Archive for February, 2014


After all of that running around, downloading, testing and installing mods. it turns out that New Vegas still feels a bit old. Maybe not “old” per se, but “tired” in that even with the perks and mods, it still has that “been there, done that” kind of feel to it. I strongly suspect that close to 1000 hours of playing time goes a long way toward explaining that. After playing up 11 or 12 levels (haven’t really touched the main quest or the DLCs), I decided to fire up Mass Effect. This was largely because of the conversation between Gopher and StarduskLP over on YouTube.

Gopher and StarDuskLP (a couple of weeks ago)

Somewhere in their 90-minute conversation, both Gopher and Stardusk reminded the audience that Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were awesome games. Neither seemed particularly fond of Mass Effect 3, although for different reasons. Stardusk’s reasons were more or les in line with mine, while Gopher’s seemed a bit more forgiving, but still disappointed with the final release. In any event, it seemed worthwhile to go fire up Mass Effect, especially since I didn’t need to worry over-much about DLCs (there were only two). That turned out to be a misplaced assumption, but still…

My immediate problem was that after downloading and installing Mass Effect, it absolutely refused to launch. I tried two solutions, one of which worked, but I’m not sure which one because of other issues:

Solution #1: run the game as an administrator (even if your user account already has administrator privileges). Maneuver to the Mass Effect binaries folder in your Steam installation(Steam\steamapps\common\Mass Effect\Binaries) and right-click the MassEffect.exe. From the context menu either select “Run as administrator” or “Send to –> Desktop (create shortcut)” and run that shortcut as an administrator. You can do much the same with the MassEffectLauncher.exe in the Mass Effect folder, but the “Play” button was a dead end. The launcher would let me into the configuration utility to set graphics options, though.

Solution #2: in the same binaries folder, copy the PhysXCore.dll file to “C:\Program Files (x86)\NVIDIA Corporation\PhysX\Engine\v2.7.2\” (I needed to create the v2.7.2 folder, which required elevated privileges).

One of those worked, but again, I’m not sure which one since I was messing with DLC-related issues at the same time. My last saved game was made with both “Bring Down the Sky” and “Pinnacle Station” installed, but neither of those DLCs came with the newly downloaded game. For “Pinnacle Station,” I fired up my Origin client, downloaded it and ran the installer. The installer gets install path information from the registry, so you absolutely must make sure that the game is running properly before trying to install the DLC.

“Bring Down the Sky” was a freebie DLC for PC-version purchasers, but does not come with the Steam version of the game. Steam users will need to download it separately. The link provided by BioWare in their support forums is for all languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian and German) and it did not ask me for a product key, so I assume that this will be true for other users, too: http://lvlt.bioware.cdn.ea.com/bioware/u/f/eagames/bioware/masseffect/dlc/MassEffect_BDtS_EFIGS.exe

With that taken care of, I was able to get back into the game. I’m pretty much decided that it’s about time for a Renegade playthrough, but we’ll see how that goes.

My memory being what it is, this is mostly a “what the hell was I doing and why was I doing it?” kind of post so that I won’t have to reinvent the wheel the next time I need to do this.

Hjorn, my last character in Skyrim, has done all of the major stuff, is sitting at about Level 67, and feels the need to retire from active adventuring. Contemplating the lint in his navel is not his style, but decimating the ranks of the Thalmor and Dawnguard (he cured his vampirism, but the memo apparently has not made it down to the rank-and-file) is getting pretty old. So I’m firing up New Vegas again for a while. Somewhere in the intervening time, my game got borked pretty good and wouldn’t even launch.

While I could fire up FNVEdit and figure out which missing master was actually missing and run through the whole troubleshooting process, I decided to just do a completely fresh download and reinstall. But since I likely won’t remember precisely what I did, the order in which I did it or why I did it, I’m writing it down for future reference.

What follows is a step-by-step. By the end of it all, New Vegas was running like a champ, looked pretty damned good, and had a mess of new things that I hadn’t done before. Except for the first few things (I marked them with bold exclamation marks), which are pretty much required for a stable game, this isn’t even a “recommended” mod list. Most of it is just stuff that I hadn’t used before, but which looked interesting enough to give it a go.

1. !!!! Cleared out everything in the [\Fallout New Vegas] and in the [\My Games\FalloutNV] folders. Saved a backup copy of Fallout.ini and FalloutPrefs.ini for reference (just changed the file extension to .bkup or somesuch). Downloaded and installed the game and DLCs through Steam. Launched to the main menu to make sure everything was running OK, let it detect my hardware, and generate fresh .ini files. I think my graphics card is newer than my last saved game.

2. !!!! Downloaded and installed the latest beta release of NVSE (http://nvse.silverlock.org) and the 4GB patch (link is farther down the page at NVSE). Launched game to insure both were working. I’m normally a bit leery of alphas and betas of these kinds of things, but NVSE is pretty mature by this point in time.

3. !!!! Grabbed the latest version of FNVEdit (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/34703/?) and cleaned the DLCs.

4. !!!! Ran BOSS, only to find out that Gun Runner’s Arsenal also needed to be cleaned, too. Like I said, “memory being what it is…”

5. Downloaded DarNified UI NV (http://ui.darnified.net/wip/DUIFONV/v1/DUINVv04.7z) and added file with NMM. Edited both Fallout.ini and FalloutPrefs.ini t0 include changes to the [Fonts] section (forum instructions were not real clear on which .ini). Launched the game to make sure it was working properly.

6. Downloaded and installed Mod Configuration Menu (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/42507/?) with NMM.

7. Downloaded and installed the Weapon Mod Menu (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/44515/?) with NMM.

8. Downloaded and installed NMC’s Texture Packs (Large) (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/43135/?) with NMM. Probably overkill since my monitor is only 1440×900 and differences between Large and Medium are likely unnoticeable, but my card can handle it, so why worry?

9. Downloaded and installed the Type 3 body and armor replacer (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/34825/?). The Beware of Girl mod (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/34702/?) also uses Type 3 and, I think, is a little nicer, but only install the armors from the first mod if using the second mod. Also Type 3 armor and clothing fixes for the various DLCs:

10. Downloaded and installed Cipscis’ Save Manager (CASM) and turned off all of the autosave functions in the gameplay options. CASM for New Vegas comes in two flavors: MCM and non-MCM. Went with MCM version (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/45652/?). The MCM implementation is by Gribbelshnibit8, but is otherwise Cipscis’ original.

11. Downloaded and installed Yukichigai’s Unofficial Patch (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/51664/?). Used Mission Mojave on previous play-throughs with little problem. Tried this one instead just for a different approach to the unofficial patch issue.

12. Tried downloading and installing New Vegas Anti-Crash (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/53635/?). It’s an exception-handler in .dll form that goes into the NVSE plugins folder, but the anti-virus had screaming hissy fits when I tried to launch the game and quarantined it. Rather than fight about it, I’ll live without.

13. Downloaded and installed New Vegas Enhanced Content (NVEC) (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/44204/?). Installer is a self-extracting executable, so should not be downloaded with NMM in spite of the button on the mod’s files page.

14. aMidianBorn’s Book of Flesh and Book of Steel (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/39873/?)

15. Someguy series (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/48925/?). Required for a few other mods from the same author:

16. Tales from the Burning Sands (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/37172/?)

17. New Vegas Interiors Project (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/43534/?)

18. Pip-Boy Readius (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/36646/?). Thought about the Pip-Boy 2500 that Gopher is using in his current “Let’s Play,” but decided to give this one a whirl instead. Makes the Pimpboy 3000 fix for female characters a bit useless, but that fix is also part of YUP, so a second reason not to include it.

19. Missing Ammo Recpies (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/35370/?) and Ammo Ingredients as Loot (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/35378/?)

20. Roleplayers Alternative Start (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/45739/?) with Tutorial Killer (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/47746/?) Arthmoor’s “Live Another Life” for Skyrim kind of spoiled me.

21. Novac Public Library (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/49695/?)

22. Identity Crisis Part 1 (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/39631/?) and Part 2 (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/40378/?)

23. Underwater Home (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/36121/?) and Extended Sorters for Underwater Home (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/47346/?). Jagarsfeld mod for Skyrim kind of spoiled me in this regard.

24. !!!! Ran BOSS to sort mods. Some needed to be manually placed as they are still not on the masterlist.txt from the BOSS team.

25. !!!! Generated a merged patch with FNVEdit and made it the last item in my load order with NMM. Only item of interest was that vanilla followers are apparently level-capped at 40. Either hadn’t noticed that before or forgot it (memory being what it is).

Ran through the Goodsprings part of the game. The Tutorial Killer mod couldn’t kill the pop-up for the Lockpicking tutorial at the schoolhouse, but everything else seems to be working well. One of the mods adds a grindstone near the workbench and reloading bench by Chet’s store, but it doesn’t recognize the pre-order Broad Machete as being a blade. Go figure. One of the other mods makes junk cars and trucks in to containers of minor junk items. Victor didn’t spawn in Goodsprings. I’m guessing that’s the Alternate Start mod and he’ll turn up in Novac when I get there.

I’m debating on adding an ENB into the mix, but am much more interested in something that will remove the hazy look of the Mojave. I live in a desert and that kind of haze is only present in the far distance (almost all of the time) or during the windy season. For the rest of the year it’s clear as a bell. Decided to run with Project Reality (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/42180/?) since I had already used Nevada Skies in several prior games. That seems to have taken care of the haze issue, but I added Dynavision 3 (http://www.nexusmods.com/newvegas/mods/51577/?) as I recall it having some rather granular color filters.

The game is solid as a rock after several continuous hours of play, so I’m pretty sure that I’m ready to go lay waste to the wasteland (which strikes me as being somewhat like polluting a sewer, but there you go).

Old news for anyone who hangs around the Elder Scrolls forums, but it appears that those pesky CTDs (crash to desktop) and ILSs (Infinite Loading Screens) are a thing of the past for PC users. Console gamers are stuck with the 1.9 patch in all of its glory.

The short version is that a gamer named Sheson figured out that the cause of most of these problems can be traced back to the way that Skyrim allocates memory for the game to use. The initial allocation of 256MB was supposed to overflow to a second allocation of 256MB. It did that most of the time, but as soon as the first block was completely filled, crash-bang-boom. Sheson’s solution was to allocate additional memory to both stacks, but primarily to the first. *Poof!* Problems go away.

Players have tested this fix in a variety of ways, most notably by spawning hordes of memory-intensive NPCs, cranking up their uGridstoLoad and anything else that almost always guarantees a short gaming session. Almost everyone is reporting vastly improved stability, although cranking up uGrids still has its own set of persistent problems, mainly in the form of scripts that trigger when a cell is loaded. Higher uGrids means earlier loading so stuff that is supposed to happen when you get there, starts happening much earlier, but that’s a different issue.

This fix has been incorporated into the latest build of SKSE (SKyrim Script Extender). The alpha build of v.1.7 has been out for a couple of weeks (I installed it on Jan 29) and can be downloaded from skse.silverlock.org. This is still an alpha build, so there might be other issues lurking in the shadows, but the benefits of the memory patch far exceed the perils of added scripting capabilities.

To turn on the memory patch capabilities, users will need to create an skse.ini file as follows:

  1. install SKSE according to the installation instructions
  2. create SKSE.ini in Skyrim\Data\SKSE (New –> Text Document and rename it to SKSE.ini)
  3. add the following lines to the .ini and save it

    [General]
    ClearInvalidRegistrations=1

    [Memory]
    DefaultHeapInitialAllocMB=768
    ScrapHeapSizeMB=256

  4. Run your game

The first line is supposed to clear out any orphaned scripts that might exist in your saved game, so is recommended rather than required. I don’t remove anything except texture mods in the middle of a game and have not suffered from those problems, but it’s not harming anything to have it.

The [Memory] section is required and the values are the minimum recommended. The 768MB is 512MB for the initial heap plus the 256 for the secondary heap. I have not played around with higher values, even though I have plenty of RAM to spare, so can only attest to the fact that those values have worked well for me. Your mileage may vary if you want to use other values.

Gopher put out a new Skyrim Mod Sanctuary showing the problem, the patch and the effects. It’s well worth watching.

Memory Patch

 

I don’t recommend dumping any alpha onto an existing game (I’m a bit less leery of betas), which is what I did. But I have had zero problems since installing (60+ hours of gameplay). I had one CTD a few minutes after installing, but absolutely no crashes, freezes or any other oddities in the two weeks since. I usually like to point out that anecdotal evidence barely rises to the level of “persuasive”, much less “conclusive”, but this seems pretty solid from the sheer volume of anecdotal evidence on the same effect.