A Fool In Morrowind: Précis, Take 2

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 unofficial Morrowind patch and the unofficial Morrowind code patch. These fix things I don’t realistically expect to ever notice, but hey, they sound important.

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:

From this

To this

(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.

, .

86 Comments »

  1. Chis says:

    This was posted in the previous take by someone else, but let me post it again as it is tremendously useful:

    http://morrowind2009.wordpress.com/

    FOLLOW THIS GUIDE INSTEAD

    Personalising your experience is definitely recommended when it comes to Bethesda’s “games”, but to be honest Alec, MW2009 is where most should be going if they want to give Morrowind an overhaul.

  2. Heliocentricity says:

    I was looking for an oblivion mod to make people less fugly, everyone ends up looking like anime. Still, the people with time to mod are either old men (mentally) who focus on the beardy bits like animals and LOD maps or anime teens.

  3. Rei Onryou says:

    I’m just glad to have an excuse to finally play Morrowind. Yay.

  4. Chis says:

    GET THE UNDERWORLD

    Seriously guys, you’ve never played a better mod, and now it seems people have worked around the bugs in the sequel, it’s worth posting:
    http://planetelderscrolls.gamespy.com/View.php?view=Mods.Detail&id=5865

    You will likely also need:
    http://planetelderscrolls.gamespy.com/View.php?view=Mods.Detail&id=7423&id=6390

    And possibly this:
    http://planetelderscrolls.gamespy.com/View.php?view=Mods.Detail&id=6204

    Get it now!

  5. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    I presume that you once you have modded Morrowind to your hearts content, you can simply burn a copy of the entire directory for future use? Does the program require any reg settings?

    P.

  6. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Oooooo, those ‘The Underground’ lady-clothes are classy!

  7. Chis says:

    Gothic attractions aside (I’m neither a goth nor an emo, the closest I get is occasionally listening to The Cure), TU is a staggeringly huge mod, in fact it’s practically its own game.

    I just hope that TU2 is completeable now, with BadCompany’s guide. The treetower sections looked utterly gorgeous but a bug with Synda not moving prevented me from going any further.

    If you want a more “reliable” experience, go for the first one, but the second has lots lots more to see.

  8. jalf says:

    it’s meant to look like that. You are meant to have those weird dog things and grubs attacking you instead of standard fantasy staple. Leave your comfort zone people! Be challenged!

    No, the problem is not that it looks different (look at RPS’ love for Zeno Clash to see they don’t have a problem with that), but rather that Bethesda did not seem to have a decent artist when they made the game. They hired one or two for Oblivion (but even there, most of the visual look was defined by the programmers, it seems). And they still apparently don’t have a single animator.

    There is absolutely no reason to attempt to preserve the “look” of a Bethesda game, any more than you need to preserve the look of Tetris. It’s functional, and that’s about the best you can say about it.

  9. MrBejeebus says:

    whats with Chris advertising all these mods like a used car sales man?

    I agree with Wulf about the cohesiveness, but it certainly doesnt make me twitch

  10. RuySan says:

    I agree with Wulf. At the moment i’m playing Oblivion and it’s completely modded. But i never felt like Bethesda games really needed graphical overhauls. It’s one thing they have right. Specially Morrowind, with its very unique aesthetics. I prefer the first picture by a long way.

  11. Count Zero says:

    @jalf

    On the contrary, there is every reason to preserve the look of the game; Bethesda made a lot of mistakes when making Morrowind, but one thing they did right was the world building, mainly in the lore you find in the game’s many books and the overall world design. Most of it is meant to be outside fantasy stereotypes, a bold move on Bethesda’s part, and one that they choose not to make in Oblivion. By all means, fix the bugs, the draw distance, make the game use today’s video cards, but don’t just add content for content’s sake. What this will do is dilute the original identity of the game to almost nothing, and make a really interesting world into a generic fantasy playground. Sure it’s fun to add tigers, cows, rocket launchers or whatever to the game, but more is not always better. Ditch The Wilderness Mod, and all the stuff that adds random content at the expense of identity….

  12. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    “What this will do is dilute the original identity of the game to almost nothing, and make a really interesting world into a generic fantasy playground. ”

    One of the most inexplicably popular mods for Oblivion is Martigen’s Monster Mod, which turns the game into a lurid, over-populated mess.

    P.

  13. Chaz says:

    Well I’m in agreement with quite a few others here, in that the “From this” picture looks better than the “To this” piccy.

    The best mods, and most usefull mods I remember trying, are one that put a health bar over any enemies you were attacking, and another that changed the icons for spells and potions etc in your inventory to make it clearer to see what did what. But my personal favourite was a mod that added a usable boat to sail around the island in.

    @Alec. You can look at your own face in the game by the way, in the same way that you can in Oblivion and Fallout 3. Just go to the third person view, and then I think you hold down Alt and use the mouse to free look around yourself and zoom in and out.

  14. Moonracer says:

    Last Time I tried to play Morrowind again I got into the same mess of tweaking my mod list and reading up on the big new mods created since I last played, then never actually got far into playing the game. Not that I didn’t have a great time doing all that.

    That said, I also recommend the Children of Morrowind mod for atmosphere (http://lovkullen.net/Emma/kids.htm). There’s even a Romance mod which adds to this mod allowing you to get pregnant and have kids (or father them with NPCs if you are male)! Incredible stuff.

  15. Metal_Circus says:

    Just leave Alec alone and let him play some Morrowind, fer feck sakes.

  16. Nisse says:

    I tried the better heads mod, but removed it soon after. It is most certainly very well made and makes the game more aesthetically varied, but I felt it ultimatley sucked out Morrowind’s soul. Firstly I felt it distorted many of the main characters, secondly it seemed to make the character in general more ‘pretty’ and nice looking. I consider this a problem since it removed much of the harsh atmosphere that I liked, which fits the Island, and some of the feeling of being unwelcome in a unfriendly alien land. So while the mod is excellent, it comes at a price.

    And I prefer the first screenshot to the second by far (what the hell is that cow doing there?), which looks like a budget version of Oblivion.

  17. Gwog says:

    It warms the heart to see kindred spirits who appreciated Morrowind just as it was. I felt that the old girl was earth-shattering upon release.

  18. feighnt says:

    sorry if it’s already been mentioned – and also sorry if i’m wrong! but…

    the updated pic, that Dark Elf, his eyes are… not red? are *all* the dark elves in the updated version like that?

    the only reason i bring this up is that the red eyes are part of the mythology of the dark elves which were brought up in the game (or, at least, i *think* it is – it’s been such a time since i last played Morrowind), due to whatever bad stuff they did a good long time ago their skin was turned ashen and their eyes were turned red (whereas previously they were supposed to look like Altmer). it’ll be odd to come up to whoever it was who told that story, explaining why all the Dark Elves’ eyes are red when they’re *not* red due to the mod :P

  19. Dr Gonzo says:

    The mods make me lose interest, it’s not the Morrowind I remember, doesn’t really look like the same game.

  20. Gwog says:

    Important to add that I’m very much looking forward to these playthrough diaries. Just don’t do it in character. Some, uh, ‘person that I know’ tried that and let me tell you… the shame lasts for a long time.

    Possibly forever.

  21. Unlucky Irish says:

    Pray tell, how have people found the “Morrowind Comes Alive” Mod, would you sggest installing it? While by no means being the perfect game the one thing that’s really bugging me about my current play through is the fact that, out with villages, the game world seems very barren; a problem a few extra NPC’s would ratify quite nicely.

    Oh and for me the beauty of Morrowind is the beauty of a Panzer. It is by no means meant to be good looking but it end up being charming in it’s own way and it suited the strange frontier vibe of Vvardenfell. Oblivion, despite being top notch graphically, never sold me the idea that Cyrodiil
    was meant to be the centre of a sprawling empire just because everything look so generic and provincial.

  22. Seth says:

    Try not using the fps optimizer with the latest version of mge. I’m not sure that they really always play nice together.

  23. Bruut says:

    There used to be a mod called “Darker Music” which was awesome. It got removed due to copyright issues but you may be able to find it somewhere. Highly recommended.

    Also the ambient sound packs mentioned before

  24. Talorc says:

    Did anyone else accidentally read one of the mods as “better Breasts”? :-)

  25. jarvoll says:

    I don’t really think adding a bunch of new monsters really affects Oblivion for the worse at all: it’s already full of generic fantasy stuff, so adding more doesn’t really spoil whatever lore is present. Also, all the giant frost-minataur-like additions are 1) really rare, and 2) only to be found in very remote locations, so the overall experience of moving around daily-life cyrodill isn’t changed at all. On the other hand, I could totally see the problem with Morrowind, and so find myself in agreement with most people here.

  26. jsutcliffe says:

    The sad thing is, as much as I would like to play MW again, I would think the “fully modded” picture was vanilla MW unless I had been told, which tells me I’d not dig another playthrough because I’m a graphics whore.

    I’m surprised the mods that green up the desert areas and add trees haven’t been mentioned*, because wandering around a ruined landscape gets depressing about after 30 hours or so of trudging. Which is precisely why I didn’t like Fallout 3.

    * Actually, so many mods have been mentioned I could easily have missed that.

  27. drewski says:

    @ Talorc – I’m sure that mod exists.

    @ Wulf – couldn’t agree more. Morrowind’s original content, it’s original aesthetic is precisely what makes it so compelling. Oak trees? In MY Morrowind? Eugh.

    Still looking forward to the diary. I’ll just ignore the Middle Earth Generic Bore screenshots.

  28. Adventurous Putty says:

    I hink the worst thing poor Alec could’ve done is ask uswhat mods to use.;-)

    I actually don’t think Vality’s swamp mod makes it look all that different, just more swampy. The fucking cow-sheep is what irks me; creature mods (besides one that adds a rideable pack guar) WILL kill the mood.

    And to the one guy who said the art direction doesn’t matter: seriously? Mushroom towers, megafauna bugs, ash storms and crabshell cities didn’t DEFINE your Morrowind? A sad person, one who can’t appreciate Morrowind’s one claim to genius.

  29. undead dolphin hacker says:

    Honestly following that Morrowind 2009 guide takes at least a day’s worth of gaming time (unless you’re unemployed/a student, and even then it’s about 50%, which I’d know because I’m the latter, which is a socially acceptable way of saying “both”). And you get to sign up for Fileplanet and some odd TES-exclusive site and navigate fifty different mirrors from sites with “Last Updated: 7/14/2005″ proudly displayed on the front page looking for one that’s not dead at this point.

    And the only result is a graphical representation of that adage pointing out the inverse correlation between number of chefs and quality of a soup, a game that’s still fundamentally broken as a game, and maybe 2-6 hours of “legit” playtime with a character whose movespeed makes Lieutenant Dan from Forest Gump look like a Kenyan in the Olympics before you either run off and do the potion exploit to have fun being a god for a couple hours, flying from one end of the whole world in five minutes or so, being able to cast spells with mana costs in the 1000s which one-shot anything in a 50ft radius, or paralyze everything in a 50-ft radius for 120 seconds, or cause entire cities to go mad with raging bloodlust, and then quit + uninstall because the game is designed solely around frustration and you just relieved it all and now you can see the whole thing is hollow, or you just plain quit+uninstall and realize the whole thing is founded on frustration because Lieutenant Dan is beating you in a footrace to Pelgaid and it takes ten swings before your weapon connects with a mudcrab despite the model passing smack through it and you’re chugging Restore Fatigue potions like a fat chick at a frat party hoping to get laid whether she’s conscious for it or not.

    Fuck Morrowind; don’t waste your time; thanks for reading.

  30. Jonathan says:

    Paul B says:

    “If you look at the bigger picture, it’s got an udder and two horns, so I therefore pronounce it a cow. Good, let’s get the important questions out of the way first ;)”

    You can milk goats, you know, so this fiery goat vs. cow debate is far from over.

    Howard says:

    “One question. The MGE seems pretty bloody useless to me apart from fixing wide-screen issues. ”

    The long draw distance and increased detail in cells does it for me. And the full water reflections in the latest version looks gorgeous. Earlier versions of MGE water looked terrible.

    I also don’t like the second picture. The trees are all wrong, and when does a dark elf have greasy hippie hair? Who decided that was better???

  31. Jonathan says:

    Larington says:

    “I tried to play the game yesterday, for the first time, using the set of mods listed previously, really struggling to get into it.”

    Morrowind is one of the toughest games to get into, because the initial trials are spaced so far apart and so dull. Give it 4-5 hours, and you’ll fall in love. Unfortunately there’s no fix for the obtuse shop menus.

    Mr.President says:

    “Never understood the Internet’s acute hatred for cliff racers. Never even thought there was anything special about them until I read a Morrowind discussion on some gaming forum months later.”

    There’s something wrong with the hit detection with them. They can stab you with their tails from too far away, and very often dead-on strikes to their heads and bodies don’t register. Plus you’re always fighting them on unlevel ground, which makes it even more maddening. I more than once fell off a mountain or got stuck in a crack while looking up swinging at those damn things.

  32. drewski says:

    The thing with cliff racers that you wouldn’t have felt the satisfaction of one hit killing them at later levels if they weren’t annoying as all get out at earlier levels.

  33. malkav11 says:

    Cliff racers were annoying because they were the only flying creature in the entire game, there were zillions of them, and so my Dagoth Ur-slaying omnipotent godcharacter zooming through the air with a ring of levitation and the Boots of Blinding Speed on would have to stop periodically and attend to smacking around pointless pterodactyl things or be driven slowly mad. Everything else was safely on the ground and out of the way.

    And, for the record, I never knew about or used any potion exploit or acrobatics or any of that. there were perfectly legitimate enchantment options that combined with artifacts were quite broken enough. The aforementioned Boots + (low power, constant effect) ring of levitate being my favorite way of getting around, and things like constant effect restore fatigue and health items mean most enemies are even less threat than they might otherwise be.

  34. Princess Stomper says:

    “Without a doubt, the goodly men’n’well-let’s-be-honest-it’s-pretty-much-all-men of the Morrowind modding community have done jawdropping things to this olden RPG.”
    Heh – I know you apologised, but it’s just funny considering about 50% of Morrowind modders are female including at least 8 from your list! :D

  35. Melupom says:

    I bought Morrowind recenly for my PC, and decided to try these mods out. after many hours, and evntually having to start the game again, am still crashing randomly and when i try to exit game, or Ctrl+Alt+Del – a message says something about a driver called atikmdag…

  36. UK_John says:

    I have MGE with grass and water and infinite view and everything. MGE doesn’t like the FPS optimizer, etc, and for me only works if I install Morrowind Script Extender and then switch off the internal script extender in MGE and then start the game with MSE. Also, if you go to the MGE forum you can find out how, using the macro section, how to get the game to save every x amount of minutes.

    Here’s a couple Morrowind pics of my game, and you can also go to PES, go to the Morrowind POTD and put ‘Jaffah’ in as author to get my other Morrowind pics. You may be surprised…!

    http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/8509/mgescreenshot1.jpg

    http://img167.imageshack.us/img167/4268/mgescreenshot55.jpg