By Alec Meer on June 22nd, 2009 at 11:54 pm.
Alright – let’s make this precious. Upon my first introduction to my impending Morrowind diary series, the resulting slew of comments threw up two important mistakes on my part. Number one, the Giants mod is a really, really bad idea. Number two, I’d totally overlooked the vitally important (in the beauty stakes, at least) Morrowind Graphics Extender. After a hard day of farting about with ESM files, I’ve finally got what – I hope – is the ideal Morrowind build for my planned journey of cheerful incompetence. Beneath the cut, a more or less complete list of the frightening number of mods I’m now running, and a fairly stunning before and after comparison. Without a doubt, the goodly
men’n'well-let’s-be-honest-it’s-pretty-much-all-men [oops, apparently there's a ton of female Morrowind modders, and now it appears some people hate me. Sigh.] of the Morrowind modding community have done jawdropping things to this olden RPG.
From the first attempt at this, the following remain:
Better Bodies – which, primarily, adds joints to the game’s otherwise rigid torsos, and some nicer textures for people whose clothes you’ve nicked. There’s a choice of whether to leave them totally nude or with some tasteful underwear. I’ve gone for the latter, because I’m afraid of sex.
Better Heads – Those blurry porridge-faces get a bit of sprucing up. Also applies to the player models, not that you get to see your own face outside of the tutorial (I don’t think?)
Morrowind Comes Alive – This is a good’un. It throws in a crapton of wandering NPCs into the world, so it’s not the underpopulated robo-land it is out of the box.
The Wilderness Mod – Similar to the above, but with angry animals. This means I’m probably going to get attacked by a tiger eventually.
Real Signposts – Crisp signpost textures get me hard.
Added to that is this little lot:
Slartibartfast’s Texture fix – gets rid of the jarring seams between textures, making for a far more organic-looking world.
Better Beasts – doing for our four-legged friends what Better Bodies does for the bipeds of Vvardenfell.
Better Clothes – yeah, guess. Means cloth bends to the new joints of Better Bodies, mostly.
Enhanced Sky – surprisingly, this actually renders realistic foreskins on all male Khajit. Or maybe it enhances the sky textures. I forget.
Ren’s Oblivion hair – ooh, wavy.
Vality’s Mods – add most of these and you’ll end up with a frightening amount of vegetation (forests evolve from skeletal shrubs to towering glades) and a capital city that looks like it’s part of the landscape it’s set within, as opposed to a smidgen of aesthetic discordance from the out-of-the-box version.
Where are all the birds going? and Water life – incidental wildlife for the skies and seas of Morrowind. Surprisingly evocative, plus it meant I stabbed a duckling to death within my first five minutes of play.
The jewel in the crown is the Morrowind Graphics Extender. This ongoing project overhauls the visuals significantly, from draw distance to anisotropic filtering. I wasted something in the region of four hours today trying to get the latest version to work, but eventually had to settle for two iterations back. Sounds like I’m missing out on quite a bit of goodness – including HDR and animated grass – but at least I now get widescreen resolutions and anti-aliasing.
As well as that, I’m running the Morrowind FPS Optimizer. Not to optimize my framerate, as frankly it’s beyond redemption after all that stuff I’ve piled into the game (I seem to have stabilised it at somewhere just shy of 60FPS by being brutal in the MGE settings, but the epic view distances are sadly denied to me), but for the field of vision option. Without it, I end up zoomed weirdly close into my conversation partners; with it, I crackle with widescreen power. On my 1920×1200 monitor, I set the FOV to 100.389. You’ll need to turn off Novice mode to set the FOV, incidentally.
Net result – some visual wierdness, but all-told a far better-looking game. You want proof? You can’t handle it. Oh, alright:
(Click for big’uns).
Clearly, it’s a major aesthetic change as well as a technological one, and that’s often something I’m resistant to. In this case, my feeling is Morrowind is so obviously graphically fudging it out of the box that the new look isn’t sacrificing much of what was intended, but I’m quite sure others will feel differently. I feel a lot more inclined to explore this new world than the original, certainly.