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Oblivion Mod FAQs A *nearly* complete mod information and resource guide
by dev_akm, updates by Aberneth
This FAQ is intended for mod users, as opposed to mod makers. It contains alot of vital information about Oblivion mods. However, some information may be useful in mod creation.
This FAQ is intended to be a living document, so It will be frequently updated. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or corrections you'd like to contribute, please see the thread:
# Table of Contents
This FAQ is intended to answer the following questions:
- What are Mods?
- What are Mods?
- How do I install a mod?
- How to install plug-ins manually
- File Compression
- Unzipping to a temporary directory
- The Archive Invalidation File
- Playing the Mod
- Can I get these mods on my Xbox-360?
- How do I solve a problem with a mod? (Common mod issues)
- The 1.1 patch broke my mods, what should I do?
- Load Order and Mod Conflicts
- Setting the Load Order
- Checking Conflicts
- Load Order, Mod Names, and Lost Items
- ArchiveInvalidation Problems
- Performance Tuning
- Tracking Down Problems with Specific Mods
- How do I make a mod?
- Where can I find more information? (Further Reading)
- Who contributed to this FAQ? (FAQ Credits)
# What are Mods?
(adapted from a Morrowind Mods topic by Tegger)
What are mods?
Mods are modifications of the original game. They can be called plugins, or expansions, but they all have the same principle
In general, expansions reffer to official plugins created by the game maker, however many large mods that add a lot of content are commonly reffered to as expansions
There are various ways that mods change the game. Some add new items, like weapons of armor. Some add new buildings or lands. Some add new quests or NPCs. Some go as far as editing the game basics, or releveling the game systems.
Mods for Oblivion are a lot less likely to cause game-breaking problems than with Morrowind, due to major improvements in the way the game engine handles mods. This doesn't mean mods can't cause problems. It does mean that Oblivion mods can almost always be removed safely if you decide you don't like them.
Before using mods, you'll need to decide what kind you want to play. No one can answer that for you, so don't bother asking very broad questions on the forums such as "Which mods should I download?" It's fine to ask for other members' opinions on specific mods you're thinking of downloading, though.
Note: I do not recomend using mods until you have played the game through atleast one time. That way you can better recognize the changes made by the mod and enjoy them more. However, sometimes there are factors in the game that people will want changed immediately. Almost 90% of the time there is already a mod out there to suit your needs.
While many players only run a few simple mods that change some basic elements of the game, many other players run 50, 100, or even 200+ mods at once, dramatically altering and expanding numerous aspects of the game, as well as adding thousands of new weapons, armor, spells, NPCs, creatures, companions, dungeons, and quests. Oblivion is capable of running 255 mods at one time, depending on your system, so the possibilities are almost limitless.
And for those new to using mods, don't forget to also see "How do I install mods?".
If you think you're ready to try your hand at making a mod, the first thing you should do is see "How do I make a mod?"
# How do I install mods?
This depends largely on where the mod came from and how it was packaged.
The Bethesda official mods come packaged with an automatic installer that does everything for you. Once you've downloaded the .exe for an official mod, just double-click it to launch and follow the prompts. However, if you are using a 64-bit version of Windows, the official mod installer will not work.
Fan-made mods normally require a bit more involved process to install, unless they come packaged as an .omod file, in which case the installation process is very easy but requires an extra tool called Oblivion Mod Manager.
Regardless of whether a mod is already packaged as an .omod file, using Timeslip's Installing Oblivion mods (includes screenshots). For a more detailed explanation of this process, read the next section of this FAQ.
How to install plug-ins manually (based on a Morrowind tutorial by lochnarus)
FOR BEGINNER MOD USERS
1. LOCATE YOUR OBLIVION DATA FOLDER
This will be located wherever you installed Oblivion, so it is usually:
Crogram FilesBethesda SoftworksOblivionData
Unless you installed Oblivion in a non-standard location, in which case the path will be:
For example, a lot of people install Oblivion to:
Because it's a lot easier to find things there than under "Program Filesetc".
In this case, the path would be:
If you're not sure where you installed it, one easy way to locate the folder is to go to your desktop, right-click on the Oblivion icon, select Properties, and select the Shortcut tab. The path to your main Oblivion directory is shown in the "Start in" box.
You will know you've found the correct location if you find several very large files that look like this:
Oblivion - Textures - Compressed.bsa
Oblivion - Voices1.bsa
This is the final destination where you will put the mod files. Don't put anything there yet, though.
If you want to be able to easily revert to the unmodified version of Oblivion, you can make a backup of the entire Data folder at this point (assuming you have plenty of free drive space). Doing this will avoid the need to reinstall Oblivion if you ever have a major problem down the road. You may also want to consider installing the 1.1 patch before making the backup so you don't have to reinstall the patch either.
When you're ready to install a mod, you will need to download the mod archive to a temporary folder and extract it, so let's talk about that next.
2. FILE COMPRESSION
Virtually all Oblivion mods are "compressed" into one easy to download file that is commonly referred to as a "zip" file or "archive". This makes the file smaller and keeps everything in one file. There are numerous types of these programs:
All of which can be found by doing a search on Google. Each one is different and some of them will not open all of the file formats from the rest of them. For example:
.7z - opens with 7zip, PowerArchiver, WinRAR, IZArc, but not WinZip
.rar - opens with 7zip, PowerArchiver, WinRAR, IZArc, but not WinZip
.ace - opens with Winace, 7zip, PowerArchiver, WinRAR, IZArc, but not WinZip
...and so on.
7zip is favored by many mod makers because it can produce dramatically smaller files than the other formats. It's also free, open-source, and supports all of the other common formats, so if you want to cover all your bases with one download, get 7zip. This is a personal bias on my part. Many people will argue in favor of one of the other tools.
3. UNZIPPING TO A TEMPORARY DIRECTORY (FOLDER)
Double click on your downloaded mod file. The program should open it, displaying the files inside. Depending on which mod you are unzipping, it should have an .esp file (looks like a swiss army knife), a "Meshes" folder, a "Textures" folder, and lastly a README file. Sometimes mods will have all their files placed into mock directory folders, like so:
Program FilesBethesda SoftworksOblivionData
this is for automatically unzipping the files in to your OblivionData folder, which I NEVER do. You're bound to come across a mod that will not unzip correctly and you'll have loose files cluttering up your folders. (This is a MANUAL installation guide, after all.)
Select ALL the files by highlighting them. Then select the program's "extract" feature and a new window should come up asking WHERE to unzip it to. You will now need to pick a folder to be a temporary folder. It's probably a good idea to create a temporary "mods" folder in an easy-to-find location such as "My Documents"...
Some archive programs will also let you use a right-click method of extraction, with simplifies the process. In this case, download the mod to your temporary directory, then right-click it to see what options you have. You should see a menu choice for the archive program, and under that a submenu (or "context" menu) that says something like "Extract Here" or "Extract to ...". I find this method significantly easier to use once you get used to it.
In either case, you'll need to extract (i.e., "unzip") the files to the temporary folder. Then open that folder and you will see either exactly the items you need, or you may have to dig down a bit further.
If the mod-maker structured things correctly, it is most common to find some combination of items like this:
"mod file".esp (usually whatever the mod was named)
"mod file README".txt (or any text filetype)
However, you might have to keep digging down a bit to find this stuff, so if you don't see a structure like that, then open any other folders you find until you get to the "Data" folder with those items in it.
With some mods, you might POSSIBLY have these folders:
Select all of these items -- except ArchiveInvalidation.txt, which we'll deal with in a minute -- and copy/paste or drag them into your Oblivion "Data" folder (described in Step 1 above).
If you already have some of these folders, Windows will prompt you with a warning about files with the same name. Click "Yes to All".
That's it! The mod is installed. Just a few more details and you're ready to go.
4. THE ARCHIVE INVALIDATION FILE
Oblivion prefers to find all of its media assets (artwork, spoken dialog, music, etc.) within a few large .bsa files rather than in individual folders (such as Meshes, Textures, Sound, etc.). The original game and official plugins use these .bsa files (it stands for Bethesda Softworks Archive). These .bsa files are organized internally just like your "Data" folder is.
However, as we've already seen, fan-made mods rarely use .bsa files. Instead, they place individual meshes, textures, etc. into folders within your "Data" directory. This isn't a problem for new items added by a mod, but it can be a problem for some "replacer" mods that alter original game items. For example, some of the most popular types of mods are "armor texture replacers" and "landscape texture replacer" mods that improve the look of the game by replacing the original "stock" textures.
Normally, this isn't a problem since Oblivion is designed to automatically load any meshes, textures, etc. that it finds in your Data folder, as long as the time-stamp (Modification Date) on each of these files is more recent than the time-stamp on the original .bsa files. Since the .bsa files are older, items in them get replaced by any newer items with the same name that exist in your Data folders.
In some cases, however, this doesn't work correctly. It appears to be caused by a bug in Oblivion. Hopefully, Bethesda will correct this bug in a future patch to the game, but in the meantime you may have to use one of several workarounds if you want to install any "replacer" mods.
The best solution at the moment is to use one of Timeslip's excellent utility programs: Oblivion Mod Manager (OBMM version 0.7.10 or later) or BSA Patcher. What OBMM and BSA Patcher do is to sidestep the ArchiveInvalidation problem by making Oblivion think it never had a copy of the textures you are replacing.
In other words, these utilities edit your BSA archives so that Oblivion cannot find the original version of files you have replaced, thus forcing it to load the replacements instead of the originals.
Oblivion Mod Manager
Download ArchiveInvalidation Revisited.
If you don't use OBMM or BSA Patcher for some reason, then the only way to convince Oblivion to load problem textures from the individual folders rather than from the .bsa files is to specifically force it to do this by creating a special file called (you guessed it) "ArchiveInvalidation.txt".
The ArchiveInvalidation.txt lists the relative path (from the "Data" folder) of texture files you want to replace the default artwork shipped with the game.
As a result of the extensive testing reported in the ArchiveInvalidation Explained threads, we now have very clear information about how ArchiveInvalidation works and how it fails to work. Suffice to say that it can get extremely complicated.
My current best practice, based on the above-mentioned research, is that ArchiveInvalidation.txt should only list just the DDS textures from the original game that are being replaced by individual files in your Data folders. In other words, this means it should only contain entries for texture replacement mods. No meshes, sounds, or voices should be listed.
Be aware, however, that many earlier approaches recommended listing ALL your moded meshes/textures/etc. in ArchiveInvalidation.txt, regardless of whether they replace anything from the original game.
If you do use any texture replacement mods, there is a high probability you will need an ArchiveInvalidation.txt file listing these replacements (if you don't use the OBMM's "Directly Edit BSAs" feature). Without it, chances are that many of Bethesda's default textures will continue to be loaded. Also, if you have bad entries in your ArchiveInvalidation.txt file, or even in some cases if your ArchiveInvalidation.txt file is perfectly correct, you may see items in the game appearing purple or even invisible.
Given all these warnings, if you still want to try using an ArchiveInvalidation.txt file, there are several fan-created tools that will generate these file listings for you automatically.
ElChE's Oblivion Mod Manager, which we mentioned earlier, also has an excellent set of options for automatically creating the ArchiveInvalidation.txt. This process executes automatically every time you quit from OBMM or use OBMM to launch Oblivion. Make sure to get version 0.7.8 or later.
If you prefer to create ArchiveInvalidation.txt by hand, this will work fine, but you can probably guess that it will quickly become a huge problem to maintain all the file listings if you try new replacers very often.
If you do create it by hand, here's what you need to do.
Create a text file named "ArchiveInvalidation.txt" in your main Oblivion folder. This is not the "Data" folder, but is one level up from that, in the same folder with OblivionLauncher.exe and Oblivion.exe. The reason for placing it here is primarily to avoid accidentally overwriting it when you install a new mod.
(You can put the ArchiveInvalidation.txt into your "Data" folder if you want. It will work there as well, but be wary of accidentally overwriting it during mod installation.)
For the sake of creating an example, let's say you have two replacer mods, one that replaces the texture for Daedric cuirasses and one that replaces the texture for glass shields. Your ArchiveInvalidation.txt would look something like this:
Note that textures whose names end with "_g.dds" and "_n.dds" don't need to be listed. Other DDS files that don't need to be listed include those in the Menu directory and those in "icon" directories.
If your replacer mod came packaged with an ArchiveInvalidation.txt file, you can copy and paste the contents of the lines of that file into yours. If you do this, be careful not to accidentally paste over any lines that you've previously added for other replacer mods.
Many people claim to use a "universal" or "global" ArchiveInvalidation.txt. However, extensive testing by numerous people has determined that this approach does not work at all. It is the same as running with no ArchiveInvalidation.txt file. If someone offers advice saying you should use a file like this:
Don't believe it. It's a great urban legend, but it doesn't work.
5. PLAYING THE MOD
The only thing left to do now is to activate the mod.
Open the Oblivion Launcher and click the "Data Files" button.
This will show you an alphabetical listing of all the .esm and .esp files you have installed.
The Oblivion.esm file must always be checked. The others shown in this list (usually .esp files) will represent whatever mods you have installed. (Note that some mods, like texture replacers, don't need an .esp, in which case you can skip this step.)
Check the new mod so that it is "X'ed" and start the game. If you did everything correctly, you should have no problems with your newly-installed mod.
# Can I get these mods on my Xbox-360?
The Official mods from Bethesda are available for the Xbox-360 via Xbox Live Marketplace.
sadly, fan-made mods are NOT available for the Xbox-360. Maybe in the future there will be some way to make them available *sigh*
# How do I solve a problem with a mod? (Common mod issues)
(parts of this are adapted from the article
* In OBMM, set the view to 'Load order', click on 'Oblivion.esm', then click on 'Move up' until it's back at the very top.
(You can also accomplish the same thing using FileDate Changer, but it's not as easy).
2. LOAD ORDER AND MOD CONFLICTS
It's inevitable that the more mods you use, the greater the chances some of them will clash. While mods that address different areas of the game are, for the most part, clearly compatible it's not so simple for mods of similar intentions, due to the way the game handles its data structures.
For example, if you want to use "Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul" but prefer a different rate of skill leveling as provided by the "Level Rates Modified" mod - how does Oblivion handle the conflict?
Quite simply actually - the last mod loaded takes precedence. So if you did want to use the skill rates that "Level Rates Modified" provides, simply ensure it's loaded after Oscuro's. And how do you do this? Glad you asked.
SETTING THE LOAD ORDER
Oblivion loads mods by order of date. Ensuring a mod is 'newer' than another causes it be loaded last, and thus take priority.
The problem with this is that the mod selector under 'Data files' in the Oblivion launcher lists mods alphabetically - good to find and choose the mods you want to use, but doesn't tell you the order they are loaded in.
The best way to see the load order - and more importantly, re-order them - is with the excellent Oblivion Mod Manager tool (see above). You'll need .NET installed, but it's well worth it. From here you can simply click the 'Load order' view and then 'Move up' or 'Move down' on mods to re-order them.
Using OBMM, you can test to see which mods have conflicts. In OBMM, Simply click
Utilities -> Conflict Report
and look at the list. Don't worry about 'green' or 'yellow' warnings. Mods crossing data entities here are compatible unless they edit the exact same object (such as a location on a map), which is rare. The conflicts to look for are those in red - these are the ones where only one mod or the other can have its changes go through, and again the mod loaded last will stick.
If it looks a little overwhelming, follow this guide: as the leveled list mods like Osucro's or Sagerbliv's are the most important with regards to balance, load these mods last with the exception of specific changes you want to make to them - as with the example, using a mod like Level Rates Modified to set skill rates or the TF_time mod to make days last longer. This way you get the best of both worlds.
Lots of players make the mistake of getting overly worried about red conflicts, so this is worth restating. Stop worrying so much!
When you have conflicts, even red ones, it just means that two mods are changing the same thing and the last one will get precedence over any earlier ones. OBMM lists mods in the order they load, and you can easily change the load order using the move up or move down buttons (behind the scenes, OBMM is changing the dates on the files to alter the load order).
It is fairly rare to find conflicts that actually break anything. The conflict report is mostly useful for tracking down problems where a mod is not working the way it's supposed to work because a later mod changes the same thing. In this case you just have to decide which behavior you prefer and then move that mod down (later) in the load order so it gets precedence by loading last. If you really want to use conflicting changes from more than one mod at the same time, check to see if anyone has released a compatibility patch to make the mods work together, and if not you may be able to merge the two mods together using Understanding Mod Conflict Reports by Martigen and motub.
3. LOAD ORDER, MOD NAMES AND LOST ITEMS
any people have experienced problems with losing stuff they had previously acquired after installing a new mod or updating an existing mod. This happens because Oblivion save-games keep track of items based in part on the load order and based in part on the mod filename.
If you've been playing with some mods for a while and then add a new mod or update an existing one, this may change the load order (a new mod may have an older date than mods already in the list, or an updated mod may have a newer date than the previous version. Frequently, mod .esp filenames include a version number, which helps you and the author to keep track of which version is old and which version is new, but it also means that the filename will change when you replace an existing mod with an updated .esp file.
Changing the load order or the filename may cause Oblivion to lose track of which mod an item came from, or even worse, which mod added a storage container that you've stored a bunch of stuff in. If this happens, the items in question may disappear from your inventory or from a storage container.
Since the "Data Files" selector you get when running the default OblivionLauncher.exe lists mods alphabetically, you have no way of knowing what the load order is without using an external tool or using Windows Explorer to sort your "Data" folder by date.
This is yet another powerful argument for using a tool like Oblivion Mod Manager. It lists mods in load order and it automatically adds new mods to the end of the load list so they don't mess with your existing load order. OBMM also makes it easy to move mods up and down in list so you can make sure that an update to an existing mod gets moved into the same position previously occupied by the old version. It also lets you keep a version number for the mod without having to include it in the .esp filename.
The load order problem with Oblivion losing track of things gets much worse if the name of a mod has changed after an update. Mod-makers should avoid the practice of naming mods with a version number, because users installing a mod update that has an even slightly different .esp filename is a surefire way to make their save-game lose track of any related data (such as loot they won or items they stored in cells or containers added by the mod). Most of the time, keeping the same .esp filename on all versions of a mod will prevent lost data even if the load order of the .esp file changes.
4. ARCHIVEINVALIDATION PROBLEMS
If your ArchiveInvalidation.txt file does not contain the proper entries, or is in the wrong location, etc., you may notice that some or all of the textures you installed with a mod will not work properly. This usually shows up as items becoming invisible or appearing purple when playing the game. See the section "How do I install mods?" in this FAQ for more information.
If you're still having problems with invisible, purple, or black items, please see Oblivion Tweak Guide. It's by far the most comprehensive guide to Oblivion performance tuning I've found.
6. TRACKING DOWN PROBLEMS WITH SPECIFIC MODS
(adapted from a post by Kivan)
Q. Help! I just installed a bunch of mods and now everything is in Spanish! How do I figure out which mod is causing this problem so I can disable it?
If you're having problems with an item, building, NPC or any other object in the game, you can easily find out which mod (if any) has added or changed the object by using the Beta Comment file. Note that if more than one mod has changed the object, only the changes made by the last mod to load will actually affect the object, so it will be the one this technique will find.
To use the Beta Comment file, you will first need to enable it (if you haven't already). Start by editing your Oblivion.ini file:
My DocumentsMy GamesOblivionOblivion.ini
Double-clicking this file will usually open the file in Notepad.
Look for the line:
If there isn't a filename after that already (which there won't be unless you already added it), you'll need to add a filename after it with a .txt extension, ie MyBetaComments.txt, so the line looks like this:
(Or whatever name you chose to use.)
Save your changes and close Notepad.
Once you've got the Beta Comment file enabled, follow these steps:
1) Start Oblivion and find the mystery object.
2) Open the console with the ` or ~ key, or whatever key is specific to your locale.
3) Click on the object so that you see its name and reference ID (eight hexadecimal characters, ie "001C8F02") at the top of the screen.
4) Typing in the console, add the comment with bc (for beta comment) followed by a space, followed by the comment in quotes (and try not to use punctuation as most of the symbols aren't allowed), such as:
bc "This object should not be here"
5) Press Enter and you should see Beta Comment added.
6) Quit Oblivion (you can use qqq to quit right from the command console.)
7) Go into the main Oblivion folder, the one where the game program and Data folder lives.
8) There will be a file there with the name you chose above (i.e., MyBetaComments.txt in the example.) Open the file in Notepad.
Here's an example of what you will see in the file. It shows the date and time the comment was added, the filename of the source of the object, the last modification date and time of the file, the name of the logged-in user, the cell name or cell coordinates if it's outdoors, the X/Y/Z coordinates of the object, and the comment you added:
8/15/2006 (10:12) Oblivion.esm 5/19/2006 (14:42) MyName SomeOutdoorCell (8,3) 38235 14531 1508 "This looks fine"
8/15/2006 (10:13) PrankMod.esp 8/12/2006 (15:30) MyName SomeIndoorCell -1914 682 -80 "This object should not be here"
Anything with the source Oblivion.esm is from the original game and hasn't been altered. Anything that has been altered by a mod will list the name of the problem mod, in this case the fictional "PrankMod.esp".
That's it! Now that you've found the problem mod, all you have to do is disable it by unchecking the .esp file in your Data Files selector (and/or you can delete the .esp file itself if you're really mad by now).
Asking for Help
If you just can't seem to figure out the problem yourself, you can always post a request for help in your favorite mod forum. If you do this, however, be prepared to provide a complete list of the mods you're using and the order in which they are loaded. To do this, you can use OBMM to export your load order, or use the standard Windows CMD prompt (Start->Run->CMD), and the following command sequence:
cd Program FilesBethesda SoftworksOblivionData
dir *.es* /od/b > C:Mod_List.txt
This will create a new text file (C:Mod_List.txt) containing a list of all your mods sorted by date. You can then open this file and copy/paste it into your help request.
# How do I make a mod?
The most important place to look for information about making mods, including many tutorials and how-to articles, is
related ESF thread).
# Who contributed to this FAQ? (FAQ Credits)
Assembled and adapted for Oblivion by dev_akm using material from:
Additional material, testing, and moral support provided by
- and many others on the ESF forums and CanadianIce forums. Thank you all!
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