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The land of Vvardenfell has had an anxious air to it lately. People have gone missing. So have the oddest things. Most try to pass it off as the predictable increase in crime with these harsh times. Strange shapes have been seen on the darkest nights. Shapes accompanied by noises only few have heard…recently.
We find the PC by themselves, wandering the lands. They hear of an Imperial archaeological party, well equipped and in need of strong backs and sword arms for the myriad of dangers that lie in wait in the Dwemer ruins they must explore. Why? We’ll see.
This is how we start the events. The Artificer’s Hand is a mod that centres on the discovery of ancient Dwemer artifacts, ruins and a fortress-city and the impact this has on the citizens and power structure of Vvardenfell. I have tried to ask myself how each faction ( Imperial, Redoran/Tribunal, Telvanni, Hlaalu, The Artificer’s Hand and the new threat ) would react to such a scenario. The mod can be classed as lore-bendy but I have tried to keep it in line with Beth. lore as much as possible and indeed knowledge of Elder Scrolls lore will afford the player certain advantages in the weight of the plot and events and in the completion of certain quests as while all information will be able to be garnered from mechanisms within the mod players who know the lore will reach certain conclusions quicker. You must use your wit to proceed. Nothing is free.
Given that The Artificer’s Hand has a particular creed certain factions are directly incompatible – Hlaalu and Telvanni. I know there are a lot of Telvanni players out there but I’m making something for myself and everyone else who identifies with Redoran for the most part. That’s not to say the others have been completely neglected – they just don’t get the same magnitude. I will say that in no shape or form will Hlaalu be joinable. Their creed and character directly contradict that of The Artificer’s Hand and so anyone who is a member of House Hlaalu will not be able to play the mod. Deal with it.
It will be possible to side with any of the other factions, in different ways, and receive their help. Sometimes a little too much help. Or it is possible to go solo and wave the flag for your faction by itself. It’ll be harder but that’s half the fun right.
There are a lot. I will not list them all as surprise is was one of my favourite things. I spend all day coding rules into systems so I’ve come to hold unpredictability and randomness in high regard. Some devices are for combat ( a lot are, actually ), some are for other things. The player will find some and learn to make them aswell. Which brings me to the next section:
Magecrafting is a process. It isn’t like alchemy or enchanting where you simply drop the right ingredients into a black box and roll the dice. Skills and abilities are gates to more complex devices but the player will have to bring some IRL skill to the table. I was never a fan of the WoW model where you trade time for infinitely reliable skill. I’m RTS, not turn based.
The magecrafting process has multiple stages and occurs in real-time and if you [censored] it up you’ll be punished. Even if you succeed you’ll be punished. Creation is not a loving process. Different levels of the process map to different levels of complexity in the devices. Knowledge and power don’t come cheap here. Which leads to:
I will be restricting the player’s ability to build an army worthy of Mordor ( what? ). Having that kind of power will inevitably lead to a loss of value in gameplay – God mode gets boring. That said, players that put the effort in will be rewarded.
The number of different constructs is around 20 atm and they vary in abilities and modus operandi, to some extent. We’re all used to the hail-Mary approach to combat in Morrowind but I’ve tried to introduce some strategy. For example, one of my favourites is the “sniper” construct that can be ordered to hold its ground and target certain individuals – perfect for assassination missions where the PC can’t get close to the target. There are a few others. One I’m sure the Dark Brotherhood would like to get a hold of.
Airships are a central part of the mod. Mostly because they’re awesome. As I mentioned in a previous post for all their complexity I never really liked Mad Max’s ships’ motion as it felt like they had no weight. I’ve modelled the ship’s motion using rigid body mechanics and conservation of energy so they move like should i.e. they feel like they weigh tonnes.
The player will have access to a number of ships but will have to pay to get them built, in one way or another. I haven’t allowed the player to build ships as that would be difficult to do and kind of silly to have a single individual construct an entire ship. Some specialized members of The Artificer’s Hand will help you out with this.
I’ve yet to decide whether a constant refuelling will be needed but I’m leaning towards a “yes”. What that’ll be is still in limbo.
I have tried to build the ships as flying homes. I really like the idea of cruising around Vvardenfell with nowhere to be and everything I own and want is in my ship. Tamriel Rebuilt was in the back of my mind in these imaginings. I want to sail over Tamriel. MGE is a godsend.
Also, some ships are armed. You’ll need it.
I think I’ve learnt more about design doing this mod than I could from any textbook. In the beginning I had a different vision. I wanted to have certain rooms do certain things and the player would figure these facts out and use this knowledge to their advantage and everything would move like clockwork. For example, every room was linked to a number of other rooms in form and functionality – this didn’t pan out. The draw of the Dwemer is in their mystery, their reach, their ability and in some way that small part of them that we can identify with. In defining their constructions I destroyed that which made them special. In light of this I’ve tried to keep their feel throughout my mod and have re-designed large portions in line with this idea.
In short, the fortress is Dwemeri and that is that.
I read “Traps and Treachery” from the D&D universe and that combined with the ideas I already have I produced a list of traps that will keep the player on their toes. I don’t believe in random, unavoidable insta-kills so rarely will the PC’s fate be unavoidable – or inescapable. But as with the magecrafting process IRL abilities are a part of it.
At the appropriate stage factional paths will become available. I have tried to make the political model as dynamic as possible. In light of this if the player ends up getting a particular faction into a state of war then they will have to deal with it. I had originally wanted to include a proper RTS model but this leads to resource management which leads to forced exploration which isn’t in line with the Morrowind experience. Thus an as-dynamic-Morrowindian-as-possible model has been employed. Piss off any given faction enough and you’ll be in a relative state of war so it pays to play the diplomatic game. Which leads to:
Each faction is lead by a collection of individuals and individuals are fallible. Know your enemy.
There are some early model guns. Flintlocks, muskets etc. I know it makes some people rage but again: deal with it.
I’m using a loose class model in which there are five magecrafting schools/types:
iii) Steam Kriegers
v) Void Runners
Common: everyone starts out in the common stream. There are certain things every magecrafter must know and they all reside here. Mines, grenades, grappling hooks. All the necessary things.
Gunmagery: you like firearms? This is the school for you. Triple-shot, buckshot and armour-based casters.
Steam Kriegers: they use altered swords, maces, enhanced armours. The Chimes of the Maker is your Betty.
Magecrafters: although all schools technically are magecrafters these are the ones who become Tonal Architects and eventually High Artificer’s and maybe even a Shop Foremer. They specialize in the most dangerous and complex devices, usually constructs. You can only build the best constructs if you pursue this path.
Void Runners: they glide through the ether and are essentially, airship pilots. Pursue this road and you’ll end up with your own airships/s and crew.
Abilities that Border on Magicka
Some things can’t be constructed. Airship fire support , reinforcements, air-dropped supplies. I’m trying not to overpower the PC but calling down a Tempest strike is awesome. Possibly only outshone by the Sunblade. If you can get that working you’ll have a friend for life.
A Final Note
Not all devices are logical. Not all quests are necessary. Not all paths lead somewhere.
I have a feeling people will be polarized over this – you’ll either love it or hate it.
A piece of me is in here. I don’t know how to explain it but it is. A very real piece.
The New Way is weaved.
I would like to say it will be released within the next 6 months but it depends on how long my commercial project takes.
The good news is that I took a break and did some work on the factional mechanics on the weekend and sorted out some details for the process of artifecture/artificing/artifezza(?) or whatever the correct term is.
I have finished 99% of the broad phase in world building and am up to the medium-detailed phase: the large details, adding traps, adding mechanical devices, adding enemies. This is easier than the broad phase as its more about putting things is already designed places rather than creating something from scratch which is time-consuming.
I do design in 3 stages -
i) Broad: all of the interior and exterior set pieces are put in place. The overall look of the environment is set here.
ii) Medium: here I add all of the large details that the player would notice on their own physical level like traps, doors, NPCs etc.
iii) Small: this is where all the clutter and finishing touches are added. Finicky but it adds a large amount of character. My theory is that the brain takes all these details in unconciously and outputs a feeling to the player as there is too much detail to process conciously.
I'm going to try and get a demo out so you guys will have something to play around with whilst I'm putting the quests in etc. Its all so integrated, though. Any suggestions? Maybe th mines or grenades would be ok to separate. I've got to put arc trajectories on the grenades though and taht requires MGE.