On Bretons and Giants

Some characters in the mod are symmetrical. Gorr, for instance, is for the most part a classic brute. He doesn’t think, he acts. His arms look like two anacondas swallowed a rack of bowling balls. His stomach is built like a cello, with its heavy, earthen laugh. The warhammer on his back isn’t designed to make peace, just leave you in pieces. Don’t fuck with Gorr, is what I’m saying.

Still, I can’t help but add a few softer touches. He’s sensitive to the plight of the mudcrab, and hypersensitive about his stew. The larger projection – the size, the strength, the personality – attempt to characterize Gorr, while the smaller strokes – the warmth, the sensitivity – are there to humanize him.

I’m a sucker for that sort of juxtaposition, characters who embody all the things we expect and yet still find ways to surprise us. It reminds me of Spencer Murphy’s photo of Katie Walsh. In spite of the mud-stained uniform and battle-worn stare there’s something bright about this photo, something inscrutably feminine. Which is surprising given we aren’t shown any cleavage.

So it’s not exactly strange to me that one of my favorite lines in the mod has nothing to do with NPCs of the interesting variety. It’s about a vanilla Breton whom I first mistook for the leader of a swarthy group of pirates, the de facto Captain of the Red Wave. She even had a cool fucking name. Her name was Sabine Nytte.

She was shorter by half, but stood taller than all. She was a giant.

For me, Sabine as a character mirrors the compromise open world games have to make. Vanilla NPCs are an outline, just detailed enough to provide an illusion of depth. Engaging them is like reading a book where half the lines are redacted. It’s not that players don’t have the imagination to fill in the blanks, it’s that they shouldn’t have to. So, to help rectify this, what mod NPCs like Salty-Throat do is add depth in a way that is true to the vanilla character. By telling Sabine’s story and that of the Red Wave, he makes them all a little more interesting.

That isn’t an indictment of Bethesda. Ironically, their resources are far more limited in this respect than a mod author’s, for one simple reason – they can’t use volunteers. Like Sabine and Gorr and dirty Katie Walsh, it makes for an intriguing juxtaposition. If you compare the budget of Interesting NPCs to that of a DLC, it isn’t shorter than just half. It’s exponentially smaller. Yet it’s because the actors and composers have been generous enough to donate their time that the end result is what it is.

All of this I suppose is just another excuse to thank the people involved in this project. Their resumes may be small and their credits may lack stature – but when you look at what they’ve accomplished – it’s hard to say they’re anything but Giants.

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3 thoughts on “On Bretons and Giants

  1. Same strikes me as true of the guy in Dawnstar, think he was a Dunmer? Who’s on the ship with the wimpy captain. Really added depth to all the members of that boat and made me feel really sorry for the wimpy captain with his uber aggressive mother and shifty crew – npc’s I couldn’t care less about the first time around.

    Anyway I continue to be astounded by this mod, from the singers, the companions and Ingarte, omg Ingarte, I laughed so hard.

    And I reckon I’ve experienced maybe 20% of the whole thing if that… Really enjoyed Pit Dogs and Anum-la’s quest, they’re the only proper ones I’ve played so far.

    Currently travelling with Zora again! I was just about to start her quest on my last play-through and my game blew up (my own fault though). Zora is one of my favourite voices in the whole game :) I’m sure I heard her in Falskaar on an shopkeeper :o.

    Uhm I could write pages about the awesomeness but it just gets weird after awhile but yeah this mod keeps Skyrim worth playing for me :) I actually feel attached to some of your creations, that’s a great achievement imo!

    It’s like a mini game… I don’t want to stop playing Skyrim until I find and speak to every damn interesting npc :D

  2. It is a rare thing to find someone creative and motivated that understands the complexity of a true role-playing game’s purpose. Especially in this day in age where if a person has to read more than a few words to progress through a scene they become completely unreasonable and refuse to continue playing. RPGs these days are more about fancy graphics and raising the difficulty of mob grinding. I can really only name 1 game that has come out in the last 3 years that had much depth of storyline and content worth raising a true emotion over and Skyrim is definitely not in that category.

    I think what most ppl misunderstand about rpgs is that it is not about the quests, or monsters that are guarding a treasure or gaining achievements but it is about transforming your imagination into a realm where you actually feel the sting of the sword into your flesh and your heart swells at the opportunity to save those NPC’s who have captured your soul through their story along the way. When I am playing these games I want to have a purpose for what I am doing. If I spend days trying to complete a quest I want the outcome to have meaning along with serious ramifications (positive or negative) and emotional rewards at the end. If I save a village I want the village to recognize that fact instead of forgetting who I am two seconds after the Completed tag appears in my journal.

    The Interesting NPC’s mod has given Skyrim depth, passion and soul that it previously only alluded to slightly. The characters that you have created have purpose, direction, compassion and as a player you are driven to find out as much as you can about their lives. And you did all of this without a $12 million dollar budget. Granted a lot of it was made possible because ppl with the same drive and passion volunteered to help out with the project but that in itself is a major testament of what I am talking about. You had ppl wanting to volunteer their time because you had a great story to tell and it inspired others to want to be a part of the project. What these big game developer companies do not realize is that if they would go back to the basics by concentrating on the story being told and building the world as they tell the story instead of focusing on the world first or how they are going to exploit the game through marketing plushies, app spin off games, and how much money they can generate before their customers figure out what a slipshod game they have created, they would have something of excellent quality and popularity as well.

    You have proven what most of us have been telling these game developers for years now with this mod. Depth and storytelling is way more important, more cost effective and more marketable than an action figure for a shell of a world.

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