Thank you both for taking the time to talk to us. Could you start by telling us a little about yourselves?
gkalian: Hello and thanks for the invitation. My name is Alex, I am an engineer from Russia, who became interested in the Elder Scrolls series about 13 years ago. I made several mods for Morrowind and Oblivion during my early days of modding and finally after recording a series of video tutorials about the Creation Kit I finally started developing mods for Skyrim.
Dimonoider: Thanks for the opportunity! I’m Dmitry (or Dimon), a 22-year-old dude from Belarus (a small country between Poland and Russia). I’ve been involved in modding games since childhood. I dream to work in games (or cinema) industry.
Project AHO, released in March 2018, took the Skyrim modding scene by storm. It was downloaded almost 20,000 times for Skyrim and Skyrim Special Edition in the first week alone. Could you tell us about how this mod came to be?
Dimonoider: I started working on it in 2014, it took a lot of time because I needed to find myself, my style, learn more about the Creation Engine and of course find Alex who became my co-author and a good friend. Then the idea of making an ordinary flying Dwemer house turned into AHO.
gkalian: For me, it was never like "Hey, I’m making a mod, come join me." When I was doing Creation Kit tutorials I received such offers, but I always refused them, because I was either not interested, the author’s ambitions were beyond their ability or there was no knowledge at all.
While I was working on “White River House?”, Dima shared his suggestions with me regarding lighting and fx. So one thing leads to another, it doesn't take long to make friends. It took us some time to find the proper workflow because Dima likes doing locations, then re-doing it over and over again forever.
We went through several different ideas and versions - once we had thought it'd be better to do episodes and made mod even bigger than it is now. I do not want to go deeper in history but if you compare the first project teaser in August 2016 and next one year later you may notice how we changed the story.
The real development started in early 2017, Dima decided to do a cave with a tree in the middle and I realized it’s quite a good place for a Telvanni settlement. Our main focus was a ship, of course, but now there were no Dwemer so the Telvanni and their culture took the focus in the project. We recognised after the release some players had problems with this. No doubt, slavery is bad and we do not support it, but the culture of the House Telvanni was created by the Bethesda before us, we just kept things as close to the game's lore as we can. In some measure, this is the reason we did two endings.
From the comments, it was clear that some aspects of the mod were not well received. But, in my humble opinion, this is normal for the first big project, and it is impossible to please everyone.
You’ve recently released Carved Bink, a new quest mod based in the Faceted Stones. It features a number of interesting characters and mechanics such as vertical gameplay. Could you tell us more about the background of the mod and how it came to be?
gkalian: Carved Brink started out as a small mod, it was initially going to be entirely different from how it turned out. I think I missed how exactly we switched from funny joke “mod about goblins” to something much bigger with Snow Elves, Daedra and other stuff. Creating mods is like creativity in its purest form (even if there are limitations within the established lore and universe). I just can say some moments from development started out with us saying things like “Let’s do a shell-follower! Yeah, sort of a pirate, chatterbox! Sure, cool” or “I did a cell with floating mushrooms, dunno why, but it looks brilliant. Oh yeeeah. Let me think”. This is how we work.
Dimonoider: This mod was supposed to be a little adventure for 10-20 minutes, not a project the size of AHO, it's so funny to me looking back on how the project started.
“Let's go. In and out, a 20 minute adventure, you know“. ©
Do you do all the work on your mod projects or are there other team members involved?
gkalian: Our team is really small - just Dima and I. But of course, we can’t do everything. We would like to thank these users who’ve been amazing in supporting our projects:
- Forhir, who composed all the music for Project AHO and Carved Brink.
- khobis is a voice actor, writer and helps with many other different things.
- r0ht, he designed many of our characters and wrote a lot of their dialogue, he also gave us an outside perspective on our mods.
You can see the full list of skilled and talented people who help us in the mod credits including 2D artists, 3D artists and voice actors - all of the team did amazing and beautiful work. But it is a different group of people for each of our projects (Project AHO or Carved Brink).
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of creating mods of this size?
Dimonoider: For me - Voice Acting. Because I'm not doing that and can’t control what’s happening. Otherwise, we could release AHO/Carved Brink sized mods every year
gkalian: Combine new locations and lore. Sometimes its really difficult to put all the pieces together. And when I think “Fine, that was the last one”, Dimonoider will share a new cell with me and then I need to change, move and play with the setting and lore to make it all fit into the design.
Are there any tools, tips or tricks you would recommend to budding mod authors?
gkalian: Alex’s video tutorials (for Russian mod makers) about Creation Kit. Of course the Creation Kit wiki. Then if you want to make locations - don’t forget about lighting. It is definitely the most important thing in the world after gameplay.
Dimonoider: In addition, I will say the following - adequately assess your capabilities. Be prepared for the possibility that no one except you will be interested in your project. And most importantly, be patient. It’s not easy to create high-quality mods.
With the release of Carved Bink, you’ve also teased your next project “Dyngir - A Las story”. It looks unlike any other mod I’ve seen before. What can you tell us about it?
Dimonoider: We’ve long been thinking about our own game and we thought it was a good idea to make it on Skyrim’s Engine. This is because I don't think we can produce some like this so fast on Unreal or Unity. Maybe a year ago, I made drafts in Creation Kit and sent them to Alex. As a result, it became the style for the game in the future.
gkalian: It sounds really weird to say “a 2D game on the Creation Engine” but why not? We are still working on patches for Carved Brink and Project AHO before we focus on Dyngir, so it will be a while before it is finished. We have a forum thread with more information, for anyone who is interested.
Where do you take inspiration from when designing with these projects?
gkalian: I get inspired by the things around me - music, books, films. I just need time to be alone (or at least not disturbed). But usually, I go somewhere without music in my ears and think, going through different versions and eventually I will come up with an idea. Imagination - it just works.
Although of course there are some moments when I look at the location that Dimonoider made and immediately see what will be and what should be there. But it’s not often. Usually, I just need time.
Dimonoider: From music and the depths of my mind. Sometimes these are images inspired by movies. I like films such as Aquaman, Avengers, Avatar for the amazing graphics and locations/worlds in them. Also, I'm learning how to build spectacular lighting from watching live concerts of Rammstein because they do produce unbelievable work with the lights and effects. I‘m looking forward to seeing them live this summer!
Have you ever considered modding other games?
Dimonoider: In the past, I made mods (only for myself) for Heroes of Might and Magic, GTA San Andreas, Freelancer (one of the Chris Roberts games). But for the future, I don’t know. I already want modding Starfield and TES VI. Todd Howard, if you read this - I want to do TES 6 with Bethesda!
gkalian: Before the Elder Scrolls, I used to do maps for Heroes of Might and Magic III and Starcraft. Nothing serious, just for personal usage. But if I ever leave the TES Community, I think I’ll move on to the Half-Life universe (I made a map for Portal 2). I like this world, it’s a great place to create, plus the engine is very good for mods. The community is still alive and keeps making new mods.
Do you aspire to create your own full game outside of Skyrim's engine one day? If so, what game engine would you use and why?
gkalian: Hard to say. I have done some work in Unreal and Unity because was curious to see how it worked. But which one to use depends on different things. One of those two is quite enough for our purposes.
Dimonoider: I would really like to work in any studio and make locations, worlds. But if we are talking about something entirely of our own. Today I’m looking to Unity or Unreal engine because they are famous and rapidly developing engines with a strong community of game developers. And, of course, that’s a multiplatform engine.
How can users in our community support your work?
Dimonoider: Share it everywhere! Share it for everyone! We have Patreon? and PayPal. (I dream to replace my 10-year-old potato computer to something new and strong). You can also follow us on Twitter? and join our Discord?.
gkalian: Dimonoider covered it well, but I will say make screenshots and videos, share your thoughts and keep playing.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Dimonoider: Play games, make mods, realize your dreams. Thanks to the community for trust in Haem Projects. Thanks to NexusMods for an excellent platform for creativity!
gkalian: Keep playing mods, keep supporting Nexus Mods. And always read the descriptions of the mods carefully (It’s really important to install things correctly and get the best gameplay experience).
A big thank you to Dimonoider and gkalian of Haem Projects for answering our questions. As always, if there's an author or mod project you'd like to know more about, send your suggestions to BigBizkit or Pickysaurus.