development even started and to date, there's still something new to learn with every engine update.
Herb: I personally jumped into the creation kit for about 5 minutes during my time in school for research purposes. Both engines are so different that if you work with one it’s hard to pick up the other, The workflow is so different.
In terms of the entire process, what would you say have been the highs and the lows? Did the Steam Greenlight process go smoothly?
Cole: There are definitely highs around every milestone, like meeting our kickstarter goal, greenlighting, showcasing the first time, etc It's been really good for the team to hit those marks along the way. We had a solid plan going into greenlight but I would say it went better than we could have imagined. We were in the top 100 in the first 3 days and had just a really positive and gracious reception from the Steam community.
Matt: Although I wasn't there, showing the game for the first time at Orlando IX recently was a definite high for me, as I think it was for a lot of the developers. Seeing the photos and getting constant feedback from our team there was a blast, and made our game suddenly feel a whole lot more real. I remember Herb telling me how a guy was poring over every single dialogue choice, which definitely made my day (and reassured me that there were other people who played rpgs like I do...)
Cole: That's not to say we haven't had lows, our team has hit all of the usual hurdles, budget gaps, employee turnover, we've been ripped off a couple times where freelancers required upfront payments and walked or didn’t complete the task as contracted. A lot of people will try to prey on an indie startup, we've learned some hard lessons about vetting the people we hire or work with and about sticking together to move forward after any set back.
Herb: Indie development is hard. You have so many different people from so many different places working on their own thing. Sometimes people get crazy because of deadlines. With everyone working remotely it can be hard to interpret the tone of what people are trying to communicate with you.
The biggest high for me was releasing the demo. It really hit home with me that it was finally out and available to EVERYONE to finally play. I left my day job to work on this full time, needless to say i got a lot of skeptical looks about it. But it's finally paying off.
You’ve been updating Steam Greenlight with your progress. I noticed that the Character models were proving difficult to nail down and your Kickstarter funding is going largely towards character artists. How problematic were these and do you have any other characters (such as enemies) that have had similar issues?
Characters have been a huge challenge, we've been through 8 or 9 different artists now, and several thousand dollars from concept art to game version and the player characters still aren't finished. When we enter Early Access only the Blackclaw tribe will be playable because we actually have to sell units to raise funds to finish the other tribes.
Our in house artists have done a great job picking up the mantle for things like creatures which saved us from facing the same challenge with our fauna, but the enemy wolven model is still in the pipeline as well. Fortunately, the wolven don't appear until Episode 2 so we have some leeway there.
So you need some money thrown at you to assist in the process. Can you give us details of your pricing structure, where we can pre-order/support the game and what your release schedule is please?
Cole: In Early Access, each episode will retail for $6.99 if purchased as they release. Alternately, Players will be able to purchase the full game for $34.95 which includes all 5 episodes as they release PLUS all future DLCs FREE for buying the full game early!
After Early Access, when all the Episodes are complete the full game will retail for $39.99 with DLCs priced separately based on their content.
You won’t ever see a Druid Gameworks game priced at $60, ever.
Ha ha ha, can I quote you on that!?! :D
Yes, yes you can LOL :D :D. I just think that price model industry wide is a little steep. Fair pricing and quality content are two of our major business models.
So where can people go to follow the development of Witanlore: Dreamtime?
The best place to follow development is on our Steam Greenlight page.
We also have an FAQ for some of the most common questions folks may have.
I also tweet quite a bit if folks want to most up to date news, following our twitter feed is the way to go.
We have a great article coming out on greenlight soon detailing Early Access and specific goals and release dates so that's one to watch for.
Awesome, thank you ever so much for your time, it’s been great chatting with you all. Is there anything you would like to say to the Nexus community before we sign off?
Cole: As modders the Nexus community was always behind us giving us support, feedback, cheers, etc. We need them now more than ever as there are a lot of naysayers who think modders just can't make games. We aim to show them what modders can do :D
Matt: Also, keep making backpack mods. Our composer is weirdly obsessed by them…
Cole: Haha quite.
Thank you to all you guys for giving us your time tonight, it’s been hugely appreciated and we wish you all the success with the game.
Herb: Thanks Paul!
Matt: Thanks Paul!
Cole: Thank you for chatting with us, it was fun! :D
If you missed the link earlier, you can now try out the demo of the game!
So there you have it, hope you enjoyed the second of our Sunday Discussions. We have plenty more lined up for you with mod authors, respected people in the industry and much, much more.
If you’ve enjoyed it, please feel free to social media the heck out of us. We’re now on Twitter and Facebook!
As hard as it may be to fathom, before I began working for Nexus Mods, I had never really tried to "mod" anything. I mean, the only form of "modding" I had ever done in my life was add a spoiler to my first car back in 1996; put a window into the side of my first, self-built computer; and maybe change a console game with one of the cheat cartridges that were available at the time. Modding just seemed irrelevant to me, like an unnecessary hassle; I already liked the game so why on earth would I go tinkering with it? I mean, I’d probably make it unstable, or surely it would BSOD, right? It was the equivalent to me of taking a Ferrari and sticking a massive turbocharger inside it: it may be fun, but was it needed? No, of course not. I was also worried: Was I going to be VAC banned for changing textures? Would people think I am cheating if I added a mod to allow me to carry more in my inventory? Would it detract from the game if I added a map with all the roads? The list of concerns I had seemed endless.
So what has changed?
To put it simply, I tried it... Robin told me to take a week or so to have a play around and see what happens. So I started with Skyrim, the most popular game on the Nexus Mods website with over 1 billion downloads and counting. It seemed like a relatively good place to start; mods were readily available and highly tested by our community, so I loaded it up. I played the vanilla game for some hours, taking in the standard game vistas, the armours, weapons, NPCs, weather, and the like. Skyrim is an incredible game, one you can get lost in as the hours pass by like they're minutes. One moment it's 5 p.m.; the next thing you realise, you've hit 1 in the morning! Your character has many active quests, each like an episode of 'The Walking Dead', and you just need to see it through to the end before you can tear yourself away.
I was enjoying the game... That's a given! However, I had to take the plunge; my job was now on a modding website, the biggest on the internet no less, so the pressure was mounting.
To begin with, I went through the list of mods, which is a daunting task in itself as we're currently closing fast on 50,000 mod files. I explored the list of most downloaded mods and had a look to find those that were immediately going to give me something different, something I would notice, and something I would like.
In fact, the first mod that I ever downloaded was SkyUI, which is by far the most popular mod file we have on Nexus Mods. This mod has been downloaded over 13 million times, that’s more than the entire population of Greece! That is a crazy figure that indicates how good the mod truly is. SkyUI is designed to change the UI (User Interface) of Skyrim in a huge way; it replaces every menu within the game with a far more productive and informative version. Need to know how much damage your mace swings for? Just open the menu. It brings in so many useful tweaks; it makes you wonder why the developers did not create it this way in the first place.
Now, here is where I had my first RTFM (Read The Fucking Manual) moment! I installed SkyUI using Nexus Mod Manager (NMM). It seemed easy enough; you just click 'Download (NMM),' and the next moment, NMM opens, and the mod file is automatically added to your list of available mods. Then, you activate it directly from within the application. Easy!
(That is of course until Skyrim Special Edition gets released and we get a huge influx of people, so we have to turn off NMM so the sites don’t go down ;))
After activating the mod, I opened Skyrim and went about my merry way; but where was this amazing new UI that I was expecting? Everything still looked identical! I opened up a browser and navigated rather solemnly to the mod page and read through the description. It seems I had missed one ever so minor part that was necessary to get SkyUI working correctly: I had not installed SKSE (Skyrim Script Extender). SKSE is a mod that isn't available directly on Nexus Mods, so I had to download it manually from their website. To put it shortly, SKSE does exactly what it says on the tin, it expands the scripting language for Skyrim to allow for bigger and more robust mods. The memory allocation patch that it includes also allows you to add more mods to the game without it crashing to desktop, I however, just wanted to use SkyUI.
This time, I ran the game and pressed Tab – you could say that I was pleased when I was immediately presented with the updated menu system that I had been expecting the first time. I continued my game for another hour or two before stopping to think about what had just happened. Now I don't know about you, but have you ever thought about how much time that singular mod has saved you while you have played the game? Before, I would have to open up my inventory and then click to select Armour, Magic, Books, etc., and then run my cursor down the list to find their information. Now, all I had to do was open the menu, look straight at a table of items, and all the stats were immediately available. I could even sort by any of their values if I wanted. It was just a pleasure to use.
SkyUI single-handedly changed my view of modding. Now, that may come across as a bold statement, but I'm pretty sure that most of the people who have read this far, and have Skyrim themselves (the original, not the Special Edition), will have SkyUI installed.
Now, I digress, but the impact of the mod was made clear to me the other day when the Skyrim Special Edition was launched. I was looking forward to checking out the new visuals and improvements that Bethesda had made to the already excellent game. After pre-loading and waiting for the game to unlock, I sat looking at the screen wondering what mods I was going to install first. Working for the site, I knew that the interest was high, and we would soon get an influx of mods that I could choose from. Then it opened, and I quickly began the game and sat through that same cart journey toward Helgen, after which I had to configure my character (something I take my time over) and go into the actual gameplay. The dragon descended and away I went. I decided to follow Ralof and made my way through Helgen, collecting junk, choosing the sword over magic and following the path, only to emerge on the other side a little bit sad. Yes, the game was still fun; yes, it still drew me in, but the standard UI on the menu system was just terrible, and I was already missing the look and feel of SkyUI.
So if this was just one mod, what could I do if I began to find ones that were going to prove helpful and stack them together?
I must have spent a good few hours looking through the mods for Skyrim on Nexus Mods; I admit that I did it the 'easy' way and sorted through a list of 'Most downloaded' before going through each one to discover what it was offering. I believe that in the first few days of modding, I had downloaded, installed and activated around 50 mods. It was exhilarating to add new features to the game, jump into my character, and see what new items, tasks, quests, abodes and spells were available to me. The mini-games that I found tedious and (in my eyes) took away from the main game I no longer had to worry about. Lockpicking no longer deducted from my gaming experience as I installed 'KenMOD - Lockpick Pro - Cheat'. Concentrating on the quests now became the priority and it became clear that these mods had enhanced the game considerably based on my own personal tastes.
With a choice of 50,000 files on Nexus Mods for Skyrim alone, I needed to think about how I wanted my game to 'feel', so I began plotting. I wanted to find mods that were going to enhance the sound and the visuals. I wanted a few more abodes in which my character could relax. Also, as the standard map in the game is 'adequate' but not great, I thought that maybe I should go for a different map.
The list began to grow, and so did my frustration with the website. Nexus Mods is a vast repository; it hosts over 400,000 mod files and even more image files, but can you find anything on it? Yes, but barely. The search was only just functional and didn't allow many filters or arguments at all. Something was definitely going to have to be done to rectify that in the redesign!
Over the period of around a week, I must have installed around 75 mods into Skyrim. It most certainly wasn't smooth sailing, I had numerous crashes to desktop, problems getting mods installed, trouble removing ones I no longer wanted and much, much more. But through tools such as LOOT (Load Order Optimisation Tool), sites such as http://www.reddit.com/r/skyrimmods/wiki/beginners_guide and the Nexus Mods Wiki, combined with lots of perseverance, I have now ended up with a build that suits me down to the ground. Now, following the release of Skyrim Special Edition I have to go through the entire process again. But you know what? That's part of the fun!
I've based this article on Skyrim; it was the logical stepping-in point for me due to it being the most prolific game on Nexus Mods. But since then, I have had the enjoyment of creating a new experience within Fallout 4 ('Lowered Weapons' and 'Full dialogue interface' are two mods I now can't live without), adding different vault suits, changing the UI and allowing someone else to accompany Dogmeat and me on our travels.
I've tweaked some of our lesser known and used games such as Dying Light, Starbound, Wolfenstein and Dark Souls to name but a few.
Each little tweak here and there adds to the experience, allowing new possibilities and fixing some of the bugs that remain in games. The hardest part, for me, has been knowing when to stop and play the game. I get engrossed in the build. It becomes like a powerful drug and I find myself saying "just one more mod, then you can give it a play-through".
The great thing I have found with modding is that it is all down to personal preference; there is no wrong or right way to mod your game. I mean, you can have your files in the incorrect load order or can put two incompatible mods together, which would need to be rectified before your game will work, but what you want to install is entirely up to you and your overall aim.
The community that we have here at Nexus Mods (I know, I drum on about it a lot) truly is an excellent source of knowledge, one which I relied on a lot when I was first trying to get things working. I often found myself scouring the forums, trying to find a solution to some problem I had come up against, and more often than not, I would find the solution. I’ve found everyone I have spoken too to be exceptionally receptive, assisting me in all manner of queries and never begrudging my seemingly benign questions. Our community is a resource, one that each of us can tap into no matter how far along the modding journey we are.
Over the coming months, Dave (SirSalami) and I will be presenting an 'Introduction to Modding' series that will concentrate on a particular game and show how we have modified it to meet our needs.
We'll most likely start with vanilla Skyrim (Standard Edition) and begin adding mods to it. As the weeks progress, we'll show you how we use tools to get everything working, how they make it easier for you to organise mods, and much more. We do hope you stick around and join us.
If you would like to submit an article to us here at Nexus Mods, please feel free to get in touch with Paul (BlindJudge) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello and welcome to what is going to become a regular feature here on Nexus Mods; the Sunday Discussion. Over the coming weeks we hope to bring you many interviews with all manner of individuals. Ranging from people such as Jokerine, Elianora, Caliente (and a whole lot more), to special guests, developers and even some of the staff members. Join us on Twitter and Facebook if you want to be notified when they are released.
We’re going to start this feature off with a real treat. Chesko! He is a very well regarded mod author whose submitted work includes the hugely successful Frostfall. Chesko has been on the site since 2006 (which means he was in the first 200,000 to sign up to Nexus Mods) and is still very active within the community. Highly regarded and incredibly skilled, he has a cracking portfolio which I implore you all to go and check out.
Before we get into the modding side of things, would you mind telling us all a little bit about your gaming history?
I’ve been playing games my whole life! I grew up with the Commodore 64, NES, and SNES.
If you had to try and choose a favorite game, or at least the one you have the fondest memories of, what would it be and why?
Super Metroid. The atmosphere, the music, the discovery, the gameplay are all just incredible. The world is so cohesive and almost everything has a reason for existing. It was expansive without being too big, challenging without being too hard, mysterious without being opaque.
A very close second is Morrowind. I have very vivid memories of the first times I visited Balmora and Ald’ruhn. It was some of the most transportive experiences I’ve had in games.
What first attracted you to begin modding? Did you have any previous experience?
I used to be a DM for a few D&D groups throughout the years, and that creative outlet was something I was missing. When you get out of college [and] start working, making commitments to meet with friends regularly like that gets a lot harder. Being able to kind of act as a very remote DM, with my text messages in the corner of your screen telling you “You’re feeling very cold…”, that’s a lot of fun for me. It’s like I get to DM for tons of people at once.
I didn’t have any previous relevant experience. My first mod was “I think it would be cool if, in Morrowind, you always started the game at night, in a thunderstorm.” So I found where the game sets the game’s time and weather during the opening quest and changed the script and presto, I had what I wanted. That opened me up to the possibilities. Like, “Oh, if I can do that, then I can do this, and this, and this...” Thus began my fall down the rabbit hole.
In order to further your modding skills you must have to take the time out to learn, adapt and evolve, what would you say is the best resource to do this?
For me the best resources have been: the base game itself, followed by other people’s mods, followed by the Creation Kit wiki. I’ve never been much for learning from videos but I know that’s some people’s preferred method. Really I’m just a tinkerer. I play with things and experiment until I get things working the way I want.
Do you have anyone that you can turn to if you ever get stuck with a certain aspect of a mod?
I posted a lot in the Bethesda mod author forums quite a bit in my earlier modding days. Now, I usually don’t ever get that stuck. But if I did, I know I could ask the forums, or the /r/skyrimmods subreddit, or contact one of the other authors I’ve made friends with, and hopefully work things out.
Do you check out the other mod authors to either compare or learn from?
I’m very competitive. So, I do look at what’s out there and what they’ve done, especially when I’m about to create something in the same “space” as someone else. I’m usually never the first to release something in a category, but I’m known for executing really well. I look at what they’ve done, what they could have done better. What their users are asking for but they’re not delivering on. How I might offer my own unique spin on things. And sometimes I come across a mod and it blows me away; like, “How the heck did he do that?!?” Familiar Faces is the most recent example of that for me. So I eagerly take those mods apart just to see how they pulled some things off. That’s always fun.
Are there any mod authors that you look up to or who inspire you?
Absolutely. They’re the usual suspects. Arthmoor; Shlangster and Mardoxx; FadingSignal; Kryptopyr; Nikinoodles; Isoku; Expired.
Do you work in a team of modders? If so, how do you divide the work and how do you communicate with one another?
Nope; it’s just me. Sometimes I might need to request help from someone, like recently I really needed some help making some great new backpacks for Campfire, which FadingSignal was able to do an amazing job on. But usually when I request things like that it’s asynchronous to my other work, I try not to get blocked waiting on something.
You created Frostfall which has been downloaded over 2 million times and played by over 800,000 people, do those numbers ever really sink in?
It’s large enough that my brain can’t wrap around it. I’m humbled that I’ve (hopefully) improved the game experiences of so many. I was excited when Frostfall hit the Hot Files section and when it won File of the Month. Really though, the things I find the most rewarding are hearing people’s personal experiences with the mod, and how it’s created these completely new, organic moments they wouldn’t have had otherwise. And it’s like, “Awesome; I helped make that happen!”
Did you expect the mod to become as popular as it did?
No. Not at all. The whole thing was very surreal and it continues to be surreal. When I release something, it’s downloaded over a thousand times in a day. That’s over a thousand actual people. I try to sometimes imagine a room full of over a thousand people all playing with something I made and it just boggles my mind. Then that thought starts to terrify me so I try to tune it out and just focus on making something cool.
It must require a lot of planning in order to produce a mod of that caliber, did you have everything written out in advance? How did you work out the stats that you were going to use?
Frostfall has been very evolutionary and is a reflection of myself at different times over the last 5 years. The initial version had a simple goal and a very small scope; give the player hypothermia, make their equipment count for something, and give them camping equipment to combat it. I balanced it using a lot of spreadsheets so that I could see the entire system at the same time; things like “if I change the ambient temperature of this zone, how does that affect the player’s survivability?” Or, “What if their maximum exposure protection were increased by 10 points?” You can make one change and it has a cascading effect throughout the system. So, I use spreadsheets to see those changes to make sure things looked right “on paper” before I implement it. Really though, I find that it’s better to get things into people’s hands and listen to their feedback than it is to do a lot of up-front planning. You get something small working, you test it, you release it, and then you adjust it based on what people say they like or don’t like.
With the release of Skyrim Special Edition you have begun to convert your mods for use with the updated architecture, how are you finding the process and what do you think of the re-release?
The re-release has gone fairly smooth. The process of decoupling Frostfall and Campfire from SKSE started months ago, so that put me ahead of the curve when things were getting close to release. There’s been a lot of renewed excitement in Skyrim and mods, and that’s been reinvigorating. We’re still in a period of time dilation in terms of people’s expectations. It’s only been a week, but people are already very hungry for releases and bug fixes.
Do you keep track of recently released mods? Do you ever look at them and think they would be a good fit towards your mods?
I try to keep my ear to the ground. The Sleeping Bags mod came out recently, which was really cool, and that immediately started a dialogue between the author and I about how we could better fit things together. Thankfully they had already done a lot of the legwork themselves using the open APIs I publish for Campfire and Frostfall.
Are you able to complete everything yourself or do you ever have to pass things off to other people?
There are certain things I’ve had to have help with; mostly art (meshes, textures, etc). With things like Arissa, that required voice talent. Recently with Simply Knock I had to ask for a lot of help from Expired as that was my first SKSE mod, I couldn’t have done that without his help. Everything else (scripting / quests / anything in the Creation Kit), I try to do myself. It’s always funny when someone makes a comment to the tune of “Thanks for all the work the Frostfall team does!” In that particular case, there is no team… it’s just me! I always take that as a complement.
How do you take criticism from users? Do you find it useful or frustrating?
I have some of the best users on the Nexus. My mods wouldn’t be what they are now without their help. I greatly appreciate feedback as long as it’s actionable and helps me make a better mod. I try to stay in touch with my users as much as I can.
Like Frostfall, your work tends to be quite elaborate, utilizing many aspects of the engine to add new layers of gameplay and immersion. Last Seed and Art of the Catch are shaping up to be more examples of this, adding new art, animation, sounds, and gameplay to Skyrim. What can we expect from these highly-anticipated mods?
Well, I try not to set expectations too high, but my general attitude is “How would Bethesda do it?” Like, if they put real engineering effort behind a fishing system, what would it look like? And so I try to picture that and keep that vision in mind when I’m building these kinds of things. I often don’t have a comprehensive list of features, but I do know how I want you to feel. For Last Seed, I want you to feel clever as you try to keep yourself healthy even under the stress of being a hero. For Art of the Catch, I want you to feel like you’re playing a Zelda mini-game. So, now I need to figure out what features contribute to those feelings.
Do you worry about mod compatibility when you develop?
Absolutely. I try to step on as few other mods as possible when designing my mods. Like some other authors, I have a compatibility system that I use in most of my mods that does checks when you start the game and adjusts my mod accordingly.
That said, it’s a balance; if you try to be compatible with everything, you can sometimes lose sight of what you were trying to accomplish in the first place. I try to be as compatible as possible without losing sight of my original vision.
Recently I’ve started to care a lot more about providing interfaces (APIs, injected records) into my mods that other authors can leverage in order to create compatibility for their own mods and mine, without me having to be involved. That’s been very successful so far and there are several very creative things that have come out of that, like the Dig Site tents.
If you could offer any advice to our users who want to get into modding what would it be?
START SMALL. Your initial impulse might be to build a huge quest overhaul, or a brand new land mass, or something equally daunting. Once you get started, you might become very discouraged when you discover how difficult these things are to build and then just give up entirely. So find a very small part of what you want to do, do it well, and then expand from there and build on it. Try to learn as much as you can. Everything you create teaches you something. You don’t have to save the entire free world at once; make a small contribution to the community and let that motivate you to bigger things.
Thanks ever so much for talking to us today.
No problem at all. Thank you for having me here.
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