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GOL Cast: Wandering Around Morrowind in OpenMW

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You might have heard about OpenMW, the open source reimplementation of the Morrowind engine which, naturally, allows you to play Morrowind on Linux. Let's test it!

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is an RPG from 2002. You are released from prison and sent to the province of Morrowind by the emperor of Tamriel to complete a task that will take you on a great journey throughout Morrowind.

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As a fan of The Elder Scrolls games, you can imagine that I have been keeping an eye out for new releases of OpenMW. The ability to play a TES game without having to resort to Wine or MS-DOS emulation definitely sounded very awesome to me and I had to buy Morrowind to test it out. I planned to write a GOL Cast of it some time ago but I decided to wait for renderer improvements which have finally arrived in the 0.37 version. So, here are my thoughts of Morrowind with the OpenMW engine.

Morrowind is a quite interesting game and it has a rather unique approach to dealing with the storyline. As per usual with TES games, Morrowind features a fully open world full of dungeons, ruins, temples and various cities, towns and villages that are simply waiting for adventurers to explore them. Instead of the game immediately presenting you with an enemy to defeat or a catastrophe to prevent, it simply tells you to explore a bit and come back to the actual main quest after you have gained some experience. I kind of like this hands-off approach because it allows you to explore the game without feeling like you are keeping a whole civilization on the brink of destruction waiting while you raid dungeons and ruins for loot and artifacts. I naturally never got around to doing even the first bits of the main story because the Mages Guild kept me quite busy with endless expeditions for old tomes and artifacts. I guess the good thing about that is that now I am completely unable to spoil any of the storyline for you.

There are tons of different ways to play the game and the choice is yours. You can become a sneaky assassin, a thief, a great paladin in shiny armor or a powerful spellcaster. Or you could be something between. Your starting class determines how well your character is suited to different tasks and leveling up minor skills can be quite time consuming, so you probably should deviate too much from your original plans but you still have the option to do so. You can create you own class too, if you feel the preset classes restrict your gameplay choices too much.

Like I mentioned, there is simply a ton of stuff to do and Morrowind is no small place. There are lots of places to visit and exploration is often rewarded with awesome loot, numerous quests and lore. Morrowind is definitely among the biggest RPGs you can play natively on Linux. However, the size does have its downsides since the game doesn't have an easy fast-travel system that can take you everywhere. You have paid services that can take you to most towns and cities but areas between them are only accessible by foot. This makes the game a bit of a walking simulator at times but luckily most roads have occasional tombs or dungeons to make travelling a little bit more interesting. You also need to prepare for these trips because it's unlikely you can find potion shops in the more desolate areas of Morrowind and various enemies will quite happily ambush unaware adventurers.

Morrowind is starting to show its age in some aspects though. The combat mechanics of Morrowind are in my opinion quite clunky and the heavy use of a random number generation might not appeal to everyone. Especially melee-only character can end up being a little bit boring as there isn't much to do other than to swing your weapon at the enemy and hope you land hits. This is why I decided to go with the spellsword class so that I can combine melee combat with some magic for more interesting encounters. The landscapes of Morrowind are also quite barren and not all that appealing to the eye.

In addition to simply replicating the behavior of Morrowind, OpenMW is aiming to improve the experience in many ways. Already you can see some graphical improvements, for example, the water in OpenMW is quite a bit prettier than in the original Morrowind. In the past releases there have also been dynamic shadows and other graphical features which have been temporarily been removed due to the move to OpenSceneGraph in version 0.37. These features will likely make their way back to OpenMW when they are reimplemented in OSG. After 1.0 we might also see further improvements to gameplay and even co-op multiplayer has been talked about though not confirmed.

On the technical side of things, OpenMW already performs quite well as an engine replacement. In the past two releases I haven't seen major breakage with any of the important gameplay mechanics and all of the quests I have run into have worked just fine. I also don't recall the game crashing a single time which is quite an achievement considering we are talking about a TES game here. The performance is also quite good in 0.37 and I can reach playable framerates on my Intel i5-2500k + R7 370 (mesa drivers) system. There are still occasional performance drops and my Intel HD Graphics 3000 laptop still had some difficulties rendering more complex areas but in general the game was still playable even on the laptop. I don't think OpenMW gives you a performance benefit over the original Morrowind but at least it gives you a playable gaming experience if nothing else.

Overall I have had tons of fun playing Morrowind with OpenMW. The project has come a long way and in my personal opinion, it's in a very playable state right now. I haven't completed the game of course but so far my experiences have been very positive and I haven't spotted any weird behavior or missing features. If you want an RPG that has dozens if not hundreds of hours worth of content I would recommend you take a look at OpenMW. You do need the game data to be able to play the game and while I don't recommend paying the full price for the data, I can quite safely recommend picking the game up on Steam or GOG when it's on sale. Just make sure to send a donation to the OpenMW team for their efforts.

OpenMW's website: http://openmw.org/en/
Morrowind on GOG: http://www.gog.com/game/the_elder_scrolls_iii_morrowind_goty_edition
Morrowind on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/22320/ Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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I'm a Linux gamer from Finland. I like reading, long walks on the beach, dying repeatedly in roguelikes and ripping and tearing in FPS games. I also sometimes write code and sometimes that includes hobbyist game development.
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18 comments
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RTheren 20 Dec, 2015
I might give it a go at some point, since this is (sort of) only NATIVE Elder Scrolls game :)
slaapliedje 20 Dec, 2015
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While I have beaten the main game, I had lost my save for when the expansions came out. From what a friend had told me, even though at the end of Morrowind, you can pretty much slaughter any enemy, in the expansioins you get your butt handed to you. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, Oblivion and Skyrim were somewhat ruined by the monster level always being close to your level. Morrowimd doesn't have that issue, and is definitely difficult to start out on. But that's part of the joy! I have been waiting for OpenMW to be done so I can play again. I believe there is a similar project for Daggerfall, which is still the largest game out of the series (it covers the whole land of Tamriel instead of sections. Even Elder Scrolls Online doesn't have all of it yet.)
MurderousMincePie 20 Dec, 2015
I wish I'd known about this sooner! I love TES series to bits and it's what I miss most from switching to Linux. But I'm slightly confused, obviously it requires the assets of the orginal Morrowind but doesn't it search for a pre-existing installation in order to run? How would you do this on Steam? Wouldn't it be impossible to install on a Linux system? Would I need to buy it on a sperate service like GOG in order to aquire it's assets?
Samsai 20 Dec, 2015
MurderousMincePieI wish I'd known about this sooner! I love TES series to bits and it's what I miss most from switching to Linux. But I'm slightly confused, obviously it requires the assets of the orginal Morrowind but doesn't it search for a pre-existing installation in order to run? How would you do this on Steam? Wouldn't it be impossible to install on a Linux system? Would I need to buy it on a sperate service like GOG in order to aquire it's assets?
There are ways to download the data from Steam using a tool called steamcmd or simply by running Steam in Wine. Alternatively you can download the installer from GOG and use innoextract to essentially unzip the contents into a nice directory. All you have to do then is to tell OpenMW where the data files are (it has a setup wizard).
DrMcCoy 20 Dec, 2015
Me, I don't really give two figs about the TES games; I never managed to get into any of them. I prefer games with a stronger focus on narrative, with stronger plothooks and, yes, more linearity (*). I had the same issue trying to get into the Ultima games, back in the day. Soley my own subjective opinion, of course.

Still, I really like the OpenMW project, and I wish them all the best. :)

(*) Like, say, the BioWare games. :P

MurderousMincePieWouldn't it be impossible to install on a Linux system?

You can use SteamCMD, a command line version of the steam client, to installing of Windows-only games on GNU/Linux. It's far from user-friendly, though.
coryrj19951 20 Dec, 2015
SamsaiThere are ways to download the data from Steam using a tool called steamcmd or simply by running Steam in Wine. Alternatively you can download the installer from GOG and use innoextract to essentially unzip the contents into a nice directory. All you have to do then is to tell OpenMW where the data files are (it has a setup wizard).

Another way of downloading a Windows game using Linux would be to use this python script. No Wine required, it downloads Windows game data using the Steam Linux client.

Or you could just to it manually and make a file called "appmanifest_APPID.acf" in your "steamapps" folder. Insert this text into the newly created acf file and start up Steam. It will automatically start downloading it.

"AppState"
{
"AppID" "APPID"
"Universe" "1"
"StateFlags" "1026"
}


*replace all "APPID"'s with the game ID that can easily be found on SteamDB (when it is back up though :P )


Edit: a few screenshots of the ease of use :P





Last edited by coryrj19951 on 21 December 2015 at 12:05 am UTC
yochaigal 21 Dec, 2015
I've been playing Morrowind on OpenMW for a week or so (a bit heavily, I might add). I've had ZERO crashes, everything looks incredible (Check out Vivec if you don't believe me) and I'm happy to say that the gamepad I own works out of the box - although why one would wish to play it with a gamepad is a bit beyond me!
I used steamcmd to download the MW+tribunal+bloodmoon gamedata; it loaded them automatically.

As to the game itself, two thoughts (minor spoilers):
If you have Tribunal loaded, you are occasionally awoken by an assassin - who while being difficult to kill is actually not very effective at killing you. The issue with this is that once you kill them, you get to wear their incredible light armor (AC 22) and on subsequent rude awakenings, can sell it. That means you as a payer have a serious advantage right from the start of the game - as well as a lot of gold, on a continual basis (I've been woken up/attacked 4 times already by an assassin). I have yet to find armor even CLOSE to as good as this. Plus I look badass.

Lastly, I agree with the point on combat in this article; it is really bad! Otherwise, still an incredible game.
slaapliedje 21 Dec, 2015
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DrMcCoyMe, I don't really give two figs about the TES games; I never managed to get into any of them. I prefer games with a stronger focus on narrative, with stronger plothooks and, yes, more linearity (*). I had the same issue trying to get into the Ultima games, back in the day. Soley my own subjective opinion, of course.

Still, I really like the OpenMW project, and I wish them all the best. :)

(*) Like, say, the BioWare games. :P

MurderousMincePieWouldn't it be impossible to install on a Linux system?

You can use SteamCMD, a command line version of the steam client, to installing of Windows-only games on GNU/Linux. It's far from user-friendly, though.

Ha, I'm the opposite, I absolutely LOVED the Ultima games. Ultima 7 pulls you right into the narrative, then hands you some clues and lets you do what you need to do to win it. Same reason I've not liked any of the final fantasy games, they always seemed to lock you into a certain area until you would grind until you could beat some guy and then you could go on to the next area. Very linear. But then I came from a background of playing many pen and paper role playing games, where the GM sets up the base environment, and then lets the players decide what they want to do.
slaapliedje 21 Dec, 2015
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  • Supporter Plus
coryrj19951
SamsaiThere are ways to download the data from Steam using a tool called steamcmd or simply by running Steam in Wine. Alternatively you can download the installer from GOG and use innoextract to essentially unzip the contents into a nice directory. All you have to do then is to tell OpenMW where the data files are (it has a setup wizard).

Another way of downloading a Windows game using Linux would be to use this python script. No Wine required, it downloads Windows game data using the Steam Linux client.

Or you could just to it manually and make a file called "appmanifest_APPID.acf" in your "steamapps" folder. Insert this text into the newly created acf file and start up Steam. It will automatically start downloading it.

"AppState"
{
"AppID" "APPID"
"Universe" "1"
"StateFlags" "1026"
}


*replace all "APPID"'s with the game ID that can easily be found on SteamDB (when it is back up though :P )


Edit: a few screenshots of the ease of use :P



That's pretty sweet. Throw in your steam id, hit refresh, choose what you want it to download, exit steam and start it back up, and it starts downloading.

Also, Debian Sid looks like it already has OpenMW 0.37 in the repositories.
MurderousMincePie 21 Dec, 2015
Samsai
MurderousMincePieI wish I'd known about this sooner! I love TES series to bits and it's what I miss most from switching to Linux. But I'm slightly confused, obviously it requires the assets of the orginal Morrowind but doesn't it search for a pre-existing installation in order to run? How would you do this on Steam? Wouldn't it be impossible to install on a Linux system? Would I need to buy it on a sperate service like GOG in order to aquire it's assets?
There are ways to download the data from Steam using a tool called steamcmd or simply by running Steam in Wine. Alternatively you can download the installer from GOG and use innoextract to essentially unzip the contents into a nice directory. All you have to do then is to tell OpenMW where the data files are (it has a setup wizard).

Cheers, I'd completely forgot about WINE so I think I'll try that if I can't get SteamCMD to work.
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