Thursday, April 28, 2011

DarNified UI

After much thought on where to go next with the blog, I've finally decided to briefly discuss user interface. As most people know, Oblivion was created to played on both the computer and the game console. There is very little difference between the original computer game and its console equivalent, which means that they both look very similar in design when mods are taken out of the picture. This isn't necessarily a problem, but because of this fact, the text for the various menus, books, subtitles, and notifications are significantly larger than necessary for the typical computer user. The game often feels like a typical console game because of this design, which can take away a lot from immersion.

In order to enhance the player's interaction with the game and adjust to a more appropriate size, Darnified User Interface completely redesigns all of the menus and displays in Oblivion, which ranges from resizing the character's health bar to expanding and allowing for in-game customization of the map menus. All of the changes are individually customizable when the mod is initially installed, and a few of the details can be changed using an in-game display that can be found through your skills and achievements menu. There are countless enhancements and adjustments that DarNified UI adds to the game, but seeing examples is much easier than describing all of them. Be sure to watch the video in high definition, otherwise you may have some difficulty seeing how the new menus are arranged.

I held off getting this for a long time, but after seeing so many people's displays looking so much less cluttered and being able to see so much more of the map at one time, I felt like it was worth the effort to install. But then I discovered how simple it was to add using the Oblivion Mod Manager. The installation process comes with step-by-step instructions and visual examples as you select the different options, making what I expected to be tedious to only take a matter of minutes. If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, you can find DarNified UI and many more screenshots of the different menus it changes on Planet Elder Scrolls.

Next time I'll be spending more time with mods that add to Cyrodiil itself. I already know what I'll be discussing, so hopefully that means I'll have another post up relatively soon. Until then, goodbye for now.

A side note: I've found that the any changes you make to the configuration of DarNified UI while in-game don't save when you exit the game and reload a save. In order to keep your settings, be sure to download DarNified UI Config Addon, which fixes this issue.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Missing with Projectiles

After spending so much time with atmosphere and the like, I figured it would be best to go back to combat for a bit. The two mods I'm going to discuss this evening are also much simpler in terms of installation than Liquid Water, but I'll get to that later.

One thing that bothered me when going through dungeons in Cyrodiil is that bandits always seemed to have no sense of peripheral vision. No matter how many times you cast a spell or shoot an arrow right past their eyes, it's never enough to get them to budge unless you actually hit them. To make this oddity even more confusing, when you shoot an arrow or spell at an archer and don't kill them, they'll be able to hit you without missing every time you're in plain sight, regardless of your own movement and their own marksman skill.

In an effort to balance the unusual vision patterns of these enemies, Duke Patrick created "Near Miss Magic and Arrows Alert the Target" and "Actors Can Miss Now." Now when you fire an arrow or cast a spell that lands within 20 feet of the NPC, they will either flee or start searching for you. If that NPC is an archer or spell caster, there's a chance that they may always be accurate in their aiming. This chance is determined by your movement to avoid the shot and their individual marksman skill. Being in the sneak position will naturally increase your chances of being hit, and an expert shot will naturally rarely miss.

The mods are both very small plugins that require nothing but the Oblivion Script Extender in order to run properly. This utility has been a prerequisite for a few different mods I've already discussed, so I would assume that you already have it installed. If these little mods interest you enough to try them out for yourself, Near Miss Magic and Arrows Alert the Target and Actors Can Miss Now can both be found on TESNexus.

Once again I must apologize for my extended absence, but I'm afraid the real world will always come before this blog. That being said, I hope to have at least a couple more posts up by the end of the week. Until then, goodbye for now.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Liquid Water

So a lot of things have been having on the official Bethesda forums these past few days, specifically with the mod that I'm about to discuss. It's a very stable mod at this point, but it wasn't initially, which is why I waited a while to talk about it. I try not to bring up mods that overlap or conflict with others that I bring up on here, but when I saw the first screenshots of Liquid Water, I knew this would be the exception.

For all the years that I've been dealing with mods for Oblivion, there was never a doubt in my mind that Enhanced Water was the best water was going to get. Even the team for the Oblivion Graphics Extender, which this mod is dependent upon, initially thought the idea of further improvement was hopeless due to the way the water system works in the game. The author of Liquid Water went beyond this wall by completely recreating the water. This isn't an exaggeration; part of the installation process of this mod is to disable the original game's water rendering. The main difference between this and Enhanced Water is that the new water has smoother transitions. This includes removing the sharp edges along the shoreline, providing a more realistic approach between going over and underwater, and blending the water in better with the surrounding environment. In the interest of time, I used my video from Enhanced Water to give you a good comparison between the three different options rather than taking completely new footage in each of the three cases. Be sure to pay attention to the difference in the shoreline, the surface from underwater, and the visibility of objects underwater from above.

There's a lot more to this mod than just the concept of prettier water. Since the water replaces the original system, several different variables can be completely customized using a file included in the mod. This includes but isn't limited to the level of reflection, the amount of fog underwater, and the color tint, both underwater and on the surface. For those that want the underwater to look more like what you see when using Enhanced Water, you can do this by lowering the blue tint and increasing the redness. And of course it does have a couple drawbacks, but it's nothing that should keep you from enjoying the mod. I haven't encountered anything unusual, but the author does a better job at explaining downsides than I do.

I'm sure seeing this video after reading my discussion may confuse you, especially since it sounds so complicated but looks so good. There are two ways of installing it, and I know both of them are explained in the document included in the mod much better than anything I could describe to you. However, just so you know I'm not just teasing you with this beautiful work and that you actually can use this for yourself, I'll briefly touch on what you need to know.

Before anything, be sure to remove Enhanced Water, Visually Realistic Lava, or any other mod you might use to change the way water or lava looks. For those of you who never tried going underneath the lava pools in the Oblivion Realm, they're actually just a colored variation of water with a different texture used on the surface. Because of this, though, Liquid Water is incompatible with anything that affects either of these.

After that step, you need to decide whether you're going to use any other shaders (visual effects) that can be employed using the Oblivion Graphics Extender or whether you would prefer to just use the new water. Note that I won't be discussing the Oblivion Graphics Extender in detail on this blog. The link should provide plenty of further information about that. If you decide you would just like the water, a package that can be easily installed with the Oblivion Mod Manager can be found on the same page as the full version. If you aren't scared off by my terrible explanation of the mod's requirements, or you'd rather just read what the author has to say about the mod, you can find Liquid Water right here. It's worth it. Promise.

For those of you that miss my discussion of tiny, simple mods, I'll be coming back to those in the very near future. The only reason I had to discuss this first was because of the need to spread word of its success. Until then, have a fantastic Monday.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Living Roads

So, it's been a while, but I finally have enough time to post again. I'm sure those that pay attention to my activity on the official Elder Scrolls forums have easily predicted the topic of this discussion, since I spent a significant amount of time inquiring about the various options related to it. But for those of you that don't, I'm talking about adding more life to the roads of Cyrodiil. I always felt so lonely when walking between towns. The guards that patrolled the paths were never interested in small talk, and the only other people you encounter just want to kill you. Where are all the other travelers? There's no underground passages connecting the cities that I ever discovered, so they must be around somewhere. Think of the next few mods I suggest as just making who should have already been around a bit more easy to find.