Trailers and Teasers – Orondil

Jay33721 was one of the first actors to sign up for the mod, and by far one of the most diligent. Unfortunately, a lot of his early work did have some audio quality issues, and we’ve often discussed going back to them once he could got his hands on a new mic. Well, that day has finally arrived. Now the man is going to lock himself in the lab and start re-taking his lines. All of them.

As an added bonus, this also provides an opportunity to modernize Orondil‘s dialogue tree, so there’s more role play options, more conditioned dialogue (when I first made the NPC, I didn’t even know how to check if the Stormcloaks had taken over), and more bookmarks. You can stop by for a chat or have an extended conversation, but the choice is yours.

The one thing I couldn’t do was take into account NPCs added by other mods, simply because him being abandoned is central to his story and the Way of the Nine quest. I did try to make the player questions somewhat vague to allow for less immersion breaking dialogue in the event those mods are activated.

In any event, v3.04 should be on track for some major upgrades to old NPCs, as well as a couple new quests, and Meresine fully voiced. With the holidays, it might take longer than expected for the recordings to get done, but I plan on waiting for at least Meresine’s lines before uploading the new version.

Character Profile – Fironet

If the mod had a stomach, it would undoubtedly be Gorr.  Zora would be its heart, and Qa’Dojo would be its mind.   If the mod had a soul, however, it wouldn’t be any of its signature characters.  It would be a quiet, stuttering girl roaming the empty halls of the Winking Skeever, begging for a chance to be heard.  Asteria may be its lungs and Gnives its toes, but Fironet will always be its soul.

Fironet is life imitating art, and art imitating life.  She was inspired by some of the early auditions I received for other characters – every stuttering, uncomfortable person wanting a chance – partially annoyed with the sound of their own voice.  Fironet is performed by an actor, alienslikechocolate, who had never voiced a character before.  Fironet’s song is the one bard tune that is unoriginal, which Jay33721 tirelessly constructed without having the musical background of Giramor or Arisen1.   Fironet embodies everything about the mod’s infant stages, and perhaps modding projects in general.  Made by amateurs, but made with passion.

That’s what we all are, until someone with money says otherwise.  Amateurs.  Dream chasers.  They say this generation more than any other is obsessed with celebrity.  And why not?  I imagine being a celebrity is awesome.  Yet I suspect it has nothing to do with a generational shift or a rewiring of the universal consciousness.  More people chase fame for one simple reason.  Fame is no longer whizzing away in a high powered Italian automobile.  Fame is overweight, has cheetos on his breath and is riding a segway.  In the past, the amount of talent, opportunity, and dumb luck required to make it was astronomical.  Today, becoming a celebrity, even a temporary one, doesn’t seem so unrealistic.  Fame is accessible.  Fame can be caught.

Like Fironet, many of us aren’t sprinting after it.  We aren’t buying new sneakers and training every day to shorten the gap.  It’s just there, in front of us, so we might as well reach for it. And when our fingers sort of scrape at its back, some of us may get enough courage to jog.

Perhaps some of Fironet’s aspirations were my own, as well as every actor, writer, or sound guy who auditioned for this mod.  Still, even with the mod’s limited success, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I couldn’t go to a restaurant and demand their finest table, no matter how many times I showed the maître d’ a printout of my Nexus page.  Listen Pierre, I am someone important.  What do you mean you’ve never heard of Interesting NPCs?  Do you even Google?  

That is to say, if I didn’t believe this was something of substance, I would have quit the day the police dragged me out of that restaurant.   While celebrity and substance are not mutually exclusive, few ever achieve both.  Most learn to stomach having one without the other.

If she had to choose one, Fironet would choose substance.  For someone as demure as she is, achieving fame without recognition would be an interminable nightmare.  Her biggest fear is that she’s just good enough to get attention, and just bad enough to embarrass herself.  Yet with every endorsement, her voice gets a little crisper, a little louder, to the point it begs to be heard, even if she isn’t a fan of her own voice.

Character Profile – Sadrin Reloro

Sadrin Being a Creeper

At times, I hesitate to write about my motivations because I worry about what sort of influence it has on how the NPCs are perceived.  I hate watching movies with well known celebrities because it’s impossible for me to divorce the person from the role they are portraying.  And when I describe said movie to others, I will invariably refer to the protagonist as “Celebrity X’s character” as opposed to the character’s name, because I can’t for the life of me remember what it is.

Similarly, when writers craft things that are personal or related to their own history, or in my case, often motivated by things that are completely unrelated to anything, it’s difficult as a reader to distance one from the other. Jadro’Ra, for instance, is a character that was inspired by adolescence, cliques and the social hierarchy.  You know, mean girls, popularity contests, and sitting at the cool kids table. Nerds and jocks, beggars and mages, and everyone in between.

Now what if I told you Jadro’Ra’s story was inspired by more than some common experience, but rather a deeply personal and hilariously embarrassing event.  Suppose I said I wrote Jadro’Ra because I was a male cheerleader who was constantly beat up by the captain of the football team.  Later on, I took up ping pong, earned a scholarship to some esteemed Ping Pong university and subsequently shunned all my former male cheerleader friends.  Immediately, your perception of Jadro’Ra would be ruined by this cringe worthy revelation.  I might have ruined it just now.  It would be impossible to take his story seriously knowing its ridiculously comical provenance.

This is why I typically choose character profiles that enhance the reader’s understanding of the NPC rather than twist your perception of them.  However, in some cases, inspiration and understanding are not mutually exclusive, which brings us to the origin of one Sadrin Reloro. You see, Sadrin’s inspiration mirrors his character.  To put it simply, he was born out of my frustration for not being able to bed Haelga.

The funny part is, I don’t find Haelga all that attractive.  She’s a bit manly.  She has a jaw and a frame that would make her an excellent starting linebacker for the Chicago Bears.  Yet as a sworn pervert, I am not the sort of person to let looks, personality, or an assortment of diseases come between me and sexy time.  So when Haelga, who was by all indications a loose woman, not only refused to bed the Dragonborn, but appeared downright hostile toward him, I was rather disappointed.  Clearly, such behavior was not lore friendly.

Obviously, when creating a video game, there’s a difference between what’s lore friendly and what’s consumer friendly.  In the mod, every time I want to make a reference to genitalia, I have to divine exactly what four letter words Bethesda left out in order to offend less people.  Whether it’s movie stars or pixelated sex acts, the outside world is always influencing and altering the world within.  So if you want to know who it was that really made Sadrin, you need only look to your government laws on censorship.

As for me, I am reminded of that very first day in Riften, and the subsequent frustration that followed.  When I look at that NPC, what I see is my very first character, so much so that I often forget his name.

Character Profile – Relic

When Jay33721 approached me with an idea for a droid powered by a black soul gem, I had my doubts. Not in the validity of the idea, the authenticity of the voice or any other of the eleven flavors of awesome he provided, but it needed a writer to make it an even dozen. I didn’t know jack shit about computers. When a voice actor’s computer got stricken with a virus, I told her to stick a Tylenol in the USB slot and check its temperature in the morning.

Fortunately, about a week later Roarian was getting involved in doing some scripting for the mod. As a programmer with enough fanfiction to build a bridge to Mars, it seemed like a good match, and it was. When I got the script, I realized just how much my pathetic modding skills were limiting my NPCs. At the time, I didn’t even know how to condition for race, and Roarian was accounting for race, sex, class, and what color tunic the player liked to wear on Loredas mornings.

Not to mention as a programmer, Roarian could involve the player in ways my monkey brain could only dream of. With Relic, Roarian was able to devise a quest that centered around  three separate personalities – good, evil, and damaged. Taking this idea further, Jay used his editing skills to make three separate voice types, with the damaged one stuttering to emphasize its brokenness. Moreover, the player’s ability to use Dwarven smithing would factor into the result, as well as the player’s moral alignment. Yet the most brilliant aspect Roarian included was adding the Briarheart script to Relic’s soul gem, which meant stealing it would strip it of its very life force.  When I tested it and the droid crumbled to the floor, I had to pinch myself to keep from squealing like a little girl.

As an editor, most of the script was beyond my knowledge, and that’s a good thing.  Subroutines? I don’t even know what a subroutine is. I diversified some of the player questions, but for the most part left everything as is. The one thing I did feel needed to be changed, however, was a single word.

Meatbag.

Roarian included it as an homage to the great HK-47. Although I had some concern that people would consider Relic an imitation, given our droid had 3 distinct personalities, any argument that the two were identical would be specious. My larger concern was with the term “meatbag” itself. After all, when HK-47 used the term repeatedly, he didn’t sound like a droid, at least not to me. He sounded like a human being pretending to be a droid.  That distinction is important.

Human beings are very visual people. Outwardly, all we see is the flesh and flab. That’s why we think a robot would mock our inherent softness, our distinct lack of metal. Except there’s one problem with that. The actual composition of human beings is roughly about 60-70% water. Not flesh, not fat, but water. A robot would not look at the math and call us bags of meat. A real robot would not make such a terrible miscalculation.

Hence, Relic wouldn’t either.  Roarian made the slight alteration, and with that, our metal maybe-monster was born.

Meet the Actor – Jay33721

Jay was one of the early contributors to the mod, and has probably recorded more lines and worn more hats than just about anyone.  He provides unique voices, ideas for characters, and the occasional interesting anecdote.  In short, the dude wears a lot of hats.  Where does he find all these hats?  Surely not at the hat store.  That place is a wreck.

However, I would say that for all his headgear and versatility, what makes Jay truly unique is his dependability.  You may notice Rumarin and Dagri’lon always have their lines updated.  That’s because I can dump 1000 lines in Jay’s inbox and I know they will all be voiced by morning.  Such is his appetite for voice work.  I am convinced he is part dragon.  He even had time in his busy schedule flying about the neighborhood and chatting with Aela to answer a few questions.

You were the inspiration for a lot of abnormal characters.  Dagri’lon, Relic, Iorel, Averna, Fjona’s Familiar. Do you enjoy bizarre NPCs like robots, ghosts and the undead?
Oh, yes! Very much so. I guess I’m just a sucker for the strange and fantastical. I like to escape into an alternate reality whenever I play games, and weird and wonderful NPCs just sweeten the pot for me. Now that I think about it, this was probably all started by the follower Shale, from Dragon Age. She’s awesome.

As one of the early contributors, how did you find the mod?
Honestly, I can’t remember all that well. I think I was searching the Nexus for some or other NPC mod, and it popped up as a result. Naturally, it piqued my curiosity, and, well, I thought it was an awesome idea. Turns out I was right!

What sort of character do you like to play?
I like two types of character builds: Spellsword, where I usually go around wielding a one-handed weapon in one hand (No! Really? Heehee) and a destruction spell in the other. Something explosive, preferably. The other build is your average overpowered tank. Two-handed weapon, heavy armour, protection amulets – the works.

My favourite race is Nord. I don’t know why, but they’re the only ones I can get to look pretty enough for my tastes. My second favourite is the Altmer. They’re just so… regal.

My playing style is mostly questing. I get as many quests as I can, completing them as I go. Occasionally, when that gets repetitive, I’ll go exploring, accidentally getting myself killed about a hundred times along the way.

I am most definitely a hoarder. My carry weight is usually the first thing to be enhanced by an enchantment and my homes are always filled up with useless crap!

Do you have a favorite character in the mod?
My favourite character of the ones I voiced has to be Rumarin. His happy-go-lucky attitude and twisted sense of humour are just priceless.

From the others, I’d have to say it’s a tie between Zora and Ingarte. Zora, because she’s so terribly cute and deliciously tortured. Ingarte because, well, she’s a salty wench!

Did you try repairing Relic?  How did it go?
Yes, I did try. I ended up breaking him. So I reloaded an earlier save and vowed to come back with a higher Smithing skill. When I finally got around to doing that, I decided to sabotage him, simply because of the hilariousness of the bad personality.

What in the world is a 33721?
They’re my favourite numbers. 3 (twice, because I like it so much), 7 and 21.

Do you have a favorite alchemy ingredient?
I really don’t use Alchemy that often, but if I had to choose, I’d say the Daedra Heart. It’s just so… Eeeeeevil.

Would you rather have a potato for a hand or a watermelon for a foot?
Hmmm… Tough choice! I do like potatoes, but having one for a hand would mean I couldn’t play PC games anymore. Plus, I’d want to dunk it in boiling oil and eat it. A watermelon foot, on the other hand (LOL, pun), probably wouldn’t bother me that much. I’d still sort of be able to walk, and I sit most of the time, anyway. Also, I don’t really like watermelon, so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat it!

What are your favorite video games?
All of the Elder Scrolls games, of course! Then there’s the Mass Effect Trilogy, the Dragon Age games, Portal and Portal 2, and The Sims 3.

Is Pluto a planet?
It’s a dwarf planet. Science says it is so, and I trust science. Plus, it makes our Solar System a bit more interesting that way.

Explain the various vocal effects you use in your roles.
Well, Relic and Dagri’Lon are both results of this neat little voice changer program I found online. I used some of their default effects, with a few tweaks here and there. Relic’s effect is called “Droid” and Dagri’Lon’s is called “Hell Demon” (Eesh!)

For Averna and Fjona’s Familiar, I basically just winged it on Audacity.

Averna’s went like this: I recorded the lines, then duplicated the track. The original track got a pitch change to make it sound more feminine, and the duplicate got pitched a bit lower, causing a sort of double-voice creepy thing. Then I merged the tracks and reversed the audio, added an echo, and reversed the audio again, causing a backwards echo.

Fjona’s Familiar also got the reverse echo, but only after I added a background effect to make it sound like he’s talking from the void.

What kind of mic do you use and what difficulties did you run into making your recording environment?
I use an ordinary desktop microphone with a sock pulled over it. The sock helps improve sound quality, and I meticulously edit anything I record to get it to sound better.

By far the most irritating thing about my recording environment is the whine from my computer. No matter what I do, that sound is always in the recordings. So, I use a whole heck of a lot of noise removal to get that cut out.

Another factor is random noise from outside. Cars driving past, airplanes overhead, the neighbours’ kids screaming, dogs barking… So I just close my windows and door, and hope for the best.

What has been the most challenging character to do?  Easiest?
The hardest one for me was probably Skjel. After a while of recording him, my voice was like “Dude! I don’t bend that way!” Of course, after a short break and a quick cigarette, it would be fine again, and I would go on.

The easiest character, I’d have to say, is Rumarin. I use my natural voice, my natural accent, and his use of language is easy to read fluently. Dagri’Lon is easy, too, since I can talk normally, and the voice changer does most of the work.

What do you do in your spare time?
I read a lot, play PC games, watch my favourite shows on TV, surf the web. I also like to cook, and I do tend to sleep a lot.

Who is your favorite vanilla NPC?
That is a tough question. I haven’t thought about it a whole lot, but off the top of my head, I’d say Sheogorath is my favourite. He’s just awesome.

Stormcloaks or Imperials?  Paarthunax or the Blades?  Wine or Mead?  Sweet rolls or apple pies?
Imperials. I know, a lot of people don’t like them, but there’s just something about Ulfric that makes me want to kill him. Besides, the Imperials are all organised and very together. The Stormcloaks are kind of messy.

Paarthurnax. He’s always been nice to me, and I think it’s racist of the Blades to want me to kill him just because he’s a dragon.

You expect me to choose between Wine and Mead? Why can’t we have both? I like wine, though only on certain occasions. Mead (beer) is my go-to drink whenever I go to a bar or pub.

Apple pie, of course! Delicious, warm cinnamonny apple pieces and raisins drenched in a sweet syrup, all wrapped up in pie crust? Who can resist that?! Besides, I’m not exactly clear on what a sweetroll is…