Friday, February 10, 2012

The End of an Era

As some of you may have guessed, I decided some time ago that I was going to spend the remaining time before the release of Skyrim just sitting back and actually enjoying the game.

It's interesting how many mod authors look at the Elder Scrolls as more of a sandbox than an actual source of entertainment on its own, and I would hate to have anyone think that I feel that way. I spend a great deal of time playing before I even begin to consider what mods would improve the experience, and I always come back to the game after it's all said and done. I felt like I could finally do this with Oblivion because I was finally satisfied with all the modifications that I made to it. For those looking for my recommendation on the perfect setup for the game, simply follow all the instructions I've listed here on this blog, beginning with my first post and ending with my last. This version of the game was by far my favorite, and I'm happy to finish my experiences with Oblivion on that note.

If you'd like another look at what my game looked like after all was said and done, feel free to watch the video below. It isn't breathtaking, but it definitely was more than enough to keep me invested in the atmosphere.

So what happens now? Well, I travel north. I just completed the main quest of Skyrim last week, and now that the Creation Kit has been released, I'll begin a new account of my modding experiences there. I finished designing the new blog, which you can find here. I can't say that I'll never return to Oblivion, for I already miss it dearly, but Skyrim truly is a beautiful game. We'll see what happens.

Until another time, blessings of Akatosh upon ye.

Friday, June 10, 2011

But Wait, There's More!

In hopes of saving some time this weekend by spreading these mods across several posts, I decided to do another post similar to "What Else?" and touch lightly on all the mods I recommend but chose not to previously write about. Again, like that past post of mine, this will read much more like a list than an in-depth discussion, so feel free to skip this one if that's not what you're looking for.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Immersive Prison Sewer Exit

Before getting into more mods that will affect your regular interactions with the world and the people living in it, I thought I'd take a moment to talk a little about one that alters the beginning of the game. It's very simple, and I was rather surprised to find that nobody else has a made a mod similar to this until now.

All Immersive Prison Sewer Exit does is make a smoother transition between the tutorial dungeon and the rest of Cyrodiil. This is done by moving the final section of the sewer into the exterior worldspace, giving the illusion that the character is closer to the exit when fighting through the last of the rats and goblins. This obviously makes a lot of sense, since the prison sewer is indeed the last part of the tutorial dungeon. If you'd rather see how this is all done in-game for yourself, be sure to skip the video, since I walk through the entire section that this mod changes.

I'm particularly fond of the changes to the lighting and how you can actually see the world outside when looking through the bars at the end of the sewer. The view of the sewer looking back in seems a bit two-dimensional when you give it close examination, but it's nothing absolutely game-breaking. All in all, this little mod will likely find a permanent home in my load order, especially since it's compatible with both Liquid Water and Unique Landscapes. If Immersive Prison Sewer Exit looks just as appealing to you as it did to me, you can download it for yourself from TESNexus.

That's all for now; a tiny post for a tiny mod, but definitely worth the trouble. If I find myself with more time this week, I'll do my best to get more into the larger stuff. Until then, goodbye for now.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Unique Landscapes

I'm sorry to say that once again I have been lured into discussing yet another environmental mod over one that directly affects gameplay. However, this is one that should have been covered a long time ago, so it hardly seems like a crime for me to take the time to do so.

Unique Landscapes is an on-going project by a number of mod authors that seeks to flesh out the generic world of Cyrodiil and redesign the wilderness in a much more eye-catching fashion. The project is divided into several sections, each corresponding to a different region. While each fits right into Oblivion in its own little way, I've decided to instead zoom out and generalize by discussing the project as a whole. Whether it be the wind-swept Jerall Mountains or the humid swamps of Blackwood, every region touched by the Unique Landscapes project comes to life with breath-taking scenery and sophisticated intrigue unlike any landscape mod before it. Cyrodiil has never before felt so full and lush with the foliage, cliffs, rivers, and valleys that the mod adds to the environment. But of course, as many have noted when it comes to mods that solely relate to graphical additions, only a video can really demonstrate the admiration that the project deserves.

While some may like some sections of the project more than others, I've elected to install the compilation package that includes all of the sections that are currently released. If you install the package with the Oblivion Mod Manager, it should provide you with the opportunity to select specific sections if you would rather not install them all. However, all are at least worth seeing in-game for yourself, and I personally recommend the entire compilation. If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, you can find the Unique Landscapes compilation on TESNexus.

I'm not entirely sure which direction I'd like to take the blog next, but I'll do my best to attempt putting more of a focus on gameplay-related mods in the future. Until next time, have a terrific Sunday.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Crowded Cities Improved

I must immediately apologize for the delay between when I posted the video for this post and the time that I now have to actually publish the post on this blog. I finished editing the video the night before going out of town for a wedding, which I didn't really think about until after I had already uploaded it. Hopefully I haven't had anybody overly concerned for my well-being. I am most assuredly alive and well.

So the past couple weeks have been spent doing quite a bit of research on how to add more life to the cities of Cyrodiil. I was really hoping to make a post and video similar to Living Roads, which covered several mods that add a larger population of travelers, guards, and traders to the previously desolate main roads of Cyrodiil. However, there aren't as many mods that add to the city populations, which is likely due to the conflict between adding more people and taking the time do make their behavior in the cities believable in relation to the original residents. The one mod that adds NPCs similar to those found in Crowded Roads was created by the same author and was not surprisingly named Crowded Cities. Sadly there are several issues with the design that make the new citizens appear and disappear in the player's line of vision, which doesn't allow to the new NPCs to blend well with the behavior of those from the original game.

To remedy this problem and other small issues with the original mod, a new author rewrote a few sections of script and released the mod upon my request as Crowded Cities Improved. This new mod is still being worked on, and the author hopes to add more realistic behaviors to the new NPCs eventually, which will make the mod an even more valuable addition to the cities of Cyrodiil.

Some have noted that despite the nice appearance of having bustling streets filled with travelers and the like, the interactions between the player and these new NPCs are often too generic to be believable. For my game, I edited the script for the mod to eliminate the possibility of interacting with them, allowing your character to assume that these people are either too busy to take part in conversation or just don't like you enough to give you their attention. As with strangers in the real world, it make sense for your character not to be able to effectively communicate with everyone. Hopefully this non-interactive version of the mod will be released publicly soon along with the next update of Crowded Cities Improved, but until then, be sure to try out the current version. You can find Crowded Cities Improved on TESNexus.

That's all there is to say about NPC additions to cities at the moment. I'm hoping to go into detail on more mods that add to or further affect gameplay, so be sure to keep an eye out for that. Until then, goodbye for now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Normal Maps

After taking a very short-lived break from the blog to try Nehrim, I realized that I prefer Oblivion just in time to completely wreck my current setup. Because of this minor tragedy, I was forced to start fresh with the game and start up my mod research from the beginning again. And since I had nothing to lose, I thought I would begin by trying an alternative to installing a massive texture replacer such as QTP 3 Redimized.

Before I begin discussing the two mods I chose to use together, I should start by explaining normal maps. Every texture in Oblivion is given a normal map, which essentially gives the model the illusion of having more detail than reality. You see this being used in wood to give it splinters, stone to give it cracks, and even metal to give it rust. Textures provide expressions and normal maps give them character. Because of this, just giving Oblivion's original textures a more detailed set of normal maps would add a whole new level of depth to the game. This is what led me to be interested in these two mods.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Really Almost Everything Viewable When Distant

This post may come as somewhat of a surprise for some, since I've been spending the majority of my free time on the official forums discussing my research regarding adding to the cities of Cyrodiil. However, my attempts at tweaking a mod that I was considering were getting too tedious, so I figured I would move on for now to something a bit simpler for myself.

Distant land has always been a troubling issue when it comes to Cyrodiil's atmosphere. Although the land occasionally is pleasant on the eyes from a distance, further exploration allows the player to discover that several structures and rocks that should be visible from afar seem to disappear after a certain distance. This results in forts, ruins, towns, and rather large rocks to instantly pop into view when approaching them and erasing themselves from existence when walking away. In order to give the appearance of a more consistent world, Really Almost Everything Viewable When Distant (RAEVWD) was created. When watching the video, be sure to note the ruins and forts that are visible when the mod is activated.

The models that are used to represent objects in Oblivion have two different forms, the structures you see when close to them and the images that you see of the objects from a distance. In the original game, distant models could have been generated for all the existing models of Oblivion, but only certain objects were classified as visible when distant. The reasoning behind this was probably due to the desire to produce a game that would be easier to run on the computers of the time. RAEVWD adds to the distant land a variety of structures that should always be easily seen from a distance, such as settlements, ruins, and larger rock formations. Since computers are much more capable of higher processing levels today, there is only a small decrease in game performance. If you have a more recent computer and like the idea of adding more to Cyrodiil's distant landscapes, you can find RAEVWD right here. Be sure to keep in mind that you won't see any changes without using TES4LODGen, which updates the game to recognize all new distant objects added into the directory. Also note that installation of the mod is much easier when using the Oblivion Mod Manager. If you'd like to use this method of installation rather than attempt doing it manually, you can also find the script and instructions for installing RAEVWD this way on TESNexus.

So that's that. Hopefully I'll be able to talk about adding life to cities in my next post, but I won't stop myself from posting if I can't. Just know that I'll definitely be discussing that sometime in the near future. Until next time, goodbye for now.