Modding games, especially Bethesda games never go out of style! It’s a huge part of what makes some games so popular, or if nothing else, stay relevant for as long as they do. If you’re new to the modding scene, chances are you will be able to pull off the type of mod you looking to create with a little patience and research. One of the most popular sites for modding is the Nexus sites full of people that are willing to help get you started. Another site, but one that runs at a much slower pace is NifTools. The people there are somewhat an authority in certain areas, but can be slow to answer questions; this is mainly because of the volume of traffic on the site. Finally, Google and YouTube can also help get you started with hundreds of tutorial and videos around the net related to modding.
Before You Get Started
Research if another mod like it already exists. You don’t want to steal other people’s ideas, or if nothing else, be a cheap knock-off of the real deal. Fresh ideas, even simple ones go much further than a remake of an already popular idea. The modding community is tight niched and word spreads quickly in regards to being a troll, or thief, even if you didn’t mean it. Having said that, nine times out of ten most modders will help you out, or even let you use their content if you ask permission first and give credits respectively during the mods release. Also, many popular home / castle mods take up real estate somewhere in the game world; you don’t want to plant your new mod in the same spot of one that’s been out for a number of years.
Things Change Over Time
I’ve tried to put together a comprehensive list of tools that most people use going back to Morrowind content. You can get a pretty good vibe of current workflows by skimming the Nexus forums and doing Google searches, or if nothing else, post a question in the forums. If you do ask a question there you will probably get a quicker response by just keeping it direct and simple.
Don’t Mod For Fame and Glory
I’ve seen people get frustrated when their mods don’t do as hot as they expected. (good ones too) Keep in mind using Skyrim as an example, even Skyrim Nexus doesn’t have the volume of traffic as it once did in 2011 – 2012. Many of the most endorsed mods on that site and Steam were released in the early days with thousands of people looking at it every hour. Just that factor alone will reduce the number of views and endorsements drastically if you’re trying to compare your new content with established ones. Also, going back to what I previously mentioned; there’s a lot of content out there now so creating unique content later in a game’s release is important!
If you are looking for cheap fame and glory, but don’t have fresh ideas, you can try creating content from “current” popular media. This could include books, movies, other games, T.V. shows, etc. As an example, I can remember when the 2009 Avatar movie was released, the Oblivion mods for it did quite well. Bear in mind I’m not knocking this kind of mod, but am trying to illustrate how and why a mod might do will, or not so much.
Clear Cut Ideas
A perfect example of a terrible mod would be an armor set / UI mod / sound mod / spells mod / water mod. Your content should have a clear cut purpose of what the user will be downloading. Imagine SkyUI (user interface) mod, but it also changed all of the NPC hair in the game, and just for kicks changed the sound of voices too. 😀 Sounds ridiculous, but simply put, keep your mod clean.
Having said that, some mods drastically change the game in many ways. These are normally known as overhaul mods but are advertised as such and people will know many things will change and might have mod conflicts.
I wanted to keep this article free of technical talk but one area I feel is important enough to mention is “dirty edits”. Speaking briefly, many actions done in Creation kit or Construction Set get recorded down and saved out in the .esp file whether you intend to use those edits or not. Before the mod is released, or even while you’re still working, TES Edit should be used to clean the .esp file free of these dirty edits and conflicts. I posted a link to them below.
If you plan on sticking around in the modding community it’s a good idea to network with other modders, but do it in a smart way. Some people may approach you simply to use your assets or time on a mod they are working on. It’s your choice of course, but I recommend checking out this user, the mod, and others involved to be sure it won’t be just a waste of your time. Really, it’s a fine balance of giving people a chance and looking for red flags. If someone with a decent modding background approaches you and the message is cool-calm-and-collected, not always, but normally could be a legitimate project or opportunity. If someone with a Nexus account that’s two days old comes to you asking for help on the kool3st m0d ever, it might be a good idea to do some more digging. I think you get my point.
If you release a more popular mod, don’t be surprised if some people contact you asking for permission to translate the mod into another language. Not saying trolls don’t exist, but with my experience, most of these people are legit and will post credits and a link to the original author. (you) Also, just be sure and clear as to how exactly they plan on using your content, and what site it will be uploaded to.
As a side note, its 100% fine to have stipulations on how and when your content is used; let that be known in the conversation you have before you let someone use your hard work. Any legitimate modder / gamer knows how much effort goes into creating quality content, and won’t be offended by you asking questions, or not letting just anyone use your work willy–nilly.
Weekend Release & Social Media
Release your content on the weekends; Friday or Saturday is a good time, sometime in the morning, afternoon, or early evening, never at say 3:00AM. This will give your mod maximum exposure during high-traffic times! Plan ahead as to what social media sites you want to advertise on right when the mod is released too. To name a few, Twitter, Google+, gaming forums, Facebook. This will also help push traffic to your mod at the initial release. The first 12-24 hours is a critical time before your mod get’s pushed down the list from content coming out after yours. Once you’ve done the footwork, a good mod will sell itself, it’s just getting that initial push out the door.
Test Your Mod
It’s very exciting to finally get close to releasing your new mod to the NET, but one thing not to overlook is play-testing your content before its upload. Of course, every mod will need different amounts of testing, but the point I’m trying to drive home is to come up with ways of testing your mod based on what it will do after the user installs in on their machine. I normally set aside one to two days to prepare for a mod release, but this could be a week or even more. A few ideas could include…
- Doing install / uninstall cycles to make sure all of the files are being removed and added.
- Loading a saved game with your .esp saved, but have the .esp turned off. (looking for crashes)
- Going through quest cycles. (a number of times)
- Move your .esp’s load order and running the game.
- Look for performance drops.
- Check collision on meshes, missing textures, broken emitters, spawn / warp nodes that lead to nowhere, etc.
- Essentially do everything the gamer will probably do with your mod, and try to break it!
Finally, prepare screenshots and a description of your mod that will be uploaded to the NET. A title, icons, and custom font is always a nice touch too. 😎
Mod for the long haul. If modding is something you enjoy but you’re the new kid on the block, well, in two years you won’t be. Many people in the modding community are known for certain type(s) of content, and have built up a reputation is regards to the quality, style, or areas they like to create content for. If you like to create homes and castles; practice it, get good, be known for it, and when the next game is released you will be in a perfect position to release the next bombshell mod!