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
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
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
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
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
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
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.