ESO Community Spotlight - Cindy’s Improbable Homes

12.14.2018

Cindy builds massive, incredibly detailed scenes using ESO’s Housing Editor. Check out her amazing in-game creations and learn about how she does it!


What inspires you to create such detailed and “modern” structures and settings using ESO’s Housing system?

Either stubbornness or insanity... I'm not sure which!

Of course, there's also the grand profusion of furnishing items and styles available in ESO, because that level of variety is an undeniable inspiration. No matter what region of Tamriel you want to replicate, there are dozens or even hundreds of accessories to make it look perfect. So much furniture, so many knickknacks, an entire arboretum's worth of plants! I've decorated several ESO homes in various traditional styles, and I still love every one of them: from my huge Telvanni mushroom tower, down to my tiny starter apartment in Auridon.

And yet... there is just something incredibly satisfying about taking a fantasy build system and doing something completely unexpected with it. Because none of the decor was intended for this, none of the structures were intended for this, the entire housing editor was never designed for this. Nevertheless, you are going to make it work, and finish this build, and the result is going to be absolutely freaking perfect, no matter how much of your sanity is lost along the way. Rawr! Rawwwr!

To my eternal bemusement, it actually has worked, every time. Eventually.

Stubbornness FTW.


How long have you been playing ESO? Do you have a favorite character?

Ahhh, this one has played a Khajiit since The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, and sees no pressing reason to forfeit her magnificently sleek and spotted tail. Perhaps this current Khajiit Nightblade is a distant ancestor of those future felines who adventured, or will adventure, or will have adventured -- by Vivec's presumably golden right buttock, time is a complicated thing! -- or have otherwise been fated to adventure in this one's well-worn boots.

Hmm. This one is not kidding about the boots, nor their shabbiness. She has worn them for two and a half years now. Perhaps the nice Community man has a new pair for her, yes? Or perhaps not. Khajiit has enjoyed her many months of travel in these old ones, and has grown quite attached.

When did you first start using the ESO Housing Editor?

Day one of release, about two hours after I finished downloading the Homestead update. I would have started sooner, but there was a mandatory quest to unlock housing... and, apparently, a fiendish compulsion to go running all over Tamriel in search of the new furnishing vendors, just to see what each of them had to offer.

All in all, the housing system is the single best addition to ESO since I started playing. Not only does it showcase individuality on a level that no costume or mount choice could match, but it encourages players to try aspects of the game they might not have attempted otherwise. Personally, I had no interest in either PvP or group PvE: I played solo with chat turned off... right up to the moment I had to complete dungeons in order to collect the Undaunted trophy decorations. Now I'm a member of five guilds, tuning my character for veteran trials and an eventual run at becoming Emperor, because who wouldn't want the Ruby Throne in their house? I left a spot for it.

Rosie’s Coldharbour Diner

What is your process for planning, building, and completing a major project like the Coldharbour Diner or Epic Gamercave?

Oddly enough, all of my best builds start with a single object. For the gamercave, that object was a Wanted poster. It was hardly the first one I'd stolen (Khajiit asks that you do not judge), but this time, for whatever reason, I realized they don't actually say "WANTED" on them. Each poster is just a sketch of someone's face, next to a bunch of scribbled text... almost like a classic Dungeons & Dragons character sheet. I remembered the dice you can pickpocket from thieves. The achievement map of Tamriel. Those small craftable Breton statuettes, and the luxury vendor's shrine sigils. Completely unrelated items that suddenly added up to one old-school gaming table.

With a centerpiece like that, other aspects of the room snapped into focus: bookcases, of course, and an Xbox. A stand-up arcade cabinet. A snack bar with a pizza oven. Board games, lots of comfortable seating, and OMG, I was absolutely going to build a skee-ball machine. If I could somehow find a way to light everything up with neon, I'd have a 1980s dream basement!

Time between thinking "hey, character sheets" to knowing what the whole house would look like: maybe a minute. Time to make it actually look like that: two and a half months.

Luckily, the first few steps of any build are quick and easy, so you can get them done while the inspiration is still fresh. To start, make a list of every major component you want in your home. For each of these must-have components, carefully estimate how many individual items will be necessary to assemble them. Remember, all homes have a limited item capacity. So plan accordingly, count everything, and always, always round up. Next is what I call the first draft. Empty out your project home, and build rough mockups of every major component. If you don't have the actual furnishings you need, you can use stone blocks, boxes or any other items of appropriate size. Don't bother with details, precision, or accessories. You just want to make sure everything will fit into the space you've chosen, and then move your mockups around until you're happy with the layout.

Finally, it's time to start the actual build! This is the best part... and also the longest part, unless you've saved up oodles of gold. Rare furniture and achievement items can be expensive, so just buy a piece or two whenever you can afford it. As each mockup item is replaced, remind yourself that you are one step closer to an amazing home and the end will be worth it. Patience, Ash Hopper.

In your builds, you’ve crafted both entire structures and smaller, intricately detailed scenes. How does your process change depending on the scale of what you’re creating?

Completely! Putting together an entire building like the Coldharbour Diner is a bit like writing a symphony: every single item placement has to be perfect, from every angle, because so many other things depend on it. Scenes, on the other hand, are slapdash, temporary, and just plain fun. If the full build is a carefully crafted symphony, scenes are karaoke with your best friends after half a pitcher of mead and some dubious kebabs.

To start, they only have to look good from exactly one spot: wherever you plan to take the video or screencap. It does not matter if there's a gap in the flooring so big it could swallow a guar, so long as something blocks that view from the designated camera spot. The backs of things no longer matter. If a sofa looks great from the front, the back might be clipping halfway through a table, and you can still smile, shrug, and toss another guar down the hole.

Another nice thing about scenes is that they only have to last long enough to record, so you don't have to make or buy all the furnishings. Any non-bound items can be borrowed from friends for the occasion. 

The best difference, though, is collaboration. Constructing your scene will usually be the quickest part of the process, positively dwarfed by the time you'll spend rounding up your friends, deciding on costumes, choosing emotes, and getting everybody through their routine without blocking something, pranking anyone, or falling down the guar hole. I really do love scenes.

Dance Dance Factotum

You’ve designed and built elaborate homes and scenes in many different games. What kind of features do you like to see in a Housing Editor?

This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but when Homestead was first announced, I was convinced that it would be similar to Fallout 4's build system, transplanted into ESO. After all, they were both Bethesda/ZeniMax games, so it made sense the teams would share existing code, right? I can't remember the last time I was so happy to be wrong.

Right out of the gate, ESO's housing editor had three advantages over Fallout. First, you could rotate an item on any axis, giving you far more options for how to use or place it. A shelf didn't have to be just a shelf: turned vertically, it could be a divider down the middle of a cabinet, or the leg of a custom-built bench.

Second, you weren't constrained by existing surfaces. By default, any item you placed would automatically snap to the nearest floor or wall surface, but you could just as easily toggle that feature off and defy gravity to your heart's content. You could even sink an item partway into another item or surface, giving you far more creative control over your decor.

Finally, you could zoom items to any part of the build area, without moving your character. I'm not saying I fell off a lot of Vault walkways in Fallout 4 while trying to place ceiling lights or electrical boxes... I'm just saying I truly appreciate not taking that same risk in ESO.

Now that the Murkmire update has added a much-needed Undo feature, plus the ability to link items together and move them as a group, ESO has one of the best in-game housing editors I've ever used.

Roleplaying games table

Are you working on anything new or special? Can you give us some spoilers?

There’s this amazing piece of property called Hunter's Glade, and it has been calling to me since the moment I first previewed it. Since it's located in Hircine's realm of Oblivion, the environment is... well, just really, really wrong, in all the right ways. The eerie sky, the oppressive orange light... the quiet woodland that you slowly realize is paved with human bones, so old and stained they've nearly vanished into the dirt, a fading harvest of some long-forgotten apocalypse...

Every day that I've played since then, I spend at least a few minutes in the Glade, just walking around, looking at all the possibilities, and asking myself the big question: Fury Road, or Wasteland

Now that I've finished my New Life festival village, it's finally time to make that decision...

Skee-ball!

Do you have any advice for budding homebuilders and decorators using the ESO Housing Editor?

There are so many interesting things you can do with Homestead, I'd still be rambling about them long after everyone's eyes glaze over. Here are just a few of my favorite tips:

1) Try everything! As soon as you buy your first home, grab a few decor items from friends, furnishing vendors, or unsuspecting townspeople*, and see what the editor allows you to do. Fly and spin stuff around the room until you're comfortable with the controls. Put things on top of other things, or halfway through them, and then try to pick each item back up again.

*1.5) Learn to pickpocket. Put points into pickpocketing. Put points into sneaking. Wear stealthy armor. And wherever you go, if you see an unwary NPC, steal everything but their boxer shorts. You never know who might be carrying furnishing patterns or items. 

2) Experiment with lighting because it's going to be a crucial part of every build. Each light source is different: bright or dark, steady or flickering, wide field or narrow. A great trick for small homes with a low item limit is to use just one very powerful light source, and sink it into the floor or ceiling where it can illuminate the entire space for just a single item slot.

3) For large houses, keep in mind that the entire property shares a single item limit. With some homes, you can discreetly block off doorways or sections of yard to reduce the amount of space you need to fill. 4) Join a housing guild so you don't have to personally find and learn every single pattern in the game!  With a good guild, no matter what strange or rare furnishing you might need, at least one person will be able to make it. Sometimes, that person will be you, and there's a real thrill in helping somebody craft a dozen intriguingly random items then visiting their home later to see what they've done with it all.

5) Make sure you can walk freely through all parts of your finished home without being blocked by anything. Tamriel may not have fire inspectors, but if you leave a spot too narrow to pass through, the inescapable laws of narrative hilarity declare that you will get stuck there every third or fourth time you visit the house.


Where can we find more of your work?

You can find more of my creations here:

Happy holidays!

Wow! A massive thank you to Cindy for taking the time to go into such depth about her creations and process. We are constantly amazed and humbled at the amount of love, dedication, and craftsmanship that goes into the homes and scenes the ESO community creates in the Housing Editor and her work is no exception!

Have you encountered or created something amazing based on The Elder Scrolls Online? We’d love to see it! Be sure to send it our way via Twitter @TESOnlineInstagramTumblr, or Facebook and we’ll share it with the rest of the ESO community.

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