Reachwind Eyrie

Ha! And you thought I’d never get around to it. So, what is the point of this article? I suppose I just want to show you what I’ve been working on since February, and what has become one of my biggest modding projects to date. The location of Reachwind Eyrie was already in place in Skyrim, though unmodified it was just a sad, dusty tower with little point or story. I loved the scenery and general location, though, so I decided to build upon and enhance what was already there. The architecture style I used is from the Dwemer (Dwarven) culture, which I like for its predominance of stone and brass as building materials. In some ways it reminds me of D’ni, though you need to look a bit sideways to see it. The constraint of building with only one set of architectural pieces forced me to be more fluid and inventive, and in fact on closer inspection I found Bethesda (the game company) did much the same for the city of Markarth.

So, I began with the outside courtyard surrounding the main tower –

I tried to make the place as inviting as possible while retaining the kind of “half-ruined” aesthetic that I love so dearly. I mean for this to be a fully-functional home for the player, though, so story-wise I had a vague scholar mentioned only once in the game find the tower, clean it up, and furnish it with most of its modern fittings (after which he is neatly disposed of in an unrelated quest).

The historical elements of the Eyrie’s design allowed me to write a series of journals in the shoes of this scholar, giving me an outlet for describing little bits and pieces of the design that might otherwise go unnoticed. This was important to me because there were a ton of little bits and pieces.

The inside of the Eyrie was a great challenge because it required a confined space, yet also enough decoration that it didn’t appear too bare. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in many house mods released for Skyrim in which beautiful buildings are designed and implemented but the interiors look like the inside of a warehouse. Of course, the requirement of filling in all the lines meant I had to get creative with the tools I had, and when I was lucky I could work the result into the storyline.

The room above, for example, shows the inner nexus-type chamber which branches off into all the other areas of the house. You’ll notice the explosive growth of plants on the ceiling; despite looking pretty they were purposefully grown as a decoration by the tower’s Dwarven builder. There is an underground source of water which is pumped into the chambers, heated and vaporized in boilers, then run through a series of ventilation ducts to provide warm, moist air to the upper reaches of the main rooms. There are places where you can see into the ducts and find the vines growing down through the holes, something you might never notice if you did not know to look for it.

And I’m sure you’re very eager to see my in-progress addition scheduled for the next update – the geothermic bath. After several disheartening attempts to design such a room, I finally succeeded in creating one which didn’t crash the game and looks pretty great (if I may say so). This room has more moving parts (mostly water dynamics) than any other area of the Eyrie, not to mention all the sounds, spatial design, and special navigation meshes to allow game characters to find their way around the walkable surfaces. I’m quite pleased with it so far, though it’s not quite done and I have a few additions yet up my sleeve.

I’ll admit, the room was more of a “popular request” thing than my own initiative. I don’t think it ever really crossed my mind on the first build. But, I agreed with the requestors (if that’s a word), and unless one of you spoils the secret, they should be pleasantly surprised.

So, that’s what I have for you regarding my current Skyrim project. I’m sure there are some who were just bored to tears (this is a photo gallery after all), but I hope some were moved by what they saw, and may even consider giving modding a try. It’s great fun, greatly frustrating, and mostly worth the effort sometimes. Just remember, if you can’t catch flies with lovingly assembled *totally free* houses, there’s always a market for anime-inspired schoolgirl-themed skirts and pigtails (yes, I’m still talking about Skyrim, the land of Vikings, dragons, and mead).


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