Sunday, February 20, 2011

Too Many Mods.

No, this isn't a complaint about how many I'm involved in.

Readers at the file comments for the RR Companions Vault (the good one for FO3 that actually works worth a shit sometimes) may have noticed a recent glut of malcontents.

Reading over and trying to solve the issues, I have come to a conclusion. Not quite an epiphany.

There are too many mods. Gamebryo may, in fact, be too easy to mod. Everyone and their cousin can tamper with the game, upload a plugin; and the rest of us are supposed to rewrite our mods to unfuck theirs.

Now, on the one hand, easy modding is a boon. Modding Gamebryo is easy enough and simple enough that it doesn't have quite the intimidation factor of other games. This has gotten me into it, and as I recall did similarly for Herculine.

On the other hand, it's also gotten a ton of people into modding who shouldn't be. People with no attention to detail, no urge to make their mods work; or make them widely compatible.

FOOK2 is a perfect example of this. Not a mod in itself, but a "mod collection"; where the authors take seventy five other mods they like, cram them together into one esp/esm set; and call it an overhaul. Doesn't work on your system? Tough shit. Don't like it? I've heard reports of malcontents on the FOOK forums having their threads locked and even being banned for making waves. You get the whole thing or nothing.

The real pisser is that I can feel where they're coming from with that attitude.

Had a complainer pop into RR the other day, swearing up and down that RR Companions Vault is incompatible with Broken Steel. Well... no, it isn't. I've never played through the MQ to the point he specifies (I maintain that Bethsoft's writers are hacks who need to be flipping burgers and not allowed to touch a word processor), but plenty of other players have. One of them made it a point of testing every facet of the mod last year, and actively trying to break it in any and every way he could. Plenty of bugs were uncovered; but none in that area. With as long as BS has been out, I can't for the life of me imagine that someone else wouldn't have run into it by now.

Of course, I gave my standard response - which is almost worthy of being turned into a form-letter at this point - asking about the usual suspects: Masterupdate, and the Unofficial Patch. I know the UOP caused a shit-ton of crashing events around Rivet City the last time I was dumb enough to run it. I have no reason to believe it's gotten any less sucky now. My questions were flatly ignored, and a reply given that he had fixed it himself in the GECK. Well, whatever. That just means that I'm not going to bother looking into the issue any further - if you can't be bothered to answer questions, and can so easily fix it yourself; I figure you had something to do with the problem and just don't want to admit it.

This morning we had another. This malcontent specifies FWE breaking the bobblehead stand in Vault 1. News to me; I've had FWE running since I got tired of Arwen's breaking the NPC AI - and going out of her way to make it impossible to cull that set of effects from the mod. Six months, at least; probably closer to ten. Never seen a bobblehead issue.

Of course, this malcontent also helpfully notes that he has no issues with BS.

Now, I'm not going to call both players liars. Far from it; I fully believe they have the issues they reported. The problem is what's causing them? Most of you run entirely too many mods. It's not unusual to find most players running in excess of a hundred and fifty plugins and masters in their load order - a not insubstantial percentage of which have directly conflicting effects.

Conversely, I have neither issue. I've said it before, I'll say it again: if I can't reproduce the problem, I can't fix it. I don't have your bash patches or merge patches or personal edits or whatever monstrosities you've been directed by the forums to produce to make FWE, FOOK2, MMM, and Arwen's all run together.

Between the total shoddiness of the game's coding, issues caused by load orders and third party plugins, and players flat out omitting details that they don't think are pertinent... a lot of these problems simply don't occur regularly or in a quantifiable fashion. Thus, they can not be fixed.

When I was still new to being "in charge" (HA!) of RR about this time last year, I made the mistake of taking a player at face value about bugs that I couldn't reproduce. Every version I released, I'd get a PM detailing all the stuff that was wrong with it, and still wrong with it from last version. I tried for months to fix things that I couldn't see were wrong; with predictably little success. Finally got a look at his load order, and he was running a "merge patch" that combined RR with several other mods. "Oh, but that isn't the issue; I know it..." Right, and I'm slated to be nominated for sainthood next fiscal year. After much trying, and many suppressed urges to use the Nexus' block feature, I finally find out two other important details. 1) that he won't update his game past 1.4 (1.7 was already standard at this point) - most of the companion errors he had been reporting over and over were in the engine and had been fixed by 1.5; and 2) that he modified every new version of the RR esm; to "fix" something - I forget what it was, exactly. Also came to learn that he had "helped ttomwv with a few ideas" before I came along, and had it into his head that I'd rewrite the companion system to suit his desires.

And this was one person. Uno. Ein. Drop in the bucket, as they say. So yes, I'm a jaded, unpleasant bastard of a modder; but I like to think I've gotten that way with cause.

I'm not going to do it, of course; but lately I've been entertaining the notion of deleting my Nexus content. All of it. Meditating, if you will, on what sort of neat stuff I could have if I got to actually play my games and mod for them, instead of spending four hours a day answering comments and PMs.

A companion that was alive... who bitched when you did unpleasant things or neglected them; was appreciative when you were nice; shifted combat style based on the weapon they were using; who instead of just "sandboxing" would live when left alone - shopping, eating, going on little adventures of their own...

But, of course that will never happen. None of it would be reusable in other peoples' mods via simple point and click; and we couldn't have that.


  1. And now for my thoughts on the subject...

    I don't think the root of the problem is actually too many mods. In fact I think the wealth of player-created content available to us is the biggest part of what makes Bethesda games so successful. I don't even think that the problem is having too many mods installed in one's game. As Matt can tell you, my current Oblivion installation contains over 200 plugins and I'm still adding stuff and merging stuff to make room for more.

    But here's the thing...

    I didn't just DL 200 mods, activate all the files and fire up the game. I've spent a couple of years now collecting these things, trying them out one at a time, keeping the ones that work and I enjoy having in my game and discarding the rest. And when I find one that's clashing with something else I'm running I don't go harassing the mod's creator about it... I figure out where the problem is and make a decision between which of the conflicting mods I'd rather keep. As Matt stated, It's not that modder's responsibility to make sure his plugin is compatible with my 200+mod load order which quite likely is not exactly like anyone else's.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that the main source of Matt's woes in my opinion is not that there are too many mods, it's just that there are too many inept and indiscriminate gamers trying to run their games with too many mods...

    ...and too many overhauls.

    I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Matt on the issue of overhaul mods. Again I'll use Oblivion as an example. I run Francesco's and MMM simultaneously. They work well together, complement each other and enough people have made mods to bridge the two that sometimes I forget they're two separate mods. But unlike some gamers, I know when to stop. I tried to do the whole Fran's/MMM/OOO/FCOM thing when I first started getting the feel for this whole modding phenom... and let me tell ya that was a huge mistake. Trying to follow all the suggested load orders and create Bashed patches and whatever else they tell us to do turned my load order into the biggest clusterfuck I've ever seen. The game wouldn't even launch half the time and the other half it would freeze or crash. Sorry if I offend any die-hard Oscuro's fans here but, considering that MMM and Fran's seem to work flawlessly together for me without OOO, I'd have to say that it was OOO and FCOM that borked my game.

    Why? As Matt pointed out in regard to one of the FO3 overhauls, OOO isn't a large work done by a single person or team. It's a whole crapload of mods somebody thought it would be a good idea to cram all together and call an overhaul. Now don't get me wrong, there are quite a few things about OOO that I liked, but I tracked down the individual mods that added those things that I liked and I installed them on their own without the rest of the game-wrecking "overhaul".

    This is why I say other gamers are inept and indiscriminate. Do you go to the grocery, blindly fill your cart with whatever you see and hit the checkout? No. You shop for things that you like and know work well for you. You choose things that you know will work well together. Things that have left a bad taste in your mouth, given you indigestion or left you still feeling hungry afterward you do not put in your cart.

    That's how you mod your game, folks.

  2. 2 cents from an avid player and user of mods, but not a mod developer:

    Too many mods leads to crashing and grief. Add into that megamod packages like FOOK, etc and that multiplies the chance for problems.

    I know I need to take the time to learn FNVedit and other useful resources to try to minimize issues, but I'd rather be headshotting Fiends and Legion. So I take tactic #2 when things don't work like they are advertised to. I inquire politely - which as ya'll know, seems to be a lost art these days. Sigh.

    Perhaps would be less strife if people learned to use tools like that, but teh lazy is strong. I'm guilty of it myself.

    on a tangent, I can't understand the fascination you two have for Oblivion. Even after I learned how to fix teh ugly, the game bored me to tears to the point I barely finished it once. *shrug*

  3. FNVEdit and Wrye can be very useful.

    However, they can also fuck your installation blue and tattoo it. Games have had to be totally uninstalled and reinstalled because of those "compatibility" programs.

    The simple fact is some mods do not play well together. Respect this, and your game will run fine. Fight it, and you may come out on top; or you may be another sob story for the forums.

    If I can't make two work together via load order finagling, I figure it ain't meant to be. Merge/bash patches are teh ebil - and I don't mean that in the good way.

    As for Oblivion... well, I think it's something that comes up during our formative years. I can't speak for Herculine of course, but I came up on fantasy just as hard as sci-fi. D&D gave way to AD&D, Magic: The Gathering. And novels; oh, the fiction. I still have a soft spot in my obsidian heart for Dragonlance. Dragons of Spring Dawning was the first "real" novel I ever finished, at about age eleven. Later years gave way to games like the Diablo series.

    It's partially romanticizing the past, I know; but there's just something about the medieval bit. It... I dunno. Doesn't feel as constricting. Modern day, or sci-fi you have to deal with technology and laws of physics. Fantasy setting? A WIZARD DID IT I DON'T HAVE TO EXPLAIN SHIT TO YOU PEOPLE!

    As for Oblivion versus Fallout 3/NV specifically: both FO games are very heavy on the post apocalyptic schtick. Everything is broken down and ugly and tainted and full of garbage.

    I get that shit in my day to day life. Ever been to the Columbia River Basin? We have two things here: sand and sagebrush. The economy here locally tanked a few years before the national one did; so we've got tons of empty lots and unmaintained property and junked out cars. It's sort of like living in the capital wasteland, some days. Since I play games largely as a form of escapism, I don't want to see stuff I get here in the real world; else I'd be out there in it, instead of here on the PC.

    Work that in with my strong affinity for pine and spruce trees and sunsets over water... and a graphically overhauled Oblivion is a window into heaven for me.

    Your mileage may, of course, vary; but that's my reasoning behind persisting in the game even after four plus years of having it.

  4. My explanation for loving Oblivion is much the same as Matt's. I've played pen&paper D&D a bit in the past and read a few R. A. Salvatore paperbacks. I recently got into playing Neverwinter Nights for the first time and found it quite enjoyable, largely because when I see a magic spell called Melf's Acid Arrow I already know exactly what it's supposed to do.

    But when it comes to video games I'm really 50/50. I'll always love RPGs and especially ones that let me play first-person, but I also play games like classic Doom and Fallout 3 and New Vegas because I love to shoot stuff too. I suppose I really can't get enough of either genre.

  5. Now, see; Neverwinter Nights was a whole different experience for me. It's like DA:O. Both games have shitty, trite stories that are clumsily carried out.

    But where they shine are the characters. How the henchmen interact with the story; and in the case of Hordes of the Underdark, how they interact with each other.

    As well as the sheer amount of character choices. Take FO3. You've got like two useful primary weapon skills - small guns and melee weapons. Heavy weapons aren't available early game, and explosives are nigh suicide working indoors; so you're going to be using small guns or melee as your workhorse skill. Past that, you have maybe a half-dozen essential perks; another dozen that support your skill choices, and the rest is mostly useless.

    Contrast that with something like NWN or DA:O. NWN, being based on AD&D 3.5E has over a dozen classes. Weapon proficiencies, armor proficiencies, dozens of spells for offense, defense, buffs, and utility (like detecting traps and opening locks). You can make up nearly any kind of character you want. Sorcerer with demi-god-like powers, able to level an entire building on a whim? Check. Evil cleric, capable of summoning greater demons from one of the hells to lay waste to his enemies? Check. Resplendent paladin with his shining sword, defending the weak? Easy. Shadowy, mysterious monk who can kill with a touch and then fade into the darkness? No problem.

    Contrast that with FO3, where you have: guy who shoots things, guy who hits things, and guy who has to run from all combat because he put all his skill points into speech; thinking that the devs would leave a non-combat solution to all the main quest's confrontations.

    Oblivion is somewhere in between. You have more character customization: you can fight with blade, blunt, or barehanded; you can use bows; you can use direct killing magic; or summon others to fight for you. But it still has the great flaw that most situations require combat; so the speech skills are very limited. The repertoire of spells is also much smaller than anything D&D influenced. But Oblivion has the redeeming quality that it's first person; so you get to smack zombies around through the character's own eyes rather than from above - which always breaks the immersion for me.

    That said, I do still play the Fallouts because like Herculine said: sometimes you just feel like shooting stuff. The biggest, most powerful spell in any game just doesn't compare to the visceral satisfaction of unloading on something with a belt fed weapon, or touching off a mini-nuke.

  6. good point, and I think my aversion to Oblivion and especially the D&D games (Baldur's gate, etc) came from the fact that I was DM for our group(s) TEN YEARS STRAIGHT. Burnout was definitely an issue for me. As for Oblivion, I did not hear about the mods until I had almost completed the game, and therefore had to deal with "the ugly" for most of the time.

    We'll see what happens with Skyrim. Hopefully "the ugly" will be slight enough that I'll be able to give it the chance it will duly deserve. And I hope it will still be somewhat easily moddable as well.

    lol, "a wizard did it" - little gems like that is part of the reason I keep reading your blog :D

  7. Yeah, I can see a decade of being designated DM as killing one's desire to play anything fantasy based.

  8. For what it's worth, as a complete novice to any modding (I'm download and FoMod. Couldn't code to save my life from a 386 PC, much less a rampaging master computer) I can still recognize a quality product when I see it. Beware Of Girl and the The RR Companions family (Herculine's Shojo companions are a favorite) are the main constants in my load list and when I've found interesting *sounding* mods that don't work with them I simply delete the other stuff. AFTER I red through the comments and discussion section. The complainers.... I think that was nailed down already. Lazy GAMERS who can't be bothered to read a description.