What is STEP?
First and foremost, STEP is a modding methodology. It began with TheCompiler as a PDF guide on the Nexus and has since been presented in the form of guide with a wiki and forum structure wrapped around it. STEP has historically been updated in fits and spurts, with active development on the mod list, mod testing, version releases, etc., followed by long periods of seeming inactivity. However, behind the scenes, the STEP staff are hardly inactive. We have been focused on site and content development to support the STEP Guide/forum structures and some challenges in maintenance. Most notably, forums maintenance is a lot of work that cannot be put off (otherwise, things fall into disarray ... this is how forum communities are, although ours is more mature than most). Wiki development and the learning curve associated with using our wiki are also challenges for many members. For our staff, the challenge is refining the interface to maximize user friendliness. Consider that the vast majority of all of this work has been accomplished and maintained by a handful of people.
STEP has evolved into the foremost concept of modding in terms of game 'fixes' and 'corrections' (aka, STEP:Core), which are indicated in the STEP Guide mod list. STEP:Core is --by definition-- strictly limited to fixes/corrections that we think anyone playing the game should implement. Secondarily, STEP:Extended is our concept of aesthetically 'improving' the visual and game-play experience of the game, and this is more subjective, although we try to adhere to vanilla style as much as possible. The Core/Extended concept is alive within the current release at the time that this article was created, but the intention is to separate Extended from Core, using Core as the main guide and Extended as a 'Pack' (more on this below).
Abstract On STEP Methodology
One of the primary reasons for keeping STEP:Core pretty strict with regards to vanilla is that the overarching STEP project intends to evolve into a more community-driven initiative of mod 'recipes' constructed as extensions of a central core recipe (aka, STEP:Core). These mod recipes are simply extensible build instructions that we have been referring to as STEP 'Packs'. These packs are themselves extensions of STEP:Core that build on it in ways that express or support different visions of the game. Therefore, STEP:Core needs to include only what are viewed to be the most essential mods necessary to 'correct' Skyrim, serving as the common denominator for all STEP Packs (e.g., the USPs, tweaks to suit the PC interface, 'fixes' that lie outside of USP mandates, etc.). STEP Packs are where the substantive deviations from vanilla Skyrim can and will occur, depending on the vision of any given pack author. Some of the packs may be focused on gameplay changes, others on further graphic enhancements, but together they will allow users more flexibility and choice when determining their modded Skyrim experience. The real beauty of this paradigm is that ANY STEP member will be able to author their own STEP Pack and host their guide on the STEP wiki. Think of it as a 'Nexus' of mod-recipe add-ons that will serve to expand on the ideas of the Steam Workshop, the Nexus, TES Alliance, Planet Elder Scrolls, etc. as a "mod-setup-creation infrastructure" using a common set of development tools to derive a limitless expanse of potential outcomes, each with its own support infrastructure (e.g., forum threads, wiki resources, custom tools, etc.). In this way, STEP can become a completely community-driven initiative reliant on resources provided by the existing mod-delivery repositories like the Nexus. STEP will house the information on how to bring it all together ... and it is not limited to just Skyrim (but that is a story for another time). STEP:Core will provide a common, front-end Guide to modding Skyrim and articulate (via the Semantic Mediawiki infrastructure) with the community-authored Pack guides. The build interface will allow modders to assemble mod compilations complete with detailed instructions specific to mods, mod compatibility patches, Packs and Pack-compatibility solutions as well as a whole host of other relevant attributes, flags and tags for describing Packs and mods. This will be accomplished using forms on the wiki, and the result will be dynamically-created mod lists and Pack Guides that will "snap" together over STEP:Core. The result will be a series of (hopefully seamless) unique instructions for creating the particular build desired by the end user.
Examples of STEP Packs (TBD by YOU)
- Expansion Pack - A comprehensive overhaul of STEP:Core ... essentially, a pre-configured Pack assemblage.
- Add-On Pack - A Pack that focuses on a specific goal. Add-On Packs will likely be combined to create the equivallent of custom Expansion Packs.
- All built atop of STEP:Core ...
- STEP:Extended - An "Expansion Pack" that will represent the fully-modded setup as envisioned by TheCompiler and the STEP team
- Skyrim Revisited - An "Expansion Pack" representing Neovalen's vision of a complete modded setup, including all of the possible options like lighting, weather, char/gameplay enhancements, etc.
- STEP:Stealth - A stealth-oriented "Add-On Pack"
- STEP:Radiance - A lighting "Add-On Pack"
- STEP:Parallel Universe - Maybe this would be a complete overhaul of the Skyrim world ... ?
- STEP:Realism - A purist-realism "Add-On Pack" (or "Expansion Pack")
- ... and so many more possibilities.
Skyrim was originally created for the console, and while Bethesda has released official texture packs and patches to correct for the PC platform, they missed a great deal. Core STEP comprehensively enhances vanilla Skyrim for the PC in order to properly finish what Bethesda attempted. Specifically, ...
STEP:Core is about ...
- ... bug fixes and corrections to malfunctioning aspects of vanilla Skyrim.
- ... HD asset replacements in the style of vanilla Skyrim.
- ... improvements to existing content that increases the consistency of vanilla Skyrim.
- ... interface mods that improve the menus and UI for the PC.
- ... new content that is interpreted as a "should have been included" resource and remains consistent with vanilla Skyrim.
STEP:Core is a comprehensive assemblage of game "corrections" with minimal potential for conflict with downstream Packs and mods. Another way to think of STEP:Core is that it simply takes the Unofficial Skyrim Patches a step further by integrating them all along with other miscellaneous fixes and vanilla-friendly asset enhancements. It serves as a stable base for adding existing or creating new Packs.
STEP:Core is NOT about ...
- ... content that conflicts with TES lore or vanilla Skyrim lore.
- ... mods that subjectively alter or contrast with the style of vanilla Skyrim.
- ... new content that is out-of-scope with vanilla Skyrim.
- ... mods that subjectively alter gameplay mechanics.
- ... mods that have a high likelihood of having "data conflicts" with other mods.
- ... mods that have a high performance penalty.
STEP:Extended (aka: the STEP Pack)
STEP:Extended is about ...
- ... content that is consistent with Skyrim and TES lore as established by Bethesda's creators and extrapolated on by the STEP community in accordance with the Imperial Library and the UESP.
- ... continuity and qualitative consistency of all in-game behaviors and assets (e.g., sounds, graphics, models, gameplay, etc.)
- ... new content, assets and effects that "fit" Skyrim and TES lore.
STEP:Extended is a complete Expansion Pack, meaning that it is intended to complete the entire STEP modded build. In addition to adding upon the visual and acoustic enhancements of vanilla Skyrim, STEP:Extended modifies aspects of the vanilla game in terms of gameplay mechanics and may include mods that add or subtract specific functionality to yield an overall more immersive experience. It is essentially an overhaul of the vanilla game.
STEP:Extended is NOT about ...
- ... Sex mods, body replacement mods or beauty mods that unrealistically affect or digress from the ambiance of the TES series.
- ... Music replacement mods or game style overhauls.
- ... Gameplay overhauls that affect a particular play style (i.e., gameplay alterations are chosen that affect all play styles without bias).