Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Sound of It

To do something a little different for the last day of month, I thought I'd do a compilation post and video. There are only a few mods here this time, so I won't be presenting them in exactly the same way that I did with my compilation posts in the past. That being said, I'll still try to keep the descriptions just as brief as possible so the post doesn't go on forever.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Realistic Lighting

As I've said many times in this blog, I have very few complaints with the original version Skyrim. I think Bethesda finally got the majority of the visual aspects of the game right the first time around, which is great for a lot of different reasons, the main one being that the majority of mods that people want to make after the release of the Creation Kit focus more on adding new or different content than replacing it. Because of this change from how things were in the modding community in Oblivion, it's better to call the majority of replacement mods as "enhancements" rather than "fixes". However, there is one thing that Bethesda really should have put in the original game.

Why does everything have to be so bright? The original nights and dungeons are so light that the various fires and lamps that have been scattered around feel more like overkill than actually useful or necessary. The first thing I noticed with my first play-through was how I never even considered picking up a torch. What's the point if the whole country is already bright as day? It kills immersion in a lot of different ways, so a mod to correct this misjudgment was very high on my list.

The best and most customizable mod I've seen published to-date that deals with this problem has to be Plutoman's Realistic Lighting. The nights are darker, the changes in weather types seem more dynamic, and the dungeons are at least twice as terrifying. Non-dungeon interiors are now much dimmer to match the light sources inside of them, and exterior daylight is now less tinted and unnatural. To get an idea of what the change feels like, see it for yourself in my video.

Another great thing about this mod is that its effects are added to the game without any kind of post-processing, meaning that there should be little to no decrease in performance. The Steam version of the mod is incredibly easy to install, and the customizable version is very simple to edit once you understand the various sections of the configuration file. Clearly the best way to see the difference this mod makes is to try it out yourself, so if you like what I had to say or want to know more, you can download Realistic Lighting here from Steam Workshop or here from Skyrim Nexus.

That's all for now. I still would love to hear any recommendations or suggestions you have for me about the mods I discuss or the design of the blog, so please don't hesitate to contact me in any way. From here I'll probably continue with a couple more environment mods, then hopefully move on to more exciting topics like creatures or combat. Until next time.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Enhanced Blood Textures

One thing that Skyrim is great for is its combat. Oblivion's combat system was a massive improvement from Morrowind, and Skyrim took what Oblivion got right and went even further. I doubt I'll be spending much time on mods that change the combat, simply because I love it the way it is. However, there are certain qualities that are tied to combat by association that could use a little help. The biggest offender out of these is blood.

The best way to notice the poorly done original blood is to look at static blood stains. They're all over places like forts and tombs, so it's hard to ignore. But if you pay close enough attention while fighting, you can see that the blood that comes from people and animals is using the same texture. Enhanced Blood Textures does what the name implies; it replaces the blood with higher quality textures. This is great not only for combat, but also for the scenery of dungeons and the like. Check out the video to get a better idea.

Just like any other texture replacer, the install is as simple as extracting the file. The download page on Nexus has a few different optional features as well. I recommend the blurry screen blood, as it keeps closer to same style of screen splatters in the original game. For those using Steam Workshop to install their mods, I'm happy to say that I was finally able to find this on there. You can download Enhanced Blood Textures from Steam Workshop right here, or if you're like me and prefer using Nexus, you can find the main download and optional feature downloads right here.

There has been a few problems with the Creation Kit that have been limiting new content to be leaning more towards replacement rather than addition, so it will probably be a while longer before I begin to discuss mods that actually add more to the game. Next time I'll probably be discussing adjustments to the light of the game, so keep your eyes open for that. Until then.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pure Waters

As I'm sure some of you are aware, I'm a really big fan of mods that improve the quality of water. It's a huge part of the game because you see it almost everywhere you go. Why not make it as beautiful as possible? In Oblivion, I wrote a rather detailed post on Liquid Water, which became known as one of the best water mods ever released for the game. However, the implementation of that system required a Graphics Extender and a great amount of detailed scripting. The mod I'm going to discuss today took significantly less time and effort to create, which just goes to show how much the quality of the vanilla game as a whole has improved since 2006.

Pure Waters makes takes the original water and essentially smooths it out. It blends all the choppy light reflections into the surface of the water and adds a bit more transparency so you can see the wildlife swimming underneath. The rivers flow better and larger bodies of water look less like rapids and more like lakes and ponds. To see the difference yourself, take a look at the video below.

Also unlike Liquid Water from Oblivion, Pure Waters is extremely easy to install. It works just like any other simple mod; just extract the file and you're good to go. I haven't noticed any kind of performance hit, either, which is a bit surprising. For some reason I haven't been able to find any of the mods that I've discussed on here on the Steam Workshop, but I still intend to post links to them whenever I do. If Pure Waters looks good enough to be in your game, you can download it here from Skyrim Nexus.

That's all for the moment. As I said in the previous post, I plan on continuing with atmospheric mods before moving onto a different subject, so now is the time to speak up if you'd like me to cover something in particular in the future. Until next time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Glorious Grasses

The mod I'm going to discuss today is another beautification mod that is different than something simple like a texture replacer. Due to my overall satisfaction with the official High-Resolution Texture Pack, I doubt I'll be making too many posts that solely focus on replacing textures. But I've been wrong before, so I'll leave the possibility open in case the community comes up with something that pales it in comparison. Until then, though, mods like this one will be much more interesting to me.

There is very little actually wrong with the look of Skyrim. Bethesda really did a terrific job at creating lush and living environments. But there's always more that can be added, which is why this mod is terrific for those that are interesting in taking that extra push forward. Glorious Grasses adds more grass to essentially every area of the game that had grass already. It's hard to say how the author accomplished this task, but it sounds like something that would take a lot of work and a great amount of patience. But the result is very nice and worth the very minor performance hit. Just how much it affects the speed of the game can probably be observed by watching my video.

The mod doesn't add anything that wasn't already in the game, which means its completely compatible with anything the replaces the texture or mesh of the original grass. Because of the lack of new content, it's also very easy to install, since all it is is a single plugin file. I haven't been able to locate the mod on Steam, but if Glorious Grasses caught your eye here, you can download it at your leisure from Skyrim Nexus.

I'll probably continue talking about mods that focus on affecting the atmosphere of the game for the next few posts, but after that I'm still indecisive. I haven't received any kind of feedback on the blog yet, so please don't hesitate to contact me with suggestions! Until next time.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Static Mesh Improvement

For those of you that haven't been keeping up with recent news related to Skyrim, Bethesda recently released free downloadable content for PC users in the form of a high resolution texture pack. The difference for objects like equipment and creatures is stunning, but there a few items that the developers seem to have left out. I considered this a good way of determining which texture replacement mods I would discuss here on the blog.

However, before I go into textures, let me first talk about meshes. The mesh is of course the model onto which the texture is applied, so the level of detail of the mesh is often just as important as the texture. So when you improve the texture of something like a table, the object will only look better defined if the mesh is represented well enough. Brumbek, the author of Static Mesh Improvement, believes that the best way to improve the visual detail of the game is to focus more on changes to the model rather than what texture you put on it. The author's long-term goal is to replace somewhere around two hundred different objects in the game with higher-quality meshes. The most current release includes changes to several pieces of food and furniture. The mod also includes a new opening animation for barrels to go with their new models. A few of these changes can be seen in my video.

Although these changes add a great amount of new detail to various objects within the game, I have yet to experience any kind of performance loss when around these new meshes. The real question is how you want to install it. The modding community now has various options of downloading, uploading, and installing new content due to the creation of the Steam Workshop and the new Nexus Mod Manager. However, these new options don't change my previous preference of using Wrye Bash to install my content after downloading the mod manually from Nexus. Sadly those who are more partial to the Workshop will find that this mod in particular is currently unavailable there for download, but I will always include links to both sites in the future if they are available on either. If my words and video were enough to convince you to try out Static Mesh Improvement for yourself, you can download it from Skyrim Nexus.

The majority of the mods that I will discuss tend to have a large visual component to them simply because it makes them easily to film, but several gameplay mods will also qualify depending on the nature of their changes. I will also always be open for new suggestions and recommendations, so please don't hesitate to let me know what you think. Until next time.

A Fresh Start

Greetings and salutations,

What a better way to introduce my project than to start from the beginning? A year ago yesterday, I decided to begin a blog to make public record of my experiences with modding Oblivion. I began with a series of recommendations on various mods in the form of written commentary and companion video. The order in which I presented them was in the order in which I installed them so that followers could follow my posts and add to their game accordingly without having to worry about incompatibilities and so forth. After I was satisfied with my setup, I stopped adding more to the blog and began enjoying the game.

After the release of Skyrim, I knew the best way to reintroduce myself to the modding world would be to recreate the same project that I started with Oblivion. The whispers from the North beckoned me away from the lands of Cyrodiil. It's time for a fresh start in Skyrim.

I'll now repeat the same words that I gave a year ago. For those of you that stumbled upon this without any prior knowledge, mods are essentially addons to the game made by individuals like myself in order to enhance their gaming experience. They come in many varieties, and the online modding community for The Elder Scrolls is one of the largest.

The categories I'll be discussing on this blog will range from texture replacers to gameplay overhauls. I'll take any suggestions that people make and will do my best to make my posts both entertaining and useful. Of course, if you are someone who has never played Skyrim or is unable to run the game on your computer, my contributions may seem boring to you. Consider this a disclaimer.

I'll likely begin posting either tonight or tomorrow, so be sure to keep watch for updates. Until next time.