Balzu is a dark, Gothic fantasy total conversion for Oblivion. The emphasis in Balzu is on role-playing, mood, and atmosphere with a strong horror element. Customize your character's attributes and skills and choose from a variety of character traits, perks, and starting origins then struggle to keep your sanity and your humanity in a world where men turn into monsters and unspeakable horror lurks in every corner. Custom creatures, sanity system, role-playing persuasion system, and enhanced NPC AI where NPCs actually observe and remember your character's words and deeds complement a painstakingly detailed environment spanning multiple dimensions. Open-ended quests allowing you to choose whether you want to play as a hero or a villain with consequences for future quests and the potential to make powerful friends and enemies ensure that your experience in Durs, the world of Balzu will be unlike any other.
I'd like to welcome stratman1 to the team. He's been working on designing the soundscape for Balzu: title theme, ambient regional music, battle music, etc. Stay tuned for some samples of his work. It's fantastic!
TheMagician (aka Yithian): everything else
Balzu makes extensive changes to Oblivion's default gameplay. Most of these changes are in the area of NPC AI and the persuasion mechanic which has consequences for combat, magic, companions, etc. All of the features below are currently WIP. Many of them have working prototypes in-game. Some of them are still in the design phase.
* Custom Character Gen. Balzu allows you to set your own attributes and skills when creating a character. In addition, you can select from a range of perks and flaws and choose from a variety of origins (determining starting location, gear, etc.). Balzu uses all-new races (only human at this point) and birthsigns, and adds a number of new classes (and changes some of the vanilla classes).
* 'Luminous' AI. Balzu uses custom AI enhancements which allow the actor to form an opinion of the player based on his or her observed actions. Actors will now notice what the player is wearing and the weapons they have equipped (quality, condition, amount), their current state of health, and the activities they are currently engaged in and make decisions based on this data. These decisions will influence what they say to the player, whether or not they will attack them, report them for a crime, pick their pocket, etc. Be careful: NPCs will remember what you wear, so if they see you commit a crime, they will give your description to the authorities!
* Persuasion Overhaul. Balzu completely replaces the vanilla persuasion mechanic with a custom scripted mechanic using the enhancements provided by the AI overhaul. Players now persuade other actors through the dialogue menu by selecting topics. There are eleven persuasion techniques (some are context sensitive). How adept a player is at any particular technique depends in part upon factors like Strength, Intelligence, etc., though all are based on the Speechcraft (or Mercantile) skill. In addition, each actor has a different 'personality': some techniques will work better on some actors. Some examples of new persuasion techniques include intimidation, taunting, seduction, gift giving, and begging.
* Disguises. Players may now disguise themselves as a member of a faction. Chance of success depends on a variety of factors, including the quality of the disguise, the intelligence of the actor being deceived, distance, light, and the player's Sneak skill. Suspicious actors may interrogate the player, requiring a knowledge of the faction on the player's part and a Speechcraft test. Disguising yourself as a member of a criminal faction will get you arrested by a guard, so be careful!
* Combat Decision. Enemy actors will no longer automatically attack the player. They will now evaluate the player's apparent threat before engaging in combat. Most animals will ignore the player unless provoked as long as the player keeps their distance. Bandits will not attack players if they appear to be stronger and better equipped unless they have superior numbers. Some undead will only attack players who trespass on protected zones or steal protected objects. Many enemies can be reasoned with, bribed, etc. Players may also request a truce, demand surrender, etc.
* Companions. Using Balzu's AI overhaul, it is possible to convince many types of actors to join the player on quests, hire retainers, acquire familiars, or develop romantic relationships with other actors. The actor's opinion of the player, and the types of activities they will engage in depend on a variety of factors including personality, skills, background, etc. Hire porters, mercenaries, alchemists, healers, enchanters and armorers. Meet a cute wench at a tavern? Ask her out on a date. You might be her type! (Sorry, relationships are restricted to spicy dialogue! :P)
* Extended Dialogue Trees. Players will now be able to query actors on a wide variety of topics, including their occupation, family, community, local landmarks, local services, religion, political views, etc. Players familiar with Morrowind will find themselves at home with these topics.
In addition to these features, you can expect a whole slew of spells and potions that tie directly to new AI features (like memory wipe spells and love potions!). For more information about how these mechanics work visit the mod's homepage.
These features are in an earlier state of development, so I'm not going to say much about them except that I plan on implementing them eventually.
* Sanity System. The sanity system is on my 'must have' list but still exists at a theoretical stage at this point. All I'll say about it is that psychological disorders can be acquired through trauma (just like a disease), through a magical mishap (by casting a spell you're not able to handle), or by visiting one of the alternate dimensions. Your primary resistance to insanity is your Willpower, though they will be curable via spells, potions, etc. The effects of insanity will be emphasized through custom shaders (which I haven't really played around with yet).
* Dynamic Quests. I haven't really started working on the quests yet, but they will be implemented in a more web-like and less linear way. They may also interconnect, with your actions in one quest affecting the outcomes of other quests. Again, still pretty theoretical at this point.
* Custom Creatures and Tilesets. These are pretty labor-intensive, so don't expect to see these until a little later on. Suffice to say, I want 'em, so I'll make 'em.
* Custom Magic Effects. Again, something I want to do, but haven't gotten around to yet.
Balzu will support the following music configurations:
Enhanced Music & Control
Better Music System
Each platform builds on the one before it. For maximum music enhancement, use BMS.
Stratman1 has recently joined my team and is working on designing the soundscape for Balzu: ambient environments based on regions, custom battle music based on factions, and the main title theme are currently in the works. Look forward to samples in the not-too-distant future. I'm hoping to make Balzu's custom music compatible with vanilla, Sound Commands, Enhanced Music & Control, and Better Music System platforms. Partial support for BMS has been implemented which supports custom music for each region.
I've also begun writing the code for Balzu's custom companions. Companions in Balzu are not like other companions: they are much more fully developed than vanilla companions, and much more independent than CM companions or companions acquired through Companion Share & Recruit. Although all of the robust commands/mechanics that you may be used to from other companion mods will be included in Balzu's companions, they will not be the 'magic bullet' that traditional companions tend to turn into: companions will have realistic abilities and limitations, will attempt to preserve themselves, and may refuse your suggestions if you have not earned their trust and respect. They might even get fed up with your behavior and leave. They will demand food and sleep, and, depending on the nature of your relationship, payment for their services. Although they are quite hardy, they may suffer serious injuries requiring medical attention and may even die of their wounds if not treated quickly. In short: they will no longer unbalance gameplay and instead will provide the interest and companionship that they are meant to.