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.

I started by adding Bomret's Detailed Normal Maps, which only replaces the normal maps for the original game's textures. His work isn't a complete collection, but it still adds quite a lot to the game if you know where to look, as you might see in the video. However, some areas seemed a bit too bumpy without necessarily adding more detail, and I was hoping to fill in what he hadn't replaced already with something just as well done. Really Textured Normal Maps is a terrific compliment to Bomret's work since it not only includes several objects that Bomret didn't touch but also improves the areas that I thought could have been higher quality. The resulting world has the look of a large-scale texture replacer without the extra performance requirement or too much of a divergence from Oblivion's original atmosphere. Be sure to pay attention to changes in the stone and wood surfaces.

The effect is subtle in some places and shockingly better in others, so be sure to have a look for yourself before basing your opinions on the one location in the video. Screenshots may be better for showing what these mods can do, so also go through the images on both download pages and the ones I post below. Both mods overwrite the original game's normal maps, so simply dragging the new files into your directory should result in successful installation. Be sure to note that neither of these mods are compatible with any texture replacers that increase or decrease the texture sizes. This means that both mods are incompatible with QTP 3 Redimized. If you're interested in trying something new or don't currently have a different texture replacer installed, you can find both Bomret's Detailed Normal Maps and Really Textured Normal Maps on TESNexus.

Hopefully I don't run into too many more mods to post here that are incompatible with what I've previously discussed, but I still want to leave my older posts available for those that prefer the alternatives I've suggested. I'll get back on track with what I was intending for the blog as soon as I reconstruct my load order. Until then, have a fantastic Monday.

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