Modding tutorials: Getting started

Welcome to modding tutorials. This series of posts will explain how to mod Creation Engine games like Skyrim, Skyrim Special Edition and Fallout 4. We start from basics of modding, explain the matters related to load order and resource priorities, open up save file safety instructions and go through various modding tools and mod managers.

Series is made for newcomers in PC modding scene. I will try to make this easy for new players, who are just starting to add mods in to their games. I will cover more advanced methods and tools in later articles.

This post will include links to further posts. It gets updated, when I release a new post or series for this project.

First things first

Before you move to mod your games, make sure to launch them first at least one time. This will create proper INI-files for your games and ensure mod managers and other modding tools will detect your games correctly.

I recommend making file extensions visible in your Windows. This will help you to see which files you are working with and that they have been saved correctly. You can do this by going in to any folder and expanding folder option view from small grey arrow next to question mark, in top right corner of the screen. Then set File name extensions active.

Capping FPS

Havok physics are tied to your FPS. Creation Engine games can act erratically, if FPS is too high. You might encounter stutters, flying characters and objects, crashing and other notable troubles in the game.

You can try to avoid problems by activating Vertical synchronization from your preference INI-file (SkyrimPrefs.ini or Fallout4Prefs.ini). If the setting does not appear there, then you can add it.

[Display]
iPresentInterval=1

Activating v-sync does not always prevent you from FPS related issues. In this case you can try setting up FPS cap with Nvidia Inspector, your graphic card’s own control panel or ENB settings.

I personally favor ENB settings in this matter. You can download game specific ENB pack from ENBDev and unpack them in to your game installation folder at ..SteamApps\common\Fallout 4 (or other game name).

If you are not certain of your installation folder location, then you can find it through Steam client.

  • Open Steam and go to Library view.
  • Right click the game.
  • Properties > Local Files > Browse Local Files…

Make following changes in to your enblocal.ini file:

[LIMITER]
EnableFPSLimit=true
FPSLimit=60.0

How to enable modding for Fallout 4

You will need to enable modding for it. Game does not handle file selection and archives properly otherwise. These files can be found from your Documents > My Games > Fallout 4 folder. Other Bethesda Game Studios setting and saves folders can be found from the same Documents > My Games location.

To: Fallout4Prefs.ini

[Launcher]
bEnableFileSelection=1

To: Fallout4Custom.ini

[Archive]
bInvalidateOlderFiles=1
sResourceDataDirsFinal=

If you do not have Fallout4Custom.ini, then you can create it yourself. If you have not set your file extensions active, then do it now.

Once you can see file extensions, then create a new file with your Notepad or Notepad++. Copy lines from above. Then set Save as type to All types (*.*) and save the file as Fallout4Custom.ini. File extensions are good to be active in this case, so that you do not accidentally save the file as Fallout4Custom.ini.txt file.

That’s it. You are done and ready to start modding your games. I will link further chapters and related series of posts at the end of this post.

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Review: Tyranny

Developer: Obsidian Eterntainment
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release date: November 10, 2016

Tyranny is a very interesting game, which gets stuck on it’s complex mechanisms and abrupt ending. Game has a lot of replay value, which expands it’s lifetime in library.

Character

Known world has fallen under evil overlord Kyros. Her Archon of Justice Tunon acts as her judge. You are one of Tunon’s Fatebinders, acting as his eyes and hands during the ongoing conquest of Tiers. Setup is far from traditional and gives very interesting concept for the game.

Character creation is simple and straightforward enough. Skills and attributes are easy to understand. However, this simplicity does not carry over in to gameplay itself, where mechanics are more complex than character creation allows player to understand.

This is where problems with the game begin. Vast number of different values will make the game feel incoherent at first. Player learns to understand the mechanics over the gameplay, but they are not always self-explanatory and understanding some of them might take more time. In this regard Obsidian could have followed the golden rule of “Kill Your Darlings” and make the system slightly less complex for new player to understand.

While vast number of different mechanisms can feel taunting at first, these do add to replay value of the game. You can plan and build your own character and even companions around minor mechanisms in game, which you might have completely ignored during the first playthrough.

Skill system is simple and progression coherent. All skills will grow over use. This is true for your NPC companions as well. You do not need to worry too much about base success change. You usually end up succeeding what you were trying to do in offense, so higher combat skill values end up affect to rate of your critical hits and related special effects. Defense values are a bigger deal. Attack success are counted as skill vs skill – such as One-handed vs. Parry – and it is well advised to pay attention to defensive skills and talents. Of course your attack values are important as well, but enemies seem to place more value for various damage resistances than high defensive skills.

Skill values are affected by character attributes. Player gets 1 Attribute point and 1 Talent point to distribute over each level up. Adding 1 attribute point to relevant skill can cause skill level to rise 1-3 points (x1.5 main, 0.5 secondary attribute affecting the skill.) Player can use trainer services in the game to advance their character skills. They can also advance NPC follower skills like this.

Combat and magic

Fighting against different enemies can be very rewarding, due to their various resistances. Game UI is lenient enough to allow player to see them, which allows selecting correct spells and skills against different enemies. Attackers in groups might have various resistances. It is not always said that your team will encounter them properly prepared for that exact combat. This forces spellcaster characters to expand their casting repertoire. This can be done without loosing the sight of their specializations.

Various resistances, talents and classes in encountered teams make each battle to feel like a small victory. Player rarely just walks over enemy groups. Game also has proper reasons for scaling enemies. Certainly inexperienced recruits in their first battle early in the game were easier enemies than experienced elite forces of various rulers later in the game. Tyranny does not give a feeling of artificial scaling of enemies. You will just encounter harder targets, because they should be so. Encounters are well balanced and might force your team to retreat and return later, if you really were not up to face enemies you ran in to.

As mentioned above, you usually end up succeeding in your offense. This does not mean it would take any proper effect. Heavy armors and high resistances can cause even a massive damage getting reduced just as 1 point of damage. Magic, accessories and artifact are playing a big role in combat, when you are trying to overcome enemies, before they overcome you.

Spellcrafting is quite fun and necessary. You can expand spellcasting abilities a lot by getting familiar with new runes you find during the game. Unfortunately some of the runes are locked so far in to endgame that players do not have adequate time to get used to them. It would have been better to expand single rune usability over spellcasting skill progress, compared to locking them away for so long. Of course, that would have made skill trainer system vastly overpowered in the game. Obsidian could have paid a bit more time to work with this aspect of the game.

Spellcrafting suffers from the lack of spellbook for already crafted spells. This makes redoing team spells unnecessarily complex. You hardly want to fight against a swarm of Bane with same spells you used to fight with a group of Bronze Brotherhood mercenaries.

World and storyline

World or Tyranny is brutal. There are not many “good” choices you can make. Each line will require decisions, which will hurt innocents either immediately or in the long run.

Story is divided between three acts. Act I and II are core gameplay acts, where Act III is more about tying loose knots and finishing your decisions. Sadly, Act III is where the game runs out of time and prevents you from actually enjoying your progress.

Acts I and II promise a lot for Act III, but final act is a needlessly short experience, which ends the game far sooner than expected. Obsidian could have dragged the final act longer and allow players to enjoy – or suffer – from consequences of their decisions. Some major decisions in the game are constantly being presented, but actions during Act II are barely revisited in Act III, where they should have had far more consequences in the world. You might have done something noble, or absolutely atrocious during the gameplay. None of this is really reflected in Act III and so your actions loose their meaning.

Fighting your way in to Act III is very satisfying. It is quite sad that this satisfaction is not properly reflected in the game, though it is visited in ending screens.

Summary

Tyranny has an interesting concept, which requires new thinking. This extends to both gameplay and correspondence between you and NPCs in the game.

Lore of the world is astoundingly vast. Too vast for the game of this size. Tyranny called for a longer playing experience, or second game where your choices could be imported. As a standalone game, it fell short on grand promise it gives and stops with a unnecessarily abrupt ending.

Game has quite a lot mechanisms in place. Some of them feel unnecessary for the experience, at least for the first playthrough. They do add to game though and also it’s replayability value. Vast amount of different choices in the game will leave players curious about other paths they could have taken, though that still does not justify shortcomings of final Act III, which should have been the climax of the game.

Tyranny stands as a good example of what creative team can do and grants relatively satisfying experience. It also stands as a bad example of how development team looses it’s sight of the gameplay experience, justifying sudden end with replayability value.

Like the Fatebinder, Tyranny does leve it’s mark on the world in both good and bad. It gives almost solid gameplay experience and acts as excellent break between other games you might be playing.

I have to raise my hat to Obsidian’s creative writing team for all the lore they added in to this world. I hope to see the world of Tyranny to continue. Even with poorly made ending and apparently less satisfying number of sold copies, world of Tyranny is made too well to be forgotten. It is my honest wish that Obsidian and Paradox would visit the game world with a new game, with better understanding of experience they want to give in the end.

Review page in Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/recommended/recommendgame/362960

Let’s Blog – Again!

After a long, long time, I feel like doing some public writing again. This place has seen a big facelift and cleanup. I will work to personalize it more later on. Now it is just time to get this thing started again.

Where to begin? I was a very active blogger around 14 years ago. It is actually hard to imagine how much time it has been, since I first started blogging. I managed several blogs, but finally ended up merging most of them under Cryon server. Sadly, Cryon database got lost during hardware issue and my personal backups were corrupted. I lost years of work in that day. Somehow I never really got back in to writing blogs again.

I landed on gaming forums instead. There were a lot of places to write. Most prominent forum was (now long lost) SimPeg4 forum, forum built around Peg’s SimCity 4 mods. Later I ended up as active member of Steam forum gaming hubs, where I am still managing posts and typing replies, when ever I have time and chance to do so.

We have built a really great community, which started from Steam forums. People are giving their free time and effort to write support posts and guides, and give direct support for players needing help with their games. I really love seeing them doing that, as much I like doing it myself.

But, I needed my own place. I cleaned up this old blog for the new purpose.

What’s this all about?

I have been writing a lot in my life. It was mostly considered as a hobby, but now I have taken more professional role. Some of the writing and designing I do are made with publishing in mind. This includes novels, articles, games and reviews I am working with. I have also planned of starting regulars streams and have opened a Patreon account to help with all of this.

What I do around forums is done with my free time. Nothing that happens in Patreon and here has any effect on it. These things are – and will remain – entirely separate matters. Writing to forums and moderating sites is about fun and being a part of the community I love.

This blog is work. I announced in Pateron that I would be doing a lot of text, including creative work. This is where I show it. Opening this blog justifies my Patreon account and other way around.

Future of this blog

My original idea was to open a full forum page. We are not there yet. I don’t have enough coins in my pocket to start working with a proper forum and self-managed blog. My plan is to get there in time, when I finally get streams started. It might be that we will stay here instead. However, WordPress platform is very limited service for this use. WordPress itself is flexible and I have been using it for a long time to manage various blogs and page. I would just rather manage it all by myself.

Yeah. I am one of those people, who just can’t keep their hands off from tweaking things. You can probably understand my frustration, when I am working on a platform that doesn’t allow me to do exactly what I want it to do. This drives me nuts in no time. Which is one reason why I also wanted to do something outside of Steam. While WordPress is limited platform, it does give me far more tools to do certain things that I could never do in Steam.

Where this actually ends will be seen. Right now this is a start. A new start.

Again.