Morrowind Overhaul OpenMW Gets New Graphics Engine

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind [official site] was released in 2002. It’s testament to how highly regarded the now 13-year-old game is that folks are still determined to keep it alive. OpenMW is one such effort: an open source “engine re-implementation” of Morrowind. It’s still some ways from being finished, but the released build has just received an extensive update.

Version 0.37.0 sees OpenMW’s graphics engine rewritten by introducing the high performance 3D graphics toolkit OpenSceneGraph. The new renderer will not only boost the engine aesthetically, but will also increase performance speedup. In the interest of getting it out without further delay, certain features have been temporarily compromised as a result of the update, but the OpenMW team assure these will be re-added “soon”. The update’s comprehensive changelog can be found here, however here’s the blurb speaking to this point as it appears on the site:

You may notice that shadows are not re-implemented at this time, as well as distant land and object shaders, but we wanted to get the release out rather than delay any further! These features will be re-added soon! This release brings many other changes and bugfixes, as well as a huge amount of new work done on OpenCS, the editor for OpenMW. Some features are missing from OpenCS as well: only basic camera controls are implemented, pathgrid and cell marker rendering is missing, as well as instance moving.

As Graham previously pointed out, other Morrowind overhauls you might’ve heard of before include: Skywind, which takes Morrowind to Skyrim; Morroblivion, which attempts the same only to Oblivion; and Morrowind Overhaul 3, a cosmetic graphical mod. OpenMW differs from those in that it’s a standalone engine, designed not simply with a graphical upgrade in mind but intended to futureproof the game for modern CPUs and to build a toolkit that can even be used to make new mods or games.

If you’re keen to find out more about the nuts and bolts, whys and hows of OpenMW, the creators offer this Q&A:

25 Comments

  1. rondertaker says:

    this is getting a bit ridiculous. can we get an article that just tells me which of these projects (if any) i can just install and play now if i want to play a graphically improved MW?

    • Jekhar says:

      You can definetly install and play Morrowind Overhaul right now. It’s what i’m doing. The installation is somewhat convoluted and time consuming, but largely automated and idiotproof. Here is the relevant link: link to ornitocopter.net

      I don’t know about the two port projects, Morroblivion and Skywind. The former was in eternal development for the longest time, i don’t follow it any more. I don’t know if the second fares any better either.

    • malkav11 says:

      Morrowind Overhaul, because it’s just a compilation of mods for Morrowind itself that make it much prettier, and while it’s probably still being worked on there is a fully viable release out right now. The Oblivion and Skyrim mods won’t have Morrowind’s character even when finished (if ever they are) because they’re running in different engines with segmented worlds and more player limitations baked in. OpenMW will eventually be what you want, but…yeah, not right now.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      This. It’s becoming tiresome seeing all these millions of mods like skywind morroblivion etc, all of which have gargantuan ambitions and an eternal development road map.

      I’d love to see them released, don’t get me wrong, but the only large scale remake mod I’ve seen actually to actually see the light of day was Black Mesa, and they copped out and released only half the fucking game!

      • Oooch says:

        You’ve been able to play morroblivion for over a year, it’s 99% complete

      • K_Sezegedin says:

        Tiresome? Yes how dare these disparate teams work on their own projects/timescales, don’t they know how much we are paying them? Oh wait.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          Tiresome as in getting teased awesome stuff for things you like and then get stuck in development hell in every case.

          They’re free to spend their time and resources on whatever sinkhole they want but hyped vapour overhaul projects has been around since the olden Ultima games.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        I haven’t played Deus Ex Revision yet, but that’s apparently good and complete enough that it ended up as official free DLC for the Steam version of the original Deus Ex. It is or will be available free of Steaminess, as well.

    • alms says:

      Except it’s not ridiculous, it’s just you being lazy.

  2. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Rewriting the graphics engine to keep up with advancing technology… Isn’t this all getting a bit Duke Nukem: Forever?

    • Jekhar says:

      The way i understand it, they try to get the game engine into an easily portable and modifiable state. Graphical improvements are made, but not the main focus of the project (at the moment).

    • John O says:

      Reminds me of the current jokes about Bethesda releasing the game and modders fixing it. I guess in 13 years someone will be hard at work replacing the engine on FO4. This place isn’t safe for modders… we will have our FO4, the day will come!

      • Jekhar says:

        As Bethesda is still using Gamebryo, the groundwork laid by OpenMW might be easily used for later games.

    • Geebs says:

      Rewriting and adding effects to a renderer is easy, as in chuck in another shader and framebuffer easy. Redoing the scene graph, animation system and asset handling is hard, as in Bethesda haven’t changed their engine in years hard.

      The openMW project is mostly about making an open source reimplementation of Morrowind, with full mod compatibility; prettier graphics are just a fortunate side-effect.

  3. 2Ben says:

    For me, the only thing I want is Morrowing but with Oblivion’s archery system, with real bow and arrow physics. Does that exist ?

  4. august says:

    I LOVE OPENMW. Because of this project I can play Morrowind on my linuxed up Chormebook, on a tv, with a controller. fwiw if you’re just looking to play vanilla Morrowind, OpenMW is already good to go. As far as I know gameplay is solid, and they’re just holding off on a 1.0 release until the editor is feature complete and the get distant draw distances and shadows back in. I’ve got a character I’ve put about 20 hours into.

  5. braven5 says:

    Morrowind has been remastered soo many time now by modding community, can we just move on now lol

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Not until we can rip out the horrible combat system and replace it with something good.

      • braven5 says:

        with the amount of time and energy spent on all these morrowind remasters, the modders could simple picked better engine and made a whole new game/story and something new, fresh and original

        • Distec says:

          I see this kind of sentiment a lot regarding fan-made remakes/overhauls, and I think you severely underestimate how much more work a brand new game from scratch can be by comparison.

          It would also no longer be Morrowind. That’s probably pretty “Duh”, but y’know, it’s the entire point behind projects like this. The people working on these projects do so for the love of the game, and I think all these remasters and source ports are an excellent way to keep these games relevant (for lack of a better word) to today’s players, rather than forgotten and paid lip service to in the dustbin of history.

          To be frank, playing an overhauled Morrowind is more enticing to me than some other TES clone or spiritual sequel.

          • malkav11 says:

            Yeah, pretty much. I mean, there are plenty of games that are probably not going to be worth this kind of effort to most people, but…you know, most of them also don’t get these sorts of projects. It’s weird. It’s like people that want to invest a bunch of time into overhauling a game for free really love it or something.

          • alms says:

            Silly you, you’re not supposed to be sensible or realistic, the longer you can piss on this Bethesda guys, the more cool points you get.

  6. rsf says:

    As someone familiar with opensource software I’d like to emphasize some things from a non-Morrowind perspective:

    * What they’ve done is created a 3d openworld RPG engine from scratch that just happens to be compatible with Morrowind’s data formats (art content) and supports its’ feature set.

    * Because the engine contains no code from Bethesda, and because the project distributes no art or any copyrightable things from Bethesda, it should be completely legal to give total conversions FREE without requiring permission from anyone – as long as those total conversions do not contain any IP or work from Bethesda or from anyone else without permission.

    * It is also legal to create and sell total conversions on this engine, or to fund-raise non-profit modding projects so modders can work full time or part time.

    * It’s legal to fundraise for further engine development.

    * It is possible to take the engine code and develop in a different direction i.e. a fork – the open source nature allows different projects to benefit from the areas they overlap provided they collaborate and communicate. If you have a big openworld project that could use this engine as a starting point you can fork the engine, and also see where both projects can benefit. It’s also possible to leverage opensource libraries/tools to develop the engine further.

    * The engine right now would just be a minimal feature set aimed at being compatible with Morrowind, including graphical capabilities – i.e. Don’t be fooled by it looking like Morrowind because that was the intention. The sky is the limit, as far as any future improvements are concerned.

    * It’s fine to ship a basic total conversion with the project for interested parties without Morrowind, to help develop and test the engine, and to allow modders a starting point. OPenMW appears to be doing this with their “Game template Project” according to a brief search of their webpage.

    Like they said, if anyone wants to help develop the engine, or contribute in any other way they’d welcome any contribution. This is how open source projects work, and interested parties should just jump in. Similarly modders should go at it, with the knowledge that any total conversions could have a really huge audience.