In Progress: Sercen Manor – Ayleid Tree Village

It’s almost exactly three years since I mentioned that I was making a sequel to my Silorn Manor mod for Oblivion. I’ve started making it about three times, too. Yes, I have almost as many WIPs as I have completed mods, but I normally do get around to them  eventually.

After reinstalling the game again and yet again losing any progress, I suddenly knew how to make the mod work. You can blame Korana for this, because I got the modding itch while poking round her excellent Millstone Farm mod. I got the idea for this one from my Oasis house mod for Fallout 3 – the way to make the player feel like they are high up in a tree, whilst still allowing a stable, functional village base. I also knew where to set it, after falling in love with the Sercen ruin during regular Oblivion gameplay.

Sercen is the manor directly opposite the White Tower, just on the water’s edge. It’s the first thing you see when you exit the sewer system after escaping from prison at the start of the game. It’s also infested with respawning bandits, and filled with traps and secrets, making it the ideal challenge for the player without any additional work from me.

I just added a door to one corner, and a short “Sercen Lower Level” cell, which has traces of “daylight” and plant growth, and a hidden door leading to the village.

The village interior-as-exterior cell is a short hall of the Ayleid architecture, opening out to an open “village square” that is rather long and narrow with five terraced buildings in the Ayleid style. It’s on a wooden platform (an enlarged bridge piece), through which trees are visible below and above to give the sensation that it’s all resting on branches of giant trees. (I had some fun with my first test: I still had Natural Vegetation plugged in, which makes everything supersized! I couldn’t see anything at all because of the size of the branches!)

When you look up, you see foliage cover, and some inaccessible walkways to give the impression that the village is much larger than it is.

At the bottom of it all is the Shivering Isles gateway island (so, yes, the mod will require SI), so that when you look down you just see green-upon-green. Then there are densely-packed, enlarged trees to fill the leaf cover that you can see through the slats on the bridge. I’ve put trees right into the buildings so you see the leaves hanging down over the top. The “trunk” parts poking through bits of architecture in the village square are mossy logs turned on their sides and covered with ivy and creepers. Because these Ayleids are more integrated into Cyrodilic culture, I’ve kept the flame-lights yellow, rather than the pale blue they were in Silorn Manor (where the Aureal bloodline is stronger).

For the “lore” of the village, I’ll be expanding on the in-game books I wrote for Silorn Manor, basing it on this paragraph:

In 1E 2812, it was decided that the village was becoming crowded, so Lord Thadon of the Ranaline line moved with his household to the Imperial City, along with any villagers who had expressed an interest in seeing more of the world outside. There had been many visitors to the capital to witness the coronation of Reman II, so he reasoned that the presence of strangers would pass unnoticed. According to correspondence received by the new Lord Eldamil of the Palonirya line, his suppositions were correct. It is thought that some of the Thadon clan integrated into Cyrodiil society, eventually rising into the lower ranks of nobility, whereas others tired of city life and formed other concealed Ayleid settlements.

Now that I have most of the “exterior” complete (I need to add doors and fix a couple of glitches), I’ll now follow the same process as I did with Silorn: spend a good few hours writing the backstory and sketching out who lives where. I always like to do it this way, rather than just stick a few buildings in and then fill them, because then you make functional houses: a farmer will have a totally different sort of house to a priest. I have to think about what sort of services the village will need, whether they’re regular visitors to the nearby city, and accordingly what sort of things I have to include. For example, I probably don’t need a clothes shop if they regularly pop to the Market District to do their shopping – but they’ll still definitely need a “corner shop” and a pub.

How many services they require dictates how large the interiors are. If it’s just a dormitory suburb of the Imperial City, you can get away with eight or nine inhabitants living in smallish houses. If it’s a self-contained town, I might have to divide those five interiors into apartment blocks and have maybe 20 residents and a lot more shops.

:edit: Download the abandoned WIP here [note: if you have problems downloading, try logging into 4shared]

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