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Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Posted by Sixen Nov 24, 2011 at 21:33 UTC

Happy Thanksgiving to those that celebrate it, enjoy the time with your friends and families, and be safe on Black Friday. Enjoy!

  1. 13 comments

Curse Skyrim Challenge Update and Modder Interviews!

Posted by wishfire Nov 29, 2011 at 23:57 UTC

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We at Curse are proud to announce that our Skyrim modding community based on SkyrimForge.com is growing strong!

We have over 60 mods available for download on our Skyrim mod portal and many more being planned for development once the creation kit is released. We've already given out $5,170 to the creative and hard working authors participating in our Skyrim $15k Modding Challenge! That means there's still almost $7,000 just waiting to be claimed by authors who are up to the task, plus the chance of winning the $3,000 grand prize.

If you're interested in participating, head over to SkyrimForge.com and start uploading. Any mod that is uploaded before January 31st, whether it qualifies as one of the first 35 mods uploaded for that category or not, is eligible to win the grand prize!

Also, keep an eye on SkyrimForge.com for more information on Skyrim Curse client integration! The feature is about to head into closed beta testing and there will be more news soon.


 

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Below we have two interviews from two different perspectives of the mod author community!  

Nickoli002 has already submitted numerous retextures such as his Glass Weapon Set Recolor, and the removal of the Ebony armor smoke effect.  Kenneywings has become known for Lockpick Pro, a mod that allows you to pick locks with ease, and his Bethesda intro skip.  

Both are talented modders who have provided some insight into modding without a toolkit!

<div> <div>Has it been difficult for you to mod without the toolkit?</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>Nickoli002: Only to a certain extent. I have had to put some of my mods on hold since I cannot access the relevant files and have instead decided to do simple retextures/reskins of models in game. This is because it is very easy to access and identify the relevant files based on the item names and it requires relatively little knowledge to recolor/skin them for release.</div> <div>
</div> <div>KenneyWings: Difficult - no. It's a lot of work get everything working since you're basically 'hacking' into the games resource files so you're bound to miss files or classes to work with. I just had the right tools to work with (I'm a Flash game developer/designer) and that helped the process get along without any hitches.</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>Nickolo002, can you explain how you've been creating such high-quality textures? For example, your glass weapon recolors not only have tons of detail, but also fit in the world perfectly.</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>nickoli002: They are simply of the same quality of the originals, the creators did a great job with this game, and it shows in the model quality. Compared to them, I am merely coloring them with crayons! But I do extensive checking in game to make sure all of the model colors fit together, that there is no odd discoloration or errors. I also switch genders (via the “sexchange” command in console) in game to make sure that they work and fit on both male and female characters.</div> <div> <div> <div>
</div> <div>Can you explain how you are finding the individual texture files, and applying your new textures?</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>nickoli002: Well the first step is to identify what model you want. Once that is done I use FOMM (Fallout Mod Manager) to browse the .bsa files located in the Skryim folder. Weapon and Armor models (as well as all textures) are located in the Skyrim – Textures.bsa. So once I identify which .bsa I want to extract files from, I open in it FOMM and browse to find the item I want. This is done by either searching by name or simply browsing the categories on the left.</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>Once I find the relevant texture file I export it to a folder of my choosing. From there I open the .dds files in Photoshop with nvidia's DDS plugin. From there it is easy to modify the .dds file as with any image file. For the most part I am simply masking off each layer of detail that I want in Photoshop then overlaying custom color schemes, applying brightness/contrast, and change hues, etc. as desired.</div> <div> </div> <div>Once I achieve something I find decent I save the file as new .dds file, as well as creating new mipmaps in the process. Then I create the required folder structure within the Skyrim install directory and drop my new model there. Once the game is loaded, my new file is loaded instead of the one within the game and voila, you see the new color/model/etc. Then it is just back and forth between Photoshop and Skyrim to check model consistency, color, errors, etc.</div> </div> </div> <div> <div> <div>
</div> <div>And Kenneywings, can you explain how you've been interlacing your mods so seamlessly with the UI? Design-wise, your "Display time on loading screen mod" is integrated so well by design.</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>KenneyWings: Well as I said, I'm a designer myself and over the course of years I've designed numerous of game interfaces so it wasn't a problem for me to take the Skyrim UI style and add onto it.</div> </div> </div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div> <div> <div>Can you explain how you are finding things like the algorithms for your mod "Lockpick Pro"?</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>KenneyWings: While browsing the files I found that the data for the mod was in the game. I re-added in into the game and made sure it fit well with the rest of the UI.</div> </div> </div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>For returning modders, do you believe Archive Invalidation is going to be needed as with past Bethesda games?</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>nickoli002: We will have to see if it is an issue as with past games. I don't know if they have fixed it or not, but since they never did with Oblivion (to my knowledge) I expect it will be needed.</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>Do you have any advice for modders who can't wait for the toolkit, and want to start modding now?</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>nickoli002: Sure. The biggest piece of advice I can come up with is to just get started on something. It's relatively easy, fun, and there are many tutorials on how to do it. If you need help there are many great places to start and it's never to late to learn. Obviously without the toolkit there are limitations but learning how to do modding, recoloring, and creating your own things is a fun trip, and very satisfying.</div> <div> </div> <div>KenneyWings: Unless you've had previous knowledge of Flash you might not want to start with modding the UI. Start with textures, sounds or data/strings. Those are all packed neatly in the game files and can be exchanged and altered without problems.</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>Are you planning on going back and revising any of your mods once the toolkit is released?</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>nickoli002: Oh yes, most if not all of them. I plan to make all of them separate entities and not just reskins (though I will leave the reskin versions of course). This is because some of the items have bad stats but look amazing, and I want people to wear items they like and not sacrifice game playability.</div> <div> </div> <div> <div> <div>KenneyWings: Depends on what the toolkit includes, I don't think it will include data or source files to change the UI but if it does I will go back and revise the mods. Data from Bethesda is always better than data I decompiled.</div> </div> <div> <div> </div> </div> <div> <div>My next project is a complete overhaul of the UI, completely made from scratch and not using any Skyrim files. The UI is going to closely resemble the default UI of Skyrim but it'll be tailored to the PC (not gamepads). You can see a preview here. </div> </div> </div> </div>
<div> <div>Thanks so much to KenneyWings and Nickoli002 for chatting with us! </div> <div> </div> <div>Don't forget to check out the latest Skyrim mods on Curse.com and upload your mod to be entered to win the $3,000 grand prize!</div> <div> </div> <div> </div> </div>
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First of three-day mod features, and exciting Curse Skyrim $15k giveaway update!

Posted by wishfire Dec 06, 2011 at 01:42 UTC

Today marks the beginning of a series of mod feature highlights, as well as an important announcement regarding our Curse Skyrim $15,000 giveaway!

Over the course of the next three days, we'll be featuring fantastic mods that not only improve gameplay, but help to immerse you even further in the world of Skyrim. To top it off, we've even got interviews with the authors themselves!

Arrowsmith - Simple Fletching


 

Starting off this week's mod feature is Arrowsmith – Simple Fletching. Mod author Samutz used some serious trial and error to come up with an excellent mod that allows you to create your own arrows at a blacksmithing forge – crafting them in bundles of 50 with the right items – letting your character live off the land.

 

With this mod enabled it feels almost as though fletching shipped with the game, as Samutz took care to make realistic recipes; with some only able to be crafted with proper blacksmithing skill perks or at Whiterun's infamous Skyforge.

 

Read on for some insight on how the mod was created, as well as a tutorial for how to create your own crafting recipes!

How did you create something like this without the toolkit being released?


Samutz<span style="font-weight: normal;">: I used the FallOut Mod Manager's TESsnip tool. With a little bit of tweaking, it can be used with Skyrim's master and plugin files, although with some limitations. After I figured out how to make my own plugin files, a lot of trial and error was needed to figure out what the different things did and how to make them do what I wanted.</span>

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What considerations did you take to keep it balanced to fit the game world?


Samutz<span style="font-weight: normal;">: The first version actually wasn't balanced and mostly a proof of concept release. This was because I was still only a few hours in to the game and hadn't seen the higher level items yet.</span>

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<span style="font-weight: normal;">The second release rebalanced the smithing recipes based on feedback I received from the modding community and based on my experience playing a stealth archer character.</span>

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<span style="font-weight: normal;">Since the second release, weaker arrows require cheaper or easy to find materials, while more powerful arrows require more expensive or rare materials, all while making enough arrows to last you a while so that you're not running back to town to make new arrows often.</span>

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Can you tell us about any mods you have planned for the future?


Samutz<span style="font-weight: normal;">: I don't have any more mods planned. The original idea was for Arrowsmith to be a proof of concept for other modders to expand on. So I released a tutorial on how to make smithing recipes (which you can find here) which other modders have used to make their own mods.</span>

Skyrim $15,000 Challenge Update


<span style="font-weight: normal;">Curse has an exciting second announcement to make about the ongoing Skyrim $15,000 challenge!</span>

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<span style="font-weight: normal;">The Items contest category has been the first category to hit the 35 submission limit! All this means is that we've given out our prize pool for the "Items" subsection of the contest. Any mods that are submitted that would fall under this category will no longer be eligible to earn the prize amounts listed on our Skyrim contest chart.</span>

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<span style="font-weight: normal;">That doesn't mean that you're entirely out of luck, however! </span>If the mod submitted would have been an eligible submission, it will be entered in our $3,000 grand prize giveaway<span style="font-weight: normal;"> so long as it's submitted before our deadline, January 31st.</span>

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<span style="font-weight: normal;">Keep those mods coming! We're excited to have already given out that much cash to authors. Thanks to all of you for sharing your hard work and creativity with us!</span>

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Mod Feature Highlight - Day 2

Posted by wishfire Dec 06, 2011 at 21:37 UTC

In this second day of mod feature highlights for Skyrim, we’ll be featuring a wonderful compilation package of mods from a hard-working author who truly loves what she does.  Just like yesterday, we also managed to snag a rather informative interview to gain further insight into just what work goes into these sorts of mods.

If you missed yesterday’s feature highlight and interview, you can catch up here!

Cooking Recipe Bundle

 

Skyrimforge author Wolferoo decided that while the new food recipes and cooking skill in Skyrim were a wonderful additions, they just weren't refined enough.  In fact, the idea for the mod came to her as she was forced to use console commands to obtain items like Baked Potatoes, which were oddly enough in the game, but had no cooking recipe.

Enter the gigantic, often-updated mod by the name of Cooking Recipe Bundle – a compilation of all the cooking mods Wolferoo had released at that point – adding over 60 new recipes, almost 50 entirely new items, and a super refined cooking experience.  Skills and short-term food buffs were added, allowing for even more food options.  Taking this customization even further is the existence of four separate files, so users can get exactly what they want.

Below, Wolferoo shares her thoughts and goals with the project from creation to execution.

What considerations did you have to try to keep the new recipes and the edits balanced to the original ones from the game?

Wolferoo:  My goal was for resulting items to have similar quality to existing items, and scaled to the ease of acquisition. I can best explain this through examples...

-Baked potatoes was the first recipe I added.  Cooking the base potato into the baked potato gave an increase in quality from 1 HP to 5 HP for the work of carrying the potato to a cook pot.  The quality increase was small but so was the effort required.

-Cheesy bread results in a greater difference between ingredient quality and product quality, but takes a little more effort on behalf of the player.  He must find two different ingredients, and possibly use recipes to cut the cheese into wedges before using them.  Also when compared to other items of similar purpose, it is not overpowered.  Its strength is equal to a standard quality restore health potion from an alchemy shop, or something an intermediate level alchemy character could produce.

-Draugr Porridge and a few others provide long term but fairly weak buffs, and require collecting several ingredients from various sources.  I felt the difficulty in acquiring ingredients countered the long duration, and it would be too overpowered to have a strong buff with a long duration under any circumstance.  As far as what enhancements to group together, I took inspiration from WoW on this one.  The foods in this set are loosely based on classes, with the melee skills accompanied by stamina regeneration and the caster skills accompanied by majicka regeneration.

-Poached Warbler Egg and a dozen others were designed as an alchemy alternative.  The ingredients are based on the ingredients' effects for potions.  However the quantity required is greater than the two needed for creating a potion because there is no skill needed to create these items which have a greater quality than what a novice alchemist could create.  Some characters may not want to learn alchemy, but want something more satisfying than buying buff potions from an NPC.

What methods did you use to add all these recipes?  Was it difficult?

Wolferoo: I made the recipes using TESsnip. I got started by taking about two hours to go through a tutorial by Samutz on using TESsnip and trying out my own ideas for items to combine. Once I understood the pattern, which variables meant inputs outputs and quantities, making the mod was easy. I explored more of the data inside TESsnip and looked at what other modders were creating to get ideas for things I could make myself using the same patterns. Learning where spell IDs and variables were stored really opened up the possibilities because then I could put any buff on any item I created with whatever duration and strength I chose.

I have a background in programming, so understanding byte fields and how variables interact was simple for me.  But a lack of prior experience doesn't need to scare off anyone interested in doing mods. If you have the patience to walk through the steps, learning about one field at a time, you can figure out how to change things too. And once the CK comes out, these modifications will have a much easier interface.

I'd estimate the time spent on the pack at about 8 hours, but it's hard to say because I expanded it in several stages.  The learning curve is steep at first but once you've created a new item and a new recipe, most of the pain is over. 

If you're interested in making recipe mods, or changing the attributes of items, open up a mod in TESsnip and poke around. Read what others have done both in the .esp or in their words on forum posts.  And don't be afraid to ask questions.  I'll gladly answer any PMs about where to find certain data I've manipulated and I'm sure there are other modders out there willing to help too.

Can you tell us about any mods you have planned for the future?

Wolferoo:  My latest addition to the recipe package was the ability to refine sugar from honey, and then use the sugar as an ingredient.  I plan to add flour in my next update, and then many recipes involving flour, sugar, and eggs.  I would like to also add milk, perhaps sold by a farmer NPC, but I may wait until the Creation Kit for this addition. Depends on how ambitious I get, and how long until the CK is out.

Be sure to keep an eye out for updates from this author, as well as our next and final mod feature highlight and interview for this week tomorrow!

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Mod Feature Highlight - Day 3

Posted by wishfire Dec 07, 2011 at 23:47 UTC

For the last day of our three day mod feature, we take a look at a texture mod that seeks to make Skyrim an even more beautiful place by improving one of the most important aspects of the game – the people of Skyrim themselves.  Just like the previous days, we were lucky enough to get an interview with this author to understand the process behind its creation.

Be sure to look at both Day 1 and Day 2 of our feature as well to get caught up if you haven’t already!

Detailed Bodies

Be sure to click the above image for a higher resolution one, as it’s difficult to see just how much of a difference it makes in the thumbnail!

Xenius01 – normally known as just ‘Xenius’ – is no stranger to the modding community, having created quite a number of well-respected character and race mods for Oblivion.  Skyrim is no exception for this author, as he has already pushed out texture replacements for just about all features of the various races of Tamriel.  Even more impressive is that they are all meant to work together, making truly seamless and complete textures become a reality.

Detailed Bodies takes all non-beast races (although he’s got a mod for that, too!) and their vanilla textures, and then goes and doubles them.  Specular maps got a rework too, making these textures look as high-res as they actually are.  This means that bodies are smoother, more detailed, and all the blockiness (and most of the artifacts) have been removed.

Below are Xenius01’s thoughts on the creation process and the ideas behind his work.

How much work goes into making the vanilla textures higher res?

Xenius01: For me it didn’t take that much time, since modding and creating textures is nothing new to me. For Oblivion I’ve made a lot of custom races which mostly involved creating unique skin textures. Due to that I already had the skills and resources to improve Skyrim’s textures.

It’s hard to say exactly how much time it took as I didn’t count it, I’d say a few hours and that’s without testing and creating updates to improve on it, so all in all it would be a lot more than that.

Also I made this after I created the Detailed Faces mod, so I mostly knew how it would look in the game and how the lighting would affect the textures, which saved time as well. The reason for creating the Detailed Bodies was to make the bodies fit better to the Detailed Faces. The original body textures were already quite high resolution compared to the face textures, so that was not the most important reason for doing this.

In your opinion, what’s the most difficult aspect of Skyrim to retexture?

Xenius01: I mostly focus on character design and custom races. For me the most difficult aspect to improve would be the game world: architecture, landscape, plants, dungeons, and stuff like that. Most modders focus on one specific area (so others may find character design the most difficult), and for me that’s character design, although I’ve done a few other things before like weapons and clothing (textures only).

Can you tell us about any mods you have planned for the future?

Xenius01: I still have to update some of my mods here on SkyrimForge, also I created a compilation consisting of all of my character enhancements, this package will be available soon. It is meant for those who use all of my stuff and to make things easier by only having to download and update one file instead of a bunch of small ones.

Once the Creation Kit is available I also plan to start creating custom races for Skyrim, just like I did for Oblivion.

That does it for this week’s mod feature extravaganza! 

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