Archive for January, 2020

(Note: this is my take on DarkLadyLexy’s LotD modlist and as such it mostly represents my opinions rather than anything objectively true or false. Take it as constructive critique and as part of thinking through the process rather than outright criticism.

Let’s be clear from the outset that this modlist is YUUUGE! I count somewhat over 500 mods, many of them having multiple pieces and patches so the variety of pieces is probably in the 600-700 range. The amount of time and effort that Lexy and her team put into assembling and testing that collection (and keeping it up to date) is absolutely mind boggling.  Boggling my mind is a “Novice” difficulty feat, even after I’ve had coffee, but that doesn’t detract from the sheer magnitude of what she and her team have put together.

Anyone trying to follow her instructions will spend quite a while downloading stuff. It took me the better part of a week just to get everything downloaded, but this was not a 24/7 activity. Lexy claims about 100GB worth, including Skyrim’s 18 or so GB and that seems a fair estimate, though 110GB to 115GB is what I ended up with in the mods folder before getting to the merges. The most massive time sink will be tweaking the pieces, but let’s not mention the times when a multi-gig mod got locked into a 250kbps pipe. Once all of that is done, and only once it’s done, can you run start to put stuff into some semblance of a working order. This raises my first and major critique: the player isn’t going to know whether anything works as intended until they get to the end of the process as there is absolutely no provision made for testing the various pieces before the whole thing is completely assembled. “Trust the Guide” is one of Lexy’s major rules and most critical pieces are clearly marked with “Idiot check” tags as a reminder, but I come out of the “trust but verify” era and one of the first things every aspiring carpenter learns is that you should always dry fit before applying the glue. There is a bit of testing that can be done very early in the process if you follow Lexy’s process and don’t mind enduring the initial cart ride to Helgen (“Alternate Start: Live Another Life” doesn’t go in until you’re about a third of the way through so you can’t bypass the cart ride), but I’m reasonably sure that just about everyone can load Skyrim with the unofficial patch, SkyUI and some essential plugins without blowing up their game. If the game decides to choke and die due to mods, the more common cause is likely to be some piece of mod #160 fatally conflicting with some piece of mod #32 and you don’t get to check Lexy’s fit until you’ve applied the glue, stained and finished the piece, and are ready to put it on display. Really frustrating.

On the bright side, Lexy and her team have tested out this load order and cleared out those kinds of conflicts and you’ll find that this is the reason for the huge amount of time you spend tweaking individual mods. So when you install something like Pandorable’s NPCs, you’ll go through its contents and individually delete conflicting meshes and textures, or you just won’t install particular assets/folders when a mod goes in. Still, a workflow with checkpoints where progress can be tested and checked and potential problems identified would have been great.

A second but related issue lies in some of the choices that went into the modlist. A major chunk of what she has included are absolutely fantastic mods. I have used them, tweaked them, blessed them, and cursed them for years before I ever found her modlist and was absolutely fine with their inclusion. For some of the Oldrim mods, the only reason they weren’t in my current modlist was because I was new to SE and was not sure how to get them to play nicely with SE mods. In a few cases I couldn’t even get them to load and had to settle for inferior mods that WOULD work with SE, so I have to admit that I learned much from not only her choice of mods, but also the adjustments and tweaks that need to be done. Some of the follower mods struck me as being a bit problematic since I typically only run with one through an entire game (Don Quixote only had one sidekick, after all), but it is not exceptionally difficult to avoid picking up a follower during a game (M’rissi might be unavoidable if you hate the Thalmor), so I installed them anyway and just made a mental note to pick one and stick with him/her. Lexy’s modlist is good for multiple playthroughs rather than a single set of adventures, so the fact that you don’t pick up a particular follower in a given playthrough is not a major problem.

A second chunk are mods that I knew by reputation but never got around to using because I habitually run a moderately light load order and there are several mods that I hadn’t heard of before and am really interested in checking out. This is the major reason I tackled the project in the first place.

It’s the third chunk that bothers me. These are mods that I know, either by reputation or by use, and I know I do not want them in my load order; the whole survival section (Frostfall, Campfire, iNeed, etc.), for example, falls into this category. I used them back with Oldrim and found that they turned my game into an unpleasant grind. Some are mods that add in things in which I am not at all interested, such as Fossil Mining. Some, like some of the male body replacers, are not really my cup of tea. Others, like some of the female body replacers, I don’t mind but I certainly wouldn’t install them with the options Lexy chose. And then there is the phenomenal amount of graphical eye-candy where I probably wouldn’t notice if it was there or not, so why place the added load on my hardware?

And therein lies the third problem: little to no modularity. On something this large, I’m not sure that modularity would be especially practical, although it would certainly be useful. While I don’t think utility could be denied, the lack of practicality mostly stems from the compatibility and consistency patches. These are something that Lexy and her crew sat down and made, although there are several that were produced by the authors of many of the mods. Because their purpose is to make multiple mods play nicely together, you’d have to make a patch for every possible permutation. Once that’s done, you’d have to keep it current and working as the various mods receive updates and tweaks. Putting those together is a huge undertaking, so taking the position of “if you don’t like <whatever>, then go make your own patch” just makes everyone’s lives simpler. I kind of look at it in the same light as paying taxes: I understand the necessity, but that does not mean I have to like it.

So with preliminary thoughts out of the way, let’s move on to getting the pieces and putting them into something that makes sense. See you in the next one.

Side note before anyone starts griping: I’m already using the full modlist for LotD v4.1.6. It’s awesome. The only other reason I’d spend this amount of time writing about it is if it were a piece of crap, but I could dispose of that in a few paragraphs rather than a whole series.