GameSpot Guide to Modding Skyrim

We take a look at 10 of the best mods currently available for PC Skyrim players.

by

Do you play Skyrim on the PC? If so, you should know about a fanatical force that operates in a certain sector of the Internet. They call themselves modders, and their reputation precedes them. Bethesda's games have been havens for modders for years; many PC players firmly believe that the best elements of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout games are produced by the modding community. Just take a look at the mods available for Oblivion; graphical tweaks make this five-year-old game look like it's running on next-gen tech, and quest mods add entirely new stories and characters to the world. Even fantasy author Terry Pratchett has written dialogue for an Oblivion mod.

Skyrim hasn't been out long, but already the community is hard at work over at the website Skyrim Nexus. While it's going to be several months before anything major appears, graphical upgrades and performance tweaks are already appearing. We've rounded up 10 of our favorite mods to show you, as well as a guide to installing them. If you are planning to use a lot of mods, downloading a mod manager may be useful, since it can install and remove mods with ease.

1 - Time Counter

You can get completely lost in Skyrim, and it's possible to lose track of the time you're investing into this snowy world. An exceptionally simple mod, this time counter displays how many hours you've spent in Skyrim on the loading screens. Simple and nonintrusive, it will let you see exactly how many hundreds of hours you've played, allowing accurate bragging rights when you talk to other Skyrim players, and shocked faces when you tell your other friends.

Installation: Download the file from Skyrim Nexus and copy and paste it into the interface file in your Skyrim installation folder, located at steam/steamapps/common/skyrim/data/interface

2 - Enhanced Blood Textures

Skyrim's original jam-like splodges are replaced with a far more realistic-looking splatter effect .

When you slice up a bandit, you ideally want to see blood spilt on the ground. Skyrim's blood looks a little on the jammy side though; it's as if the head you just caved in with an axe was actually a strawberry donut. Thankfully, you can make that blood look more realistic with enhanced blood textures. Wherever you see splodges of blood on the floor, this mod will replace them with expertly crafted splatters, complete with frothing and realistic misting patterns.

Install: Download and extract the RAR file to steam/steamapps/common/skyrim/data, and press "Yes" when asked if you'd like to replace the files. Remember, it is a good idea to back up any original files first in case you decide that you want to revert back to "original" Skyrim, or the mod fails to work.

3 - Large Address Aware Patch

Check out Dead End Thrills' Skyrim photos. While this virtual photographer pushes his system to the breaking point to capture those images, you can get at least halfway to that visual quality by unlocking your RAM. Skyrim--like all Bethesda games--doesn't use any more than 2GB of RAM, but if you're packing more, there's potential for some serious visual improvement through modding. You're going to need to tweak some files, so back up your Skyrim data first, and then head here to download the software you'll need. Follow the instructions, and unlock your system's true potential!

4 - Face-Lifts

The original facial models for Skyrim's non-player characters can be replaced with more detailed high-resolution textures.

Skyrim may be gorgeous, but some texture compression is holding it back a little. Take a look at an NPC's face, and you'll notice a little blockiness around the nose and chin. This face-smoothing mod decompresses facial textures, making everyone look baby-smooth, and not like someone from the cast of Star Trek. Not pretty enough for you? You can also add the detailed faces mod to improve the look of many of the mugs in Skyrim.

Installation: Extract the RAR files into your Skyrim data folder, located at steam/steamapps/common/skyrim/data. The new files will merge with your existing data folder.

5 - Glowing Ore Veins

With this glowing ore vein mod, finding metal deposits is far easier.

If you're into forging your own armour, you'll have discovered that ore veins are a little tricky to find. This mod makes the ore veins in rocks glow an array of funky colours, meaning you’ll never miss out on an ore-rich boulder again!

Installation: Extract to steam/steamapps/common/skyrim/data. Start the Skyrim launcher, click "Data Files," and tick "load loose files." The ore veins will now glow when you next play the game.

6 - Super Starry Skies

Do you gaze up at Skyrim's sky at night and think: “Man, I wish things were just a bit more starry”? Well, the Enhanced Night Sky mod is the mod for you. It replaces Skyrim's default skies with new textures that use high-resolution photographs of actual stars. The new skies work in harmony with Tamriel's existing star constellations too, so the world's position in space stays true to Elder Scrolls lore.

Installation: As you should be learning by now, simply extract to steam/steamapps/common/skyrim/data and overwrite any files when prompted.

7 - Skyrim Street View

The 3D map mod lets you zoom right in to ground level using the in-game map.

Have you always wanted to open the map in Skyrim and zoom down over Riften, pointing wildly at the screen and shouting "Look, there's my house!"? Well, now you can, with this map mod that lets you zoom right in, from airplane-like heights right down to the cobblestones. Clearly not influenced by Google Street View at all.

Installation: This is less of a mod and more of a tweak; instead of installing a file. you'll have to amend an existing .ini file in Skyrim's directory. Follow the instructions here and be sure to back up the original file first.

8 - The Amazing Spider-Bear

If you're afraid of spiders but not afraid of poorly animated bears, then this is the mod for you.

Suffer from arachnophobia? Unfortunately for you, Skyrim is full of eight-legged freaks. Thankfully, the mod community has you in mind. Enter the No Spiders mod. This little change is just as useful for those looking for a cheap laugh as those with a genuine fear of arachnids, as it replaces every spider in the game with a bear. An upright, almost inanimate bear that can rappel from the ceiling. They don't have death animations and so remain stationary after you've slaughtered them, and because they are technically still spiders, anything above their knees is just an image, so to actually kill them, you have to repeatedly hack at their shins.

Installation: Follow the mod's readme file to extract the files into your Skyrim directory over in steam/steamapps/common/skyrim/data.

9 - FXAA Post Process Injector - Turbo-Charged Skyrim

FXAA can help achieve richer colours and make your game look brighter and bolder.

It may have an overly technical-sounding name, but FXAA Post Process Injector is actually the easiest of all our favorite mods to use. It has its own installer, so simply run the program and let it do its work. Once installed, the program lets you enable a variety of post effects, such as bloom, sharpen, technicolor, and sepia. This will result in a richer visual experience, and any effects you don't like can simply be turned off.

10 - Reskinned Whiterun

It's impressive that modders have already reskinned many of Skyrim's textures with better versions, but modder Chris2012s has one-upped them by reskinning an entire town. His texture pack for Whiterun replaces pretty much all of the textures in the town with new ones which improve the resolution by a factor of four. This means the entire town looks prettier, more defined, and bolder than ever before. Admittedly, the trade-off is that everywhere else in Skyrim looks a little uglier by comparison, but we can live with that.

Installation: Again, since this is just a texture pack, just extract all the files into your data folder at steam/steamapps/common/skyrim/data.

These are just 10 of our favorite Skyrim mods. Head over to Skyrim Nexus, and you'll find plenty more, including the obligatory nude mods, one to replace the moon with the Death Star, and…erm…kill-able children. To see some of our favorites in action, take a look at our Skyrim mods video.

Discussion

332 comments
comb5
comb5

@tomelus Get it for PC. You could just use a DVI to HDMI adapter and play it on your 54" TV anyways.

comb5
comb5

@configme A mod is a third party add on to the game that you have to download and install. The ability to tweak the FoV to your liking is built right into the game and available from the first moment you play it.

configme
configme

@comb5 You are still modifying the FoV, so it's a mod.

lightleggy
lightleggy

check out the new 2 handed animations in the skyrim nexus, awesome mod. and perkenhancer.

alkaline_DnB
alkaline_DnB

anyone using any kind of PC can benefit from using the texturing mods without taking a hit in frames, and the game just looks twice as amazing. the FXAA injector does make faces look a bit grainy, but the colors are more vivid and objects looks more crisp. The water, smoke and ember, sky, flora, mountain resurfacing, and enhanced draw distance mods are a few that I'm using, along with the injector, and it's pretty stunning. I have AA turned off because I don't see a need for it, and everything is set to high or ultra, FXAA enabled, AFx16 plus the mods, and I still get 60 fps everywhere except in towns...also using a monitor with resolution higher than 1080. No reason not to use these mods unless you like your PC version of Skyrim to be a simple console port.

y3ivan
y3ivan

@jhonel83 not sure why its is not working on ur pc, i love my setup and it does not blur the textures unlike regular CSAA. last i check, there are a few inconsistency for ATI cards. AF x16 improve texture quality and its different from AA. Well if you prefer hi-rez texture over jagged-edge, i cant blame ya.

volcax
volcax

I have Skyrim for the PC and PS3, and I can tell you the PC versions looks and runs way better. Even on a big high-def plasma, the PS3 version looks more blocky and washed out than the PC version. Still, I like it 'cause I can sit back in my LaZboy and play for countless hours without hunching over a keyboard and mouse.

Kooken58
Kooken58

@tomelus personally a 54 inch monitor doesnt have the lasting appeal that thousands of mods will have further down the road. If you have a newer TV, you can even hook your PC up to the TV if you want a big screen so bad. Honestly it makes no difference IMO. You sit close to the Monitor, and when playing on a TV you sit further away. And also i think MY PC/monitor has more true HD than my 360 with the higher resolutions.

Johny_47
Johny_47

@PenthiusX & GenGilman Thanks, I'll have a go at modding with this(IF I remember) I'll be getting this Christmas day and we all know what being excited is like, when you get that special game in your hands... staring at it just before you open it up and smell the booklet(too much info? haha I like the smell of brand new booklets, same with motherboards =P).

tomelus
tomelus

I'm still extremely torn between getting it for pc or 360. For 360 I can play it on my 54" tv while my pc monitor is 24". Also the mods. How big is the difference btw 360 and pc? I have a 4870 in my pc.

ggregd
ggregd

@TesseracTES Me not know that. Me want see Morrowind completely rendered.

valent1n
valent1n

nice collection here, thank you !!!

arkor7
arkor7

It doesn't matter if you use mods or not , what matters is that you're a player that can hold his ground.

jhonel83
jhonel83

@y3ivan, as I told you, I already documented myself on the FXAA. It is "poor man's" antialiasing because it provides a fixed amount of AA for no performance drawbacks. But still, if your computer can handle it, old anisotropic x16 is still better. It's also quite unstable, for me it made the edges of shadows and fog glow orange or blue, as I result I'm not using it. Also makes the immage look a bit blurry and hurts the eye, so for myself I prefere no AA at all. Even for classic antialiasing, the extra eye candy is barelly noticeble and not worth the performace hit. It's a matter of personal preference, I'dd rather up the graphics detail or res then spend that video card memory on AA or postprocessing.

jesuschristmonk
jesuschristmonk

Reading about the mods made me wonder, why don't I just get Skyrim for my Laptop? Ya the graphics won't be amazing because my laptop didn't cost $1500+, but at least I'll be able to play it at school, etc. Not to mention, THE MODS!! lol

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

@JDFS you realize these are being done without the construction kit that will soon be released to the public. These mods are quite impressive given such a limitation. Just like every other elder scrolls game, once the construction kit is available expect more overhaul style mods to come into effect. Many of the files in the game are just too hard to access at the moment without screwing up large portions of the game.

voldalin
voldalin

Skyrim needed a boost and these mods are it. Sure, i can add money to the game or make a sword super powerful, but these mods are the best. I won't play Skyrim without them. Now lets go kill some bears!

fts89
fts89

god of war style minigame (hopefully the camera still focused on the character :P )

OperationAjax
OperationAjax

Although Skyrim looks like a decent game, Gamespot seems to be really pushing for us gamers to purchase it...Reason I say this is for the last few months everywhere I go on the Gamespot web site I have see/read TONS of content related to Skyrim. No other game, including the highly acclaimed FPS Battlefield 3 and MW3, have come close to containing the same content as Skyrim on Gamespot's web site.

JDFS
JDFS

The mods so far sucks, nothing is changing the gameplay which is the most important point, the graphics are very good already and if they had a good PC they wouldn't need to make mods which make your game look like WoW. The only mod I see useful is the blood, but it wasn't an emergency.

OperationAjax
OperationAjax

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

OperationAjax
OperationAjax

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

grim0187
grim0187

*sigh* mods...the 12 year olds answer to boredom. Those of us looking for a rich, deep experience, just play the game the way it was developed. Little kids with WAY too much time on their hands spend hours flying their character around a digital mountain "just because they can." Pathetic...

-Unreal-
-Unreal-

@jhgy I never said it does make it worse. I was making a joke of it by referencing people who believed the file size was due to Bethesda's supposed improvements on compression.

K5Stalker
K5Stalker

@Shadow_Fire41 I had to log in for the sole purpose of upvoting your comment. Congratulations

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

spider bear, spider bear, does whatever a spider bear does, can he swing, from a web? no he can't, hes a bear. seriously though, those are some cool mods.

Bikouchu35
Bikouchu35

Thank You!!! I hate spiders, but I

Kyncaid
Kyncaid

having trouble with the registration

TesseracTES
TesseracTES

During some recent modifications and explorations outside of Skyrim's main map, me, as well as a few other modders on the PC have realized that Bethesda Softworks has Cyrodil completely rendered and explorable. All you need to do is know where to go ;) We see what you did there Bethesda, DLC much?(;

Gryphes2k
Gryphes2k

before adding remove the // and place each line in a separate row.

Gryphes2k
Gryphes2k

[MapMenu] fMapWorldYawRange=3600.0000 // this allows rotate the map in 360 degrees fMapWorldCursorMoveArea=0.9000 // speed of the cursor on map fMapWorldZoomSpeed=1 // zoom out /in speed fMapLookMouseSpeed=3.0000 fMapMoveKeyboardSpeed=0.0500 //speed of the moving of the map when use keys fMapZoomMouseSpeed=9.0000

Gryphes2k
Gryphes2k

To disable the vsync change the iPresentInterval=1 to iPresentInterval=0 in the same file. to fix mouse issues use this bGamepadEnable=0 and add this line under controls category bMouseAcceleration=1 to make water more realistic enable multisampling iWaterMultiSamples=1 change the value to desired amount iMultiSample=4 if you want to give shadows to trees, buildings, rocks etc.. bTreesReceiveShadows=1 bDrawLandShadows=1 bDrawShadows=1 to fix the flickering of the shadows use this on skyrim.ini file in my games folder (in my documents)under display group. fSunShadowUpdateTime=0 fSunUpdateThreshold=2.0

Gryphes2k
Gryphes2k

in Skyrimprefx.ini file change iShadowMapResolutionSecondary=4096 iShadowMapResolutionPrimary=4096 iShadowMapResolution=4096 to fix the shadow issues. if you got lower res ,blocky textures this tweak for you.

Gryphes2k
Gryphes2k

There are couple of .ini tweaks add this lines to to Skyrim.ini in my document/my games folder it goes under display entity [MapMenu] fMapWorldYawRange=3600.0000 fMapWorldCursorMoveArea=0.9000 fMapWorldZoomSpeed=1 fMapLookMouseSpeed=3.0000 fMapMoveKeyboardSpeed=0.0500 fMapZoomMouseSpeed=9.0000

Gryphes2k
Gryphes2k

Moders can't actually make nice mods without Creation Kit so wait up people till it is released. do you remember the so many awesome mods for Oblivion so those mods were made using Oblivion Construction kit. just like there is a CK for Skyrim and that's known as Creation Kit derived from its Engine's name.

iluvOP
iluvOP

Funny how most of those mods are pretty stupid. Why not just have a mod where you complete the game by jumping 3 times

stupiddude953
stupiddude953

Is there a mod that turns this ad for skyrim nexus into something else?

EtherUnion
EtherUnion

I use 2 mods: 1. FXAA injector, reason more eye-candy!! 2. Killable children, reason.... Braith. nuff' said.

jhgy
jhgy

@-Unreal- Does a small file size make a game worse? What matters is the content

gDamascus
gDamascus

"Onlive/no more modding" fears temporarily put on hold. It's like stepping back a decade. These great quality mods sure did come out quickly. You'd think Bethesda was the company that accidentally released the developer's build of their game.

baal46
baal46

Wow, the post process mod looks fantastic.

voldalin
voldalin

Did Bethesda use motion capture for the characters? It doesn't seem like it to me. It would be nice to see that in a big budget next gen game like this. Even though the game looks good, the characters bodies still seem to be the same animations and models from Oblivion. It would be nice to see something more life like than the funky stuff we are seeing now. I'd like to see a full game from scratch than these short cuts they keep taking.

-Unreal-
-Unreal-

@jhgy Believe that if you want. Do you also believe that the game is such a small file size due to Bethesda's supposed amazing improvements on compression?

voldalin
voldalin

These are the best mods ever. If you own this game you need these mods. The game pretty much would suck without them.

sauron210
sauron210

At the moment, these are the only few mods available. Not really weird, for the release date wasn't even a month ago. In two years the site will be full with, without doubt, far superior mods, I'd say. It's a bit too early to conclude which mods are the best.

joyyy
joyyy

Right now, all of the skyrim nexus page is slow ._.