Morrowind gets multiplayer with OpenMW’s TES3MP

Multiplayer has arrived in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind thanks to a project based on the fan-made replacement engine OpenMW [official site]. Earlier versions of the TES3MP side-project previously only supported PvP, as NPCs wouldn’t synchronise between players, but now you and your pals can roam the land, messing with NPCs and questing and murdering and whatever else you might fancy. This is a huge step. TES3MP also supports scripting so people can fiddle with the game and even make custom modes; one alpha tester already made a Battle Royale mode.

The goal of OpenMW is to be an open-source, multiplatform replacement engine for Morrowind. It might get fancier and prettier down the line, but the baseline goal is to simply replace the Morrowind executable. However, the open-source nature makes it a foundation for people building bigger things, which is what the TES3MP gang have done. The fork adds multiplayer to TES3, yeah? And now, a year after its first release, it finally makes that multiplayer work like you’d hope.

As David Cernat of TES3MP explains, they’ve overcome a hurdle that several fan projects adding multiplayer to Bethesda games have fallen at:

“There have been numerous attempts by fans at adding multiplayer to Bethesda games. All of them have fallen apart at the critical NPC sync stage, where computer-controlled characters and creatures in the world need to show up, move, animate and act correctly for all players at all times, with major complications added by the open world nature of the games that means NPCs can theoretically follow players to almost any location in the world and the fact that their artificial intelligence only ever accounts for the existence of one single player.

“Back in March this year, the complete lack of NPC sync in TES3MP for 15 months was making this project feel like another failure.”

But they’ve done it! Thanks to Cernat and TES3MP founder ‘Stanislav’, you can now play Morrowind properly-ish with your pals. Cernat does note that “there are still significant problems and missing or unfinished features” so certainly don’t expect perfection but you might find it a lark.

OpenMW’s own blog post about the launch highlights cool things possible with scripting:

“During the alpha testing phase one of the modders scripted a new game mode – battle royale. It was set up in a way that players would spawn in a waiting cell and when a minimum of 3 players had joined the server, a 60 second count-down would start. Once the numbers ticked down, players were teleported to random cities around Vvardenfel with 25 minutes to arm themselves to the best of their ability before abruptly being teleported into an arena where they’d duke it out. Imagine the possibilities here!”

I don’t even like Elder Scrolls games and I dig the sound of that. A neat challenge of figuring out the best way to arm up. Good stuff.

If you fancy a crack, download TES3MP v0.6.0 from GitHub. You will need a copy of Morrowind to play, as OpenMW and TES3MP only replace the engine and do still need the original data files.

22 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    This is pretty neat. I wish Morrowind hadn’t aged so badly.

    The battle royale is interesting too actually. Granted I know people who have a crazy knowledge of where every item in the game is placed, and they’d always beat me out for arming. But who knows! Maybe you’ll spawn right next to that one ebony sword that’s just laying out in the open somewhere.

    I forget where. Some hlaalu place, I think.

    • SaintAn says:

      “This is pretty neat. I wish Morrowind hadn’t aged so badly.”

      Then I will grant this wish! It hasn’t!

      Played it for the first time a few years ago and it’s great! It’s far better than every modern RPG.

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        It’s the UI for me, really. It’s just so bad and clunky.

        But I put up with it, for nostalgia. With the bigger aesthetic mod packs, you can make the game look fairly pretty.

  2. GrumpyCatFace says:

    How does this not clash with ESO? I’d expect a cease/desist letter to be in the mail already, once they hear about it…

    sorry to be Debbie Downer, but this is what the GTA kerfuffle was all about.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised to see lawyers getting excited about this, but I suspect this and ESO will end up significantly different beasts.

    • vorador says:

      What the hell are you talking about.

      GTAV C&D was because the mod was modifying the online part of the game, and Rockstar frowns upon that.

      OpenMW basically is an open source engine that, between other things, enables multiplayer for an 15 year old game that never had it in the first place.

      Open source emulation of private code is perfectly ok. At least for now.

      • GrumpyCatFace says:

        Yes, but the IP “Morrowind” already has a paid product for multiplayer. The owners of which will not love this.

        • vorador says:

          I don’t think you understand it at all.

          The point is, they’re creating an open source engine. For Morrowind. You need to own Morrowind in the first place to play OpenMW multiplayer. So per se, there’s no IP violation, since you require an original game to play.

          They’re adding a feature Bethesda didn’t add to the original game. It would be like Bethesda suing a modder because he added “finishers” to the original Doom, just like Doom 2016. There’s no point. You have far more to lose annoying the community that to gain from “protecting” a game you’ve far exploited it’s worth and haven’t updated in more than a decade.

          Besides, this is just a hack. Morrowind a single player experience with an engine hack to allow multiplayer. TESO is developed from the ground up to be a MMO. They’re completely different beasts, and i don’t think anybody that bought TESO will prefer this over it.

          • Premium User Badge

            Drib says:

            You’re basically describing what the GTA hacks were. They sent out a C&D to the single player modding tools. Those tools didn’t use Bethesda’s IP, you needed to own the game, and they were only adding functionality.

            They still got slammed.

            The only reason they were later allowed to keep going was due to the company getting screamed at by literally everyone.

            Yes yes, there was a side project about remaking a map in that tool. But they C&D’d the entire project, not just the map remaking. Something like this? Yeah, I expect the lawyers will draft up something to stop it as soon as they hear about it.

          • Premium User Badge

            particlese says:

            I agree with your points, but unfortunately reasonable people generally aren’t the ones who order C&D orders. They only think THIS WILL STEAL CUSTOMERS FROM OUR MICROTRANSACTION MONEY MACHINE, and in some sense they’re right – those who might try ESO only for the prospect of “multiplayer Morrowind” would be less likely to try ESO if this actual multiplayer Morrowind is easy to use and so on – but I bet the vast majority of those wouldn’t stick around ESO long enough for microtransactions to become attractive, anyway. But that matters not to the moneymen.

          • Premium User Badge

            particlese says:

            That said, even notoriously C&D-happy Nintendo isn’t shutting down purely programmatic things like Dolphin which openly show that their reverse-engineering has been kosher, even when it can play newly-released titles. They still shoot down “emulators” of sorts when the content itself is emulated (e.g. that recent Metroid II remake, shortly before the official remake was announced), but maybe OpenMW’s multiplayer thing will get a pass because it’s only code and icons and stuff, and because there is precedence for letting such things slide.

            One can hope!

        • _bryan says:

          It’s not the same because:

          1. GTO was running a service that is also provided by the developers themselves and thus others are fraudulent. Morrowind never had multiplayer and thus there’s no fraud.

          2. Game engines do not come with game content and are just abstract containers that get told by game content packages what to do. The reason why none of this is illegal is because OpenMW has been developed to be that engine that runs content. The ‘esm’ files are just models, images, sounds, scripts, and so forth that OpenMW reads and then runs what looks like to you Morrowind. It doesn’t distribute Morrowind binary content.

          The multiplayer service only works with this game client that is 100% original code and it doesn’t come packaged with game content. You have to purchase it and have it on your computer already to use it.

      • SaintAn says:

        Except the main C&D was for a singleplayer modding tool.

    • Seyda Neen says:

      Bethesda has been well aware of OpenMW and its possible multiplayer implementation for years, and has even officially said something along the lines of “you guys are fine” in the past. Their biggest concern (that I know of) was Morrowind running on mobile platforms, but even reached an agreement about that. Anything can change, though, sure.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        Oh, cool, thanks for that info and link. It’s really good to hear that they mostly (fully?) officially have that attitude. I’d also somehow forgotten that Bethesda does actually respect their modding community*, and that the OpenMW team had already been in contact with them about general legitimacy.

        *not sarcasm or dramatic criticism

  3. cpy says:

    If only skyrim had multiplayer.

    • brucethemoose says:

      There were 1 or 2 Skyrim multiplayer projects, actually, but I think they lost steam.

      Projects like this require ALOT of time and effort from talented people.

  4. Faldrath says:

    Now it just needs a deathmatch mode where half the players are cliff racers!

  5. Sin Vega says:

    I can’t imagine a game with a worst combat system for a deathmatch. You might as well just draw a card each and call the highest one the winner. Still, the NPC stuff sounds exciting, and impressive too.

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      Oh it wasn’t THAT bad. I mean, it’d basically come down to whoever had the best equipment, with a side of whoever managed to time their backpedaling best. But that’s still more than just rolling a single die.