The Overlord of Overhauls - EnaiSiaion

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Today we are chatting with EnaiSiaion, creator of various outstanding Skyrim overhaul mods such as Apocalypse, Ordinator, and Thunderchild - some of which have taken their rightful place amongst the most popular Skyrim mods of all time.


BigBizkit & Pickysaurus: Thank you for taking the time out of your day to chat with us. Most people who have played Skyrim are probably familiar with your work, but could you first tell us a bit about yourself?

EnaiSiaion: So, I’m EnaiSiaion, I am Belgian, currently 34 years old and I started modding, technically, in 2001. I’ve been publishing mods since 2003, first for Diablo 2 - Median XL - I developed Median XL until 2013.

I started modding Skyrim in 2011 and I made the first releases of Apocalypse, then a bunch of mods that are best left forgotten, and then the big ones: Ordinator, Imperious and so on.

So, basically, a lot of gameplay overhauls. And in the meantime I have been making some content for BallisticNG and a few other games. I used to work in HR, but I got my midlife crisis a bit early and I went back to school for software development. I am currently in the second year out of three.


Being the author of a number of impressive mods - as you mentioned - Apocalypse, Ordinator and - of course - Supersafe Dwarven Rocket Boots, is there a mod in your portfolio that you are most proud of?

Apocalypse actually, at the moment. When I started out with Apocalypse in 2012 not much was known about Skyrim really and everyone’s scripting practices were terrible - even custom assets were brand new then. So, it was a completely different mod. Over the years, I have been updating it with my advancing insights into how modding should work. It is completely different now and I am finally happy with it.


The majority of your mods are massive overhauls. Projects that must have taken you quite a while to develop. What is it that, in general, drives you to making overhauls rather than, let’s say, story driven mods?

I started out with a history of gameplay overhauls in Diablo 2. The various “Median” mods culminating in Median XL. So, I did have this experience already. I made a couple of items for Path of Exile back in the day as well. I tried to implement this directly into Skyrim because I felt Skyrim didn’t really have much in the way of gameplay. It was more of a storytelling game, a game about immersion.

As it turned out, Diablo 2 didn’t really work well in Skyrim, so I had to tone it back over the years. It was to demonstrate that I could add gameplay to Skyrim - that I could make Skyrim a game with solid gameplay as well as story and mechanics.

But these days it is more about the community. I think I have proven what I could in this regard. Plenty of people now know me, I can, just in general, hang out in Discord and have chats with people - it’s really about the community now. The faint hope of maybe someday getting hired in the gaming industry is a driving force as well.

 

It is actually very noticeable that you offer wide ranging support for your mods and that you take user feedback very seriously. In that vein, what is your general outlook on modding?

It’s a hobby for me. It is a way to express creativity.

As for a higher purpose, I think, modding in the past used to be all about expressing creativity - just playing around having fun with the game, and putting your own stuff into the game and so on.

I think going forward it is going to become more professional now that there are more options for people to build a portfolio - a public portfolio - and get hired by companies. I think more people who are actually looking for this experience - basically a free internship - are coming to modding and, I think, it is going to change modding a bit.


As you stated before, you have been involved with modding as early as 2001 and you made one of the most popular overhaul mods for Diablo 2. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what you have learned over the years?

Important things I took home from that experience were: Firstly, your users’ experience is one of the most important things ever. Back in the days you had a lot of Diablo 2 mods made for a specific patch. And then a while later, I think it was about a year later or so, you had another Diablo 2 update. But these were actually significant updates. All of the files changed and it was basically like going from Oblivion to Skyrim. Most mods around didn’t make that leap. They just said to the user: “In order to play our mod, you should uninstall the game, then you should reinstall it, and then you should patch it up to a certain level”.

I did sacrifice a number of features in order to avoid having to do that. I made the leap where necessary and as a result Median XL was a lot easier to get into than most other mods. I think this made a huge difference when your users who came into the mod scene wanted to play a mod and here was one they could use immediately, and here was one that required them to play disc jockey for 45 minutes. So, there’s that.

The other thing I learned was listening to user feedback. In the end if there were - I think then it was, like, 100,000 users total, so maybe 10,000 at any given time - they are going to know more than you do. So, keep your eyes peeled, or, keep your ears open, or what’s the expression in English? Anyway: Listen to the users.


Seeing how you started creating mods for Diablo 2 in the early 2000s, what was it that initially brought you to Skyrim? Have you modded any of the older Elder Scrolls titles?

I joined the scene with the release of Skyrim, mostly because I was too busy modding Diablo 2 and was only just getting my career started when Oblivion came out. I didn't consider RPGs back then because they'd require a ton of time to get the most out of and I didn't think I'd have the time to invest into it. Diablo 2 was eventually declining so when a new moddable game showed up, I jumped on that. Also, the reason I modded Diablo 2 was because it needed modding, it was a diamond in the rough, and Skyrim was similar when it came out.

Both games had somewhat flawed gameplay mechanics but enough levers to fix that or at least add more mechanical depth, while the game itself is good enough to make it worth doing. If a game is really good, across the board good, then there's no reason to mod it really, but Diablo 2 had somewhat simplistic gameplay because it was the year 2000 and Skyrim has all those mechanical puzzle pieces but all you really do is pick an attack and click a lot. I saw Skyrim as another Diablo 2 but now with more options to mod it instead of having to use the frozen orb move function for everything and 1023 records per file. So I took my Diablo 2 mindset into Skyrim, made a couple of terrible mods, then figured out what people are actually looking for in Skyrim and that it wasn't strictly mechanical depth but first and foremost some form of immersion.


Your username is very unique and we’ve heard many mispronounced versions of it (including ours). So, how do you say it, where did it come from, and does it mean anything special?

It’s pronounced “Ee-nay Sha-yon”. Technically it is pronounced every letter separately but you can call me “EenayShayon”. It is actually an honorific of God in Enochian. In 2007 I used to be a lot more edgy than I am now today. Now, I just go by Enai - it’s memorable, it’s four letters, and it’s easy to write.



Outside of modding and gaming, what are some things you like to do for fun?

Ehm, nothing. For the longest time I alternated between dong my job - an HR desk job, back in the days - and modding basically all of my free time. Things have changed a little bit lately - I got my midlife crisis. The other thing I do for fun is software development. I am a software development student. It is fun to do even outside of school hours.

I don’t really game though. The only game I’ve played recently is Overwatch and that’s pretty much it - I don’t have much spare time left.  


When you look into the past when you had more time: what are some memories of games that you can recall to this day?

I am a kid of the 90s so my most memorable games were in the late 90s. I was young, impressionable, and had just bought my first computer. Those games being Wipeout, the Wipeout series, futuristic racing games. Also, the first Diablo - I was impressed by the mood it set and its gameplay as well. Nowadays, the gameplay doesn't really hold up, but back then it was really cool. Twisted Metal - games like that.


You used to work together with T3nd0, author of Skyrim Redone, on a mod called Wintermyst - Enchantments of Skyrim. Can you tell us a bit about the collaborative process?

It was more of a division of labour, not a straight collaboration. The goal was to integrate the new enchantments added by Wintermyst into the game, which meant adding them to drop lists, which meant creating some 6000 or 7000 enchanted items. I wasn’t really looking forward to this, but T3nd0 was in the process of working on PerMa (Perkus Maximus) and he was working on an external tool that would generate items based on your load order. He gave me an early version of that tool, I ran it, I fixed the output, and I put our names on it.

He seemed like a cool guy. I was in full support of PerMa when it came out. He left the scene shortly after Ordinator. I hate to think it had anything to do with it. I hope it didn’t.  

 

Ravengate was your first story-driven mod for Skyrim. What prompted you to deviate from your usual overhaul mods?

It was not my first quest mod, it was my third, which just says how forgettable the other two were. Dwemertech and Spectraverse - I misadvertised them as spell mods, I think, and they weren’t really all that good in the end.

Anyway, the Creation Club had just been announced, some mod authors were in it, I was not, and it turned out that I made the wrong kind of content, basically. One of Bethesda’s community representatives posted on the forums that they were looking, in the first place, for artists and world builders. I had overhauls. So, I decided “maybe there is still time, maybe there is still time...” so, I jumped into Ravengate, I worked very hard on it for two months - I missed the deadline several times - and then it turned out to not really make that much of a difference in the end. But it was fun to make.


Being one of the most popular mod authors out there, what are your thoughts on the Donation Point system that we recently rolled out?

It’s a more - how do I say it - a more “people centric” approach to the idea of donating to authors. Until 2015, donating to authors was - I believe - actually banned by Bethesda, or, rather: no one did it. There was the bleepstorm surrounding “paid mods” and in the meantime people have been setting up their Patreons. Officially, you couldn’t really advertise your Patreon and people were contorting themselves to make them "not about their mods", you know.

I think the Donation Points system is a good way to make things “official”. So, authors can just work on their mods and not feel like they are doing it for basically nothing. It’s a way to reward them in another way than just endorsements, so it is not all about those endorsements.

 

Is there anything else you would like to tell the community about yourself, future plans, or - just in general - anything you would like to say?

It has been interesting to see the modding community evolve over the years. I’ve been making mods for years now, I’ve been there at, basically, the beginning. It is interesting to have seen this evolution over the years. When it started out it was basically an offshoot of cheating. The mod scene literally originated in the cheating scene. At first you even had a hard time convincing people that your mod was not just a way to cheat at the game and then over the years it slowly became a bigger thing.

Games like Oblivion, of course, brought it into the spotlight. And then Skyrim was “modding for everyone”, basically. Even people who didn’t use mods, they knew there were mods for Skyrim, they knew about the Nexus. I think that was the golden age of modding. It was a great time, but I think going forward, things are going to change: it is going to be more professional, it is going to be more about building a portfolio, as I said.

Developers will pay more attention to what happens with their games and the mods people make because in the past you had things like Dota that ended up actually harming Blizzard by competing with their strategy series and actually outcompeting them. Basically. Starcraft 2 failed because of Dota - stuff like that. I think going forward developers are going to realise that there is lots of creativity, lots of imagination in the mod scene that’s difficult to cultivate and they are going to set it up in such a way that the mod scene can work for them and can create value for them.

Creation Club is the beginning, the first step, but you also have paid maps for Starcraft 2 now. I think developers are going to try to work along those lines in the future

Thank you very much, Enai, for your time, your mods, and for chatting with us.

Thank you very much, too!

41 comments

  1. DoritoJunkie
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    His mods are not without people complaining about how op and unbalanced they are.
    1. EnaiSiaion
      EnaiSiaion
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      The vanilla game is OP and unbalanced. Either you match the vanilla game and get complaints that your options are OP while similarly OP vanilla content is perfectly fine (Apocalypse) or you go for sensible balance and every option is useless next to the vanilla OP alternative (Summermyst).
    2. farazon123
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      Two mods I cant live without.
  2. Tsumikiro
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    As has been said already, and will probably be said many more times: much of Enai's work is essential for my enjoyment of Skyrim. Whenever someone asks me about modding Skyrim, the short answer is always, "get everything by EnaiSiaion." Here is to hoping that Bethesda just puts him in charge of ES6's mechanical details.
    1. DaBlake
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      lol that's me in my local TES facebook group
    2. EnaiSiaion
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      Bethesda doesn't consider me to have any skills they want. It doesn't matter, TESVI will sell like hotcakes regardless. Gameplay is overrated.

      Thanks though.
    3. BinakAlgo
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      >Bethesda doesn't consider me to have any skills they want.

      What's wrong with them? At this point, I'm starting to suspect that TES6 is going to have 2 schools of magic, just 1 armor, and 1 weapon skill and it will be a button smashing galore and hope that people like you are still around to make the thing playable. Because if they don't want that even in their paid mods club, then I don't know where we are going to get quality gameplay. :/
    4. PureModding
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      Sadly this is what sells today (it seems)
      Although if you look at the popularity of ordinator you could think otherwise.
    5. EnaiSiaion
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      I see my statement is being used to attack Bethesda.

      Skyrim is still the most popular single player game on Steam. It sold more copies than the entire population of many European countries. Bethesda knows exactly what people want, and "better gameplay" is evidently not what people want. The gameplay in Skyrim is adequate and does not detract from the game's strengths, which is all it needs to be.

      Bethesda is looking for people with the skill set to amplify their strengths and further extend their lead over also-ran games like CDPR's oeuvre. They have no reason to patch up their weaknesses if no one really cares about said weaknesses. (Case in point: the popularity of Arcane Accessories despite its obvious faults. It adds spells and makes mages viable on legendary, which is all the community really wanted out of it, so mission accomplished. One could argue that perhaps it matches the needs of the community more closely than Apocalypse, which may add too many spells that may be too complicated.)

      In the end, Bethesda knows a lot better than you and I what sells, and what people download for free may not align with what they spend money on. Ordinator does not belong in Skyrim, end of story.
    6. farazon123
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      As a non Butten Smasher. and a Role Player I lost interest in Skyrim along time ago, but Mods like yours and Quaxes Questorium and other great mods have brought the game to a level of play that's I can enjoy and play for many years. I don't even bother with the generic quest any more unless I just happen into it. Because with all the great mods out there I just go into skyrim and my character, just lives his daily life in what ever way he or she wants. If He wants to hunt he does if he needs ore for fixing his sword he goes to the mine. If he's hungry he eats. So on and so on.
  3. Saizetsu
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    Hello, Enai, I really do enjoy your work, but I have some questions for you if I may, I don't quite understand your stance on the creation club stuff fully,

    When you speak of it in high praise I may misunderstand but do you mean it as a replacement overlay of the entire free modding scene? With the current rise in controversy over the Loot Boxes and Microtransactions are you sure the creation club won't be forking into money that people were giving to authors via patreon or other means? Or this won't embitter a free community towards a company or even people who do work on mods? I suppose the topic of paid content is always a rough road..
  4. Zeda10
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    Pretty sure I've played skyrim more because of your mods, than for the game itself.
  5. ff7legend
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    Will Ravengate ever receive a proper update? I've always wanted to try that mod but have stayed away due to all the reports regarding the hostility issues. LOVED Spectraverse despite your harsh criticism of that mod Enai. Especially the Force Choke-like spell that lifted targets off the ground while siphoning away their health. The boss fights in Spectraverse were EPIC as were their voices.
  6. Jinxxed0
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    Ever since 2008, I've been saying that user created content is the future of gaming. Making long lasting content for games takes a long time. Developers spend hundreds of hours making something that only takes a few hours to play. That's crazy when you think about adding content to MMOs and online games.

    However, when you look at something like Second Life, something that's 99.99% user created content, the world is so huge and ever expanding that no single person could ever see the entire thing in one life time, including the developers themselves. I shake my head when people say "people still play Second Life?" yep. the same amount as always 50,000 concurrent users online 24/7 for years. i think it peaked at 65k to 75k back in 2010, but it's almost always been about 40k-55k on average. Then you had something like City of Heroes. They introduced a mission making system which almost instantly injected the game with 25 times the content than the game ever had. They could have approved the top missions to be official, but never mothered. The system still kept the game fresh for a while though.

    Then you look at Skyrim and other BGS games. I have nearly 3,000 hours and haven't even done more than 40% of the vanilla content. I think there's a way to add value to games with user created content, but the Creation Kit isn't one of them. All the creation kit did was add microtransactions to single player games. And now people pirate mods. Pirating mods. Think about that for a moment. There's a better way for sure, and I think the Nexus found it for the Donation Point system and supplementing it with Patreon. i would like to add though, there there should maybe be another donation pool for those who would rather do a one time donation for that month or whenever they have the cash to spare. I know people, like myself, who don't like monthly subscriptions and would rather do random one time "payments" for everything. Like, I'd like to see a button where I can donate to the Donation Pool once and be done with it until i can donate to it again without worrying about canceling something a month later just to make sure that first payment went through while stopping the second. Just food for thought if any admins read this.
    1. EnaiSiaion
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      Ever since 2008, I've been saying that user created content is the future of gaming.
      It is, but not the way you think. The Creation Club is brilliant: take a mod scene that is known for unlimited creativity and unpaid labour and tame it, channel it into a source of free or cheap content for your own game. Reward the best authors with a job and everyone else will compete to be the next. Rather than random stuff like Sexlab or entirely new games like Dota and battle royales that are only tangentially related to the parent game the developers are trying to sell, authors will put their unpaid heart and soul into making content Bethesda wants to see.

      This may be a good thing, as it gives the best authors a revenue stream and encourages others to step it up in terms of quality and support. "It's free, eat s***" is no longer such an appealing retort to a bug report when Bethesda might be watching.

      It came far too late for Skyrim and a bit too late for FO4, but I predict the TESVI mod scene will be centred on the Creation Club. Most content created will be along the lines of Creation Club content; new people will join, driven by the hope to one day work for Bethesda; and users will download mainly Creation Club content because it's vetted and -let's be honest- mods are a hassle to install and use.

      I could be wrong. I may be right. We'll see.
    2. Jinxxed0
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      I guess I'm more in favor of the wild and untamed mod scene. I'm also looking at this from the perspective a Second Life content creator where everything is made and everything is profitable including the stuff that's similar to Sexlab, only in Second Life. Millions dollars exchanges hands in Second Life everyday and the company that created and runs it, Linden Labs makes money off that everyday.

      Obviously, Bethesda is different, but I still don't generally like the idea of having to pay $5 for a sword. I think something like the Creation Club with it's current type of mods could work if they lowered the prices permanently. As far as having higher and higher quality mods, i think that it wont be the case in practice because it's ultimately Bethesda deciding who they want and what they want. Which isn't a bad thing. But i think for mods, the free market s better at deciding. I think there's room for both scenarios at the end of the day. It's just that I personally think one of better than the other. The Creation Club needs a lot of tweaking I think. The lack of content and the kind of content is something not many expected.

      I was actually looking forward to buying quest mods for $15 here, $20 there. But then they showed golden armored mudcrabs and other content I generally wouldn't pay for. i get why it's that way, everything needs to be compatible. So, with CC we have content makers getting paid, but not the best of the best who make bigger and better mods. This is brings me back to my other point of liking the untamed stuff better. You're free to break it and therefor have more stuff if you manage to keep it unbroken. Since there's room for both, I hope that at least something like CC or whatever its evolution is doesn't become the only option available at some point in the future. companies will likely only want to profit from certain mods while a lot of people will want those Sexlab-like mods and skimpy waifu followers that they never actually use as followers but have hundreds of them installed anyway. I lost my train of thought, so i'll stop here.
  7. EnaiSiaion
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    I can't reply "<3" to every comment, so here's a shared one:

    <3
  8. AnonymousPlum
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    Enai's mods are a definite go-to for my load order. Anytime I reinstall Skyrim and apply USLEEP, it's off to Enai's Nexus page to get what are hands down the best and most essential overhauls for Skyrim. If he's still looking over the comments, I would like to ask "What is your favourite Elder Scrolls game?". Thanks for your great efforts!! ;)
    1. EnaiSiaion
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      Morrowind, because it's the truest to what its strengths are and what elements it doesn't care about.
  9. axonis
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    Thank you EnaiSiaion for everything you've done for this community. I hope you will be rewarded for that.

    And for writing a de profundis posting at Reddit which made me reconsider certain aspects of modding and free time. I'll be forever grateful for that.

    1. EnaiSiaion
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      And for writing a de profundis posting at Reddit which made me reconsider certain aspects of modding and free time. I'll be forever grateful for that.
      <3 Have a (more) fulfilling life.
  10. IBelieveInCake
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    Now I'm curious about what items Enai helped create in Path of Exile
    1. EnaiSiaion
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      Wheel of the Stormsail, Facebreaker, Rat's Nest, Deidbell, etc. Also every item that shares a name with a MXL unique, like Icetomb etc.

      Note: early access, so available attributes were limited. Still think Deidbell is cool.
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