September news post draft

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Sultan of Rum's picture
Sultan of Rum
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Prior to discovering Discord and becoming a dev, I was hooked to the development news often shared on the Tamriel Rebuilt news page. However, since the Aanthirin release, no such posts have been made. Lately, it also seems like questions about the vitality of the project are cropping up again on other websites. So I went ahead and drafted a news post.

If anyone has preferences for alternative screenshots, please share! Also, please critique the content and language!

 

September 2021 progress teaser

It’s been a year and a half since we released the well-received Tamriel Rebuilt Aanthirin expansion. While we have since provided bugfixes and small content updates, work has continued diligently on our next major content expansion, Dominions of Dust. Followers of our Twitter account or visitors to our Discord server will already be aware of this, but it is high time that we update you on this website, too.

Dominions of Dust area

Planning map of the Dominions of Dust release area.

This next expansion will continue bringing to life the Morrowind landmass directly west of the Aanthirin region, which was our previous content release. This area lies just south-southwest of Vvardenfell and will include a huge chunk of Morrowind -- much more than twice the area of our previous release. But while Aanthirin was a densely settled breadbasket, these new lands will be very different. They include three different regions -- the rocky Roth Roryn, the desolate Armun Ashlands, and the southern reaches of the towering Velothi Mountains that mark Morrowind’s western border.

The town of Bodrum is nestled in a bend of the Priyai river.

The Redoran town of Bodrum in the Roth Roryn Region.

Roth Roryn constitutes sparsely vegetated badlands that will provide plenty of challenges to mid-level players. Economic activity is scarce -- House Hlaalu runs a handful of mines close to hardscrabble hamlets, whereas Redoran of the Stones March, the ancestral rulers to much of the region, scramble to stave off further Hlaalu advance in the quarry town of Bodrum. Towards Aanthirin in the east and the Inner Sea to the north the region becomes more lush and prosperous, containing several plantations. Here you also find the exception to all the above -- the booming Hlaalu metropolis of Andothren.

Notice all the unique buildings!

The city of Andothren is the prime Dunmer port on the Inner Sea.

Users of our Preview plugin, which contains work-in-progress exteriors from an earlier time in Tamriel Rebuilt's development, might already be familiar with a largely extant Andothren and may be wondering why the release is taking so long. To answer this, it is important to realize that work on the exterior and many of the interiors in Andothren dated back to 2006 (!). In the meanwhile, the development team has changed almost entirely and the quality and stylistic standards have evolved substantially. Hence, a near-total revamp of this prior work, while keeping in mind reams of forum discussions and conceptualization going back more than a decade, was inevitable and constituted one of the main hurdles for the next release. We are happy to say that this work is now concluded.

It's a cutthroat business.
The heart of commerce in the Hlaalu Council Manor.

Andothren, with its streets and houses bustling with newly-added NPCs, is cozily nestled in the Bal Foyen -- a crater left by the goddess Almalexia, as she struck the hordes of Kamal down into the underworld. The central Temple island, complete with a new mural of Almalexia, commemorates this event. In the eastern district there are outlander-friendly taverns, shops, guilds and the Hlaalu Council Manor, the economic heart of the entire region. There you will also find the busy harbor. In the western district you will find more exclusive dunmer dwellings and many opulent manor houses (created with our new Hlaalu modular building assets). Overlooking the entire city is the fortress-like Andas Manor, home of the Hlaalu councillor and de-facto ruler of the city, Tholer Andas.

Only the strong venture here.

The Armun Ashlands -- haunted wastelands home to ashlanders, bandits, and the occasional vampire.

The Armun Ashlands, which lie south of Roth Roryn, form a volcanic ashbowl -- a southern reminder of the cataclysm of the Days of Fire, when the Red Mountain first erupted, covering most of Morrowind in ash. This is a dangerous land, prone to volcanic activity and ash storms, and host to the formidable Armun kagouti -- hence, suitable for high-level characters. Today, this area is inhabited mostly by ashlanders of the Ishanuran tribe. The isolated Hlaalu outpost of Arvud guards caravan routes, but is embattled on several fronts. Bandits prey on caravans, corrupt Andothren officials sap local coffers, and vampiric activity by the Baluath clan is showing worrying signs of increase.

The overhangs provide at least some protection against the ash.

The isolated Hlaalu caravanserai of Arvud.

See that mountain? You can climb it!

The frigid heights of the Velothi Mountains.

The southern Velothi Mountains tower over the Dominions of Dust. This region will bring you the first breath of Morrowind's frozen northwest, home to House Redoran. The steep, wooded valleys, host to the famous Dwemer ruin of Hendor-Stardumz, will be your port of call in several high-level quests. Along the snowy ridges, you will meet the Malahk orcs -- larger and less compromising cousins to Orsinium orcs. Newly-revamped rock textures and tree assets help set this region further apart from the kinds of snowlands seen in the Bloodmoon expansion to the original game.

Malakh orc shrine

The Malahk orcs, though considered brutes by their Redoran enemies, are quite complex in their art and religion.

What still remains to be done for this release is to finish a renovation of the exterior landscaping for the Roth Roryn region and for the chunk of the Velothi Mountains present in the next release, to bring these areas up to modern Tamriel Rebuilt standards (Armun Ashlands is already nearly complete in this regard). Most interiors have been finished and only a few areas still lack their NPCs.

The Baluath clan might not look like much in the beginning, but that's where you come in!

For less scrupulous players, the Baluath vampire clan offers the possibility of nigh limitless power.

But the largest remaining hurdle is the quest content. And it is a massive undertaking -- roughly 140 release-critical quests are currently being tracked and worked on, along with several optional ones that might still be included in the release. To put this into perspective, the entirety of Tamriel Rebuilt released so far includes 360 quests. Yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel -- for a couple weeks now, all of the critical quests have been claimed and are being worked on by developers, and roughly 40% of the number are now complete or in testing. This also means that for people interested in helping the Dominions of Dust come to fruition, or to gain a sneak-peek of our progress, it is high time to start playtesting! If you are interested in this, come speak with us on our Discord server, where we will be glad to help you along. (Of course, volunteers interested in helping with any other aspect of Tamriel Rebuilt, be it exterior or interior design, asset creation, concept art, or anything else, remain more than welcome, too!)

While this is enough news for today, Dominions of Dust isn’t the only area of Morrowind currently being worked by our team. Exciting progress is made in several other new and old regions. Should stars align, expect to see news of these developments in the coming month.

Images credit: Leyawynn, Taniquetil, Mark, Rats, Jani

Gnomey's picture
Gnomey
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Some minor points:

"This next expansion will continue bringing to life the Morrowind landmass directly west of the Aanthirin region, which was the target of our previous content release." - subject or focus works better than target here, though really I'd just say 'which was our previous content release'.
 

"Roth Roryn is a sparsely vegetated badlands that will provide plenty of challenges to the mid-level player." - I'd say 'to mid-level players'.

"Economic activity is scarce -- House Hlaalu runs iron and Kwama egg mines close to hardscrabble hamlets, whereas Redoran of the Stones March, the ancestral rulers of the entire region, scramble to stave off further Hlaalu advance in the quarry town of Bodrum." Redoran are only ancestral rulers of roughly half of Roth-roryn; Indoril had the eastern half. How many iron mines does Hlaalu actually have in the region? The only one I was aware of was the Orluhk mine.

"Relatively more lush and prosperous is the region's northern shore against the Inner Sea, which holds several plantations." I think 'along' reads more naturally than 'against' here. As far as I'm aware, there's only one plantation in the former Ascadian Bluffs. You could write 'Towards Aanthirin in the east and the Inner Sea to the north the region becomes more lush and prosperous, containing several plantations.'

"In the eastern district are outlander-friendly taverns, shops, guilds and the Hlaalu Council Manor, the economic heart of the entire region." That should be Hlaalu Council Hall, shouldn't it? I also think you need to add a 'there' to the earlier part of the sentence; 'In the eastern distict there are outlander-friendly taverns'.

"(enabled by our new Hlaalu modular building assets)." This wording is a bit odd; I'd probably say 'created with our new Hlaalu modular building assets'.

"Armun Ashlands, which lies south of Roth Roryn, is a volcanic ashbowl -- a southern reminder of the cataclysm of the Days of Fire, when the Red Mountain first erupted, covering most of Morrowind in ash." I'd go with either 'The Armun Ashlands, which lie' or 'The Armun Ashlands Region, which lies'.

"Today, this area is inhabited mostly by ashlanders of various tribes." I'm not sure if this is accurate; Ishanuran is the only tribe in the Ashlands proper to my knowledge, Obainat existing on the fringe of the region, more in Roth-roryn.

"This region will bring you the first breath of the frigid Velothis district, ancestry of House Redoran." You already use the 'ancestral home' line earlier for Roth-roryn, though it isn't quite correct there. The wording 'Ancestry of House Redoran' is incorrect though.

"Along the snowy ridges, you will meet the Malakh orcs -- a larger and less compromising subset compared to those hailing from Orsinium." The wording is a little vague here; 'subset of Orcs' would be clearer, but I'd probably say something like 'larger and less compromising cousins of the Orsinium Orcs.'

"But the largest remaining hurdle is quests. And it is a massive undertaking" 'are quests. And they are a massive undertaking'.

Sultan of Rum's picture
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Fixed, thanks!

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Dunno if the mini volcanos in Armun are worth mentioning? 

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Sultan of Rum's picture
Sultan of Rum
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Sure! I added a couple words about volcanic activity in AA.

Sultan of Rum's picture
Sultan of Rum
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Added Leyawynn's images to the post. Hoping to post this soon on the website.

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pictures are quite blinding. Would recommend not using really crazy shaders like that. It doesn't represent what our mod looks like. Only to the handful of people that have a setup like in those shots. Most people use the default shaders in MGE XE. 

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Sultan of Rum's picture
Sultan of Rum
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Fair enough, I'll switch out the first two pictures (Bodrum and Andothren) whenever alternatives become available. But the overcast ones are good, no? They at least capture vanilla MW weather aesthetics.

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People on social media complain about us using all these shaders. They know the difference and wish that we didn't do it.

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Sultan of Rum's picture
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Are you sure you aren't basing this sweeping statement on that one Shipal Shin post with the outrageous shaders that got criticized? :P Regarding shaders, MGE XE default blue-tint distant fog has been heavily featured on almost all TR promo photos and trailers in the past several years -- just look at the news archive on this site, the gallery, or on our Nexus release page. I've seen very little criticism of those types of shots either on social media or on Discord (despite an unhealthy amount of time spent lurking there).

Mind you, I am not promoting an uber-shaded look -- that does distract from our content. But at the very least, I think the majority of our readership will appreciate a view distance higher than one cell -- how else are we to highlight large cities or regions? At least, I have yet to see purist vanilla shots that seem effectual to me from a PR standpoint (feel free to prove me wrong).

The calls on Discord of default OpenMW graphics with distant view cranked to 3-5 cells (or the equivalent settings in MGE XE) sound great to me. I'll switch out the images with the obvious reshade tricks and oversaturation for more vanilla-looking ones that have been offered as alternatives.

But, for example, there simply haven't been any alternatives to the SVM image produced yet -- and why should there be? The image looks great and you'd have to take out a looking glass to notice any shader shenanigans going on.

EDIT: Switched out all shader images, except for the SVM one. Jani promised to send some new ones. Should probably replace the Andothren shot at least.

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Nice! I have a few minor comments:

  • Roth Roryn isn't exactly arid, is it? It is rocky, yes, but the climate is as rainy as any of the coastal regions in Vvardenfell.
  • Hendor-Stardumz should be spelled like this, with a hyphen.
  • No mention of the dangerous Armun Kagouti? I am disappointed...
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Sultan of Rum
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Thanks, fixed!

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Sultan of Rum
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I switched out the Andthren and Bodrum pictures for Jani's non-shader ones and added a picture of the impressive Hlaalu Council Manor interior from Mark. Last call for any changes before I post this on the website.

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Aeven
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Honestly I never have and still don't agree with this whole "no shaders in screenshots" philosophy. Obviously if we were showcasing our content through the "lens" of graphical overhauls or perhaps any other mods introducing a wildly different imagery, I'd have to agree with that not being appropriate to represent our works. 

However, I strongly disagree when it comes to things such as distant land or (certain types of) shaders. Distant land has never been something we've shied away from and with good reason, as it's helped show off just how comprehensive and wholly wonderful our exterior work is. As for shaders: there's a point worth making against the use of overly dramatic or intrusive shaders. But no where have I seen that to be the case as far as "official" Tamriel Rebuilt publications go. Sure, they don't portray what you'd see following having installed Morrowind (GOTY) immediately followed by Tamriel Rebuilt, and then immediately starting the game. But really no one expects that, or if they do they shouldn't. Morrowind may have been released in 2001, but no one needs to pretend we're not 20 years later.