Morrowind Construction Set Beginners Tutorial

Basic Construction Set Introduction for the Complete Newbie :) Looks best in 1024x768

After seeing how popular the construction set tutorials have been from the number of emails I have received and the number of messages on the newbie tutorial page, I have decided to create a blog where I can answer your questions in full and where other modders can provide feedback on how they are progressing. This blog is called the Morrowind and Oblivion Blog. If you feel that you need help with a more personal touch, then why not try posting your questions, suggestions and useful tips in the open post that I have called 'Please use this post for CS help and general chitchat'. I would like to hear your problems and ideas, so come along and check out the blog. Dave.

The Morrowind Construction Set can be found on the first disk of the Morrowind Game pack in the folder called 'CSInstall'. Load this first disk and run the setup routine to install the CS onto your hard drive. I loaded it into my main Morrowind folder, which is probably the best place for it, although there is nothing to stop you loading it to a different location.

We should now probably look at trying to understand the Morrowind folder hierarchy, since it is especially important that you understand where to find all the files that are used by the CS. All the important data files that are used by Morrowind/Tribunal/Bloodmoon are loaded into a sub-folder of the Morrowind folder called 'Data Files'. Now, for just playing the game you do not need to load anything from the second CD, which contains all the data files for all the objects in the game. The reason for this is to do with something called .bsa files.

These .bsa files are automatically loaded directly into the 'Data Files' folder when you install the Morrowind game. They are Bethesda's compressed archive files, and they hold all the data for Morrowinds game objects, texture files etc. The game uses these objects directly out of the .bsa files. But, in order to use the CS effectively, you need direct access to these files, especially if you plan on modding armor and weapons etc.

In that case, you will need the files with the extension .nif. These are the Morrowind object files in the .nif format. These .nif files contain the object meshes for each piece of equipment and other objects used in the game. They are loaded into the sub-folder 'Meshes'. .nif files are supplemented by .tga and .dds texture files which are stored in the 'Textures' sub-folder.

I must stress that you only need to load these files if you intend modding the meshes, or if you plan on re-texturing equipment. If you are just building a house or creating the outdoor scenery, then using the data from within the .bsa files is the easiest way to go.

The same holds true for the datafiles for Tribunal and Bloodmoon. These files come pre-packaged with their own .bsa files when you install the mods. They are automatically stored in the '/Data Files' folder.

If you decide you need to install the files for modding/re-texturing, then load-up the second CD which has the file structure above-opposite, then install all the files into your 'Morrowind/Data Files' folder. When you do this, the game will automatically look for it's data in the .bsa files, and if it cannot find it, then it will look in the meshes/textures datafiles structure.

Opening the CS

Open the CS and take a look at the opening page. Go to the menu File/Datafiles and select the mod you wish to make active. Set it to be the main Morrowind.esm, as in the diagram opposite. Click on the button 'Set as Active File', then click on OK. This makes the Morrowind.esm file the active program and loads all the meshes, npc's, countryside, towns and buildings etc. into the active windows. If you set this to be another mod, rather than the original Morrowind game file, then you would select that file, usually ending in .esp, and probably with Morrowind.esm as it's parent. In this second case, the Morrowind.esm file would be loaded first, then the mod file would be loaded as an overlay on top of Morrowind. This is how all mods work; they are extensions of the main Morrowind Game, files of changes to the game that overwrite the original gamefile objects. The original file is not overwritten, just the memory version of it.

The CS windows

You will now see the various windows for the different aspects of the CS - the Object Window, the Cell Window and the Render window. Take a look at the content of each of these windows. The Object window lists all the objects in the game. The NPC tab is currently selected. Try selecting some of the other tabs in order to examine the other types of objects in the game. The Cell View window lists all the cells in the game. As you can see, we have Balmora (-3, -2) selected, and the right hand pane shows some of the objects in this cell. The third image is that of the Render window. This currently shows the image of the selected cell in the Cell View window - Balmora.

These three windows are the main windows used when creating a new mod. A cell is selcted into the render window, the window is zoomed in to see the objects in close-up, then new objects are dragged out of the Object window into the Render window. This process places those objects into the game in that location.

Creating a mod

I was wondering how I might introduce you to modding in the CS, and I finally had the idea of creating a small mod, in small stages. I wanted to do something simple to start with - something that you could continue for yourself once you had finished this tutorial. So, I came up with the idea of a mod in Balmora, the place where most modders begin. To keep it simple, I thought about creating a trader, and a stall on the east bank of the river. This will give you your first contact with an NPC, and various objects such as weapons, armor and furnishings. So, without further ado, let's begin by creating a new NPC that trades in weapons and armor.

Before we start, here's a list of the CS keyboard shortcuts : Keyboard Shortcuts

Up, Down,------Landscape Editor -
Left, Right----move to cell
H -------------------------Landscape Editor
B -------------------------Borders
T -------------------------Zoom to Top View
C -------------------------Zoom to Ground Level
LShift/Mouse Move----------Move object/s
RShift/Mouse Move----------Spin object/s
MouseWheel/Move mouse -----Move viewpoint/zoom-in/zoom-out
Z/LeftMouse ---------------Move object up/down
CTRL-C --------------------Copy
CTRL_V --------------------Paste
CTRL-X --------------------Cut

Let's start creating a mod by finding Balmora (-3 -2) in the Cell View window, then double clicking on the cell to get it into the Render window. Now, look for the east bank of the river, just below the northern bridge. Left click the bank in the loaction I've marked on the map in image 1. Zoom into the cell with the mousewheel/move combination, then tilt the map by holding down the left shift key whilst holding and moving the left mouse button. See image 2 for how it should look now. We are now going to place a table in this location that can be used by the trader for his wares.

Locate the Objects window and click on the Static tab. Scroll down the list until you find the object called 'furn_de_ex_table_02'. Select this object, then continue to hold down the left button whilst dragging the table out of the object window into the Render window. Release the button to drop the table. Now, zoom into the table a bit. Try moving the table left and right, and up and down by using LShift/Mouse Move and Z/LeftMouse. Try spinning the table around it's vertical axis using the combination RShift/Mouse Move. Move the object down to the ground - you will see it's legs begin to disappear when you get there.

Place the table on the ground, just to the east of the path as per the images 3 and 4. Notice in the top left corner of the main TES Construction Set window bar a small asterisk. This indicates the game world has been modified in some way. So, this would be a good time to save the mod. Click on the File/Save menu. It asks for a filename. Save it as 'trader.esp'. The main window bar now shows the name of the current mod [trader.esp].

I think you should now go into the Morrowind game and find the table in Balmora that you have created. Load the game and go into the data files option. Select the trader.esp mod then click OK to load your mod. Coe to -3 -2 and walk over the river to see the table, just where you left it!

Take a look at the Cell View window for Balmora (-3 -2). You'll see that it has an asterisk in the column, which indicates that this cell has been modified in some way. Find the table in the opposite column and you will see that this entry also has an asterisk against it. Every mod you make will result in an object that changes. This is how Morrowind recognizes the changes to the original game. And that is why you can make as many changes to the game as you like without worrying about ruining the original game in any way.

Creating an NPC

Let's now turn our attention to the trader. Click on the Objects.NPC tab to see the list of NPC's in Morrowind. The names are listed in alphabetical order by default. But you can sort the table on any column you like; try sorting on Race, and then on Name. When creating a new NPC it is usually best not to start from scratch, but to modify an existing NPC which is close to your requirements, then rename him. When naming NPC's that you create, it is always best to give the id something memorable, and the best way to do that is to name every NPC you create by starting the name with an alias eg, I use the alias fkoa_ for the Five Keys of Azura mod. You could use the first four letters of your mod also, so, in this instance, that would be trad_. The benefit of using an alias is that all NPC's you create will begin with the same alias, reusulting in your NPC's all appearing in the same block when you sort on ID. This saves an awful lot of time when you start to work on a significantly large mod.

So, we are going to create a new trader. Sort the table on Class so as to see all NPC's that work as traders, then scroll down to an NPC that meets most of your requirements. I chose a Redguard trader that goes by the name Trasteve. See Image 5. It's probably best if you use this NPC to keep things simple in the Tutorial; you can choose someone else later when you create another NPC. Familiarize yourself with the layout of the NPC screen. Note that every aspect of the NPC can be altered on this screen. For instance, you can mod his stats, his inventory, his class, race etc. And there are buttons that give access to his AI (Artificial Intelligence) etc. Go into the AI tab and set his AIwander to be off to stop him wandering away from the table. Now let's rename him. I called him Roman with id trad_roman. Change the two fields now, then click SAVE. In the pop-up window for 'Create a new object' click YES. Now find him in the table - note the asterisk for a new object, and note that the original NPC if left intact. Take a brief look at the screens associated with the buttons Dialog, Animation and AI. We won't be using any of these in this basic tutorial. Now save the mod.

Equipping your trader

Your NPC is a trader, so I suppose we need to give him something to sell. He only has a robe and shoes for the moment, but traders usually have a few chests in which they keep their stuff that they have for sale. So, let's give Roman a chest of goodies that he can sell on his stall. But first, let's place Roman into the Render window. He should be standing behind the table and facing towards the river. Notice that, for the moment, the object has a zero count in the count column. We have created the object, but, as yet, we have not created an instance of that object. The object, in object-orientation parlance, is the blueprint for an object, a template, and in order to create the object we must drag it into the render window. So, let's do it; drag Roman into the window and place him behind the table. Now see that the count for Roman is 1 - one instance of the object.

Let's also find a chest of items, say armor, and place it under the table. The chests are found under the containers tab. Find the chest named 'com_chest_02_v_armor06', change the id to be 'trad_com_chest_roman', and create a new template. Drag the new chest under the table. This chest has lots of armor in it. See Image 6 for the placement of Roman and the chest.

There's one last thing to do with the chest, and that is to adjust it's ownership. See Image 7. Ownership is very important in Morrowind in order to maintain a system whereby, various NPC's, and the player, own a certain amount of goods. This helps to ensure that thieving can be recognized by guards, shopkeepers etc, and fines can be handed out for stealing. Roman has a chest of goods that belong to him. When the player asks what he has for sale, Roman diplays a list of all the goods for which he has ownership. So, we have to make Roman the owner of the chest and everything in it. To do this, we double-click on the chest in the Render window. A screen pops up detailing the chest and it's contents. On this screen there is also an ownership section that has to be enabled by ticking inside the Extra Data box. This enables the Owner combo box. Find Roman's id in this list and select him as the owner of the chest. Now, just close the Container screen and the job is done. Save the mod.

We'll now drop some items of armor on Roman's table so the punter can see the kind of stuff he has for sale. Find a shield, some gauntlets, a chestpiece and a helmet. Ensure you set the ownership on each individual piece of armor that you place on the table. You can set ownership on multiple items at once by selcting all the items, double-clicking on one of them, setting the ownership, then clicking the button 'Apply to Selection'. Do NOT click on the Save button when setting multiple ownership, otherwise you will make all references to that object belong to Roman - i.e. all those objects in the game! I've set the ownership as you can see in image 8. Save the mod again.

Go into the game, head down to Roman's stall, and buy some armor from him.

Please feel free to make comments at the bottom of this page, and let us know how you are getting on with the tutorials here. Plus, you could let others who are in the same boat as yourself know the pitfalls and the successes you've had with your modding.

The Challenge.....Update: come on guys, lets see those mods!!

I now present you with a challenge. Create another 4 or 5 NPC traders with their table and goods for sale in the rest of the empty space behind and above Roman. Also, maybe create some customers that wander around the stalls looking for goods to buy. Turn the single market stand into Balmora's own marketplace. Try to ensure that your traders sell a wide variety of goods for all those shoppers.

When you have completed your mod, then mail it to me at the address below. I will test each mod that is submitted, then I will judge them. The top three mods will then be placed on the Morrowind-Oblivion site for download. Each of these mods will be placed on their own page, so try and provide some commentary which describes the trials and tribulations you went through in learning the CS, and the pitfalls you overcame.

Let me have your name or your alias. I will not publish your email unless you request me to. Also, include 5 or 6 .jpg images of your mod for me to display on your page on the site. Each image should be no bigger that 640x480. Ensure your mod contains the .esp file together with a text file that describes the mod and any loading instructions. Include a version file if you have created one.

Send your mods to :

Jonathan Wesley is the first to create a marketplace in Balmora based on this tutorial. The Balmora marketplace can be found here Balmora Marketplace.

Ocean Martinez is the second to create a marketplace in Balmora based on this tutorial. The Trader Market can be found here Balmora Trader Market.

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