While waiting for the “Dragonborn” DLC to hit my hard drive in a couple of weeks, I decided to go fiddle around with Oblivion for a while. I managed to pick up the whole shooting match (Oblivion plus Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine and all of the official DLCs) for a bit more than $10 sometime during the holidays. This saved me the hassle of having to mess with my retail version of Oblivion (plus patch), my digital versions of the two big DLCs and my backup copies of the official DLCs. And who knows? Maybe that retail version with its very own cellophane-wrapped Septim will fetch something on eBay one of these days. At any rate, I have resolved to install and play for a bit.
Because I never really bothered with modding Oblivion other than the official DLCs and a UI mod, step one was to bring in some of the utilities that I never messed with at the time. I am going to assume that you are using a mod manager of some sort. If you are not, then you are (a) much braver than I am and/or (b) a glutton for punishment.
Oblivion Mod Manager (OBMM) can be downloaded from the Oblivion Nexus, but I find the Nexus Mod Manager to be a bit more flexible as it works with several games. One caution, though. As of v.0.40, I’ve found that NMMs handling of OMOD installation is hinky, at least as far as Oblivion Unofficial Patch mods are concerned. You might be better served by using OBMM until those issues get resolved.
My primary goal with all of this is to get a clean base upon which I can build. Except for lock-up/crash on exit, Oblivion and its official DLCs have been pretty stable for me. The exiting problem can hopefully be fixed with an OBSE plugin called “Fast Exit”. I’m still testing this with my installation, but it looks promising.
- BOSS (Better Oblivion Sorting Software) has become an indispensible tool for Skyrim and I regret not using it with New Vegas. My little pea-brain didn’t even consider it for Fallout 3, although BOSS works with it and Morrowind, too. The first thing it identified was the ton of dirty edits in the official DLCs, so off to the cleaners they went.
- TES4Edit checks for conflicts within and between mods. Although it has its own mod page at the Oblivion Nexus, the same program will work for Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Skyrim, and Oblivion. The only thing that needs to be done is to rename the executable. So I made a copy of my TES5Edit folder, renamed the executable to TES4Edit and went to work:
- Launch TES4Edit
- Deselect all of the DLCs (you can right-click and choose “Select None”), and reselect the one you want to clean. Click “OK” and let it load.
- Right-click on the mod and select “Apply Filter for Cleaning” (might take a bit, depending on how many records need to processed)
- Right-click the mod again and select “Remove ‘Identical to Master’ records”. If you’re in the Construction Set and make a change to something, save your work, then go back and change it back to its original setting, the Construction Set sees that as a change to the master file (Oblivion.esm in this case) and includes it as part of the mod. This cleans out all of those junk records. Most mods might have a couple of these “dirty edits”, but some of the official DLCs have a hundred or more of them.
- Right-click the mod again and select “Undelete and Disable References”. If you place an object into a mod with the Construction Set and then disable it, rather than delete it, the object still loads. This removes those kinds of objects and references.
- Close TES4Edit. If any changes were made to the mod by the cleaning process, you’ll be offered the opportunity to save the mod. TES4Edit defaults to making a backup copy of the uncleaned mod and it’s stored in the \Oblivion\Data\TES4Edit Backups folder. Click OK to save the changes.
- Repeat steps 1-6 for each DLC (Shivering Isles was clean as a whistle at the time of installation; the rest were not).
- Paranoia on my part – archive all of them. If you ever need to redownload/reinstall, you can simply extract that archive back into your \Data folder and overwrite the dirty DLCs with the clean ones.
- Run BOSS again. Hopefully everything is showing clean and ready to go.
- OBSE (Oblivion Script Extender) is exactly that – a scripting extender that lets mod authors do things that the Creation Kit won’t let you do. Because my Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine were digital distributions from Direct2Drive, I wasn’t sure whether OBSE would work, so I never bothered using it. FOSE (Fallout Script Extender) definitely didn’t work because of my distribution’s encryption, so New Vegas was the first game were I got to use it and it was one of the reasons why I went back and bought Oblivion and Fallout 3 from Steam. Installation is dirt simple (there is a ReadMe in the .zip, so this is for those who can’t be bothered to read the ReadMe):
- If your copy of Oblivion is retail (box with the Oblivion DVD):
- Copy obse_1_2_416.dll, obse_editor_1_2.dll, and obse_loader.exe to your Oblivion directory.
- Run Oblivion by running obse_loader.exe from the Oblivion directory or by making a shortcut that points to obse_loader.exe.
- If your copy of Oblivion is from Steam:
- Copy obse_1_2_416.dll, obse_editor_1_2.dll, and obse_steam_loader.dll to your Oblivion directory.
- Ensure you have enabled the Steam community in-game, or OBSE will fail to load. Go to Steam –> Settings -> In-Game and check the box marked "Enable Steam Community In-Game".
- Launch Oblivion via Steam or by running Oblivion.exe. OBSE will automatically be run along with Oblivion when launched.
- If your copy of Oblivion is retail (box with the Oblivion DVD):
- Install “Fast Exit” or something similar, especially if you’re on Vista/Win7. The author mentions a couple of other mods that try to accomplish the same thing, so one of the three should work for you.
- Launch Oblivion and let it do the hardware detection. Most players using current hardware can set the game to “High” or “Ultra High” with little worry about over-taxing the hardware. But if you’re concerned, let it go with what the game thinks is correct. You can tweak those settings later. You are not yet ready to play, but you do need to generate the .ini files for the game. These are stored in your My Documents folder, usually in “\My Games\Oblivion”. We are most concerned with oblivion.ini, but can deal with all of them in the same way.
- Open oblivion.ini in Notepad or some other plain text editor (do not open with a word processor).
- Save the file as something else. I usually just tack “original” on the end of the file extension, but anything other than “oblivion.ini” will do the job as long as you know what you’re looking at. The original file is not changed; you’re just making a backup copy of the original settings.
- repeat for any other .ini files where you might want to keep a backup of the original settings.
- DarnifiedUI. From the outset, Oblivion’s user interface sucked. Clunky, difficult to maneuver, not enough room to see what you needed to see, you name it. It did not rise (or fall) to the level of suckiness of the Mass Effect 3 ending, but calling it “less than ideal” would be paying it a massive compliment. Fortunately, the modding community stepped up to the plate and DarN’s user interface has worked best for me. It doesn’t require OBSE, either, so if you’re hesistant on that issue, don’t be.
The mod can be had as an OMOD file, which will work with OBMM, but it probably will not work for you with the Nexus Mod Manager. It has always kicked a script error for me, so I will assume that if you use NMM, you will need to install it manually. Rather than repeat what is easily accessible elsewhere, you can find the manual installation instructions here. Do not forget to edit the fonts in your oblivion.ini or everything could come to naught.
While you can outright overwrite the initial settings in the .ini file, I find that it is better to insert new values on a new line below the original and to comment out the original. Most (maybe “all”) applications will ignore any line in an .ini file that begins with a semicolon ( ; ), so inserting a semicolon at the beginning of the original line is a good way of reminding yourself of what you changed. That way, if you need to revert to an earlier setting, you know what it was.
- Turn on multi-core support. When Oblivion was first released, I was running a single-core processor (AMD Athlon, I think – it’s been a while), so none of these changes were necessary. While Oblivion’s support for multiple processor cores is tepid at best, it’s better to at least let the game know that they are available. Some players have reported performance gains while others have said there were none. Almost everything I have seen on the subject says that these changes at least make the game more stable on multi-core systems, though. All of these go into your oblivion.ini file:
Again, I’d comment out the original line with a semicolon so that you can revert back to the original values if you need to.
- More .ini tweaks. These are just things that I like. Feel free to use them or not.
- SIntroSequence – make it blank to skip all of the intro junk without hitting <ESC>
- SMainMenuMovieIntro – make it blank to go directly to the main menu
- There are lots of performance related tweaks out there. Read through them and use the ones you like. Don’t forget that putting a semicolon in front of the original line will make it easier to see what you changed and revert back if you don’t like it.
- UESP Wiki: http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Oblivion:Ini_Settings
- TweakGuides for Oblivion: http://www.tweakguides.com/Oblivion_1.html
- TESIV:Positive – https://sites.google.com/site/oblivionpoinfo/stabilization/oblivion
- Unofficial Patches – as much as I love Bethesda games, they are invariably a bit on the buggy side. Since Morrowind, Bethesda has encouraged the fan community to mod their games, so the modding community has stepped up to the plate with unofficial fixes for the things that Bethesda never got around to fixing. I don’t care which Bethesda game you’re currently playing, if you are on a PC and have not installed the unofficial patch for that game, you’re crippling your game play. None of these installed well with NMM 0.40, so if you’re using NMM, use the “download manually” link rather than the “Download with Manager” button. You’ll get a .7z archive that you can save somewhere and then point NMM to that file to install it.
- Unofficial Oblivion Patch – use this regardless of which DLCs you may or may not have, but only if you’re patched to the latest version of the game. Stick it first in your load order (right after oblivion.esm).
- Unofficial Shivering Isles Patch – same as UOP. Stick it right after DLCShiveringIsles.esp, but after UOP.
- Unofficial Official Mods Patch – includes Knights of the Nine and the other DLCs (like Horse Armor – ahem). Put it the various bits and pieces right after the official .esps that the modify. So you’d put DLCHorseArmor – Unofficial Patch.esp right after DLCHorseArmor.esp, for example.
- Knights of the Nine – if you have this DLC (most PC players probably do), I recommend deactivating it at the beginning of the game. I have two reasons for wanting to do this.
- The Anvil chapel is going to be nuked as part of the DLC. While the spells, blessings and whatnot are available from other sources, the NPCs with the dialogues that will point you to a particular Master trainer will also get nuked over the course of the quest line. You could probably find this trainer through blind luck (it’s not THAT hard) or by resorting to an outside resource like the UESP Wiki. But getting to it through normal gameplay seems much better. This is just a matter of personal taste, though.
- You can complete a pilgrimage to the altars of the Nine Divines that gives you a handy little power in the vanilla game. Although KotN leaves that power alone if you already have it, you cannot get it once KotN is installed and active. I prefer to complete the pilgrimage fairly early in the game to get that power and then activate KotN. Again, it’s a matter of personal taste.
- There is a “Knights – Unofficial Patch.esp”, which you’d place right after Knights.esp, but leave both of them unchecked for now.
- Run BOSS again – everything should still be kosher, but it never hurts to check.
- Run TES4Edit again. Leave all of the official and unofficial stuff selected and let them load. When they are finished, right-click any of the .esps. From the new menu, select “Other” and then “Create Merged Patch”. Name the patch as something you’ll recognize and click “OK”. If all has gone well, this patch will have nothing in it but a file header. If this is the case, then close TES4Edit without saving anything and you’re set. If this is not the case, then there are conflicts between the unofficial patches that need to be resolved before going any farther. Perhaps you grabbed an OMOD version when you should have grabbed the .7z version for NMM or perhaps your load order is just out of whack, but do not do anything else until those conflicts are resolved. Shoving new mods onto an unstable game is just asking for trouble.
- Now you’re ready to launch and play for a bit. You’re welcome to play for as long as you want, but the aim of this step is to make sure that your installation is stable. Go run through the Tutorial dungeon and scamper around the countryside. You’re looking for any big exclamation points (which would indicate missing meshes) or weird purple colors (which would indicate missing textures).
The first place that I intend to visit is the Oblivion Nexus. There are other mod site out there, but the Nexus is pretty much one-stop shopping. Once I’ve had a chance to eyeball, ponder and test, then I’ll start organizing my mod list. Keep in mind that Oblivion has a hard limit of 255 mods. My first considerations are going to be texture packs and lighting mods, but we’ll see what else crops up along the way.
Have fun with your installation and we’ll be back once I’ve got some stuff to work with.