Shezrie's Elder Scrolls Mods

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Bleakden Town

My mod Bleakden Town continues to be very unfairly upheld as the reason why paid modding should not exist. Held up as 'inferior, poor quality and a mod with no effort put into it'. Despite sitting at the top of Steam for a Week when re-released as a free mod, then sitting on the Nexus Hot Files for a week.


So I asked why? Why is it considered this way? Why are people still after over a month since this contacting me about my 'inferior quality, no effort put into it' mod, so I replied and asked these people if they had actually tried out the mod and what I heard back was the same reply.....

'No, but I saw this review on the mod.'


So some random guy wrote this 'review' about Bleakden Town during the whole 'pay for' mods thing and since then my mod has been labeled 'inferior quality' and myself an inferior modder, the subject of much criticism and debate. So I am actually going to address this review and hopefully clarify things, at least from my point. Because the fact is that multiple points made by that 'reviewer' are wrong, out right wrong and to this day people are still believing him. So first things first...

Why Bleakden, why was this mod singled out?

The answer is simple, look at all the mods put up for pay and it is clear. There were a bunch of armor mods, not too much you can say about armor mods. There were a bunch of weapons mods, again not too much you can say about those or nitpick about those. There were a number of mods that were pay for versions of free mods, but you cannot really shit on these as the free versions were much beloved mods that had been around for years, so the only thing you could criticize was the fact that the new versions were pay.


Then there was this completely unique little town mod. To be honest, the biggest mistake I ever modded, I should have kept with the crowd and not gone my own way. Because the very fact that it was unique, the very fact that it was new and different, the very fact that it was comprised of so many intricate parts and so much of it could be subjected to personal opinion and criticism....made it the perfect target and scapegoat.


Over the pay for mods 'scandal' this little unassuming and very unique town was unfairly torn apart, unfairly nitpicked at, criticized, demonized and held up as the poster boy of why paid mods would result in 'inferior quality' mods. Why, because of all the mods it was the only sitting duck really, the one that stood out from the herd.

So onto that 'review'....

I am going to address each point that 'reviewer' made one by one, here is the uh 'review'. (http://imgur.com/a/bqcla?gallery). So first comment made...


Okay this looks bad.


Why? It looks like a corridor, why is that bad? Not sure I get the issue here. Also the 'reviewer' conveniently left out the foliage that exists in that corridor around the entry door. I actually shortened this corridor in an update, my original thinking on the length, which by the way is no longer then Bethesda's entries to their mines, was that the outside mountain the mine was constructed inside was actually sloped, which means that in order to get to taller parts you have to venture deep into the mountain. Silly me for trying to keep a bit of realism.


This guy popped in right behind me as I entered. Gave me a fucking heart attack, the little shit.


Welcome to the world of Bethesda games where NPCs appear infront of doors, having entered them. Not really sure what more to say on this one.


Welcome to Valve's Baking Company. Just like Amy, we didn't make the pastries we sell, we buy it off the neighbor and sell it overpriced.


Now unfortunately this is a recurring theme in this 'review'. Someone needs to tell this guy that the prices of items in game are based on your Speech skill and they vary based on that. So I actually didn't control or adjust the prices of items ingame.


This guy's pretty fucking rich for a baker, considering most other food vendors in the game rarely have more than 200 gold on them. 


Really!? This is an 'issue'. Cause everything must be done exactly like the vanilla game. 


You've probably noticed it by now, but there's close to no proper lighting in this entire location. It's all this dull, gray mess of nothing.


I ended up having to make a unique lighting template for this mod because I was presented with a very unique situation. I tried every existing template with adjustments. In fact the lighting for this mod was a nightmare that took me three days to get sorted. Sorry it isn't affected by your ENB.


There IS proper lighting in the mod, carefully placed and tested lighting such as the candle lights in homes, street lights, daylight coming through the grates etc. Even the mod screenshots showed clearly the proper lighting the mod has.


Fine, MOM.


Nothing more then personal opinion and nitpicking. That sign is there for decor and to add character. Inns often have signs that state the 'rules' of the establishment. Why is that so wrong? Perhaps it would have been preferable if I had just not bothered to put that extra effort into adding unique personal touches around the town.


Writing's not exactly great either.


Heh! Neither is the 'reviewer's'. 


Not a single locked door is set to have an owner, meaning you can lockpick every single one of them and nobody will complain.


Incorrect. All doors that required ownership had ownership set on them. Not sure where this guy came up with this. I went into the mod and double checked the doors after reading this.


There's also not a single guard in town anyway, so it's not like anybody could do anything about it.


No there are no guards. No guards in Riverwood either until a certain 'quest' so really no grounds for complaint. This was a design choice nothing more. 


And the beds don't have any owners either. So you don't have any reason to pay for a bed since you can pick the lock and crash into a bed at any given time.


All beds with the exception of two had ownership set correctly.  I did miss the ownership on a couple of beds, this has been corrected, took two seconds literally and was hardly a game destroying error. This town is comprised of so many intricate parts that the very few things that were missed were hardly surprising, no one is perfect. I went through this mod with a fine tooth comb many, many times. Sometimes even so you miss things, can't be helped. Look at all the things Bethesda misses and they have a team dedicated to finding any issues and errors.


Was it really so hard to set ownership for beds so the player actually has a reason to pay for one  


See above.


The town is overrun with foliage that grows out of hard rock. Not sure what's up with that.


I actually went online during creating the mod and found the types of plants that can grow in the dimmest light such as ferns and mushrooms. I also went into Bethesda's mine interiors and saw the foliage they used....ferns, mushrooms, grass, mountain flowers.... I drew the line at mountain flowers, but the rest were certainly plausible, especially if you read the book on the inn counter, The History of Bleakden'. I am getting confused at this point, apparently I must do what Bethesda does and give merchants the same cash etc...but if I do what Bethesda does then I am wrong....ie, using the same foliage in my mine that Bethesda uses in their mines.


The floor of Bleakden is stone packed with earth, if you don't think foliage can grow in that you need to come and check out my court yard....while you are at it...weed it.


So the doors aren't owned by anyone and it's legal to mess around with them but pick the fucking grass and the town wants you dead.


Incorrect. All doors that required ownership had ownership set on them. Not sure where this guy came up with this.

 

Here is the thing, this town presented a unique problem regarding ownership. I ended up setting the cell ownership to the town faction and making all items, containers, beds that should be the player's, owned by the player. Unfortunately setting cell ownership meant that the foliage could not be harvested. Short of adding yet more scripts on each plant this could not be circumvented. If the 'reviewer' had at the least a working knowledge of the CK then they would know this.


I'd say "this is a pretty weird town" but I'll settle with "this is a pretty shit mod".


I would say that the review by this 'reviewer' is not only nothing more then personal opinion and nitpick, but also ignorant in that they are clearly completely oblivious as to why some things had to be done in certain ways given the limitations of the CK and the game. Sadly a lot of people believed this 'review' which is why I find myself having to dispute the rubbish.


I'm not entirely sure what an ultra-rare staff enchanter from the Dragonborn DLC is doing in the middle of an alchemy shop in a run-down poor underground mining town, but I'll roll with it. 


I know, it is almost like it is there for the convenience of the player, but I get you, not like any other mod has ever added that....oh wait...just about every fricken house mod out there. Also the town is not actually run down or poor, it is a thriving town with many shops, a tavern and an inn.


That's probably the player home. I didn't bother looking into it.


How convenient, just ignore one of the best and main features of the mod, the full player house, unlike any player house out there with see through windows looking out into the town, toggleable lights, full labelled storage etc.


Here's another issue with the mod : all, and I mean ALL merchandise found in the shops are not interactive. Can't buy them, can't steal them.


That is completely untrue. Not ALL merchandise is static, look again. For a start there are two full shelving units filled with steal able weapons and armor in the 'Hack 'n Slash' shop. There are a lot of static displays so that people don't get a mess of havoked items. These are items grouped in nifscope for decoration. I see an abundance of authors using completely static displays, why is it a problem now?


These types of displays are pretty and all but when they're absolutely not representative of the actual inventory of the merchant it's really annoying. The base game does it, so why can't a mod ?


Well I can't really win with this one. If I place everything on display as buy able I will be accused of letting low level characters have access to high level items like ebony armor and weapons. If I remove such items from the displays there will be nothing to display and the shops would be empty. Not to mention that higher level character players will complain that they can buy things not on display. The merchants sell leveled items so their inventory will change as your level does.

 


More untouchable merchandise. Alvor has a pile like this at his workshop, except you can actually steal from it and buying ingots off of him will remove them from the stockpile.


Again the reviewer's ignorance of modding is apparent here. To implement something like this  when you are talking the multitude of items in the four shops in ONE cell in this town would be a ridiculous waste of time. Not only really not doable but also would be stupid to do something that would be mostly unnoticed by the vast majority of players. In other words the feature is most definitely not worth the implementation from a resource point of view (having to have all items moveable, ie not static) as well as a time point of view. Expecting something like that is silly, plus I see no other modded stores doing it, why make an issue now, oh wait... the need to make an issue.


Check out the ambiance at this tiny tavern which is separated from the inn for some reason. Also the mod calls what's essentially a hotel an inn.


Seriously? Cause taverns and inns have never been separate!? I had better head down to my local tavern and tell them they must make it an inn too, cause this is just not right!


Dictionary definition of 'Inn' -  'Inns are generally establishments or buildings where travelers can seek lodging and, usually, food and drink.'


Dictionary definition of 'Hotel' - 'a place that provides food, lodging, and other services for paying guests.'


Now considering that the inn in this mod provides ONLY lodging, NOT food etc....what should it logically be called.....an 'inn' of course. Can't believe I had to point that out. 


That's neat, it shows the prices on this board, and it looks like it could have actually been made by a local ! Shame it doesn't actually mean anything and the prices aren't fixed.


That is purely for decoration and atmosphere and are the base prices of those items. You buy goods in Skyrim at prices that vary with your speech skill. Short of overhauling the entire economy in Skyrim that will not change.


This bed's broken and doesn't work at all. Okay then.


It is almost like the player is not supposed to be able to use that bed...oh wait...that is exactly the case! Who wants to sleep in a blood stained bed the skeleton lying next to it was murdered on.


There's a poor district in this town with twenty residents (literally twenty, that's the number the mod page officially gives). 


How many were you expecting exactly? 50 maybe, good luck with that FPS nightmare. That 20 residents is 20 for the whole town.


The local hobos don't seem too annoyed. Wait, how does an entirely indoor town have homeless people ? Isn't the entire place their home ?


Just a wee point here, I never said 'homeless' people at all, not once, not ever, did not even think it. Because they are not 'homeless', they are poor. Sheesh. 


Again, there are NO homeless people in the town, every single one has a home. If this 'reviewer' had actually researched the mod they would know this.


The in game map really emphasizes how repetitive the use of assets is. The floor and ceiling never change from start to finish, and the walls are pretty much always the same too.


Limited assets available for use. Also limited time available to make assets. ALL assets used in this mod were 100% mine. Not ONE other resource was used, not a thing. If you think different then I challenge you to pull up and show me exactly what resource, where it supposedly came from and I can happily show you how wrong you are.


But hey you can interact with the shutters, ain't that nice.


Shame the 'reviewer' couldn't be bothered to show the see through windows behind the shutters, but then that would have been contrary to the purpose of the 'review' which was to do anything to make the mod look bad in order to demonize paying for mods.


Some crazy monk has this set on his table and he doesn't mind me reading it.


Wtf, since when can you NOT read books in NPC houses!? You can read ALL the books you find around Skyrim regardless of where they are as long as you do not try to take the books.


Nobody in Skyrim or Solstheim refers to days as "moons", as far as I'm aware.


I don't think that is the case, I am certain that in Morrowind....but besides that, I cannot believe this is up held as an 'issue', cause no mod ever has gone outside of 'lore'. *sigh*


The forge is empty most of the time and the blacksmith won't sell anything to you.


That is because he is not a 'blacksmith', he is a resident of the town being busy. The forge only exists for the player to use, because I wanted to provide the player with all the facilities they generally need in a home and obviously a forge would simply not go into any of the three player homes. Also, this town was a mine as fully explained in 'The History of Bleakden', a forge and smelter are pretty much to be expected there. Also it simply did not make sense to make that NPC a blacksmith when the general store and the weapon/armor store already sell everything.


That NPC is doing one of many activities around the town. You see despite what 'some' claim, the NPCs are NOT standing around 'doing nothing'. They are all doing something, be it reading, working the forge, eating, admiring the goods through a shop window, sleeping, being drunk, warming their hands around a fire, or even high on skooma.


Also worth mentioning, not a single one of the characters in this town has custom voicelines. Most of the characters in this town don't even have vanilla lines other than the generic greetings. You can't interact with them, you can't tell them to do anything. They're here purely for decoration.


Old Hroldan which ended up with 10 voice actors, took thousands of hours to make. The voice acting alone added 6 months to that project. Not doable here. There are dozens of non voice acted towns out, in fact other then my own Old Hroldan town I cannot think of ANY new town (not town overhaul) that is voice acted. So WTF!


Also, actually some NPCs have extra idle faction chat lines.


There's that dumb sign that reads the direction to the districts in this SIMPLE CORRIDOR. It's also the only way through to either of these districts, and there's only two districts.


The signs are marking the point where the districts change, not sure why that is classed as 'dumb', maybe actual separate districts go over this reviewer's head. But again, why is this an 'issue', when it is nothing more then personal opinion and nitpicking. Also, there are FOUR districts, sheesh even the mod description says that.


Whiterun doesn't have any indicator of where the three districts start and end, people in town just know about them and sometimes refer to them (fuck you Nazeem). Why does this town need them ?


Because it is one of those detailed extra touches that demonstrate the care and effort put into the mod. 


Oh, and the ceiling texture is actually a generic ground dirt texture. Nice work.


It was the best texture I could find to look good. No I don't apologize for it considering that Bethesda also frequently uses wall, ceiling, floor textures on other objects.


Into the old town. You can tell it's old town because it has darker lighting. There's literally no light sources in there by the way, it's all the same monotone brightness setting.


Hah! Old Town used a vanilla lighting template, so take it up with Bethesda! Secondly that is pure crap, the other light source is the light beams coming down from the vents. Also, who do you think would keep light sources lit when there is no one in there? 


Yeah, right. "Door won't budge" more like "I don't know what to put behind these, oh well."


Again, no idea about modding or simply no effort to actually research the mod. On the other side of that door is a beam sticking out into the room that I couldn't disguise and couldn't remove as it is an integral part of the ceiling in the corridor. See, method behind the madness. Do your research before spouting lies.


The false panel leads to a corridor and straight into another false panel. How useful.


This made me laugh....because secret passages are always open at the other end rendering them 'not' secret!? This comment is just plain stupid.


A chest that's filled with jewelry and gems, because leveled lists are hard and it's easier to just cram a chest full of indirect gold. 


Or... because I wanted to set a custom reward that lends credence to the story. Which you likely didn't bother to even read. Also it is harder to create a unique container and fill it with what you want then it is to plonk a generic container down with leveled list crappy stuff.


FUCKING. SPOOKY.


Good, I have done my job with getting across the extent of the tragedy that happened there.


Another example of the map being repetitive. What's the point of having such long hallways between areas ? Don't be fooled by all the door signs, the map's not complicated at all. These are just poorly executed ladders which basically just teleport you up and down. Also, the old town just sort of ends. There's two enemies, no bosses or associated quest, nothing. If there is, I must have missed it, which wouldn't be surprising considering how every single hallway looks the same.


Because I want long hallways AND because long hallways are required in order to accommodate the houses that are along almost all the hallways! Also the corridors are like that for the set up of room bounds and portals. 


The ladders are not poorly executed, they are the best that can be done with straight ladders in Skyrim, a little something different and unique.


Also the town does not just end, do your research! There is a player house in Old Town with access to Skyrim, a carefully created unique player apartment with toggleable lights, labeled storage and a secret entrance perfect for role playing an outlaw, bad character etc. So that is two player homes this 'reviewer' completely ignores the existence of. Thank god for the third player home...which oh right!....the reviewer completely ignores too.



The fact is that this guy came along looking for five minutes of fame at the expense of others. He got it. He could have written proper reviews that were professional, well researched and didn't directly attack the reputations of the modders involved and even the modders themselves. His 'reviews' were not only a rant of vile hatred, nitpicking and personal opinion spouted as 'issues', but they were often with outright lies. The very intent of the 'reviews' was to rabble raise, cause problems and show the community how they were being 'attacked' and 'screwed over' by us particular modders. Ludicrous! No one was 'forced' to buy anything. These 'reviews' added much fuel to the fire of the portion of the community that was angry and especially to the portion of the community behaving aggressively towards anyone involved in the Pay for Mods. Over and over I saw these 'reviews' held up as a reason to behave disgracefully and aggressively and a reason to be angry. To add insult to injury this guy was then paid I believe $1500 to write an article on his opinion that we specific modders involved didn't deserve to earn money for our hard work. It was ludicrous and I would have dismissed the pure insanity of what was going on it I hadn't had this guy's efforts shoved in my face over and over coupled with threats of physical violence from a plethora of people who bought into the lies.


I write this rebuttal because people need to know the truth of what was actually going on at the time so that this fiasco never happens again. I don't write it to justify paid mods, most of you already know my opinion on that, I write it because the next time something comes up and it could be anything, that rocks the community, I hope people will not join the riot wagon. A riot wagon that was made up of individuals from particular websites that are not even interested in Skyrim, most probably have never played it and that thrive on causing problems for the lols.


Anyway, that is that 'shit' review taken care of.

 


To be honest I am somewhat perplexed by the comments from other modders saying that the town was 'was easy to make' or 'to be honest I could do better with my eyes closed' or that 'it had no effort put into it' or 'looked like a first time mod'. But then town modding is very often completely undervalued and very few people understand that creating an entire town is a HELL of a lot of work and requires a lot of knowledge. 


Unlike many people think it is FAR more advanced then plonking down a few houses and some NPCs. Town modding is massively time consuming and comprises almost every area of modding....level design, NPCs, AI, scripting, texturing, lighting, mesh making and adjustment, nav meshing, writing dialog, scripting, sounds, voiced dialog cleaning, adjusting, implementation, problem solving and creating workarounds, animation, quest design, story writing, FPS awareness and management big time and on and on.....Many aspects that must all be managed and coordinated and brought together. It is just NOT as easy as people think, which is why there are so few new town mods out there and even less with voiced dialog and quests. 


Add to all this, that I can only imagine such people have not considered the challenges to be overcome in making a town in one cell, that makes town making even more difficult, such as...


1) Ownership


You have to have ownership set to all NPCs and ALSO have the player ownership of all the items,doors etc in their own houses in the mod. Even the simplest way to pull it off such as I did has issues, I set the ownership of the cell to the town faction, but of course that sets ownership of all foliage. Then you have to go through and set ownership of every single item that should belong to the player. 


2) Locking/unlocking doors


All shops/houses throughout Skyrim have load doors leading into their cells. Which means that the NPC can happily lock doors through their AI at closing time with all doors in the closed state. Having a whole town open in one cell presents a problem.....if the player or an NPC walks through a door they will of course not close it. So when the owner NPC's AI package changes the door is locked in an open state. Meaning the player can just walk into and out of shops. Not good at all. You cannot expect the player to close doors behind them.


I ended up doing a lot of research and ended up with a simple script on the doors that sets them closed after a few seconds in the open state.


3) Lighting


What a nightmare. This is not a dungeon, this is a town full of separate houses and a whole new ball game when it comes to lighting. Houses that must have individual light sources. Lets put aside the fact that you can only have 4 shadow casting lights in one cell and concentrate on light 'debugging' where the player will have issues such as FPS issues and lighting turning off if there are two many bulbs within an area.


But you must have your lighting in the 'cool' color zone. Easier said then done considering that every street lamp must be a light source, every shop window must be light enough to view the goods inside the shop, all homes need their own light source from candles. Not easy at all.


What lighting template will you use? What fog values? How can you adjust to fit this crazy unique layout that is not like your average dungeon or mine, there is a nightmare in itself.


4) Working in such a narrow space 


Very tedious and frustrating to piece all the multitude of parts together working within the narrow alleys. Also if you actually look you can see that I made a LOT of pieces work and fit together in ways they were not intended to be.  


That is just some of the issues that had to be overcome to even pull off the town. So you consider it easy to make, well of course you do looking at the mod from your side of things. You didn't build it, you didn't come up with the layout, you didn't put together individual re-textured pieces to make the actual town, Every single house a conglomeration of individual pieces carefully put together. You also didn't come up with the unique ideas like see through windows, open able shutters, scripted doors, labeled storage, the loft spaces. The NPCs themselves, their names, their homes, their stories. You didn't spend hours and hours texturing the signs, adding the peeling paint carefully by hand, piecing all the static displays and static items together in Nifscope,  adding extra touches like price signs, shop open times signs, notes, stories, activate able items. You didn't spend hours and hours figuring out issues that there was no documentation for because such a situation doesn't exist in modding, After all what kind of an idiot would want to put an entire town in one interior cell!? You didn't add all those NPCs with all their AI AND the extra idle animations that quite a few play.


Nope you looked at the mod, which had 292 hours of hard work put into it within a month, and decided right then and there that it was 'easy to make' and you could 'do better with your eyes closed'.


Show me the other unique towns out there. In fact why don't you show me the other new town mods with voice acting, other then my own Old Hroldan mod which had over 2000 hours of work poured into it.


Like I said before making this town was a mistake, not because of the pay for mods thing where people were running around looking for anything to support their stance against paid mods. But because this whole thing has just highlighted beautifully how little people value town mods and how little they understand how they are put together and just how much work goes into creating a unique town, especially non town modders who seem to consider making a town like making a player house. The amount of painstaking work and knowledge required to make a good town is the very reason why there are so few town mods even available. Achieving Bleakden within a month was actually pretty damn good. 


I had a plan with Bleakden, I had a vision in mind of an underground city, kinda that like the 'city' in Thief Deadly Shadows that would allow the player to just walk right into shops, homes etc. I knew I would have to split the town into large sections in order to be careful with FPS for users, but I thought four more large districts the size of the current town, each in it's own cell. A unique underground city.


Anyway, that is what I was thinking when making Bleakden. Ah well, maybe in the next TES game or maybe time to move into other areas of modding. 


Take care. :)