Morrowind Original Asset Replacement - Guidelines/Status

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Morrowind Original Asset Replacement - Guidelines/Status

Post by Deonsion » 26 Aug 2014, 12:42

Morrowind Original Mesh Replacement

Last update: 20 Jan 2018
Guidelines: Work on the project is currently officially halted.
Status: Project is currently managed only by Berandas, there are some volunteers collaborating and adding new assets from time to time. If you would like to contribute, contact Berandas (Lord Berandas) at Discord or anywhere else.

You can download all the modified files in their current state here:

What are our possibilities of resurrecting the project now?
There were and actually still are quite a lot of people interested in this project. Though first we need to streamline the production pipeline, I've seen some work on nif export scripts for current Blender, made by Greatness7. Not sure about their current state, but something like this would help tremendously. Secondly, we would need to create a manageable file database again (with versioning and all the necessary stuff). Either with web interface (as the redmine one we had, but that didn't allow easy editing of entries), or something like SourceTree. Though I have no experience with setting up and managing these stuff. Any help is welcome.

You always liked the feel of vanilla Morrowind, but when you woke up today, it felt too old? Or you just spent ages looking for replacers that were as similar to vanilla as possible but didn't find them? Then you're at the right place!

The aim of this project is to keep the same feel as vanilla Morrowind, basically this means to make meshes as identical as possible, just with more details. So stop looking around and join the project! ;)

Because of the condition described above, all the remade meshes are considered to be a derivative work, so as I understand it, they technically still belongs to Bethesda. On the other hand this allows us simply enhance the original meshes (add more geometry and details).
Another reason why stick with the original shape is simple compatibility, this way it should not cause any placement errors (bleeding, floating or caspering meshes etc.).
This project is technically still a mod for Morrowind, we are not creating new meshes that could be used in OpenMW example suite or anywhere else, all the stuff is strictly bound to the original game (and ofc cannot be sold or imported into other games).
We should also take advantage of replacers that are already done, inspect the meshes if they're suitable for our project and include them, if the authors permit us. This would save us a lot of time and work.
If people are looking for completely new assets made from scratch, they should ask at SkyWind or similar project.

From my point of view it's technically nearly impossible make completely new mesh from scratch, that has basically same shape as vanilla asset (thus making no errors in game), but is also different enough not to be considered a derivative work.
Don't forget that it's legally impossible to create something like "Open Morrowind", while keeping it the same feel, look, game mechanics, story, text, dialogues as the original game. All that stuff would have to differ from the original and after that...that's not Morrowind any more.

So, if you have some skills with creating meshes or textures, feel free to join us!

By participating in this project, you agree that all the work done here will remain as Morrowind mod - no assets will be converted into other games, not even talking about the idea of selling them. Also you agree that every asset created is freely available to the Morrowind modding community, so anyone can use or modify your work when credit is given.
Assets that are modified original work should also come with credit to Bethesda, the ones that are completely made from scratch should be marked so (in a description or somewhere).

If you're interested in participation, read this whole wall of text very carefully!!!

How to claim files in the database:

Following part is related to the old server, that is no longer active, some parts of the description can be considered as relevant information though.

First of all, create an account at and log in.
Now you should see three main page. Continue by clicking the "Projects" in the upper left menu. Now you're looking at three main projects, only Mesh Replacement is currently open.
The Mesh Replacement project contains several subcategories according the original file structure inside the .bsa archive. The priority means what should be done first, so you should not pay much attention to those low priority folders.
Continue by entering the Mesh Replacement, there you should see one opened claim - that's our example claim, with the example work flow, it should give imps the idea how the work is supposed to flow.

If you want to claim an unclaimed file, open it and fill all the required cells.
Tracker and Subject should be already filled, so there is no need to touch that, change Status from Unclaimed to claimed, Archive to the appropriate archive type, fill the vanilla asset polycount that can be found either in Blender, or in NifSkope, write a few words in notes or description if needed and you can start working on the mesh.

The guideline on creating a mesh is described below.

If your mesh is finished, or updated, update the claim and add the attachment. The file should be named by the vanilla one, just add a version number behind it. The files are numbered from "001" up and every new attachment should have a number one higher.
Example - my first attached file is "ex_de_house_13_001.blend", my second updated file is "ex_de_house_13_002.blend", the third one is "ex_de_house_13_003.blend" and so on. It's important to keep names in this format.

Every attached file needs also a proper description (in that text box that appears next to it after it's uploaded), the description should say who is the original author of the mesh (if the mesh is built from the original asset, it's Bethesda), who it was modified by, if it's made from scratch or not, and the highest polycount of the model (LoD 0 variant).
Examples - Originally Made by Bethesda / Modified by Example Imp / Is not made from scratch / 2577 Triangles
Originally Made by Berandas / Modified by Deonsion / Is made from scratch / 1859 Triangles.
It's very important to fill all these informations properly.
Double check everything before posting anything, it cannot be modified after it's posted!

When your last attachment contains the completely finished model, change the status to "Waiting for Approval" then it's marked for the members of the High Council of Approval to check it. If the file is okay, they will change it's status to "Approved" and the claim is completed. You can move to another.
On the other hand, if they find some flaws or inconsistencies, they will post a note about it and change the status back to "Claimed".

Claims should be updated at least once per week, there is no necessity to have a finished or updated file every week, just post a note that you're still working on it, so the High Council knows, but I can recommend - update your file to the server as often as possible (daily for example, if you're working on it), hard drives dies, computers fries and notebooks are stolen, so it's better be safe than sorry.
If the claim is without an update from it's claimant for two weeks, it will be revoked.
For the most people it's probably best to have only one claim at a time.

I think this mostly covers it all, if you need some help with anything, or if you have some questions, simply ask either here, or inside the database system.

How to work in a good way:
(this is not supposed to be a guide for blender, just a summary of actions that should be done and in what way)

Setting up the environment:

What you need:
- original MW .bsa archives unpacked somewhere on your HDD
- working Blender 2.49 with nif scripts ready
- working Blender 2.71 (or higher)

So, let's start! At first you need to import the original mesh into your Blender 2.49 via the nif scripts, when that's done, simply save and close it. Now, open the recent version of Blender (2.71 at the time of this guide) and append the object from the 2.49 file. (Shift+F1; Objects folder)
The file name should be identical with the original .nif name - "Ex_hlaalu_b_01.blend" for example.
I would recommend not to use NifSkope export through collada, because that causes more mess than the Blender way.
After you get the vanilla mesh imported to your Blender, you should see the original mesh (or it's parts divided by the materials - you can simply merge those) and the collision or shadow mesh.

Move these meshes to the Layer 11 - this will be your vanilla mesh layer. Layers 1 - 10 are dedicated for the LoD variants, where LoD 0 variant (the most detailed) belongs to Layer 1, LoD 1 to Layer 2 etc. At this moment there is no need to create more than LoD 0 variant, since OpenMW has not yet distant land and LoD system implemented. I guess we could use vanilla meshes as LoDs for far distances.

Creating the mesh:

Now you can either start modelling from scratch, or use the original asset as a base.
If you choose the way from scratch, you will have to manage that the UV unwrap is as much same as the one of vanilla asset, the same goes for vertex paint. (I would not recommend this for many objects, for example doing the similar vertex paint from scratch is a real pain)

If you're going the other way, duplicate the original asset and start adding more geometry.
You should use the original asset as a reference, your mesh needs to occupy the same space in every way. There will be some overlaps here and there, but make sure these aren't more than really needed. Objects such as rocks or furniture needs to be extra precise, since these are objects the characters are passing around, changing their shape and scale could make some areas inaccessible, etc. Misc objects and stuff like that have no collision, so the shapes doesn't need to be that strict.
When creating all the details, it's important to look also at the original texture that is mapped onto the mesh. Many details that can help you decide what should be round or flat are present on those textures.
Use texture seams to divide your model for easier selecting of whole parts (floor, walls, roof, etc.). You, or other people might be modifying the mesh in the future and this makes the work flow much easier and faster.

Keep the meshes style consistent! This means, when selecting a claim that belongs to some "set", for example all Hlaalu buildings, or all daedric weapons, etc. make sure to check other approved files and look how things are done - what level of details there should be, how round should the round surfaces be, where bevel usually is etc. This is very important! well as everything else mentioned here.
Save your time! Append object parts from other meshes and files, recycle stuff that is identical, there is no need to model same thing twice. This goes mostly for buildings of the same style.
And of course use the modifiers as often as possible to get your mesh built in a short time.

Many original meshes contain flaws, such as floating or missing geometry, redundant vertices etc. so make sure everything is fixed on your mesh.
There will be moments when you're unsure about if some object should have more geometry or not at some places. Before doing some hasty decisions, we should discuss over these things. So simply ask others. There are probably going to be multiple variants for some meshes.

Collision mesh should be as low poly as possible, but also as precise as possible - we all know the moments when your arrow shot from sneak is bounced off of some invisible geometry or when it's stuck into the tree that has much larger collision than appearance. This must not be happening with our meshes!

The collision mesh is needed only for the LoD 0 variant. Technically, objects can collide with other LoDs as well, but those meshes are going to have same or lower polycount anyway.

Shadow mesh is only present on creatures and body parts, and shadows are rendered from the actual mesh today, so there is no need for them.

Another very important thing is not to move the geometry from the pivot point or vice versa.
All objects should be named by the file name, both in "Object" and "Object data" tab, just simply add a " LoD 0", " LoD 1" ... to differentiate the LoD variants. Add "collision" and "TriShadow" for collision
and shadow meshes.

UV unwrap, vertex paint, textures and materials:

UV layout has to remain the same, simply select whole unwrap and pin it, so it cannot change it's position. You can simply unwrap the new geometry when some parts of the layout are pinned and those you wish to unwrap are not. Check your mesh for stretched and messed layout, some of the vanilla assets have flaws that needs to be fixed.

Materials should be named after the textures they're using, for example "Wood_Oak_01" instead of usual "Material.007", so everything is transparent. Every material should have a proper texture attached. Don't forget to name the texture slot accordingly, again, to keep things transparent.
Should we also add normal, specular, height or other textures to the materials?
Since every one of us is going to have the .bsa archive unpacked in a different location, the texture paths would differ, so they should be referenced with relative paths.
Example: "..\..\Textures\".
In order for easy collaboration, simply copy the folder structure found in the original Morrowind data folder (just as we did on the file server). This way, the .blend files should find the appropriate textures without a problem.

Most of MW objects use vertex paint to fake the shading and Ambient Oclussion, or to add additional colors to the texture. The vertex paint should be as identical as possible, both in terms of colors and distribution on the mesh. It's easier to repair original paint, than do it whole from scratch. You should be able to bake the vertex paint from the original vanilla mesh onto your detailed one. If you don't know how, watch this tutorial.

When the model is done:

When your mesh is finished, you should check several things before exporting.
- if the style is consistent with others that are related to it (all Hlaalu buildings for example)
- if the object origin is at the same spot
- if the object occupies the same area as the vanilla one
- if there are no duplicate vertices, edges or faces.
- if all the normals are going outside
- if the mesh is smoothed
- if it has proper vertex paint
- if the mesh has UV unwrap
- if the loc/rot/scale is applied
- if the materials are properly set, named and with textures attached
- check the polycount if it's not like 1000x higher
- sometimes helps to triangulate faces before exporting, to see if they're not making some weird shapes somewhere (usually at more organic objects), simply use the Triangulate modifier to see.

At this moment you should not export the mesh yourself, simply attach the new file to your claim, the mesh will be inspected, if it passes it's going to be marked and all approved meshes are then going to be exported via script. Since there is no other mesh format supported, the meshes will be exported back into .nif. When the use of better format will be implemented, we're going to export into that.

Our discussion thread for this is here.

For contributing, please see our redmine website, which we are going to use for the collaboration, and even has forums for going over technical details. I will append this as the project evolves.
More details about claiming the work will come later, when everything is set up properly in the database.

Database hosted by Deonsion.
Guide composed by Berandas, Deonsion and Domsson.

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Re: Morrowind Original Asset Replacement - Guidelines/Status

Post by lgromanowski » 26 Aug 2014, 13:02

Topic locked on request. Please use topic mentioned in 1st post:

best regards,