This story is part of OUTER LIMITS, a Motherboard series about people, technology, and going outside. Let us be your guide.
Skyrim's environments are gorgeous. Though the game was first released in 2011, ancient history given the rapid progress of video game graphics, its immersive outdoor environments still look great. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement though.
There are many fan-made graphical upgrades that keep Skyrim looking fresh, but one problem that they and the vanilla version of the game all share is that after spending 100 or more hours exploring Tamriel's northern reaches, the assets—the trees especially—begin to repeat. Once you've seen one tree in the forests of the Rift, you've seen them all. Modders l3st4t and AlreadyTaken777 just released a mod (first spotted by PC Gamer) to change that with the help of IRL trees.
ETD — Every Tree Different takes the existing forests of Skyrim and replaces the bark textures with homebrew textures based on 4K pictures of the trees l3st4t has seen on his travels around Finland. "I'm Italian and I've lived in Finland for five years now," l3st4t told me via Facebook Messenger. "I really love this country for its nature, before this...I did another [mod] with clouds from the Finnish sky."
He reached out to AlreadyTaken777—another Skyrim modder working on replacing the tree textures—and built on his work. "[His] textures were randomly taken from the internet," L3st4t told me. "[My] idea was to apply real barks from real trees. Finland can cover Skyrim's northern atmosphere perfectly."
The project has given L3st4t a chance to explore the country he loves. "Most of [the pictures] are from the Lapland area," he said. "Some are from Oulu and some from Turku, right behind my apartment. I just make a high resolution pic, cut part of the trunk and balance the colors, contrast and brightness."
Right now the mod only adds an additional 20 bark textures to the game. Which may sound small, but when it's randomized over an entire forest it can add a lot of variety. L3st4t also isn't done. "Winter is coming to Finland," he said. "So soon I will update [the mod] with true trunks with snow."