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Morrowind Construction Kit

15 February 2011

The Elder Scrolls Construction Kit (TESCK) allows one to create a wide variety of new content for the game. Unfortunately, much of the editing is not intuitive (such as scripting). This page contains general help and tutorials for getting the most out of the editor. Feel free to Contact the Webmaster to contribute any suggestions or content.

Creating Clean Mods - 17 May 2002
An excellent guide to ensuring the mods you create are 'clean', reducing it's size complexity, and possible bugs.
Keyboard Shortcuts - 17 May 2002
Some keyboard shortcuts to help you navigating in the construction kit.
Naming Conventions - 17 May 2002
Some suggestions on creating unique item/script names in the editor.
Editting Interiors - 17 May 2002
Some tips to editting interiors.

Creating Clean Mods
17 May 2002

I'm more than just a little surprised at how easy it is to create a dirty mod. Little things like accidentally changing information on a global object (a light, a static, a container) while you're first getting the hang of things, can literally double the size of your mod, and impact the entire "world" of Morrowind. Not to mention, potentially, other peoples' mods... or the savegames of people to which you distribute your mod.

I'd like to make a few suggestions to ANYONE developing a mod. Before EVER releasing, you should scrutinize the following:

  1. Save your ESP
  2. Goto File, Data Files, select your ESP, and hit Details
  3. You should see a list of everything your ESP changes when employed
Learn to read and understand this list. Every single line of it. If you find it's tremendously long, when you've only added one internal cell with a few pieces of furniture, then your mod is not clean. You have three choices at that point:
  1. Start Over
  2. Hex-edit your ESP to remove the improper entries (this isn't as hard as it sounds, actually)
  3. Release a dirty mod.
Starting from the top of the details, you'll have a list of all the new objects you've added or modified from the original with your ESP. An example list:
	SCPT ds_saree_scpt_bottle 
	SCPT ds_saree_scpt_winerack 
	ACTI _ds_saree_vsva_winerack 
	MISC _ds_saree_vsva_skey 
	STAT _ds_saree_vsva_crate 
	CONT barrel_01 
The list ends with the first reference to a CELL. The column on the left lists the type of object. I have listed here two scripts, an activator, a miscellaneous, a static, and a container. Their names are listed to the right. Remember, these are objects I have added or changed from the original. The list contains:
	A script, which is assigned to a special bottle. 
	A script, which is assigned to a winerack. 
	An activator, a winerack in Saree's shop. 
	A misc, Saree's key. 
	A static, a crate in Saree's shop. 
	A container, barrel_01. 
I know I keep saying this, but keep in mind this list should only reflect entirely new objects you have added, or objects you have changed from the original. Keeping this in mind, and keeping in mind the question "am I clean?" I now scrutinize this list. I ask, for each object, "New object: am I actually using this? Changed object: did I really, truly, positively mean to change this from the original?"

The scripts are new, and I am certainly using them. Ditto for the activator and key. The crate seems a little funny, so I jump off of the list, and hit Cancel on the Data Files dialogue (so as to prevent having to re-load the entire ESP). I open up the VSVA interior cell (selecting it from the list of cells) and hunt down that object from the list at the lower-right (made much easier since I have a distinguished name for it). Oh, yes, I see now - I had to make a distinguished "crate" object that a script operates upon. Scripts like objects whose "references persist", and the original static crate (furn_crate_open_01) does not persist. Of course, I could have just dropped in furn_crate_open_01, set it to persist, and hit that Save button on the object - but then I wouldn't have a clean ESP, since I'd have just modified 84 other crates in the original ESM! You scripters in the audience should also immediately recognize the fact that operating on an object almost always requires you have a unique name for that object. Otherwise, if you just specify "furn_crate_open_01", you may end up operating on some crate halfway across Vvardenfell! If you need a script to operate on an object, you'll find you nearly always need to create your own special object for it - DO NOT simply change the name and properties of some existing object to suit your needs! That would be dirty!

One more object. The container, barrel_01. Ah, yes, I stuck a barrel downstairs with five gold in it. That's fine, right? Wrong. This is exactly the kind of mistake the novice is bound to make, and it's the kind of thing the paranoid mod-downloader has every right to fear. When you stick objects into a container, you're not harmlessly creating just one container with the objects you want, you're changing the contents for each and every instance of that object in the entire world. barrel_01 was originally empty, looked like a prime target to me. Now, I'll find that if I check the contents of any instance of barrel_01, anywhere in the world, I'll find they all have five gold in them!

It gets worse. I may realize the error of my ways, change barrel_01 back to the way it was, and as a wiser mod builder, make my own copy of barrel_01 (_ds_saree_vsva_barrel01), and change its contents to my heart's content. But my mod is still dirty. When I go back to my list of objects, I'll now find:

	SCPT ds_saree_scpt_bottle 
	SCPT ds_saree_scpt_winerack 
	ACTI _ds_saree_vsva_winerack 
	MISC _ds_saree_vsva_skey 
	STAT _ds_saree_vsva_crate 
	CONT barrel_01 
	CONT _ds_saree_vsva_barrel01 
barrel_01 is still listed, you see, and I've still "changed" it everywhere in the world. Its changes may not be any different than the original barrel, but picture the two following scenarios:
  1. I'm playing around with objects and accidentally rename misc_com_bottle_05. Oops, what I wanted was a copy of that object, not to rename the original. So I make my copy, and rename the original to its correct original name. Well, tough luck mister, your mod still contains modified reference information for 991 instances of misc_com_bottle_05. The editor doesn't know well enough to understand that the changes you made "should have equaled zero", because two wrongs don't make a right. If you try this test, then go back to look at your "Details", you'll be astonished at all the crap you see on your list - changes to places you've never even heard of, and the size of your ESP will probably effectively double. Although the size of the ESP probably won't bother most people. They're not that big.
  2. You think you change the object back to original, but you forget something critical. Now your mod is not only dirty, it's also harmful.
The casual, lazy mod developer is going to look at the first scenario, shrug, and say, "Yeah, but so what? It is back like the original, right?" Not so for this mod developer. I'm a stickler for quality, and I managed to make a pretty dirty mod when I was trying to be on my best behavior. Now imagine a mod developer who doesn't really care about how he names objects, or that he might be changing references to objects in 900 other places. Suddenly, I become just a little critical of downloading anyone else's mod. Is it safe? Is it clean?

So, a plea to all of my fellow mod developers: First, and probably most important, make your own objects! Do not modify the originals! And please, if you can spare the tiny bit of extra effort, name your objects something distinct and obvious, and keep a running list of all the new objects in your mod. (This makes debugging SO much easier!)

Second, before you ever distribute your mod, go to the Details list, and see just how clean that ESP really is! If you can account for everything on that list, then you're a-okay. But if you find you have scads and scads of objects that aren't yours and you thought you hadn't modified (or suddenly realize you shouldn't have!) then please, at least consider telling people in advance.

Original Text Written by Dragonsong on the Official Morrowind Forums.

Naming Conventions
17 May 2002

When creating a mob, the most common thing you do is to copy an existing object and give it a new name in order to make it unique. In order for your item not to conflict with an other mod the user might have running, the name must be unique. There are a few ways to ensure your name is unique using the following naming conventions and suggestions:

  1. Start your names with a string unique to yourself, such as your initials or name. This will give you your own indepedent namespace, apart from any other mod designer's objects.
  2. Include your mod name (or a short form), in the second part of your item name, preventing you from making duplicate names in different mods.
  3. Include a short form of the item's location next. Most people seem to like using two characters for the city/district name and another 2 or 3 for the actual 'zone'.
  4. Starting item names with an underscore help so that they sort to the top of the list, making finding your items a bit faster. Unfortunately, scripts cannot start with an underscore.
An example using this syntax:
Both names use my hopefully unique name (DVH), the mod name (short for Shadow). The first name represents a script for some chest01. The second is a table in an Ald'Ruhn (AR) Manor (MR). This syntax can create long names very quickly which can yield to some difficulties in choosing them in some drop-down lists (which cut off everything past 20 characters or so). Suggestions on improving this format are welcome, but in the long run it makes managing a large number of names in multiple mods easier.

Original Text Written in part by Dragonsong on the Official Morrowind Forums.

Keyboard Shortcuts
17 May 2002

In the Render Window:

In the Preview Window:

Original Text Written by Yggdrasil on the Official Morrowind Forums.

Editting Interiors
17 May 2002

For starters, to make it easier to connect the pieces of interiors, you can change your snap-to grid increment... In the editor main window, under File, select preferences. In the window this opens, you will see a number of fields you can change. Movement Speeds allows you to adjust how slowly or quickly things move when you drag them with your mouse. If you change these, do it by small increments, in general, because it's a fine tune control and fairly sensitive on most systems.

Grid Snap Is the increment with which an object will move on the X, Y, or Z plane when you drag it. It defaults to 64, I believe, and as long as you remain with multiples of 2 or 4, etc, you shouldn't have a terrible time lining things up sufficiently with a little practice. Simply use a large number to move things around quickly and a smaller number for fine tuning once you have your pieces "roughed-in". You'll almost always want "Use Grid" turned on when you're first getting the hang of things, by the way...

Note: Pieces do not actually "snap" together as legos do, but very close to that. They should line up with a vaguely visible seam, but no gaps when they are together properly. (I'll provide an example near the end of this post.) It can be okay to overlap pieces at times (and is pretty much necessary in some cases, like adding rocks to dungeons without edges showing...just look in the example dungeon I list at the end) but it is good form and practice to try and keep the overlap of pathway or "main level" pieces to a minimum for best results.

Best I can tell, all parts of an object are rendered whether visible in your interior cell or not, so if you have a ton of unseen polys outside of walls, your dungeon is going to chug on average systems even if the visible interior is very simplistic and smooth. Someone correct me if they find out differently, but from what I've done thus far, it seems that even if only 5 polys of a 180 poly rock are showing in the interior of a level, that entire 180 poly rock is still being rendered by the game engine as if it were wholely visible.

Angle snap is the degree an object will rotate by when you are dragging to rotate. Turn it on to keep a sense of order to your object rotation, if you wish. I believe it defaults to 45 degrees, but you'll likely have to lower that quite a bit or turn it off entirely to get the proper angle you need to line certain pieces up properly.

As you've probably noticed, a lot of the objects don't come in the sizes you first saw them in somewhere else in the game when dropped straight into the rendering window. All objects in game are "references". This means that they are all references to (or based on, if you will) an actual object in the main .esm file. You can double click a selected static and change anything below the Reference Data section in the pop-up window. This will only affect that particular selected static and will leave all other references to that object untouched.

To resize a static to better fit your specific interior needs, you simply change the value of 3D Scale on its pop-up sheet. The default 1.00 is equal to standard size. (100%). Statics can be effectively scaled down to 50% of their standard size by entering 0.5 in this field and scaled up to 200% of their standard size by entering 2.0 Any size in between those seems to work decently, but those seem to be the upper and lower limits, for reference.

Keep in mind that editing static references is much different from editing lights and other such objects. It can be very easy to accidentally change ALL instances of a light in the world while trying to edit the single one you just dropped in without thinking. When in doubt on lighting, just click on the Objects window under the Lights tab and hit "Insert" to create a new one and keep yourself from mucking up an existing light elsewhere in the land of Vvardenfell.

Original Text Written by Deconstruction on the Official Morrowind Forums.

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