Gold In Them Hills: Skyrim In 2014

By Duncan Harris on January 8th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.


This is the latest in a series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

An occupational risk of Christmas is that the great mead (Jaffa Cakes) hall of my in-laws’ living room will inspire me to reinstall Skyrim, post a few fancy screenshots, and sure enough get a few emails asking for some mythical mod guide. Then comes the abuse: “He doesn’t want anyone to have his secret sauce!” Or: “His Skyrim doesn’t look like that – *snort* – those are Photoshopped.” Only they don’t capitalise Photoshop because they didn’t have to sit through that publishing meeting, lucky old them.

They’re almost right about one thing: my Skyrim doesn’t look like that. Likewise, when someone asks me what English weather is like, I don’t answer: ‘It’s like that evening drive between Dorset and Wiltshire when a torrential downpour gave way to just the best sunshine that lit up the faces of distant historic buildings and cast painterly shadows across dale and field.’ What I tell them is that, nine times out of ten, ‘it’s shit.’

What posters of modded Skyrim shots fail to mention is that their game only looks like that 1 per cent of the time, from 0.01 per cent of the vantage points on the map. The numbers are only slightly better for any videogame screenshot worth a damn. Whether you’re an industry screenshot artist or a Steam Community superstar or whatever, what you’re doing is marketing. Selling. Lying by omission.

What the posters also don’t mention is that the mountainous challenge of taking those shots is precisely why many people play Skyrim now more than ever. Alduin is dead but the quest for ultimate graphics goes on… and on. The fallacy of asking ‘how to make Skyrim look like that’ is that you simply don’t know what Skyrim might look like whenever you fire it up. That’s the point. Two years after it came out, when I climbed up a mountain and started bashing in the console commands, I had absolutely no idea I’d see this:

This isn’t a guide to playing Skyrim with mods, then, as I would probably use a very different setup if I wanted traditional gameplay. It’s not a guide to taking good screenshots, either, so much as knowing how to look for them. This, Curb fans, is my Seinfeld reunion.

The Command Console

Myth number one about Making Skyrim Pretty is that it takes ‘hundreds of mods’. Much of the reason for doing this guide is that I’ve used several neat tricks along the way that do much of the work but are either taken for granted or dismissed. So let’s begin:

tfc / sucsm / player.moveto – You probably know about tfc (Toggle Free Camera) and tm (Toggle Menus) already; you might even know about tfc 1, the free camera that freezes game time. That’s Screenshot 101. sucsm (Set UFO Cam Speed Multplier – sexy!) will make the free camera slower and more precise. The free camera’s great for scouting for locations, angles, etc, and this is where player.moveto comes in. Maybe you want to set up a pose for a screenshot or just ensure the game’s loaded the highest LOD around your new location, so click on a small nearby object with the command console open – a shrub, a tree, just not the bare terrain mesh – and type player.moveto .

tcl – This is basically noclip for your character. It lets you fly about. It also stops you mid-fall if something goes wrong, or if you teleport into the ground or, as is entirely possible in the pre-alpha nudist colony of Skywind, someone’s privates. Make sure there’s no target object selected before using it.

tai – Turns the AI on and off. You’ll need this if you want to free cam around your horse without running it off a cliff at the same time. Good for posing enemies and NPCs, too. Just be sure the right entity’s selected in the command console first.

setfog – This is fundamentally useful for taking good screenshots or otherwise dolling up Skyrim’s outdoor terrain. The biggest reason shots like the one below are so elusive isn’t mods, but the suggestion of volume and proportion using basic fog levels. The setfog command expects two numbers, one for where the fog starts and another for how far it transitions. Something like setfog 4000 5000, then, will see a more abrupt change than setfog 4000 30000. Every scene and camera position requires its own values if it’s to reach its full potential. With default values, the scene below would just be a flat wall of textures.

fw – Force Weather. Skyrim has dozens of weather types not limited to the four main categories of clear, cloudy, fog and rain. Places like Solstheim and Sovngarde have their own, for instance. Some change everything while others focus on bloom intensity, colour saturation, fog alpha/colour, etc. I’ll usually try out all of them for a screenshot, often with the help of the invaluable Director’s Tools mod.

mfg – Adjusts facial expression, eye direction, etc. This command was broken by a recent patch but returns thanks to the mod MfgConsole. More on those later.

fov – Adjusts FOV. Bit obvious but couldn’t really leave it out.

save – There are many reasons for creating saves using your own filenames at any given moment, which you can do by just typing the name after this command. You might want to restart the game with a custom resolution, set up a load of shots to be taken properly later, have a great lighting setup going, or just insure yourself against a crash. I went through a phase of naming them after things I’d just had to eat and now have no idea what’s what, so avoid that common pitfall.

help – Returns all the object IDs or console commands that match the given term. Useful in conjunction with inventory or spawn commands like player.additem or player.placeatme.

UPDATE: I forgot some…

disable / markfordelete – Too many screenshots have to be written off due to some unwelcome ‘item’ – I never said Skyrim Lunchbox, did you say Skyrim Lunchbox? – poking into shot, or a drive-by photobombing Mudcrab. Making them vanish with disable is the dirty way to do it, but that just hides them and leaves them cluttering up your save. markfordelete does it better. Works for foliage, rocks… pretty much anything except the base terrain mesh.

getpos / setpos / getangle / setangle – You can to specify axis x, y or z after this to get the relevant value. Great for moving posed or frozen enemies to just where you want them.

setscale / player.setscale – Pretty much as above but for the size of a selected entity or the player. Maybe you’re doing some epic panorama and your character’s silhouette would be more readable if he was stood in front of the fog rather than a rock. Maybe your Day Of The Lupins theme needs some of the flora to be ten times bigger. Massive dogs?

The ENB Series

ENB stands for Easy Now, Boris, a reference to creator Boris Vorontsov’s unique approach to forum banter. Not really. Boris is a genius and one of the most important single figures in PC gaming today, so respect due. (On which note, it’s time for a cup of coffee and a quiz. Is this a) a bureaucratic Dark Elf from the Great House of Redoran; b) DJ Tim Westwood, whose weird Lowestoftian street patois can kill a dragon at 50 yards; or c) proof that we’ve been living in Skyrim all along?)

I use one ENB and one ENB only, and that is K. Every ENB has a philosophy nowadays, be it cinematic moodiness or MAXXED OUT PHOTOREAL1SM, but Kyokushinoyama has the best: pure pixel-pushing fantasy. He also has a habit of jumping off this modder-go-round and taking all his files away with him. Someone kindly uploaded several of his presets here, though, including the latest K-ENB Extensive: The Living Lights. That’s what I’m using.

This could get complicated very quickly, but like most things Skyrim it’s worth finding out for yourself. There are ENBs and quasi-ENBs and high performance faux-ENBs for everyone, so who am I to tell you what to use?

That said, using K as an example, just because these things can murder your framerate while ticking a lot of next-gen boxes doesn’t mean you should leave everything turned on. In fact, the only time I come close is when doing something like this:

This shows many of Vorontsov’s latest features in action, some augmented by K: indirect lighting, complex ambient occlusion, depth of field, subsurface scattering, detailed shadows, etc, etc. More importantly, and somewhat rarely, they’re in balance. The DoF is ‘popping’ the foreground more than obliterating the background, the bloom is just so, the ambient occlusion is enriching the face with accurate light fall-off without crushing the detail. But ambient occlusion has a terrible relationship with fog, and in the game’s exterior cells will often leave landscapes with a blotchy complexion at the cost of half your framerate. I just turn that and DoF off when outdoors.

Again, though, it would be wrong to suggest that ENB alone can give you this look. I’m not joking when I say that this is the single square foot of Skyrim where I’ve found this precise combination of lighting. I also have the character looking in a precise direction towards candlelight filtered through a quite complex indoor environment. I’ve frozen the game the precise moment a mod called Facelight turns an additional revolving light source on the face, which in conjunction with the candle and all its surrounding particles has made the face glow and eyes sparkle. I’ve used a pose mod, and in this shot placed a blue lantern on a precise part of the floor. I’ve used a very low FOV at great distance to smooth out certain shadowing discrepancies. I’ve picked the lip colour and hairstyle that works best with all of these elements. Know, then, that when people say it takes ‘a cocktail of mods’, they’re barely telling you anything. This is chemistry.

Rant: One of the go-to snarks of the Reddit or Kotaku comments troll is that ‘oh look, she takes two bottles into the shower.’ Very good. Never gets old. Furthermore, I get that there’s a ‘Glamazon’ epidemic that’s as old as modding itself, and that the scene is riddled with appalling lolicon bilge. Fact is, though, that I grew up surrounded by rock art books by the likes of Frank Frazetta, Roger Dean and Hipgnosis – Dean reprinted by Psygnosis, of course, just to wrap it all up with a bow. I love Conan in all its forms. This Skyrim is my playground. I put it to you, then, that she does in fact take all the bottles into the shower.

One last thing to say about ENB is that it’s recently introduced the enblocal.ini file that takes control of your memory management. The latest K-ENBs use it and it’s extremely effective. I’ve gone from multiple crashes to desktop to none whatsoever on the exact same hardware and INI files. Nada. Zip.

Mods

By this point, hopefully I’ve diminished the role of mods to a more reasonable level. They’re as essential as you choose to make them, which is to say that different people focus on different aspects of Skyrim’s world. Installing ‘hundreds of mods’ to make things ‘beautiful’ works about as well as it would on your car.

I will champion one very recent mod, though, without which that earlier mountain shot couldn’t happen. Same goes for the one a few lines up.

Real Clouds, says creator Soolie, “adds pseudo-volumetric clouds to Skyrim, i.e realistic 3D clouds. These clouds will change in coverage and altitude depending on the current weather. As well as normal clouds, there are also rain clouds which you can see raining in the distance. There is also a random variation applied to the coverage and altitude to create more variation.” It’s entirely possible that without this mod I’d have seen little point in returning to Skyrim long term. It doesn’t always work, to put it politely, but is a version of Skyrim you simply have to see when it does.

Listing a load of other specific texture or mesh mods would make this thing instantly obsolete, so what you do is this. Start by downloading the Nexus Mod Manager, reading any documentation as you go. Let it control everything, even if that means making your own zip files for mods downloaded outside of Skyrim Nexus.

subenji’s comment: Just chiming in to say I strongly recommend you ditch the Nexus Mod manager and get the Skyrim Mod Organiser instead – it keeps each mod’s files separated from each other and the Data folder, allowing for quick and easy control over priority and file overwrite conflicts, and keeping your Skyrim’s Data folder clean.

Now go through all the top-lists on the Nexus and use taste and common sense to pick from the buffet. Do this and you’ll end up with all the rock, water, fire and lighting mods I use. Just bear in mind that I don’t use any climate mods, or anything that might conflict with K-ENB.

There’s nothing in my mod list too extraordinary, with the exception of a little thing I call Supergrass. It’s just a simple ESP I made in the Creation Kit that trebles all the game’s grass densities. Google that one because there are several ways of doing it, and it’s never wise to blindly import someone else’s settings.

The wise thing is to grow your mod list organically. Let the dependencies, options and compatibility notes of each new mod decide what you seek out next. This should ensure you don’t leave out the true essentials like Skyrim Script Extender and the various unofficial patches. K-ENB, furthermore, comes with its own essentials for tweaking dungeon lighting, etc. If something in Skyrim bothers you, from the waves against the shore to the distant terrain textures, search and you will find. There is always a mod, and Nexus Mod Manager takes the pain out of the audition.

Oh yes, and get CharGen Extension, it’s amazing. Character generation made easy, or at least less awful. Get the aforementioned MfgConsole, too, for a reason that actually has nothing to do with facial expressions. It adds a new console command called GetModItem that lets you fill a game container with all the items from, say, your installed mods or DLC. It’s so useful.

Beyond The Nexus

Exit the vast and safe jurisdiction of the Nexus and the real adventure begins. Welcome to the Cursed Earth, the first outpost of which is Lover’s Lab. There you’ll find links to repositories around the world where your horizons will simply explode.

Do not go in the adult section. Do not go in the adult section.

Whether or not your ethical stance lets you download armours ripped from other games, many of these sites have the advantage of a more curated selection than the Nexus. You might find that a site in the Ukraine shares your taste in 4K textures, for example, and gives a load of neat links to follow. Of course, whether your copy of MalwareBytes lets you visit that site in the Ukraine is another matter. Ironically, many of these links will go right back to the Nexus, to things you never found using its own browsing tools.

INI Tweaking

Beyond advising that, thanks to ENB memory management, I’m using a uGridsToLoad setting of 9 without crashes, I’m not going there. INI configs needn’t change nearly as much as mod lists, and there’s plenty of advice out there. Just remember to back the things up and change just a few values at a time, and disable any in-game or driver AA or AF when using ENB. My ini files are really very small, changing little beyond some very famous shadow, multithreading and terrain LOD settings.

Okay, one random tip, then. There’s a mod called HiAlgo Boost that dynamically changes Skyrim’s internal resolution while you play to ensure a smooth framerate. Works with most ENBs but not, it seems, with the latest K, so maybe give it a try – because when it works, it works.

Project Skywind

Skywind is a ridiculously ambitious attempt to port the whole of Morrowind and its expansions into the Creation Engine using upgraded meshes and textures. It’s making all the headlines at the moment so I finally checked it out. What’s even more amazing is that it looks as good as that sounds. It must get finished, and only then can the devs stop pretending they never started Skyblivion as well. These guys are understandably wary of Bethesda’s lawyers, but they’re also not invisible. Far from it. So just kick up the world’s stinkiest stink if things get litigious and let the sheer scale of Skyrim’s fanbase save the day.

In keeping with the rest of this ‘guide’, I’ll share some anecdotes. The shots you’re seeing here and here are very selective, and just a few pixels outside the frame is nothing but bare terrain mesh with obviously tiled ground textures and a few scattered props. The NPCs have no clothes on. Creatures are few and far between. Don’t let that stop you, though!

What makes Skywind an awful lot of fun is that it’s just like any other Skyrim mod – though I’d recommend starting a new game in Morrowind (there’s an option) to be on the safe side. The mods I’ve outlined here make it very easy to rebuild and restock your character if you must. In terms of item and armour availability, ENB compatibility and things like water mods, it’s like walking through a door between Skyrim and Morrowind. And this, to answer the obvious question, is why these screenshots look like they do. Mods, again, are only part of the equation, and I really had to turn the aforementioned tricks to eleven.

The End

I do believe that’s everything, or at least as much as seems worth telling. A bit random, but then no guide to Skyrim modding will ever be complete, and the modding itself is a journey without end. That’s the beauty of it. If you take one thing from all this, whether it’s a file or just a renewed desire to explore game visuals through this extraordinary platform, then I guess it was worth writing. If you think there’s something to ask or add, hit the comments and I’ll oblige.

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127 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Whither says:

    I’ve always been a bit bewildered by the advocates of this kind of modding. 80% of the time, these mods or tweaks create just as many graphical errors or crashes as they do pretty flourishes. I agree completely that a lot of times what’s presented on forums or in various galleries on Kotaku or Reddit are highly selective and carefully planned.

    Judging modded Skyrim’s beauty by those images is like setting your standard of beauty based on magazine covers. By the time those magazine covers reach you, only a faint, digitally obscured shadow of the original person is left.

    But most important is the fact that I feel quite strongly about preserving and enjoying the original artists’ work. To add anti-aliasing or bump up the resolution is one thing — I’m all for that. But these mod packages cross the point of wholesale replacing assets like textures, music, sound and models.

    It’s like we don’t trust that 100 people putting blood, sweat and tears into this game for 5 years had some strong artistic and technical sense about what works. I understand we’re adding new technologies in some cases that just weren’t possible at the time, but the environments and characters weren’t designed to exist with those technologies. It takes away from the character and the personal authorship of the game.

    For example, modding Morrowind I use MGE to increase the resolution, make it widescreen, add anti-aliasing, and increase the draw distance a bit. But that’s it. Otherwise it’s just not Morrowind anymore — at least not as I played it and loved it in high school. And not as Todd Howard and team originally created it.

    Those original assets and technologies are part of the experience. I’d rather not compromise them in exchange for occasional, just-at-the-right-moment technological flairs and constant crashes. I don’t get it.

    • Prolar Bear says:

      What about enhanced textures? The stock textures for Skyrim (and indeed Fallout 3) were a bit bleh.

      • Duncan Harris says:

        I’m actually using the stock HD texture pack. I also think these Bethesda RPGs qualify as two distinct experiences: the vanilla playthrough and the afterlife as a modding platform. If people are playing a singleplayer RPG for two whole years then I’m not sure you can bemoan the way they choose to play it.

        • Prolar Bear says:

          Agreed. While I’m not one for fully modding games, I can see that it can add lasting value and totally overhaul a title. I went into Fallout 3 vanilla, and I guess I’ll use some mods in New Vegas now that I’m more familiar with that kind of experience.

    • Laurentius says:

      Why do you care ? Did they hack your computer and installed these mods or are they depraving Bethseda artist of their money ? No ones forcing these mods on anyone, everyone is prefectly able to play vanilla version, geez what the hell is wrong with people…

      • Premium User Badge

        Whither says:

        Just sharing my opinion. I’m not saying it’s like, a human rights violation that people mod their games. I was just relating my personal experience, which is what comments are all about. If you enjoy graphics/asset overhaul mods, uh, good for you!

        • Laurentius says:

          Yeah, you stated your opinin by starting with “I’ve always been a bit bewildered by the advocates of this kind of modding.” and I asked why do you care about this enough to make you feel bewildered to begin with ? Why do you care how people play/interact with games they bought ? Tbh I’ve always been a bit bewildered by people whose thought process led them to devloped such pastoral opinions.

          • Premium User Badge

            Whither says:

            When I said bewildered sincerely all I meant was I don’t understand it so it’s not for me. Just because I’m personally bewildered by something doesn’t mean I disapprove of it. How could I? If someone else enjoys it another way it’d be ridiculous for me to care. Seriously, if you like loading up Skyrim with graphics mods, that’s AWESOME.

          • Premium User Badge

            Nogo says:

            “I don’t understand it so it’s not for me.”

            Then why are you here? If you had a willingness to learn that’d be one thing, but you keep insisting your opinion is valid. If you don’t understand something, and don’t want to learn, then don’t be a jerk. Move along instead of treating the people here like zoo animals.

          • gibbousmoon says:

            @Nogo
            Since we’re on the topic of bewilderment, let me say that I’ve always been bewildered by forum dwellers who insist that the only people who belong on that forum are those who agree with the majority of its users. You really would prefer to interact only with people who share your perspective and opinion? Seriously, how boring is that?

            Also, Whither has been nothing but respectful in his posts, and you call him a jerk? Look in the mirror, buddy.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rizlar says:

      You did read the article, right? Like this bit right at the top…

      What posters of modded Skyrim shots fail to mention is that their game only looks like that 1 per cent of the time, from 0.01 per cent of the vantage points on the map. The numbers are only slightly better for any videogame screenshot worth a damn. Whether you’re an industry screenshot artist or a Steam Community superstar or whatever, what you’re doing is marketing. Selling. Lying by omission. […]
      This isn’t a guide to playing Skyrim with mods, then, as I would probably use a very different setup if I wanted traditional gameplay.

      • Premium User Badge

        Whither says:

        Yeah, I read that — I was posting to agree with the author about that point and share some related points. Not sure why you think I didn’t read it or what your point is? I’m confused.

        • Premium User Badge

          Nogo says:

          We don’t really get your point either. Because it basically comes down to “I don’t understand why people photography.”

          Thanks for sharing, I guess?

          • derbefrier says:

            Its a very simple point you must have glossed over in your rush to start an argument. He simply says he thinks the. Original artistic intent is just as important to him if not more than all the shiny mods out there. That there’s something to be said for enjoying the orginal game. And the artistic view the orginal developers wanted to convey.

            For an extreme example think of taking an airbrush to the mona lisa to make her pretier. Wouldn’t be the same would it?

          • Tacroy says:

            The problem with arguing about original artistic intent is that games are released when they’re good enough, not when they’re done.

          • Premium User Badge

            Nogo says:

            And what about the artists of these shots? Chopped liver? It’s the joy of having what amounts to an unlimited-money studio, that just happens to have bizarrely specific themes. Let us enjoy the warm purr of Bethesda’s vehicle. They’re the ones who handed us the keys.

            Really though, it’s a bizarre argument that’s been addressed by people less glib than me. I’d like to reference the Bethesda’s in-house mod jam, as my favorite bit of evidence that it’s not a sacred cow.

            E: I wouldn’t have bothered initially, but RPS is being inundated with “it’s just, like, my opinion” posts recently. It’s getting obnoxious.

            On top of that, he’s being just as antagonistic as me with stuff like “uh, good for you!”

          • Premium User Badge

            Whither says:

            I’m sorry, the “uh, good for you” clearly came across in the opposite way I intended it. I really sincerely honestly meant good for you, that’s awesome, more power to you. I really tried to make it clear that this was just my personal preference and not some kind of declaration of The One True Way To Play Skyrim. I’m totally aware that I am in the minority here and that’s fine. I just wanted to share another perspective. Sorry if I offended anyone. And what is wrong with “it’s just my opinion” posts? Isn’t that what comments are all about? I enjoy reading others’ opinions. I think either you’re reading some kind of passive aggressive intent in here where there is none, or I’m just poorly communicating.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            I think most agree though that airbrushing the Mona Lisa would make it worse.

            So many times we have seen mods improve a video game. If a professional game developer with hundreds of employees and millions in budget release something that can quickly be improved by some dude in his bedroom, maybe their original vision wasn’t that great. Modders quickly made PC Skyrim look much better than release simply by increasing texture resolution. Bethesda could have done this, they didn’t because they couldn’t be arsed or “it wasn’t worth it”, this attitude from game devs is exactly why mods are required.

            Using another art analogy, its like Michaelangelo painting half the Sistine Chapel, going “fuck it that’ll do”, and covering the rest in stickmen. If someone went back years later, scrubbed out the stickmen and painted it properly people would all agree it was much better, even if it wasn’t the original artist that did some of it.

          • Premium User Badge

            Nogo says:

            I don’t go to the places you like, stare in bewilderment, and start exclaiming how bizarre all the people present are, and then when they nicely explain what’s going on I don’t continue insisting they’re still quite strange and they should accept that as my opinion. It’s just plain rude.

            Not trying to be a jerk, but everyone is very aware it’s your opinion, (you said it and everything) and absolutely no one needs to be reminded of that. Whether you intended or not, “it’s just my opinion” is a complete non-statement that serves only to belittle the opinions of others.

    • Text_Fish says:

      Well said. The best Quake Engine mod of all time is FitzQuake ( http://www.celephais.net/fitzquake/ ) precisely because it de-ages the game without destroying the art design. As you say, it adds a few bells and whistles such as anti-aliasing and even manages to fix a few bugs here and there, but it doesn’t throw in dynamic lighting or new textures because the developer recognises Quake’s strengths. Any well realized game art is the sum of all of its parts — replace one texture and you risk destroying the continuity of the whole thing.

      Then again, people who do mod their games in such a fashion are only harming themselves, so have at it I say.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      I just find it fun to experiment and see what I can do with mods and occasionally I’ll take some pretty pictures as mementoes. It has nothing to do with liking or disliking the original art and I certainly don’t feel any need to respect the artists or their personal authorship. If anything mods can let the player be part of that authorship and make the experience more unique and special.

      • Duncan Harris says:

        I think people need to recognise that the Bethesda RPGs are a peculiar breed that invite this kind of community play and co-authorship through more than just the openness of their code. The number of wild, wacky and clichéd references that get chucked into the mix makes them feel like they’re modded already. I’ll wager that many of the people who go nuts with Skyrim modding are the same ones who detest things like the Cinematic Mod for Half-Life 2, where the tinkering really does feel like vandalism.

        • Premium User Badge

          skalpadda says:

          That last sentence would certainly apply to me, at least.

    • Viroso says:

      I too like to play as originally intended, but for some games I simply don’t care. I don’t care because these games also don’t seem to care. Skyrim is a mess as a game and Bethesda’s design philosophy seems to be “more is better”. So I just go with it.

      Because there are so many broken things in Skyrim, and for me a lot of the times what breaks them is the game’s ambition to shoot for the stars. Skyrim, and some other open world games, work on an old dream everyone had at some point, “wouldn’t it be cool if a game could be just like the real world”. That’s why there are a ton of dumb useless activities, items, and a whole bunch of other things that exist just to enhance the setting. The focus of the game is the world.

      Way I see it, Skyrim is not just a game then, it’s a playground. So I won’t just play it, I’ll play with it.

      After beating Fallout 3 on the PS3 and coming across so many horrible things, I modded the hell out of New Vegas on my first playthough, deeply changing the gameplay and appearance. I went easier on Skyrim, but I had no problems in adding a bunch of new spells or weather effects.

      • Premium User Badge

        Whither says:

        I think it speaks volumes to how great Skyrim is that it appeals to different people in such different ways. I didn’t feel like the game was a mess at all — I feel it’s just about perfect. Really, the only thing I complained about while playing it was that dragon attacks came way too often, and after the vampire expansion came out the vampire attacks kept killing NPCs.

        • dufake says:

          I can say the same thing about Morrowind, but Oblivion?
          We can not trust everything we see. It’s the basis of the science, so we experiment to see if it works.

          • Smaug says:

            Oh god, Oblivion. What a letdown it was after Morrowind. Surprisingly moddable, still.

    • Shuck says:

      “It’s like we don’t trust that 100 people putting blood, sweat and tears into this game for 5 years had some strong artistic and technical sense about what works.”
      As a game developer I have to admit that sometimes – sometimes – the amateurs do it better (and the “amateurs” sometimes include professionals doing this work for fun in their personal time). That’s because a commercial project is under some fairly tight time constraints. Content has to be pumped out according to a schedule; there’s only so much time one can spend on any given thing. Often, a particular element or feature may be interesting, but if you can’t get it done in a certain amount of time, it simply gets cut. An amateur can spend however much time they want on any given thing, no matter how minor. So sometimes the amateurs make things that the professionals would have made, if they had possessed the freedom of unlimited time.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        Yes, this — especially because the amateurs are sometimes extremely talented in a particular small, focused area of expertise, well beyond the game’s creators, and can elevate that one area from “decent” to “excellent”.

        Get enough of those working on different parts, and you can end up with something well beyond what a paid team of jack-of-all-trades professionals can do.

        • Duncan Harris says:

          Also worth noting that several makers of the most risible, NSFW mods will at some point make something brilliant that benefits the whole community. It happens all the time. Robin Scott allows all the scary lolicon stuff on the Nexus because he knows the damage ridicule and exclusion would do to all Skyrim and Fallout modding.

          And yes, the blood, sweat and tears of 100 people can be spent on an awful lot of the wrong things over the course of five years. How else would such a talented industry turn out the awful content it so often does?

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            As well as the fact that modders are completely able to just go crazy and do whatever they want. Development teams are confined to a certain extent by the will of the publisher, timelines etc. I’m sure most developers want to make a decent PC port for games, such as HR textures in Skyrim, and just aren’t allowed to by the publisher because some twat in a suit decides its not cost effective.

            Look at mods for any game you will see a hell of a lot of unfinished mods, look at older games and there are a lot of mods that were never finished etc. Professional development teams don’t have the luxury of trying something and then dropping it without serious consequences (more than likely losing their job), so they have to be more conservative in what they aim for.

          • CheeseOnToast says:

            On the other hand, one of the first mods that appears is always a so-called “improved textures” mod. This is invariably the base textures simply up-rezzed with the contrast jacked up to 11. This is a real disservice to the original artists, who generally have a much better idea of how to balance their textures so they’re not just a noisy mess.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Cheeseontoast.
            I completely disagree with this. The fact is the textures in most PC releases were created for consoles, they were designed around lower resolution output and inferior hardware to what a standard PC is capable of.
            Companies rarely redo PC textures because it’s too expensive and time consuming and the PC port is generally an afterthought. The end result is low quality, washed out, crappy looking textures that can be improved by modders significantly. Skyrim is guilty of this for sure.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      I always play an ES game vanilla the first time, but I like to add mods that I personally feel complement the game in future plays. I like to experience both what the game and the community has to offer.

      • limimi says:

        That’s how I do it too – that way you know what things you didn’t like and what kind of mods will improve the experience for you.

    • Xzi says:

      That’s being too literal with the idea that all games are art. Skyrim, as an example, has several areas and characters that are really unique, interesting, and good-looking. It has a lot more areas and characters who are generic, boring, and only slight variations on other areas/characters in the game. Which is much of the reason that Bethesda insures they give the players proper modding tools for their games, because they know damn well that much of the experience can be improved upon. Whether that be aesthetic, quality of the graphics, gameplay improvements, or a combination of these is up to the individual.

      In short: I wouldn’t consider Skyrim so grand or brilliant that it needs to be preserved in a completely unaltered state. Quite the opposite, in fact. After Morrowind, the Elder Scrolls games just aren’t that gripping or nice to look at without mods. They’re pretty much an essential part of the experience. Especially when so few games these days, be they singleplayer or multiplayer, have a reasonable-sized modding scene. That’s something worth savoring and preserving for as long as we can.

      • Premium User Badge

        Whither says:

        Fair enough. I guess it comes down to personal opinion and experience about the game. If you feel personally that the game is lacking in some way, it’s cool that you can change it. I’ve never had any notable complaints or disappointments by The Elder Scrolls games except for Oblivion’s counter-intuitive leveling system. Skyrim in particular is, to me personally, nearly perfect. So I don’t want to change it. But art is subjective as always!

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      If the original assets weren’t bland and horrible as well as graphically limited due to console hardware I may agree. Then there is the crappy interface and such things like that which become far better for a PC user once modded.
      At the end of the day though its mainly about longevity. People will play the unmodded version out of the box at first, however mods allow us on our second, third, fourth etc playthrough to make the game something different, not many people want to play the same game they already played more than once, if you are playing Morrowind yet again years later you are in the minority, most people don’t do this.
      Mods vastly increase the lifespan of the game for those who are enthusiastic about it. I understand your point about not wanting to change the original experience and that is certainly a valid point, however nobody is forced to mod a game, its purely an option.
      Developers don’t disallow modding because of some artistic notion of “protecting their original vision”, they do it because it allows them to sell shitty pieces of DLC that would otherwise be obsolete because of a talented and enthusiastic mod scene.

      • Duncan Harris says:

        Skyrim modding and the Nexus sites will only get more important as companies like Valve succeed in monetising mods, prompting others to do the same. People moan about Gamebryo resurfacing in every Bethesda RPG, but I dread the day they switch to a new engine and figure it makes sense to just lock everything down and effectively switch modding off.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          I don’t like the idea of monetised mods though. To me that gives companies too much scope to take The Sims 3 route, basically release a barebones game because the community will create the rest of your content for you and people give you money for that. It sets a terrible precedent for gaming. I’d rather see no modding at all, at least the developers have to actually fill their game with content then, and release good quality aftermarket stuff.

          • Duncan Harris says:

            My hunch is that the mods are here to stay. Publishers crave longevity and these RPGs are practically asynchronous MMOs in that regard. I wouldn’t be surprised if the work of modders to fix and improve the game doesn’t quietly benefit their QA budget, either.

    • paddymaxson says:

      Worrying about destroying the original artist’s vision would suggest that Skyrim’s “art” assets were made by artists, it’s a truly abysmal looking game in terms of texturtes and character models, and as those are the two things you’ll spend the whole game looking at, it’s worth bringing them up to scratch. Bethesda’s only accomplishment in terms of artistry in Skyrim was the game feeling quite lonely when you’re out on some desolate tundra on your own, and they achieved a feeling of loneliness purely by being unable to populate a world with anything that would feel like an actual human being.

    • phylum sinter says:

      While i agree that the original intent of the developer is important to enjoy, the intent of a developer must be to continue their work if they have taken the time to open up their sources and allow for modability of that work.

      For the first playthrough, and actually for a good time afterwards i only used the official hd texture pack, but after around 270 hours in i got curious and installed a few quests, they kind of paled in comparison to the official stuff so i wasn’t eager to try any others, but at this point i feel like there have been a few great mods (Moonpath to Elsweyr being one on the top of my head) that really honor the lore and the world just as well as the official stuff. But to each his own.

    • Kyokushinoyama says:

      Just dropping by to thank you, Duncan, for using my preset.
      Knowing it’s part of your tools is some kind of reward to me.

  2. Prolar Bear says:

    “Do not go in the adult section. Do not go in the adult section.”

    No, really. I don’t want my character to become pregnant from a random critter, thanks.

  3. DatonKallandor says:

    I don’t understand what the point of this article is. Why would anyone care about what the author thinks “looks good” and peddles as objectively good looking. Why would anyone care about how to fake screenshots into looking good for a particular game out of thousands.

    Why would you spend precious RPS real estate hocking mods and modding hubs of more than questionable ethics (both legally and morally) instead of, oh I don’t know, mods that enhance and change the GAMEPLAY of Skyrim for the better?

    This tries to elevate skyrim into some sort of graphical gaming godhood, which is laughable on so many levels, while ignoring the entire host of problems the game has, both visually and much more importantly in terms of gameplay.

    • Laurentius says:

      So it’s not for you, go figure and read something else on RPS.
      I love this, and I love DET, it’s true PC goodness.

    • Duncan Harris says:

      I fear you’re overlooking the sizeable community of people who ‘fake’ screenshots of Bethesda’s TES and Fallout games as a hobby quite separate from actually playing them. Modding communities are democracies, yes? Gamers, yes? Yet you’re trying to invalidate whole swathes of mods and their users?

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Since you seem unaware, the author is also the guy behind Dead End Thrills, a site dedicated to fancy screenshots of games. He’s gotten quite a large following over time, many of whom have requested guides on how to achieve the same look in their games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nogo says:

      I really liked it. And the entire first half talks about basic techniques that could even apply to real life, so your complaint is dumb and wrong.

      But really, I wasn’t aware you are more important than me, so sorry for liking it.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      This article is not about Skyrim, it’s about photography and how, with a tool like Skyrim, it can be taken into a digital realm.

    • iainl says:

      The point is that thousands of people (at a minimum) bombard the author with questions about how he makes Skyrim look so much better in his images than it does on their computers, and why won’t he give them the secret to doing that? So here’s the answer. I may not have contacted him directly before, but I’ve certainly wanted to know.

      So it’s for people like me. I’ve taken away some ideas on how to translate my real-world knowledge of photography into how the Skyrim camera can be manipulated, the fact that new Clouds mod exists (and looks stunning), how to force some fogging to hide the way Skyrim (even with some modding) starts to look really fake at long distances on a clear day (it doesn’t model the way colour and crispness alters at a distance due to the atmosphere), and most of all a reminder that even if I do hack about some more, the careful manual fiddling that can produce shots of this quality isn’t applicable to the kind of universal settings that are appropriate to -playing- the game, anyway.

      Some of which I sort of knew, sure. But it’s great to have this laid out so clearly – personally, it’s one of the best articles the site’s had in a while, and my favourite in the series.

  4. Felixader says:

    Oh for Blabla’s sake, i just finished my first attempt at modding ever with modding skyrim, using the latest entry on this heres page.

    Now i have to fight temptation to do it all over again X-P

  5. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Your recent Skywind screenshots have put me in an extremely good mood, so I guess I have to thank you for that.

    And yes, Boris’ behaviour is astonishingly vile at times, which is too bad considering the outstanding work he does. The new memory management stuff I would absolutely recommend even to people who would switch off the ENB shininess – it just helps THAT MUCH with the technical flaws even the unmodified game shows.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Morangie says:

    OH GOD WHY DID I GO IN THE ADULT SECTION

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      You have only yourself to blame. Repent, sinner, and Horace may again look fondly upon you.

    • Didden says:

      You know its the weird part of town when one of the posts reads ‘Why is my penis missing!’. Oh humanity, your weirdness never ceases to amuse me.

    • geldonyetich says:

      Seconded.

      Though I have to say, I’m rather amazed somebody put extensive effort into a mod that simulates all the most awkward and mundane aspects of female biology. If he ever gets bored of mod work, he might find a future for himself in gynecology.

  7. pakoito says:

    No sane amount of mods can fix Skyrim’s borefest of gameplay, which is a terrible pity.

    • XhomeB says:

      It’s kind of funny when you think about it. Bethesda’s releases are flat out TERRIBLE cRPGs. Poorly written, poorly designed, ADHD crowd-friendly with static worlds in which your actions mean absolutely nothing. Yet despite the flaws which every other game would be ripped to shreds for, they get perfect reviews, because hey, “game jurnalizm” (“give it a poor review and you won’t be invited to our exclusive parties, where our new games will be announced. Signed, ZeniMax”).

      That aside, their games are for the most part great modding platforms – and that’s one thing they’ve been doing right since Morrowind. To be honest though, I can’t shake the feeling most PC gamers wouldn’t bother with Bethesda’s releases if it wasn’t for mod support.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        What compels a lot of people to play Elder Scrolls games is the exploration. The combat and rpg mechanics are merely there because they are supporting the core gameplay. So claiming that its an objectively bad rpg is rather missing the point, although it certainly is understandable if that isn’t your cup of tea.

        As a side note, I’m curious, what makes Skyrim appealing to people with ADHD

        • Dinjoralo says:

          As someone who is actually diagnosed with ADHD, I can tell you that I do not find Skyrim appealing at all. And I can’t understand how something meant to support the core gameplay can be so barebones and hollow.

          • mouton says:

            The poster obviously did not mean the actual ADHD, just like no one talks about actual OCD when saying “OCD”.

            Yes, I agree that perhaps we should not use these terms lightly, but what can one do.

          • Snargelfargen says:

            Yeah, I was being facetious about the ADHD bit for the same reason.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            That’s kind of the point though. Skyrim is the exact opposite of what someone with ADHD would probably enjoy. He’s just spewing out buzzwords in an attempt to make himself look more intelligent and knowledgeable about games. In fact he just makes himself look like a bit of a bozo really.

          • XhomeB says:

            @Smoky_the_Bear
            You sure have a weird superiority complex, that’s for sure.
            TES is literally the CoD equivalent in RPG-wannabes, Bethesda is after the exact same console audience.

      • Geebs says:

        The Elder Scrolls games’ reputation for being “bad without mods” is bollocks. You can prove this by noting that most of the times someone wheels out that particular chestnut, they preface if by saying that they’ve been playing for a hundred hours already.

        A hundred hours? MUST BE A TERRIBLE GAME THEN

        • widardd says:

          playing something for 100 hours doesn’t say anything about the game’s quality. you might find some tiny bit interesting enough to play the game, although mechanics are broken. (i am looking at you CRAFTING IN SKYRIM, making dungeon treasures completely obsolete.)

          • Premium User Badge

            Harlander says:

            It does, though, it says “this is interesting enough to play for a hundred hours.”

            That’s a lot of hours, is what I’m getting at.

          • LionsPhil says:

            People do a lot of kind of dull things for long periods if they’re juuuuust preferrable to something else they should be doing. Human behaviour is not straightforward enough to assume that because someone is doing something “willingly” means that they are enjoying it.

        • Geebs says:

          Phil – I’ll look forward to testing your assertion in The Elder Scrolls Six – Smashing Yourself Repeatedly In The Genitals With A Rusty Pipe For A Hundred Hours

          • DasBlob says:

            Did that for three hours now. Pretty meh so far. I hear it gets better after ten hours or so, once you upgrade the pipe to “spiked” and / or “flaming”. I might install the “improved plumbing materials” mod, too.

          • DasBlob says:

            Past ten hours now. The different pipes add a bit of variety. Not an ounce of strategy required, though – it’s all just down to smashing as fast as you can and hoping to land a decent blow.

          • Geebs says:

            You need to put more points into Blunt Weapons, Supple Wrist and Legs Akimbo. Also if you reach Expert in Fitting, you can increase your rusty pipe’s damage output beyond 100%. Keep it up it, the first twenty hours are really just a tutorial.

      • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

        Yes. The only reason people would praise something you wouldn’t is due to corruption, and the only reason people could enjoy something you don’t is due to mental illness. Well-observed. I wish you all the success you clearly deserve.

      • nakke says:

        If anyone likes TES they are at least corrupt and probably have ADHD aswell. Check.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I’d say its completely anti-ADHD tbh. Stop using buzzwords.
        The appeal of Eldar Scrolls games is exploring completely open and graphically stunning worlds (at least with Morrowind and Oblivion, Skyrim looked a bit meh), sometimes spending hours not really doing much. It’s the opposite of what somebody with a low attention span wants.

    • lautalocos says:

      indeed. i player trough skyrim many hours, saying to myself “im sure the next part is when the game gets better”

      it never got better. horrible gameplay. bad writing. completely unbalanced RPG mechanics. boring quests. buggy.

      i kept playing some time, until there was a bug in the main quest that made impossible to finish the quest. i can undestand a bug in a secondary quest, but a bug on a a primary quest? unforgivable.

      it definetely has a lot of content, but that content is pretty bad.

    • Guzzleguts says:

      I think 1 is a fairly sane number: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/19281/?

      • ulix says:

        I’d also go this far. “One” definitely seems like a sane number:

        http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/9286

      • schlusenbach says:

        Requiem is sooo good… add Frostfall, Realistic Needs, ‘Death Alternative – money or life’, never use quicksave/load again and skyrim is a fantastic game.

      • pakoito says:

        The AI still can’t even jump or coordinate in Requiem. Arrow-railgun and git-gud elitists have so much Stockholm syndrome over this mod.

  8. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    We’re so close to being able to fall in love with rendered beings. The screenshot of the woman unsettlingly reminded me of this. I really don’t feel well. Thankfully the lighting is flawed.

  9. Premium User Badge

    MajorManiac says:

    Great article, and thanks for the ‘Real Clouds’ tip. I’ve past over it thinking it was just a re-textured cloud mod.

    I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the BOSS tool. This can save allot of heart-ache by sorting the order of you mods to prevent any bugs/crashes, and provides a report on any potential problems. Link – http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/6/?

    • Duncan Harris says:

      I’d assumed BOSS would come up in that browse through the Nexus top-lists. You’re right, though, it’s one of the essentials along with SKSE.

      I also ignored Real Clouds at first but have a thing for any mod that tries to fill that unnatural void between the player and the scenery. Air’s supposed to have stuff in it. I also forgot to mention that there’s a ‘wispy fog’ effect you can summon through Director’s Tools that blows these particle clouds across the camera. Really good for adding variation to otherwise flat areas, not to mention an otherworldly glow to the areas around High Hrothgar.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      I find BOSS, Wrye Bash and Tes5edit essential.

  10. Eight Rooks says:

    Absolutely loved

    I’m not joking when I say that this is the single square foot of Skyrim where I’ve found this precise combination of lighting.

    That one paragraph is basically a wonderful way to sum up just how stupid the frothing trolls on Kotaku et al get when trying to demean what you (and the DET community) do. God knows I don’t share your taste in specific aesthetic choices a lot of the time, but even then I’m pretty much convinced it’d be ridiculous to belittle the effort that goes into those shots, and much of this article explains why I feel that way far better than I ever could. Top stuff. And yes, like many other people, I’m sure, now I want to install Skyrim yet again, you heartless bastard. :p

  11. gschmidl says:

    It’s in the title already, but do go to Dragonporn, which despite its name is consistently hilarious.

  12. Sire says:

    Absolutely love your site Duncan! Keep it up!

  13. araczynski says:

    mods for elder scrolls are great, anyone who plays that series stock ON A PC should just slap themselves and get a console version and stop pretending. The games (skyrim/oblivion) are stupidly released with console ‘quality’ textures/features/etc since they’re now designed first and foremost for consoles, so that they can claim no favoritism towards one or the other in terms of quality. about the only thing they ever bother changing/tweaking a little is the UI, and even that needs mods to fix.

  14. subenji says:

    Just chiming in to say I strongly recommend you ditch the Nexus Mod manager and get the Skyrim Mod Organiser instead ( http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/1334/? ) – it keeps each mod’s files separated from each other and the Data folder, allowing for quick and easy control over priority and file overwrite conflicts, and keeping your Skyrim’s Data folder clean. On running the game, it does a bit of filesystem trickery so Skyrim sees the various mod folders as part of the Data folder – in the order you specified the mods to be loaded in.

    I spent the best part of a weekend dealing with mods that overwrote each others’ files conflicting and trying to get NMM to organise things before I discovered MO, and now I’ll never look back.

    • Duncan Harris says:

      Ooooh.

    • Scilantius says:

      While I’ll admit to not having tried Skyrim Mod Organiser myself, I’ve used Wrye Bash ever since Oblivion, and have used it through Fallout 3, New Vegas and Skyrim – and haven’t found reason yet to turn back.

      Sure, it might require a bit of initial investment of time/effort on your part to set things up to your liking, but once you do, and you have all the installers and everything – it is perfect for showing conflicts between mods, allowing you to quickly switch between them,

      I don’t really know how to sell things, as evidenced by the previous paragraphs, but I do wholeheartedly recommend Wrye Bash to anyone that’s looking to use more that a couple of mods in their Bethesda games.

      • dorn says:

        I used Wyre Bash for years in Beth games. You should switch to Mod Organizer now though. It’s far superior on this front as well.

  15. rightyeauhuh says:

    The screenshots of people from these games are always just the worst. People don’t think shit like that looks good, right?

  16. Rockman says:

    Not sure what this is getting at, my Skyrim looks so damn sexy (all the time) it looks like it comes out next year.

  17. Didden says:

    I once spent two weeks modding oblivion, but it was impressive in the end. For me, what I look for, is dark dungeons with only real lighting – SO SPOOKY. Sadly that hasn’t been done yet for Skyrim, so I’m holding off / playing / modding it for now.

    Great shots though and excellent article.

    • dorn says:

      They did that for Skyrim quite a while ago. There are tons of realistic lighting mods with dark interiors.

    • floher says:

      What he said.

      Check stuff like Climates of Tamriel, ELFX, RCRN, Realistic Lighting Overhaul, ENB (mentioned in the article, heavy on FPS though).
      There’s more, but those are the big ones. I’m using RCRN (“pure” preset) + ELFX and without light sources you see no further than 5 meters.

  18. Jupiah says:

    I don’t really understand the appeal of heavily modding and changing your game just to take screenshots. I like to actually play my games. But I still found this guide rather interesting and enjoyed reading about your insights in the unexpectedly complicated process of making perfect screenshots. So thanks for good article.

  19. Urthman says:

    I love Duncan’s RPS posts and hope to see many more.

  20. racccoon says:

    376hrs of play so far I need another Skyrim standalone. :(

  21. Jakkar says:

    A hell of an article about aesthetics posted on the site I feel best represents ‘gameplay over graphics’ values. Perhaps I’ll submit something for consideration comprising a report on my heavily modded play-experience, rather than how it looks?

  22. Yosharian says:

    Seems silly just to play a game in order to take screenshots…

    I expected to see a good quality article on modding playing an extensively modded skyrim, which I just recently did with 50+ mods.

    Also, no mention of RCRN? Great shadows + lighting without ENB compatibility problems and framerate hits.

    • Duncan Harris says:

      Having had this conversation a dozen times, I don’t see how playing a game to take screenshots – assuming there’s a challenge in doing so – is even half as silly as playing a game for Achievement points or other cynically devised intangibles. Having played games for over 30 years, the stories and gameplay mechanics really haven’t changed that much, which to me makes an awful lot of what you’re suggesting is ‘normal’ seem like a total waste of time.

      I explained several times that I wasn’t going to write an extensive mod list, as that’s been done over and over again and, by the time you’ve accounted for every possible taste, you’ve basically made a bad version of the Skyrim Nexus top 100.

      • Yosharian says:

        I don’t play games for achievements either.

        I’ve played games for about 25 years… what, are we comparing e-penis now?

        I fail to see how mentioning RCRN turns your article into a top 100 mods list. RCRN is one of the best non-ENB ways to improve Skyrim’s shadow system.

  23. Chalk says:

    This is really no different to photography.

    Whether it’s a pro-photographer or a photo superstar on Flickr or DeviantArt, the thing they don’t tell you is that their photos only look like that 1% of the time. And even then, only from certain locations, and with the lighting at just the right blend. They have to be in the right location at the right time and that moment may only occur for a few seconds or a few minutes out of months and months of waiting.

    A National Geographic photographer shoots between 20,000 and 60,000 photos for an assignment, out of that maybe one or two dozen will be good enough to appear in the magazine.

    The secret is patience and timing. And of course the biggest factor is experience, along with knowing how to use your equipment.

    It seems to me that taking exceptional screenshots in Skyrim is very much like photography…

  24. Raztaman says:

    I must admit, I’m one of those people included that looks for every mod possible to fill in the gaps of Skyrim (of which there are freaking MANY), and did just end up digging myself a hole everytime. Although I’m actually intrigued by this ENB memory management (I gave up on modding and playing Skyrim on PC months ago now), I also used a mod once based around grass which resulted in a huge reduction in crashes somehow, it’s nice to see there’s actually something dedicated to it at this point.

    At the end of the day, mods are great but the sheer amount of mods available for Skyrim screams to me, not that the editor is easy to use or that people are necessarily creative (I’m not saying a lot of Skyrim modders don’t deserve respect, especially for their patience!!), but that Skyrim is fundamentally missing so much you’d expect to experience in an RPG.

    I’ve gone over this in my head and with friends countless times over, and I get that Skyrim is a Northern wilderness, but it’s so damn empty it’s not even funny. Regardless of it being a winter wasteland, Nords are still resistant to frost dammit and can build shit just as good as anyone else, in my eyes there’s no real reason for Skyrim to lack so much variation and choice other than pure laziness on Bethesda’s part, especially when marketing the game to console gamers comes into the picture (essentially guaranteeing sales with a few seconds of live action footage that have NOTHING to do with the game itself).

    IMO, the most necessary mods are those that add more to the environments of the game, not grapics. Better Cities for Oblivion ring a bell for anyone? That’s a mod to be admired (and it’s not long had some decent updates I might point out), and the same should be more readily available for Skyrim as most of the game’s settlement enhancing mods are incomplete or just plain not up to scratch in some way or another, potentially changing the feel of settlements rather than just expanding on them.

    I for one am not sure if I’m excited or worried about any future Elder Scrolls games – excluding Elder Scrolls Online. Bethesda needs to make more of an effort to fix their damn engines, and rethink the way they do RPGs because something’s gone wrong since the variety of Morrowind. Even then a bit more consequence would be nice, take a picture from CD Projekt Red and the Witcher games.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Xantonze says:

    Thanks Mr. Harris. I love your website, and it’s convinced me to play several games, based on the mood oozing from your shots (and their titles).
    Very interesting to read some “behind the scene” info about the way you take them.
    Keep up the amazing work!

  26. bill says:

    Likewise, when someone asks me what English weather is like, I don’t answer: ‘It’s like that evening drive between Dorset and Wiltshire when a torrential downpour gave way to just the best sunshine that lit up the faces of distant historic buildings and cast painterly shadows across dale and field.’ What I tell them is that, nine times out of ten, ‘it’s shit.’

    Please please please answer the first one.

    It’s a pet peeve of mine how brits spend their whole time telling the world how shit everything in the UK is, and don’t seem to realise that that is essentially creating the stereotype of the UK. And millions of people’s entire view of the UK is simply that stereotype.

    I know it’s all very british to be negative, cynical and downplay everything. But people all around take that to heart, or at the very least take it on face value and assume it’s the only truth. So that’s a few billion quid the UK economy probably loses out on every year because people decide to go to Paris instead. (note that no one thinks the weather in Paris is shit, despite it being essentially the same as the UK (as is most of northern europe).
    The weather, food, trains, customer service, etc.. in the UK are no worse than most places… but you can guarantee that most of the world doesn’t get that.

    Ok, rant over.

    • Zekiel says:

      My friend is a Brit living in Paris and he says he often finds it bizarre that French people are constantly nice about their own country. It’s so ingrained for British people to be self deprecating about their own nation (while secretly thinking its the best one, of course).

  27. waltC says:

    OK, thanks, Duncan, for showing me what the UK/weather looks like for most of the year…I’m guessing the image directly above the “Mods” section showing the dilapidated buildings set against the foggy mountainous background is probably what 90% of the UK looks like for most of the year. Thanks for sharing that. As an aside, do all of you still wear those high, furry, cylindrical hats and the red coats? (I’m betting that’s still true.)

    You’re our cousins across the pond, of course. But looking at these pictures I can see why a great portion of the population wanted to get the hell out of there a couple of hundred years ago. But I guess you can get used to just about anything given enough time….;)

    (j/k!)

  28. Dave Tosser says:

    I remember visiting Dead End Thrills on Skyrim’s release date, back when Duncan Harris slid amusing comments beneath every screenshot. One of the things he said in reference to the very first Skyrim shot is that, if this is what Skyrim looks like on day 1, imagine what it’ll look like on day 365.

    I actually came back a year later just to see what his Skyrim stuff looked like, and sure enough the game has been modded into a hundred different types of bloom-ravaged blurry landscapes. Perfect.

  29. SominiTheCommenter says:

    I did went into the adult section and the first thread was entitled “Request for a different kind of nipple”, with gems as “The body I found for New Vegas had a particular kind of nipples that is actually not too uncommon in real life and extremely common in manga / anime” and “Every single Skyrim body I’ve seen in every screenshot has showcased nipples which remain essentially featureless (flat) on the areola”.
    Still can’t stop laughing.

  30. Chilichunks says:

    I really, really, want to know what armor sets those are. They’re absolutely incredible, especially that red leather jacket. Please for the love of all that is good in this world, somebody help me out here and tell me what that armor is.