How the Modders Conquered Skyrim

IGN has editorialized about the advantageous ability that PC gamers have to create and install modifications for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, while also profiling some of the more popular ones available on the Nexus and interviewing their creators. Have a go:
Transforming Skyrim from a bitter winter wonderland into a Sandals resort was labour intensive - although according to Caunce, not for the reasons people expect. Swapping out pine trees for palm trees is just a case of swapping the models and textures of one for the other. The elbow grease gets slathered on the tiny details - removing the blowing snow effects, the icicles hanging from roofs, Skyrim's bleached arctic colour palette and so on. It's a lot of work for one person.

"The question of why I don't create a new world space [complete with quests and NPCs] is one I'm asked frequently. The answer is simple: I don't have the time,) he says. (Creating a new world is more than just making an island and dumping trees on it. You need new buildings, new NPCs, lots of hand-placed objects, new voices, new dungeons and so on. That's a lot of work for a solo modder, so I simply decided to replace Skyrim. [That way], all I needed to do was focus on what I do best: the environment."

But when the Nexus community pulls together to create something, you really can end up with the sort of mods Caunce is describing: projects that really play like official DLC. Moonpath to Elsweyr, the Skyrim Nexus' most popular quest mod with a whopping 310,000 unique downloads, was made by a team of more than ten people. Rather than simply stitching together existing dungeons sections and some retextured items, Moonpath adds new story, convincing dialogue and voice acting, armours, animations, enemies - even an airship.

"I started modding because I wanted to learn something new," says Tomas Sala, Moonpath's creative lead. "I got a good feeling for all the tools and created [Moonpath's] desert and waterways. Then it became a bit of an all-consuming rush to mod some basic quests and storylines - not based on any pre-determined path, but on what environments would be cool to make. A sinkhole in the jungle, an airship mooring, a bit of desert and so on. At some point I got into creating custom character models, and I enjoyed making a velociraptor, so, hey, why not put that in? I loved the Sload concept in the original Bethesda concept art, so why not add that? And best of all, I'd done a fantasy airship model in the past, and I thought that would be really cool. So, I put it in, and created the airship storyline around it."

The result feels professional. After hitching a ride on a cart outside a tavern in Falkreath, your character journeys with a Khajiit caravan along one of their mystical moonpaths - secret routes the cat-people use to travel through Tamriel undetected. Along the way you'll fight off tropical spiders, investigate a Thalmor invasion, battle that Sload and maybe pick up a new companion. If Bethesda released Moonpath as DLC, people would buy it.