The Trials And Tribulations Of Morrowind 2011

Last week we reported on the release of Morrowind 2011. It’s a collection of existing Morrowind mods + an original guide to getting them to work together, intended to completely overhaul the venerable classic and bring it, graphically and gameplaywise, a little closer to where Bethesda’s current crop of games (Fallout 3/Oblivion) are. It’s a great idea, which is why it was greeted by excitement across the gaming community – at least it was for a second.

It is at this point that things get a little confusing, so bear with us as we try to make sense of the whole thing.

Morrowind 2011 went live on January 3rd. and there was much rejoicing in the land. That rejoicement was sadly short lived. Within 24 hours, Morrowind 2011 compiler Tyler Smith found himself at the center of a vast firestorm of outrage. At issue was the ‘uncredited’ and and unpermitted use of prexisting mods for inclusion in the game. Anticipating that possibility, Smith made certain that the original version of the WordPress site, included the following statement: “I do care about them [and] I have included a credits file in the zip.” Unfortunately, it was insufficient, and a particularly nasty flamewar broke out between Smith and outraged modders who felt, incorrectly, that they’d been uncredited, and perhaps more justifiably that they should have been consulted before release.

Whatever the legitimacy, the situation turned toxic for Smith as legal threats both explicit and veiled were issued against him. It was at this point (and remember, we’re still only within the first 48 hours) that Bethesda themselves weighed in.

Smith recieved notice that he was in violation of Bethesda’s copyright, and found himself banned (and his IP address blocked) from the their Forums. There has been no official word on precisely why Morrowind 2011 garnered so much of their attention, but it appears to be the result of the entire Morrowind community making themselves heard. Squeaky wheels and so forth, though we should note that they have so far taken no action against stuff like this. We don’t mean to impugn their motivations, only point out that the reaction against Smith seems a bit… overzealous, to say the least.

By January 6th, Smith found that the Morrowind WordPress site he created had been taken down. he created a new one and found it too was deleted nearly as soon as he created it. This indicates that credible, real legal threats were made and that WP acted accordingly. Ultimately, Smith opted to concede defeat and stopped posting new versions of the site. For the next two days he went dark, until he reemerged on Saturday appearing to have come to some kind of detente with the outraged Morrowind community. He returned with a new site, which broadly and clearly explains where each of the mods he used originated, and issued the following terse statement:

1. I’m not going to repost the old version of the mod on this site as I’m working on a newer version, there are torrents and mirrors everywhere if you want it.

2. I have a new version in the works, and right now I’m thinking about the pro’s and con’s of it being released.

3. We didn’t start the flame war

I think most of the argument is over, there’s a credit list, and I have removed all the bad shit I said such as people’s public emails. While it might have been wrong for me to do that, you have to understand the whole story, and it’s complex.

So I’m not throwing in the towel, just done fighting with this and working on either or a new release a guide.

So lets keep it to that, civil and quiet

And there we have it – though he’s not kidding about the original version of Morrowind 2011 still being fully available, he will no longer have anything to do with it, and it’s likely that a newer, less outrage inducing version is coming. That’s something of a disappointment, though we get it. The whole snafu has been a visceral reminder that no matter how supported any game’s modding community is, it exists solely at the discretion and pleasure of the company who owns the ip. And they’re as likely to bow to the demands of the community at large. Best to be certain your bases are covered, in other words.

Even so, this was a great idea. It’s disappointing that instead of becoming one of 2011′s more celebrated mods, Morrowind 2011 will instead be one of the year’s first miniscandals. We’re hoping he decides to release a new version and if so, that next time, it won’t end up causing all hell to break loose.

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