STEP:State of STEP/2016-08-13
Welcome back to the second release of the State of STEP article! There have been some happenings in the community since our last article so lets jump right into it!
STEP Mod Testing
First, we'd like to take a moment to talk about mod testing for STEP and the process around this. It's come to our attention that many users are not aware of how we test mods for STEP so this will be a good opportunity for us to discuss this topic.
Mod testing starts with members posting mod topics. Within each topic, tags can be added by members that relate to the mod. This is where and how the community can suggest mods for testing that they think could be a good fit for the STEP Guide. It's as simple as adding a 'testing' tag to the topic's list of tags. Doing this allows the mod's topic to be filtered into our testing group. From that point a STEP Staff team member or above will evaluate the mod against the STEP Mandate. If the mod fits, the mod is added to official testing by receiving a yellow "Testing" prefix. If the mod does not meet the mandate, the staff member will post the reasons why and then remove the testing tag from the list of tags which removes it from our "testing pool".
Once a mod has been added into official testing, it will eventually be evaluated by the staff. It's good to note here that simply because a mod is marked for testing, doesn't mean it will be tested for the next release. It simply means the mod is in our "testing pool" and will eventually be tested. Another common misconception here is that normal community members are not involved in official testing. This is simply not the case. We encourage all users to try out the mods being tested and provide us with their feedback! The more feedback we have from the community, the more informed our decision will be for our own evaluations. Sometimes community members will find issues or raise concerns which we didn't find or think of. During evaluations staff members are also required to have used and tested the mod in-game. No staff member should cast a vote without having used the mod. Finally, while evaluations are on-going anywhere between a lot to very little debating may take place for the mods being tested. Recently we have started to invite mod authors into the fold of discussion for their mods. We are a passionate lot so these discussions can get fairly in-depth at times. We encourage all users to take up a role in any and all discussions for mods.
Eventually a count of votes will be taken. This is the only step in which staff's votes are weighted more than that of normal members. The reasons for this is because the Staff are held at higher standards to have properly tested the mod against a complete STEP install before casting their views from their evaluations. Once enough votes are posted, a tally is taken and the mod is either accepted or rejected based on the majority rule. However, there may be times where staff are not available to test and vote, due to real life situations. During such times a "rule of two" takes over. This rule is an internal one for the STEP team that means for mods to be accepted at least two STEP Staff group members or Admins must agree on the ruling for the mod. This rule filters into all that we do at STEP, as well. Nothing is done without at least two sub-admin (STEP Staff group) or admin agreeing upon it.
STEP and Open Modding
One subject that seems to be coming up more, as of late, is Open Modding. STEP's stance on open modding is simply that we agree with it and support open modding efforts. We have been working on an Open Modding Agreement (OMA) which we'll eventually release for community use. The core of the OMA is Wyre's Open Modding notes, however, we've built upon it and re-worked areas that didn't mesh well for a large community. More on that in the future.
Since we believe in open modding, all assets which are produced by STEP or for STEP are or must be released under open modding concepts. Over time several mod authors have also discussed with us about taking over their assets when they retire from modding. We will happily do this for any mod authors, but those authors must be okay with their assets being converted to align them with open modding concepts, once they are within our hands and our control. We don't believe in holding back assets from the community due to personal ideals, pride, or ownership rights. Modding has always been and should always be free and open.
With this said, STEP supports the entire community as a whole. Authors who do not support open modding have the right to do so and we respect their decisions.
Members keep asking for an ETA for the next release (v2.10.0). Unfortunately we don't have one. Life is busy for us all and with the holidays knocking at our doors, we'll likely be even more busy with our real lives soon. The only answer we can provide is the one we always provide, "There is no ETA. It'll be ready when it's ready." I can say that a few of the staff have completed some testing and some mods have already been accepted. Other mods will be dropped. For more information, visit our public development topic here: http://forum.step-project.com/topic/9374-step-v2100-development/
STEP is always free
STEP is and always will be a free modding source for the community. We have some ideas we're discussing to help solidify our presence within the community, but we'll discuss that when the time is more appropriate. However, like any web-based entity, STEP has hosting and software costs which sums up to around $65 (US) per month. Currently donations cover approximately 75% of the costs and the rest is paid for by staff.
We have never done a donation campaign because we feel if modders enjoy the STEP Guide or find the support we provide or any of our various modding guides helpful, they will donate what they feel comfortable with. This is why we allow donations of any amount by way of our Paypal option.
We don't do this enough so we would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has helped support our project in the past! Whether it was by donations or any other means, we sincerely thank you all! Without your support, the project may not have lasted as long as it has. If you would like to donate to the project you may do so via Paypal.
Also, as a side note, if there are any graphic artists out there who would like to donation their time, STEP has been looking for a new logo design for quite a long time. We ran a submission phase for a new logo once, but it didn't get much traction. If you are interested, please contact an Admin for more details.
People of STEP
Who are these mythical creatures at the head of this project? Gods? Angels? No, we're just human! Here's what we've been up to since the last State of STEP article:
- Z929669 (Z)
- Z is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
- Stoppingby4now (s4n)
- S4N stopped the zombie apocalypse and popped in to apply some upgrades to how the wiki is handled. It's no longer moving along at a turtle's pace! We're still holding out on that elusive wiki software update he keeps mentioning. But he seems to have disappeared into the void again to seek worldly wisdom.
- TechAngel85 (Tech)
- Tech took over development of the mod Jaggarsfeld and recently pushed out a major update to the mod. It was very taxing work so he's taken a bit of a break to simply enjoy the game again.
- EssArrBee (SRB)
- SRB ran off and got married. We all congratulate him and may they both have Mara's blessing!
- DoubleYou (DY)
- After fully nerding out on those INI files, DY officially published the BethINI tool to help his fellow modder whip those INIs into shape! Read about it below.
- GrantSP (Grant)
- Grant's doing the 'hamster impersonation' at the moment. Not the being 'cute and furry' part, though that may also be true, more of the 'endlessly running in wheel getting nowhere specific'. Sad but true.
Modding Community News
Skyrim Special Edition
Right now the biggest news in the community is Skyrim Special Edition (SSE). If for some reason you've been living under a rock and haven't heard, Skyrim Special Edition is a remastered Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It will be released for the world on October 28th of this year. Steam users will get it for free as long as they own either the Legendary Edition or have purchased all the DLC separately. Many users skipped purchasing Hearthfire, but now is the time to get it so a free copy of Skyrim Special Edition can be claimed! This remastered version comes with a newer Creation Kit engine and 64-bit gameplay. The main remastering is done to the visuals. Users will have several new effects including better sun sets and sun rises, new snow and water shaders, screen-space reflections, volumetric god rays, and more. At this time, no one is sure of the scope of the changes, but what we do know is Bethesda has, at the very least, filled the world with more foliage and clutter. This much can be seen in the teaser video.
Okay so here's what we do know about SSE:
- 64-bit Platform
- New Creation Kit (most likely something similar to FO4's CK)
- New effects
- New Shaders
- Most mods "should" easily transfer (according to Bethesda so don't hold your breathe)
- SKSE could take upwards of several months to be as complete as other versions
- SkyUI will not be transferred over by it's author due to the amount of worked evolved, though the author is okay with someone else doing to grunt work. Contact the author if you're able and willing to help.
- Console users will be required to pay for it.
- Free to Steam users who own the Legendary version or own all the DLCs. (For those with friends who don't even own the game, go tell to purchase the special Steam Bundle before the release.)
- Release date: October 28th, 2016. (2016-10-28 ... 28-10-2016)
Will there be a STEP for Skyrim Special Edition?
The short answer is yes, there will be a STEP version for Skyrim Special Edition. However, the real answer is a bit more complicated than that. There are several things which will have to happen before we are able to host another guide for any game. The main holdup is development work on the back-end for the wiki. We're currently set up to be able to host only one guide and a ton of development went into doing so. With our free time limited, this development may take longer than many of us wish. Once the development is complete, though, we'll hit the ground running and push out the first version of STEP:SSE. For those curious minds, wiki development has not yet started so if anyone has the skills and is very familiar with MediaWiki, please contact us!
Have you heard of Enderal? Enderal is a total conversion mod for Skyrim developed by SureAI; the same team that brought us "Nehrim: At Fate´s Edge" for Oblivion. Calling it a "mod" is an understatement, though! This is an entirely new game built using the Skyrim engine and other tools. Enderal was initially released in a German-only version, but has since released in English. Players can expect between 30 to 60 hours of gameplay.
The authors say it best so we will paraphrase, "Enderal is set in its own world with its own landscape, lore, and story. The landscape is hand-crafted, immersive, and is open-world consisting of deserts, hearthlands, forests, and more for the player to explore. The skill system has been overhauled and the game features classes and new special abilities. The gameplay offers experience points, survival mechanics, and challenging combat. Enderal's story is set with dark, psychological and philosophical tones."
If you haven't already, this one is worth looking into! There are also already several YouTubers creating "Lets Plays", if that is more your thing.
BethINI (pronounced "Bethany"), is the love child of our own staff member, DoubleYou (DY). DY has poured hundreds of hours into finding out what INI settings the Bethesda games use and don't use, and learning exactly what each of these settings do. The result of his work has given us the INI guides on STEP and finally, this wonderful tool. BethINI attempts to remove all the junk from the game's INIs while also providing organization and presets developed by DY for players to use. Currently it supports Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Fallout 4.
To list some of the features BethINI will provide:
- Organizes the INI files into a more sensible order for reading and navigation
- Fixes common errors
- Detects some installed mods and makes automatic changes recommended by their respective mod authors
- Provides superior presets when compared the game's own default presets
- and much more!
Many users have reported that by simply running BethINI and choosing a preset, their game instantly ran better with superior graphics, better performance, and smoother gameplay. We highly recommend users testing out this tool!
Relationship Dialogue Overhaul
Relationship Dialogue Overhaul (RDO) is a new mod by CloudedTruth that is the successor to Dynamic Follower Dialogue. It adds over 5000 lines of fully voiced dialogue for NPCs based on the relationship the NPCs have with the player. All lines are voiced using the original voices from the game. It adds existing dialogue to more voice types, adds some brand new dialogue, as well as restores some missing dialogue that Bethesda cut out of the game.
That is all well and good, but what does that really mean in terms of gameplay? Well, NPCs overall have more to say, and followers especially have a LOT more to say. NPCs also react much more realistically in conversation based on their relationship with you. NPCs who dislike you will be more insulting. Friendly NPCs will act more like actual friends. Your spouse will not speak like a generic follower when following you. It corrects dialogue that shouldn't be used in certain situations and so on.
A good example of something RDO changes is Nazeem in Whiterun. Everyone has grown to hate his insufferable comments about the Cloud District. "Do you get to the Cloud District very often? Oh, what am I saying, of course you don't." As the story progresses and you become Thane of Whiterun, this line doesn't even make sense. Surely someone as political as Nazeem would recognize who you were. Right?! With RDO installed, after you become Thane of Whiterun he will never say that comment again!
If more realistic dialogue sounds good to you, it would be worth your while to check this mod out. Many patches are available on the mod page, and the description page has all sorts of info on the mod itself, load order recommendations, compatibility info, etc. Enjoy!