The Skyrim Mod Forge – Episode 2 – Mod Managing, Beauty and Dragons
The modding community dedicated to the Elder Scrolls series is probably the most productive and creative in the whole gaming playfield. Morrowind and Oblivion had hundreds of thousands of mods available, and some are still in production.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is no exception as the Creation Kit still isn’t out, but the community is already using whatever it can to improve the game over the already amazing original game. There already now more than 2400 mods ready to be downloaded (twice as many as last week), and that’s counting only the ones that I could personally find.
The purpose of this column is to help those that may be a little disoriented with the size and scope of what the Skyrim modding community offers. You’ll find here on DualShockers every Wednesday.
But it’s time to let the mods do the talking, so without further ado, head past the cut for this week’s highlights.
Let’s start with the good news: If you were wondering, 4GB skyrim, the mod by MonochromeWench about which I wrote last week, and that lets Skyrim use 4 GB of your RAM instead of two, still works even after today’s patch. MonochromeWench actually just released a new, cleaned up version, so you may want to download it. The use of this mod is definitely encouraged if you plan on using any high resolution texture mod. If you do have 4 gigabytes of memory, of course.
Nexus Mod Manager
This is not a mod per se, but if you enjoy adding mods to Skyrim (and to Oblivion and Fallout 3, since it supports all three games), the Nexus Mod Manager will become your best friend quite quickly. It performs a simple but absolutely lovely array of tasks: it downloads, installs and keeps track of your mods for you, without forcing you to meddle with the files themselves. You may think this is a trivial task, and that it’s easier to do it manually. For the moment it might even be, but it’s not going to be like this forever.
With the evolution of the modding community, that will produce more and more mods over time, you will have more and more mods installed in your /data folder. New mods will make older ones obsolete, requiring their removal, others will be updated. Some will even conflict with each other. Installing mods manually will soon bring you to the point in which you simply can’t keep track of all the stuff that you have in there. The Nexus Mod Manager will prevent that.
First of all, it works only with mods downloaded from SkyrimNexus. This isn’t much of a problem since almost all mods end up there sooner or later. As the modding community will evolve, there probably will be some rare cases of mods from other sites that you’ll want to install, but having to keep track manually of those only will be an absolute boon for your mental sanity.
Unfortunately, if you already have mods installed, you will need to uninstall them. The Mod Manager simply cannot detect mods that it didn’t install in the first place, so my advice is to delete all the mods you have and restart from scratch. I know it may seem like a bother, but the time you’ll save afterwards makes it more than worth the effort. In any case the mod manager will turn reinstalling those mods in a really simple and quick task.
Once you have you Skyrim installation nice and clean, you can install the mod manager and go through the simple steps to set it up. When that’s done, instead of using the manual download link in a file’s page on SkyrimNexus, you can just click on “Download with Manager”. The manager will download your mod and prepare it for installation. When it’s ready go in the “Mods” tab on the manager, select the mod you want to install and click on Activate the Selected mod. If you want to remove a mod, you’ll select it and click on Deactivate the Selected mod. Deactivating it won’t even remove it from your computer, as it’ll store the packaged file in a safe location, so you can reactivate it at a later time.
What really makes the Mod Managr shine, though, are its advanced features. It can detect for you if a mod you’re activating conclicts with another, and tell you which one. You can then decide to keep the previous mod, replace it completely with the new one, or even overwrite just the conflicting parts, basically merging the two mods.
An even more interesting feature will keep track of new versions of the mods you’re using. If a new version of a mod comes out (and with such a creative modding community it happens often), it’ll warn you with an icon, and you’ll be able to easily uninstall the old version and reinstalling the new one. Talk about convenient.
You can download the mod manager here, and I really can’t stress enough on how easier your modding life will become after you install it.
Beauty Faces For Females
This mod by necKros replaces the textures of the face of the ladies in order to give them a softer, more detailed and simply more beautiful look, without going overboard on the supermodel route. I find it very, very well made, and I definitely advise giving it a try, even if the changes are subtle, the improvement is very visible, while keeping close to the original art style.
Unfortunately it conflicts with other mods that modify the face textures like Detailed Faces and Detailed lips by Xenius that I introduced in the previous two episodes (this one modifies both the face and the lips). Both modders did a great job, so I’d advise to try them both (with the mod manager it’ll be a breeze) and decide for yourself.
The obvious drawback of this mod is that it handles only females, while Xenius’ does both genders. If you prefer how ladies look with this one, but want to keep the detailed dudes, all you have to do is to install Xenius’ mods, then install this one, confirm when asked to overwrite, and you’ll have the best of both worlds. You can download the mod here.
Enhanced Distant Terrain
This mod by OpticShooter is another of those subtle mods that make a big difference. Pictures don’t really do it justice, and you really have to try it for yourself. While Skyrim‘s environments are awesome, they can look a little flat when looked at from a large distance. Enhanced Distant Terrain increase the noise and intensifies the effect of the bump mapping on distant textures, making them look more realistic and lifelike. It’s definitely a keeper. You can find it here.
Alchemy and enchanting benches retex
If you are a power player that wants to always be at the top of his combat prowess, you’re going to use the Alchemy and Enchanting benches a lot. The problem is that their default textures included in the game are marred by extremely low resolution textures with actually visible compression artifacts that make me cringe, and not just a little. They simply don’t look realistic.
This little mod by css0101 fixes the problem, giving the tables new and beautifully detailed textures and normal maps, making them look much more realistic and pleasant on the eye. You can download it here.
Chris2012s Whiterun HQ Texture Pack
This mod by Chris2012s has been around for a long while, but has recently reached the level of maturity (especially thanks to the addition of mipmaps) to make it really a must-have. It uses some really fantastic textures to turn Whiterun into a high resolution marvel. Given that you’ll possibly be in Whiterun a lot during the game, I’d definitely advise to give this mod a try. Just check the carving on the pillars in the picture above to see what I mean.
You can find the mod here.
Enhanced Horse Skins
If there’s something in vanilla Skyrim that looks really bad are horses. For some reason Bethesda compressed their textures so much that the artifacts show even from far away. This mod by Shogun3d not only removes the artifact problems, but increases the resolution of both the textures and the normal maps, providing much better looking equines. You can find it here.
Better archery Eagle Eye perk
This mod by Graxster could easily be considered a cheat, but if you think the Eagle Eye perk is a little lame in its default state, because of the fact that it doesn’t zoom that much and it consumes a lot of stamina, you may be in luck. The mod increases the zoom in order to feel like a real sniper. Personally, I like to use the optional version that doesn’t include the removal of the stamina drain, as it feels more balanced, but you can check both versions and see which one works better for you.
Be careful, though. If you use this mod, I doubt people will consider your amazing youtube archery movies anywhere near legit. You’ve been warned! You can find the mod here.
Improved Dragon Textures
Dragons are the most fearsome and epic creatures you’ll meet in Skyrim, but their textures as re a bit muddled. This set of high resolution and higher definition textures by SarahB360 improves their looks in a subtle but very pleasing way, without actually changing their overall style. You can download it here.
High Res Dragons
This package of high resolution textures for Skyrim’s dragons by Tyler Owen is similar to the one above, but it has a slightly different effect. It raises the level of detail, without changing the art style originally intended by Bethesda’s desogners. They are alternative to the other dragon textures, so don’t try to install them together. Check them all out, and see which ones you like best. You can find the mod here.
Dragons made a bit more unique
If you do want to change the original style of the dragons in the game, this mod by Busted11290 might be what you’re looking for. His textures are very colorful and striking. They basically do what they say on the tin and cause dragons to look more unique and over the top as opposed to the more realistic version you find by default in the game.
Again, I’d advise to try all the dragon textures and this one (they’re strictly alternative to each other) and decide what fits your taste the most. You can download the mod here.
In order to facilitate testing what dragon textures you like the most, you may want to simply spawn a dragon to your location by using the console. To do that, bring up the console ( “~” key, or “\” if you’re using an European keyboard), type one of the commands below, confirm with Enter, and then press the console key again to close it.
- Player.placeatme EAFB4 (NormalDragon)
- Player.placeatme F811D (Ancient Dragon)
- Player.placeatme F8117 (Blood Dragon)
- Player.placeatme F8102 (Elder Dragon)
- Player.placeatme F8119 (Frost Dragon)
And that’s it for this episode 2. I hope you found something useful to improve your game as much as I hope to see Bethesda finally release that fabled Creation Kit, so we can all get into real modding. Whether that happens or not anytime soon, do come back next week for more mods at the Skyrim Mod Forge.
Read More Episodes of The Skyrim Mod Forge: Episode Zero – Baby Steps, Episode 1 – Large Address, Steady Growth and Lips, Episode 3 – More Beauty, Divorce and Small Details, Episode 4 – Even More Beauty, Fashion and a Better HUD, Episode 5 – Hair, Flora and Weapons from Morrowind, Episode 6 – Handsome Men, More Hair and Armor From The Witcher 2, Episode 7 – Swords, Ice, Spells, Fashion and Realistic Light, Episode 8 – Cats, Shouts, Hideouts and Swords from LOTR, Episode 9 – Armor, Soul Gems and More Swords from LOTR, Episode 10 – Rainbow Colors, Weapons, Armor and Witcher Gear, Episode 11 – Companions, Pretty Faces and More from The Witcher 2, Episode 12 – Houses, Lovely Hairstyles and Riding Like a Boss, Episode 13 – Lovely Hair, Armor from The Witcher 2 and Hundreds of Books.