Just a reminder…

We recently received news (via screenshots of a reddit private conversation) that Windows devs have confirmed a patch for the dx9 VRAM allocation bug in Windows 8/10 and that it will be in the next insider build.

What this means is … if you were on Windows 7 (where it worked correctly), TESV.exe could access all your VRAM, and ENBHost.exe could access up to 192 GB of memory (RAM and VRAM). ENBHost.exe could hold things that TESV.exe could use, freeing up VRAM and generally making the game run more smoothly.

If you were on Windows 8/10, TESV.exe could access up to 4 GB of VRAM (I think). and ENBHost.exe could access up to 4 GB of memory (RAM and VRAM). This generally decreased the total amount of memory available to hold things for both ENB and TESV to use, lessening the benefits from ENBoost (those benefits being less stuttering and smoother loading, potentially preventing missing texture bugs, particularly when using a high percent of your video card’s total VRAM).

The reminder is that

  • This fix will take a long time to be widely available – probably not until next year. Windows does a loooot of testing, as they must (remember they’re forcing us to download these patches whether they work or not!). It’ll be amusing to see if it comes out before or after SKSE64.
  • This fix only matters if you
    • Have more than 8 GB of VRAM on your card, and used it all
    • Or are happy using RAM instead of VRAM for video things (which is slower, mind you) – and again, used more than 8 GB total for video stuff (that is, you would see: skyrim allocating up to (VRAM of your card or 4 GB, whichever is lower), and ENBoost allocating (all the rest of your VRAM and RAM up to 4 GB total). If you didn’t see that, you aren’t benefiting.

It’s not going to do anything for your crashing. It’s not going to make the game perform better. It’s not going to make grass look good.

It might help stuttering, frame drops, and other things that impact how ‘smooth’ the game feels. That’s it. and only if you were actually hitting the limit before.

 

 

No, I haven’t forgotten about Skyrim

I just… don’t want to play it.

Maybe with the exciting news of Last Seed nearing completion (I’ve been waiting for that longer than most of ya’ll have modded skyrim, ya noobs), I’ll crack it open again. My modlist needs to be redone from scratch… again… even if I do play on original, I kind of fucked it up big time messing around with stuff for various testing, mod picker, etc. and I like starting with a clean slate so I can actually remember what I did.

(Luckily, I documented what where I was going and how I was getting there heavily, last time around, so it won’t be hard to build it up again, especially considering some new thoughts I have about…. how many mods I really need. Not that I can ever say no to adding one more).

The biggest thing stuck in my craw right now is SSE vs. Original Skyrim. I just can’t decide.

Special Edition

Pros

  • Rain Occlusion
  • Better performance, particularly with regards to memory (not that I had issues with memory in original once I got crash fixes working, but y’know, it helps).
  • Some cool new mods I haven’t taken apart yet
  • Cool new water effects (flow and waves)

Cons

  • Some godawful godrays everyone goes on about (they’re seriously ugly)
  • No good choices for mod manager (After thinking it over I think I would end up installing mods with MO, taking the resulting folder, zipping it, and then dropping that into bash. Sounds… awkward.
  • Weirdass snow sparkles

Original Skyrim

Pros

  • Parallax
  • Subsurface Scattering
  • Search bar in inventory
  • Crafting UI
  • Grimy’s Utilities, various other mods that will never be ported
  • CK actually works right
  • MCM for easy mod configuration

Cons

  • Very few new mods coming out
  • Have to use heavy ass ENB for good AO and so forth.
  • Performance tends to chug a bit after I add my 15th new city mod/overhaul and 5th NPC-adding mod

So you see my problem.

Still, there are a few outstanding projects that I would like to get back to. Maybe if I put them here people will bug me to do them. I would be doing these in the original CK and then, if possible, porting to SSE.

The weapon and armor overhaul to end them all

I’m sick of finding cool new weapon and armor mods and being like “well, this is just more crafting station clutter.” Not what I need. Stuff like dragonglass armor should be earned with blood. So I put it on a leveled list. Dropping at level 50+ I think. It was cool. Bandit bosses could use it, so even if you didn’t want to use it yourself, you’d get to see it which is the whole point. Problems?

  • I never get past level 30 anyways, so kind of a waste of time
  • While the esp for that (and the other few I’ve finished) are available on the respective mod pages, making them into an all-in-one would be for-my-use-only.
  • Turns out this is the single most tedious thing I could ever have chosen to do. It’s awful.
  • Weapons cost nothing to exist, but calculating them on the leveled lists might actually have a minute performance cost.

The Botanist’s Guide to Skyrim Mods

I already drafted this. It’s a lot of mods to compare. Several of them aren’t even available anymore. Yay… Most aren’t on SSE. I already know the answer for my own information…

Markarth

Poor forgotten Markarth. No good overhauls. Lots of good dwemer resources. I have ideas. Problem is, it would be like 40 hours just to learn how to implement them. Time I don’t really have. (In case you’re wondering it, it took all of 15 minutes to write this post while babysitting an experiment).

  • Greatly expand the market at the front of the town.
  • Add more shops and homes hanging off the walls of the canyon.
  • Do something with the abandoned house after the Molag Bal quest is done.
  • Weekly market outside the city gates? Maybe not possible. Maybe on hiatus due to the forsworn problem. Hmmm….
  • Expand the warrens
  • Basement in the inn
  • Expand the guard quarters
  • Use the space on the south side of town better….?
  • Add passage to High Rock?

 

Resources

This is just a quick list of resources that have been made available for skyrim. By “resource” I mean “new meshes and textures that can be used to create a new mod”. Good for building new structures, cluttering existing ones, and so on. This list is not exhaustive nor detailed.

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/1657719/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/2235573/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/users/776954/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/users/2543917/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/users/6973877/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/2250922/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/3099505/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/53192/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/934000/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/users/3624945/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/62733/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/17303/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/150604/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/1815925/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/54483/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/3989420/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/6178426/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/678562/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/5336052/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/12394/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/15108/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/3162929/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/405957/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/40676/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/10258480/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/3745032/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/38550/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/18566/?t

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/6797977/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/18549/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/1566738/?tb=mods&pUp=1

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/62732/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/30494/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/66036/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/58981/?

Dwemer

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/56655/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/56037/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/76379/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/62954/?

http://tesalliance.org/forums/index.php?/files/file/1410-insanitys-dwemer-clutter/&

Aylied

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/23828/

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/users/4138425/?tb=mods&pUp=1

Scripts

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/10361/?

What goes into a lighting mod?

Lighting mods have a few components, and how these interact is important to the overall feel of the mod.

Before I go on, by lighting mods I mean ELFX, RLO, ELE, and Relighting Skyrim. Other mods such as Darker Dungeons for ENB also fall in this category, although I haven’t specifically looked at this one. Revamped Interior/Exterior fog does not fall in this category.

For examples of what these look like, please see Gopher’s awesome video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YceSkJgy2gw or the carefully crafted comparison screenshots by MangaClub here: https://staticdelivery.nexusmods.com/mods/110/images/36067-0-1432843158.jpg

Lighting in Skyrim is accomplished through several means. The first is simple: Lightbulb objects emit light. How much light they emit is controlled by the specific object. A lightbulb for a candle doesn’t emit as much as one for a fireplace, which doesn’t emit as much as a bonfire.

All of the above lighting mods tweak both the lit radius and the color of the various lightbulb types in game.

This is part of what makes RLO so dark – it decreases the radius of all the lights by a lot!

The second is lighting template, and light in the cells itself. This controls the ambient light and color in a cell. (Now, people complain a lot about ambient light… but you know what it is like when the power goes out and you have to navigate by candlelight alone! It’s a nightmare! Ambient light is essential for good and non-frustrating gameplay. And if realism is more important.. well aren’t we lucky to have choices via a healthy modding scene!)

The final is imagespace modifier, which also controls color in the scene, and the overall “feel” of the scene. It’s basically control for Bethesda’s built in lighting shaders.

The extreme example of imagespace modifiers is Night Eye, or maybe the drunk effect in RND, or when the screen goes black for a cutscene. But it’s also a core part of what makes an inn look warmer and cozier than a dungeon, even though they’re using the same fireplace and similar lighting templates.

Besides the maligned ambient lighting, there is another major issues with Bethesda lighting. The first is the infamous shadowcaster limit. This limit is hardcoded in the engine; not even people really good at fixing that kind of thing have been able to fix it yet.

To understand this limit, understand that lightbulbs come in two forms, those that cast shadows and those that don’t. Most small lights don’t cast shadows. This saves a ton of performance and also prevents running up against that limit. Many large lights do, but not all. And that’s about the limit of my understanding there.

If there are more than four lightbulbs attempting to control shadows on a single mesh, the shadowcasting calculations will turn off on the additional lightbulbs. This leads the infamous flickering where sometimes an area will be light and sometimes not based on the number of lights trying to cast on it.

JawZ attempted to fix this with his JIT scripts, turning off extra lightbulbs in a way that’s mean to be unobtrusive. It works pretty well.

ELFX actually fixes this by editing meshes to be smaller, so that for example, instead of the entire bannered mare being one mesh, it’s actually multiple smaller meshes. This leads to more compatibility issues, but when it works it works pretty well.

RLO does not have a built in fix for this and instead tries to play nice with the limit by keeping a smaller number of shadowcasting lights.

There are two more minor issues. The first is misplaced lightbulbs. In order to keep a whole room lit while staying within the shadowcaster limit, Bethesda’s designers would do things like place lightbulbs at the very top of the room, instead of actually in the fireplace, or one lightbulb halfway between two braziers, or place a lightbulb every third candle instead of at each one. This leads to pretty obviously unimmersive and bad-looking lighting.

The final minor issue is shadowstriping, which seems to be an issue with how shadows are rendered. I’ve actually never had this happen to me so I can’t guarantee how it’s fixed, but either moving light sources with a lighting mod or changing some settings in the ini file seems to work for most people.

So, lighting mods attempt to do many things. They reduce the amount of ambient light by changing lighting templates. They improve the character of the game and the specific locations by altering the imagespaces to be more unique – warmer inns and darker dungeons. They move lightbulbs to more logical locations and in many cases increase the number of lightbulbs (especially to make up for the lack of ambient lighting).

RLO and ELFX do all of these things. Relighting Skyrim edits lightbulb location and cells colors, but not lighting templates or imagespaces. ELE focuses on imagespaces and overall feel.

Which one looks best is really a matter of taste, and because of how imagespaces interact so strongly with ENB, a matter of ENB or other post-processing.

A beginner’s guide to graphics mods

Graphics are obviously the most interesting part of Skyrim to mod. You can almost never break your save game with them, can try out literally thousands of combinations, and there’s a ton of room for simple improvements. Even a beginner to modding can pretty easily update a texture or mix and match mods without concern for the safety of his save.

(You CAN cause stability problems with graphics mods, of course, so do try to stick to good practices and remember the troubleshooting steps. Any stability problems caused by graphical changes are easy to un-do once you’ve figured out what you did wrong in the first place).

Basically it’s a bottomless sinkhole, a beautiful, aqua-blue, with godrays shining down through the photorealistic trees and beautiful fuzzy rabbits frolicking along the pond while the ferns and lupins sway gently in the breeze… but a sinkhole none the less.

Here’s a starting point for those who just want their game to look good without going too far down the sinkhole.

ENB of your choosing. Try:

  • Vividian
  • NLA
  • NLVA
  • Tetrachromatic
  • Serenity or Tranquility
  • Grim and Somber series
  • Bleak/Unbleak
  • Rudy
  • Seasons of Skyrim
  • Phinix
  • Snapdragon
  • Dahaka

That’ll just get you started. There’s also this list, which actually is out of date :-/

ENB is a massive fps drop. What the final fps after ENB is depends on the settings, your monitor resolution (NOT texture resolution), your hardware, and of course what your starting fps is.

It doesn’t matter if you can run every other mod on this list at 60 fps, if you aren’t well over 60 fps with vsync disabled, you will drop below 60 fps with ENB.

As a rule of thumb, ENB, even with every single feature disabled, will drop fps by 20-30 frames, a bit less if you’re on Nvidia, a bit less if you’re at 1080p, a bit more if you’re on AMD, a bit more if you’re running at 1440p or higher. (ENB runs heavier on AMD, and its fps drop is disproportionate with resolution). That’s just inherent through sending the entire game through a second rendering engine before displaying it on your screen.

You can turn on a lot of features and still only see a 20-30 fps drop, but depending on the quality of the features and other factors as well, the fps drop will slowly increase. The heaviest ENBs drop frames by over 80 lost per second. That is, even if you were running at 80 fps without enb, you’ll still be at 1 fps after installing it. Luckily, you can get the most amazing look without all features at max quality.

This is my favorite explanation for how to adjust features in ENB for maximum performance and to stay true to the ENB’s look.

Another rule of thumb:

If your GPU is about as good as an AMD 7970/Nvidia 770, you can start to think about running ENB. You’ll still see an fps drop but it’ll be worth the improved graphics to some people. If your GPU is worse, you will not be able to run an ENB and get playable fps. If you want a slideshow to take screenshots, that’s fine. It won’t break your GPU (assuming your cooling situation is fine), it’ll just run like shit. If your GPU is better, you probably still want to run a light ENB, but you can at least think about it and how to get it to run.

If your GPU is about as good as an AMD 390/Nvidia 970 or better, then you can start to turn feature quality up and still get decent fps, depending on game resolution. (At 1440p both will probably still struggle to stay at 60 with increased quality, but it’ll definitely be playable). You’ll still have to tweak based on your exact modlist and desired fps, but you can really turn a lot of things up and still have a smooth experience.

Anyways. Enough about ENB.

You’ll also want a weather and lighting mod that goes with your ENB. Many of the ENBs above are based on a custom, enb-only weather pack called NLA; some have a Vivid Weathers version (which I would recommend), others work with CoT or Purity. All are good. ELFX or ELE or some random combination of ELFX, ELE, and relighting skyrim, are your lighting mods. I like ELFX best. You’ll also want a water mod. There’s one built into Purity that’s quite good, or there’s Realistic Waters 2. You can get either the WATER retexture or RW2 for ENB retexture, if you like their look – they look good with both water mods, but I like the base water mods better.

That alone will massively improve the look of your skyrim, while still keeping fps above 60 (depending on the exact ENB you choose).

Play around with different combinations. A given weather mod, ENB, lighting mod, water mod, will have one look; changing just one of those variables can totally change the look.

Next up, flora.

You’ve got a small number of choices for trees, depending on what you want.

If you want vanilla trees, but better, try

  • Skyrim Flora Overhaul (my favorite mod)
  • Enhanced Vanilla Trees

If you want more or bigger trees try one of the following

  • Tamriel Reloaded HD 1
  • Enhanced Landscape Overhaul or Realistic Aspen Trees
  • Skyrim Bigger Trees
  • Skysight Simply Bigger Trees

Grass (again, pick one)

  • Skyrim Flora Overhaul (again, my favorite. Most realistic and best performance)
  • Verdant – the crowd favorite. Lush, dense, grass with lots of wildflowers.
  • TRHD – meh
  • Unbelievable Grass 2 – similar to verdant, heavier performance. There’s also a version included as an Enhanced Landscapes option.
  • Unique Grasses and Groundcovers – can be used alongside the above mods, covers some of the areas they don’t.
  • Unique Grasses and Groundcovers plugin (separate mod) – this is a full on grass replacer, not compatible with any of the above mods. And it’s not as well done, and heaviest performance.
  • Grim Grass – like UGG, this is meant to use alongside one of the other grass mods.
  • Unique Flowers and plants – adds hand-placed flowers around skyrim. Compatible with all of the above.

Textures:

It’s gonna be too hard to list all of the texture options out there, but my advice is pick one big texture pack (Noble Skyrim, Skyrim HD, Skyrim Realistic Overhaul), and layer it with other mods. Gamwich’s stuff and Hulk Hogan’s stuff can’t be skipped. Pick 1k (lite) options for small stuff (baskets, tools, shoes, etc.) and 2k options for big stuff (houses, rocks, armor, etc.) You probably could go up to 4k for really big stuff (the armor you’re gonna wear, mountains, etc.), but I wouldn’t push it. For more ideas see the texture list.

More rules of thumb:

If you have 1 GB or less of VRAM, you’ll want to stick with vanilla resolution for everything but the largest objects. That means 1k at most, and smaller for most things.

If you have 2 GB or less, you’ll want to stick with high res DLC resolution for most things. 2k at most, and most things 1k.

If you have 3 GB of VRAM, you can run 2k textures without too many worries. There’s still no point to run bigger textures on big things, but you also don’t have to stress keeping everything tiny.

If you have 4 GB of VRAM you can start running 4k textures on the really big things if you want to (it’s not necessary, but most people can really see the increase in detail), and 2k textures on most things.

If you have more than 4 GB of VRAM, and you are on Windows 8 or 10, you still functionally only have 4 GB of VRAM.

If you have more than 4 GB of VRAM, and are on Windows 7, you can pretty much do whatever you want. I would love to see your results, and whether you see a noticeable difference with higher res textures on most objects, as well as the maximum VRAM useage you see.

For the body, the most popular is UUNP. It’s got bodyslide like CBBE does, and it is higher poly. It seems like most new conversions are for it. For textures, SG female textures renewal or mature skin are the most popular. On males, your best bet is to stick with the vanilla body and get Skysight Males for the textures. Alternatively, you can try Better Males.


1. TRHD is much more than just adding new trees. It’s truly a complete overhaul of Skyrim, consisting of new meshes and textures for all of the cities, new grass, new trees, new rocks, and all coordinated. The downside? A lot of people think it’s ugly, a lot of the textures are poorly done… and not just in the “this is kind of ugly” sense, but in the “this has something technically wrong with it” sense – wrong compression, missing mip maps, badly trimmed edges with no appropriate alpha, etc. Some of the meshes are also badly done, leading to UV gaps in whiterun, missing normal maps, etc. But, the half of it that is well done is really cool.

What goes into an HD texture pack?

I posted this in response to a question on the Daily thread. I think the response was a bit lost on the original supplicant (although it did answer his question!). So I’m reposting it here in case it helps someone else.

(I think search engines do a slightly better job indexing and reporting wordpress results than deeply-buried reddit comments).

Other texture packs like Skyrim HD only cover a tiny percentage of what’s in the HR DLC – Noble Skyrim covers 4.4% and Skyrim HD covers 2.6% of the textures.1

Running these packs without the high res DLC will actually decrease VRAM hit since so many textures will be reverted to low-res vanilla. With the high res DLC the increase in VRAM requirements are probably around 5-15% (a few hundred MB all told), which is consistent with what my actual tests have told me.2 Obsessively retexturing every single object in skyrim like I have3 will increase VRAM useage by around a factor of 4, but in the end adding many new objects (if you triple the different kinds of animals and trees in one scene or give all 30 NPCs a different high res hair… woof) has the highest VRAM hit.

Recommended is to use the optimized vanilla textures version that includes the HR DLC, since the high res DLC does have some inefficiencies, and use whatever retextures on top of that that you please.


  1. numbers include the DLC, normal maps, and all other types of dds files included in the HR DLC, such as glow maps, inactive parallax maps, etc.
  2. Math: 5% of the textures have been increased in size from somewhere to 2x size to 4x size. So 5% of the original size – 5% of 6.9 GB – has increased in size to around 1.3 GB with the 4x textures, replacing the original 0.34 GB, for a total increase in size of 1 GB, which is 14.5% of 6.9. 1
  3. At this point mod organizer stops accurately counting overwrites – if I go to my virtual data folder I can’t find a single texture from the high res dlc, but it still says I’m only at around 60% of the files from it overwritten.

  1. This does not explain why the total size on disk of Noble Skyrim is a whopping 3.43 GB. However, my tests show an increase of around 200-300 mb depending on scene, out of 1.6-1.8 mb useage total1, which is consistent with the math above.2

  1. note that VRAM useage varies with hardware; these tests were done with a 970 and actual numbers were a lot different on my 650M.
  2. Noble Skyrim and Skyrim HD pick textures that make a big impact on the scene and focus on cities, dungeons… basically constructed features. So you’ll see a lot bigger difference in Solitude, where I have actual notes on the numbers, than in the middle of the forest in Falkreath, where neither mod does anything at all.