Thanks to tireless work of a member of the OpenMW team named Mads Buvik Sandvei, a VR version of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002) is not only in development, it’s already playable with full motion controller support. Read more details in this Reddit post by u/gurufabbes123.
OpenMW and Morrowind VR
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is one of the most highly-regarded and intricate roleplaying games ever made. Bethesda Game Studios trimmed down their focus from the behemoth of procedural generation that was Daggerfall for a more handcrafted approach with Morrowind that has, for all intents and purposes, laid the groundwork for how they’ve developed all of their games since from Oblivion and Skyrim to Fallout 4 and beyond.
Obviously The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim already has an official VR version developed and released by Bethesda themselves, which really comes alive once you mod the crap out of it, but the likelihood of us ever getting to explore the island of Vvardenfell in virtual reality anytime soon is extremely slim. That’s where the work of talented modders comes in.
The OpenMW project is an open source, free, modern engine that aims to extend the Gamebryo engine used in Morrowind. Rather than being a “mod” in the typical sense, this is a brand new engine that no longer uses Morrowind.exe at all. A legal copy of Morrowind and its expansions are still required to play Morrowind via OpenMW, but you don’t need to own the game to play games made in the new Construction Set-style modding suite, OpenMW-CS.
The main benefits that OpenMW introduces compared to the original version of the game is native support for both macOS, Linux, and Windows, better physics and AI, distant terrain effects, better save file management, quality of life UI improvements, more mod support, and eliminating previous bugs.
Prior to this release you could already play Morrowind in VR, sort of, using VorpX. Instead of converting the game to a full roomscale VR experience with motion controllers, like this OpenMW project is now doing, VorpX is just a 3D injector that adds head tracking and a 3D effect to non-VR games. You’d still have to play with a gamepad or keyboard and it would not be anywhere near optimized at all.
Motion controller support is the really big addition with this. Not only is there head tracking with actual 3D and full panoramic view with correctly scaled field of view, but you get your hands. You can look down and see your hands, you can swing your melee weapons to attack, and you even nock arrows and shoot them using the motion controllers realistically just like in Skyrim VR.
Getting Morrowind to work in VR is pretty simple thanks to the OpenMW project and these tips once again from u/gurufabbes123.
- Make sure you have Morrowind installed — I tested and confirmed it all works using the Steam version of Morrowind here.
- Then install OpenMW — I installed v0.46.0 for this.
- From there download the ‘Windows_MSBuild_Release’ file from gitlab here and unzip the contents somewhere specific, like into a folder on your desktop.
- Run the wizard and point it at the original Morrowind game folder.
- Launch OpenMW_VR, and you’re good to go!
Just make sure you have “OpenXR runtime” activated in the SteamVR Developer settings once the game is running. I tried it out using an Oculus Quest 2 via Oculus Link and via Virtual Desktop with mixed results. The Link version I was able to launch and play just fine, right up until you enter the Census office to finish character creation. For some reason I couldn’t interact with that door. Accessing SteamVR through Virtual Desktop I couldn’t get it to launch at all. This is all just a side experiment of a work-in-progress open-source project, so bugs and issues like that are expected.
You can get Morrowind’s Game of the Year Edition with all three expansions at 75% off right now via Steam, which is just $3.74. That’s an incredible bargain for one of the best RPGs ever made.
Let us know if you try it out and what you think! This is pretty exciting, so hopefully it sees a lot of updates over time and continues to get even better.
h/t: Thanks to Gerson Morgenstern for letting us know about this project!