Skyrim Director Wishes Console Gamers Could Experience PC Mods

Skyrim's vast, lush world is a wonderful thing made all the more remarkable by the fact that it continues to grow and expand, constantly changing in unexpected ways. This is not only due to the downloadable content that Bethesda has planned for the game (the first one, Dawnguard, looks pretty terrific). Skyrim keeps growing because of modders, PC tinkerers who tear the game apart and rebuild it in lovely and unexpected ways.

Skyrim game director Todd Howard agrees — he and his team at Bethesda have embraced the modding community to an unprecedented degree. It's really too bad that such a huge number of console gamers never have an opportunity to mess around with mods at all. "If I ran the video game world," Howard told me at E3, "all consoles would be exactly the same way [as PCs]."

Skyrim is the first non-Valve game to use the "Steam Workshop", which puts mods in one place on Steam, making them easy to install alongside of the game. "We know a lot of the guys at Valve," Howard said, "so we wanted to dig in deep with Steam and Skyrim.

"One of our level designers Joel Burgess, he handles a lot of our Wiki and our Modding — what people want, and how the editor works, and all those things. And he became friends with one of the designers at Valve, and they just started talking about it. And they came to me, and I said 'Yeah, this sounds amazing!' The Valve guys were in our office the next week."

"We were like, 'This is amazing, want a job?'"

The Steam Workshop isn't the only place to get mods — you can also find them at the Skyrim Nexus, a site that has been hosting mods since the days of past Bethesda games like Fallout 3 and Oblivion. I asked Howard how much Bethesda engaged with the community at the independent Skyrim Nexus as they put together the plan for the Steam Workshop.

"They've been doing it for a long time, and there's a lot of great stuff there," he said. "We found that we were of two minds on it. One is that we should stay out of it — we should give them the tools, and the creators will be fine. We don't want to muck it up for them somehow.

"But we started feeling like, mods are so cool, we need to do more to make sure more people are trying them out. The Steam Workshop thing was, we're going to be on Steam with our game, so we have that working, we should do this."

I asked Howard if he'd ever seen a mod that was so good that he wanted to hire the person who made it. After saying that he hesitated on that question since it felt like he was passing judgement, he shared a cool story: "One of the top Morrowind mods, where you could cut guys' heads off and stuff, he's our main combat AI programmer. He has been for years. We were like, 'This is amazing, want a job?'"

Howard says that modding often plays a role in hiring at Bethesda. "Because our tools have been out for so long, if you're applying with us, we'll say, 'Throw something up!' So we can look at their mod, their level — and our bar is, 'Would we have shipped this?'"

As for his own personal favourite Skyrim mod, Howard mentioned liking clever functional mods like the one that adds fast-travel markers for the houses that you own. He also mentioned another favorite: "This isn't a mod per se, but have you seen the 'Great Battles of Skyrim"? [Embedded here] I love that. There's something where I've never seen the game do that. So it's more like, I start watching the video and I think, 'Let's see how this goes,' is the game gonna break? But it actually worked! So I'm thinking, 'Hey, look at the combat go! Awesome!'

Modders continue to push the limits of Skyrim beyond what even its developers would have thought possible — and they're just getting started. Heck, I'm really into modding the game and I can't keep up!

Given the fact that people are still making revolutionary mods for Morrowind and Oblivion, it stands to reason that we'll be getting Skyrim mods for a long, long time to come. As Bethesda continues to crank out new game content, it seems like a safe bet that one of the best games of 2011 will continue to get better and better into 2012 and beyond.

Image: Duncan Harris/Dead End Thrills


    Nice read. Keep the game content rolling :D

    I'd like it if I didn't have to wait another month for Dawnguard on both PC & PS3.

    Can't have everything we want there...

    and I'm sure the modding community would love to pay Microsoft $40,000 bucks for each mod they create and pay the same for each addition or tweak they make...

    MS tend to be pretty protective of the wall around XBL. But they should figure some way to make this work on PS3 at least. It's already had Steam integration with Portal 2, so you'd assume there's no major technical barrier to that. And user-generated content isn't an issue on PS3 either with the likes of LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers having done it on a large scale already.

      LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers don't do it quite like Skyrim though. Where they let you connect pre-made parts together Skyrim lets you make your own resources. This means you can make something like the Conan in the banner up there using 10x the polycount of a regular model. A half dozen of those on screen breaks the game.
      Not that it's impossible or even that impractical to do it on a console. That's just the reason why games like LittleBigPlanet are testing the waters not proving it can be done.

      It also has a lot of potential to open up certain vulnerabilities on a console. It's paranoid and you could even argue selfish but ultimately Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo don't want to do anything that can offer up an injection point like that. If something like the ArmA II zombie mod sold a few hundred XBOXs Microsoft would be over the moon but they've got to consider the potential to lead to a Dreamcast pirate paradise situation.

    This is why I think Vethesda should hold a modding competition. The winner gets their mod integrated as dlc for consoles for the minimum price and they get a cut of the profit. Everybody wins.

      Problem with that is that the consoles don't run PC architecture

      A awesome mod for skyrim on PC has the potential to destroy the game on consoles

        Now, see... THAT is the ultimate troll target.

        Pretty sure the biggest concern on consoles from MS and Sony is: Penis.
        Penis? That's for amateurs. Too obvious. Make a really, blindingly good mod, and include a few bits and pieces that generate infinite loops or something that eventually grow to destroy the hard drive.

    What we need is absolute equality between all the platforms, use each one to their full extent. Sure, give consoles mod capabilities, but give PC versions good graphics options, optimisation, high res textures, and full utilisation of mouse and keyboard instead of a UI pandering to controllers. Also, get timed exclusives the fuck away from consoles. As if we didn't need another excuse for console fanboys to foam over why their preferred platform is better.

    I'm fine with mods for consoles, but don't make consoles the primary focus for the love of god. Don't make PC the primary focus either. Give each platform what it deserves.

      Never going to happen unless consoles die off the only reason To create a console is for control which is the one thing PC's lack.

      To create equality either PC or Console would have to die. And mods only exist on one side of that spectrum

    Won't happen. With the amount of graphical and UI mods people would have (which would be at least 50 I'm guessing), consoles simply won't be able to handle them, simply because their specs falter in comparison to a decent gaming PC. Hell, the PS3 is still a basket case when it comes to Skyrim and is brought to its knees when playing it. If it can hardly play Skyrim without any mods, what makes anyone think it will do any better with them taking up more resources?

    Furthermore, mods on the Xbox version (if the Xbox can handle them) simply won't happen unless people are willing to pay for them, which they likely won't. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I remember hearing that MS has a pricing policy where they only allow one free download for DLC or something, and after that, users have to pay.

      That can't be completely true, all of the Mass Effect 3 DLC has been free.
      Although its all been multiplayer-only content.

    To say its not possible is a complete cop out... does anyone remember Unreal Tournament 3 on PS3? You can download mods from PC and transfer it to your PS3 via the USB port, then run it in-game... Epic did it AGES ago.... and Bethesda could have easily done the same thing. I'm surprised not more developers took advantage of this system. Oh well, its easier to say "it cant be done" without trying I suppose.

      YES. I played as Samus Aran online. It was so dissonant, and yet so right.

    Honestly PC should be mod exclusive. It's the only thing that really sets us apart.

    Sad thing about the Nexus sites is separating the chaff from the wheat.

    You can't trust the user review systems, because they seem to be overly dominated by mister, "OMG, bigger badonkadonk? +10!" leading you to search results that feature crotchless chainmail panties.

    For a while I tried to keep up with the 'newest' section and just check it regularly, but given the flood of mods, it soon became a daily chore. And let me tell you, the BANE OF MY EXISTENCE during that chore was savegames.

    "This is Freya. She is a feisty nord, imprisoned for taking vengeance on the murderers of her family. She is beautiful and quick-tempered, but also kind and a good friend. She is a fierce warrior, protecting the innocent and quick-witted and smart, surviving on her own, but also really humble about it."

    The kind of thing that when you read it, all you can do for a while is stare blankly at your screen, thinking about the kind of person who writes such a thing, and why. Almost makes you want to sigh, grab the poor, hapless nerd responsible and declare, "We are going out. We are going to study the difference between a single-malt and blended scotch whiskey, and when we are done, we will get you laid and teach you NOT to obsess over your one-night-stand for the next year."

      (If they pass that course with honours, they can enroll in the follow-up class: Cigars, and how they relate to the previous two subjects.)

      With Oblivion I stuck to OOOs mod and some texture packs. I am sure someone will build something epic for Skyrim soon.

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