One of the main challenges with modding is remembering to serve the game, as opposed to simply using it as a platform for my own ego. Of course, there’s a place for just making random things for the hell of it, and room for many wild flights of fancy, but the mods I like best revolve around plugging any perceived needs in the game rather than just adding stuff for the sake of it.
Whether or not you inwardly cringe (and many do) at the choice of furniture in Mournhold Expanded or the Dagoth Ur casino in Ghostgate, both were the result of my need to see a sprawling “city of magic”, and “what happened next”, respectively. Neither were produced because I thought it would be a really cool idea to add x, but because I assumed that with infinite time and infinite monkeys, those things would have been there anyway. Maybe not exactly like that, but something along those lines.
Thus is the challenge for Canterbury Commons. This is the town that I believe should be there – certainly something that would have arisen after many years of settlement and 200 years after the last war. It’s been a criticism of the game, sometimes unfairly, that it looks a lot more like 30 years after the war than 200 – but the answer to that is to look at some of the places in the world today that seem against all odds to defy development and wallow in a constant state of despair. What’s lacking, though, is the indomitable human spirit. Wherever you are, whatever situation you’re in, some people would be fighting back: not with guns, but with civilization. Rivet City should be much bigger, as should Megaton – and I’ll get to those. Put simply, if you stick your finger on the world map and point to any “fallen civilization” – any great nation that has been plunged into war and kept there for hundreds of years – and witness how slums and skyscrapers dwell side by side – that is what my mind sees when I think of the game and where my eye doesn’t see that, that’s where I mod it in.
New Wild West
So we come to Canterbury Commons in this New Wild West, and it’s not like Megaton – the one place I think that really pulls it off. It’s grotty, sure – but functional and believable. Canterbury Commons is too filthy and too empty. Even with the caravans passing through, it’s just not viable as a settlement – especially one that is described as having been there for many years. Put bluntly, after half a lifetime of habitation, there is no way in hell that Joe Porter would be sleeping on a filthy mattress under the sky in a burnt-out diner. With all that rubble around, with all those tools at their disposal, somebody would have attempted to fix the place up.
My one challenge, though, is how to make that work with the game. When you meet Uncle Roe and ask him what’s in town, he mentions the caravans and Joe, and doesn’t talk about (the hitherto non-existent) Patsy’s Diner or the new General Store I’m building – so is this a fundamental conflict? I worried about that for a day or two, but then I realised something. When someone asks me about the dormitory suburb I live in, and what’s there, what do I say? I mention the little general store, and the takeaway, and I’d probably point to the towering spire of the local church but other than that I’d say “nothing”. In fact, that’s a lie – there are many more shops along the little high street – but I’d struggle to name them and have probably never even noticed most of them, despite having lived there for some years. We only look at what we use, and if Roe cuts his own hair, he’s not going to talk about the barber shop. The shops that I’m building in would need their own suppliers, and that is where the caravans come in. They buy from the travelling merchants and then sell on to the locals. I’d script it in so that their inventories expand as you invest in Roe’s scheme.
Removing Your Objections
Lastly, though, to make it all tie in, I’ll have to add backstory in through found literature – holotape books, newspapers and journals found around town – explaining the history and setup of the town. Luckily I love adding that stuff in anyway, and it does make a place feel more “real” and believable. People resist anything they’re not used to, and if you carefully remove their objections by pre-emptively answering their questions, you can enable them to suspend their disbelief. If I could explain away a theme park in Morrowind, I think I can justify another building or two in Canterbury Commons.
The easiest way to remove those objections is to know the game thoroughly, and leafing through the excellent strategy guide, I was suddenly reminded how unfamiliar I am with most of what’s in the game, despite many hours of play. I’m going to take off a day or two and take some time out to really appreciate what’s in there already, before I try to change anything else.
In the meantime, here’s a brief tour of the town…
I decided to actually take a look at the town to view progress so far. Clearly I’m a long way from complete, but it was great to just wander round and take notes, looking at what does work and what doesn’t. There’s clearly a huge amount to be done on the exterior. Though it needs some neatening up on the outside, the makeshift repairs to the diner roof do, I think, work.
I took a few moments to visit Patsy’s – the main problem there is NPC AI – they do too much milling around, and I haven’t seen anyone sleep – but otherwise I was quite pleased with how it looks.
Then I went to inspect the hotel. I still think the double doors everywhere is a little odd, but on the other hand it gave it a nice spacious, airy feel and I was pleased to see that all the scripts worked.
I took a look at the Town Hall part of Uncle Roe’s, and other than noticing a flickering static (must fix!) was fairly happy with it. This is how it looks in the GECK:
… and then finally to check out Dominic and Machete’s House to check that the Mr Handy is patrolling OK (he is).