Morrowind

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RandomPal

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About this mod

Vanilla friendly, unintrusive Balmora Overhaul based on concept art.

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With this mod, I close my series on the three big cities of Morrowind.
 
What’s this in a nutshell?
This uses Magnificent Balmora/Izi Cities – Balmora and Balmora redecorated (for the interiors) as a base, combines ideas from my Balconies mod, from Rooftop apartments and expands some ideas that were already present in vanilla but never really exedcuted properly by Bethesda.
 
MY TAKE ON BALMORA AND DESIGN PHILOSOHPY

A PREMISE
Balmora doesn’t need to be expanded and can’t be expanded properly anyway.

Differently from Ald’ruhn and Sadrith Mora, which in Vanilla feel like little towns, Balmora is already decently sized.

Hlaalu architecture also requires a certain symmetry of placement to feel natural, which takes a lot of space. This means you can’t really expand Balmora properly without editing the landscape a lot and without destroying the vanilla footprint completely. This is particularly relevant as Balmora goes into the Bitter Coast on one side and to the Moonmoth fort on the other.

So, even if the idea at the base of mods like Epic Balmora and City of Balmora is theoretically sound, it’s simply impossible to execute properly (unless you don't really care about staying vanilla friendly...)

So, if I didn’t really expand the city’s footprint, what did I do?

Let’s talk about this.

As it’s usually the case with my town overhauls, concept art was the inspiration, with the firm belief that preserving vanilla aesthetics and design should always be a priority.
For any seasoned player Balmora feels like home and I don’t want to change that.

Let's take a look at the concept art drawing for Balmora.


 
FIRST KEY POINT
As you can see from the concept art drawing, Hlaalu architecture builds vertically, with balconies and staircases and I believe Bethesda would have pushed into this direction but many things were cut from the final release for performance issues.
I used ideas from my Balconies mod and Rooftop apartments to enhance the idea of verticality.
This also works as town expansion that doesn’t necessarily require to place new buildings around but simply switching to different models while expanding the interiors.
In total, there are 12 new interiors but only 4 new buildings.
 
SECOND KEY POINT
While vanilla makes it obvious that Balmora is divided into a poor side and a rich side, the idea simply wasn’t expanded enough.
Izi (who's mod served as a base for this one) did a fantastic job to make the rich part of Balmora feel more separated and richer, but the poor side was mostly untouched.

So, I did my best to rework the poor side of Balmora. The buildings here have been placed closer to each other, an additional row of buildings has been added and I swapped some building models to different ones where it made sense.
A smart placement of buildings allows for the creation of tight alleys that I properly cluttered to reflect the shady and dirty nature of the poor side of Balmora. 
The South Wall cornerblub is there, Caius Cosades is hiding there, posing as a simple commoner. The area was definitely supposed to feel shady yet in vanilla doesn’t really look that different from the other side.
Now it does, and when you need to go to Caius or to the Corneclub, you will notice how the city of labor becomes messier and dirtier.

Another trick I used to make this section of Balmora feel more cramped is I expanded the riverbed at the expense of only one side of Balmora: the poor one.
This leads me to the next point.

THIRD KEY ELEMENT
The riverside of Balmora definitely needed some work.

The riverbed has been expanded, this accomplished 3 things


  1. better separates the two portions of the city
  2. makes the city look and feel bigger
  3. steals some space from the poor side, to make it more cramped
 
CONCLUSIONS
This takes into account every little issue I had with Balmora and I hope you’ll enjoy the mod.
I definitely enjoyed making it and I’m grateful to everyone who let me use his ideas and assets.

Update 2.0

RandomPal and Darkfri are happy to introduce you to theUpdate 2.0 aka “The Balmora Experiment”.

Why is this an experiment?

I think most (if not all) of you know about project atlas.How does project atlas work? Reducing drawcalls reduces the FPS impact of loading various assets. What we’ve done here has been “merging” various structures in Balmora that were originally made by tileset pieces into bigger
meshes, thus drastically reducing the number of drawcalls.

We were careful to keep track of the light limit of MGEXE and took into account the benefits of split collision too.

All in all, this is now likely to be the least FPS intensive Balmora overhaul (compared to the scale of it, of course).

Apart from a massive work on optimization, what’s new in 2.0?

- Improvements to many interiors to fix various issues and make them more unique
- Many new models that are not just optimized bu tmade to fit better into the game. For example, every rooftop apartment has been replaced with a custom building that feels like an additional vanilla resource rather than a “box placed on top” of a vanilla building.
Other examples of cool assets that have been made for this are unique models for the bridges of Balmora so they have a bigger space and look like navigable bridges, wider staircases, better
balconies and more.
 
The mod now also has a little “build your own Balmora” functionality.
 
You need to install the base mod and then you have 2 options for the plaza outside the Hlaalu Council House and the riverside.
 
For the Plaza you can pick between:
- Brevur of Balmora: simply a patch for Brevur
- Izi’s original design. More subtle, with a tree and some benches

For the riverside:
- Simple cluttering: simply adds some clutter tothe riverside
- Stone dock: this uses a custom mesh to add apartial second layer/stone dock to Balmora, a feature that has been requested many times.


And, finally, the layout has been reworked and the concept art riverfront has been removed. It looked very close to concept art, yes, but the thing is, I realized you can’t just recreate a scene without considering the surrounding area. The concept art drawing was showing buildings with
different proportions, in an environment with other buildings of different proportions. As it was now, they just stood out too much.
I decided that rather than copying the concept art, in this case is simply better to draw inspiration from it, building vertically and keeping the changes as subtle as possible.

I think I’m now really done with Balmora, it’s been a great andfun journey and I hope you’ll enjoy the mod.
 
Cheers!

Compatibility and patches
The mod is incompatible, but recreates/expands/replaces: Balmora rooftop apartments and includes Balmora redecorated as I could have made a patch for it but it's such a great mod that there's no reason to not use it :P.

This mod is also incompatible with any other Balmora overhaul and with many mods that add something to Balmora, but there's patches for mods I consider a good addition.

- Brevur of Balmora: this will be later on merged into the main esm. It's not merged yet as R0 has an update planned for it (consider it an intergral part of the mod)
- Concept art Hlaalu balconies: the Balmora module of the mod is already merged into this so you don't need it.
- Stav's mages guild overhaul: highly reccomended and the patch provided here is a full replacer that also contains the assets (unpacked, so you don't need to register a bsa as the original mod does)
- Main quest enhancers (highly reccomended, the patch provided here is based on Abot's fixed version)
- Ashlander traders remastered (highly reccomended)
- Stonewood pass: the patch provided here is based on the merge of Caldera Mine expanded and StoneWood pass made by Zobator
There is a also a version merged with Foyada Mamaea Overhaul that works as a compatibility patch for those two mods to work together too.
The patch has also a version based on Knots patch for his RMR and should be used only if you're using both RMR and RR Ghostgate fortess.
- Starfire's npcs addition (basedo on Danae's edit)
- Animated morrowind: I was a bit lazy here so the patch is only for those also using my Ald ruhn and Suran mods.
- Main quest Overhaul
- Illuminated Order: only the Lore-friendly variant. There is also a patch based on the one released by Knots for his RMR if you're using both mds
- Morrowind anticheese and ownership overhaul as otherwise you'd get floating containers
- Dura gra-Bol's House Reclaimed - And the Grab-All Gang


Note you need assets from the original mods if you decide to use the optional patches.

I have recieved requests for more patches but the thing is, vanilla Morrowind places Hlaalu buildings with a certain symmetry and logic and if a mod doesn't follow that, you will notice that something feels off.
For this reason, I didn't make patches for mods that - at least in my opinion - make Balmora worse.


CREDITS
Darfki: for making a ton of new assets specifically for this
Draconik: assets optimization and GITD patch for Stav's MGO models
Izi: for making his amazing mod and letting me use it as a base for this one
WulfShaman: for Rooftop Apartments
Lucevar: for Balmora Redecorated and for providing interesting ideas for this
TR team: some resources