More-o-Wind

By Alec Meer on December 12th, 2008 at 5:55 pm.

A mention of this Morrowind mod in another thread reminded me about Tamriel Rebuilt. It’s a bold, some would say crazy (others would say impossible) project to extend the noble forerunner to Oblivion into something even bigger than its current mighty girth.

Mad Bethesda-bitching is traditionally reserved for how they did unspeakable things to Fallout and how Oblivion was mindless prolefeed or similar such snobbery, so someone feeling that The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind perhaps cut a corner or two makes a refreshing change.

Well, it’s not really bitching, to be fair. It’s just wanting to embiggen the game. The specific feeling is that Morrowind only included a fraction of Tamriel, the Elder Scrolls world, so this ongoing (since, in fact, pretty much Morrowind’s release) huge-scale project is an attempt to restore the missing lands, based on a merry blend of obscenely detailed lore research and enthusiastic imagination. It’s being tackled chunk-by-chunk, and the team have just finished the second part, Antediluvian Secrets. It’s huge, and four more instalments are yet to come.

This is an early release of it, lacking quests but hopefully an explorer’s paradise – full of custom-designed new areas and beasties, towns and ruins and even a lost, devastated city to poke around in. It’s very much cementing Morrowind’s reputation as the Bethesda game that’s best-suited to – to namecheck today’s buzzword again – exploration, as opposed to the heavy focus on killing, killing and more killing with ultra-blood that they opted for with Oblivion and Fallout 3.

This second part also requires Map 1: Telvannis, which though older is probably more worth looking at.I’s much more complete – there’s much more in the way of dialogue and quests in it. Oh, Tamriel Rebuilt also needs both Morrowind expansions, Tribunal and Blood Moon, as well as the game itself.

Which is why I’m not writing about my own experiences of it, but rather jaffing off about how it might be good – I don’t have a copy of Blood Moon annoyingly. I’m attempting to track one down, because I’m very much in the mood to both try this and revisit Morrowind generally. For all I know, Tamriel Rebuilt is awful and flaky, so apologies if so – I’ll update with proper comment once I’ve snagged Bloodmoon from somewhere. I know it’s caught some flak for having taken so damned long, but it’s still an interesting project. I’ve always thought Morrowind was the better game than Oblivion, even if it was rougher around the edges. Its world seemed a bit wilder and more imaginative – especially those giant waterflea taxi thingies.

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45 Comments »

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  1. teo says:

    I really wish I could like Morrowind but it’s broken =/
    Less so than Oblivion though

  2. Nick says:

    Bloodmoon is well worth getting anyway, much better overall than Tribunal. With all the texture packs and draw distance mod and various other tweaks it far surpases Oblivion in ever aspect only being a bit less shiney.

    (insert main objection with Oblivion being them ignoring their own lore for no reason despite having spent the past decade+ building it up here oh and blunt axes – laziness)

  3. Pags says:

    Only thing that stops me returning to this game is the ultro-rubbish combat. I’m fine with isometric games calculating my hits based on a dice roll, because there’s already that disconnect; when it’s done from a first person perspective, where you can see your sword hitting that person on the head, it’s just frustrating. Otherwise, it was definitely the better game for exploration.

  4. Andy F says:

    Ahhh Morrowind. I spent so long in that game, most chunk of it just exploring and seeing what was around. The dwarvern caverns were great! I actually got so powerful from just adventuring like that that, ignoring the main storyline almost entirely, I killed the end boss without the magic gloves that were supposed to protect me from the fatal (to the wielder) dagger/hammer combo.

    I reckon I could have given Vivec a run for his money. Daedric daikatanas ftw.

  5. Chis says:

    With Bethesda, as someone once said (wish I could remember who, and allow me to paraphrase), “they’re good ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ games.” They’re an attempt at giving you the chance to live in a world where you can be an adventurer: the game world is built to offer you somewhere to stay, play, fight, converse, trade and so on. The problem is that Bethesda neither seem inspired nor unique in their creative choices.

    Fallout 3 is a superior experience to Oblivion, but it still suffers from “built around the player syndrome”. To illustrate what I mean by this, simply consider Stalker’s AI and how, especially with the Oblivion Lost mod, it attempts to make the game-world live without you. Sure, some of the AI stays in the same positions, but you’ll get sudden raiding parties, a breakout of mutants, previously emptied buildings are taken over by bandits, military, or mercs, etc.

    This never occurs in Morrowind, nor does it in Oblivion. As a result, the game world takes on a “static” quality, where you “empty” its possibilities as you progress through it. As far as I can tell, Fallout 3 suffers from this also. And it makes the game boring, because the player is the centre of attention at the expense of compelling realism.

    The Underworld mod for Morrowind, however, was enjoyable. Shame the sequel was never finished.

  6. CryingTheAnnualKingo says:

    “…as opposed to the heavy focus on killing, killing and more killing with ultra-blood that they opted for with Oblivion and Fallout 3.”

    I don’t know about you, but every time a took two steps in Morrowind there was another fucking Cliff Racer tangling itself in my hair.

  7. Nick says:

    “Only thing that stops me returning to this game is the ultro-rubbish combat.”

    Check this mod out: http://www.freewebs.com/aerelorn/

  8. Pags says:

    Oh, I used to use Combat Enhanced; t’was a good mod, but it doesn’t stop arrows from ‘missing’ when you can clearly see them hitting your enemy or punches from sailing wide even though you saw yourself jam your first in their face, which really is my primary problem with the bally combat.

  9. qrter says:

    Oh god don’t mention cliff racers… the instant I read that name I hear that stupid screechy sound, the endless flapping.. argh.

  10. Nick says:

    Pretty sure there is a mod that removes cliff racers too.

    Pags – ahh, fair enough, I don’t mind that myself what with it being an RPG and all, but the mod at least makes it better than just random clikery and gives you active blocking and stuff.

  11. qrter says:

    There are a couple of anti-cliff racer mods, with varying states of succesfulness.

  12. Tei says:

    Sometimes I wish “Oblivion” never existed. Oblivion is like a cliff racer that level with you and are on all Morrowind discussions, floating over your head.. eeerk eeerk oblivium eeerk eeeerk…. Is obnosiusx

  13. Xercies says:

    Ah I didn’t mind the cliff racers that much…

    But I agree Morrowind was definitly better then Oblivion, just in terms of world building alone. You’ve made me want to get it out again…

  14. Heliocentric says:

    My morrowind character was 100% invisible and flies about. Also, i summon guardians of the god of madness and watch them fight for my amusement! I have a recall and mark spells (morrowind had fast travel it was just rp ) set next to a drug dealer crab. Cliff racers didn’t bother me none. Also i sold merchants magic hats which made them shit merchants! They love them. And in a quest when i need to keep a fool alive? I just pick pocket them magic equipment which makes them godlike. Sorted.

  15. GregP says:

    Having gotten the Morrowind bug for the first time since I put the game down years ago, I reinstalled the entire thing about a month ago, grabbed all the hi-res textures mods, a few ‘new area’ mods, the ebnseries mod, etc. … and good lord, this old game looks freakin’ incredible, given it’s age. Were I not so bogged down in Fallout3, Stalker: Clear Sky and Far Cry 2 (not to mention The Witcher, which I still haven’t gotten around to starting!), I’d definitely give Morrowind another run through. It was “my first”, RPG that is, and will always hold a special place in my gaming memory. EVEN with those annoying Cliff Racers.

  16. Charlie says:

    Isn’t there a mod converting Morrowind into Oblivion? I thought Morrowind was way better than Oblivion, but I would love to play Morrowind with shiny graphics!

  17. Nick says:

    The better bodies mod also allows you to run around with your man bits out, wearing nothing but a hat and a claymore. Surprisingly good fun for a while.

  18. Pidesco says:

    Ahhhh, Morrowind. It’s Daggerfall without the scope and randomness, and yet with the same emptiness and meaninglessness attached to every NPC and quest.

    In Daggerfall everything felt randomized because it actually was randomized, while Morrowind felt random while being at the same time a handcrafted world. Which is really a feat of massive incompetence. Why Morrowind was critically acclaimed is beyond me.

    Also, I feel Oblivion was a bit crappy without all the mods, but it was still a much better game than Morrowind. Besides, most of the bad things about Oblivion are faults inherited from Morrowind, so I don’t see what all those Morrowind fans are going on about.

    I’m feeling particularly bitter of late.

  19. Flint says:

    emptiness and meaninglessness attached to every NPC and quest.

    Pretty much the reason why I’ve never been able to play Morrowind for long.

    I’d love to love Morrowind, there’s so much good things in it. It’s got such a wonderful feeling of adventure and exploration, such amazing amounts of atmosphere in its travel that I absolutely love traveling in the world. The only problem is that there’s nothing to travel for. No one seems to care about anything, no one seems to do anything, nothing happens, there’s no interesting storylines to grab you, every location looks interesting but ends up being hallow and dead, and you might as well not even exist. Add the horrible leveling system and the crap combat and playing the game turns pretty annoying soon.

    Which is why I’ve started Morrowind countless times ever since it was released, but never reached anywhere that far in it.

  20. fulis says:

    In Morrowind I just buffed myself with progressively better buffs until I was invincible and it wasn’t fun

    But not buffing myself wasn’t fun either because the combat was a pain in the ass

    A game like that has so much potential. If only someone else would make one

  21. Moorkh says:

    Ah, Tamriel Rebuilt. Very cool to spot this highlighted here that here, since I used to work on that in, what, ’03, before the game was even out (I did the map) and wasn’t aware it was still going on. We were sure, given enough grass-roots support by modders contributing, we’d fill the map with life in maybe a year and then turn to other disowned provinces of Tamriel.
    Well, map 2 seems to be coming along well, and with all the neat graphics and gameplay overhauls out there, I might just take this walk down memory lane these holidays. Thanks RPS!

  22. The Shed says:

    @Chis: Straight up, brother. If you stand still and do nothing in these games, or travel a little bit for fun, nothing will happen at all. Maybe the odd encounter, but that’ll be the same almost every time. Morrowind definately had this feeling the worst, the towns seemed great but once you got beyond the surface they were just dead arenas with models walking around in. Daggerfall had it the least, because it was just so damn ridiculous and simple.

    I had a thrilling encounter in Fallout 3 where a battle between raiders and BroSteel’s erupted around me, the feeling of how real it was; a conflict just happening right there, was so awesome. Now I’ve encountered almost exactly the same fight three times; it’s just really anti-climactic and disappointing. Fallout does a much better job of covering up the fact that the player is the sole moving force of the virtual world, but it still has moments when you realise you’re the meaning of the entire game. Irritating and alienating.

  23. Pags says:

    One thing Bethesda games do well is to highlight why S.T.A.L.K.E.R is awesome, which I’m sure wasn’t their intended effect.

  24. Deuteronomy says:

    For all it’s bugs Clear Sky can be replayed again and again with wildly different results. A-Life is a real feature, and it’s missing from Mass Effect, Fallout 3 and many other games out there. I did like Fallout 3, but I doubt I’ll be replaying it any time soon. Why is it so hard to write a good NPC scheduler?

  25. Chis says:

    Slightly off-topic, but I must echo what Deuter is saying. Clear Sky has so many issues, but with Redux installed… playing through it again, it’s still the most compelling FPS I’ve played bar the original Stalker. Second time through for me, and despite the main over-arching plot not changing (obviously), all the battles and side-quests are completely mixed up. I may have more ammo this time, but less health (and health packs). More of the good AI died, so I’m left with more bad AI to kill (sometimes vice versa), etc etc.

    I suspect Fallout 3 would play out the same way every time, if I took the quests in the same order. Morrowind would also but, to bring this back on topic, I will say that it had some a fairly compelling, dark atmosphere and some genuinely good dungeon crawling, despite the horrendously generic backstory, plot and NPCs.

    Can someone please remake Ultima Underworld, but don’t go nuts on the realism, and add lots and lots of extra levels and secrets. Or just make a whole new game in a similar style. I don’t need an “open world”, just give me some “open dungeons” and I’m happy.

  26. shinygerbil says:

    Morrowind is most fondly remembered in my heart for being the brownest game ever. If I manage to see beyond that, I remember having a lot of fun. All of it brown, but vastly preferable to ‘bliv. It just felt more like a place. Not even a real place, because it was far from realistic, but it felt interesting, worth exploring, worth finding out about. Worth digging that little bit deeper, just for curiosity’s sake. ‘Bliv tried to be a little too detailed, and ended up losing the wonderful imagination in a sea of endless repetition, a fractal world uninteresting from any viewpoint.

  27. CakeAddict says:

    I pull morrowind out at least each year once, I played it the first time on the ol’ xbox (ofc I have it on the pc now) which was great fun.
    Morrowind yust has this atmosphere that really appeals to me, and when all those mods for the game you pretty much always have something to do even though it’s a “static world”.
    … besides I don’t find random spawning enemies a non-static world.

  28. chaostheory says:

    Funny i played Morrowind like maybe 5 times now and never finished it (i did maybe 80%). But i still prefer TESIII over Oblivion. Its better even without “radial AI” (or how they call it in tesIV). Theres one big thing that ruins oblivon gameplay: leveling system. I couldnt and still cant believe that such an experienced developers did such a stupid thing to their game. Besides that its the game world of oblivon witch is totally uninteresting to me (too “normal”, “stock” , “standard”), while Morrowinds one really moves imagination – even when youre almost 30 :). Bethesda did a much better job with TESV: Fallout – but thats a different story :)

  29. LEEDER KRENON says:

    Morrowind is one of my all time favourite games. I really need to try and finish it though.

  30. nEBUz says:

    Morrowind has taken more of my time than any other game ever, and I’m honestly scared to install it again for fear that I’ll never return from my giant mushroom-ridden world =)

  31. Dean says:

    I like it when gameworlds revolve around me. I don’t want to have to go searching 5 different towns to let a bloke know I’ve finished the task he set me the other day.
    I don’t want to miss out on a fun quest line or story detail as I didn’t check the right place at the right time…
    At least not in a world on the scale of the TES games anyway. The only place it’s really worked was in Zelda: Majora’s Mask as the size of the world was constrained and the NPC schedules entirely predictable due to the time limit mechanic.

  32. malkav11 says:

    For me it’s really a toss-up. Oblivion does make a lot of improvements to the formula – they streamlined out some frankly useless skill differentiations, made sneaking much more viable, the physics are great fun, etc. If only they’d continued Morrowind’s excellence in world building, skipped the auto-levelling system, kept mark and recall and levitate, not made cities their own zones…

  33. Noc says:

    So (as I mentioned before) I just reinstalled Morrowind a few days ago, because I wanted to take a new look at it, and see how it stands up against my nostalgic reminiscences of it being totally so much better than Oblivion.

    One of the things that stands out is what other people have mentioned; it’s a very static place. Nothing moves without you; the same NPCs will stand at their shops, or pace around the same patch of street, forever. A vast majority of the NPCs, in fact, are simply generic, with dialog options generated by their location and profession, but nothing else. The world is pocketed with settlers and bandits and smugglers, but all they do is stand around in their caves and wait for you to break in and kill them. It doesn’t feel like a living world.

    What surprises me though, upon playing through it again, is that this doesn’t matter to me much. As far as the NPCs go, at least, it is a very simple, shallow world painted with just enough color that it presents the illusion of being much more if you don’t look too closely. But it works; the illusion’s there, and will stay there if you let it. The dialog options for NPCs, for example, are all generic; they’ll give answers based on where they are, or what their profession is, or what their affiliation is. They’ll give different answers depending on whether they like you or not, or depending on your race or what you’re wearing. They all pull these responses from the same table; there’s no individualization, no characterization beyond this. Yet, you can, through a quick dialog, get a good idea of who the character is and what they’re about. There’s nothing at all that’s specific to them unless they’re necessary for a quest; NPCs are basically characterized procedurally. But it’s enough, and it’s stunning the difference this makes when compared to, say, Oblivion’s lack of unnecessary dialog options.

    And though the characters are procedurally driven mannequins, there’s an immense amount of character in the world itself. Old, faded frescoes on the walls of the canalworks in Vivec, the towering fungal keeps of the Telvanni, the dust-covered remnants of prayer areas nestled inside shut-up ancestral tombs . . .

    A lot of the detail in the world is “meaningless.” It’s vague, it’s general, it’s not interactive, and it doesn’t tie into any sort of story. But they give the place a tremendous amount of character I haven’t really seen anywhere else. And that coupled with the immense amount of information available on the place (In books, and what you learn from dialog and quests and whatnot) means that it’s, well, it’s interesting. If you’re interested in that kind of thing. It stirs the imagination. And it sort of implies that though all the people you meet are dead-eyed mannequins, there are lives and stories going on around them that you can think about and guess at if you let yourself. It’s not a living breathing world, but it’s sufficiently outside of the uncanny valley that the staticness of the place gets chalked up to the limitations of the engine in the same way that the stiff animations and the poor pathfinding and the low resolution textures do.

    It’s a six year old game that I’ve already played to death. But it’s sucked me back in. And, try as I might, I can’t stop exploring. It’s not addicting in the way an MMO is, or a casual game is, where you spend hours playing in a stupor and then wake up with a horrible headache and wonder how you wasted your afternoon. It’s addicting because if makes you feel like there’s always more to discover.

    A lot of my disappointment with Oblivion, I think, stems from the fact that it didn’t give me that feeling. That there wasn’t enough character in the place to drive me to explore. I didn’t see a door in a hillside and wonder what was behind it, because it just didn’t have enough character to drag me in.

    . . .

    I need to find the means and the opportunity to sit down with Fallout 3, I think, and see how it stacks up. I watched someone play through a bit of the beginning, and winced at the wooden voice acting and the third-person moonwalking . . . but now, looking at Morrowind’s faults, I’m really curious about whether Fallout’ll be able to draw me in despite my initial distaste.

    Hmm.

    . . .

    (Oh, and the water’s a bit glitchy, for some reason.)

  34. Cooper says:

    Morrowind was vastly more diverse than Oblivion. There are a handful of fort and Ayelid models in Oblivion. Morrowind had a vast number of different landscapes and buildings.

    Shame the engine was just crap. It runs at no more than 20fps on my not-bad-at-all rig, drops to slideshow if I add a few mods. Used to run fine(ish) on my old computer…

    What’s worth checking out is http://www.tesnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=16976
    Which imports the Morrowind map into Oblivion.

    Which is great for someone like me, who spent their time in Morrowind ignoring the main qyest and just toodling about in the game world.

  35. x25killa says:

    I got to admit, finding a copy of Bloodmoon for Morrowind is a total pain in the arse to find, so I brought the GOTY edition with all the expansions (including Tribunal).

    It is old and outdated but still playable.

  36. Flerndip says:

    It’s worth mentioning that the G.E.C.K. was released a couple of days ago.

  37. I don't understand this comment system says:

    You guys are all suffering from nostalgia sickness. Oblivion is a much better game then Morrowind.

  38. Nick says:

    Very well put Noc, mostly mirrors my feelings.

    As for nostalgia, bollocks.

  39. Heliocentric says:

    I’d agree with nostalga but i played them one after the other (i grabbed morrowind out of my pile during oblivion hype building) and oblivion while technically more awesome and visually stunning was terribly generic. I’ve been to oblivion’s world before, the only place i can visit the dwarven clockworks or the back drop of religious war, itself set to the backdrop of racial oppression. Morrowind takes no sides. The only true antagonist is probably justified in his efforts. Oblivion had the same overall evil mind you.

  40. el seth says:

    Morrowind

    Graphics

    Extender.

    GET IT.

    http://timeslip.chorrol.com/mge.html

  41. Andy says:

    This may not be particularly relevant but the bottom line from that URL (http://timeslip.chorrol.com/mge.html) gave me a huge lol:

    I’m using windows vista. Why does MGE [insert just about any weird problem you can think of here]
    Because you’re using windows vista. If possible, replace it with an operating system that actually works. If not, make sure UAC is disabled.

    :D

  42. sinister agent says:

    Morrowind was a great, interesting terrain generator. Shame about the game.

  43. Bremze says:

    Everyone moaning about generic npc’s: Less generic NPC mod!

  44. Nemon says:

    I’d just like to mention that besides working on completing the Morrowind Province (the game itself only featured Vvardenfell), we’re also doing the Hammerfell Province for TESIV Oblivion. Right now we’re working on Goldmoor, and it is looking good. Feel free to pop by and check us out…