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.
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:
Just me, atm. I will probably be looking for a good texture artist/modeler and a scripter at some point.
Not going to be released for a good, long while. I would like to get small, playable betas up in a few months, though.
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.
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.
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).
NPCs also have correct face/body textures as you can see in this screenshot:
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 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.
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.
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