(note: This article was originally written for the Fireborne Dev Blog)
I bought Morrowind during my junior year of college. I’d just come off a Max Payne 2/Warcraft 3 kick, and I was on the lookout for something deeper. An RPG, I thought. Something with an interesting story, something I could invest in. The top 10 lists kept mentioning a game called Morrowind. The screenshots - albeit dated-looking already - were strange and exciting, with exotic color palettes and even more exotic landscapes.
“What do they mean, I can do whatever I want?” I asked myself, as I read the reviews. “You mean Morrowind is less of a story and more of a world for me to explore?”
Hard to believe that such a concept was novel, but at the time there was nothing like it. I gave in, and bought the GotY edition. As my 48x CD burner farted and buzzed through the installation, I watched the loading screens with fascination: Nix Hounds, Corprus Stalkers, Clannfear, Bone Lords. What was this game?!
I started it up. I chose to be a Dark Elf, because come on, how cool were they? They were Elves, sure, but they were unlike any elves I’d ever seen. Their skin was blue and gray, their faces were tattooed with tribal patterns, their eyes were red. And their voices…
Seyda Neen was my home base for the first hour. I wandered among the trees and hanging moss. It didn’t matter that the Silt Striders never moved an inch; just staring at them tickled my brain. As I wandered the swamps nearby, Tarhiel - that eternally foolish Bosmer enchanter - plunged to his death beside me, making me jump. I encountered my first ghost; a terrifying experience, since my weapons had no effect! Hours into the game, I still had no conception of where I was or what was happening. But I knew that I’d fallen in love.
That summer, I applied to Bethesda Softworks, for an internship position that they were not offering. I didn’t hear back.
I applied twice more in the next two years before I actually landed a job there. By then, I was seeing screenshots of their new game, a game they called Oblivion. The graphics looked amazing - stunning, really - and yet I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Where was the bone-mold armor? Where were the silt striders? Where was Vivec, and the other minor Gods? Cyrodiil didn’t seem to have ancestral Dunmer tombs, nor did it have giant arthropod homes, nor vampires with golden masks. The world of Cyrodiil… well, it was so much more generic than the alien world of Morrowind. And that was the point, I suppose; Cyrodiil was the capital city of Tamriel, after all, and it had to feel like a “middle ground” between cultures. The point of Morrowind was that there was nowhere else LIKE Morrowind, right?
I left Bethesda Softworks two years ago. While I was there, I worked on Shivering Isles, Fallout 3 and Skyrim, all of which I’m enormously proud of. Bethesda Games are getting better and better, and I cannot wait to play what’s next (and I do know what’s next… oh, I know). But in my seven years there, I never did get a chance to return to Morrowind.
And that’s why I’m writing you now: because it’s happening. Morrowind is returning, thanks to a diverse group of volunteer game developers. The project is called Skywind: as you might imagine, they’re using the Skyrim engine to recreate - area by area, monster by monster, line-by-yougottabekiddingme-line - this masterpiece. I tell you, if my time wasn’t utterly consumed by Fireborne (and my fantasy novel, the passion-project that made me leave Bethesda), I would certainly pitch in. Do you have any idea how much I’d like to make an ash ghoul? An Ascended Sleeper?! A WALKING SILT STRIDER??
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. But these guys and gals are actually DOING it. Check out their gorgeous art page on DeviantArt! And, because I'm partial to character artists, check out the work of Aeryn James Davies!