Guide to Optimizing/Modding Oblivion
Step 1A - First DO NOT install oblivion to program files. Instead make a folder in your User partition for Oblivion. This should make Vista happy about modding and altering the game. If you put it in program files, Vista is going to give you hell every time you try to mod it if it even runs at all.
Step 1B- STOP!! Did you buy the game recently? Most of the articles are old and they will tell you to patch it. DO NOT PATCH THE GAME OF THE YEAR ADDITION. It is already the recent version and patching it with the official patch will destabilize your game.
Step 2- After Installing Oblivion, download these programs. I know its a hassle but trust me you will thank GOD you did in the end.
--OBMM- for installing and organizing mods
--Wrye Bash- For integrating mods
--Boss- Auto sorts your mods with one click. No more endless load order tweaking.
--Tees4edit- Tells you what mods are conflicting.
--OBSE- Scripting software needed for most super cool mods
These will take you an hr to setup and install and they will save you ungodly amounts of time and frustration. YOU WILL NOT ENJOY A HEAVILY MODDED OBLIVION WITHOUT THEM... unless you are a masochist.
Step 3- Down load some mod lists.
Step 4-Download Unofficial patches. Make sure you do everything through OBMM so all mods can be easily removed. Otherwise your oblivion folder will become a tangled mess of unwanted files. Only texture files for bodys, faces,maps; and plugins for OBMM should be uploaded directly into your Oblivion directory now. (more OBMM instructions further down)
Step 5- Optimize graphics. Oblivion is a stuttering nightmare without these add-ons. Especially if you want to have alot of mods, are running it from a Lappy (like me) or have an older computer
These are REQUIRED
--Hrmns Oblivion Scrip Optimizer- Keeps your scripts from being stupidly long and slowing the game. LOAD IT FIRST (Boss will tell you so too :-P ).
--Quiet feet- DOUBLY REQUIRED for LAPPYS. Oblivion walking sounds are bugged and will weigh down your soundcard without this.
--Streamline 3.1- People will tell you this slows down your game. They are idiots who have installed this on default without experimenting with the settings. After installing read the config info and edit the Streamline ini to match your computer. ON DEFAULT IT WILL PROBABLY SLOW YOU DOWN!! In particular bring the fps range up, set combat fps very low (I have it at 3), bring the fog closer, allow clipping behind the fog, increase interval between Streamsaves, and lower rate of cache clearing (this is important if your GFX card is better than your cpu (like me). Note: if your choke point is your GFX card or you intend to overclock you might want to go the other route and set cache-clearing high). KEEP TWEAKING UNTIL YOU FIND THE RIGHT SETTINGS. STREAMLINE WORKS!!! You just have to be patient and scientific with it: Experiment, experiment experiment.
Low poly/shortgrass- There are many versions of this. Oblivion grass will eat up your cpu and make loading choppy without it.
Step 6- Okay now the part you've been waiting for, the fun part. MODDING. Honestly sometimes I think modding oblivion is more fun than playing the game.
A) Essentials: There aren't too many that I'd consider essential, but here's a few
--MMM- I have tried every overhaul. This is the only one I use now. Why? Because its doesn't stick its nose into every ^&%!!! feature of the game. If you use other overhauls welcome to a world of endless conflicts and searches for compatible mods. MMM heightens difficulty so that mods won't make you uber by comparison, and it adds a whole lot of creatures and items to leveled lists. All its other functions are modular so that you can avoid conflicts. I strongly advise against the other overhauls.
--COBL- Use it, love it, download every mod that loves it too. COBL gets your mods 'friendly' with one another. Absolutely essential if you want to have: custom houses or realism (survival mods). This mod is great bc/ it makes Oblivion an always unexpected experience. Components (like items and food) you install will no longer be limited to their set locations, they might show up in other places too.
--Better Cities- The Oblivion cities are flat out bland without this. Note streamline will make it workable but your fps will be lower in cities. Still it is well worth the hit.
--Deadly Reflex- Chop off the heads of your enemies and flay them with fireballs. The essential combat gameplay mod. If anything conflicts with this one, get rid of it.
--Supreme Magicka- Magic in Vanilla oblivion is flat out lame. You will find it hard to be a pure mage wittout this mod. It has a Deadlyreflex compatible version. (other options: LAME and Midas Magic or ALL THREE. Make sure you use BOSS to sort them tho otherwise your gonna have bad conflicts).
--Silentvoice extender- Required for most quest mods bc/ without it unvoiced NPC dialogue will not remain on screen for more than a moment. You will need it unless you are a speedreader
--Borderless Cyrodil- Required for any mods that expand the game world's geography
--Toaster Says Share- Made by the most creative Modder for this game (IMO), it is a simple but expansive companion recruiter. Now you can recruit any named NPC in the game!! Do not get any other recruiter, they are all more limiting than toaster's and probably more likely to conflict.
--TNGD and Ozmo's Textures- A female body mesh based on HGEC that doesn't look like it was designed by a hormone addled adolescent and really nice textures to go with it. Without this oblivion women will be pasty looking manaquins. Note: Make sure you use OBMM's archive invalidation tool after installing these or any other direct changes to Oblivions directory otherwise they won't show up. Also make sure you update your vanilla armors to the new body type otherwise they may not fit.
--Robert's Male Body- I don't bother with it cause I don't play male toons and have no desire to see them without their armor on, but if you do you'll want it.
--Level Slow- Many variants of this. Get the simplest one, so that it doesn't conflict with other skill adjustments. If you don't have level slow you will advance so fast that you will miss out on huge swathes of gameplay.
--All +5 Attributes- Yes its a little cheaty but who wants to be constantly worrying about what skill they are advancing and how many times they've advanced it. There are other versions but I recommend this one bc/ its the simplest I have found. It fixes the problem allowing you to immerse yourself in the game world and it is unlikely to conflict with other mods.
B)Nonessential mods you can't pass up
--Crowded roads/crowded cities- Ever wonder why vanilla Cyrodil is empty. Did a plague just hit the damn place?? These mods take care of it. Be careful with crowded cities and Better Cities. They work together but your fps will take a further hit in urban areas. Worth it on my PC. Note: do not try to recruit these extras with Toasters mod.
--Vampire Overhauls- You'll need this one if you intend to become a vampire, unless you want your toon to have the face of Ronald Reagan for the rest of the game. There are many to choose from, but choose the best one bc/ they ALL conflict with one another.
--Physical Throwable Crates'n Chests Gold Edition- I initially recomended it here bc/ it is such an amazing mod and truly revolutionizes the physics engine. However, the amount of glitches in it have made me uninstall. I also noticed a substantial gain in FPS after it was removed. Having so many items in the havok engine really slows you down. However if you have a massively powerful comp and a massively strong toon who can rearrange NPC shelves and beds when they go berserk, you might want to try it.
--Stealth Overhaul- Makes stealth work the way it should. Allows sniping and penalizes you for backstabbing with claymores or sneaking in heavy armor. Essential for stealth toons.
--Living Economy- Fixes and expands the mercantile system. Makes it so you get more skill credit for selling large numbers of an item (in valilla selling 99999999 potions in a stack is the same as selling 1 potion in terms of XP).
--All Natural- A good texture mod for the worldspace. Note: do not make your vegetation bigger if using Better Cities. It will cause massive clipping.
--Combat Fumbling- Penalizes you for opening your inventory during combat. Come-on who can don heavy armor while fighting ten daedra? Without this you will be tempted to open your inventory and combat will not be engaging. The game became twice as immersive and three times as fun after I installed this.
--CraftBits- Haven't experimented to much with it yet, but I like what I see so far. Its an immersive crafting system. And it works with COBL. Anything that works with COBL is a good bet since COBL was designed by modders who care about minimizing conflicts and maximizing integration and only modders of the same mindset use it.
--Legendary Abilities & Elys Uncapper - Allows all your skills and abilities to break the 100 barrier; and NPCs too :-) (except alchemy for which you will need a sepperate mod)
--Realistic Force- Many versions of this. Search for the newest. Without it bodies hit by spells will fly straight up in the air and collapse as if they were made of puddy.
C) Mods to Avoid
--Large Overhauls- Mods should be... modular. Big overhauls other than MMM defeat the purpose of modding by trying to fix everything in the game in one shot. They will prevent you from using many other mods which may be interesting in their own right and many of their fixes will be less up to date and less creative than ones existing independently.
--Unpopular body meshes- DO NOT download body meshes which are not being used currently and by lots of players. Stick with the two big meshes (Roberts or HGEC [of which TGND is a version]). If you pick an obscure or old mesh, you will severely limit your choice of apparal.
--Overly Complex Mods- You will have 100s of mods installed by the time your done. If you download ones which have 5 different hotkeys, bewildering settings and the like, you will get lost fast. Also simple interface building is evidence for simple scripting which lies behind sed interface. As a result simple mods are likely to run smoother and have less conflicts.
--Out of Theme Mods- You are walking through Cyrodil and suddenly you find a skyscraper... These sort of mods are neat at first, but they get old fast. All daedric chainsaws aside, try to stick to the games theme and you will have a more immersive experience.
--God Mode Mods- These mods also get old fast. At least try to keep the game challenging by balancing out player and monster buffing mods.
--Visual Mods Without Images- If a modder downloaded a house but didn't bother to post a picture of it, you pretty much know it ain't worth living in. Modders who are proud of their work will usually spam their link with images of its beauty, these are the mods you want.
Step 7) Set Up
--USE OBMM for all non texture/plugin mods. This is easy! Just make a temp folder, move the mod's raw data to it (containing the oblivion file path [set up this way already in most all mods]). Now hit create on OBMM screen and select that folder. Right click on the mods esp and select import details. That will add the name. Edit description and readme if you want (I usually put Load order and conflict notes in description so that I can easily see them with a mouse-over) then hit create OMOD. It will compact it and walla you are done. Now you just select it in the mods screen and hit activate to activate it.
--Now use Boss to sort. Make sure you click the bat file not the exe. It will autosort and tell you any which it didn't know. Sort these using OBMM and place them near similar mods. ***Note- Boss is not a genie and it makes mistakes. Always double check it. For example, when I use BOSS it puts Deadly Reflex 1/3 up in the load order and breaks the mod.
--Now open Wrye Bash and make a bashed patch. Right click on bashed patch in your mods tab (there should be one provided along with the other mods you've installed) and select rebuild patch. In general you can merge everything that is merge-able and import all thats importable bc/ if it shows up that means the author meant it to do so. He/she knows more about their mod than YOU do! WB will give you other options as well some of which are specific to COBL. Click on the help icon in the lower left to learn about these.
--After the patch is built make sure WB deactivated any mods that are import only. It usually but not always does this automatically. If they aren't unchecked you will get CTDs.
--Start your game using OBSE exe (NOT THE DEFAULT OBLIVION)
--Once you're in the game world for a bit hit ctrl/home to open your steamline menu. Hit additional options and intitialize your new settings. Note any changes, good or bad. You will likely need to tweak it again.
--If you experience any weirdness or CTDs open up Tes4edit and snoop around your mods (it will open up a tree of them on the left and show path conflicts on the right). Look for any red lines. Red means conflict. Safe bet: If you see lots of red, get rid of it.
Step 8 Vista Sucks
Yes it really does. If you have Vista here are some options
-Disable UAC. Another Vista Fascistic File control operation. If you followed Step 1A this might not be an issue for you so don't disable it unless you really need to. If you do need to, the disabling function is in MSCONFIG. *Note: This can make you more vulnerable to viruses so be careful and if you have it disabled only visit safe sites. This may be a good time to quit surfing for anything porn related..
-Run Oblivion and all Oblivion Software in Compatibility Mode- This is accessed through the control panel/programs window. Make sure you select all exe's associated with the game including the OBSE loader.
-Start all Oblivion applications (especially OBSE as admin [right click to find the option]). Or simply set them to run as administrator. This option is in the same place as compatibility mode.
-Next time you buy a comp don't get Vista. In fact avoid anything with the Microsoft label. Microsoft and its affiliates are a monopoly and the business model of a monopoly does not include making a better product.
Step 9 Nvidia Sucks
Yes it really does.
-Download all the nvidia black-screen fixes. There are alot of them bc/ there is more than one nvidia blackscreen glitch
-Update your drivers
-Set your GFX card to 60 fps.
-next time you buy a comp don't get an nvidia card.
Step 10 Other Things that help run all games smoothly
-Virtual Memory- This is set low by default on many comps. It can be up to double your RAM (if you have enough disk space). Search for a tutorial if you don't know how to change it.
-Start up- Open up msconfig in the run screen in your start menu. Get rid of all that useless crap Windows puts on your computer. Or better yet open up task manager find their exes select open file location and let them feel the wrath of your shift-delete. Note: DO NOT SHIFT-DELETE WINDOWS SYSTEM FILES OR HARDWARE SYSTEM FILES!!!! Google search all unknown exe's to be sure. Note: If you are on Vista remember that it thinks it owns your computer not you. Therefore you will need freeware to delete some nasty exe's or it will stop you. I recomend File Assasin. It is shift-delete armed with a Hatori-Hanzo katana. It will slay your digital vermin.
-Get Auslogics Defrag- This kicks the **** out of the windows default defragger (not a hard task). It's freeware which means it's a virus that spreads by being awesome. Run it after installing Oblivion or any big mods.
-Get a Registry Optimizer- I use MZ Registry Optimizer. It is also freewaree. It is also awesome.
Step 11) Enjoy Playing the Best Game ever made (which is ironically the worst game ever made if you do not follow many of the above steps). You will not need another game for a long time and you will never need to pay for expansions. And REMEMBER! Give profuse thanks to all modders who do good work, so they will keep doing it!
We are only temporary custodians of the particles which made us - Stephen Hawking
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