Thursday, April 9, 2009

Morrowind diary introduction

I started playing Morrowind only just recently, here in the spring of 2009, and I like to talk about my experiences, but rarely know anyone who is as interested in these things as I am. The forums are nice for some kinds of discussion, but (aside from being rather dead for this older title) they're a little too volatile and disorderly for the kind of in-depth coverage I like to do, so I decided to start a blog instead.

Perhaps if I share my experiences with the larger world, it might lead to some interesting discussions. (hint, hint)

I changed my mind about making this post always on top, because it may create the illusion that I'm not writing anything new, as long as it remains there. So I've placed it back in the normal chronology. As this is a blog, the postings show in reverse order, which isn't the most logical way to read a linear diary, but I'm sure most blog readers are familiar with it. Aside from the date posted, I'll also be sure to put numbers in my post titles so you know which order to read in.

This blog won't be entirely about Morrowind, of course, since I do play other games. But all Morrowind posts will be tagged as such, as any other games will be tagged with their names, so you can just click on the appropriate tag to see posts about the game of your choice. (Some, however, contain tags of other games because I happen to mention these other games to compare them with Morrowind.)

My gaming history

So, a little background on what led me to this place and time. My gaming history goes back quite a long time, so I'll just name off a few games first. LucasArts adventure games like Monkey Island. The Thief series for stealth and atmosphere. The Silent Hill series for story and atmosphere. Racing games. Action FPS like Half-Life II. Hybrid games like Bioshock and its predecessor System Shock II. Turn based Strategy games like Galactic Civilizations II. Etc. The first game I believe I played which used the open-ended, relatively non-linear "quest" style of gameplay was Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (and later San Andreas). I liked this freedom, different from the linear games, since I could go anywhere, and there were all kinds of things that I could do, in any order I chose, at my leisure, instead of being stuck in a level with only one way to go, or tiresome tasks between me and the place I wanted to be.

World of Warcraft was the first major RPG I played for any length of time (as warlock, druid, and mage). I have very few complaints about that game. Aside from chunky polygons, low resolution textures, too much grinding, legions of assholes, unnecessarily long flight paths, a monthly fee, inability to drop items (on the ground or on a countertop), and no player housing, it's nevertheless a very fun game, that even now I'm tempted to return to, if only I had the time.

After I quit WoW, I decided to look for a single-player RPG that I could play without a monthly fee. Oblivion was the game I chose, the fourth installment in the Elder Scrolls series, of which I had no previous experience. I had heard of Morrowind here and there, but that was all I knew.

Oblivion was great. I spent a lot of time playing it (as a mage/thief), though I avoided the main quest as long as possible, because I didn't want those pesky Oblivion gates opening up all over the land and wrecking the scenery. I was familiar with mods from many other games I've played, so I delved deeply into the world of Oblivion mods, to the point where my Oblivion folder was about 20GB in size. Eventually, I ventured into the TES Construction Set to edit some of the mods to better suit me (lighting, furniture placement, etc.) and ultimately started making my own mods. I started with some simple retextures, and moved on to creating some companion NPCs, and a couple of house mods which became my main homes. Alas, eventually I ran out of things to do, things had gotten a bit boring, and even quest mods couldn't keep my eye from straying, and Fallout 3 had just been released, so out of curiosity I took a look.

Fallout 3 held my interest for a while, even though in many ways it was a large step backwards from Oblivion. The construction set for it (called GECK) eventually was released, after a month or two of pessimism from the community, and I proceeded to mod the hell out of Fallout 3. Ultimately I made a couple of mods of my own for it, most notably another house mod.

Alas, it held my interest for much less time than Oblivion did. Compared to Oblivion, Fallout 3 falls short in many areas. But this isn't the time or place to get into that. The result was that I wanted another open-ended fantasy game with plenty to do and explore, variety in play style, and a healthy mod community. I looked at Fable 2, and The Witcher, and some others, but ultimately I was swayed to give Morrowind a try despite its inferior graphics.

My approach to Morrowind

Now, I've played and enjoyed my fair share of older games with inferior graphics. WoW, System Shock 2, Thief 1 and 2, and others. But a large appeal of games like this is getting to explore unique and beautiful landscapes, and "beautiful" isn't the word for what I had seen of Morrowind. However, some videos I saw on Youtube showed me what it could look like with mods like MGE (Morrowind Graphic Extender), as well as some city expansions, NPC makeovers and addittions, and texture replacers. It changed my mind! Also, being an older game, it was very cheap.

Some people have recommended Morroblivion instead. Morrowind's models imported into the Oblivion engine, with NPCs, creatures, items, and presumably quests recreated. But now, writing from having played Morrowind for a few days, I think there are some fundamental aspects of Morrowind that would be lost in porting it to the Oblivion engine. For instance the very extensive dialogue trees. And is it complete? I got the impression that it isn't. And what about the thousands of mods there are for Morrowind? They wouldn't work in Oblivion. No, I think it's better to play Morrowind with the Morrowind engine, improving what can be improved from there.

So, I think that's enough introduction. On to my first impressions of the game!


  1. I just stumbled across this when googling stuff, sorry you don't appear to have gotten that lively discussion going (although maybe later posts have more comments). Anyway, reading about Morrowind is almost as good as playing it sometimes, and I'm always down to talk about it.

  2. Some of my posts generated more discussion than others, but more is always better! Feel free to add your comments to any of my posts, and I'll respond to them.