VIDEO AND PDF TUTORIALS
Comprehensive Texture Baking
  • A comprehensive tutorial on texture baking, modeling for texture baking, theory, checking for bake errors, and how to repair them. (3ds Max & xNormal)
  • Software covered / used: 3ds Max (2012 – 2015), xNormal, I also used Toolbag 2 for viewing meshes.
  • Video Time: 1 hour / 36 minutes.
  • Watch it on CGMeetup

MipMaps, UV Seams, and UV Padding
  • In this 10 minute tutorial I discuss mipmaps, mipmap seams, and UV island padding.
  • I also show a live demonstration in ToolBag 2 of what happens when there isn’t enough padding on the UV islands.
  • Video Time: 9 min / 41 sec

nVidia DDS Tool and nifSkope Settings TES: OBLIVION & SKYRIM

Title Click for web quality .pdf, or download full file below.

This 30 page PDF tutorial is packed with information on working with .dds & .nif file formats for Oblivion, Skyrim, & Fallout. I also cover tips and techniques of asset creation and much more!

Highlights

  • Working with & saving .dds files using the nVidia DDS tool.
  • DDS formats & sizes.
  • NIF formats & NifSkope.
  • MIP Maps.
  • Glow Maps.
  • Transparencies.
  • Photoshop editing & image resizing.
  • Photoshop and 3dsMax exporting.
  • Using nifScope and settings.
  • Asset Creation.

The full file can be downloaded at JDGameArt or at the Nexus.

Modding Advice Article

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Modding Advice

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Modding games, especially Bethesda games never go out of style! It’s a huge part of what makes some games so popular, or if nothing else, stay relevant for as long as they do. If you’re new to the modding scene, chances are you will be able to pull off the type of mod you looking to create with a little patience and research. One of the most popular sites for modding is the Nexus sites full of people that are willing to help get you started. Another site, but one that runs at a much slower pace is NifTools. The people there are somewhat an authority in certain areas, but can be slow to answer questions; this is mainly because of the volume of traffic on the site. Finally, Google and YouTube can also help get you started with hundreds of tutorial and videos around the net related to modding.

Before You Get Started

Research if another mod like it already exists. You don’t want to steal other people’s ideas, or if nothing else, be a cheap knock-off of the real deal. Fresh ideas, even simple ones go much further than a remake of an already popular idea. The modding community is tight niched and word spreads quickly in regards to being a troll, or thief, even if you didn’t mean it. Having said that, nine times out of ten most modders will help you out, or even let you use their content if you ask permission first and give credits respectively during the mods release. Also, many popular home / castle mods take up real estate somewhere in the game world; you don’t want to plant your new mod in the same spot of one that’s been out for a number of years.

Things Change Over Time

I’ve tried to put together a comprehensive list of tools that most people use going back to Morrowind content. You can get a pretty good vibe of current workflows by skimming the Nexus forums and doing Google searches, or if nothing else, post a question in the forums. If you do ask a question there you will probably get a quicker response by just keeping it direct and simple.

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Don’t Mod For Fame and Glory

I’ve seen people get frustrated when their mods don’t do as hot as they expected. (good ones too) Keep in mind using Skyrim as an example, even Skyrim Nexus doesn’t have the volume of traffic as it once did in 2011 – 2012. Many of the most endorsed mods on that site and Steam were released in the early days with thousands of people looking at it every hour. Just that factor alone will reduce the number of views and endorsements drastically if you’re trying to compare your new content with established ones. Also, going back to what I previously mentioned; there’s a lot of content out there now so creating unique content later in a game’s release is important!

If you are looking for cheap fame and glory, but don’t have fresh ideas, you can try creating content from “current” popular media. This could include books, movies, other games, T.V. shows, etc. As an example, I can remember when the 2009 Avatar movie was released, the Oblivion mods for it did quite well. Bear in mind I’m not knocking this kind of mod, but am trying to illustrate how and why a mod might do will, or not so much.

Clear Cut Ideas

A perfect example of a terrible mod would be an armor set / UI mod / sound mod / spells mod / water mod. Your content should have a clear cut purpose of what the user will be downloading. Imagine SkyUI (user interface) mod, but it also changed all of the NPC hair in the game, and just for kicks changed the sound of voices too. 😀 Sounds ridiculous, but simply put, keep your mod clean.

Having said that, some mods drastically change the game in many ways. These are normally known as overhaul mods but are advertised as such and people will know many things will change and might have mod conflicts.

class_creation_agentDirty Edits

I wanted to keep this article free of technical talk but one area I feel is important enough to mention is “dirty edits”. Speaking briefly, many actions done in Creation kit or Construction Set get recorded down and saved out in the .esp file whether you intend to use those edits or not. Before the mod is released, or even while you’re still working, TES Edit should be used to clean the .esp file free of these dirty edits and conflicts. I posted a link to them below.

Network Wisely

If you plan on sticking around in the modding community it’s a good idea to network with other modders, but do it in a smart way. Some people may approach you simply to use your assets or time on a mod they are working on. It’s your choice of course, but I recommend checking out this user, the mod, and others involved to be sure it won’t be just a waste of your time. Really, it’s a fine balance of giving people a chance and looking for red flags. If someone with a decent modding background approaches you and the message is cool-calm-and-collected, not always, but normally could be a legitimate project or opportunity. If someone with a Nexus account that’s two days old comes to you asking for help on the kool3st m0d ever, it might be a good idea to do some more digging. I think you get my point.

If you release a more popular mod, don’t be surprised if some people contact you asking for permission to translate the mod into another language. Not saying trolls don’t exist, but with my experience, most of these people are legit and will post credits and a link to the original author. (you) Also, just be sure and clear as to how exactly they plan on using your content, and what site it will be uploaded to.

As a side note, its 100% fine to have stipulations on how and when your content is used; let that be known in the conversation you have before you let someone use your hard work. Any legitimate modder / gamer knows how much effort goes into creating quality content, and won’t be offended by you asking questions, or not letting just anyone use your work willy–nilly.

class_creation_witchhunter-1Weekend Release & Social Media

Release your content on the weekends; Friday or Saturday is a good time, sometime in the morning, afternoon, or early evening, never at say 3:00AM. This will give your mod maximum exposure during high-traffic times! Plan ahead as to what social media sites you want to advertise on right when the mod is released too. To name a few, Twitter, Google+, gaming forums, Facebook. This will also help push traffic to your mod at the initial release. The first 12-24 hours is a critical time before your mod get’s pushed down the list from content coming out after yours. Once you’ve done the footwork, a good mod will sell itself, it’s just getting that initial push out the door.

Test Your Mod

It’s very exciting to finally get close to releasing your new mod to the NET, but one thing not to overlook is play-testing your content before its upload. Of course, every mod will need different amounts of testing, but the point I’m trying to drive home is to come up with ways of testing your mod based on what it will do after the user installs in on their machine. I normally set aside one to two days to prepare for a mod release, but this could be a week or even more. A few ideas could include…

  • Doing install / uninstall cycles to make sure all of the files are being removed and added.
  • Loading a saved game with your .esp saved, but have the .esp turned off. (looking for crashes)
  • Going through quest cycles. (a number of times)
  • Move your .esp’s load order and running the game.
  • Look for performance drops.
  • Check collision on meshes, missing textures, broken emitters, spawn / warp nodes that lead to nowhere, etc.
  • Essentially do everything the gamer will probably do with your mod, and try to break it!

Finally, prepare screenshots and a description of your mod that will be uploaded to the NET. A title, icons, and custom font is always a nice touch too.  😎

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Be Unique

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Bethesda Game Modding Links

NifSkope

  • NifSkope is a tool for editing .nif format files and is one of the most essential tools on the list, which is why I put this at the top. Unlike many popular game engines that use .fbx or maybe .obj, the .nif mesh file is brought into the engine with extra data attached to it including things like mesh material information, texture paths, Havok collision, animations, nodes how the mesh is used (weapon vs. armor for example) and so on. The two .nif mesh types used by Oblivion / Skyrim are NiNode (skinned mesh) and FadeNode (static mesh).
  • 1.1.3 – Early Skyrim support
  • 1.2.0 Alpha 2 – Skyrim Support + Fixes
  • 2.0.dev xx – Fallout 4 support
  • NifSkope – GitHub.com
  • NifTools Forum

NVIDIA Texture Tools for Adobe Photoshop

  • A collection of texture tools generating normal maps, texture compression, mip-map generation and cube map formatting packaged as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 7.0, CS, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5 and CS6. This also works with CC. If you’re having issues installing, disconnect your rig from the internet then run the installer again.
Intel Texture works – PS Plugin
  • Used for Fallout 4 texture formats.

ChunkMerge

  • ChunkMerge was created for adding collision to static (environment) meshes used in Skyrim; this is sort of a “workaround” tool since the current exporters can’t properly export out the newer, more advanced collision found in Skyrim. If you look in NifSkope this will be found as bhkMoppBvTreeShape.

Official Oblivion Construction Set

  • Construction Set used for creating new game content and exports .esp files.

Creation Kit

  • The Creation Kit is a free tool downloaded through Steam under the tools tab once you own a licensed PC version of TES: Skyrim. It doesn’t matter if you buy a boxed version or digital. The CK is derived from the Oblivion Construction Set, both built off the Gamebryo engine.

TES: 5 Edit (Skyrim)

  • Used for cleaning and editing .esp files.

TES: 4 Edit (Oblivion)

  • Used for cleaning and editing .esp files.
FO4Edit
  • Used for cleaning Fallout 4 .esp files.

Coronerras Maximum Compatibility Skeletons (Oblivion)

  • Skeleton created by the modding community to add more animation possibilities. Some mods require this base skeleton.

XP32 Maximum Skeleton – XPMS (Skyrim)

  • Skeleton created by the modding community to add more animation possibilities. Some mods require this base skeleton.

OBSE

  • Oblivion Script Extender.

SKSE

  • Skyrim Script Extender.

NifSE (Oblivion)

  • NifSE, allowing dynamic mesh modification in Oblivion scripts!

Oblivion mod manager

  • “This is a utility for managing plugins, and also for packing them for distribution. It can be used either as an enhanced version of the oblivion launcher’s data files selector or as a more advanced mod manager when mods are specially packed into .omod files.” This is a little older way of mod distribution, before Skyrim and NMM, but definitely worth mentioning. At the time, Oblivion Mod Manager was the most popular way of packing up mods and even allowing for menu-select-installs. You will probably run across many Oblivion mods still packed in the .omod format and may want to use this method yourself.

Nexus Mod Manager – OPEN BETA

  • Nexus Mod Manager is one of the current ways mods are being packed up when uploading to anywhere other than Steam. Aside from Skyrim, it can manage a whole host of games and offers scripted menu-select-installs.

7-Zip

  • 7-Zip is a tool for compressing loose files down to a much smaller size. Another option is the .rar format which was used in early Oblivion modding, but most have moved to the .7z format because of its reliability and superior compression capabilities. Nexus Mod Manager also uses .7z

Wrye Bash

  • Wrye Bash isn’t necessarily a modder’s tool, but Skyrim gamers use this to help keep mods organized and working correctly as some people run 50-75+ mods. Being a mod developer, it’s good to know about this tool.

SKYRIM ENHANCED SHADERS – RealVision ENB – ENB (Official Page)

  • ENB inst a modder’s tool, but this or a variant of is so widely used I feel it’s worth mentioning. The reason I bring this up is because textures will look differently with it turned ON or OFF. If you’re doing some kind of texturing I recommend setting the final texture passes with this ON, or at least getting a balance between ENB and vanilla since so many people use some kind of post processing mod. An Oblivion version of this is called Oblivion Graphics Extender and looks amazing, especially on a game that came out in 2006. There’s also an ENB version too.

CTD and Memory patch ENBoost (Skyrim)

  • Designed to work with the ENB Series mods, this can improve the performance and capabilities of TES Skyrim. Assuming you have the rig for it! 😀

Fores New Idles in Skyrim – FNIS

  • This tool allows for custom animations in Skyrim.

FormID Finder (Oblivion)

  • This tool allows you to find asset ID’s in game. Something like this comes in handy when dealing with environment assets, missing texture issues, or even trying to debug a possible mod conflict.

BSA Unpacking

Skyrim, Oblivion, and Fallout come packed by default in a number of .bsa files; think of it as a HUGE zip file. To access the default game files they need to be unpacked first; you can unpack one file or the entire archive.  Below is a variety of unpackers ranging from early Morrowind era content to the latest. As a side note, the game is designed to FIRST pull data from the loose file structure found in the games folder, THEN from the .bsa file. Because of this, some mods (a retexture mod for example) wouldn’t need an .esp file.

BSA Packing (Skrim)

  • This option and my choice of packing mods for Skyrim is to create a .bsa file in Creation Kit and upload that to the community. In most cases, you end up with two files, the .esp and .bsa. This can be done in the CK under File > Create Archive. Then in the Skyrim > Data folder you will find the .bsa file. This also gets created when you select Upload Active Plugin and Archive to Steam.

Nif plugins for 3ds Max / Maya / Blender (Skyrim)

The .nif plugins for 3ds Max / Maya have never worked with all features since the release of Skyrim. During development, different contributors helped with a particular plugin or created their own using the base code from NifTools, which is why there are so many different versions. Nif Plugin #1 is the original attempt which was released back in 2011 and does offer Skyrim support, but not all import / export features work. The other links I posted are “updated” attempts to fix import / export features but with the possibility of more / different bugs.  If you’re new to the modding scene and don’t know what I’m talking about, essentially most of the errors can be fixed in NifSkope, most of the time the exported file is missing data values, or can’t export collision. In general, most of these errors are easy to fix but take up extra time in your workflow.

Nif plugins for 3ds Max / Maya / Blender (Oblivion)

Below are the official .nif 3ds Max / Maya plugins released by NifTools that have support up to Oblivion and 2011 release of 3ds Max.

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