Great moments in PC gaming: Creating your first mod

Kahnud Temple from Morrowind Rebirth

Kahnud Temple from Morrowind Rebirth (Image credit: Modder Trancemaster_1988)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

There were two moments in Morrowind that opened my 13-year-old eyes like no game ever had before. The first was leaving the Census Office and realizing I could go anywhere and do anything I wanted. The second was when I discovered the Construction Set and realized I had not just the freedom afforded a mortal inhabitant of Vvardenfell, but that of a true god.

Before Morrowind, I fiddled with the sprite-based RPG Maker 2000. But the products of that engine were fairly limited and retro-looking. The modern (for the time) 3D games I was playing seemed so complex and almost mystical that my brain didn’t even really comprehend that they were the work of regular people typing line after line of code, painting textures and shaping polygons in an art program, and testing everything exhaustively to find and fix errors. My mind spun with the possibilities, and I got to work…

...fumbling around with the interface and not accomplishing much. It became clear I wasn’t going to simply flub my way into an understanding of this complex software, so I sought out the official documentation. It taught you how to create a new indoor area, connect it to a hatch in the middle of the road in Seyda Neen, and fill it with various stuff. A good start. I was getting the hang of things.

Tamriel Rebuilt

Tamriel Rebuilt (Image credit: Modders TamrielRebuiltTeam)

But this was just a room with no real purpose! And why would there be a hatch in the middle of town? Clearly, this wouldn’t do. I cleverly moved the hatch out of the town square and onto a nearby hill (a technique called "environmental storytelling") and expanded the pointless room into an entire dungeon full of monsters! It was a sprawling, impossible-to-navigate hydra of curvy passageways and confusing junctions because I had no concept of good level design, and the foes within were definitely too powerful for someone fresh off the boat in Seyda Neen to stumble into.

Folks, it was a bad dungeon. But it was MY bad dungeon, and I showed it off proudly to friends who were amazed that I could bend so completely Morrowind to my will. Some of them even got into modding themselves.

I would continue modding the Elder Scrolls games all the way through Oblivion and even a bit into the Skyrim era, and I got steadily better over time. Later, I would move on to mostly modding strategy games like Civilization V and Europa Universalis IV. But I still remember that confusing hole in the ground full of Dagothian horrors. I remember how building it gave me the thrilling realizations that I too could make videogames!

Sort of.