Balzu is a total conversion mod currently in production for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The mod is set in a completely custom world called Durs (rhymes with 'curse'). Balzu is one of the names that the natives of Durs have given to their version of Hell. The premise of Balzu is simple: Balzu is a terrible place, and its inhabitants want out.

Unlike the plot of Oblivion, this is not a wholesale invasion, but a perpetual state of unrest. The inhabitants of Balzu are not pouring out of portals, but finding other ways to manifest: in the form of ghosts, vampires, zombies, and other sorts of demonic and undead entities. Although Durs is a fantasy setting (complete with swords and sorcery), Balzu takes its stylistic cues from the horror genre: less Lord of the Rings and more The Woman in Black, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Edgar Allan Poe or 28 Days Later. I am also a huge Lovecraft fan, so expect a good deal of eldritch horror and sanity-crushing game effects. The mood of the game is closer to Silent Hill than WOW. If you know anything about the D&D Ravenloft setting (especially the original module, which is a classic) you'll have a good idea what I'm going for. The intent of this mod is to scare you.

Features

These are planned features. The CK is new, and the limitations of the engine (including the ability to work around bugs) is not clearly known. If everything goes according to plan, however, here's what you can expect:

  • hand-crafted environments comparable to Skyrim in scope and quality, but with a darker, moodier tone
  • NPCs with real personalities and back-stories; they probably won't be voice acted (at least for a long time) but expect to have to build relationships with these people to win their trust and unlock quests
  • actions with consequences: NPCs will remember what you do for them and react appropriately to you--if you wrong them, they will not be happy about it, and some of them may exact revenge; if you help them, they may provide assistance, but not always in the way that you expect
  • robust faction mechanics: choosing to join a faction will entail serious commitment and consequences; expect to make enemies as quickly as you make friends
  • tougher combat and scarcer resources: you won't always be able to wander into a dungeon and clean house--sometimes you will have to plan and prepare first, or seek alternate means of defeating enemies
  • less hand-holding: don't expect Balzu to hand anything to you--you will get out of it what you put into it
  • supernatural horror: the emphasis in Balzu is on the supernatural: vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc., will play a stronger role (and may include joinable factions)
  • sanity system: Balzu will mess with your mind; you will often find yourself questioning what's real

Team

Just me, atm. I will probably be looking for a good texture artist/modeler and a scripter at some point.

Timeframe

Not going to be released for a good, long while. I would like to get small, playable betas up in a few months, though.

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1 comment by Yithian on Mar 7th, 2012

I've spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks learning about some of the differences between the CK (Skyrim's editor) and the CS (Oblivion's). Two of these areas are LOD (Level of Detail) and Papyrus (the new scripting language). While I haven't made a lot of progress on Papyrus yet, I am starting to see how things fit together inside the editor and I'm excited by the possibilities.

Mapping and LOD

I have made more progress on the landscape side of things: Balzu's map is currently a 10x10 cell grid (100 cells) with over 4000 hand-placed objects (trees, rocks, etc.). This is how Bethesda created Skyrim's map and while it is very time-consuming, the results are worth it.

Balzu

LOD is now also working correctly (you can see a few LOD trees in the screenshot). This is very good news since it wasn't clear at first whether or not we would be able to get it working properly. Everything seems to be in order now, though it does mean that Balzu will have to be released as an .ESM (master file).

Working NPCs and Services

NPCs also have correct face/body textures as you can see in this screenshot:

Balzu

That's a WIP shot of the Shining Shingle, an inn in the true RPG sense: NPCs sitting at tables in smoky corners of the room ready to offer industrious players good old-fashioned quests. Or do they have something more sinister in mind? The inn is fully functioning, offering food and a place to sleep (though I'd like to expand it to provide beds of different quality). The inn has servers that will take your order, just like in vanilla Skyrim, a bard that sings and plays music (unfortunately, it's still just vanilla music), and a mercenary for hire (though I'm still working out some of the details on him).

Balzu

Balzu also has a functioning prison located in the bowls of Grigori's Keep, a haunted castle still in service providing the citizens of Bartleburg with some modicum of safety.

Potential Pitfalls

About the only serious bug facing Balzu is the navmesh bug, which 'breaks' pathing AI for NPCs in custom worldspaces. Bethesda has informed us that this issue will be fixed in an upcoming patch, so cross your fingers.
Although the mod is still in its infancy, I am very optimistic about its future, so stay tuned for more updates.

To Do

Here are a few of the tasks I'm working on at the moment:
* finish getting the hireling scripts working
* finish the smithy, sawmill, and apothecary (all started, but incomplete)
* start on the custom character generation process so players spawn a new game in Durs

Post comment Comments  (0 - 10 of 13)
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Guest Apr 15 2014, 4:28pm says:

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Sticksanity
Sticksanity May 26 2013, 8:00pm says:

Last update over a year ago. May or may not be dead.

+1 vote     reply to comment
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Guest Jan 16 2013, 8:15pm says:

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Guest Nov 27 2012, 5:16pm says:

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Tharr
Tharr Nov 8 2012, 6:01pm says:

Sounds promising ... I hope this will be finish and not another abandoned project like many other promising ones

+1 vote     reply to comment
DJDnB
DJDnB Apr 5 2012, 12:51pm says:

I read the "ghosts, zombies, undead..." I was like "OK, cool" then I read the "HP Lovecraft touch" I was like "Yess!! give it that Amnesia touch with some nice creepy stuff..." so cool, I look forward to see more!!

+2 votes     reply to comment
Yithian
Yithian Mar 8 2012, 11:15am says:

Thanks to everyone for the interest and encouragement. I'm still figuring out what I can and can't do with the engine, and still waiting on import/export scripts and scripting utilities, so progress might be a little slow at first. Be patient. I have no intention of abandoning this project.

+3 votes     reply to comment
ikuto
ikuto Mar 8 2012, 7:53am says:

I'm so looking for you, i wish all luck you will be needed and more.
And lot's of love from me, for atleast starting doing something like that. <3

+3 votes     reply to comment
Saint_Stan
Saint_Stan Mar 7 2012, 5:29am says:

Awesmitch! You had me a Lovecraftian.

+3 votes     reply to comment
do_i_ob
do_i_ob Feb 22 2012, 1:15am says:

looks crazy awesome :D

+3 votes     reply to comment
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