STEP:2.2.9

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STEP v2.2.9


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Changelog   |   Release Date: July 8th, 2014

Warning-Logo.png Warning: This guide is out of date! It may contain information that is incorrect or not in line with the current state of the game!

         View the latest release.


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Interim Release #3

STEP 2.2.9 marks the third release in bridging our move to a new paradigm that will officially be unveiled as STEP 2.3.0. Thus, this marks our third interim release with a more strict STEP:Core. It has also undergone a thorough reanalysis of the Extended mod list in preparation for its separation into the official STEP Pack. This has led to several mods being dropped from Extended in accordance with the STEP:Extended Mandate.

Finally, STEP:Packs to be installed after a STEP:Core install (all mods flagged by the green indicator) will be linked at the end of this guide for users wishing to add user-contributed functionality to the STEP:Core build. So far there are a few Packs created for STEP, but we expect this number to grow in the near future. Full Pack integration will be rolled out with STEP v2.3.0.

About STEP

A Foreword

Created by TheCompiler, STEP is a collaborative project with input from the modding community, technical volunteers, and project administrators. The goal is to provide tested and validated methods for establishing and maintaining an enhanced modded Skyrim. Thus, the Guide provides detailed, well-tested build instructions for a solid modding template. New modders can follow STEP explicitly, or more experienced modders may use it as general guide.

The STEP team collects information from the modding community through extensive mod testing, detailed reviews, feedback, and suggestions exchanged on the STEP Community Forums. Posting rules apply, so be sure to read and follow them and enjoy a warm welcome and plenty of high-quality support from a large community of experienced STEPers. Check out the comparison screenshots on the Nexus.

Minimum System for STEP:Core

It is tentatively planned that STEP:Core (and Extended, by proxy) will continue to provide a performance-friendly version in tandem with a standard version. Given what we know about the memory limits for 32-bit applications (aka the "3.1 GB limit for Skyrim"). This will most likely entail installation options associated with many of the Core mods and possibly even two performance patches (TBD).

For this release, we recommend the following as a minimum hardware configuration for running STEP:Core (installing "Baseline" versions of "Core" mods only). For those wishing to use higher-quality options and/or to install the non-Core mods (tentatively, STEP:Extended Beta), be advised that a more powerful system is likely necessary. The Baseline install that we recommend will provide the best quality-performance trade-off.

Hardware Minimum Recommended
Windows OS Windows XP Windows 7 or 8
CPU Intel Core i3 (dual core) Intel Core i5/i7 (quad core)
System RAM 4 GB >=8 GB
GPU 1GB VRAM >=2GB VRAM
Monitor Resolution 1366x768 1920x1080


A Brief Note: Chapter Heading Layout

A link to more information related to the heading for users wishing to use a more meticulous route to installing STEP is provided right up front underneath the section heading:

Detailed Information --> Link

Brief, quick-setup instructions follow for users wishing to blow through the guide afap ... that's it!
Info-Logo.png Notice: Baseline (referenced throughout this guide) is the STEP:Core 'Baseline' mods install (see mod tables) and adherence to all of the instructions in this guide, nothing more, nothing less.

Mod Tables Legend

Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Mod NameWikilink.png Baseline LowQuality.png HighQuality.png
DG
Notes
Core Mod Core mods are indicated by the presence of a green-ish vertical bar in the row at the immediate left-hand column of the table.
Mod Name Shortened version (where applicable) of Nexus mod name presented as a link to Nexus for download.
Wikilink.png Link to the mod's Wiki page.
Baseline This notes the STEP Baseline version or option of the corresponding mod, and usually refers to options affecting performance/quality. General suggestions are located in the "Notes" column.
Quality Options Indicates if there are performance-friendly or performance-unfriendly versions of the mod relative to the Baseline recommendation:
 LowQuality.png       Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available.
      HighQuality.png  Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
 LowQuality.png HighQuality.png  Relative to Baseline, both lower and higher quality versions of the mod are available.
DLC Required Any DLCs listed here are required for the mod to function. If all DLCs listed are not present do not use this mod.
Notes Brief notes that apply to the mod or installation. In some cases, mods with many alternative options will include a suggested option. These suggestions will take the form of: "STEP recommends 'Option A'." In other cases, there may only be one appropriate alternative option that fits the STEP Mandate. These instructions will take the form of: "Use 'Option A'."



NOTE: It is particularly important that novice modders begin with clean installations of Steam & Skyrim in order to be successful with the 'quick' setup first time around, so PLEASE READ EACH SECTION CAREFULLY, as no information included in this guide is irrelevant!

STEP 1

Pre-Installation Setup

1.A. Install Steam & Skyrim

Detailed Information --> Skyrim Installation Guide

This guide assumes that the user is beginning with a clean Skyrim installation. If necessary, please take some time to properly set up and configure Steam and install Skyrim as recommended by the Skyrim Installation Guide before continuing.

1.B. Skyrim Launcher Options

Detailed Information --> Skyrim Launcher Guide

As a quick-start to installing STEP, simply launch Skyrim from Steam to initialize the auto-detection process, accept the preset, and continue to 1.C. Make certain that the preset Antialiasing is no greater than 4x (4 samples); otherwise, keep the preset. This is a conservative preset that will facilitate a smooth game once STEP is configured initially according to this guide (i.e., what does not tax performance now may be burdensome later). More extensive INI tweaking can be done after STEP is set up and verified as running smoothly.

1.C. Install Utilities

Applications and utilities that aid in Skyrim mod management.

While mods can be installed manually, it is not recommended. A mod-management utility is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED in order to keep track of a complex setup like STEP. These utilities also make it exponentially simpler to deconstruct a STEP install in order to update to a new STEP version, and to update versions of the mods. This is impossible to do simply or efficiently (or even correctly) otherwise.

There are several utilities that may be used to manage the STEP setup; however, STEP now officially supports only Mod Organizer for reasons stated in the guide introduction. Although Wrye Bash is a mod manager, STEP recommends that it only be used as a helper application to Mod Organizer exclusively for the functionality of the Bashed Patch. The reason for the limited support of Wrye Bash is due to simplicity of this guide. Users who wish to use Wrye Bash can easily use that mod manager to install and maintain STEP. Wrye Bash users can use the Wrye Bash Guide for detailed instructions on setting up that exceedingly excellent modding utility package.


Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
DDSoptLink to the mod's Wiki page. DDSopt - pre-release - update 4 Detailed instructions available
Mod OrganizerLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
LOOTLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Skyrim Performance MonitorLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
TES5EditLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Wrye BashLink to the mod's Wiki page. Installer version Detailed instructions available

1.D. INI Tweaks

Detailed Information --> Skyrim INI Guide

The following instructions expect the unedited default INIs created in section 1.B of the STEP Guide! If the INI files have been altered from their defaults in any way, please delete them from %USERPROFILE%\Documents\My Games\Skyrim and .\Mod Organizer\profiles\. After deleting them, the default versions can be regenerated by running the Skyrim Launcher again as described in section 1.B of the STEP Guide. Users with MO already installed and set up will have to run the Launcher via MO to reset the defaults for the profile.

Warning-Logo.png      Warning:Changing settings in the Skyrim Launcher can undo user-configured INI tweaks. Steam has also been known to update the INIs under certain conditions. This does not apply to MO users except if running the Skyrim Launcher or Steam from within MO. To avoid "unapproved" alterations to the default configuration files, it is possible to set the INI files as "read only" after all the tweaks are in place. Do not set the MO profile INIs to read-only since this will cause problems.

Copy the following tweaks into the correct INI file inside their respective [sections]. If the setting already exists, change the value to the one below. If the setting does not exist, enter it on a new line at the end of its [section]. If the [section] does not exist, create it on a new line below one of the [sections]. Carefully check to ensure that there are no:

  1. duplicate [sections]
  2. duplicate settings
  3. misspellings (avoid this by copying and pasting from the guide or using MO's Configurator)
  4. invalid characters (each setting can only have characters accepted by its type, indicated by its prefix)


Mod Organizer Guide
USERS
Using the Tools > [Configurator] tool prevents any editing mistakes. Open the tool, click [Basic] to get the Advanced options, and choose the applicable section from the combobox. Then find the applicable setting and alter as indicated below. Click the [Save] button after each change and close the dialog when finished.

1.D.1. Skyrim INI

Each of the following entries can be pasted directly into the INI (if editing manually). The entry descriptions are commented, so they will not be interpreted by the game at startup. Alternatively, these descriptions can be omitted.
[Archive]

Set INI-loaded BSAs to their correct values
If the user somehow bypasses using the Skyrim Launcher when creating their INI files, the game will be missing Esbern's voice and will cause TES5Edit and other programs to not read all the Skyrim vanilla BSAs. To fix this, the following MUST be present in the Skyrim.ini file in the [Archive] section.

sResourceArchiveList=Skyrim - Misc.bsa, Skyrim - Shaders.bsa, Skyrim - Textures.bsa, Skyrim - Interface.bsa, Skyrim - Animations.bsa, Skyrim - Meshes.bsa, Skyrim - Sounds.bsa
sResourceArchiveList2=Skyrim - Voices.bsa, Skyrim - VoicesExtra.bsa


[Camera]

Increase third-person zoom speed
fMouseWheelZoomSpeed sets the transition speed when zooming in and out in third person mode. This also affects how fast the transition from first to third person occurs.

fMouseWheelZoomSpeed=10


[Combat]

More accurate aiming with bows and crossbows
f1PArrowTiltUpAngle sets the upward tilt angle of arrows in first-person view. It is recommended to change this so that arrows more accurately hit where the crosshair is pointing, although some arching is "natural."

f1PArrowTiltUpAngle=0.7

f3PArrowTiltUpAngle sets the upward tilt angle of arrows in third-person view. It is recommended to change this so that arrows more accurately hit where the crosshair is pointing, although some arching is "natural."

f3PArrowTiltUpAngle=0.7

f1PBoltTiltUpAngle sets the upward tilt angle of crossbow bolts in first-person view. Unfortunately, there is no similar setting for third-person view. It is recommended to change this so that bolts more accurately hit where the crosshair is pointing.

f1PBoltTiltUpAngle=0.7


[Display]

Disable Skyrim's buggy screenshots
bAllowScreenShot toggles the ability to create screenshots in BMP format by pressing the PrintScreen key. Once over three megabytes in size, the files seem to become corrupt. ENBoost's screenshot functionality effectively replaces it.

bAllowScreenShot=0

Smooth sun-shadow transitions
fSunShadowUpdateTime sets the speed of sun-shadow transitions in seconds. It is recommended to be adjusted to minimize the transitions. The value here increases the speed of the transition from one second to a quarter second. fSunUpdateThreshold sets the time between sun-shadow transitions. A value of 0.05 is equal to 1 second, so a value of 1 equals 20 seconds. Increasing this also increases the distance the shadows will move during the transition. It is recommended to be adjusted to minimize the transitions. The tweak here increases the time between transitions from 10 to 30 seconds, causing the transition to move the shadows three times as far.

fSunShadowUpdateTime=0.25
fSunUpdateThreshold=1.5

Enable or disable vertical sync
iPresentInterval toggles vertical sync between frame render and screen refresh rate, removing screen tearing. Despite being erroneously placed in the SkyrimPrefs.ini by the Skyrim Launcher and basically every other tweak guide around, this setting will have no effect unless placed in Skyrim.ini. It is recommended to be left at 1 (enabled), which is its default value. Setting it to 0 will disable it, which may be useful if another form of vertical sync or a frame rate limiter is used.

iPresentInterval=1


[General]

Disable the intro video
sIntroSequence sets the intro video before the main menu. It is recommended to set it to blank for faster startup.

sIntroSequence=

Prevent lighting pop-in
Raising fFlickeringLightDistance is believed to prevent lighting pop-in.

fFlickeringLightDistance=8192


[Grass]

Adjust grass fade range
fGrassFadeRange sets how far away grass will fade from the start fade distance (fGrassStartFadeDistance, which is Grass Fade in the in-game Settings > Display menu). It is recommended to adjust fGrassFadeRange rather than increase fGrassStartFadeDistance to remove the grass pop-in effect and performance benefits over the latter.

fGrassFadeRange=0

fGrassFadeRange=0
fGrassFadeRange=2500

fGrassFadeRange=2500
fGrassFadeRange=5000

fGrassFadeRange=5000
fGrassFadeRange=18000

fGrassFadeRange=18000
fGrassFadeRange=10000

Increase grass diversity
iMaxGrassTypesPerTexure (sic) sets the maximum types of grass per texture. Increasing this will create more diverse kinds of grass, especially with grass mods such as Skyrim Flora Overhaul at a small performance cost. Without grass mods, changing this setting produces little effect. Negative values disable grass. It is recommended to increase this from its default value, 2, to 3. For STEP, which uses Skyrim Flora Overhaul, set this to 7.

iMaxGrassTypesPerTexure=7

Adjust grass density
iMinGrassSize sets the grass density. Lower values produces greater density, but values between 1 and 40 look almost identical. A value of 0 removes all grass. Negative values (e.g., -1, -10, etc.) look almost identical to the values of 1 to 40, but can induce CTDs so don't use them. High values starting around 50 and higher noticeably decrease grass density at a small performance gain. Grass mods such as Grass on Steroids and Verdant take advantage of this and can create high density grass at high iMinGrassSize values. Setting iMinGrassSize too high (e.g., 1000) will remove all grass. STEP recommends to increase this to 40.

iMinGrassSize=-1

iMinGrassSize=-1
iMinGrassSize=0

iMinGrassSize=0
iMinGrassSize=1

iMinGrassSize=1
iMinGrassSize=10

iMinGrassSize=10
iMinGrassSize=20<br />(default)

iMinGrassSize=20
(default)
iMinGrassSize=40<br />(recommended)

iMinGrassSize=40
(recommended)
iMinGrassSize=50

iMinGrassSize=50
iMinGrassSize=60

iMinGrassSize=60
iMinGrassSize=80

iMinGrassSize=80
iMinGrassSize=100

iMinGrassSize=100
iMinGrassSize=40


[Interface]

Disable the in-game tutorial pop-ups
bShowTutorials toggles the in-game tutorial pop-ups. It is recommended to disable them (set to 0) once accustomed to the game.

bShowTutorials=0


[MapMenu]

Increase map menu rotation range
fMapWorldYawRange sets the yaw range that the map menu's camera can turn when the right mouse button is pressed. Setting this to 400 allows the user to rotate full circle once. Increasing this beyond 400 allows the user to rotate more than full circle. Obsessively high values (e.g., 3600) induce crashes.

fMapWorldYawRange=400

Increase map menu angle range
fMapWorldMinPitch and fMapWorldMaxPitch sets the pitch that the user can change the angle of the map upwards and downwards when the right mouse button is held. Increasing it to the below values will enable the user the range of looking straight down on the map up to looking perpendicular across the map.

fMapWorldMinPitch=0
fMapWorldMaxPitch=90


[Water]

Enable LOD water reflections
These settings will enable LOD reflections of objects, trees, and land in the water.

Water reflections disabled

Water reflections disabled
Water reflections enabled

Water reflections enabled
bReflectLODLand=1
bReflectLODObjects=1
bReflectLODTrees=1

1.D.2. SkyrimPrefs INI


[Display]

Disable or enable precise lighting
bFloatPointRenderTarget toggles the ability of lighting to be rendered using floating point (decimal) values rather than only integer values. This increases the precision of lighting. It comes with a medium performance impact. For a STEP installation, set it to 0. If using an ENBSeries Preset, this must be enabled. ENBSeries Presets should be installed after a stabled installation of STEP is confirmed.

bFloatPointRenderTarget=0

Enable deferred shadows
bDeferredShadows toggles deferred rendering of shadows. It is required for bDrawLandShadows and bShadowsOnGrass to work. Enabled this for STEP. If using an ENBSeries Preset, this must be enabled.

bDeferredShadows=1

Enable or disable shadows on land
bDrawLandShadows toggles the ability of land objects such as rocks and mountains to cast shadows. It can be disabled (set value to 0) for a slight performance gain. Enable this for STEP. If using an ENBSeries Preset, this must be enabled.

bDrawLandShadows=0(Default)

bDrawLandShadows=0
(Default)
bDrawLandShadows=1

bDrawLandShadows=1
bDrawLandShadows=1

Enable or disable shadows on grass
bShadowsOnGrass toggles the ability of objects to cast shadows upon grass. The grass itself does not cast shadows. This may be disabled for a minor performance increase. Enable this for STEP. If using an ENBSeries Preset, this must be enabled.

bShadowsOnGrass=1(Default)

bShadowsOnGrass=1
(Default)
bShadowsOnGrass=0

bShadowsOnGrass=0
bShadowsOnGrass=1

Enable or disable shadows on trees
bTreesReceiveShadows toggles the ability of trees to cast shadows on themselves. It may be disabled for a slight performance gain. Enable this for STEP. If using an ENBSeries Preset, this must be enabled.

bTreesReceiveShadows=0(Default)

bTreesReceiveShadows=0
(Default)
bTreesReceiveShadows=1

bTreesReceiveShadows=1
bTreesReceiveShadows=1

Enable the shadow filter
iShadowFilter toggles the shadow filter on and off. If set to a value between 0 and 4, the shadow filter is on. If set to any other value, be it below 0 or above 4, the shadow filter is turned off, which causes buggy shadows that induce CTDs. It is recommended to leave at its default value of 3, since all values between 0 and 4 appear to produce the same result.

iShadowFilter=3

Disable ZPrepass on shadows
bShadowMaskZPrepass is believed to toggle ZPrepass on the shadow mask. Enabling ZPrepass tells the game not to render certain objects to try to increase performance. In testing, no difference was noticed, but that could mean nothing, given the nature of the setting. It is recommended to leave it at its default value since there very well might be a good reason Bethesda disabled it.

bShadowMaskZPrepass=0

Remove tree popping
This almost entirely removes tree popping, due to the fact that trees are rendered at a sufficient distance to make the skinning process almost invisible. It is required to raise uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender as shown lower in this guide for this to work. See the Skyrim Tree Settings Guide for more information.

fMeshLODLevel1FadeTreeDistance=6144
fMeshLODLevel2FadeTreeDistance=4096
fTreesMidLODSwitchDist=8192

Disable anisotropic filtering
iMaxAnisotropy sets the level of anisotropic filtering (AF). This improves the texture quality of distant objects. It is recommended to be set to 0 and force it in the graphics driver which is explained in section 1.E of the STEP Guide.

iMaxAnisotropy=0

iMaxAnisotropy=0
iMaxAnisotropy=4

iMaxAnisotropy=4
iMaxAnisotropy=16

iMaxAnisotropy=16
iMaxAnisotropy=0

Increase the number of allowed decals
These settings ensure that decals are displayed.

iMaxDecalsPerFrame=250
iMaxSkinDecalsPerFrame=100

Adjust antialiasing
iMultiSample sets the level of antialiasing applied to edges to make them smoother and less jagged. This may be disabled (set to 0) to add a different form of antialiasing such as SMAA, FXAA, or other implementations in SweetFX or ENBSeries. If using an ENBSeries Preset, this must be disabled. 4 is the recommended value for all users not using a different form or antialiasing. The difference between 4 and 8 is barely noticeable compared to the performance trade off.

iMultiSample=0

iMultiSample=0
iMultiSample=2

iMultiSample=2
iMultiSample=4

iMultiSample=4
iMultiSample=8

iMultiSample=8
iMultiSample=4


[Launcher]

Enable file selection in the Skyrim Launcher
bEnableFileSelection toggles the ability of the Skyrim Launcher to have Data greyed out and unclickable or active and accessible. Setting it to 1 will allow Data to be accessed in the Launcher. It is not toggleable in the Launcher, so one must add the line manually. It has been verified that it is not used by the game itself, just the launcher. If this is not enabled, running the Skyrim Launcher may remove any existing load order.

bEnableFileSelection=1


[Trees]

Increase the maximum amount of skinned trees
uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender sets the maximum amount of skinned trees that can be rendered. Increasing this will help remove tree popping. See the Skyrim Tree Settings Guide for more information.

uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender=20(Value assigned by all presets)

uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender=20
(Value assigned by all presets)
uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender=200

uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender=200
uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender=200


[Water]

Increase resolution of water reflections
iWaterReflectHeight and iWaterReflectWidth set the resolution of water reflections. Increase these to 1024 for a STEP installation.

Please note that water noise has been disabled in the below comparison images to more easily see the difference.

iWaterReflectHeight=512iWaterReflectWidth=512(Default)

iWaterReflectHeight=512
iWaterReflectWidth=512
(Default)
iWaterReflectHeight=1024iWaterReflectWidth=1024

iWaterReflectHeight=1024
iWaterReflectWidth=1024
iWaterReflectHeight=2048iWaterReflectWidth=2048

iWaterReflectHeight=2048
iWaterReflectWidth=2048
iWaterReflectHeight=1024
iWaterReflectWidth=1024

1.E. Display & Video Card Settings

Often under-appreciated, display and driver settings have a huge potential impact on graphic quality of Skyrim and anything else that is displayed on the monitor in 2D or 3D. So it is important to get this done correctly. Below are the essentials, and no further tweaking is necessary; although, people will do what they must. Again, it is highly recommended that the bare minimal tweaking be done until after STEP is installed and configured according to the Baseline dictated by this guide.

Update Video Drivers

If there is any reason to believe that the latest drivers installed on your system are not the latest available or that they are not installed correctly and are causing issues then do the following. Else, just install the latest drivers as normal ...

  1. Download the latest stable AMD drivers / Nvidia drivers.
  2. If installing/re-installing new drivers, download DDU and install it (DDU forum Page).
  3. Boot into safe mode by repeatedly pressing F8 once the boot check initializes and before the OS begins loading (no need to uninstall the current drivers, but it will not hurt at all).
  4. Launch DDU, and select the appropriate driver from the drop-down combobox.
  5. Note the recommendations in DDU and initialize the cleanup.
  6. Reboot normally and install the latest drivers.

1.E.1. Configure Driver Settings

STEP has more detailed information in both the AMD-CCC guide as well as the Nvidia Inspector guide, and other AMD-CCC and Nvidia Inspector / Control Center guides exist for the inquisitive user. The following information is minimalistic, sound advice, and users are encouraged to add their own 2 cents for consideration via the AMD-CCC Talk and Nvidia Inspector Talk pages.

In Short - The graphics software should only be forcing max Anisotropic Filtering (AF) (and Supersampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) for higher-end cards). All other settings should be left to the Skyrim configuration and ENBoost configurations (see above).

1.E.1.1. AMD Users

Detailed Information --> Catalyst Control Center Guide

1.E.1.2. Nvidia Users

Detailed Information --> Nvidia Inspector Guide: Editing Skyrim Settings

Make the following changes via Nvidia Inspector, otherwise leave the defaults (they can be tweaked later if absolutely necessary).

  1. Download Nvidia Inspector. This is a portable program and requires no installation. Simply place in a convenient location and create a shortcut to the executable.
  2. Within Inspector, select the "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" profile and keep all of the default settings except for the following changes:
  1. Set Antialiasing - Mode to "Application-controlled". Apparently, SkyrimPrefs.ini dictates the level of AA, but the video card drivers can dictate the method of AA. If set to "Override", AA will be turned off in Skyrim, regardless of the Skyrim INI setting!
  2. Set Antialiasing - Setting to "Application-controlled / Off" (for better performance), or set to use 2x2 (or 4x4) Supersampling if the video card can handle it (for better quality).
  3. Force Anisotropic filtering mode by setting Anisotropic filtering to "User-defined / Off".
  4. Set Anisotropic filtering setting to 16x. High values may cause texture shimmering in mid to long range texture LODs. If this happens, adjusting the LOD bias can help to remedy the issue. (See the Detailed Information link above for more information)
    • ENBoost users should skip the driver anisotropic filtering and set ForceAnisotropicFiltering=true in the enblocal.ini.
  5. Set Vertical Sync Tear Control to Standard if not already.
  6. Set Vertical Sync to Use 3D application setting. (Recall that vsync should be running via ENBoost's enblocal.ini!)
  7. Click Apply changes twice and then close, accepting any overwrite when prompted.

1.E.2. Display Calibration

Color calibration is critical to photographers and graphic artists that work across media types, but it is also more or less important for everyone that uses a computer. For gamers like those interested in STEP, it is a bit more important, because there is a lot of screenshot sharing and qualitative discussion about in-game visuals. It is ideal if all users are somewhat 'standardized' for comparative purposes alone.

The gist: Calibrate the monitor's display settings based on the video driver configuration utility with all other configuration baselines set to something akin to "mid level".

There are three places to configure color saturation, temp, brightness, contrast, gamma, etc:

  1. The monitor's built-in config
  2. Windows color management
  3. The driver configuration utility (see h"Configure Driver Settings above)

The settings of one affect the settings of the other, and depending on the quality of the monitor, #1 could be very good or just 'OK'. The #2 and #3 settings should be standard though, since they are made to work across various monitors.

  • Ensure that #1 is set to "the middle ground" with respect to all settings. Having extreme settings in the monitor configuration could potentially constrain the other configurations. For some, setting all #1 to mid levels will be best, but for others the 'auto-config' will be best (this may not set all #1 to mid settings). Depending on the monitor, there may be other auto-config options based on various presets. Whatever seems most "middle of the road" is probably best for #1.
  • Optionally, also run #2 (Control Panel > Display > Calibrate Color) and set to 'vanilla' mid-levels with respect to all attributes. If this was never run previously, then it should already be at mid-level.
  • Calibrate using #3 (see below) using a this reference image and in a room with no direct lighting that could affect what the monitor shows (not-too-bright, diffuse-lighted room). The main calibration should be left to #3 once a mid baseline 'canvas' has been established for #1 and #2.
    • AMD-CCC: |Desktop Management| > |Desktop Color| (click "Reactivate AMD color controls").
    • Nvidia Control Panel: Access from the Windows Control Panel. |Display| > |Adjust desktop color settings|

1.F. Performance Benchmarking

Detailed Information --> Benchmarking STEP

YOU CAN HELP!

Baseline performance benchmarks help us to assess performance variation across a range of computer configurations, which is useful for all users. User contributions in this regard are highly valued and much appreciated! Database-comparison benchmarks will be available as sufficient numbers of user-submitted data accumulate (and once we construct the system that will contain this information).

Points during setup that benchmarking is suggested will be indicated by:

Benchmark32.png
Benchmark
Benchmark32.png

Final Pre-Installation Notes

A Final Consideration
  • Remember that STEP:Core should be used as a base for ANY modded setup. It is a universal build and will not spoil any downstream setup or Packs, although there may well be a few minor redundancies whereby a STEP:Core mod is later installed again with some added or subtracted options.
  • Install mods in the order that they are presented in the following tables in order to achieve the desired result.
  • Read the ReadMe and other mod-related documentation that comes packaged with most mods. This includes the mod description on the Nexus. If the mod author has seen fit and taken time to create these reference materials, then they are relevant and important in the eyes of the mod author. This means that they are relevant and important to you!


STEP 2

Mod Installation


Info-Logo.png Notice: Consider the following while installing mods:
  • Mods should be installed in the order that they are listed to ensure that mods further down the list overwrite those occurring before them. This is necessary to ensure the desired in-game effect. Mods are otherwise listed in alphabetical order within each section, and any deviations from this are purposeful to achieve the desired outcome.
  • To achieve the best results, “Loose files” (non-BSA) versions of mods should be used when available. If a "loose files" version is not available, simply use the BSA version. DO NOT extract BSAs unless specifically instructed to do so in the installation instructions!
  • Always install plugins (ESPs/ESMs) unless otherwise noted. If there are not any notes associated with a particular mod, then all options fit the STEP mandate. The notes only provide instructions where necessary; otherwise, STEP encourages user customization.
  • Unless otherwise stated, follow LOOT's advice with regards to mod cleaning.

2.A. LOOT Sorting

At any time during the mod installation process LOOT should be used to sort plugin load order before stopping to benchmark and test Skyrim. This is necessary to ensure proper plugin priority order (load order), which can have a dramatic impact on the game (or at worst cause a CTD).

  1. Launch LOOT via Mod Organizer by clicking on the "Sort" button or directly from the executables drop-down menu.
  2. Examine the LOOT output carefully and look for any alerts or warnings and address each. The Plugins tab in MO (on the right side of the MO window) is where plugins can be activated/deactivated and sorted (either drag and drop or use Ctrl + Up/Down arrow keys to sort).
Info-Logo.png      Notice:LOOT must be run prior to launching the game every time a mod is installed which adds one or more plugins.

2.B. Clean the Update ESM

To remove errors in the Bethesda master files, STEP recommends that they be cleaned with TES5Edit. This ensures maximum stability and compatibility within the Skyrim modding experience. At this time, Update.esm will be cleaned in the following manner:

  1. Make a backup of Update.esm from <skyrim>/data directory by copying it to the desktop (or somewhere else handy).
  2. Run TES5Edit through Mod Organizer.
  3. Right-click the list of plugins and choose [Select None].
  4. Tick Update.esm, and click [OK].
  5. Wait for the Background Loader: finished message in the right panel, and then right-click [Update.esm] and select [Apply Filter For Cleaning].
  6. Wait for the [Filtering done] Processed Records: message in the right panel, and then right-click [Update.esm] and select [Remove "Identical to Master" records]. If the Warning! prompt pops up, click [Yes, I'm absolutely sure].
  7. Wait for the [Removing "Identical to Master" records done] Processed Records: message, and then right-click [Update.esm] and select [Undelete and Disable References].
  8. Wait for the [Undeleting and Disabling References done] Processed Records: message, and then click the [X] at upper right of the program window to exit the program.
  9. At the prompt, make sure Update.esm is checked and click [OK].

The result will be a cleaned version of Update.esm inside of <skyrim>/Data, which is why step #1 above instructs to back up the original (just in case).

2.C. Extenders

Third-party programs (or extensions thereof) that enhance Skyrim functionality or display.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Skyrim Script ExtenderLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Stable uGridsToLoadLink to the mod's Wiki page.
ENBoostLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available

2.D. Fixes

Essential mods that fix bugs and tweak deficient aspects of Skyrim.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Distant Decal FixLink to the mod's Wiki page. Mod now only includes the meshes that do not conflict with USKP.
Unofficial Skyrim PatchLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DawnguardLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Unofficial Dawnguard PatchLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DG
 
HearthfireLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Unofficial Hearthfire PatchLink to the mod's Wiki page.
HF
 
DragonbornLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Unofficial Dragonborn PatchLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DB
 
High Resolution Texture PackLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Unofficial High Resolution PatchLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Appropriately Attired JarlsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Bowlegged Jump FixLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Brawl Bugs PatchLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Clothing and Clutter FixesLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download and install the "Clothing and Clutter Fixes" main file.
Consistent Older PeopleLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Cutting Room FloorLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download and install the Cutting Room Floor - Legendary Edition main file.
Dead Body CollisionLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Double Cursor FixLink to the mod's Wiki page. This mod can be skipped if ENBoost is installed. Users not installing ENBoost, should install this mod.
Fast Travel Timescale FixLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Fuz Ro D-ohLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Guard Dialogue OverhaulLink to the mod's Wiki page. Do NOT clean with TES5Edit. ITMs/UDRs are intended by the author for the mod to work correctly.
Improved Closefaced HelmetsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Ragdoll ParalysisLink to the mod's Wiki page. Only install the Paralyze Miscellaneous file.
SKSE-Elys-AltF4Link to the mod's Wiki page. ENBoost user can skip this mod. Users not installing ENBoost should install this mod.
Skyrim Project OptimizationLink to the mod's Wiki page. Full Version Download and install the "Skyrim Project Optimization - Full Version" main file. Only tick Data and click [OK] to install.
Smart SoulsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Trade and BarterLink to the mod's Wiki page. Hearthfire STEP Recommends: Download and install the Hearthfire version of the mod and activate the .esp, but do not click "start mod" in the MCM options. MCM is explained by Gopher in the beginning of this video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqh5anwuptk&t=18s
Weapons and Armor FixesLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Complete Crafting Overhaul RemadeLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DG
 
HF
 
DB
 
STEP recommends the Complete Crafting Overhaul main file and the CCO Compatibility Patch for WAF True Weapons optional file.
Realistic Ragdolls and ForceLink to the mod's Wiki page. Realistic STEP Extended Patch users can remove the plugin from this mod. All other files are required.
XP32 Maximum SkeletonLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
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2.E. Interface

Mods that modify Skyrim's menus and user interface.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Better Dialogue ControlsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Better MessageBox ControlsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Disease DescriptionsLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP Extended Patch users DO NOT need to install this mod. For Version, select only Vanilla (unless you use Realistic Needs and Diseases), and for Official DLCs, select both Dawnguard and Dragonborn.
High Quality 3D MapLink to the mod's Wiki page. Hi-res meshes, 1k normals Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. STEP recommends installing both the HQ3DMap - Meshes Hi-Res and HQ3DMap - Normals Original main files. Do not install any of the files with "Textures" in the file name. Choose the 03 - High 1024x1024 option in the installer.
Immersive HUDLink to the mod's Wiki page.
KenMOD Time On Loading ScreenLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Lockpicking InterfaceLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends the without wings around keyhole main file.
Lore-Based Loading ScreensLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Main Font ReplacementLink to the mod's Wiki page. Fertigo Pro DO NOT USE this mod if Skyrim language is not set to English!
Main Menu Spinning EmblemLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends the Main Menu Spinning Skyrim Emblem Average Speed main file.
RaceMenuLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
SkyUILink to the mod's Wiki page.
Smaller CursorLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends the main file.
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2.F. Conflicting Graphics

Graphics mods that cannot be listed within their respective categories because they must be overwritten to achieve the desired result.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Bethesda Hi-Res DLC OptimizedLink to the mod's Wiki page. Hybrid + Vanilla normals Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Ruins Clutter ImprovedLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends the Ruins_Clutter_Improved_v2-8 NMM Installation main file and during the FOMOD select Custom. Install everything but the Dragonclaws option. The dragonclaws have mesh changes which are not compatible with STEP.
Realistic Smoke and EmbersLink to the mod's Wiki page. Medium Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
The Skyrim Distance OverhaulLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Ultimate HD Fire EffectsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Medium Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Install the Ultimate HD Fire Effects -Medium Resolution- main file.
SkyFalls and SkyMillsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Static Mesh Improvement ModLink to the mod's Wiki page.   Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Serious HDLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Skyrim Realistic OverhaulLink to the mod's Wiki page. Optimal WARNING: This mod link points to a torrent site, which is one of the riskiest places on the internet in terms of computing security. If you choose to download the torrent, please use the link at top of page titled "Download Torrent", and do so at your own risk. That said, thousands of people have safely downloaded this mod using this torrent. Status Information.
HD MiscLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Tobe's Hi-Res TexturesLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
High Quality Food and IngredientsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Performance repack Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
Enhanced Distant Terrain 2Link to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends both main files.
A Quality World MapLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
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2.G. Landscape & Environment

Mods that modify landscape, buildings, and environments of Skyrim.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
AMidianBorn Caves and MinesLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1k Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. 2k can be used for those with at least 1GB VRAM.
AMidianBorn FarmhouseLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1K Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
AMidianBorn Solstheim LandscapeLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1k Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
AMidianBorn WhiterunLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1K Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Skyrim Flora OverhaulLink to the mod's Wiki page. Basic Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Dragon Glyphs-FixedLink to the mod's Wiki page. Dragon Chiseled STEP recommends the Dragon Chiseled main file.
HD Enhanced TerrainLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Enhanced Distant TerrainLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Download the main file. STEP recommends the Earth 1024 option.
Enhanced Night SkyrimLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download and install only the Enhanced Night Skyrim v04 Low Stars optional file.
FootprintsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DG
 
DB
 
Install the Footprints v1_00 - Legendary main file. Clean save required if updating from 0.99
Farmhouse ChimneysLink to the mod's Wiki page.
HF
 
Detailed instructions available
High Quality LODsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Hi-Res Meshes Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Install the HQLODs - Meshes Hi-Res main file. Do not install the normals. For slightly better performance at slightly less quality, the medium-resolution meshes can be used.
HiRes Legible Road SignsLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends only installing the HiRes Road Signs Version 3 Worn Text optional file.
HQ SnowLink to the mod's Wiki page. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Download and install the main file.
Hybrids HD Plants and Herbs RetextureLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Improved Vanilla MountainsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Lanterns Of SkyrimLink to the mod's Wiki page. Default preset Detailed instructions available
Moss RocksLink to the mod's Wiki page. SMIM version Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
Moss Rocks-DragonbornLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DB
 
Download and install the Ruffled Feather Moss Rocks - Dragonborn Addon - v2.0 - SMIM Meshes main file.
Point the WayLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Real IceLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Real Wood Textures-FarmhousesLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1K Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Download and install the "Real Wood Textures - Farmhouses No Green Moss Version 1K (S.T.E.P. Version)" file from the Optional Files section.
Re-Defined DungeonsLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Realistic Water TwoLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Skyrim Distant DetailLink to the mod's Wiki page. Hearthfire users: Use the "Hearthfire Edition" file instead. Mod requires TES5Edit cleaning.
Skyrim Improved PuddlesLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Download the Skyrim Improved Puddles 1024 BAIN main file. Choose both "00 - Core Files" and the "17 Dawnguard-HearthFires-Dragonborn DLC Users" options from the installer.
Stalhrim of Skyrim-FixesLink to the mod's Wiki page. Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
DB
 
Install 1k and custom opacity.
Terrain BumpLink to the mod's Wiki page. Performance Detailed instructions available
The Beauty of Skyrim-DungeonsLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1k Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
Trees HDLink to the mod's Wiki page. High Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Visible WindowsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Medium version Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. STEP recommends the "Gritty" option for all windows and the "Default" for all color options but "Yellow Tint" for both Solitude and Whiterun. BCF Available. BCF needs 2 files (Reduced Night Glow optional file also needed)
Vivid Landscapes-Tundra Moss RevisedLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024, Yellow Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Whiterun Trellis RedesignedLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
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2.H. Characters & Creatures

Mods that improve the appearance of characters and creatures.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Bellyache's Creature PackLink to the mod's Wiki page. Medium Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Use the "Default Animal Replacement Med Res" located in the Miscellaneous files.
83Willows 101BugsHDLink to the mod's Wiki page. Lower resolution Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
BeardsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Normal Resolution Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
Bellyaches HD Dragon ReplacerLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Better Beast RacesLink to the mod's Wiki page. Lite Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. This mod is not packaged correctly. When installing this mod, right-click on the Data folder and choose [Set data directory]. Okay [OK] to install.
Better FrecklesLink to the mod's Wiki page. This mod is not packaged correctly. When installing this mod, right-click on the Data folder and choose [Set data directory]. Okay [OK] to install.
Birds and FlocksLink to the mod's Wiki page. Hearthfire Edition Cleaned Detailed instructions available
BrowsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Standard Resolution Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Cover KhajiitsLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Female Vampires Have FangsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Frost Atronach HDLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Improved Foot Wraps for FemalesLink to the mod's Wiki page.
More Realistic HairLink to the mod's Wiki page.
New ChildrenLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
PondFish and Salmon ReplacerLink to the mod's Wiki page. Mod is not packaged correctly. Double-click PondFish_Salmon_replacer_1.2. Right-click on Data and choose [Set data directory]. Click [OK] to install.
Superior Lore-Friendly HairLink to the mod's Wiki page. Rough Hair 1K Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Use the "SLF Hair - Rough Hair - Lite 1K" main file.
The Elder Scrolls V Rewritten-ArvakLink to the mod's Wiki page. HD Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
DG
 
Detailed instructions available
XCE-Xenius Character EnhancementLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download and install the main file only. This mod is not packaged correctly. Right-click on Data and choose [Set data directory]. Click [OK] to install.
XCE-DawnguardLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DG
 
This mod is not packaged correctly. Right-click on Data and choose [Set data directory]. Click [OK] to install.
Better MalesLink to the mod's Wiki page. Geonox Faces + Underwear - Default NSFW Mod Page. Direct downloads to remain SFW: *Geonox Faces *Underwear - Default
Natural EyesLink to the mod's Wiki page. 128k Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
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2.I. Clothing & Equipment

Mods that add or modify armor, weapons, clothing, adornments, and other equipment.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
AMidianBorn Blade of WoeLink to the mod's Wiki page. 2k Only the main file.
AMidianBorn Book of SilenceLink to the mod's Wiki page.   Detailed instructions available
AMidianBorn Imperial Light and StuddedLink to the mod's Wiki page. 2k Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
AMidianBorn Stormcloak Officer ArmourLink to the mod's Wiki page. 2k Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
Better CircletsLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024x512 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
Dawnguard Crossbow Bolts VisualizedLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DG
 
Also install the optional "Explosive Bolts Visualized HD Textures" file.
Closer Quivers and Longer ArrowsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Elemental StaffsLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Install the main file.
Gemling Queen JewelryLink to the mod's Wiki page.   Detailed instructions available
Skyrim Weapon De-LARP-ification ProjectLink to the mod's Wiki page. Also install the optional Dawnguard and Dragonborn files.
Greatsword Sheaths and Scabbards ReduxLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
New Thinner TorchLink to the mod's Wiki page. Use "Ultimate HD Torch by rheadude compatible" version ONLY.
Nightingale PrimeLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends "Leather".
Not Really HD-Mask of Clavicus VileLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends "Wrecked".
Ultimate HD TorchLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Also install the Ultimate HD Torch -less glowing cloth- optional file.
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2.J. Animations & Effects

Mods that add animations and/or effects.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Animated ClutterLink to the mod's Wiki page. Install all options except for Ship Idles.
Animated Weapon EnchantsLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends the Animated Weapon Enchants - Vanilla Sounds optional file.
Better Turn AnimationLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Burn Freeze Shock EffectsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Loose Detailed instructions available
Dawnguard Rune Weapons FXSLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DG
 
Deadly Spell ImpactsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Medium Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Dual Wield Blocking AnimationsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Enchantment Effect ReplacerLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends "2XRes".
Enhanced Blood TexturesLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
Finer DustLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Improved Weapon Impact EffectsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Lightning During Thunder StormsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
No Spinning Death AnimationLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DB
 
Detailed instructions available
NoMaaM Breathing IdlesLink to the mod's Wiki page. non-BBB Download and install the Female without BBB and Male Breathing Idles V0_1 optional file.
RainbowsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Running With BowsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Smaller Ice Spikes and SpearLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends the Smaller Ice Spike 50 optional file.
Shooting StarsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Skyrim Performance PlusLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
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2.K. Clutter & Miscellaneous

Mods that modify general items such as furniture, barrels, bottles, food, etc.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
The 418th StepLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends "Snow Version".
Better BonesLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Better ShadowmarksLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Dark Brotherhood Tenets RestoredLink to the mod's Wiki page. Standard (medium) Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
Detailed RugsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Main File STEP does not recommend either of the optional files.
Enchanting Candle Meshes ImprovedLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Enhanced HD Dragon BonesLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1k Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. STEP recommends the "No flesh" option.
Gemling Queen Dragon ClawsLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP Recommends: Solid with Refraction version
HD BasketsLink to the mod's Wiki page. 512 x 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available.
HD LinensLink to the mod's Wiki page.
HD Ore and IngotsLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends the "With manager" file. The main file is mostly extraneous screenshots and duplicate files.
HD SacksLink to the mod's Wiki page. Use both Type B Small and Big sacks.
HQ PaperLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Intricate Spider WebsLink to the mod's Wiki page. High Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available.
Not Really HD-Display CaseLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends "Smudged Glass".
Not Really HD-KeysLink to the mod's Wiki page. With normals
Pilgrim's DelightLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends "Legacy" version.
Radiant and Unique Potions and Poisons HDLink to the mod's Wiki page. Use "Booze v2 Non-Glow".
Realistic InstrumentsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Rens HD ShrinesLink to the mod's Wiki page. Users can install the textures of their preference.
Septim HDLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Silly Level of Detail-Potions and PoisonsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Use Ceramic style. Install for both potions and poisons.
Silly Level of Detail-Wine CellarLink to the mod's Wiki page. Also install "Less saturated labels" optional.
Skyrim RedesignedLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Soul Gems DifferLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Super Realistic OreLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download the Just the textures optional file. This mod is not packaged correctly. Right-click on Data and choose [Set data directory]. Click [OK] to install.
Sweet MotherLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP recommends the main file only.
White Phial ReplacerLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024, 50%, Non-Dawnguard Relative to Baseline, a lower quality, less demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
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2.L. Sound

Mods that modify audio including music, sound effects, environment, and voice.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Better Animal FootstepsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Better Horse Pain SoundsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Better Weapon Swing SoundsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Audio Overhaul for SkyrimLink to the mod's Wiki page. Main File Detailed instructions available
Dragons Shout With VoiceLink to the mod's Wiki page. Loose Also install optional file, Dragons Shout with Voice from location.
Heart of the BeastLink to the mod's Wiki page. High Agression
IHSS-Improved Horse StepsLink to the mod's Wiki page. This mod is not packaged correctly. Right-click on Data and choose [Set data directory]. Click [OK] to install.
Immersive ThunderLink to the mod's Wiki page. This mod is not packaged correctly. Double-click on ImmersiveSkyrimThunderV6. Right-click on Data and choose [Set data directory]. Click [OK] to install.
Improved Combat SoundsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Lower Sounding Thieves Guild DoorLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Realistic Wolf HowlsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Use the "More Barks than Howls" version.
Smooth Blade Draw and SheatheLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Thundering ShoutsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download and install only the Thundering Shouts - loose files optional file.
Ultra Realistic Bow Shoot SoundsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Ultra Realistic Crossbow Shoot SoundsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DG
 
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2.M. Gameplay

Mods that improve game-play without significantly changing the game mechanics.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
Auto Unequip AmmoLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Bring Out Your DeadLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Clams Drop PearlsLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Come together N Out of the wayLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Convenient HorsesLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Dual Wield ParryingLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Follower Trap SafetyLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Gildergreen RegrownLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Lock OverhaulLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
No NPC GreetingsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Sligtly Reduced Included in every version of the STEP Patches, STEP Core Patch, STEP Extended Patch, and both versions of the STEP Combined Plugin.
Non-Essential ChildrenLink to the mod's Wiki page. Use the Hearthfire version.
Oblivion GatesLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download and install the Oblivion Gates v3 Skyrim and Dawnguard DLC main file. Only use one ESP; the "without markers" ESP is recommended by STEP. Move the other ESP to Optional ESPs in MO.
Run For Your LivesLink to the mod's Wiki page.
SM Drop Lit TorchesLink to the mod's Wiki page.
Skyrim Coin Replacer ReduxLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download and install the SCRR - Legendary Edition main file and the Septim HD Coinpiles optional file.
Skyrim-Community-UncapperLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
The Choice is YoursLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
The Paarthurnax DilemmaLink to the mod's Wiki page. Note: The Nexus page for this mod has a spoiler for those that have not played the main quest yet.
Thieves Guild RequirementsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Download and install the main file.
Traps Make NoiseLink to the mod's Wiki page. Install the Traps Make Noise main file and the Traps Make Noise - Follower Safety Patch optional file if Follower Trap Safety was installed earlier in this section.
Wet and ColdLink to the mod's Wiki page. 1024 Relative to Baseline, a higher quality, more demanding version of the mod is also available. Detailed instructions available
When Vampires AttackLink to the mod's Wiki page.
DG
 
Even Better Quest ObjectivesLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
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2.N. Patches

Mods that patch the STEP mod lineup.
Mod Name Baseline Quality Options DLC Required Notes
STEP PatchesLink to the mod's Wiki page. STEP:Core Patch
DG
 
HF
 
DB
 
Detailed instructions available
Bashed PatchLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Dual Sheath ReduxLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Better Shaped WeaponsLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
Fores New Idles in SkyrimLink to the mod's Wiki page. Detailed instructions available
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2.O. Launching STEP:Skyrim

Once all mods have been installed, run LOOT one final time to ensure the correct plugin order. When ready to play for the first time after a STEP install, be certain to either:

  • Start a brand new character, or
  • load the save game generated just after character creation if it exists, or
  • load an existing character after clean saving the relevant save game.
Mod Organizer Guide
USERS
It takes significantly longer to launch Skyrim from within MO than it does by using other means. Allow up to 3 minutes for Skyrim to launch before panicking ... launch time will be faster after the first launch in a given MO session (unless lots of mod-list changes are made).

STEP 3

Tips & Troubleshooting Common Issues

3.A. Troubleshooting Common Problems

A heavily modded Skyrim can bring even a very powerful system to its knees. Maximum visual quality is highly dependent upon total on-card graphics-dedicated video memory (VRAM), the number of GPUs, and monitor resolution. The goal should be to maintain 30 or more FPS on average without any noticeable stuttering.

3.A.1. Failure to Launch

Skyrim still sometimes fails to launch, and the following are some of the most common causes and solutions:

  • Improper load order - Run LOOT and examine the output. Plugins out of order or plugins with missing masters will cause this. LOOT will sort everything properly, but certain patches installed with certain mods included with STEP:Extended will not apply under a STEP:Core install, so these plugins need to be un-ticked in MO or WB plugin lists.
  • Improper Bashed Patch - This can result from ticking options that are not explicitly mentioned in this guide, or it can result if the Bashed Patch was not rebuilt after a mod-list/order change.
  • Bad INI settings - If Skyrim.ini or SkyrimPrefs.ini were edited in a way that was not described in STEP 1.D. (or if a fresh, default INI was not used as a baseline), certain settings can cause this issue. The quickest solution is to revisit that section and regenerate a fresh INI with the recommended settings.

3.A.2. Crashes to Desktop (CTD)

There are unfortunately many reasons for CTDs just after launch or shortly thereafter, but if this guide was followed precisely, STEP mods should not be the cause. Following are some common causes and solutions.

  • Improper Load Order - Run LOOT and examine the output as in the previous section.
  • Missing Masters - If an active plugin is missing its dependent master, a CTD will occur immediately. To fix, either locate the missing master and add it in or deactivate the plugin missing its master.
    • MO will show a red exclamation icon next to the plugin, while Wrye Bash will show a red checkbox next to the plugin.
  • Improper Bashed Patch - See the previous section.
  • Bad INI settings - Yep, see the previous section.
  • Bad video settings or incompatible driver version - Revisit STEP 1.E. and verify settings, back them down to 'performance' options, or update to the proper video driver.
  • Windows environment issue - This is highly possible and unfortunately too difficult to prescribe any remotely ubiquitous solution other than restarting the computer and checking for conflicting processes (e.g., anti-virus/maleware). Google is a friend to all in need.

3.A.3. Semi-Invisible People, Objects or Misbehaving Walls

Following are some solutions:

  • Transparency Antialiasing - Turn of any transparency (adaptive) sampling if enabled under antialiasing settings of the graphics-driver software (see references under STEP 1.E.). Also, remember to download the latest graphic drivers.
  • Bad INI settings - If using ENB, set bFloatPointRenderTarget=1 in the SkyrimPrefs.ini.

3.A.4. Stuttering

  • Microstutter - This is an annoying 'glitchiness' when moving or panning for those using higher-end graphics cards (usually) or multiple GPUs in SLI or CrossfireX configs (purportedly). Follow the recommendations for ENBoost, noting in particular EnableVSync=true . If this does not resolve the issue:
    • Ensure that microstutter is not being confused with 'macro'-stutter, which is more severe and memory related. Remember: microstutter is very annoying, but not hindering in any way.
    • Try forcing vsync via Nvidia Inspector (Nvidia users) or RadeonPro (AMD users) ... sorry Intel users. Also (and this is very important), enable D3D-compatible triple buffering via RadeonPro. Nvidia Inspector users: D3D-compatible triple buffering is not available. Use D3Doverrider instead. This may also have a vsync function.
  • Macrostutter - This is most likely the result of using textures and meshes that exceed the limits of GPU VRAM. ENBoost should prevent this in most cases, but certain user configurations and/or hardware may not behave as expected:
    • Verify ENBoost settings and graphics settings described under STEP 1.E.!
    • Re-install the most performance-friendly versions of mods as indicated by the "Quality Options" column of the mod tables above.
    • Consult the DDSopt Guide to learn how to optimize textures accordingly.
    • Finally, Un-install Skyrim Flora Overhaul and Skyrim Realistic Overhaul, which are easily the most VRAM-intensive mods in STEP (although there are others under STEP 2.F. and STEP 2.G. in particular).
    • Enable windowed mode via ENBoost (instructions at bottom of mod page).

3.A.5. Texture Flickering, Etc.

Refer to the Z-Fighting Guide.

3.B. In-Game Tips

  • The console can be activated by pressing the tilde ([~]) key, often located just below [Escape], while in-game.
  • ENBoost has a couple built in hotkeys that are helpful (can be adjusted in enblocal.ini section [INPUT]):
    1. Show FPS: [*] (on the numpad not shift+8)
    2. Free VRAM: [f4]
    3. Screenshot: print screen (Skyrim's screenshots do not work with ENB/ENBoost)
  • Steam screenshots are [f12], but if using a keyboard with multimedia keys it could be [shift+f12].
    1. Be aware [shift+f12] is also the ENB Series Graphics hotkey to toggle the effects on/off. ENBoost ONLY users are not affected.

3.B.1. Optimize Field of View (FOV)

Prior to 2008, the most common monitor resolutions were 16:10 aspect ratio (source). Since then, 16:9 has become the standard. The Skyrim FOV defaults to 75 (%) and is optimized for monitor aspect ratio of 16:10. Therefore, users with 16:9 monitors (e.g. 1920x1080) will want to increase their FOV to 81. Setting this in the INI does not persist, so it must be done via the console. Within Skyrim, open the console (tap the tilde [~] key) and type: fov 81 . Those rare and unfortunate users stuck with 4:3 aspect ratio will need to 'reduce' their FOV down to 62.

A helpful conversion calculator can assist in calculation of other monitor types (just type in a 16:10 on the right side and the new resolution on the left to get the new hFOV).

3.B.2. BIG Frame Drops During Cell Loading

This is a likely indicator that VRAM is too often operating at or beyond capacity (see 3.A.4).

STEP Packs

Community Add-ons

STEP Packs are generally intended to go over the STEP:Core build. Be certain to read the Pack instructions to determine what build the Pack is dependent upon.


Mod Organizer Guide
USERS
You will now experience one of the reasons why Mod Organizer is the chosen mod-management utility for STEP. Pack installation is a breeze, as it is possible to have profiles for each build dependency that a given Pack relies upon.

Consider reviewing some of the Packs that our users have been developing to augment STEP.

STEP Packs

User Contributions

How YOU Can Help

STEP can only get bigger and better with help from the user community. Even simply maintaining the current STEP is too much work for the core STEP team to ensure that the highest quality is maintained. We need people to help us identify mods that improve Skyrim while adhering to the STEP Mandate. We also need ongoing reviews and updates on mods that may be causing problems or that stray from the STEP philosophy. Finally, we need help from the community in terms of testing, benchmarking and analysis. More detail is presented in the Mod Testing Guide.

In order to suggest a mod, visit the Mod Suggestions section of the STEP Forums.

Info-Logo.png Notice: The STEP team will be beta testing a new mod-testing procedure and interface currently in final stages of development here on the STEP Wiki. Anyone interested in testing mods of any kind --whether included in STEP or not-- should contact the STEP administrators by email or on the forums (click on the link in upper left of header).

Call for Wiki Content Editors

The STEP Community Wiki is open to editing by all registered community members; however, we need assistance maintaining and creating new supporting content. We are particularly interested in obtaining a few people with a passion for writing and editing. Familiarity with wiki markup is preferable but not necessary. Interested parties please contact z929669 via PM on the forums (Please register on the forums and see the very bottom of the Forum Team page).

Call for STEP Mod Testers

STEP users interested in becoming testers, please contact z929669 via PM on the forums (Please register on the forums and see the very bottom of the Forum Team page). Once registered, record your system specs by clicking on the button and filling out the form. These specs will be associated with performance data by tester. Before deciding, read through the Mod Testing Guide to get a sense what mod testing involves.

Call for STEP Benchmarks

Users interested in helping out with the STEP Benchmarking Project, see our benchmarking guidelines and submit results on the forums (see link at upper left of site header bar).

Call for Forum Moderators

Regular STEP forum users interested in becoming moderators, please contact z929669 via PM on the forums (Please register on the forums and see the very bottom of the Forum Team page).


Thank you for reading and enjoy the game!


Special Credits

The STEP administrators would sincerely like to thank (from the bottoms of our fuzzy little hearts):

  • The authors of mods recommended in STEP
  • The core STEP Community for feedback, suggestions and input
  • The STEP beta testers ... for their good humor and rigorous analyses
  • The Nexus community
  • Bethesda Softworks for Skyrim (and TES in general)
  • Tannin for continued development and support of Mod Organizer
  • A very special thanks to STEP aficionados, EssArrBee, DoubleYou and TechAngel85 for their assistance with this release. EssArrBee is also our STEP Patch maintainer, so a big thanks to him for that. DoubleYou is also the lead maintainer of the MO Guide. TechAngel is a Release Coordinator and FOMOD extraordinaire.
The core STEP team is:
  • stoppingby4now - Main site developer, Semantic Mediawiki developer & extraordinaire, site founder
  • TheCompiler - STEP creator, mod-list extraordinaire
  • z929669 - Wiki & forums content editor, main site administrator, hosting maintenance, site founder
  • Active STEP volunteer staff: Aiyen, EssArrBee, deathneko11, DoubleYou, GSDfan, Kelmych, kryptopyr, phazer11, phryxolydian, rootsrat, TechAngel85, torminater, WilliamImm
  • Farlo - Mediawiki developer & extraordinaire, Mod-list co-compiler, forums admin, site founder (out of commission since November, 2013)
  • MontyMM - Solutions developer (Semi-Automatic STEP), site founder (out of commission since December, 2013)