Skyrim: I Want More Pretties

By Jim Rossignol on November 16th, 2011 at 8:37 pm.

Pretty enough for you?
If you’ve been looking at your own version of Skyrim, and then seeing the images that likes of DeadEndThrills have been putting out (pinched one from there for the image above, sorry Duncan!) you might be forgiven for wondering how you can push the game beyond its prescribed options. There are ways.

BEWARE: MUCKING AROUND WITH THIS STUFF CAN MAKE YOUR GAME UNSTABLE. BACK UP ANY FILES YOU MESS WITH.

First of all, I moved Skyrim to my SSD using the mover tool thing. This might not actually do anything other than make it load fast for now, but if I get to serious tweaks later they can take advantage of the SSD’s speed for streaming purposes.

I am going to assume that you have maxed out everything in the normal Skyrim settings, including AA at 8 samples and AF at 16 samples.

Then it’s worth tweaking the shadows a bit. This was covered in Craig’s post, but to repeat the basic improvements in casting shadows in the world:

These changes are mostly make to SkyrimPrefs.ini mydocuments/mygames/Skyrim BACK THIS FILE UP BEFORE TINKERING!

edit SkyrimPrefs.ini: changing the 0s to 1s for change bTreesReceiveShadows=0 and change bDrawLandShadows=0

Those aren’t the only shadow settings in SkyrimPrefs.ini (which is in the folder skyrim/skyrim). There are also the variables that actually control how the shadows are rendered. Note that this is just what worked for me. It will NOT work universally on all systems, so you need to play with it. My system is as follows: 2500k clocked to 4.2, GTX 560 Ti, 8gb RAM, Windows 7-64x

iBlurDeferredShadowMask=2 can be changed to iBlurDeferredShadowMask=3

fShadowDistance=2500.0000 can be pushed up to fShadowDistance=5000.0000

This produces shadows out to larger distance, but to a lower quality. If you reduce the fShadowDistance setting you should get better quality shadows closer up. You can play with what you feel comfortable with looking at, I suppose.

You can push up the quality of the grass rendering a bit like so:

b30GrassVS=1
fGrassStartFadeDistance=3500.0000
fGrassMaxStartFadeDistance=7000.0000
fGrassMinStartFadeDistance=500.0000

Then there are bunch of other changes that I have much less idea what they do – although some seem more self-explanatory than others – but I have bumped according to the suggestions made by threads like this one on NeoGAF.

For water this is suggested:

iWaterMultiSamples=4
iMultiSample=16

But honestly I can’t tell much difference on-game. What I am more interested in his getting the extreme distance detail, such as distant drawing of trees and waterfalls sorted. Knowing exactly what does what is tricky, but folks have noticed that there’s a “veryHigh.ini” in the Skyrim folder, and that contains stuff that is not even listed in the “skyrimPrefs.ini”, or stuff that is listed, but is set much lower, even with the options maxed out.

With that in mind I changed this stuff to the setting listed below:

fLODFadeOutMultObjects=15.0000
fLODFadeOutMultItems=15.0000
fLODFadeOutMultActors=15.0000

fMeshLODLevel2FadeDist=10000.0000
fMeshLODLevel1FadeDist=10000.0000

And I added this stuff:

fSpecularLODStartFade=2000.0000
fLightLODStartFade=3500.0000

THIS NEXT BIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SETTING, BUT IT MIGHT BREAK YOUR PREVIOUS SAVE GAMES.

As you tinker with all these parameters you get to realise that actually the game isn’t drawing a lot of what you are changing, and the only way to sort that out is to mess with Skyrim.ini which is in mydocuments/mygames/skyrim. Again, back that up before tinkering!

Add these settings under [General]:

uGridsToLoad=9
uExterior Cell Buffer=204

You could even go:

uGridsToLoad=11
uExterior Cell Buffer=144
iPreloadSizeLimit=262144000

But that didn’t load for me.

This allows you to render detail much further into the distance, and so the variables above can take effect. It’s also incompatible with savegames made before the change, meaning you will need to change it back before you can load. This setting causes the game to hang slightly on loading the world, which looks a bit like it’s crashed, but it does load, at least up to uGridsToLoad=9. Change that to 10, and no cigar. What I was most keen on eliminating was an artefact where waterfalls would become static grey pieces of scenery at a certain distance, and these settings have eliminated that, leaving waterfalls animated as far away as I have managed to get from them. [EDIT: This seems inconsistent though. Some waterfalls seem to be animated, but others still only kick into life when I get close, then remaining drawn as I back away. So perhaps this isn’t a fix for that.] Trees too now render even better off into the distance.

This is still running at a steady 40fps on my PC. But it is crashy.

uGridsToLoad=7
uInterior Cell Buffer=16
uExterior Cell Buffer=102

Is stable, but doesn’t render detail as far.

So there’s still a bunch more I need to do it. For example, I could mess with the memory settings, both in the game and within Windows, which is the only way I am likely to get it to be stable. What Duncan was doing to get his DeadEndThrills shots was to apply a large address aware patch to the game, which allows him to make more use of larger amounts of memory. I might have a go at that later and update this post accordingly, with a few additional settings. I suspect that’s the only way to make all of the settings above (plus ones I ignored) actually draw anything in the world.

All that said, I don’t really think we’ll see much more being squeezed out of Skyrim until we get some hi-res texture packs…

Has anyone else been tinkering? How are you getting on?

UPDATE: This post-process mod, as noted in the comments below, is a clever thing.

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112 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Luringen says:

    I have a high-end computer, runs Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 with all settings maxed. For Skyrim, I can run it with all settings on max, but it crashes if i turn Anti-Aliasing on. Any tips? Using a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti.

    EDIT: Just noticed a driver update… Wonder if it will help…
    EDIT 2: Thanks Jockie, turning off improve settings worked! Experiencing mouse lag now tho’, guess it can’t handle maxed settings with antialiasing on max. Going to see how far I can push it.
    EDIT 3: Thanks deadly.by.design, that is way faster. What is the big difference? Slightly lower quality but way faster?

    • Jockie says:

      Check Nvidia control panel and see whether it’s trying to force anti-aliasing from there, I have the same card and AA works fine (with AA set to application controlled on control panel).

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Try disabling traditional AA and check the “FXAA” box in settings. It’s faster and gets the job done. (for me, at least… Q6600, 4gb, gtx460 1gb)

    • Premium User Badge

      Luringen says:

      Thanks for the responses, works great, really useful!

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Did you have problems running BF3 on GTX 560 ti? My brother has the GTX 560ti OC and says battlefield always instantly crashes as soon as it tries to run the game… combined with your problems this makes me very worried about that card.

    • Premium User Badge

      Luringen says:

      No problems with BF3, doubt it’s the card. Maybe some kind of conflict?
      BTW, turned out the card was NOT the problem here. I had set the settings in the NVIDIA control panel to increase antialiasing settings to max possible for the card. Turns out Skyrim doesnt support that much, didn’t think of that. Configured it a long time ago.

      EDIT: Here is a list of graphics cards, performance and prices. Garry, the creator of GMod posted it once. The GTX 560 TI scores pretty high at a reasonable price. http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/high_end_gpus.html

    • milkmansrevenge says:

      @HexagonalBolts Does your brother have the Gigabyte version of the GTX 560 Ti? Me and my friend (and probably everyone else in the world with the card…) had the same crashing problem on BF3. Updating the BIOS of the card fixed it.

      Here is a link:
      http://uk.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=3707&dl=1#bios

      You only need to run the .exe and restart. Simples.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Yes he does, thank you, I will try that.

    • Tyrmot says:

      Mr Hexagonal Bolts, I had the same problem with the 560 Ti (though it was a Palit Sonic SKU) – after some googling and forum browsing I discovered that apparently what causes this problem is that the core is undervolted for the factory overclocks that are applied to most of these cards – this may well be what the BIOS release fixes. If you (as I) don’t have a new BIOS available you can download the MSI Afterburner tool (based on guru3d’s rivatuner I believe) and either pull down the OC or bump up the core voltage – I did that and it stopped the constant crashes in BF3

    • Premium User Badge

      oceanclub says:

      “Mr Hexagonal Bolts, I had the same problem with the 560 Ti (though it was a Palit Sonic SKU) –[…] you can download the MSI Afterburner tool (based on guru3d’s rivatuner I believe) and either pull down the OC or bump up the core voltage – I did that and it stopped the constant crashes in BF3″

      That’s handy to know. I had the same problem with my Palit, and just underclocked it (not much of an underclock so I didn’t mind too much). Might try upping the voltage instead.

      P.

  2. Fox89 says:

    Beyond some of the stuff you’ve mentioned here, the greatest thing I found was this:

    http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=131

    FXAA Post Process Injector. Get some much needed colour into that game! :) It also helps sharpen up the textures nicely, and can be tweaked on the fly by alt-tabbing into the settings.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Oh, that’s nice. I am going to add that to the story.

    • Jockie says:

      I kind of like the sharpness, but the high saturation is actually making my eyes water.

    • Fox89 says:

      I brought the saturation down a bit from the default, as well as some of the sharpness because the faces looked weird. I think it’s one of those where the ‘sweet spot’ in the settings will be different for everyone.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’m going to try this tonight (with saturation dialed down, I like the stock colors). The default FXAA makes the textures a little too blurry, but it’s better than that “grainy” look without FXAA. I think just a little bit of customized sharpening with this FXAA mod will be my personal sweet spot.

    • mana says:

      This is what I was going to post. This change alone has made a massive impact on the way the game looks. Loads better, although it has messed with the in-game fonts slightly

    • Chalky says:

      Also, the skyrim patch available on this site:
      http://enbdev.com/index_en.html
      Has really improved my performance. I was finding myself unable to complete quests (such as the focusing crystals thing) previously, but with this patch my game runs on high settings without any problems. Previously it was forced to low quality.

    • trivial says:

      Has anyone figured out how to fix the changes this makes to the game’s font? It looks all rough and eroded after installing this.

  3. Demiath says:

    That’s all cool stuff in theory, but if it makes the game unstable and save games incompatible it’s rather meaningless for non-screenshot producers. Perhaps there will be less messy ways to do this in the future, though.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      People are reporting stable builds with lots of improvement, it just seems that it requires you to spend some time tinkering for your own PC.

    • Ultra-Humanite says:

      There’s actually a way to fix save games if you want to change your uGridstoLoad setting back down to the default setting (which is 5, incidentally). It’s easy to do and I tested it to make sure it works before I saved a game with my new ugridstoload setting.

      “1) Load game with uGridsToLoad at the ‘safe’ setting – the one it was at when you saved.
      2) Load the save, which should load correctly.
      3) Open the console and type the following:

      setini “ugridstoload:general” 5
      saveini
      refreshini

      This has restored the uGridsToLoad setting to its default while your save is already open.

      4) Save the game. The save you create now will work at any uGrids setting from the default up.”

    • Epsilon346 says:

      This is directed at Ultra-Humanite. And maybe Jim, if you’re more of a techie than I’m giving you credit for :P
      I had put about 5 hours or so into one of my characters when I decided to alter the uGridsToLoad in the ini to what Jim suggested worked with his (uGridsToLoad=5 / uExteriror Cell Buffer=204). It CTD’d once or twice while running around just outside Whiterun, but I ignored it and kept on going, travelling to Markarth, where the mountains obscure the view and so not as much needs to be loaded (that’s the theory). When I came back to Whiterun 20 hours after I first tweaked it, it started crashing again, and after crashing about 10 times on the journey from Riverwood to Kynesgrove I had had enough. Then I found your fix to revert back to the default uGridsToLoad, and set it. Everything was fine, for about 5 minutes. Then it crashed again.

      Now is the part I can’t work out. According to the Skyrim.ini:

      uGridsToLoad=9
      uExterior Cell Buffer=204

      But it refuses to load any of my recent saves that were saved under those settings. What it CAN load, however, is the backup saves I made before I started tweaking, when uGridsToLoad was still set at default, at 5.
      So now I can’t load any of my recent saves, and I have no way of figuring out what to revert to be able to load them. Everything in the ini’s is back to as it was when they were loading perfectly fine, but it still refuses to load.

  4. robotsneedlove says:

    Am I the only one who find Skyrim painfully uninteresting? Generic vikings, generic fantasy writing, generic voice acting, everything is so generic sword-and-sorcery it almost hurts.
    Here. I had to say this. Everybody is so excited, talking game of the year, that I absolutely need to now if I am mad or just minority.

    • Brun says:

      You and Wulf would be best friends.

      I think on the surface, Skyrim does feel generic. It shines more in its details (as did Oblivion – heresy I know, but it’s true). You need to really stop and smell the roses for it to feel special.

      And I don’t think there’s anything “generic fantasy” about the Sheogorath quest. “You could use your swords or spells or sneaky-bits, sure, sure…or, you could use the WABBAJACK!!”

    • Premium User Badge

      Stijn says:

      You are a mad minority.

      Of course you’re not the only one, what a silly thing to think. But obviously a lot of people do like the game. No problem in disagreeing with them, if you want.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      The vikings are generic in that they are very viking like. But vikings aren’t a super common setting for games, which is what “generic” usually suggests in that sense.

    • Walsh says:

      I think it’s funny, it feels generic because it has the usual fantasy stuff. But no game has done giants and dragons justice in a 3d first person environment before.

    • Zaboomafoozarg says:

      yes you are the only one now go away

    • robotsneedlove says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I really want to love this game, after all these hours sunk into Morrowind and Oblivion, but it just feels so boring and average. Zero character design, zero originality. Maybe the fact that I finished Witcher 2 couple of days ago has something to do with it, I don’t know.
      Well, mad minority it is then. Are the sidequests good at least? Anything comparable to the Dark Brotherhood story in Oblivion?

    • vecordae says:

      You are not mad. The game just doesn’t appeal to you or, perhaps, it failed to meet some expectation you had for it.

      I actually have the opposite problem. I have a hard time getting into the Witcher games because Geralt as a character feels too cliched to me and I have such a hard time caring about what happens to him that I quit after an hour or two of play. I don’t think of them as bad games at all, I just recognize that, whatever merits they may have, I have deeply-rooted expectation or another that it fails to live up to.

      So, mad? Absolutely not. In the minority? Probably, but we all are at some point or another.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Thank god it’s Vikings at least, and not that muddled “medieval, mid-summer, mid-europe, tolkien, knights and wizards” mash that populates the real generic majority.

      However, most of the Vikingness really does seem a shallow sprinkling, than really deeply rooted.

    • dajt says:

      You’re not the only one. Nothing in any of the reviews has made me think this has anything special about it, or pointed out real differences from Oblivion except for game mechanic tweaks. Frankly, the world looks grey and monotonous. With very square rocks. And to me it looks like all the items are floating slightly above whatever they’re supposed to be sitting on.

      Endless quests… like working for FedEx in the mountains.

      I’m buggered if I can figure out why people are over the moon about this game, but I’m glad they’re enjoying it. At least Bethesda is doing something other than MW# or CoD, even if no less formulaic.

      I will get it when it goes on sale though. I just got Oblivion from Steam for about $6.00 US. I’ll even install it at some point :) I’ll probably get DA:O if it ever goes on sale too. But I’ll never pay full price for one of these games again.

    • exmachinax says:

      That’s interestintg, I find it the otehr way around.

      Oblivion for me was generic, repetitive and boring. Same green looking trees / scenery everywhere, same copy and paste dull loking repetivive dungeons and crap, bland dialogue.

      On the surface, Skyrim seemed to me very much generic as well, but the more I dig into it, the more I think that at heart it is a lot closer to Morrowind. Which a good bunch of reviews seems to point, and somehow, quite strangely, I am agreeing with a lot of release reviews for a hyped AAA title, and, stranger yet, I am enjoying a hyped AAA title a whole lot!

    • Grygus says:

      You’re certainly not alone; saying bad things about Skyrim is quite in fashion at the moment. I have no problem with that in and of itself, but I think a lot of the attacks lack legitimacy, and to some extent I think you are engaging in that behavior. I can understand the setting simply not appealing to you, and there are real flaws with the game (which you do not mention) but I disagree with most of the “generic” talk. They have an interesting take on dragons (not ground-breaking innovations here, but different enough to not be generic, in my opinion) and I don’t know what games you’re playing, but I can’t name very many major games released in the last five years based on Norse culture (actually I can’t name any at all but am willing to assume I am forgetting them.) What does “generic voice acting” even mean?

      The fantasy setting itself is of course full of cliche, swords and sorcery, etc., yes. But that’s a staple of the series. You might as well complain that the latest Mario game is colorful and has cutesy sound effects. If you don’t go in for that sort of thing then when you see “Elder Scrolls” you should be done with it, and there is no need to announce that.

      As for the writing, it is well done (so far… I’m not done yet, and endings are hard.) I wouldn’t call it generic, but even if you’re right, I’d rather have well-realized “generic” writing than crap prose trying to be edgy. The Lord of the Rings movies were awesome with barely an original thought in them. Terminator II is better than Terminator. And cetera. Originality is overrated in all forms of art; execution is what matters.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, it’s generic and the themes are hackneyed. But it’s a big open world where I can do anything I want, and tell my own story about how I moved through that world. It’s the only big fantasy-based game right now that allows this, so I’m enjoying it.

      I enjoyed the Witcher games too, for the more focused characterization and storyline. I don’t have a problem enjoying both types of games.

    • MistyMike says:

      I played the game for just a couple of hours, cleared one quest-related dungeon and was BORED OUT OF MY MIND during the process. The dungeon was painfully linear, had plenty of small searchable containers everywhere in the shadows with 7 GP in each, and the enemies were laughably easy, especially with my overpowered quest companion.
      Also, I was rather perplexed when I beat up a tavern proprietor in the course of another quest and when I later talked to him he told me to feel right at home and asked if I wanted a drink.
      I hope it gets better later:/

    • Flakfizer says:

      You should start a support group http://pics.livejournal.com/ccdesan/pic/0009yex4/s640x480

    • Jim9137 says:

      Skyrim was the game that taught me to say bish bosh to dragons and fear the mammoths, instead. What a ride!

    • theleif says:

      What killed my enjoyment Oblivion for me was two things. Well, three things really. OK. Four major things.

      1) The level scaling of the enemies. I have no problem with level scaling when done well (Bioware does level scaling right, I think), but when the thugs started to wear glass armour, well that just killed my immersion.

      2) My complete lack of interest in the main quest line. It not in any way engaging. I spoke with a priest, got told the world would end, got a horse, went through a portal, killed some demons, got sent to another portal… I didn’t bother going much further, but as far as I know that’s more or less what you do.

      3) The levelling mechanic. RPG classes is a (according to my personal opinion) a relic we’ve been stuck with in cRPG:s since the dawn of DnD, and I applaud any attempt to move away from it. So, on paper the TES system reads like something I should love, but when used, just feel “gamey”.

      4) Yes, you have an open world, you have all these choices, but you don’t meet one even slightly interesting character. When I play an RPG I want to travel the world, meet interesting people, and possibly (probably) kill them.

      That’s not to say I didn’t find any enjoyment in Oblivion. It took me about 25 hours of gaming to get to this conclusion, so you could say I had my fair share of fun from it.

      What I want to know is: how are these things handled in Skyrim?

      Cheers

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      The dungeon was painfully linear, had plenty of small searchable containers everywhere in the shadows with 7 GP in each, and the enemies were laughably easy, especially with my overpowered quest companion.

      Try the harder difficulty levels if the game is too easy, maybe?

      And if your companion is taking the fun out of dungeoneering, why not leave them at home?

      How many paths is optimal in dungeon design, odd that of all games Skyrim is accused of “painful linearity”.

    • Suilenroc says:

      Funny, I always like to complain about Jeremy Soule’s scores because he’s the “sound of generic fantasy”. I’ve played the shit out of many games he’s scored, his music is instantly recognizable, and I can barely ever identify which game a track came from when I listen to it later because they all sound so similar.

      Norse culture was last touched on in Wrath of the Lich King, I think, and I absolutely loved what Blizzard did with the world there. I can appreciate more of that in Skyrim, even if it is fairly generic. I don’t play Elder Scrolls for the lore, anyway, it’s the mechanics that make the games.

    • morningoil says:

      @theleif

      You are clearly me. I really ended up disliking Oblivion a *lot*, for more or less these reasons. In fact I’ve never really got into a TES game – ugh, Daggerfall, burn it with fire!

      But I am really really enjoying Skyrim. About 30 hours in (I’ve completely left the main story quest alone), yes, I’m hitting a sort of core of blandness that’s common to all of Bethesda’s games, but I think that’s because they’re doing so much right at the macro level that I now want it to be as good as, say, Thief, at the micro level. If you’re going to pull me in to your world this well, I want you to pull me *all the way*. But, in the end, certain compromises in the mechanics are necessary.

      That said, a lot of the questlines are really decently written and don’t just involve fetch/kill quests – Bethesda seem to’ve finally gotten wise to some of the reasons why their previous games were all so bad (they were, people, let’s not get stuck on this one) and hired some semi-decent writers and some really good level designers. The court intrigue/civil war stuff has at least some genuine heft; and set-pieces now have real scale and drama. I feel like I’m playing a *fantasy* game. The mise-en-scene is so much more persuasive and involving than Oblivion it’s – well, it’s a revelation. It’s a game that, cavil as one might, finally approaches delivering on the promise made to one’s imagination by Lords of Midnight. It’s made me want to travel in the alpine forests of the taiga. It’s sodding bloody beautiful. The killquests get repetitive but just when you think, oh, okay, I’ve hit that point when I’ve seen through the facade and gotten bored of the dungeons, whammo, it’ll serve up something strange and thrilling.

      Your specific points – the level scaling is much better, there’s a bit of it, but one also has a real sense of one’s burgeoning power. The levelling mechanic itself plays out much more intuitively and it’s much harder to break your game. As I say, the questlines and characters are – well, it’s not The Witcher 2 or ME2 or System Shock – and patchy in places – but a vast improvement on Oblivion.

      So yeah, I’d say give it a go. I did. I liked it.

      /didntmeantowriteanessay

    • DrGonzo says:

      It’s funny that Bethesda are known for generic fantasy games. Yet Morrowind is such an unusual place for a computer game. I’m enjoying Skyrim. But I’ve hit a wall of blandness, many many hours in however. But still, Morrowind I played until I had exhausted the world of content. Oblivion I played for about 3 hours. Skyrim has been at least 20 hours, maybe more.

      A massive step in the right direction I say! But next time, please be strange and weird. This is fantasy, you can do anything! It’s such a waste to see dragons, viking and knights with giant axes, when I could be exploring a giant mushroom city or something.

    • Nevard says:

      I don’t really want to turn this into a Bethesda love/hate argument either but how can you possibly have thought that saying “Bethesda seem to’ve finally gotten wise to some of the reasons why their previous games were all so bad (they were, people, let’s not get stuck on this one)” was going to spark agreement from… basically anyone?
      What you are saying is “I have an opinion and it’s actually a fact, no don’t disagree with me because I’m right and you’re not”.
      That’s a massive recipe for disaster right there.

    • theleif says:

      @morningoil
      Argh. Ok, I think I’ll buy it then.

      Cheers

    • JackShandy says:

      I’m only up to level 16, so I don’t know about this Wall of Blandness people have been mentioning, but I’ve found Skyrim does two things really well.

      First, Wonder. You know, the fantasy bit. Maybe not weirdness per se, but that gasp of “Oh, wow” is absolutely there.

      Second, a level of believability that no other game in the series has really achieved. The world feels alive, and real. There’s elk, foxes, hares and hawks, even ants walking on tree-stumps. The Inns have bards playing songs, and if you order a room the inn-keeper will get up and show you to it. Even the massive amount of shit you can do that doesn’t involve combat. You can chop logs. Why? I have no idea. But it makes the world just that bit more believable.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I’m big into Norse mythology and I’m pretty impressed with the way Bethesda has explored the Viking thing in Skyrim. Arnie impressions notwithstanding, I find myself almost totally conviced by the setting and characters, and it’s apparent that masses of research has been done into Norse/Germanic culture.

      True, this Viking stuff has always been at the heart of every (western) fantasy setting ever, (Midgard = Middle Earth) but you have to give Bethesda credit for peeling back the Lord of The Rings fluff and looking at the older harder core underneath.

      I think the result is familiar, yet unfamiliar. It could stand to be more unfamiliar, but I’m very happy so far. This has nothing to do with graphics settings, does it? Gush ends.

    • pacificator says:

      It’s ok. You sir are a hipster… Skyrim is to mainstream for you right now…

    • Caleb367 says:

      I don’t think he’s doing the hipster bashing that some people like to do at every “mainstream” (I remember people bashing Morrowind when it got out… then GTA SA, GTA 4, Oblivion, Fallout 3, the Witcher, the Witcher 2, New Vegas… every single time with the same stuff they complained about all the others) for attention. Probably he’s just not “into” the setting – I must admit I mostly skipped over the well and deservedly celebrated Nehrim mod for Oblivion ’cause I couldn’t “feel” the setting. To every man his cup of tea, I guess. Me, I think Skyrim’s awesome, but it will be much more awesome when some serious modding comes around (first of all: need for food, drink and sleep. A realistic mod dealing with the freezing effects on a player’s health would make the game MUCH more difficult and challenging – and keeping that fur armor a viable choice well into the game)

    • torchedEARTH says:

      It’s never going to appeal to everyone, but letting a sabre tooth tiger free and it actually attacking the bandits the second time around then watching in glee / horror as the boss bandit chopped my head off means it will always appeal to me.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      One thing that I think the game does well is exploring the theological aspects of the Elder Scrolls setting. Despite each city being dedicated to a different Divine, I never felt like I had a good grasp on the religious beliefs in Oblivion. In Skryim it’s such a central issue that I was compelled to seek out books on the subject to understand exactly why the Elves were so pissy about Talos worship. Furthermore, there are now quests related directly to the Divines (or at least to their priests) that do a decent job of establishing the character of some of them (I’m still kind of hazy about Akatosh, but Arkay, Kynerath, and Stendarr get some love). And the cherry on top is the collective Daedric quests, which are no longer as rigidly structured in Oblivion and really highlight their role as fickle, often petty beings who can and do wreak havoc on the puny mortals they observe; at times they can edge into Neil Gaiman territory, which is no bad thing.

  5. Dasos says:

    I tried ugrids for a bit, but couldn’t get past 7 without huge fps drops, talking like 30fps constantly.
    I get patchy performance on defualt anyway, which I really shouldn’t (PhenomII 965 + 560ti)

    Bethesda really didn’t optimize this one :'(

    • Dasos says:

      Oh also, it might be worth mentioning the performance fix that is already out, heard it does a lot of good things.
      http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=123

      Edit: Yet to try it yet because I’ve been too busy the past few days :(

    • greenbananas says:

      I don’t know if it’s more ridiculous that that mod claims that you can run Skyrim as well as you did Oblivion or that you actually can. I don’t know who that guy is, or if the mod is stolen like he claims it was not, but he is now my hero.

      I was barely achieving playability on low and with that dll I can run the game better than that. ON HIGH. Here’s the kicker, I’m on a single core with 1gb of ram and a 200 series gfx card, and I’m not lying. It doesn’t fix the stutter that occurs in the world map but apart from that, I’m flabbergasted, I really am.

  6. Flobulon says:

    It’s worth noting that uGrids needs to be an odd number (at least that was the case in oblivion).

    • playworker says:

      I don’t think it’s the oddness which is important, there’s only certain numbers which will work.

      5:
      .X.
      XXX
      .X.

      9:
      XXX
      XXX
      XXX

      Not 11.
      13?
      ..X..
      .XXX.
      XXXXX
      .XXX.
      ..X..

      Edit

  7. Alistair says:

    You didn’t mention fov, which is the easiest improvement…

    I’ve got UGrids at 9 and it’s stable here. I did use the Large Address tweaker. Otherwise I upped shadow resolution and enabled self shadowing for land & trees. I probably pay a price in framerate but I’m fine with that…

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Craig’s post mentioned FOV and some other basic stuff, but yeah, that does help. (Personally I think 90 is too much.)

    • Jockie says:

      Anything above 75 makes my swords look like a childs toy in 1st person (plus if you duel wield they sit pretty much right in the centre of the screen).

    • Smarag says:

      Really? I use 120… Takes some time getting used to, but I like it.

    • Metonymy says:

      I’ve never been able to stand anything but 90 for single player, and 110 or so for deathmatch. I understand it’s subjective, but tunnel vision drives me crazy. I love my situational awareness.

  8. Davee says:

    Gah! Which one of the SkyrimPrefs.ini -files do I need to modify? The one in “Skyrim/Skyrim” or the one in “My Games/Skyrim”? Both? It’s hard to tell which one of the two works!

    Am I the only one puzzled by this? On another note; thanks for these tweaking round-ups, RPS. I like me some good graphics tweaks.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      My Games/Skyrim

    • simonh says:

      The one in My Games. I think the one in the Skyrim folder is a backup of the default settings which will get copied if the one in My Games gets deleted.

    • Davee says:

      Thanks.
      One of the reasons I was so confused was conflicting statements; for example these two from this very article:

      “These changes are mostly make to SkyrimPrefs.ini mydocuments/mygames/Skyrim BACK THIS FILE UP BEFORE TINKERING!”

      “Those aren’t the only shadow settings in SkyrimPrefs.ini (which is in the folder skyrim/skyrim). “

  9. shimmy says:

    The extra cells thing did work with my old save. And while it does improve the landscape at the midrange distance, it introduced a lot of glitches in far off mountains. I also didn’t get what you said with the waterfalls, they don’t animate when they load, only when you get a bit closer to them after which they remain animated even when you back away.

    All in all not worth it, but when I removed the tweaks from Skyrim.ini the game crashed at launch and nothing I could do would fix it except having Steam redownload all files that were altered.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “they don’t animate when they load, only when you get a bit closer to them after which they remain animated even when you back away.”

      Hmm. You might be right. Although it seems inconsistent. Sometimes they animate at distance for me, but other times they still kick in quite close. I guess this isn’t a fix, either way.

  10. simonh says:

    One thing I had to fix was that my FPS was too high in some dungeons (the game can’t seem to handle more than 60 FPS properly). This caused incredibly erratic behavior, like the game thinking I was underwater when I was not, and switching between the states each frame. It made some areas unplayable.

    I solved it with This FPS limiter.
    If you use it though, make sure you edit antilag.cfg and change FPSlimit to 60.

    Another thing I did was add
    [MapMenu]
    sMapCloudNIF=0

    to Skyrim.ini, which removes the clouds from the map. It’s not as pretty maybe, but it’s much more useful.

    • Calneon says:

      I used that tool but sometimes my arrows wouldn’t fire. Had to stop using it and stick to Vsync with some mouse lag :(.

    • adonf says:

      What do you guys use to display FPS?

  11. Enterprise2448 says:

    FXAA is an amazing thing, and, if you didn’t know, you can use it pretty much anywhere. Just download the files found in the first post in this thread:
    http://www.forum-3dcenter.org/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=510658
    and paste the contents of the appropriate folder (d3d9 for directx9, d3d10 for directx10 and 11). Should be working in any 3D game. If it does not (or the game crashes), paste “Fxaa3_11.h” and “shader.hlsl” in the main game install dir, and get the other files inside the \bin folder.

    Minimal performance impact. Could be combined with regular AA.

  12. Metonymy says:

    Just intended as informational: the need for AA decreases as resolution increases. If you’re running an average card, 2xAA and Anisotropic “off” is almost indistinguishable from the highest settings. These are the fluffiest of the fluff, and they’re always the first things I turn off when I’m playing for real. For both framerate, and GPU longevity.

    Draw distance and detail is also a huge drain if you don’t find yourself staring off into the distance very much. I leave this at default.

    Texture size is another matter entirely, it makes a huge difference and should be maxed even if (unlikely) there is a framerate drop. This is the entire reason why you buy a high-memory GPU, rather than the fastest one.

    Make sure you disable vsync, mouse acceleration, (in both windows and skyrim) and fix the vertical sensitivity, these fixes are easy to find online.

    • Outright Villainy says:

      We must have different brain wirings then, because even at 1080p, most games look painfully jaggy below 4xAA for me. I’d prefer 4xAA over high model detail anyway, and just after frame rate it’s the most important setting for me.

  13. aircool says:

    Yeah, FXAA is pretty good. It does fine for me in Skyrim.

    Does anyone get that strange effect with shadow where they seem to creep up on you before staying in the place and behaving like shadows?

    Still and awesome game though, despite some really crappy elements.

    • kirkbjerk says:

      I’ve noticed shadows do incremental steps in my game. Almost like it only updates the solar azimuth every hour instead of a continuous progression. Does the same in rest mode, you can watch the shadows do steps instead of move smoothly across the landscape.

    • Nim says:

      FYI the stepwise increment of shadows in rest mode is intentional as there is really no point in rendering anything but a snapshot of the location at that hour should you wish to cancel resting or waiting. Oblivion worked the same way, possibly Morrowind too.

    • Premium User Badge

      Petethegoat says:

      I get the incremental shadows outside of resting too. It’s quite annoying.

    • sebmojo says:

      ~ to get the console, then ‘Set timescale to 8′ without quotes.

      That will slow down the updates.

      Another excellent tweak is increasing the 3 shadow map sizes in skyrimprefs to 4096 – made my shadows smooth and lovely instead of the blinking 8 bit horrors they were before.

    • haowan says:

      Add

      fSunShadowUpdateTime=0
      fSunUpdateThreshold=0

      to skyrim.ini under [display]. Thank me later.

    • Apples says:

      I tried adding those lines, and now instead of updating every couple of seconds, the shadows constantly jiggle along and it looks worse if anything. I think something might be wrong with my settings though, since the shadows are always sort of strobing and stripey, especially when moving? Maybe if you don’t have that problem it looks better with those lines…

      edit: read further and saw someone said that sebmojo’s suggestion fixes that. I will have to try it when I get home.

    • haowan says:

      Yeah, they jiggle around. I think that breaks immersion less than the Truman Show-style sun that’s in there by default! The shadows do need a fix though, they have a lot of artifacts and don’t look great even at the best resolution… and also apparently take a lot of CPU time.

    • sebmojo says:

      Google Skyrim Shadow fixes.

      In the meantime: Visual Improvements

      Environmental self-shadowing: In “SkyrimPrefs.ini,” change the “0″ to “1″ in the lines “bTreesReceiveShadows=0″ and “bDrawLandShadows=0″ to enable self-shadowing on trees and rocks. It works flawlessly at little to no performance cost, so I have no clue why they didn’t include this option out of the box.

      Enhancing shadows: Skyrim’s “Ultra” preset doesn’t do shadows very well. While they might look decent at mid-to-far range, shadows up-close look like a blocky mess from 2004. Play with the following “SkyrimPrefs.ini” settings to find a balance of quality that suits you:

      “iBlurDeferredShadowMask=3″ (changes the blur filter on edges of shadows. Set to 3 for softer shadows, or to 2 or 1 for harder-edged shadows.)
      fInteriorShadowDistance=5000.0000 (The distance that shadows will be rendered indoors. I recommend setting it to “800,” as there are virtually no large-distance shadow-rendering scenes indoors. See explanation below.)
      fShadowDistance=12000.0000 (This one’s tricky. The larger you set it, the farther you’ll be able to see shadows at the cost of them looking pretty sketchy up close. It essentially determines how “stretched” the environment’s shadowmap is, so lower values actually produce sharper shadows. I like “3000″ personally.)
      “iShadowMapResolutionSecondary=1024″ AND “iShadowMapResolutionPrimary=2048″ (Upping these numbers should theoretically increase shadow quality, but in my experiments I noticed no difference in visual quality. Play with ‘em.)
      iShadowMapResolution=4096 (This number actually DOES incrementally increase shadow quality at all ranges, which would be nice if it didn’t kill my performance at any level past 4096. This one value affects performance to a far greater degree than all the other options, sending me from a nice 50 FPS average down to 15.)

  14. Cyberia027 says:

    I’m getting some micro stuttering when in first person view. any fix for this?

  15. BadLuckBen says:

    My professor always says, the most dangerous thing to a computer, is the user. I think this proves it XD.

  16. Fox89 says:

    Oh, this isn’t something that makes the game prettier, but here’s a fun setting for anyone struggling with the interface. Specifically, if the mouse isn’t registering consistently. Try and click a menu option and you get the wrong thing, or end up closing the shop window…

    In My Games/Skyrim/ skyrimprefs.ini there is a gamepad setting: bGamepadEnable under [Main]. It was set to ‘1’ by default on mine. Set this to 0 and the entire interface becomes a hell of a lot more bearable.

  17. Donjo says:

    Well, I won’t be doing any of that. Didn’t think I’d be running it at all, but my system has surprised me and Skyrim is looking really nice :)

  18. alundra says:

    For the uGridsToLoad thingy, there were similar settings on oblivion (uInterior Cell Buffer) but you needed to increase the memory usage with iPreloadSizeLimit=, this made it more stable, unfortunately it does not work on oblivion and I’ve yet to see which command increased memory usage on skyrim.

  19. Premium User Badge

    9of9 says:

    Between the tone-mapping injector and the awesome hack allowing NVidia SSAO to be used in Skyrim, this game actually manages to look awesome! My only problem until now was that distant landscape looks awful when not obscured by clouds, so the cell-loading distance tweak is a godsend.

    I very much recommend tweaking the FXAA Injector settings – Skyrim’s colour palette is usually rather bland and uninspired, so getting some nice tone-mapping settings can make it look a hell of a lot better.

    I’ve thrown together a quick gallery so far here: https://skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?cid=e44a07276535aad9&page=play&resid=E44A07276535AAD9!200 The shots aren’t quite as good as Dead-End Thrills, but I think it shows how much good post-processing effects add!

  20. Mxmlln says:

    At the moment I have just followed this below link, a guide, but not installed all of the suggest mods, but some. I’m keeping modding at a minimum until I’ve completed the game once.

    http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=11#content

    Also worth mentioning is the guide that tweakguides.com owner Koroush Ghazi has made and will be posting on geforce.com That will be the go-to-guide in the future. He is the God of Tweaking.

    The most annoying thing about Skyrim is that it’s engine simply only uses two threads :\
    WHY???

  21. Shooop says:

    Dammit Jim! I want this game, Saint’s Row 3 and already have Arkham City and Serious Sam 3 ordered!

    Stop making me want this game even more, I still have a life away from my monitor!

  22. ziusudra says:

    The game is not as weird as Morrowind but iam enjoying it quite a lot, armours look a lot better than Oblivion and this bit sold me even further http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUoMqrFXKBM&list=LL16gUBk8XCl6Zz6evVOv2zg
    Any Thief fans in here?

  23. MythArcana says:

    It would have been nice for Bethseda to treat the PC community with a little dignity and simply put all these options in one menu in-game at the START of the splash screen. The options for Civ IV is like four pages and that is a 2D engine!

    And how in the Hell do you take a screenshot in-game?? I know about 3rd party solutions, but there isn’t a key bind to grab a simple serial screencap? Oh, Bethseda…I bet their breath smells like Microsoft. :)

    • Duffin says:

      f12

    • PeteC says:

      Using Large Address Aware to let it use more than 2 GB of RAM seems to disable the ability to take screenshots in Steam for me. Really can’t understand why though.

  24. Davie says:

    Honestly I just want to know how to fix the weird stripy shadows. Once peoples’ noses no longer look like the sun is shining through tiny blinds on them, I will be happy.

  25. Premium User Badge

    shlomme says:

    I wish I could tweak the view out of the window here with a couple of ini settings.

    fFogDrawDistance = inf

    would be a welcome change.

  26. Ren7on says:

    I actually using Large Adress Aware, wich make my game a lot more stable (but still I have some CTDs). But be carefull, use it with TESV.exe, if your use it with the launcher Steam slaps you with error 51.

  27. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Dear Mr Rossignol,

    Please could you post a screenshot of how your game looks after your tweaking, so we can compare your tweaked visuals with vanilla and Dead End Thrills?

    Love,

    Jams

  28. videogangs says:

    I might try this at the weekend nothing (even BF3) is challenging my GTX 590/2600k setup at the moment, which just makes the asset pop on Skyrim even more noticeable- if it was chugging I’d let it off!

  29. HelderPinto says:

    I turned on SSAO and it’s really worth it, give it a shot guys:
    http://forums.mapcore.net/viewtopic.php?p=308428#p308428

  30. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    When are we renaming this site to RimPaperSky?

  31. groovychainsaw says:

    SSAO made a big difference ot the qality for me, I’d love greater draw distance, but I would be concerned about crashes, i think I’m happy with my tweaks for now.
    (Example shot HERE)

  32. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I am too far into the game to break my savegame, but I’ll give the other stuff a try!

  33. Premium User Badge

    El_MUERkO says:

    USE THIS END UP WITH THIS!

    • whiskeyriver says:

      Awesomesauce. What gfx card do you have dude?

    • Stinkfinger75 says:

      Great idea, but with so many vague options I don’t really have any idea what I will end up with once I generate an ini. Any screenshots that go along with certain configs? For example, your screenshot was achieved with what ini file?

    • whiskeyriver says:

      I put everything on “ultra” settings, apart from adding self shadowing for trees etc and increasing shadow draw distance. capping the framerate at 30 really smoothed things out for me too.

      This + enabling SSAO = amazeballs

    • Stinkfinger75 says:

      Whiskey, what graphics card are you using? I run a GTX 560 Ti.

  34. Premium User Badge

    El_MUERkO says:

    USE THIS END UP WITH THIS!

  35. alundra says:

    The iPreloadSizeLimit does not work on Skyrim unfortunately, from what I can gather ram allocation stays the same, unless someone found a way to use it, we need an Skyrim specific command for increasing memory usage, that would bring stability to the grid/cell commands.

  36. Screamer says:

    So…. for some my skyrimprefs.ini already had all those values :/ Default settings below

    fLODFadeOutMultObjects=15.0000
    fLODFadeOutMultItems=15.0000
    fLODFadeOutMultActors=15.0000

    fMeshLODLevel2FadeDist=10000000.0000
    fMeshLODLevel1FadeDist=10000000.0000

    b30GrassVS=1
    fGrassStartFadeDistance=7000.0000
    fGrassMaxStartFadeDistance=7000.0000
    fGrassMinStartFadeDistance=0.0000

    Didn’t anyone else go and select ultra in the option menu?