Creation Kit – Limitations and Development

One of the fondest memories I have of watching football with my dad was a meaningless regular season game.  It was a minute before the half, and the quarterback had just tossed a 40-yard touchdown with pinpoint accuracy, just over the defender’s fingertips. I leaped into the air, looking for a willing partner to high five, and turned to dad as the replay was showing on the screen. His face was stuck in a grimace.  I said, “Did you see that throw?” And he said, “Yeah, but the receiver on the other side was wide open.”  It was dad in a nutshell.

It’s easy to be critical of athletes. I’m guilty of as much.  Yet armchair quarterbacks like me don’t know what it’s like to try and make a split second decision while 300-pound behemoths are flying at you spitting glass with full intent to do bodily harm.

So I thought I’d take a post to help explain some of the characteristics in the mod, and how more often than not, they are influenced heavily by limitations, and how you can help improve it.

First, the voice acting.  I think it has been phenomenal, and will only get better as the available pool of actors grows.  There may be slightly different recording qualities, but I think the videos show they blend in well when conversing with vanilla actors.  These people have volunteered their time and effort, borrowing mics from neighbors, getting feedback from friends, working tirelessly in the dead of night in hopes that their recording will have one less click, a bit less noise, so your experience is more immersive.  Knowing how much they’ve sacrificed to make this mod happen makes me feel warm and tingly, and it pisses me off when some drive-by commenter says something along the lines of:

Yeah, but it doesn’t sound exactly like a studio.

To that I say, then mods are not for you.  However, if you feel a particular voice could be improved, don’t be vague and overstate the problem.  Find the specific NPC’s name and tell me directly.  If I get enough feedback, perhaps I can see if the actor can re-record. I may have already asked him to do so.  If the actor is unwilling, I might consider making an optional version.  Version 2.22 will feature a revamped version of Eldar, which James worked diligently to provide while juggling responsibilities with school and being a Resident Adviser to what is likely a rowdy dorm, when he could’ve easily told me to go fuck myself.  And if you’re the type of cynical, unfeeling bastard that still feels the need to pick nits, then I can’t help you.

Second, the development of characters. When I started this mod, I wanted to make nothing but quests.  I wanted to take all these ingredients and make a full course meal.  All of this had to be scrapped the moment I opened up the CK.  I had to pare everything down to what I could do, and that was essentially make stories.  I separated them into 3 acts, introduction, conversation/role-play interaction, and finishing with a personal anecdote.  This was the best compromise for proper progression.  For most of the mod’s existence, I couldn’t spread anything out over time, I couldn’t do much of anything.  Life gave me lemons, so I made lemonade.

Yeah, but I hate lemonade.

Fair enough.  Now that my skills have developed, I can make quests.  I can have the player involved in the narrative.  The question is whether I should go back and make alterations. Yet those conversations all have a distinct flow, from A to B to C, and interrupting them would mangle the dialogue.  For instance, Zora‘s story with her sister is something I considered moving to the inn or some other location, to use space as a substitute for time. Yet all the other dialogue that was built upon that limitation, the assumption that story was already told, would seem out of place.  That isn’t to say these things can’t be addressed, but they will have to be done with care.

For other characters like Wander-Lust, I think they’re much better as they are – living, breathing storybooks – and if a book is interesting enough, I’ve found many players don’t mind reading it cover to cover.  Moreover, some NPCs may not have even been conceived if not for these limitations.  As for the others, I think the best course of action is to do as I did with Zora and Anum-La. To turn the monologues from a period to a comma, to have the player turn the page and write the final chapter.  So when I say the goal is 100 quests, it’s no boast.  Every NPC that has a loose end, or doesn’t work as well as a standalone character, will have a quest, as long as the quality and substance is there.

Lastly, I don’t want this post to imply that criticism, suggestions, and the like is not wanted.  Last I heard, free speech was legal and generally a well-liked concept.  I just want to clarify some of the choices in the mod, and how my programming limitations and the financial/time constraints of all the volunteers has influenced the current product.  I also want to stress that as far as products are concerned, what is there now is by no means a final one.

So send me your feedback, your suggestions, and criticism, and we can debate it.  All I want to do is help you understand why it seems I didn’t see the receiver, even if he was wide open.

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6 thoughts on “Creation Kit – Limitations and Development

  1. It really upsets me when someone talks bad about a voice actor, or a modder. They really have no idea how much time and effort is taken into the smallest parts of mods. They don’t realize that the actors take days of their time to rehearse their lines. They don’t realize that the modder takes literally months out of their time to build a plugin for them… THAT’S FOR FREE!!! If we were getting paid for this, I’d take every criticism to heart. Learn from them, try to do better… But the VA’s and especially the modders simply do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
    In no right do most people have to talk bad about us. The only thing I ask of these commenters is if they want talk about how bad we are, I want to see them do a better job!

  2. You know, sometimes I think the people who make those comments are really just trolls who want nothing more than to spread their own sour unhappiness. That, or, like you said, they’re simply ignorant of the amount of work a massive project like this really takes. Either way, unless the “criticism” is actually warranted, I just ignore the comment and go on my way. I don’t let rude people get to me. I know I’ve done my best with what I have and everyone else is just going to have to deal. I find that this mindset makes life so much easier for me.

    Of course, if I ever get a better microphone, I will probably re-record at least some of the characters I voiced, simply because my OCD would force me to. *shrug*

  3. I really rather enjoy the mod and its myriad characters. My only minor complaint is a sense that you don’t know whose personal problems lead to gameplay (IE “quests”) and whose are simply well-written dialogues.

    Fironet, for instance, has a wonderful, contained story about her trepidation and her desire to become more. However, this does not dovetail into a magical happy story wherein the Dragonborn swoops in from the sky and forces Pantea to just give the girl a chance. Nor am I insisting it should be. Simple immersion and “real” people are fine. I just feel like I would prefer some form of tip-off on what leads to further content.

    1. That’s intentional, because remember, I had no idea if a scripter would come along. So when I crafted the stories, you’ll find many of the NPCs have conflicts that can either be resolved by the Dragonborn or simply be an unfortunate part of life. This gives me some flexibility going forward should the actor bow out. Eventually, when all the quests are finished, you’ll know which ones involve the player as the journal will update.

      And yes, one of the things I don’t want is a world where a magical chosen one solves everyone’s problems. Zora‘s scars, for instance, are something that will not be healed. Even quests that are completed may result in the NPC’s personal failure, or have consequences that are unintended, as with a pair of the new quests. You might succeed in getting Fironet the audition, for example, but that doesn’t guarantee she’ll be accepted, and that’s where the suspense comes in. If every problem is one that can be solved, then there’s no drama in solving it.

  4. I agree with Kris. Also part of the experience is not to just look for problems to solve, but to hear about one’s life. That in itself can be fascinating. It’s like reading a book. You have no input, but yet you are entertained and fascinated by a life-story. So in the end, it’s better that you DON’T know which characters will lead to a quest.

    Kris, I probably just don’t have the patience to find where you might have a link or article about volunteers for actors on this site, so I’m just asking you here, are you looking for any? And if there are some things you require or need information about actors, what are they, or where can I go to know what they are?

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