Skyrim Modding

Unless you live in a cave, as a PC gamer you're probably aware by now that the Skyrim Creation Kit has been out for a week. A ton of cool mods are beginning to surface. Most of which work perfectly fine. There's a few glitches cropping up, people are solving those easily enough. There does however exist one very major set of bugs that will all but cripple the Skyrim modding community if they are not addressed. After the break, we can get down and dirty.

I'll be listing these things in the order I personally find them most critical. There are TONS AND TONS of nasty bugs. The ones I do cover are all especially bad for village modders like myself because the cumulative effect of them makes you look like the worst sloppy ass modder of all time.

The Navmesh Bug

So you've spent a considerable amount of time building a nice level somewhere. Or perhaps you made extensive changes to an outdoor area. Your quick testing has shown you that it works. NPCs travel properly. Guards patrol. Wildlife passes unhindered. Excellent. Release it to the legions!

Wait, what? What do you mean NPCs are stuck on balconies and guards refuse to patrol?!? You've just been bitten by the Navmesh Bug.

First off, let me just say that I am not the first to discover it. Though I am probably the first hapless victim to confirm it in Skyrim with an actual mod that's been released. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have zero respect for Giskard due to the fact that he's a disgusting troll who spreads lies about other modders and in general engages in massive disrespect for everyone who has gotten TES modding to where it is today. On this issue though, he's absolutely 100% correct and has probably the best documentation of it around, despite his snarky commentary while documenting it.

What happens is this. When the cell first loads, the navmesh works perfectly fine. Your NPCs can navigate it just fine. If you leave though, then come back later, you'll find it's broken and no longer functional. If this happens to be your own creation, you're screwed for the duration of the gaming session. The navmesh will not come back online.

"But I didn't make a new cell!" No, and it isn't just something that manifests in indoor areas. Modifying vanilla navmeshes has it's own pitfalls. In this case, what happens is you'll be working in the CK, everything seems fine. But somewhere, quietly, behind the scenes the program has changed your navmesh's form ID. Instead of one that's supposed to be assigned to the vanilla game, what you get is one that is listed as originating from your own mod. The vanilla navmesh for the cell you worked on has been silently deleted out from under you. You can easily confirm this in the File->Details menu for any mod after it's happened. A "D" next to a NAVM form means you're bitten. Same results. NPCs stop navigating it for the duration of the session.

There exists a workaround for modifying vanilla navmeshes that will prevent the CK from silently killing it. Give the navmesh an editor ID. That is, on your cell view window to the right, right-click the navmesh you're about to edit and assign it a name. Any name will do really, so long as it's been marked as changed. This will prevent the CK from deleting it, and once you're in the game, NPCs will be able to navigate it without issue. In about 95% of cases, this will be enough to allow simple house and village mods to work. There's a catch to even this though. Should any editing you're doing cause the navmesh to split into two pieces, the newly generated piece gets a form ID assigned by your mod - and this one you cannot trick into working. It will trigger all of the same behavior as any other brand new navmesh.

"So false flag the ESP you ignorant moron." Yeah, tried it, that has problems of its own. Interestingly, almost the exact opposite of the original problem. Your BRAND NEW navmesh forms will begin to function properly in this setup. However, now that your mod has been false-flagged to think it's an ESM, all vanilla edits you've made to the game will break. Yes. ALL of them. That rock you pushed aside? Back where it started. Oh, and those triangles you added to that vanilla navmesh? Gone. They no longer exist. Which leads to incomplete navigation pathways and your NPCs are now trapped on the navmesh islands this creates.

So yeah. This one is a big buttfuck for any mod that adds dungeons, new homes, or modifies any existing space in any significant way. Great. This bug's history has been documented as far back as Fallout 3. All hail 4 year old engine bugs :(

The NPC Face & Skin Bug

Another highly annoying bug that has cropped up which isn't getting anywhere near the attention it needs is the NPC Face & Skin bug. This one also harkens back to Fallout 3 and was never fixed. The basics are this. Make an NPC. Do some customized face work on them. You can change everything except the skin tone and it'll show up just fine. The moment you change the skin tone, you end up with a head that doesn't match the body. This only affects NPCs added by an ESP file. Editing one in a bona-fide ESM file works as expected. False-flagging your ESP will also correct it, or so I've heard. I have not tested this myself. Of course, if your NPC is part of some larger work, false-flagging your file is hardly a solution.

The good news here is that it's on Bethesda's list of things to fix. So this one may not be around for long, but as a city and village modder, it's almost as much of a showstopper as busted navmeshes because it's doubly stupid looking to see an NPC with a purple head lollygagging around his village doing nothing.

Fallout New Vegas users, can you confirm this still exists there too?

The Disappearing Statics Bug

This bug is entirely new to Skyrim. When making a mod that places any object in an exterior worldspace of any significant size, you may find that your object has suddenly vanished. I saw this firsthand with the making of Live Another Life. The shipwreck start with that has 3 major sized pieces. The actual ship's hull, and two iceberg chunks underneath it. The farmhouse for the farmhouse start also suffers from this. After a great deal of headbanging, someone on the CK forum discovered what's going on. Any static object that's got a listed size of 1024 or greater will vanish from the world. It isn't just invisible either, you can walk right through where it should be.

This bug does have a working solution, but it's one that is less than ideal. In the reference editing dialogue, there's a checkbox labeled "Is Full LOD". Using that, the objects will be back in action. The cost of overusing this flag though would be horrid since it is telling the engine to render these objects in the distance using their full sized meshes. BAD BAD BAD.

Non-Working Dialogue

Skyrim, like every game back to Oblivion, will not display dialogue on screen, even with subtitles, unless there is a sound file to go with it. What this typically results in is text that flashes on screen for less than a second. Which is fine, including a silent sound file of ~5 second length fixes it as long as the user has their subtitles on.

The problem is, not that many people actually use subtitles to play. Including myself. So imagine my glee upon finding a checkbox that is marked "Force Subtitle" which the wiki advertises as forcing the display of your text even if the user has subtitles off. Alas, it doesn't work.

Further, dialogue used for initial greetings NEVER displays, even with subtitles always on and silent sound files present. If your NPC has anything important to say when first activated, you're shit out of luck. You'll never see it.

Worldspace LOD Generation Bug

This one is huge for those who want to build new worldspaces, but for me, it's only of interest because the LOD generation is utterly broken. How broken you might ask? So broken that you can do it once, and only once, for any particular mod. Guess what? Skyrim.esm has already been done. Yep, the implications should be clear. Any major landscaping mods for Tamriel are going to be stuck with no way to alter the LOD terrain to match. Yes, that means across the borders too.

Examining the meshes BSA seems to indicate this will also impede or make impossible any attempt at something like RAEVWD. It appears as though it isn't just landscape meshes that are covered by this process. It's everything, and tes4lodgen for Skyrim wouldn't work unless Elminster rewrites the whole thing. Which isn't happening.

Is it Over?

I sure hope not. For me, just these 5 bugs eliminates 95% of what I want to do with this game. I'm a village modder. I don't go in for large scale overhauls, weapons of silliness mods, chainmail bikinis, or most of the rest of it either. The above list of bugs leaves most sophisticated, high quality mods, off the table. No major quests, no full worldspaces, no major landscaping mods, no new cities, no villages, no houses, no dungeons/lairs/caves, and no extra NPC type mods like Tamriel Travelers or TIE.

This does still leave a lot of other things to do. Skill mods, perk mods, leveling mods, quest mods that wouldn't require locations or NPCs, weapon and armor mods, new books, alchemy mods, leveled list mods, and plenty of other things. None of which I really care enough about to get involved in other than perhaps some sort of smithing mod to make arrows with, which someone already made. Plus the old standbys: Mesh and texture improvers.

Our paranoid friend over there thinks Bethesda did this on purpose to limit the scope of mods to avoid us competing with them over upcoming DLC. I think that's a crock obviously. It's probably much more likely that many issues were caused by gutting things from the CK to allow public use. Other issues, like the navmesh bug, don't manifest for them at all because Skyrim.esm is immune to it.

Whatever the reason for it, if these issues fail to be addressed, we'll all be attending the funeral for The Elder Scrolls series long before TES VI comes along.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Feb 14, 2012 7:56 pm by Samson in: | 15 comment(s) [Closed]
Navmesh bug just claimed Open Cities Skyrim as a casualty for anyone who cares. This shit is insane.

1. Well, this is all kind of a bummer. At least they look like they might be listening?

2. In your heart, you always knew what had to happen here.

You know, if you view that on a white background, the gear looks like it's spinning backward :P

So, in a nutshell they managed to

a) include all the major bugs of the FO3 era.

b) Add in a heap more crippling bugs

c) remove a bunch of other useful features such as being able to add new animations (from what I've heard elsewhere).

A question for Samson; is this the same program you were testing during the beta period?

It is, but only a few of the bugs that are on that list of nasties were things we discovered while testing, or were things we found but couldn't pin down a cause for. I had the issue with Riften NPCs occasionally getting stuck on balconies but had no idea that it was the navmesh bug causing it. DarkRider and I ran into the disappearing statics bug, but again, couldn't pin anything down. There isn't really a lot one can run into with ~2 weeks in beta.

Well, lets hope they keep fixing these problems then.

I almost forgot about an honorary mention for the nasty list:

That's not such a huge issue if you're avoiding the Workshop though. Tradition has had most of us inclined to do loose file distribution anyway.

Samson said:

Unless you live in a cave, as a PC gamer you're probably aware by now that the Skyrim Creation Kit has been out for a week.

I think I had heard something about this... from my RSS feed of this blog. Thus, I must live in a cave. I believe my particular cave is called "school, family, and other real life" of late. :shrug:

So, for those of us cave dwelling, non-modder, types who haven't even decided that they have the time/money/interest enough to so much as get a copy of Skyrim, how might any of this impact us? :blink: Not at all? :whistle: Ok, um, in that case.. condolences? :devil:

(Btw, for those of you playing at home, not being into Skyrim has an added bonus: Giskard matters even less than he ever did with Oblivion. :tongue: )

Oh, and I almost forgot: To us cave dwellers, Geico doesn't matter either. ;)

Edited by Conner on Feb 16, 2012 2:25 pm
Woot! Consider your navmesh issues heard. Looks like a whole lot of projects just got their green lights back. :biggrin:

Edited by Samson on Feb 17, 2012 8:47 pm
On the NPC face bug:

1. Workaround for vanilla NPCs you might be editing. It works, we verified that process in beta. Which is what's leading to....

2. That they're looking into fixing it.

So for me, #1 and #2 on the critical list are confirmed for being fixed. #2 being one I'd like to think I had some very small part in helping along :)

As for the rest, something in patch 1.4.26 or 1.4.27 has broken the workaround for the disappearing statics bug and is now causing completely inconsistent results from that. Who knows what's going on their.

The non-functional dialogue for forced-greetings still hasn't even shown up on the radar. But this can eventually be worked around with the Skyrim equivalent of Elys' Silent Voices.

So village modders, the two main issues blocking your ability to work are going to get fixed.

Oh, and:
GStaff said:

As we fix new issues, we’ll include them in our release notes. We’re currently working on the 1.5 update and will share more on what it covers soon.

Tantalizing, as always. Here's to hoping the navmesh fix finds its way in there :)

Hi all. I hope its ok to ask here. Is it best not to do any navmeshing at present or are there any workarounds?

I've also noticed large static meshes like towers and such vanish when added to the render window in the CK. Usually the doors remain. Ingame they appear fine. Is this a CK bug too or anything anyones encountered?

There are no workarounds for the navmesh bug. If you're still working on stuff and still placing items into your cells, you shouldn't worry too much about them just yet. They're best laid down when you're done building the locations.

For that irritation in the CK, just hit F5 to force it to update the display. I don't know what's going on there but we reported that during the beta phase and that's about all we got back.

Samson/Arthmoor: Many thanks for the information regarding the navmesh and the display updating. Really enjoying your Live another Life mod. Thank you.

So a bit of good news. Back during the CK beta an issue was raised about mismatched NPC facegen textures. The devs said it was being looked into but that until it was fixed, NPCs added by ESP files would not have correct data.

Somewhere along the way in the last month, it got fixed. The procedure originally listed for testing:
Locate some pre-existing NPC. I chose Hadvar.
Edit the Actor > Character Gen Parts tab. I decided to make a drastic lip color change
Click in the left-sice "Face Tint Layers" list
Click "Select Color" - choose something extreme, like a neon green
Slide "Interpolation Value" all the way to the right (1.0)
Click OK
In the Object Window, find the base Actor you've just edited.
With the Actor(s) selected, press ctrl+F4. Click "Yes" when prompted to export.
This will create a DDS and a TGA in ...\Syrim\data\Textures\Actors\Character\FaceGenData\FaceTint\Skyrim.esm
Note: The TGA is not really neccessary, as the DDS should be uncompressed.
With these textures in place, run the game and test your NPC. Note that the plugin changes need not be saved.

Simplies down to this now to export NPC face data:

In the Object Window, find the base Actor you've just edited.
With the Actor(s) selected, press ctrl+F4. Click "Yes" when prompted to export.

The resulting files will end up in

meshes\Actors\Character\FaceGenData\FaceGeom\<Your plugin name here>
textures\Actors\Character\FaceGenData\FaceTint\<Your plugin name here>

The tga files generated into the folder can be deleted. So even though it isn't a completely perfect fix, the procedure is relatively painless and works inside of a BSA file too. Be aware though that the CK will not gather these files when making an archive. You have to drag them in manually.

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