The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition is out today and for the first time, console players will be able to do what PC players have been for the past five years; play Skyrim mods.
Skyrim is one of the most played and most modded games on PC of all time. At the time of writing, there are 28,082 players live, in Skyrim on Steam. That’s the original Skyrim, not the re-release. Since July 2012 the average player numbers on Steam have not dipped below 20,00, except during September 2012. On December 31, 2015, 47,000 people were playing. That’s an insane number. Five years after it’s release, on New Year’s Eve, 47,000 actual human beings were playing Skyrim.
Lots and lots of games have longevity, but few can match Skyrim and I’d be willing to wager that its mods are a huge reason why. On Steam Workshop, there are over 28,000 mods and on Nexus Mods there are over 49,000. Obviously, not all of the mods are great, or even good, but some of them are so good, they’re considered to be essential to the experience. A large proportion of them improve graphics or performance and the like, while others add new content for players.
One such mod is “The Forgotten City.” Created by the one man band that is Nick Pearce, “The Forgotten City” has been a success and made an enormous impact. So much so that Pearce has been approached by game development studios and was given exclusive access to secret content by Bethesda. Pearce was even the recipient of an AWGIE Award from the Australian Writer’s Guild for his screenplay for “The Forgotten City.”
With Skyrim being re-released for current-gen consoles, which allows mods to be used, I wanted to find out if Pearce’s mod would be available and see what his future held. In January 2015, Pearce told me that his mod has been downloaded 73,000 times, which is nothing to sniff at. As of today, that number has rocketed to over 250,000. That’s a 340% increase. That’s two and half times the capacity of the MCG and two and a half times the population of Bendigo. So yeah, it’s a lot.
Pearce has spent around 1,700 hours working on “The Forgotten City.” While Pearce created the mod himself, the score was composed by Trent Moriarty and Pearce had voice actors record over 1,200 lines of dialogue. Since its release Pearce says that he hasn’t spent much more time on the mod. “[It] was pretty stable soon after release so I haven’t had to patch it in over a year,” he told me. “I’ve resisted the urge to spend more time on it. As they say, ‘Done is better than perfect.'”
Just because something is done, doesn’t mean you can’t revisit it though. Just like Bethesda has re-released and remastered Skyrim, so too has Pearce remastered “The Forgotten City.” Unfortunately, it won’t be available for PS4 players at this stage. Pearce explains that Sony’s position to prohibit external assets for mods “means any PS4 port would be missing the original musical score and the 1200+ lines of recorded dialogue, which are absolutely crucial.” Pearce likens it to inviting your mates around for some drinks and then handing them each a bottle of non-alcoholic beer. You’d be better off skipping the non-alcoholic beer and avoiding that friend for a while and it’s the same with the mod. Unless it’s the real thing, there’s no real point.
According to Pearce he pleaded with Bethesda to make an exception for his mod on Sony’s console. “To their credit they considered it,” he said, but added, “they said ‘currently there are still barriers for putting it on PS4.'”
Xbox One owners on the other hand, do get the full experience. As of 8pm last night, before the Special Edition had even launched, 4,000 Xbox One users had queued up “The Forgotten City” to download. Pearce tells me it’s odd to have a mod ready for launch day as usually it takes years to create. “This time, since it’ll be available from launch, I’m really excited to see how many Xbox One users will get to play it.” If the number of PC downloads is anything to go by, Pearce is going to be a very happy man.
It’s not often that videogames win mainstream awards. The BAFTAs have a special category for videogames and the theme song from Civilization IV won a Grammy, but screenwriting awards are largely the domain of films and TV. Not content with simply creating an incredibly successful mod that’s won awards from mod communities across the internet, Pearce decided to enter the Australia Writer’s Guild Awards.
“I submitted my script, mostly out of curiosity,” he explains, with his script entered into the Interactive Entertainment category. Three scripts were vying for the prize of which one was from a commercial game developer and one was from a PhD in Creative Writing. An anonymous panel of judges decided that Pearce’s script was deserving of the award and as he puts it, “I was pretty stoked!” As is to be expected.
In the picture above you see Pearce with his award and on sending it to me, he said “My tie’s not done up properly and I look kind of high from the cold and flu meds I was on, but meh.” I laughed out loud when I read it, but it’s more than just a good line. It shows Pearce’s character; humble, modest and honest. Despite having created one of the highest rated and most successful mods in Skyrim’s history, not to mention winning a Writer’s Guild award in the process, Pearce remains down to earth and friendly.
Working as a lawyer, Pearce says he isn’t quite ready to quit his day job yet. Five different indie studios have approached him and he says,”I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some really awesome people in the Melbourne games industry, at League of Geeks and Opaque Multimedia for example, both of which are brilliant and very generous with their time and advice.”Some fans have even donated cash for “The Forgotten City”, the largest of which was $50. Pearce tells me, “The people who donate represent about 0.02% of the 250,000 people who download the mod, so I’m not about to retire just yet.”
An artist is only as good as their last piece and Pearce is resting on his laurels. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts he wouldn’t give me any hints as to what he’s working on. ” I’m not quite ready to talk about my next plans just yet, but I’m pretty excited.” Part of me wonders if he’s a little hesitant to create something new for fear it won’t live up to “The Forgotten City.” The internet is a notoriously nasty place, but the comments about the mod are extraordinary.
100000/10. I have never been so emotionally conflicted from playing a game. Finishing the quest just- Wow. Well done, I could hardly tell this was a mod. – M.urderous.alachite.
AN ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE!!!! … after the first 6 hours I knew I wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night… All in all this mod is a masterful work of suspense, intrigue, and the costs and rewards of a perceived perfect society. One thing that really got to me was Dooley … he was the reason I couldn’t walk away from the story. I felt a tragic sense of urgency for justice for him, it really made the game… human. It was truly a humbling experience. – Head213
Pearce says that even though he was given early access to Bethesda projects and interviews with the media “the best experience has been seeing the community’s reaction.” A common theme in the comments is how much “The Forgotten City” has affected people emotionally.
Incredible. Somehow, when I was done, I felt such an intimate connection with the town and all the people in it. When they spoke to me, telling me thank you, how grateful they were, how much they loved me… I welled up with tears. It felt like I actually helped people. It felt like I had real friends. I felt… Happy. It was a great breath of fresh air, less killing and more of an investigative mod, which was beautifully executed and brought about an amazing story. 10/10 would play again. – Easter
In spite of these comments, Pearce still remains humble and grounded, even telling me, “There are literally thousands of comments like there all over the internet. It’s very gratifying to read them. I just try not to let it go to my head.
I asked Pearce if he had any advice for aspiring modders and he said;
My advice to modders is this: The best thing about modding is that you get to take the creative risks that commercial studios simply cannot, so take full advantage of that. Worst case scenario is that your mod only appeals to a small niche of people, but so what? I took an action RPG about killing dragons and zombies and modded it into a time travel murder mystery which requires players to think for themselves. I had no idea whether anyone would like it; I just made the game I wanted to play. Turns out a lot of other people wanted to play it too.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition is available now and Nick Pearce’s mod “The Forgotten City” is available for PC and Xbox One.