Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whispered Echoes

An ambitious Dwemer mod by Tchos

I think I've made enough progress by now that I can safely make an announcement of this work in progress.

We all know that the Dwemer race "disappeared" at the Battle of Red Mountain, and if they had not, then no doubt someone would have discovered the tragedy that befell a forgotten Dwemer city under Solstheim some time beforehand. What happened there, that killed an entire city of dwarves well before the rest of their race had vanished? There may be clues in the echoes of the ones who died there, whose traumatic memories permeate the very architecture, occasionally intruding into the perceptions of the living.

Now, with the blurb out of the way, here is my design philosophy for my "dungeon". I expect that someone who takes the trouble to download a user-made dungeon mod has probably become bored of the vanilla dungeons. Such a person is probably not a new player, and has probably been playing for a while, long enough to have a decent level, and little need for ├╝ber loot. So what would one explore a new dungeon for at that point? I would think for the spectacle, and/or for the challenge.

So, I'm designing my Dwemer ruin to look interesting, and to have interesting things to do and find, with occasional scripted boss fights, and clues to find that give hints as to what happened in this place. I'm keeping corridors short and sweet, only enough to get you from one content area to another. There will be some occasional special loot to earn, but the primary design consideration to this mod is mood and aesthetics.

Dark dungeons are counterproductive to aesthetics. When I can't see anything, I'm not having fun. The game gives us things like torches, lanterns, and light spells and night eye spells. Torches and lanterns have weight, and most of them burn out, so I rarely use them. The light spell is graphically glitchy and ugly, making distinct squares of the rooms suddenly light up and go dimmer, as well as the creatures and NPCs, even with quadratic lighting. So I often resort to the night eye spell, which allows me to see, but has the side effect of removing all shadows and special lighting from the game, making everything bland and ugly. Where's the aesthetic in that?

So, my ruin has special attention to the lighting. There should be no place where you're left stumbling in the dark fumbling for your torch. This is not to say all areas will be brightly lit, but there will always be lights to show the way from one interesting place to another, and there should be nothing interesting or important hidden in a dark corner. This dwemer fortress is where people once lived and worked. People can't work in the sort of poor lighting conditions that I see in most dwarven ruins! So, there will be good lighting, albeit slightly dimmed from being in continuous operation for so long.

Youtube video showing my tileset, the making of which inspired me to go ahead and make a full mod.

I've also made my attempt at expanding the spectral dwarves. Not all dwarves should have been identical spellcasters, and there should be representation of the female dwarves. As we see in Tribunal, dwemer guards wore dwarven armour, contradicting the book Ruins of Kemel-Ze, wherein an archaeologist asserts with confidence that it was simply a case of non-dwarves adapting their robot parts for use as armour. So, faced with this contradiction of seeing plain evidence of the dwemer actually having worn pieces of this armour in Tribunal, combined with the unreliable source of an archaeologist whose claim may well have been mistaken, I thus include dwemer ghosts wearing armour, both male and female.

I'm incorporating numerous modders' resources in this mod, many of which I've altered for better looks or better compression, to keep the file sizes reasonable, and in some cases I've been making my own new items, textures, and meshes.

All dwemer in this mod are ghosts, or memories. No additions of living dwemer. I'm showing a couple of screenshots here of what they look like without the ghost effect, with a dwarven spectre nearby for comparison. Since the dwemer were elves like any other elves, my female dwemer doesn't look different than other elves, but I've chosen hair styles that look Greco-Roman, which is the closest I've found to the Akkadian/Sumerian/Minoan that they should have. Consider the robes as placeholders until I find some more regional-looking clothing I can use. Something Middle Eastern, Greco-Roman, or Egyptian would probably work.

If you see anything you like in the screenshots to follow, please be patient, and all will be released when the mod is finished, except for the level designs themselves. All modders' resources are being well-documented for the readme as well.

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