Redesigning the Seyda Neen Lighthouse
Written by Twentyenginerunner
The lighthouse in Seyda Neen is one of the first unique buildings that players encounter when embarking on their adventure on the island of Vvardenfell. The structure plays a role in two early quests, and even those uninterested in pursuing these will probably climb it just to see the view of the game’s first town from its highest accessible point.
Despite its status as a unique building that partially defines one of the most fondly-remembered places in Morrowind, the design of the lighthouse is something of an enigma. It does not really fit with either Imperial or Dunmer architecture. The strange, lopsided way in which the building is structured is also unbefitting for lighthouses, durable monoliths designed to withstand wind and waves.
As the artist tasked with redesigning and modeling the lighthouse for Skywind, my challenge is to correct these flaws while remaining true to the spirit of the original. My goal is not to supplant, but to enhance; to allow Morrowind veterans to re-experience those same feelings of exploring Seyda Neen, but on a grander, more consistent scale, while at the same time giving new players a better canvas on which to paint their own memories.
Rationale for Redesign
Before Vvardenfell was opened for Imperial settlement and exploitation, Seyda Neen was likely little more than another coastal fishing village in the vein of Hla Oad. A small fishing village would have little need for a lighthouse. By the time Morrowind takes place the Imperials have moved in and made Seyda Neen the headquarters of the Census and Excise Office, along with the associated Imperial Coastguard. With the increased ship traffic at Seyda Neen, the lighthouse was probably built to minimize the risks of sailing along the hazardous Bitter Coast. This would mean that, like the other Imperial-style buildings, the lighthouse is a fairly recent addition to the town.
The problem I always had with the original is that it has no consistency with the rest of the world. It looks like it has been in Seyda Neen for longer than the Imperials, which makes little sense unless you adhere to some sort of fan canon. The architecture is not Velothi, Daedric, Hlaalu, Redoran, or Telvanni. Given the lack of official lore for the history of Seyda Neen before Imperial settlement, it could be possible to interpret it as some sort of ancient Dunmer structure, since it has slight similarities to the strongholds. However, this would also mean that it should have sunk into the swamp long ago, especially considering the position of the lighthouse near sea level and in close proximity to the coast. The moist environment would have also caused the wooden supports to rot away, collapsing it even before the swamp did its work.
I’m sure Morrowind fans could come up with dozens of interpretations for the architecture and background of the lighthouse, but Imperial origin makes a lot of sense considering the state of Seyda Neen at the start of the game. This inspired the artists of Skywind to redesign it as an Imperial building.
The redesigned lighthouse is a combination of Imperial architecture and certain elements of the original lighthouse. The latter can be seen in the square shape and the use of stone blocks and slabs for the cornerstones of the base, the roof, and the upper platform. The light itself will also be similar to the original, though perhaps with a few metal parts to reinforce the stone.
The overall Imperial architecture has changed little in terms of the original game’s design, aside from added detail. If anything, the new design is grittier, a testament to the harsh environment of Vvardenfell and the speed with which the Imperials built up towns on the island. Check out the Nordic/Common architecture thread on the Skywind forums if you would like to know more about the designs that inspired the new lighthouse.
I researched a number of real lighthouses before commencing the redesign. Though the primary idea was to match the building with Skywind’s Imperial architecture, I took minor inspiration from La Vieille Lighthouse in France.
Redesigning the lighthouse is a significant undertaking, and there may already be substantial changes to its look by the time you read this post. I also understand that there are some who might not be happy with the direction we have chosen, since it is a fairly radical departure from the original. However, Skywind has become more than the port of Morrowind it originally was. We have redesigned armors, creatures, towns, and even entire regions of the world. Mechanics and characters have changed. Through years of development and work, a unique vision has emerged. This new lighthouse is part of that vision.