Skyrim Modding Interview – Soolie
This week we’ve Scott Chaunce (aka Soolie). A college student hailing from Tasmania, Scott’s gotten some attention for his popular Tropical Skyrim mod…
What compelled you to create this project? Do you live in a cold weather area and needed a vacation?
I guess I never really ‘decided’ to create this project, it sort of just happened. Before I started work on it, I had always wanted to play through a tropical/desert climate in an Elder Scrolls game. Because I enjoy creating new environments and landscapes, I decided I might have a go at creating a few small tropical islands and deserts just for fun. However, I started to get a little excited about it, and I wanted to see results before I had even started. So, to satisfy the little part of me that just wanted to know what it would look like. I quickly made up a few desert textures and applied them to the tundra area. I then launched the game, turned the grass off and what I saw surprised me.
What I expected to see was simply “Skyrim with sand”, but what I saw didn’t even look like Skyrim anymore. Then out of curiosity I decided to try some more things. I quickly changed the lighting and some more textures. It really was starting to feel like a different game. It was at this point that I realized that I didn’t actually need to create my own new lands to play in a tropical environment. I realized that I already had a brilliant landscape to work with; a landscape that was already populated with NPC’s and towns, all with their own unique quests and dialogue. Despite being full of snow, ice and towering pines; Skyrim had essentially become an empty canvas for me to work on, with the potential for it to become absolutely anything. This is really the point where I decided to create Tropical Skyrim.
As for the second part of the question; it can occasionally get quite chilly in the area I live, but I wouldn’t say that it was a huge influence on my decision to create this mod. However, it’s funny that you mention needing a vacation. I say this because a few months before starting this project I spent some time in Thailand. Actually, now that I think about it, the Thai landscape was probably one of the strongest inspirations for the creation of this project.
Originally I planned on creating the entire project myself. However I came across a number of assets created by other modders that were perfect for Tropical Skyrim. So rather than re-inventing the wheel I decided to use the content created by others (with permission of course). However, I did end up modifying most of this content to fit the tropical atmosphere.
You can find a complete list of people who contributed to the project on Tropical Skyrims download page. Nevertheless the main contributors were:
- Ga-Knomboe Boy, who created most of the trees that were tweaked to fit Tropical Skyrim.
- Tamira, who adapted a number of plants produced by Yughues to be usable in Skyrim.
- Muppetpuppet, who allowed me to use some of assets from his Moonpath mod.
- lookout21, who retextured some of the wild animals for me.
Any plans to continue updates for the mod? If so, can you give us a sneak peak of what you have in store?
YES, I plan to continue updating this mod until I can show it to the most hardcore Skyrim fans without them recognizing a single thing. As of right now I have changed/added the following things since the previous update.
- Windhelm has been retextured to fit the tropical landscape.
- Most of the foliage including trees, bushes and grass has been improved. Rather than the foliage being dense and cluttered, it is now slightly more sparse, but also a greater emphasis has been placed on making it look more tropical and lush.
- The Reach has had a complete makeover; it now features dense cypress trees, which gives it more of a sinister feeling than the other areas.
- A lot of the meshes and textures have been optimized to improve performance.
- Most textures have been modified so that they blend together more realistically.
- New high resolution rock textures.
- The caves have now been tropicalified (Is this even a word??). They are now a lot more green and mossy. Also, some of the larger trees that block off some sections of the caves have been removed.
- The distant trees have been significantly improved, (correct lighting, proper sizes, and they don’t look 2D anymore).
- New high res textures for the distant terrain. In some cases, it looks even better than the close up terrain.
- A lot of ivy and other small plants have been added to the cliffs and mountains.
Before I release the next update I would also I would also like to replace some of the common sets of armor and weapons found within the game. Let’s be honest… thick fur coats aren’t really the most appropriate apparel for the jungle.
I have also added real 3D clouds to the game which react to the weather and time of the day. Adding a whole new layer of depth and immersion to the world (and also creating some truly majestic views from the mountain tops). It definitely suits the snowy version of Skyrim well, but I’m still thinking about whether it would be as appropriate in a tropical climate. Therefore I will most likely release this as a separate mod
What’s your favorite part of using The Creation Kit?
This is quite a tough question because there are so many different aspects of the Creation Kit which I love. It’s also tough because there are some features that I have only briefly looked at, and haven’t had a proper chance to use yet.
Although this doesn’t directly relate to any of the Creation Kit’s features. I would have to say that my favorite part of using the CK would be the moment when I take a step back and just look at what I’ve created. It really is a great feeling when you can take a break, and just look at what you’ve done, and to also feel proud of yourself for persevering throughout all the crashes and the bug fixing. But an even greater feeling is the one you get when you realized that you are creating content that is going to improve the gaming experience for thousands of players.
But to answer your question in terms of functionality. I would have to say that my favorite feature is the region editor. Ironically I haven’t actually used it a lot for Skyrim; however, it appears to be the same as the one in the Construction Set which I did use extensively for Oblivion.
There are a lot of people who are against the idea of using these sorts of tools to create landscapes; because they think that they produce very generic, repetitive and uncreative results.
I completely disagree. I believe that when using these sorts of tools, the results they give you will only ever be as good as the instructions that you give to them. But I suppose that’s the thing I like the most about the region editor, because it means you can create landscapes as complicated or as simple as you want. For example, you can use it to simply scatter rocks and trees around randomly, which in some cases is all you need. On the other hand, by tweaking only a few parameters you can create some very detailed landscapes. The only limit is your imagination.
Another favorite, which I have only just started scratching the surface of, is Papyrus, the Creation Kit’s scripting language. From what I have seen so far, it seems to be a very powerful and flexible language which can be used to achieve almost anything.
What other modding projects have you worked on?
I haven’t actually released that many mods so far, Tropical Skyrim is the only large scale mod I have ever released. I have also released four mods for Oblivion, the largest being Realistic Water. However most of them were only very small mods which only took a small amount of time and effort to create. The only other mods I have ever released were a few mods I did back in 2008 for Empire Earth. They weren’t particularly high quality, but then again I was only 12 at the time.
Although that’s just the mod’s that have been released. I do have quite a few Oblivion projects that have been abandoned for various reasons. The biggest by far would be a total conversion mod I was creating, which featured many unique climates and landscapes; unfortunately I had just finished placing objects in the world when I started to run out of time to work on the project. Because I was only able to spend small amounts of time working on it, I started losing interest and the project was never completed.
Any other user mods you recommend using with this project?
Tropical Skyrim has only been available for about 2 months. So consequently there aren’t a lot of mods available that were designed with a tropical climate in mind. However, there are a few mods I would like to talk about that were originally designed for snowy Skyrim, but also fit in with the tropical climate as well. I also expect that as time progresses we will see a lot more tropical based mods.
The mods I recommend using with Tropical Skyrim are:
Prides of Skyrim – This mod adds prides of lions, tigers and panthers to the world. Each pride lives in their own den which is often filled with the bones of their prey.
SkyBirds – This mod adds thousands of birds to Skyrim. The great thing about this mod is that these birds don’t just fly around aimlessly. They build nests, eat insects, perch on other objects and even fly away when startled. Essentially they behave just like real world birds.
Fantasy Music Overhaul – This mod replaces most of Skyrims background music. With about 100 new fantasy themed tracks, the music is now a lot more fitting for a tropical climate (somehow choirs of chanting men just didn’t seem appropriate for the jungle).
101BugsHD – This mod adds 28 new varieties of insects that will randomly spawn across Skyrim. All of these insects can be collected and used as alchemical ingredients. But the main attraction is that it makes wilderness feels a lot more alive and colorful, especially with optional file which increases the spawn rate.
HighAlgoBoost — I would recommend this mod to everyone who is having performance issues with Tropical Skyrim. I would love to go into the technical details of this mod. But to keep things simple, it makes the game a lot smoother and responsive while maintaining a minimal loss in visual quality.
What are your favorite mods to use with Skyrim and/or Oblivion/Morrowind?
There are so many different mods I could list here, but I’ll try not to make the list too long. Generally, my favorite mods are always the ones that seamlessly integrate into the game, and that will allow me to “install and forget”. For many mods that add new content such as armor or weapons, the only way to obtain the new items is by use of console commands or by traveling to a specific NPC or location. In my opinion, this can completely ruin mods by making them way too simple and predictable. On the other hand, mods which add weapons/armor that randomly appear in caves or on NPC’s are much more enjoyable. And that’s because of their unpredictability.
I also prefer mods that affect everyone, not just the player. I think there are way too many mods that add spells which are only available to the player. The problem with this is that if I’m playing as a warrior for example, I will most likely never come across the spells in the game. However, if the spells are also used by NPC’s, things get a lot more interesting. Because then I won’t have to be actually using the spells myself to enjoy the mod.
As I said before, there are hundreds of mods that I could list here, but these are the ones that I enjoy the most.
Duel – Combat realism – This mod enhances the combat in ways that you probably won’t even notice. Mashing the attack button as fast as you can is no longer a successful strategy. This mod forces you to be a lot more tactical with your fighting, by placing a greater emphasis on timing and making the overall ‘flow’ of combat a lot more believable and realistic.
Warzones – Civil Unrest: () This mod causes a lot more random battles to occur across Skyrim, thus making traveling a lot more dangerous, quite a few times I have come across hordes of angry bandits that I couldn’t possibly take on by myself, so I was forced to run away (something that rarely happens in Skyrim). You will also find many more skirmishes between the Storm Cloaks and the Imperial Legion, thus making the civil war more noticeable within the game.
Weapons of the Third Era — This mod adds hundreds of new weapons to the game, all of which are seamlessly integrated. You can find them anywhere you would normally expect to see weapons, such as on bandits, in chests or for sale by merchants.
The Dance of Death – A Killmove Mod — This mod unlocks almost all of the kill moves for each type of weapon. It also gives the player a lot more control over the kill move system by allowing them to toggle options such as the removal of the last enemy restriction, and the overall chance of performing a kill move.
Deadly Mutilation – Dismemberment Blood and Gore — This mod does as It’s title suggests, it adds a lot more violence and gore to the game. You will now see dismemberment, evisceration and even people being cut in half. Now this mod is definitely not suitable for all users, and I would advise younger players NOT to use this mod. However, I do believe this is a great addition to the game.
Thanks for the interview!