Oblivion 5th Anniversary Edition

Here’s a new idea, an anniversary limited release of a computer game.

Bethesda is releasing a 5th anniversary limited edition of Oblivion, which comes with Oblivion GOTY edition (wot? no DLCs still? I want my horse armour dammit), a map, a “Making Of” DVD and a coupon for a 10 dollar discount for Skyrim, all in a sexy steelbook.

Overall, I’m thinking it’s a little shabby.

Since this is what should be the ultimate edition, why not pull out all the stops? That excellent soundtrack on audio CD would be nice, for one thing. The aforementioned DLCs wouldn’t be out of place either.

From here on I’m speaking for the PC version since I don’t care for console gaming.

What I would really like to see is some acknowledgment for what really made the game so successful and enduring: modders. Official integration of what I consider essential mods like the UOP and the supplementals and one of the DarN UIs (the default UI is nerfed for consoles, completely unbefitting of PC gaming) would have been fantastic and much appreciated. Of course, any potential copyright issues will have to be looked at but I’m sure the modders involved would be happy to have their work included in an official release, especially in a set so reasonably priced.

The game executable itself needs work. Essential tools like OBSE, Stutter Remover and Fast Exit should be integrated. The executable should be compiled with the LARGEADDRESSAWARE option enabled, no reason not to nowadays. Long standing problems like the Abomb should be fixed. What would have been really nice would be the backporting of improvements from the Fallout 3 engine such as the more efficient graphic rendering routines which results in the huge draw distances found in FO3. UI improvements like pressing “A” to take all items as in FO3 should be built-in too.

I just don’t find this a compelling package. The box is so pretty though.

Photos taken from nitrobeard.com.

Oblivion Mod Impressions: The Lost Spires

a Lost Spire

Basic premise, the Archeology Guild needs an enforcerbodyguard for their researchers and you’ve been hired. This quest mod is way more fun than it sounds though. Intrigue, ruins diving, ancient artifacts, basically be Dr. Indiana Jones in Tamriel.

Technically the mod is well implemented with some solid custom models and textures. The voice acting is perhaps a little uneven but more than adequate.

The story is well-written. This mod strays a little from the official established Elder Scrolls lore. I am usually a stickler for lore-correctness in my mods but here the additions are explained well and, in any case, the fun to be had more than makes up for it.

One thing I don’t like, though, is that the player becomes *gasp spoiler* the Headmaster of the guild at the end of the quest line. Silly stuff, considering the player is, in universe, said to have no archeology skills. I just don’t think it’s necessary to reward the player so. Even for the vanilla Fighters and Mages Guilds quest lines I would have liked the option of deferring the Master and Arch-Mage positions to Modryn and Raminus.

Grab it at the official website.

Oblivion Mod Impressions: The Blade of the Haunted

fear me, I've got glowy runes on my blade
Blade of the Haunted

A short but challenging quest. You won’t find quest markers to use as a crutch or hints in the journal entries on what to do next. The story fits with the official lore of the Elder Scrolls, which is something I like. The voice acting is mostly decent but jarring as quite a bit of dialogue is added to existing vanilla characters. Of course, you also end up with that sweet looking titular sword.

Highly recommended.

Find it at The Elder Scrolls Nexus.

Requirements: OBSE >= v0019

Irregular Oblivioning: Foundations

Before you begin any serious usage of mods, you will need a few resources that will enable some other mods you will be installing.

  • Oblivion Script Extender (OBSE)
    The OBSE is an amazing piece of software. It hooks into the Oblivion executable and provides new scripting functions while keeping things rock-solid. If you don’t understand what that mean, just know that the OBSE enabled the creation of much more complex mods than what would otherwise be realistically possible. Note that D2D users and No-CD crack users are out of luck. Installation is simple, just follow the instructions in the readme file.
  • Pluggy
    This is a multifunction OBSE plugin, and adds more scripting functions.
  • Common Oblivion (Cobl)
    Cobl adds lore-friendly races, books, ingredients by itself, but its true value comes from it being designed as a shared resource for modders. It doesn’t come in an OMOD unfortunately, so read the installation instructions carefully. I have just the Core ESM/ESPs installed. Salmo the Baker is nice but unstable for some users, you’ll have to test it for yourself.

I’ll be doing game play tweaks next.

Irregular Oblivioning: The Essentials

The Elder Scrolls IV - Oblivion

I’ve been a fan of the Elder Scrolls series since the Arena days and apart from the action adventure Redguard I’ve played them all (never did finish Arena or Daggerfall though, pesky bugs…).

The series really took off with Morrowind. While the main quest was OK, if a bit formulaic, the excellent plugins feature and the Construction Set were what really made the game shine, and almost instantly a huge community sprung up around Morrowind modding.

Oblivion continued the fine tradition of extensibility. I started playing it earlier this year, as I did not have a PC capable of running it. I did not even bother to finish the main quest, as I did with Morrowind before downloading and using user-created mods.

I’ll be writing about a series of posts about the Oblivion mods I’m using mostly for my future reference, but I’m hoping somebody else will find them useful too.

And remember, whatever you want to change in-game, somebody’s probably already done it.

In this first post, I’ll be doing through files that I consider musts for every Oblivion on PC player (Xbox 360 and PS3 Oblivion can’t use user-created content, sorry).

Before everything else, make sure you have the last official patch (v1.2.0416 at the time of writing). You should ideally get the Shivering Isles expansion, as it adds a few scripting functions. Well, you should get it anyway, as the quest is actually more interesting than the Main Quest.

First up, you want, nay, need Timeslip’s Oblivion Mod Manager. As its name imples, it manages your mods. But more than that, it handles OMOD files, which are specially packed mods. This utility can easily add or remove mods, warn of file conflicts and most importantly, mod authors can provide an installation script which allows one to, say, install optional parts of the mod. Always prefer OMOD if that option is available from the author or perhaps a third party, and it’s usually worth it to make your own OMOD if not. And for the mod authors who are not yet providing OMODs officially, what are you waiting for? Get to it. Follow the instructions!

Even fully patched up, Oblivion has bugs. Modders to the rescue though. Grab the Unofficial Oblivion Patch. You will want the Shivering Isles and Official Mods patches too if you have them. Bethsoft should be paying these guys for what they do. OMODs are available.

You will want one of the UI mods too. Out of the box, Oblivion looks like a console game. Everything’s just so… big. And clumsy. Modders to the rescue, again. BTmod was the gold standard for a long time, but it’s been superseded by the excellent DarNified UI. It’s what Oblivion PC should have been. Personally, I’m using DarkUI’d DarN. Both DarN UIs comes in delectable OMODs.

Now grab the Better Oblivion Sorting Software, formerly known as the FCOMhelper. Official description: ‘A simple program for mod users to quickly optimise load ordering of ESP/ESM files in their Oblivion load-order.’ MS Visual C++ Runtime 2008 is a requirement.

With these mods, you will still be getting the Vanilla Oblivion experience. Next up, foundations.