About this Guide
This Guide will walk users through setting up their system for a modded gaming experience for Bethesda games. All of our game modding guides will reference steps from this Guide. Though this Guide is specific to how STEP recommends setting up a system for our modding guides, all users should find this Guide helpful for setting up an organized structure and completing pre-modding steps.
First, users need to select, and set up, a folder to use for most of their modding. Due to issues with some modding programs and Windows User Account Control (UAC), STEP recommends using a location outside of "C:\Program Files\" or "C:\Program Files (x86)\". For all our Modding Guides we recommend users create the following folder: C:\Modding\
STEP recommends the "C:\Modding\" location due to using Mod Organizer 2 "Instances" for our Guides. Using Instances and installing tools to the C: drive will keep MO2's data and other third-party tools located on the same drive. Doing so seems to alleviate potential issues. However, users should consider the space requirements for modding a game. This includes all the mods installed. Keep in mind, when using MO2 Instances such mods will be kept on the C: drive. For a heavily modded game users should expect to have at least 50GBs of free space on the drive chosen for each game planned to be modded. For example, a Step Administrator's system is currently using ~80GBs for Skyrim LE and Skyrim SE, combined, just for the mods. That doesn't include the game installations, which is covered below.
Users who don't have enough space on their C: drive, can create the Modding folder anywhere of their choosing. They may also install MO2 as a portable application, if desired. We will provide notes for these users, where appropriate.
|Notice: For more information about MO2 installation options, please see the Mod Organizer Guide.|
Next users need to create new folders within the Modding folder to set up the structure for future use. At this time, STEP recommends the following folder structure:
Steam is a digital distribution platform from Valve used for purchasing and playing video games. Its program by the same name (Steam) is used to purchase, download, and install digital games from their online store.
Users should not install Steam a location controlled by UAC. When choosing a location, mind the space requirements for the games that will be installed. If space permits, we recommend the ..\Modding\ folder created above, however, many users opt to install their games to a separate drive reserved for game installations.
Steam can be installed one of two ways:
- Purchase the physical copy of the game from a retailer:
- Insert the game disk into your disk drive.
- If the installer doesn't run automatically, open the disk from Explorer and run "Setup.exe".
- Follow the on-screen instructions to install Steam (see video link below)
- Download Steam from their website and install it:
- Navigate to the Steam website
- Download the Steam installer
- Navigate to your downloads location and launch "SteamSetup.exe" (see video link below).
After installation the Modding folder structure should reflect the following:
- ..\Modding\Steam\ (optional; Steam and games may be installed elsewhere)
Moving Steam and Installed Games
Some users may already have the Steam application and their games installed to "C:\Program Files\", "C:\Program Files (x86)\", or another location. Not to worry, Steam makes it easy to move your installation locations. Follow their instructions here: https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=7418-YUBN-8129
Games are installed using the Steam application, and this can be done on one of two ways:
- Users who purchased a physical copy of the game from a retailer should already have the game installed from the Steam installation above.
- Use Steam to download and install:
- Open the Steam application.
- Users who need to purchase a game can use the search bar to search for and purchase it from the app.
- Users who have already purchased a copy of the game, hover over "Library" at the top and click "Games".
- Users will now see a list of their purchased games. Games in grey are not installed. Click on the game needing to be installed.
- On the game's page (right pane) click the "Install" button.
- Install the game to the default location which should be: C:\Modding\Steam\steamapps\common\GameName\..
- (see second video link above).
Once the game is installed, it needs to be loaded once to register it with the system and create necessary files, like INIs. To do this:
- Click the "Play" button on the games page in Steam.
- Load the game to the game menu.
- Exit the game.
This completes the initial game setup.
Though not necessary with the use of Mod Organizer, some users may wish to create a backup of their vanilla game before modding begins. If so, now would be the time to complete this task. For this, STEP recommends using 7-Zip to archive the following directories:
- (Replace 'GameName' with the name of the game folder being archived.)
- %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\My Games\GameName
- %LOCALAPPDATA%\GameName (ie. C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local\GameName )
Any time a user wishes to return to the vanilla state of those game folders, the archives may simply be extracted to the same or analogous paths as above.
Reverting to Vanilla without a backup
During the modding experience it is handy to know how to re-establish a clean game installation. If an archived backup was not created (see above), there is still a much simpler way to achieve the same effect. To do this:
- Deactivate all mods using the mod manager.
- In Steam, navigate to the Workshop and unsubscribe from every mod. (If mods from the Workshop are installed)
- Now browse to the game's directory: ..\Steam\SteamApps\common\GameName
D# elete all files and subdirectories except for the Data and DirectX10 folders.
- Open the Data folder and select all (CTRL + A), now hold CTRL and deselect only the games vanilla files. For example, for Skyrim LE one would deselect the following files:
- Skyrim - Animations.bsa
- Skyrim - Interface.bsa
- Skyrim - Meshes.bsa
- Skyrim - Misc.bsa
- Skyrim - Shaders.bsa
- Skyrim - Sounds.bsa
- Skyrim - Textures.bsa
- Skyrim - Voices.bsa
- Skyrim - VoicesExtra.bsa
- Now hit the Delete key on the keyboard.
- Navigate to: %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\My Games\GameName and delete all files and subdirectories (make backups if desired before deleting).
- In the Steam app, right-click the game and select Properties.
- Under the Local Files tab, click [Verify integrity of game cache...]
- This will download any files that are corrupted, missing, or didn't pass a CRC check. It may take some time to complete, depending on Internet speeds.
- Launch the game from Steam to redo the system registration and recreate new game files.
The game installation should now be refreshed to a vanilla state.
Video Card Setup
Often under-appreciated, display and driver settings have a huge potential impact on the graphic quality of games and anything else displayed on the monitor, so it is important to get these settings done correctly. Below are listed only the essential settings. No further tweaking is necessary beyond them. It is highly recommended that only the bare minimal tweaking be done here. Users can expand upon the settings after they have a modded setup that is configured and confirmed to be in stable condition.
Update Display Drivers
If there is any reason to believe the latest drivers installed are not installed correctly, then complete all of the following instructions. Else, users only need to complete steps 1 and 6; skip 2 through 5.
- Download the latest stable AMD drivers / Nvidia drivers.
- Download DDU and install it (DDU forum Page).
- Restart the system and 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).
- If using UEFI while using Windows 8 or later, go to to your power options and while holding down the Shift key, press restart. This will open the advanced menu where you can select to boot into safe mode.
- Launch DDU, and select the appropriate driver from the drop-down combobox.
- Note the recommendations in DDU and initialize the cleanup.
- Reboot normally and install the latest drivers downloaded from step 1.
AMD users should read the Radeon Settings Guide to correctly configure their driver settings before continuing.
Nvidia users should read the Nvidia Settings Guide to correctly configure their driver settings before continuing.
Certain programs, including ENBSeries, do not work properly when other program overlays are used. Therefore, users should disable the Steam overlay, as well as, any overlays that other programs are providing (MSI Afterburner, RivaTuner, GeForce Experience, etc.).
To disable the overlay in GeForce Experience:
- Open the GeForce Experience application.
- Click the Settings icon (gear) at the top.
- Mid-way down the Setting page toggle "IN-GAME OVERLAY" off.
- Close the window.
- To disable the Steam overlay for SSE:
- Open Steam
- Click LIBRARY at the top
- In your game list, right-click on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
- Select Properties.
- Uncheck the “Enable the Steam Overlay while in-game” box
- Close the window.
Alternatively users who would like to disable the Steam overlay for all games:
- Load Steam.
- On the toolbar click Steam.
- On the dropdown menu click Settings.
- On the new window, uncheck the “Enabled the Steam overlay while in-game” box then click OK.
Color calibration is critical to photographers and graphic artists who work across media types, but it's also equally important for gamers due to there being a lot of screenshot sharing and qualitative discussion about in-game visuals. It's ideal if all users' systems are somewhat 'standardized' for comparative purposes alone. However, with that said, all monitors will be slightly different in their accuracy of displaying colors.
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, temperature, brightness, contrast, gamma, etc:
- The monitor's built-in configuration menu
- Windows color management
- The driver configuration utility
The value of one setting can affect the appearance of other settings, and depending on the quality of the monitor, #1 above could be very good or just 'OK'. The #2 and #3 objects should be standard though, since they are made to work across various monitors.
- Ensure that #1 above 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 values to mid levels will be best, but for others the 'auto-config' will be best (auto-config may not set all #1 values 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 option #1 above.
- Optionally, also run option #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-levels.
- Finally, calibrate using option #3 (see below) using this reference image and in a room with no direct lighting that could affect what the monitor displays (not-too-bright, diffuse-lighted room). The main calibration should be done using option #3 once a baseline 'canvas' has been established for options #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|