Where do I start….

Design Document


Texture mod for The Elder Scrolls 1: Arena



  • Create the (first) TES1:Arena texture mod replacing the down-sampled blocky artwork with smoother less pixelated textures that is hopefully appealing and unique.



  • Create a new unique art style for game
  • Improve texture variety by replacing duplicate textures and ensuring that each texture set and image is unique and stands out from the others.
  • Replace all textures.
  • Create a more cohesive theme amongst textures.



  • TES1: Arena is a very old game and uses unconventional file formats and require special programs/methods to open.
  • Most textures are only 64 x 64 pixels (or in the case of SET files, groups of images with those dimensions) and cannot be resized. This limits the amount of fidelity that can be achieved.
  • Textures are limited to a (external) 256 color palette.
  • In game, many textures in the same SET are placed side by side in seemly random order. That means most textures from the same SET (and their door images) have to be seamless with one another.
  • Some textures are compressed in an unknown way that has yet to be deciphered.
  • The game engine assigns textures based on existing INI files for each type areas but the texture sets aren’t matched very well in multi-level areas. Many areas use different texture SETs for each level but they appear almost arbitrary in how they were selected.  It would take meticulous remapping of all the INI files to create more cohesive appearance.



  • Hallfiry’s Arena Suite– It is a set of tools that allows bulk extraction and reinsertion of assets from the Global.BSA (Arena’s game asset container file). It also converts all the non-compressed textures into PNG files for easy editing and then converts them back when reconstructing the BSA file.  This program allows me to have one working directory. When I need to test my work out in the game, I just create a new GLOBAL.BSA from that directory and replace the one in the game directory.
  • GIMP – Freeware alternative to Adobe Photoshop



  1. Complete all SET files to have “Alpha” status. (95% complete)
  2. Complete all Wall and Ground IMG files.
  3. Complete remaining IMG files to “Beta” status.
  4. Tweak textures that don’t show well in game or don’t match.
  5. Fix any individual texture errors (e.g. rogue pixels or misaligned textures).
  6. RELEASE 1.0 (not set but likely on Tesnexus and ModDb.

6 thoughts on “Where do I start….

  1. Excellent. As a long time reader I’m always interested in the interaction of the tech and art design challenges you experience on this project. This post provides a pleasant rundown. 🙂

  2. Your Project is pretty impressive! Good Luck! But what I would much rather know, is how to “read out” the MIF files in combination with the inf. files! Then we could create OWN maps. That would be cool…

    • Every now and then, I break down and try to decipher the MIF formats but I’m afraid I just don’t have the necessary time to really decode their format. I do agree that the possibilities would be quite tempting. The templates could be rebuilt with new added statics/content and more sensible layouts. Depending on how the engine process the files, it could even be possible to expand on the amount of template layouts available. I just don’t know if/when that could happen.

      • I don’t get how you want to decipher the MIF format?! I’m afraid, that the biggest problem, are the missing source codes so far. If you feel gutsy, you could try to decipher it via reverse engineering, because/but thats far beyond my skills.

        I tried to ask the support for the source codes, but they replied, they (w)don’t promote any attempts, to modify the Elder Scrolls Arena.

        Thats the reason, why I stopped modding TES Games. By now I play Gothic and Diablo, but from time to time I visit your forum nevertheless, since you are the only (known) Modder for the Elder Scrolls Arena ON EARTH yet.

      • Basically, since the MIF format is the map layout of levels, understanding it would allow us to (besides making new levels) tweak the existing levels to be more unique. For example, taverns that weren’t larger than a football field. Moreever, it’s mostly out of curiosity and my technical side that I would like to know how the MIF are made. It’s like a puzzle begging to be solved.

        There is no need for the source code and it wouldn’t do me any good anyways. Bethesda not wanting to promote or support modding TES:Arena doesn’t equal actively working against modders. I don’t think that was the intent. They just don’t want to be on the hook for anything, which is fine.

        Furthermore, mine is only a texture mod and if they decided they didn’t want me to use the Global.BSA, all the files could be loaded into the main directory and still work since any file in the root ARENA directory will override a file of the same name in the Global.BSA. It would just make for a much messier root directory.

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