Middle-earth Mod for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - A living breath Middle-earth..

Interviews - GameStar

Gamestar:
What was the reason for you to start this project?

Dark0ne:
All the members of the mod group felt as though
they wanted to give something back to J.R.R.Tolkien for the years of dedicated work he put into the creation of his amazing books. The group originally formed as fanatics of the game Morrowind, and also Tolkien's work in an attempt to completely re-create Middle-earth in a form that Tolkien would be proud of. Today we are aiming to please both fans of Morrowind and Tolkien's works.

Gamestar:
And why did you choose the Middle-earth-MOD of all things?

Dark0ne:
Morrowind's Engine provides an excellent environment for expansive landscapes and deep plot-lines. We believed that Middle-Earth provided the giant landscape needed to fulfil our aims. We are creating the mod completely apart from the stories of "The Lord of the Rings" and instead are developing the storyline on a completely different timeline, the result will bring a great shock and enjoyable experience to fans of the mod.

Gamestar:
Your MOD uses the Morrowind-Engine. Why did you decide to use this technology?

Dark0ne:
Morrowind's environmental engine is far more advanced and realistic than probably any game environmental engine yet released. Since Morrowind by nature is a Role Playing Game, it is easily adapted to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Middle-Earth is composed of huge wilderness environments that have alternating weather patterns and the engine that Morrowind provides is so far the best candidate to use as base for the Middle-Earth project.

GameStar:
What came first: The idea of the MOD or the advanced technology and editors, which are the prerequisite for realising your project?

Dark0ne:
In my opinion, the concept of the mod was the more important of the two, at first. The Middle-Earth Mod for Morrowind was originally founded before the release of Morrowind, when information about the Construction Set and technology within Morrowind was not fully released. The modders (who have formally named themselves "The Fellowship of the Mod" were already deciding on important issues within the mod, before the game was even released. Since then, the Morrowind Editor grew more important, as it influenced our plans and ideas. The two now go hand-in-hand in creating the mod.

GameStar:
How many people work on your project? What kind of people - friends, recruits, volunteers?

Dark0ne:
We currently have 12 people working officially on
the mod, with several people working as "freelancers" giving information and input when they can. All of the members are complete volunteers, but all of us have grown to become good friends, which is excellent.

GameStar:
How did you find people for you team? Are you still looking for more people?

Dark0ne:
The majority of the members who make up the Fellowship of the Mod were recruited from the Morrowind official forums. All people needed a certain skill or attribute required for the mod, and a good experience of Tolkien's works. Currently, all job openings are available on our website (http://www.rpgplanet.com/morrowind/chronicles/memod/). We are currently looking for skilled modellers (with 3DS Max version 4.2 or higher), texturers (with Adobe Photoshop 5.0 or higher) and landscapers. All members will need copies of the required software and also a good understanding of Tolkien's works. We also need to see samples of works created by applicants before accepting them. It's a tough requirement, but we need to have skilled members if we are to make the mod extra special.

GameStar:
How far is your project and what are you working on right now?

Dark0ne:
The project is still in the design and implementation stage. This means we are still ironing out things like concept art, landscapes, sample models, sample music tracks and storyline. We're currently very close to deciding a deep and immersive storyline, and the timeline for the mod has already been decided.

We are currently working on a recreation of the town of Bree. Bree will be a part of the mod, yet we will be releasing the town as a stand-alone to start with as an example of our work, and as a tester for the mod group. This is planned to be released within the next few months.

The fully complete mod is still set for a late 2003 release.


GameStar:
Are you surprised by the expenditure of time and also money or did you know from the beginning what comes up with this project?

Dark0ne:
Our modellers have had to acquire 3d Studio Max at a cost of at least $500.00 (USD) for the student release of 3d Studio Max... some have had to pay almost $5,000.00 (USD) (as they aren't students). Also are the cost's of Morrowind itself, almost $60.00 (USD), as well as the sound editing programs: Cool Edit Pro 2 for almost $250.00 (USD), Sonic Foundry Sound Forge (version 6.0) for almost $500.00 (USD), and various plugin's for Cool Edit Pro 2 that total to almost $300.00 (USD). Also came the cost's for the graphical editors, Adobe Photoshop (version 7) for a little over $600.00 (USD), plugin's for Photoshop adding up to $1,300.00 (USD), Paint Shop Pro (version 7) for slightly over $100.00 (USD), plugins for $300.00 (USD), The GIMP was thankfully free, as well as all plugin's for it.

As far as time is concerned, many of the members have input extraordinary amounts of time into the mod. That's many many hours a week... estimating at least 60 hours a week for just their own time consumption. Some members input a little each work, some a lot. There is no set timeline (as of yet) for work created in the mod.


GameStar:
How do you keep yourself and your team motivated to stay at such a large-scale project, especially because you will not make any money with this? Are you, in a sense, idealists?

Dark0ne:
Many things add to the motivation for the mod group. Most of all is the support we receive from fans of Tolkien and also from fans of Morrowind. We have a rather large group of Morrowind fan's who watch our progress closely, and well over 250 newsletter applicants already.

Many of the modders are happy in the knowledge that they are giving something back to the Morrowind community, and also to Tolkien.


GameStar:
Problem Copyright: Are you not feared, that the occupant of the copyright will stop your project before or even after release? How will you prevent this worst case scenario?

Dark0ne:
Well to tell the truth... no. Since this project is a fan-created, fan-released project, and is being released completely for free, it does not step on any of the copyright issues bound to the Tolkien Estate. As there are dozens of similar projects in the works on various different engines (there's a Half-Life mod, a Quake 3 mod, a Dungeon Siege mod, an Age of Empires mod, and various other complete games programmed from scratch based on Tolkien's works) we're not in the least worried about someone attempting to exercise restrictive measures against our project.

GameStar:
There are many similar projects in development. Are you in contact with other teams or the designers of the original game? How do other MODs influence your work?

Dark0ne:
We are currently in-contact with one mod group following the same tracks as us, and were also at one time in contact with a German Lord of the Rings mod group, who unfortunately recently broke up. I am not only the leader of the Middle-Earth Mod for Morrowind but also own a popular Morrowind gaming website. Therefore I have some key links with the creators of Morrowind, Bethesda, who have been able to help us out on several occasions, not least in publicising our mod to others. We are indebted to them for their help, and also for the creation of Morrowind.

GameStar:
What are your plans for the time after release? You expect to get a job in the gaming industry? Staying with your team and work for a commercial project?

Dark0ne:
The final release of the mod is still a long-way away, and none of us can tell where we will end up. Some members have expressed an interest in entering commercial gaming creation, but we'll wait and see about that. Due to the nature of Morrowind and its editor, we expect that other modders will in-turn create mods for the Middle-Earth Mod. No doubt, we will also release updates and advancements for the mod after its release (we definately won't be leaving it alone!).

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