OpenMW Brings Morrowind To Cross-Platform Engine

By Graham Smith on January 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

Not as pretty as Skywind, but slightly more playable.

There are a lot of attempts to save Morrowind from the ravages of time, but while it’s not the prettiest, OpenMW somehow seems the most ambitious. It’s a complete “engine reimplementation” for the old RPG, replacing what was there before with a modern, cross-platform and open source core. If Skywind is a shallow attempt to replace the body of Morrowind with something new, shiny and gold-plated, then OpenMW is the equivalent project designed to augment the game’s withered guts.

A new video outlines the progress of the project as of v.0.28.

As the video shows, the game’s not yet fully or even mostly playable. When it is, it’ll provide a ton of great benefits to players, including being able to play Morrowind on Linux and OSX, support for widescreen monitors, and better water and shadows. It’s open source code also means modders should be able to do more to the guts of the game than they can even with the highly-moddable vanilla Morrowind.

You’ll likely have heard of other similar projects already: Morrowind Overhaul 3 is a graphical mod that plies the ailing engine with makeup; Morroblivion is (was?) a project to bring the game to Oblivion’s engine; and Skywind is a recent effort to pluck the world of Morrowind and drop it into Skyrim.

It’s testament to the game’s appeal that people are so desperate to stop it from aging into obscurity. There’s precious few attempts to do the same for Oblivion.

Morrowind Overhaul 3 is the only one of any of these that really lets you get on with the business of playing the game, although there’s reasons to be interested and follow along with the development of all of them. While Skywind is the most pretty, OpenMW seems the most flexible and, in some ways, feasible.

The OpenMW website has download links, documentation and a forum for those who think they can help out.

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54 Comments »

  1. Skeletor68 says:

    Are Bethesda ever tempted to just do a full HD remake I wonder? Or would there never be enough return to justify the costs?

    • melnificent says:

      That’s probably for an Elder Scrolls online expansion. :(

  2. Rikard Peterson says:

    So what you’re saying is that people don’t want Morrowind to fall into Oblivion?

    (Too obvious?)

  3. CKScientist says:

    Isn’t this written in D or some similar boutique language?

    • DeathCarrot says:

      C++ 97.9%, C 1.4%, Other 0.7%
      https://github.com/zinnschlag/openmw
      Build dependencies, on the linux side at least, are bullet (physics), ffmpeg (video), mygui (ingame gui toolkit), ogre (engine), openal (audio), qt4 (toolkit for external apps), sdl2 (input and windowing) and unshield (probably to extract data from installation CD).

      Will be interesting to see how NI translates to ogre.

    • aeonofdiscord says:

      Nope, looks like quite readable C++.

    • tormeh says:

      If only. D is basically C++ without the annoying parts. C++ needs to die as soon as possible. Here’s to Rust killing it! Personally, I prefer higher-level languages, but it would be nice if the middle-level languages got sorted out too. Too many security problems. Some standard template library functions in C++ will actually introduce security bugs to any program that uses them.

      • stele says:

        I agree. Visual Basic is definitely seeing a come-back.

      • phuzz says:

        In my day we had to use BASIC and like it.
        Kids nowadays get off my lawn etc.

      • joa says:

        Agreed. C and C++ complicate everything for no good reason. Unfortunately due to open-source, these languages remain popular. Although people like to bad mouth Visual Basic, it was a step in the right direction. Programming should be about telling the computer what you want, not about messing around with semicolons and brackets until the computer understands you.

        C++ does not even support multithreading — which is why the performance of games written in C++ (a lot of games) does not improve as you add more cores. Only in a recent standard has C++ gained multithreading capabilities — but the multithreading techniques introduced are about 20 years out of date!

        • LionsPhil says:

          That’s as dumb as complaining it “doesn’t have a 3D engine”.

          But go read up on OpenMP if you want something above the usual threading primitives. You’re welcome.

        • DrMcCoy says:

          If you want to “tell” the computer what you want, maybe you’d like something like Shakespeare?
          But seriously, Visual Basic is in no way a step in any correct direction. The language is a hodge-podge of ideas and Inconsistencies only rivaled by PHP and teaches you exactly the wrong methods for everything.

          You also don’t seem to know much about C++:
          While it’s true that the core C++ standard does not supply any thread mechanism, various thread libraries that incorporate into C++ have been around for decades. Be it Windows threading, be it pthread (in 1995), what-have-you. Hell, even the portable Boost.Thread has been around since 2001.

          • stele says:

            I of course was joking about Visual Basic when I posted earlier.

            Indeed, there is a lot of ignorance surrounding C++. In fact, C++ 11 fully supports multi-threaded programming natively, not to mention boost and OpenMP which have been available for some time.

            There is a reason game engines are written in C++. A competent programmer avoids memory leaks by using RAII and smart pointers, avoids buffer overruns by using smart and safe containers, and uses templates to generate expressive, highly optimized auto-inlined code. The C++ naysayers are usually the ones who know the least about it. Go figure.

        • DrMcCoy says:

          Also, if you want programs to scale to multiple cores without the programmer explictly working that in, basically all imperative and/or object-oriented languages (of which Visual Basic is one) are useless, since they depend on global states and side effects.

          You’d need something like Lisp or Haskell, functional languages without side effect and globals states. Those can be easily parallelized, and scale very well to multiple cores. Unfortunately, the thought-model required by them is completely different from how many programmers think, and are of course not in any way what the actual hardware is doing.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      It used to be written in D, but they rewrote it from scratch in C++ in 2010.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Interesting. Did they do a good writeup on why? Was it something more than “man, integrating with the rest of the world is just too much hassle”?

        • DrMcCoy says:

          No idea, actually. I first saw the project back when it was still in D, but quickly forgot about it again.
          The next time I saw it mentioned somewhere, it was already rewritten in C++.

          Their current website doesn’t reach that far back, and their FAQ just states “The reason was primarily to make it as easy as possible for developers to contribute”.

    • OpenMW says:

      It was rewritten in C++ because Zini, who picked up the project after the former lead developer stopped working on it, wasn’t very fond of D.

  4. Frosty840 says:

    It’s testament to the game’s appeal that people are so desperate to stop it from aging into obscurity. There’s precious few attempts to do the same for Oblivion.

    Key word missing here is “yet”. Morrowind is far older than Oblivion and ugly as sin. Oblivion remains a relatively playable, vaguely-decent-looking title.

    That said, I don’t think Bethesda can make games worth a damn, and never could do, so it’s not for me to be judging popularity…

    • tormeh says:

      Wut? Oblivion was crap compared to Morrowind. Morrowind actually had depth. It felt like thought had been put into that world. I don’t know what went wrong with Oblivion, but as far as I’m concerned it is Bethesda’s low point in history. Why anyone would want to bring it back as opposed to just forgetting about it confounds me.

      • Geebs says:

        Not really. If you can get past the potato-people, and mod out the level scaling, oblivion is often pretty funny and creative in its quests. The thieves guild, in particular, was much better in oblivion than in skyrim.

        Word to the wise – OpenMW runs like shit in OSX. Yes, okay, OSX sucks for 3d games but this is real you-could-reboot-into-Windows-between-frames territory in a very old game with nothing much in the way of fancy shaders.

        • Jupiah says:

          I kind of agree with Geebs. The graphics and npc model were hideous, the world was a boring, uninspired generic european fantasy land, the level scaling pretty much ruined the game, and the main quest was crap… but Oblivion did have a few great sidequests. Also Shivering Isles, that expansion was better than anything in Morrowind in my opinion. Shivering Isles alone made up for every crappy thing in that game.

        • aliksy says:

          Oh, sure, if you can get past the ugly NPCs and fundamentally fucked up progression system oblivion isn’t that bad.

          • Geebs says:

            I may not be a good judge, having finished Oblivion at least twice unmodded (on the 360, just to add insult to injury). In my defense I have finished Morrowind a whole bunch of times.

            Morrowind remains a whole lot better, especially with the graphical overhaul, but Oblivion is nowhere near as bad as it’s made out to be; for example exploring Ayleid ruins in Oblivion is a lot of fun (getting NPCs to set off traps is always amusing) and often better than Morrowind’s dungeons.

      • Russianranger says:

        I completely agree on all accounts. I started with Daggerfall and moved up from there. I’ve finished the storyline on all Elder Scrolls games EXCEPT Oblivion. I replay Morrowind to this day (heavily modified of course), but can’t bring myself to bear on Oblivion.

        Why exactly? Well for starters I never liked the generic medieval fantasy setting, it didn’t give too much to look at. Second, the way your interactions with NPCs in dialogue happened, that blasted persuasion mini game and taking a magnifying glass to their face.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Oblivion was like a mediocre hodge podge of a world designed by a not very competant DnD GM. It strongly overpromised and failed to deliver. You can check out old Todd Howard videos praising Radiant AI. Which ended up being more people talking about mudcrabs. In the same four voices. A few elements were good, mostly because of the individual developers in charge of that storyline. But as a whole, Oblivion reeks.

        Morrowind showed a unique, exotic world. Perhaps a little too exotic, leading to Cryodil being ‘re-imagined’ as a dull, lifeless, generic place.

        For my part, Oblivion was the last Bethesda game I bought. Learned my lesson the hard way.

    • malkav11 says:

      Although obviously Oblivion’s tech is worlds newer, I think Morrowind ends up looking better aesthetically in many ways from the off (it’s way more interesting and atmospheric, for starters, and Oblivion has this weird rounded sheen to it that I find really bothersome) and way, way better once the Overhaul punches it up.

  5. uh20 says:

    whats that! marrowind for linux? buy and steal files from steam? alright!

    or maybe i could wait, the test level is crashing.

  6. physicser says:

    Morrowind Overhaul 3 is the only one of any of these that really lets you get on with the business of playing the game

    Worth pointing out that Morroblivion is playable, and they have all the quests completed for the base game, with a tad more work needed on Tribunal (missing fabricant creatures) and Bloodmoon (main quest needs debugging). So, while the two expansions might still need a little time, you can definitely get on with playing the main Morrowind quest, which by itself is considerable.

    • Mondaik says:

      It’s also worth pointing out that the original game still is perfectly playable out of the box as it is and works fine on modern Microsoft operative systems.

  7. RyuRanX says:

    Nice, but I’m way more interested on DaggerXL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwTWrdB6vIU

    • Harlander says:

      Hasn’t that been stalled for a while though?

    • povu says:

      It looks great but I’m not getting my hopes up, it’s just one guy working on it and it’s going really slowly, if it’s still going at all.

    • Mondaik says:

      You’re in for a long wait, your grandchildren might be able to play it though.

  8. frightlever says:

    I don’t really care about how Morrowind looks but I can’t go back to that combat. I’m playing through Risen at the minute and it has let’s say more “interesting” melee combat than Skyrim even.

    • Mondaik says:

      Just be a mage if you find the melee combat too unresponsive. They are more interesting to play as anyway.

    • dethtoll says:

      The combat is straight up the biggest dealbreaker for me with Morrowind. I tried so hard to like that game.

    • malkav11 says:

      I see people say this all the time, but I don’t see the later Elder Scrolls games as having good melee combat either, and it’s not the point.

  9. Keyrock says:

    It’s pretty impressive how far this project has come.

  10. DrMcCoy says:

    If you allow me, I’ll have a shameless plug for one of my project: xoreos, bascially a reimplementation of BioWare games starting with Neverwinter Nights (and theoretically up until Dragon Age 2).

    Development had stalled a bit while I was frustrated about my lack of OpenGL knowledge, but now that I found out that you can stuff Ogre3D (*) into SDL2 window in a reaonsably portable manner (which OpenMW does as well, btw), I’m in the process of rewriting the whole graphics stack to use Ogre. While the changes are not yet public, I have most of what was working working again; missing is currently most GUI stuff and segmented Neverwinter Nights models with supermodels. I do expect to finish with that soon and hopefully momentum will pick up again.

    I am of course always looking for capable and interested people working with me on that project. :)

    (*) I’m still not completely happy with Ogre, but it does seem to be my best hope right now.

    • Lacero says:

      Wow. Awesome.

      I swore on my life to never again make a mod for NWN games as the scripting language limitations were driving me up the wall, but this could easily let me put lua in instead and go crazy.

      But I have my own projects I’m not working on so I can’t not work on this one too. Good luck and I’ll keep an eye on it :)

  11. OpenMW says:

    Thanks a lot for this article, which will hopefully bring a lot of attention to our project.
    I invite anybody with questions, suggestions or any input to our forums: https://forum.openmw.org

  12. nimbulan says:

    I suppose the biggest question is if they can actually make the game engine stable under a heavy load of mods, which Bethesda has never been able to do (though they made a significant improvement to the situation in Skyrim.)

  13. Kevin says:

    Was the attempt at a total conversion that transplanted Morrowind into the Oblivion engine not shut down by Bethesda and Zenimax? I have a feeling the Skywind team may be looking at a cease and desist in the near future.

    • mr.black says:

      I think they did get CID, but after that they threw away all proprietary Morrowind stuff and/or even more started stressing one has to have legally both Morrow and Obliw to be able to (legally) play the mod, so they managed to continue with their work.

  14. particlese says:

    yes Yes YES! I’ve been wanting to do/see something like this ever since becoming massively frustrated with the editor*, but I don’t have enough knowledge or the time to do so. Totally gonna poke around and see if I can find somewhere I can contribute. Thanks for the post, Mr. Smith!

    *Skyrim’s, specifically. I liked TESCS for Morrowind well enough back in the day, but I think I’ve gotten too used to Blender and UnrealEd since then. Hats off to Bethesda and the modders for having enough passion to use that thing!

  15. Dudeist says:

    Great news! I not played it on PC, now I can not play it on other platforms also! So exciting!