No matter how much you love a game, there always comes a point at which you feel like you’ve done and seen pretty much everything it has to offer. It can take hundreds of hours to get there and usually all that’s required to reinvigorate your desire to keep plugging away is a bit of time apart, usually followed by an emotional reunion that sees you remember exactly why you fell in love in the first place.
I’d long wondered how much this kind of fatigue creeps into the minds of modders, many of whom - especially in the case of Bethesda RPGs - continue to regularly work on and put out additions to their beloved titles years after many players have moved on or begun to only dip back in on rare occasions. Is there a point with a game like Fallout 4, which celebrated the eighth anniversary of its release on November 10, when it begins to feel like the creative well is beginning to dry up a bit.
According to modder Thomas Mitchell, aka Otellino, the creator of massive Enclave-themed quest mod ‘America Rising 2 - Legacy of the Enclave’, even though it’s already done so much with Fallout 4, the game’s modding community is still firing on all cylinders.
“There [are] always boundaries you can push,” Mitchell tells me. “You can look at what Sim Settlements 2 has achieved, which is mind-boggling – having you essentially build a full-on nation with a huge story on top of that.
“There [are] also all [of] these big conversion projects in the works – Fallout London, which I believe is close to release, looks incredible and is essentially its own Fallout game,” he continues, “You’ve also got Fallout Miami and we can’t forget about the remakes either – Fallout 4 New Vegas and Fallout Capital Wasteland, all of which have found ways to push past the [four] dialogue option limit Fallout 4 has, as well as re-introduce [the likes of] skills and perks.”
Otellino also adds: “You’ve got some real masters of the Fallout 4 Script Extender building crazy new game mechanics with native engine code… it’s wild.”
Much like many of those working on the projects he touched on, Mitchell has been modding Bethesda RPGs for a good while, having gotten his feet wet by experimenting with Oblivion while he was still at school. “At the time it was essentially the only game I was playing! I didn’t know it had any sort of [modding] scene until a friend of mine came home after school one day and excitedly told me that (he’d) figured out how to make character presets so you could make your character look like, say, Mannimarco.
“He opened up the Construction Set and showed me how – and after that, I was hooked. I’d come home from school every day and just make nonsense in the Construction Set, including a fairly terrible castle that is still on Nexus Mods – albeit hidden!”
Since that time, Mitchell has seen the landscape of the modding scene that surrounds Bethesda games change a lot. “I remember when Mod Managers first came onto the scene, and there was an entire debate about loose files versus archives – manually installing mods versus using the Mod Managers. Now using them is almost mandatory! And there [are] so many more community tools to do amazing things. It’s pretty great.”
Many of these tools have helped make the process of modding a “more mature” game like Fallout 4 a lot less cumbersome. “The official tools don’t really change – but the number of community tools available grows exponentially,” Otellino reveals.
“There [are] the stalwarts like xEdit and Nifskope - which have been around since the Morrowind days and support all other Bethesda Game Studios games – but we also have amazing newer community tools.” Among these recently released additions to the modder’s toolbox, Mitchell explains, are the likes of Voice File Reference 2, a tool he “used heavily for America Rising 2 [in order] to easily search and find appropriate player voice lines to use”, along with Yakitori Audio Converter and Cathedral Asset Optimizer - which allow modders to handily convert audio files and process textures in batches.
All of these, the modder says, are “things that just speed up the modding process.”
Mitchell doesn’t expect the innovation going on in Fallout 4’s modding scene to slow down going forwards either, saying: “There’s such a strong community spirit around the game and it just keeps growing. There [are] really talented people in this community putting out more and more amazing tools and I think it’s only going to get better.”
He’s also very keen to jump into the world of Starfield modding once the official tools for it arrive in 2024, saying: “There’s so much I want to dig [into] – I think it's going to be another huge time sink for me!”
So, it looks like we’re in line to receive plenty more great mods to help keep our adventures in Bethesda’s existing titles fresh, while we all wait for more news on The Elder Scrolls 6 and Fallout 5.