Tamriel Rebuilt 2021 Recap

Welcome to a development retrospective for Tamriel Rebuilt – a massive mod for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind that adds the mainland of the Morrowind province outside the island of Vvardenfell, aiming to seamlessly fit in with the original game. The best part is that you can play the mod already! Currently, about half of the mainland area, together with roughly 360 quests, is fully completed and released to players.

Happy New Year! Though we were not able to release a content expansion this year, this was not due to a lack of progress on our part. This January, let’s revive an old Tamriel Rebuilt tradition and look back at some of the major developments and decisions, as well as a couple statistics, of 2021.

A view up the Pryai river towards the Velothi Mountains. Landscape work by Phenoix12 and Nemon.

  • Out of 34 people who made a showcase to become a new Tamriel Rebuilt developer in 2021, 24 subsequently made a contribution to the mod itself or remain currently active. Our newbies have done a great job this year!
  • In total, more than a hundred people made some sort of direct contribution to our mod in 2021. A massive thanks to all of you!
  • The Hlaalu city of Andothren, the centerpiece of the Dominions of Dust expansion and its main bottleneck (except for quests, of course), was finalized in 2021. TR’s work on Andothren dated back to 2006 and though the core city layout was solid from the beginning, several rounds of half-finished redos had resulted in a true Gordian Knot. It took much painstaking effort – and more than one burned-out developer – to untangle it. Still, by Spring 2021, the city had received a full repolish of its exterior including many unique 3D architecture models. Even further, nearly all of its interiors were entirely remade and filled with a colorful array of NPCs. Andothren has become a jewel – all that is missing are the currently in-progress quests.

Andothren. The city has had far too many contributors to list.

  • Itching for more pain, our exterior team decided to undertake another difficult rework in 2021. The Roth Roryn region that forms the northern half of Dominions of Dust was first conceptualized and built in 2010, but its execution was, at times, lackluster and not in keeping with our modern design standards. It notably suffered from the usual early-2010s malaise of too many rocks. Despite a 2019 touch-up effort, in March 2021, a laborious total redo of the landscape was commenced, so as to not release an area that many of our exterior developers were unhappy with. Owing to technical difficulties, this is progressing quite slowly. As long as quests for Dominions of Dust remain in progress, the effort will continue, but it will not hold up the release.
  • Coupled to the above rework was the removal of the Ascadian Bluffs region, a small sliver of a lush green on the coast of the Inner Sea, west of Andothren. In an August meeting, its size, implementation and narrative potential was seen as not enough to warrant a whole new formal region. None of the content is gone – now it simply forms the relatively lush northern rim of the Roth Roryn region.

Building the Shipal-Shin region. Exterior work by joanasc, mojo187, Phenoix12, S’wit, Nemon and Chef.

  • The first modern efforts at Morrowind’s southwestern reaches, the canyon-filled Shipal-Shin region, date to 2020, right after the required 3D assets were completed. However, exterior progress redoubled in 2021 – almost the entire region is now either completed and reviewed, or is in the last stages of polish. The metropolis of Narsis remains the last major hurdle, but even that is progressing well. By Fall, the first interiors, too, were opened for this area, and quite many are already done.
  • The final and most unique region in Morrowind’s southwestern Narsis District, the Othreleth Woods, is still waiting on the very last of its flora assets before exterior work can commence. However, this is a far cry from 2020, as almost all other required assets were completed in Fall 2021.
  • Over the course of 2021, our redo of the Imperial presence in Morrowind’s northeastern Telvannis District evolved from Taniquetil’s personal fascination to a full-blown content expansion, announced in October 2021 as Embers of Empire. Aside from the finalized exterior, 51 of the total 68 interiors have been finished over the course of the year and the last ones are slated to be ready within in a couple weeks.

Selura, Firewatch's mysterious court mage – one of the characters added as part of Embers of Empire by Taniquetil.

  • As Embers of Empire showed, small focused redos of the older, sub-standard areas of Tamriel Rebuilt were feasible and enthusiastically greeted by our developers. In August 2021, a plan was made to try another one of these after Dominions of Dust and Embers of Empire get released, this time targeting the swampy, technically troubled, and almost quest-less Sundered Scar region.
  • In September, four new additions were made to our lead developer team. Chef is our most hardworking exterior developer and section file juggler, Mark and MinerMan60101 are interior reviewing powerhouses, while Taniquetil is an all-around conceptualizer, artist, quester and interior designer-reviewer. In truth, these four have been instrumental to the mod for a long time already and this decision merely formalized and streamlined their many responsibilities.
  • On the other hand, our long-time administrator Atrayonis decided to retire from the lead team in July, though he is still around on our Discord. Starting in 2015, Atrayonis’ leadership rescued Tamriel Rebuilt from a near-collapse induced by a crescendo of demoralizing circumstances in the years prior. Together with Gnomey, they formed the administrative duo that successfully led the project to its modern renaissance. Atrayonis was a pre-planning maestro and worked hard to make sure TR was capable of making and sticking to major design decisions. Among his many personal contributions are TR_Travels, the plugin that seamlessly introduces travel links between Vvardenfell and the mainland and the beautiful Gridmap which for years has been the basis for all of our planning. We are deeply grateful to Atrayonis for all of his efforts!

Sunrise over the Armun Ashlands.

Phew, that was a lot! So much so, that our scheduled update to tally the progress for November and December may have to wait a week or two. I hope you nevertheless enjoyed this look back at a quite successful year for Tamriel Rebuilt. Here’s wishing that 2022 will bring us even more to cheer about. To help with that, consider joining us on our Discord server or becoming a developer yourself! No prior experience needed!

Images credits: Nemon, Taniquetil.