The Sunday Discussion - Caliente - Author of "Caliente's Beautiful Bodies Edition -CBBE-" (2024)

The Sunday Discussion - Caliente - Author of "Caliente's Beautiful Bodies Edition -CBBE-" (1)


* please note: the links in this article take you to Calientes mod pages which containnude images which are NSFW

Today we chat to Caliente, the author of one of the most downloaded mods on Nexus Mods, CBBE (Calientes Beautiful Bodies Edition), which has reached nearly 10 million downloads and is now in the process of being ported across to Skyrim Special Edition. We catch up and discuss gaming history, inspiration and what Caliente likes to do to chill out and relax.

Firstly I would like to thank you for the time you are giving up to speak to me; it’s most appreciated. To begin with would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m in my 30s, live in the tremendously thrilling Midwest U.S., and do software engineering as my day job. I’ve loved video games since I was young, and shortly after learning that humans make games, I wanted to be one of those people. I taught myself computer programming (mainly C++), and continued an even older hobby of art, slowly trying to pick up all the skills one might need to create games. After getting a degree in computer engineering, I was faced with the reality that companies that make games exist as far away as possible from where I lived, so I joined the forces of business and security software makers.

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Before we get into the modding side of things, would you mind telling us all a little bit about your gaming history?

My first real game system was a Nintendo Entertainment System, which saw uncounted hours of use, and many a sibling battle over whose turn it was. Those unable to claim the Nintendo MMA championship were forced to fire up the rickety 386 and brave the tremendous array of bargain bin Apogee and Sierra games. I remember it feeling like an exotic frontier of experimental gaming, and over time grew to love the platform’s diversity. There were always more games to play, and such a terrific variety, that I was endlessly entertained. My preferences ranged from platforming games like Mario or Duke Nukem, through RPG games like Ultima and adventure games like King's Quest, and to the original FPS games like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM. Since then, I’ve always maintained a fairly updated console ownership, and my PC games library fills with games and MMO’s I don’t have time to play.

If you had to try and choose a favourite game, or at least the one you have the fondest memories of, what would it be and why?

My classically favourite game is Ultima 7. It was the game that first opened me up to the sort of open-world RPG concept, with what seemed to be endless content, places to explore, and secrets to discover. I hadn’t played any of the other Ultima games at the time and paused my first play through so that I could go and play all the previous Ultimas, I loved every one. I can still practically recite the Guardian’s taunting speech from the introduction, and the in-game song “Stones” gets stuck in my head constantly. It’s the game that made me fall in love with RPGs and keeps me buying games like Skyrim.

What about other hobbies, what do you tend to do if you’re not modding a game?

I have a pretty big list of things that I like to do, and I cycle through them in phases. Mostly, I tend to gravitate toward creative things; digital art and programming are two big hobbies of mine, but also writing and music. The phases move into more passive forms when the creative energy burns out, and those include reading, movies/tv, or simply getting hooked on an MMO or video game.

I do a lot of things, but nothing expertly, because I shift between them too often. In some ways, I’m jealous of people who have that one big thing that they absolutely love and are passionate about… it gives them a ‘happy place’ and something they’re extremely good at and proud of.

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I think I already know the answer, but can you let us know where the handle ‘Caliente’ comes from?

Doubt it! It actually comes from an old tabletop roleplaying game character I made years ago. It was a mob enforcer style character, and ‘Caliente’ was intended very much to mean “heat”, as in “packing heat” the idiom for carrying a weapon. Of course, it also had a double meaning, but that second meaning was always ‘spicy’, like jalapenos. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me until after I made the mod using that handle that it has a connotation of ‘sexy’ to native Spanish speakers. The choice was sort of accidentally on the nose :)

Did you know that a music artist by the name of Jay Santos has created you your own dance track - ‘Caliente’? What do you think? :D

Haha, I’ve always wanted a theme song! Unfortunately, I doubt Senor Santos has ever heard of Skyrim, Fallout, me, or my mod, so I don’t think I can take credit for any inspiration there. I really like dance music, and this is a fun song, esta buena!

What first attracted you to begin modding? Did you have any previous experience?

Apart from making a few DOOM levels, my first modding attempt was creating animations for Oblivion and Fallout 3. Perhaps strangely, for me, things like bad art or unnatural animations for the character I’m playing greatly saps my ability to enjoy the game. In both of those games, I was rather dissatisfied with the idle and walking/running animations, so I set about replacing them with my own. I could never quite get the animations to sync properly in Oblivion, but the Fallout 3 ones worked, and I used them for a long time in my own game. I never thought to release what I made at the time.

My first “real” mod was CBBE for Skyrim. In that case, I was exceedingly bored by the “Wrapped In Tapestry” look of all the robes and clothing, so wanted to make more sleek and interesting adventuring clothes. Also, while not terrible, the vanilla body artwork wasn’t terrific, and I knew that as soon as a new body came out all the good clothes would be made for that body, and there would be a good chance I wouldn’t like that body either. In order to avoid having to redo an outfit for someone else’s body, I made the body instead and released it. It took off fast, and I never got a chance to go back and do what I originally planned.It was my first real modding attempt, and I think it was pretty clear from the quality of my initial offering.

To further your modding, you must have to learn new skills all the time. What would you say is the best resource to do this?

I have, over the years, picked up a lot of the general skills it’s taken to put together the content of my mods. As far as actually producing a mod, I had a lot to learn about formats and getting things working together.

For me, the best way to learn is just to start doing it. I find I get distracted or bored with actual study, so the traditional learning resources tend not to be much help.

For art, it’s about observation and practice, learning to remove the shortcuts and filter that your mind puts on things and try to understand what’s there. Then, practice to be able to take what you can see and put it back down as you want. Then more practice. The tools you use are largely immaterial, and it’s mostly about finding something that gets out of your way and doesn’t hinder you. For all of this, watching videos of artists working their magic is a great way to see the process and figure out how to approach various challenges.

Tutorials are generally unhelpful for me, but snippets and books that show an artist's method of construction and simplifying can be extremely helpful when complexity makes you try to do too much at once.

For programming, I have even less helpful advice. There are lots of great resources out there, I’m sure, but I don’t know enough to recommend any. Here, again, just jumping in and trying things, simplifying problems and tackling them one step at a time is the process that works best for me.

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Do you have anyone that you can turn to if you ever get stuck with any aspect of a mod?

In the Skyrim days, as far as powering through problems if I were stuck, I was largely on my own. Either I was trying to do something nobody else had done before, or by the time I understood my problem well enough to articulate it, I was able to solve it. Also, some of my less charming personality traits are stubbornness, and an unwillingness to ask for and accept, help.More recently, however, in the Fallout 4 world, I was able to get a lot of help with puzzling things out from Ousnius and the folks from the NifTools group.

So do you check out other mod authors to either compare or learn from?

I certainly look at, use, and admire the work of lots of other mod authors. The bulk of my efforts have been during times where what I was doing hadn’t yet been done, but once other similar mods are out there, I use them as points of reference for things to improve in mine. My work is never the best possible, and keeping an eye on how other people work through similar problems helps me try and make my stuff better.

You've said that you admire lots of mod authors, are there any in particular that you look up to or inspire you?

In every field, and every niche, there’s someone out there doing something that looks like magic, and making it look easy. Sometimes they inspire me to learn about what they’re doing; sometimes they inspire me to work harder at being better at what I already do. I look up to anyone who devotes time and hard work into a skill, and who has the passion and dedication to put it to use. The modding community is full of people like that, which is one of the great things about it.

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Do you work in a team of modders? If so, how do you divide the work and how do you communicate with one another?

Yes, I’d say I’m part of a somewhat informal modding team comprised of myself, Jeir, and Ousnius. Both of them were passionate devotees to the original CBBE and selflessly started devoting enormous amounts of time supporting my mod as it grew in popularity. My available time waxes and wanes considerably, and it would have been impossible for me to keep up with things without their help. I’m forever grateful to them and the numerous others who’ve been so helpful.

We seem to naturally split up tasks, and communicate about what’s needed primarily over Steam instant messaging. Ousnius has become quite a leader with pushing Bodyslide forward and keeping updates rolling, even when I go AWOL for whatever reason. Jeir has been an incredibly valuable help with testing, suggestions, and doing any number of onerous community management tasks that are, sadly, the first things that fall off my plate. In many ways, my mods are as much their work as mine.

Your most downloaded mod by far is CBBE for Skyrim, what first put you onto the idea of the mod?

My main goal, at the heart of it all, was to be able to make and have prettier clothing for my character. Beneath the clothing was a body that I wasn’t happy with, either, for the character I wanted to play -- too barrel-chested, too masculine. I set out, initially, to create a body that I could use as a base for reshaping and remaking clothing. Additionally, I was aware that body mods are used as a foundation for other mod author’s custom outfits, and I wanted to get a shape out there I was happy with for them to use. Things like nudity and shape exaggeration were at least partly done to increase potential popularity -- the more people using a body shape, the more likely it is that an outfit will be made for it.

All that makes it sound a bit more premeditated than it actually was. Mostly it was along the lines of “All the robes are ugly. I bet I could make one I like better… but I’d better tend to that body first.”

What were some of the core design decisions that you had to make when developing the mod?

I did almost no planning whatsoever. One minute I was grumping about the clothing options for my Skyrim character, the next I was sculpting a new body in ZBrush. Many of the design decisions were made on the fly, which led to some questionable results, and which were better avoided during the Fallout 4 transition.

I knew I would need two body sizes for low and high weight, and I knew I wanted a particular body shape (eg, wider appearing hips). So I planned to create two sizes with the shape I wanted somewhere in the middle. Knowing that texture stretching would be an issue, I began with the largest exaggerated shape. Once I started seeing success in getting my modified body into the game, I started sharing the results, which locked in the expectation of exaggerated proportions.

Almost as soon as the initial version was out, requests for variations on the available shapes started coming in. Happy to have people interested in what I was doing, I tried to accommodate the requests, which swiftly began taking lots of time.

To make the variations less onerous on my time, I worked to create the first version of Bodyslide for my own use. Thinking others would find it useful as well, I released it, along with several new sliders, and set in place the real cornerstone of my modding efforts -- customizability.

With body customizability came a real issue with outfit compatibility, so I rushed to improve Bodyslide to help address that, first with “Slidermaker” which later gave way to Outfit Studio.

In short, I accidentally lashed my arm to a horse that started galloping away, and then tried my best to make the ride less bumpy for everyone.

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Did you expect the mod to become as popular as it did?

No, I definitely didn’t expect the success I got. I hoped I’d get enough popularity that some people would make some outfits for the body I made, but generally I expected that someone would shortly release a better body and everyone would start using that.

I mainly attribute the success to simply being first, and then working to be helpful and accommodating after that. The popularity I got was humbling and amazing, and I’m sure I didn’t truly deserve it, but mostly I’m really happy so many people chose to use and enjoy what I made.

How hard was it to port the Skyrim CBBE over to Fallout 4?

It took far more hard work to get things working for Fallout 4 than Skyrim. Once again I was at the front of the charge to get custom meshes into the game, and even with code in Outfit Studio at my disposal, it took a lot of work to decode the new formats. The new files are better in many ways, but a departure from how things have traditionally been handled in Bethesda games, and very tricky to puzzle out. I was fortunate this time to be able to work with folks in the NifTools IRC chat while we hacked through the hexadecimal forest.

Once the formats were understood well enough, updating CBBE And getting it into Fallout was fairly easy with the use of Outfit Studio.

Bethesda would make things a lot easier in the future if they’d just publish a document covering the format of their asset files at release time :)

Bodyslide also became a huge success, opening up the ability for regular users to create body shapes and transfer clothing between characters without the need to go into a program such as Blender.

What made you create the mod and did you find it difficult to develop?

Bodyslide was initially intended as a tool to help me manage the variation requests coming in from early CBBE days. Before that I was manually editing and exporting nif files from Blender using a file with all the possible shapes in it. Once I had it in hand, releasing it made sense, and has since become an incredibly important part of my mod offering. I’m very proud of the tool, and extremely happy people are able to use it to create outfits and morph between bodies.

As is typical with software, 80% of the development wasn’t much of a challenge. The last 20% contained some difficult challenges that took a while to overcome. The bulk of the work was creating a tool that would create valid nif files (mesh files) when some of the important data was unknown. I put in a bunch of little hacks that only recently got ironed out as we discovered more about the format.

Another area of difficulty was making reasonable guesses at a user’s intent, and making it usable -- the people Bodyslide is meant for are people who don’t want to care about the internals of a .nif file, and aren’t likely to understand why a reference skeleton is required by the program, or why UV seams often cause vertex counts to differ between source data and nif data. Hiding all that so you can drag and drop mesh files from your hard drive, click to conform, and in a few minutes have a brand new outfit in Fallout 4 is where the real magic is.

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Do you worry about mod compatibility when you develop?

Yes. Compatibility is very important to me. Unfortunately, because of the type of mod it is (asset replacement), it is by nature exclusive to other similar mods. It’s one of the biggest reasons for creating OutfitStudio,and providing ways to convert outfits between bodies. I am personally all for as much variety and choice as possible, so providing ways for outfits made for a different body to work with CBBE, as well as vice versa, is something I’m very interested in.

Also due to the type of mod it is, it has a limited “footprint” with respect to working with other mods. Generally, there are few compatibility issues between them. Any time there are problems, I try to correct them as best as I can, of course.

How do you take criticism from users? Do you find it useful or frustrating?

Criticism is very important to me. I don’t have any reason to believe that what I’ve created is anywhere near perfect, and as the person staring at it for hours, it can be very difficult to realize what’s gone wrong. It’s also great to help steer the project in the right direction, or get new ideas that I hadn’t considered. The comments, suggestions, and requests did, in a large part, drive the bulk of what made the mod what it is today.

It can definitely be frustrating, especially when the comments are pointing out well-known mistakes that are on the list for correction, can’t be corrected at all, or are even something that can be understood by simply reading the mod description. But, generally, I realize that for the people commenting it seems like a new issue, and try to not let it bother me.

I also find it frustrating when people are discussing the mod in other forums, many times spreading false information that fosters some negativity. I’d much rather they bring their criticism to me so I can either make the mod better, or help provide a better experience for that person.

There are also a very small number of people who like to troll or lash out with hateful remarks.
Fortunately, there are a very limited number of these, so it’s fairly easy to ignore. And for the hateful folks, I’ve found a reasoned discussion of the points they’re trying to raise seems to go a long way toward cooling them off.

In general though, I’ve found the community to be extremely positive and helpful, and I’m extremely appreciative of everyone who’s left comments, both positive and negative. Without them, the mod would likely never have gotten much further than the very basic initial version!

Do you ever get hate from people who just don’t like the idea of a naked body in a game?

I did early on, but not as much recently. A few people would send me angry or chastising messages, and there’s always a level of disdain for the content that bubbles up on various forums. Whenever I’ve been confronted directly, I’ve tried to politely explain why I did what I did.Usually, they cool down or simply go away, and I’ve never really been bothered by it. To me, it seems strange to be offended by nudity while at the same time being completely fine with, say, dismembering corpses for fun.

Any plans to begin creating specifically for Skyrim Special Edition or converting any of your existing mods?

Yep, the Skyrim Special Edition version is on its way, along with a few enhancements to Bodyslide. The new version will be more similar to the Fallout 4 version in terms of mesh density and default shape, but should still be able to fit everyone’s old skyrim preferences.The enhancements are still in the works, but I’m hoping to offer a normal map generation function (better lighting no matter what shape is made) and a UV slider, which might provide compatibility with texture mods created for other meshes.

Outfit conversions to the new body will hopefully be coming too, but I’m notoriously bad about getting those done. The tools to enable others to port content over is a bigger priority for me.

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You mention that art is an old hobby for you. In what regard? Are there any particular styles, artists, or pieces that continue to inspire you?

I enjoyed drawing since I was very young… I used to try and draw scenes from books I was reading or characters I imagined. I would draw using pencils and paper, often times when I was supposed to be doing things like homework.As I got older and got interested in making video games, I returned to art, now using digital methods, to create graphics for the things I was making.I bounced between art and programming, improving both, and learning whatever digital art tools I could get my hands on.

Generally, I much prefer representational art. My favorite pieces tend to be portraiture, character, or concept art, though nearly any style can catch my eye. I often spend hours on Deviantart or Pinterest or Zbrushcentral browsing works of digital art, saving anything that I really like to an inspiration folder on my hard drive. I have a big selection of 2d and 3d art that I periodically admire or set to my desktop wallpaper, and use as inspiration when working on something of my own.

While there’s no one artist that I specifically call out as a favorite, there are a ton of artists that I love every single thing they create, and constantly wish I had their skill. The old grandmasters are a given, but also various artists well known for novel covers, comic book art, and amazing game concept art are filling my inspiration folder.

As a software developer / mod author, what sort of tools / software do you consider indispensable to your workflow?

For software development, I typically use Microsoft’s Visual Studio when working on Windows software. The IDE is very well put together and extremely familiar to me.I also find notepad++ indispensable, as well as 010 hex editor, and system tools like Process Hacker.

If you could offer any advice to our users who want to get into modding what would it be?

First of all, make the mod for yourself. If it isn’t something you’re really interested in using, you’re not going to enjoy putting in all the work and time to support it, and the quality will suffer.Make something you really want, and you’ll likely find other people who really want it too.

Second, listen to feedback, be friendly and professional in communication, and take seriously opportunities to improve your work. People who are rude or stubborn, or even insulting others who make suggestions, have a much harder road to success than those who are willing to let the community participate. Being a mod author has a large customer service component, and being rude doesn’t make you any friends.

Finally, don’t try to remake the world. Tackle a small-ish task that you already have the skills to accomplish, or can learn quickly. Build on that. It’s easy to have huge grandiose ideas, but when you get down to implementing them, you’ll get frustrated and give up long before you can get anything released. A small, successful start can attract interest faster, helping motivate you to do more, and possibly even attract other people who are interested in helping.

Many thanks for taking the time out to chat with us today.

You’re very welcome, thank you for the opportunity!

The Sunday Discussion - Caliente - Author of "Caliente's Beautiful Bodies Edition -CBBE-" (2024)

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