With the way I've been playing FNV (IE: way too much) lately, I've been able to notice and track the myriad errors that have come up; and I'm seeing some patterns. Patterns that remind me almost of Shivering Isles.
Those of you who weren't Oblivion players in its heyday may not know this, but the original release of SI was unplayable long-term. Literally. It irrevocably corrupted its own savegames as time went by. You could play mostly okay at first, but the longer you went the worse it got until saves weren't even loadable anymore. Of course, a patch was eventually released that unfucked the whole thing; and if you're on 1.2 of Oblivion/SI, you can play with complete impunity -- or at least as much impunity as one ever gets in anything based on the Gamebryo engine.
You'll recall that the first play session from this new FNV game was over five hours, straight. This amazed me, as it was something I'd never been able to do. From five to fifteen hours, I had three crashes: two on cell-change, and one when a companion tried to visibly swap out equipped items.
Things started going downhill fast. From fifteen to twenty-five, crashes became much more commonplace, and started occurring in the open wasteland again; most often when new enemies were being loaded.
I'm around twenty-six hours in now, and yesterday had three crashes in less than ten minutes of play. One on fast travel, and two just walking around.
Now, it's fairly annoying. I'd chalk it up to my system being in its death throes, but I can play other games -- even high resource ones -- without issue.
I know my video drivers play a bit of a part in the issue (boy do I miss the days when Nvidia hired competent people) but that still wouldn't explain the steady progression of issues based on time played.
I've also noticed the issues exacerbated since I added a few more mods a few days ago. This again suggests a save issue -- that as the save files themselves get larger, the game gets progressively less stable.
I had thought to use Wrye to try and remove "bloat", but I loaded it up and the first thing it did was helpfully reset the timestamps on every plugin in my list and completely randomize my load order.
Will someone remind me why people love this program so much? It didn't even give me the option of fixing the save files, so it was a totally wasted endeavor.
Since the fan base's vaunted tools have proven once again more trouble than help, I'm going to pull those mods I added, trash all my saves, and revert to my "clean save" in chargen.
Yeah, it's throwing away all that "work"... but I don't much care. The game was mostly just getting reacquainted with the engine and checking for potential companion issues (there were none, blessedly -- my girls are 100% reliable); so it's not much of a loss. I made some pretty shitty decisions on perks along the way anyway, since I had forgotten which ones worked as advertised, and which were total wastes of time.
Because I'm sure someone is curious: the mods I had installed were several armor/outfit mods that I ended up not particularly liking, from these packages. Nothing technically wrong with them, I just don't care for the way they look. Save for the "Nida" outfit, which I intend to keep as Natasha looks quite smashing in it. I'll screenshot later.
The other mod, the normal replacer, was this one. The author claims it makes everything "look better" without impacting performance. He's half right. I didn't notice a performance hit; but nor did I notice that things looked better. Instead of looking more real, everything looks... I'm not even sure how to describe it. Craggy? I'd say jagged, but that usually implies the texture edges; and this is the normals themselves. It's like nearly everything is spiky; raised portions with valleys between -- almost like an exaggerated sandpaper surface. While I'll agree that some surfaces should look that way, all should not. It's especially annoying on asphalt. And as others have noted, certain other surfaces get decidedly shiny/glasslike. On the whole, it's not bad work... it's just not realistic. If I wanted surreal, I'd go full-bore and just download one of the anime packs that makes everything look cell-shaded.
Regardless, by starting over and removing said mods, I can at least get a handle on what's causing it. If the progression of issues stays the same, I can give credence to the idea that it's the game, itself, and not the mods. Conversely, if the issues don't manifest; or manifest at later points in the game, I'll know that certain mods have at least some impact on savegame stability.