The Man behind the Modathon Madness - Darkelfguy

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Today, we are chatting with Darkelfguy, a YouTuber/modder with a burning passion for the modding community. Not only does he host the weekly Morrowind Modding Showcases on his YouTube channel, he also runs the annual Morrowind Modathon as well as other modding events - all in service of our Morrowind community.


BigBizkit: Thank you, Darkelfguy, for chatting with us. For those out there who might not be familiar with you and your work in the community, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and the mod competitions you run?

Darkelfguy: Thanks for having me, and since I doubt anyone outside the Morrowind community knows me, I'm Darkelfguy, I've been a member of the modding community since 2003, back when Nexus Mods was simply known as Morrowind Source, and I've been the host of Morrowind Modding Showcases (MMS), really the only mod showcases channel for Morrowind, since 2014. I also handle most of the Morrowind Modding Community podcasts and audio-based modder interviews (31 recorded and counting so far), as well as video tutorials on how to make mods for Morrowind and how to install mods, and I do quite a bit of promotional video work for the major Morrowind projects out there, like Tamriel Rebuilt, Skyrim - Home of the Nords, Province: Cyrodiil, Morrowind Rebirth and Lyithdonea. Basically, I'm the Morrowind Modding Community's cheerleader.

I also manage and organize the Morrowind community's two major annual modding competitions, the Morrowind May Modathon, a free-for-all competition which runs from May 1st to June 1st each year in celebration of Morrowind's anniversary, and the Morrowind Modding Madness competition from October 1st to October 31st, a rigorous skill based team modding competition which requires a heavy emphasis on cooperation and collaboration between modders.


What was it that initially inspired you to run the annual Morrowind Modathon?

In a way it was kind of inevitable, I've always been involved in running competitions and community events, before I ran MMS, I owned a Minecraft server where I hosted monthly building competitions between 2011 and 2014, before that I did a lot of competitions and contests for my old WoW guild back in 2007. After MMS was launched in July of 2014, it seemed like the natural next step. The entire point and purpose of MMS was to be a platform to promote and encourage modders, and running a competition seemed like a good way to get people motivated.


Doing the Modathon in May also seemed like a natural choice, Morrowind's anniversary is on May 1st, and what better way is there to celebrate this amazing game, which has inspired so many to get into modding, than to make even more mods for it? And so far it's been a massive success, over the last 4 years the Modathon has become the largest annual modding competition in the Elder Scrolls modding community.


Last year’s Morrowind May Modathon marked the 15th anniversary of Morrowind. What would you say drives people to continue making mods for Morrowind after all these years?

It's funny you should ask that, because this is pretty much a question I ask each and every modder we host on Morrowind Modding Interviews. After talking with 31 modders, I've gotten 31 different responses. For a lot of people it's the community, the people, and for others it's the game itself, there's just something about Morrowind that keeps drawing people back in and bringing new people to the table. Personally, I think it's a bit of both. For many of us the Morrowind Modding Community is home, you might leave for a while, sometimes you might be gone for 10 or 12 years, but at the end of the day, you can always come home again, and many of us do.

Unquestionably though part of it is simply due to the spirit of the community itself. We're home to some of the oldest, continuously worked on modding projects in gaming history, our projects are measured, not by years, but by decades. Tamriel Rebuilt is turning 17 this Summer, it's actually older than Morrowind itself! Skyrim - Home of the Nords turns 13 this Autumn, Province: Cyrodiil will soon be 11, and Morrowind Rebirth and Lyithdonea will both be nearly 10 years old soon. Despite their age, each of those projects still has a ton of dedicated and active modders working on them, ranging from dozens of modders still working on projects like TR and SHOTN, to the same small group of modders that keep on toiling on Rebirth and Lyithdonea year in and year out, modders like Trancemaster and Melchior Dahrk, who've taken small personal projects and turned them into grand ambitious endeavors.

 

How would you say this year’s Morrowind Modathon performed in terms of engagement?

It was amazing, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. The Modathon has become a staple of the Morrowind Modding Community, but the level of engagement we got this year was just beyond anything I could've expected, I think we blew nearly every record for a modding competition out of the water, and the number of mods submitted for this year's Modathon was triple the amount from the 2017 competition. I mean, for a community as old as Morrowind's, you wouldn't expect to see 89 mods submitted for an event like this, much less by 45 different modders, covering everything you can imagine from new quests, items, gameplay elements, scripting features, crafting systems, and so much more.

A lot of that increased engagement, I think, was due to the achievements system. It was sort of a last minute addition, something I was toying around with for a while. After all, if games can have achievements, why not modding? I bounced a few ideas off Melchior Dahrk a little over a week before the Modathon was supposed to start, and before we knew it, we had spent hours hashing out ideas for achievements, including everything from badges for getting certain endorsement and download goals, to hidden achievements for trying to do fun and unique things with your mods. I can't really take any credit for the design of the achievements, that was all on Melchior, but in the end we had just shy of 60 different achievements that modders could unlock by submitting mods.

I thought it might give a small boost to modder participation, maybe encourage a few people on the sidelines, but I wasn't expecting what happened. People loved unlocking achievements for making mods, participation skyrocketed. Take a look at the Hot Files section of the Morrowind Nexus page and you'll find, on nearly all of them, those little achievement badges at the bottom of the mod description. Clearly gamifying modding has produced some amazing results, though of course the question now is, where do we go from here? That remains to be seen, but we're still toying with the idea of how to expand the achievements system for longer periods of time.


The Modathon isn’t the only “competition” you are running. What are some of the others you host and how are they different from the annual Modathon?

Ah yes, that's true. I also host Morrowind Modding Madness, and it's basically the complete opposite of the Modathon. The Modathon is open to everyone and has no real content restrictions. Morrowind Modding Madness on the other hand, is a team-based modding competition, with strict themes. The month of October is divided into two two-week challenges. Each challenge is randomly generated using a scripted in-game tower, and each team then has only two weeks to submit a mod that matches the generated theme. Each entry is scored by a panel of judges, and it's really a contest of both skill and endurance, as only a team that manages to make two really good mods within their deadlines can possibly hope to win the competition.

The point of Morrowind Modding Madness is really to promote team-building, encourage cooperation and collaboration between modders, and challenge them to make deadlines. After all, a lot of modders are a pretty isolationist bunch, sometimes they just need a little encouragement to work together, and when they do, the results can be pretty amazing.

As a note for those interested, team registration for this year's Morrowind Modding Madness begins on September 1st, we'll have a thread here on the Nexus Forums as well as on Reddit where you can register a team to participate. The competition itself begins October 1st.


Do you think other games’ modding scenes could benefit from this sort of “gamification” of modding?

Absolutely, I think the Modathon has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt the energizing potential of annual modding competitions. If a community as small as Morrowind's, which has on average only about 300 to 400 active modders in any given year, can make a competition like the Modathon such a massive success, surely the same could be done for the larger modding communities of other games as well? This is actually one of the points I'm always surprised by, because as far as I can tell, there haven't been many modding competitions hosted for the newer Bethesda games, perhaps the best example I can find is the r/skyrimmodding community which hosted a series of monthly modding competitions for about 4 months in 2015, but I haven't heard of anything since then.

As for specifically "gamification", as I mentioned earlier, this year's Modathon used an achievements system to reward modders with badges they could unlock by releasing certain types of mods. I'm almost positive that's what caused such a massive spike in participation for this year's event. It was great fun for everyone, and I absolutely think a similar system of "gamifying" modding could be used to both encourage modders to try making different kinds of mods, and also to get more people into modding on a much larger scale. You have to admit there's something addicting about collecting achievements, that's why it's worked so well for Steam, and if the Morrowind Modathon is anything to go by, it could absolutely work for Skyrim or Fallout 4 or any other game with a community to support it. I'd love to see someone try and make that happen.


Seeing how you must be a huge fan of Morrowind, what are your thoughts on the two ambitious projects attempting to reinvigorate Morrowind by bringing it to newer engines: Morroblivion and Skywind?

Well, I can't say I've followed the progress of either project particularly closely, I don't get out of the Morrowind Modding Community much these days, but I have seen a few screenshots here and there, and clearly they're very impressive and promising projects. More than that, these large community endeavors are, I think, critical to the success of any modding community. Projects like Skywind bring people together, whether modding veterans working towards a common goal, or just regular players who see exciting new developments for Skywind or Morroblivion and use that as motivation to get involved with modding themselves. How many new modders have gotten their first introduction to modding from projects like these? Hundreds, thousands? Without question they have a massive positive impact on the community, and for that alone it'll be exciting to see how they develop over time.

 

That said, I probably won't play Morroblivion and Skywind myself, and that probably goes for a lot of Morrowind modders in the community as well. We're not really the target audience for these projects, we don't need a new Morrowind on a new platform, because we've already got Morrowind, and if there's something we want to improve, we make mods for it. Morroblivion and Skywind are a great way to introduce new players, those who don't like Morrowind's graphics or gameplay, to one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Plus we have our own exciting projects like Province: Cyrodiil and Skyrim - Home of the Nords that are bringing the provinces of Cyrodiil and Skyrim to the game-engine of TES III: Morrowind, only with our own take on the world of Tamriel.


On your YouTube channel you host the weekly “Morrowind Modding Showcases”. What would you say are your core criteria you take into account when you pick mods to feature?

Morrowind Modding Showcases is a bit different from your typical mod showcases channel, our core series focuses on not one, but 13 mods per episode, with an emphasis on providing variety with something for everyone. That's really one of the show's core criteria as well, each episode has a variety of mods, not just of different categories, but we have a mix of both newer and older mods, as well as hidden underrated gems and popular masterpieces. I believe everyone deserves to have a chance at getting their mods showcased and getting exposure, whether it's a long time modding veteran, or a new modder that just released their first mod. In a small community like ours, encouraging and promoting modders is critical to making sure they stick around, so providing an equal opportunity to get showcased is absolutely essential.


Not that we'll showcase just any mod, of course, it has to work, it can't break the game, and it needs to be of at least decent quality and construction, and show some inventiveness and unique creativity. We also don't showcase cheat mods or adult-themed mods on the channel. MMS is family-friendly, so mods that explicitly have gratuitous nudity or sexual elements won't be shown, and mods that just have some adult-themed content come with warnings listed in each video description.


Last, but not least: you are mod author yourself. What drives you to make mods and what advice would you give any budding mod authors out there?

That's true, though my mods are hardly what I'm best known for, I'm a small-time quest and dungeon modder at best, but I do love making mods. The main thing for me is that I love stories, I love reading them, and I love telling them, which is what really drives me to make quest mods in particular. Morrowind is an almost perfect platform for that, text-based dialogue and arguably by far the best and most detailed journal system in the Elder Scrolls series allows me to go into as much detail as I want with my quests and characters, without having to worry about the limitations of voice-acting. Granted quest design with Morrowind is pretty tedious, really everything about the CS is a bit tedious, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the CK that make modding a bit easier, but for me, just seeing my creations come to life (in a manner of speaking) and seeing the stories I create play out is more than enough driving motivation to keep making mods.

As for advice, there's two things I have to say, the first of which is don't be afraid to try new things. A lot of people get intimidated by certain aspects of the CS, like making quests or getting into scripting or world design. The fact of the matter is, none of this stuff is particularly difficult, there's an illusion out there that making quests (for example) must be hard, it's not. Don't get me wrong, you'll make mistakes, but you can't learn if you don't try, and for every success, that feeling of seeing something you've built and knowing it's good, that's one of the best feelings in the world, and it makes all the trouble you went through worthwhile.

The second bit of advice I have is don't be afraid of criticism, chances are, unless you're a divine talent touched by the heavens, your first mod won't be amazing, or even particularly good, and it's important to take constructive criticism and learn from it.


Is there anything else you would like to tell the community at this point?

If there's just one last thing I'd like to leave off on, it's an encouragement to check out and stop by the Morrowind Modding Community Discord Server. There's more going on with the Morrowind modding scene now than there has been in years! The dream of a multiplayer Morrowind has finally been realized with TES3MP which offers a fully functional multiplayer experience either as co-op or an MMO, and works perfectly with most of the community's existing mods. The province mods like Tamriel Rebuilt, Skyrim - Home of the Nords and Province: Cyrodiil are each getting ready for major new releases, with Old Ebonheart and Dragonstar scheduled for release later this year, and Morrowind Rebirth has just gotten a new release just in the last week. New MWSE Lua scripting abilities have unlocked whole new fields of modding for the first time, making what was once impossible with the Morrowind game-engine, possible, and already we've seen the first few dozen Lua mods get released, providing new convenience features and new gameplay mechanics.

At no other time in our community's history has so much been possible, with so many new developments being worked on. And of course, that's not to mention the 3rd Annual Morrowind Modding Madness competition starting on October 1st! So please, if you haven't been around in a while, stop by the Morrowind Nexus page, or pop in on one of the community discords or forum-boards, we're really fairly friendly people and we're always glad to see new people! I'm sure we could even rummage up a fishy-stick to welcome you with!


Thank you very much, Darkelfguy - for answering our questions, and for the work you are doing for our Morrowind community. If there is anything we can do to support you and your competitions, do not hesitate to let us know!

17 comments

  1. jourdanroedel
    jourdanroedel
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    Thank you for all the hard work you do Darkelfguy :)
  2. jaredred1
    jaredred1
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    he seems dedicated thats for sure.
  3. JenModding
    JenModding
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    Darkelfguy is an absolute legend, does great videos and great things for the TES Modding community, especially good to see Morrowind getting love.
  4. Povuholo
    Povuholo
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    What a hero!
  5. Zaldiir
    Zaldiir
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    darkelfguy deserves all the recognition he can get! You're doing awesome work for the modding community!
  6. BinakAlgo
    BinakAlgo
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    Modding challenges, now that's a good idea to give an impulse to the communities.
  7. GoddOward
    GoddOward
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    This guy is one of the greatest ever.
  8. ShadowOfGodless
    ShadowOfGodless
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    God if you god that many great mods this year... imagine next year. MORE ACHIVEMENTS!
  9. Sonja
    Sonja
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    "For many of us the Morrowind Modding Community is home, you might leave for a while, sometimes you might be gone for 10 or 12 years, but at the end of the day, you can always come home again, and many of us do."

    ~ ~ ~

    I have the same feeling with the game itself, at least within the context of the Elderscrolls. I may play others in the series, but coming back to Morrowind is always special. Every time I create a new character and hear that mournful call of the siltstrider for the first time, I feel as though I've returned home.

    Also, one reason I enjoy Morrowind so much is that the community is, largely, home to a group of genuinely nice people.. not just mod creators, but also mod users. I suspect this is one reason the Modathon and Madness competitions have been as successful... those involved are fundamentally decent individuals. For the most part, there is a distinct lack of toxicity, which is relatively rare, and very refreshing.

    Anyway, excellent and interesting interview! I've always had a huge amount of respect for DarkElfGuy...his awesome contributions to Morrowind are immeasurable, and he is a significant part of the reason that the game remains vital. Many Cheers!

  10. jejmcclu
    jejmcclu
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    Interview on the nexus achievement unlocked
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