Let's start as we always do, please tell us about yourself for those in the community who don't know you yet.
There isn't much to tell really. I come from a very creative family, which I'm sure helps me when coming up with new mod ideas. I'm a writer and an artist but, to be honest, I haven't really done any writing or drawing for fun in many years. I have instead been dedicating most of my spare time to modding. I tend to do very little else! I've done a little bit of modding every day for the last 3 years.
I also work as a tattoo artist, which is great for me as it's another avenue for creativity. When I'm not working or modding, of course, I like to play video games.
If you had to pick your top 3 favourite games of all time, which would you pick and why?
Well, as you can probably guess, Morrowind has to be my number one - it was the first Elder Scrolls game I ever played. I remember picking it up about a year after it came out for the original Xbox. I fell in love with how alien the world was, the variety of things you could do and how rich the lore is. With all the factions, houses and guilds you could join it really is a great game to play over and over again, having a different adventure each time.
For my second favourite, I'd have to say the games in the Halo franchise - hands down. It was a tough call between Halo and Morrowind for number one though. I really love the alien designs, the level structure and most importantly the story. Not unlike Morrowind, there's also rich lore to explore. I feel like I've covered 95% of the Morrowind lore, but with Halo, I've only scratched the surface.
My third and final choice might be surprising to some. It's Fallout 3. You might have been expecting me to say Fable and it was close, but Fallout 3 wins out thanks to its incredible world design and how your choices drive real changes in the world around you. I remember getting killed by a mole-rat and having to reload, so I went to exact some revenge only to discover the mole-rat had been killed by the DeathClaw now standing beside it. Like Halo and Morrowind, I also really enjoy the lore of this game. I enjoyed unravelling the mysteries of the pre-war world and coming up with my own theories about what happened.
As you can probably guess from my choices, I love anything with a large, alien world to explore and strong lore for me to immerse myself in.
Looking at your profile, it's pretty clear that Morrowind is the game you enjoy modding the most. What is it about the game that really draws you in?
Morrowind is a part of me and has been a big part of my life since I first played it. I love the huge variety in your adventures based on your choices, your class and your play style. It's way more diverse than Oblivion or Skyrim. As I said before, I love how alien everything is. The Great Houses, the factions/guilds and the random encounters you come across really make the world feel lived in and that your choices have consequences. I would talk to all the characters and read every book to squeeze every little bit of lore out of the game. You can also do more silly things with the game. I remember stealing every single pillow from every corner of the world so I could build my own pillow fort.
I always joined the Great House Telvanni because I thought the mushroom architecture was really cool and I wanted to become a Telvanni Archmagister. It was always the first thing I did. It actually explains the origin of my username "Tel Shadow". My character would always be a Telvanni assassin so I started to name my character that, but I wanted to shorten it. So "Telvanni" became "Tel" and "assassin" became "shadow" which made sense because I was always lurking in the shadows. So that's how Tel Shadow the Telvanni assassin was born.
You've created a staggering 246 Morrowind mods (at time of writing), where do you get your inspiration from when planning to make them?
It's a mixed bag. Since I'm a creative person usually I can just sit down and make a mod. I usually already have an idea floating around in my head before I start, which is partly why I'm so fast at making mods. As the dungeon or mod grows I get flashes of inspiration and simply add in what I come up with. Maybe that's why some people say that I'm a Morrowind modding A.I.?
In some cases, I do also tend to take inspiration from other games I've played. I've taken inspirations from Halo and the version of Morrowind found in The Elder Scrolls Online in a few of my mods, although I don't always mention where I got the idea in the mod description.
Morrowind turned 18 in May this year, so it's incredible to see that the fanbase for this classic is still going strong. What do you think makes it so successful?
For most of us, Morrowind was a game that we have fond memories of from when we first played it on PC or Xbox. Players can recount epic tales of all the different experiences they had based on their way of playing the game. With so much to do, there's also huge scope for things to be added or changed by using mods.
An equally common experience may also be players who have come from Skyrim or Oblivion because they want more Elder Scrolls. Sometimes these players don't get along with Morrowind, often due to the "dice roll" combat system where your damage output relies entirely on RNG rather than if you actually hit your enemy or not. I don't see this as a problem but I suppose because I started with Morrowind I got used to it.
With Morrowind being so moddable and the Elder Scrolls lore being so vast, creating and using mods in the massive, alien world definitely helps in making it infinitely replayable. There are huge modding projects such as Tamriel Rebuilt, Project Tamriel and Morrowind Rebirth that are still active today and can add tonnes of new content to explore. You can even use the Morrowind engine to make an entirely new game, as seen in Starwind.
The Morrowind Modathons and Showcases by darkelfguy are also a massive factor as to why Morrowind continues to be so successful. I was watching his videos for years and they are part of what inspired me to start modding myself.
Morrowind will never die because our ideas and experiences with the game live on, no matter what.
Have you played much of the newer Elder Scrolls titles (Oblivion and Skyrim) and how do you compare them with Morrowind?
I have played both games on my Xbox 360 actually. I played Oblivion to get those sweet Xbox achievements and Skyrim for the awesome dragons. I think the majority of Morrowind players will agree that the gameplay formula has been "dumbed down" in each iteration following it. I heard this was partly because the main lore writer for Morrowind left Bethesda before these games were released, but I'm not sure how true that is.
Oblivion was a very colourful game and was a medieval fantasy game that came out while Lord of the Rings was in the spotlight, so that definitely helped make it popular. Skyrim, by contrast, had a very dull/muted theme and felt a lot more Viking styled. To me, comparing these games to Morrowind is like day and night. In Skyrim, for example, there are only a small number of guilds you can join and interact with compared to the many options in Morrowind. It's like comparing a Viking-themed dragon killing RPG (Skyrim) to Dungeons & Dragons on steroids (Morrowind).
Back to modding, can you tell us about your workflow for creating mods?
A lot of authors I've spoken to hold my workflow in high regard, probably part of the reason I get called "modding machine" and other nicknames. When I first picked up the Construction Set I spent two weeks learning everything I could about it. In that time I managed to figure out all the world design features and became a pro at using them. If you've ever watched YouTube speed painting videos, that's pretty close to the speed I work at when making mods.
When planning out my mods I do things in layers. For example, if I'm making a landmass, I'll start by marking out the size and shape of the landscape, then add ground textures, then add objects like trees and rocks. After going over detailing it a few times I have the basic setup done and I move onto adding more complex things. I like to do things in order as it helps me track my progress. I find it also helps sometimes to keep notes or a checklist of problems I need to fix as I work through it.
What advice would you give a new modder who'd like to create a new dungeon or level in their favourite game?
My advice might be a little controversial, most authors suggest starting small and working your way up to something big but I would say do the opposite. When you're making those first, smaller mods it's usually more about learning the tools than creating something you actually want to make. Starting with a bigger project allows you to work on different parts of your mod and learn the tools as you go, with the end result being much closer to your original idea. The size of the mod isn't important, it's more about your drive. If you're truly motivated to create something large, go for it!
Push yourself and learn your limits, then find ways to exceed those limits. We can all achieve great things if you put our minds to it.
Out of all the mods you've created, which is your favourite?
I love mostly all my Morrowind mods but I'm going to cop out a little bit here and say only three: Fablewind - which recreates all the Fable games into the Morrowind engine, Tel Felisa - a Telvanni town inspired around Felisa (one of the Telvanni members), and last but not least, Shadow of Colossus - one of my Halo inspired mods.
How about mods by other authors, are there any that really stand out to you?
As sad as it sounds, I haven't really played Morrowind in a while other than to make mods for it. So I don't really play with many mods by other people for them to catch my attention. That's not to say I don't have some favourites though:
- Of Justice and Innocence? by darkelfguy?: He isn't just a great YouTuber, he also makes some really good quest mods.
- Hold It? by Danae123?: This is a really cool immersion mod. Danae is also really helpful when it comes to testing my own mods.
- Drop the N'wah? and A Female Dunmer Preset? by BUULU: These are a couple of my favourites for Fallout 4 and Skyrim SE. I also enjoy watching his reviews of my mods on Twitch?.
Is there anything else you'd like to say to the community?
Keep making mods, no matter which game you're modding. We all have our moments, our ups and downs. It can be hard to keep working on a project but push yourself and see it through to the end as you never know what's on the other side.
- Tel Shadow
Legends aren't born, they're created.
A big thank you to TelShadow for taking the time to talk to us! If there's an author or mod project you'd like to know more about, send your suggestions to BigBizkit or Pickysaurus.