November may bring an unpleasant surprise for Skyrim Special Edition players, as one prolific modder has warned that changes in an update will mean a large part of Skyrim modding "is going to be broken for an unknown length of time". While it's common for updates to break mods, supposedly this will require a whole lot more work than usual to get back on track. And there's a risk some will never be fixed.
"The upcoming Anniversary Edition of Skyrim is going to be much more disruptive to the modding scene than is commonly believed," warned "extrwi" of the Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE) team on Reddit yesterday.
SKSE is a tool which lets mods do more than Skyrim's official mod tools allow, tapping deeper into the game to do fancier things. Many, many mods rely on SKSE, and some mods tap deeper into Skyrim in other ways. The problem according to extrwi, who says they've spoken with Bethesda, is that the update hitting Skrim SE alongside the Anniversary Edition will compile the game with a newer version of Visual Studio—and that will have a side-effect of breaking the known routes to tap into it.
"This changes the way that the code is generated in a way that forces mod developers to start from scratch finding functions and writing hooks," extrwi said. The explanation gets technical, so read the Reddit thread for the full deets. Basically, they think people will have a lot to figure out before they can fix the methods and tools that more-advanced mods build on.
"Doing this work takes a reasonable amount of time for each plugin," they said. "I can probably sit there over a few nights and bang out an updated version of SKSE, but my main concern is for the rest of the plugins out there. The plugin ecosystem has been around long enough that people have moved on, and code is left unmaintained. Effectively everyone who has written a native code plugin will need to do at least some amount of work to support AE. This realistically means that the native code mod scene is going to be broken for an unknown length of time after AE's release."
So some projects might take ages to update, and those which aren't updated might not work. That's why extrwi suggests taking steps to ensure that your copy of Special Edition isn't updated with the patch. If you play Skyrim heavily modded, you're probably already onboard with skipping updates so you don't have to wait for SKSE to be updated. This time, yeah, you might really not want to wait.
If you don't use these fancy mods, mind, I think you might be fine?
Skyrim's Anniversary Edition will launch on November 11th, the game's tenth birthday, bundling a load of the 'Creation Club' microtransaction modbits in with the Special Edition. I believe its main purpose is to bring the game to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Xeriex X, but we'll also see Bethesda release new bits for SE too, including fishing at long last.
Speaking of updates breaking game-tapping tools for Bethesda RPGs, the Fallout 3 update which removed Games For Windows Live from its Steam edition has also (predictably, inadvertently) broken compatibility with the Fallout Script Extender. No word yet on when the tool's makers will fix that.
Ta to cheery RPS fanzine PC Gamer for pointing this out.