I’ve been playing Oblivion on and off for the last couple of years, and I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t even finished it yet. This is in no way a reflection on the quality of the game, more an indication of how busy I’ve been and the quality of competing games (Team Fortress 2, GTA IV etc.). Also to my defense, I have done a fair few side quests and for whatever reason have ignored the main quest quite a bit. My gaming habits aside, Bethesda has created one of the most detailed and interesting virtual worlds I’ve ever seen to date. This vast and rich world, coupled with my relatively new interest in game development, has now come to its logical conclusion… (see title for logical conclusion)
Thanks again to the incredibly talented crew at Bethesda, this is really not as daunting a task as you might think. As it turns out, Bethesda have kindly released the same (or very similar) tools used to develop the game itself for free. I have very little experience with the tools so far, but from what I’ve seen, it’s surprisingly simple to start out and get simple modifications working in the game. For example, you can load up an existing space in the game, drag and drop whatever items from the game you’d like into that space, and when you’re done, just load up the game and take in your room full of ladles.
Obviously making serious modifications to the game is a much more daunting task, involving programming, modelling, texturing, and many other skills used by the team of developers who made Oblivion. Despite the scary possibilities, you can still have a lot of fun playing around in the world of click-and-drag GUIs. To give you some idea of what’s possible with no prior experience and sticking solely to the click-and-drag GUI, two sessions of about 4-5 hours each gave me the skills to add a basic building to the game. This includes re-shaping the terrain surrounding the building, re-texturing the terrain surrounding the building, setting new paths for NPCs to follow to my building, adding a map marker to fast travel to the building, and finally, re-furnishing the interior. In the interests of complete disclosure, I will admit to a few hours playing around in Blender, a free and open source 3D modelling tool. While this barely helped, I did have a little experience manipulating 3D environments when I started.
As well as the excellent tools provided for you, there are also a number of excellent resources available to help new and experienced modders. The Elder Scrolls Construction Set Wiki has thus far been my most used resource, providing the beginners tutorials I used to learn just about everything I’ve done so far.
For anyone who’s interested in seeing my first baby steps into the world of Oblivion, as well as an indication of what you’ll get if you complete the first two parts of the tutorial I linked to, my mod is available for download. I’ll warn you now that, although I haven’t experienced any issues while playing with this mod, it’s not a completely clean mod, nor has it been thoroughly tested (use at your own risk =p). As a result, I’d encourage anyone loading it to back up their save games first. These can be found in your user directory under “Documents/My Games/Oblivion/Saves” in Vista. I would also suggest that nobody play the actual game with this mod enabled because I’m not sure what it might do to your save games. Warnings aside, it should be plenty safe enough for demo purposes.
To install the mod, check out this FAQ at the construction set wiki. To see my sleepy little farm house, fast travel to Weye and then head away from the Imperial City, taking the path to your right as you exit. Follow the road for a little while and you’ll see a path off to your right that squeezes between some rocks and trees (roughly in line with Fort Nikel). Take the path and you’ll be led right to the front door of my test building. Feel free to go inside and look around. You’ll notice that the inside is much bigger than the outside would lead you to believe. This is because I was being silly and linked the little farm house exterior to a Lord’s manor (from memory it’s from somewhere in Bravil). One more thing: there are probably a few items of value lying around in there. Yes, you can take them with you, but really, where’s the fun in cheating like that…