In this work, I devote a lot of effort and care to details that no one notices. While it’s arguably a poor use of my time, I enjoy the process – and technically it’s productive. But maybe you, dear reader, might like to hear about these little things, or at least find them interesting/strange. So let’s talk about the work that went into producing one (1) screenshot and 43 seconds of video for last week’s post about the Morrowind modder who added the family chat because his kids were afraid of mudflats.
The story behind Stripes the cat coming to Morrowind is nice but this story is more interesting than the actual mod, and it’s all contained in the mod’s readme file. Great for me as an avid readme reader, less exciting for website readers. And the mod download page only has one muddy screenshot to show. So I’m going to play the mod for myself and take a screenshot and video to give you a better look at Stripes. I didn’t expect it to take so long.
First problem, Morrowind is a 20 year old game. Unable to run it in a modern screen resolution and suspicious of other potential technical issues, I quickly turned to the excellent fan-made replacement engine, OpenMW. Once it works, I just need to start a new character, go through the tutorial, use cheats to teleport to the remote town where I’ll find Stripes, and then I’ll probably be done.
But Caldera looks grim when I arrive, and I intend to record Stripes fighting his enemies, the mudflats. Head to the pretty coastal town of Vivec! The teleport cheat drops me near a pretty bay with a small island. Perfect. Ish. I arrive at night and when I try to sleep until dawn, a Dark Brotherhood assassin strikes. Because I’m in my starting outfit, I’m instantly super-murdered. So! Use cheats to level me up and give me good weapons, go to sleep, now get attacked by a pair of assassins because I am high level, assassinate them, use another console command to hide their corpses ( and at this point, remember I could have used a cheat to kill them), then sleep until dawn was bright and Stripes was ready for his portrait.
Maneuvering Stripes into a good position, I learn why the mod’s only screenshot is staring him down. Morrowind’s camera is not conducive to photography. Rather than looking for camera mods, I remember a useful console command. Observe:
Why mess with mods when you can shrink your assistant to 30% of its normal size? Then bring the FOV down as narrow as possible, turn off the HUD, put your gun away, and you’ve got a great first-person camera. I was very happy to think of this solution. After a few shots, I have a screenshot that satisfies me. While I despise the “bullshot” publishers often staged to sell games, trickery is good when it comes to showing people a nice cat.
Finally, it’s time to record a video. Rather than chasing mudflats, I use console commands to generate a charge. But now I don’t just keep a cat anymore, I also keep AI-controlled shellfish. Many crab fights come out poorly on video. Maybe Stripes clips inside a mudflat corpse and disappears, or Stripes hesitates to fight, or I add too many mudflats and it’s boring, or I make the mudflats in positions that turn out to be uninteresting, or… it doesn’t help that I have a crazy idea of filming with the beautiful dawn in the background, a detail that barely appears on the screen but which makes all backlit and cloudy. I ended up with loads of null takes roughly looking like this:
Not good enough. I moved to the other side of the island, played around with positioning and numbers of mudflats, and reloaded from save until a battle was going well enough. It’s not that I think the video I ended up making is amazing, but it’s better. This is a video that I think is good enough for a post. I finally finished.
Between setup, troubleshooting, testing, staging, and many attempts, it took me maybe two hours for a screenshot and less than a minute for video. I think it was worth it. And here I tell you about it, double dipping on the content, so yes, it was worth doubling it. An invaluable use of my time! Now I just need a funny video clip for our tweet on this post…