3DNPC v2.22 [Beta]

If I am going to utilize a torrent, I might as well drive traffic to the blog.  This is the main version of the mod and an optional version for better compatibility with follower mods.

  • Voiced Quests – The Children Fair
  • New Quests – The Raven of Anvil, Brother and Keeper, and Bards, Beasts and Beauties
  • Voices to Marigoth (Lila Paws), Vaughn (Elijah Lucien), Vinnius (Julian Tierney), and Devran (David Bodtcher)
  • General Bug Fixes – See Discussion on Nexus for Details

This is the Main file. It has a combination of voiced and silent NPCs and over a dozen quests.

Follower Mod Compatible v2.22 Beta 
Followers will work like Vanilla, act like Vanilla, and occasionally, talk like Vanilla. Only the regular dialogue will be chocolate.

UPDATE: Both these files are now available on the Nexus page.  The torrent links have been removed, as it is recommended you use Nexus so people are not forced to seed.


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.

Creation Kit – Writing Quests After the Fact

Anum-La Ambushed by SellswordsOne of the reasons I don’t like the narrative of the Mass Effect Trilogy is because I don’t think it was designed to be one.  While I wasn’t in those early production meetings – I was more likely washing the windows – it seems as if ME1 was a finished product that sold well enough to produce two sequels.  That is to say, there was never a plan to write the story in three segments, just as there was never a plan to write quests for the NPCs in the mod.

Fortunately, I did have enough foresight to consider the possibility that a scripter would arrive, although never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to be me.  The point is, the NPCs have enough loose ends to where tying them makes narrative sense, even if – due to the nature of the game – that narrative is not altogether linear.  In other words, there will be no god babies showing up and telling you to jump into the Matrix.  The quests were parts of the story I always had in mind.

At the same time, I also have no qualms about the majority of NPCs being left as is, because it fits the overall motif of Skyrim – cold and gloom, doom and thu’um.  In fact, the one thing I do not want is to have the player solve every problem and create some sort of twisted suburban utopia where everyone owns sport utility horses and their happiness is completely reliant on your ability to fight, fuss, and fetch.  When making any type of immersion based game, it’s a fine line.  You want to avoid the parts of reality that are dull and tedious, while at the same time not straying too far from reality that it ceases to be real.

Either way, I have my reservations about making such large alterations after the fact.  The struggling writer, Jaspar Gaerston, is a perfect example.  As he is, the character works well as a symbol.  He represents everything that’s depressing about winter.  So while there’s a loose end that needs to be tied(Adonato’s odd critique), it was hard devising a quest for him knowing he would derive some sort of happiness and achievement from it.  Jaspar as a metaphor would cease to exist.  In the end, Jaspar the growing, maturing writer took precedent.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a quest if it turned out Jaspar was some under-appreciated uber-genius that Adonato ignored.  However, I also didn’t want to diminish that original conversation, and how much the inspiration of his Orc muse meant to him.  Thus, when you play the quest, the conflict addresses Jaspar’s confidence and his technical ability as a writer, as opposed to the emotional epiphany and growth he achieved when he met Gromash.  There’s even a line in his older dialogue that hints at how he will improve.  When time travel is invented, I must thank my past self for putting it there on my way to kill Hitler.

With other quests, like Anum-La’s, the difficulty comes in the sheer number of lines Lila Paws has already recorded.  Fashioning a quest for her is like playing reverse Jenga; you’re basically sticking a new block in the middle of the tower in a way you hope contributes to its stability as opposed to toppling it.

Again, it helped that I had a plan, albeit a murky one.  The same is true for Zora, were I to write something that involved her sister.  The fact that much of her random commentary would fit in before or after a hypothetical quest will make it so I don’t have to tear my hair out re-writing or conditioning every line.

However, even if something doesn’t make complete sense, the beauty of the Creation Kit is in the power to condition.   With Anum-La, I made a specific string of dialogue a prerequisite to the entire quest.  Other dialogue can be conditioned in the same way.  In that sense, it isn’t like a Jenga tower at all.  If, while playing the mod, you find a block doesn’t belong on the top of tower, it can be easily moved to the bottom, even after the fact.

Creation Kit – Details

With the NPCs, I can churn them out fairly quickly.  There are only so many details to be parsed through with regard to facial features and inventory.  Most are chosen at random to prevent myself from crafting them based on my own personal tastes, although it’s debatable whether human beings are capable of proper randomizing.

However, as my powers have grown and I’ve started making quests, I’ve learned just how pain in the ass painstaking modding truly is.  There are battles to orchestrate, scenes to direct, and dungeons to build.  All of the sudden you have to consider a whole new world of things.  Music, furniture, AI pathing, to name a few. The amount of work involved makes me wonder if this is the last new location I will ever build, as I will probably die from exhaustion.

It really doesn’t have to be that way.  I could just copy something from another place, and for the most part, that’s exactly what I’ve done.  But the devil is in the details.  Take this picture for example.  I probably spent the better part of an hour(and half of the shitty part too), crafting this stupid bowl.  When I was done with the bowl and done questioning my sexuality, I looked at it like a proud papa and thought, There isn’t a person alive who is going to fucking notice this bowl.  Not one.

This is just the stuff of the self-inflicted variety.  There are just so many ways for even the smallest of cells to get buggy, so many permutations that you can’t possibly account for while testing, that you really have to admire what Bethesda was able to create, albeit with a much larger army and a giant money pit guarded with alligators.

Everywhere, details, details, details.  The decorative ones I put in, the fundamental ones you try not to overlook, and all the types in between.  You have to remember all of them, because one single fuckup can break immersion.  This is why arranging a set of virtual flowers and apples may not necessarily be a waste of time.

I mean, it’s like I tell in Hjoromir in our imaginary conversations.  It’s important to wire yourself a certain way.  If you spend an hour on a stupid bowl of apples, you’ll be that much more meticulous when you make the rest of the quest.  Still, I wish I had a better grasp of when to be lazy, and in exactly which details the devils like to hide.

Creation Kit – On Faces

One thing Bethesda did remarkably well was diversifying Skyrim’s faces.  If during the opening sequence, the guards rounded up Ulfric and his Stormcloaks for an old fashioned police lineup, you would have little trouble distinguishing Ulfric from Ralof or Lokir from the Dragonborn.  Well, maybe you might.  Yet I do think there’s an obvious distinction between NPCs of similar size and race, such as Uthgerd and Mjoll.  And you certainly wouldn’t confuse a demure lady like Ysolda with a strong Nord woman like Olfina Gray-Mane.

Although it’s a stretch to say the faces are memorable, they definitely have a uniqueness when placed side by side.  It’s quite an accomplishment considering the number of NPCs in the game, although some of the results –  *cough* Benor *cough*  – almost make you wonder if they were adjusting the facial sliders at random.

Similarly, the goal was to make the faces in the mod unique, if only upon closer examination.   When I construct a face, I really only have two rules.

1.  Choose mouths, lips, and eyes you haven’t used before.
2.  Do not make them all purty.

The first is easy.  The second, not so much.  Still, it’s important to resist any inclination to make them attractive unless it’s an essential component of their character.  The key is diversity.  Trying to create a world of beautiful people will typical result in a world of clones, because it’s very easy to fall into a subconscious trap of making all the NPCs conform to your standards of beauty.

All that being said, it’s evident I have a problem with #2, but only with women.  Compare, for instance, the sliders on the following two images for Olivia Meronin and Hjoromir.

The slider on her nose is long and high, but many of Skyrim’s nose types tend to be flat.  Her eyes, jaw, and mouth are extremely balanced, and the mouth is actually adjusted to fit better with the contour of her face.  Ultimately, little about her facial features is adventurous, yet I had no problem giving her a fancy shmancy tattoo, cat eyes, and other affectations, so clearly this wasn’t the product of laziness.

Evidently, it seems with Olivia I was hesitant to shift the bars away from the center, despite the fact that appearance factors little into her character.  She’s essentially asexual.  I had no problem going to town on poor Hjoromir, however, whose facial settings look like a small child fiddling with a graphic equalizer.

So it’s an ongoing battle.  The point isn’t to make the NPCs ugly, but rather, to create variation.  And if there’s a few Benors in the bunch, I’ll live with the results.  Lately I have tried to make a stronger emphasis on screwing around with the sliders, especially with females.  After all, It’s better to have a  few neanderthals in the group than a lineup of the usual suspects.

Hello World

This is a blog for the mod Interesting NPCs. The ultimate goal is to have this be a hub of information regarding the mod, with articles on characters, interviews with voice actors, and basically looking under the hood of this product of Dwarven engineering.

You may be curious why it’s in blog form. Curiosity is bad for you and is known to cause cat scratch fever.  However, if you must know, it’s in blog form because I am too cheap to pay for a website.

In all honesty, I do not know if I will have the time to even come up with articles, posts, or pictures to propagate this blog with. I do not know if the actors are willing to subject themselves to my terrible questions, or if that is considered torture by the standards outlined in the Geneva Conventions. We shall see.

In closing, I offer a picture of my current game, as I build dialogue for Zora and the other super friendies. I use Zora because I know everyone loves Zora, and everyone loves her voice actor, the talented Viridiane. If you don’t you probably are an unpleasant person to talk to.