Sunday, 26 February 2012

RealSwords Skyrim

In case anyone is interested Waalx RealSwords mods are being converted to Skyrim by Shingouki and great progress is being made.  So far only the Nord weapons are in being made, but if all goes well the others will probably be converted as well.

It's a lot of work and Shingouki really deserves kudos for doing this.  It's not only going to be a conversion of the blades, but there will be added content and lore as well.  The textures look beautiful and the blades work well, as expected.

Info here (registration required)

Or here:

This is a shot from my game so the textures will look different on a better system than mine.

So Far, So Good

Well, I've reinstalled Skyrim and got as far as level 8 with a new character with only one freeze and no CTD's at all so far.  I'm also using the same mods I was before, plus a few more.  I cringe every time I save though and shut my eyes hoping it doesn't crash on saving again and more importantly that it doesn't corrupt all my saves.

I've even been to Riften and done a number of quests there, but I made sure to do it before progressing the main quest where dragons start spawning.   That's because every other time my game has crashed or frozen around Riften when a dragon appeared there (with one character) or just froze or crashed for no perceptible reason anywhere around and south of Riften with both characters, and that was right from the start when the game was first released.

Anyway, this is Sonje, a Nord warrior.   The screen shot was taken at night under a house light so she seems to have weird blotches on her chest, but that was shadows as well, I think.   I don't care really as long as I can continue playing without problems and maybe get her to 200 hours like my poor lost Khajiit.
R.I.P. Tukassi.  I may just remake her at some stage anyway.

BTW, the new drivers from NVidia make a massive difference to the game.  It runs even smoother than before.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

NVidia Beta Driver Corruption (Beta 295.51)

As if I hadn't had enough problems lately with my PC, mainly Skyrim, I was just browsing the Net (Bethsoft forums actually) and my screen went all shades of pink and froze.  At first I could move the cursor but not actually click on anything.  Naturally I thought "Oh hell, dead graphics card," but since rebooting and entering the details in Google I came up with this.

Co-incidentally, I had installed the latest beta drivers which are 295.51, the subject of the above forum page link so it seems it is a driver issue as it's happening to others using the same driver.  Hopefully, my card is safe.  I was starting to feel like someone had put a curse on

There's a screen shot of exactly the same thing that happened to me on that page.  I had also been using Firefox which is my default browser and I also have had the freezing issues on Youtube as others on that page have had which I had at first thought may be Flash related.  Uninstalling Flash with their own uninstaller and then reinstalling seemed to fix it temporarily but the problems returned.  I even started avoiding Youtube for a few days in case it happened again, but it seems it's not their problem after all.

Interestingly, the NVidia Tech support guy denied that it could be the drivers, however when so many people report the same thing and revert to previous drivers and have the problem go away, I have to wonder about denial.

Usually I avoid beta software like the plague, especially device drivers, but considering the Skyrim problems I've been having I decided to try them.  Big mistake.

Anyway, now there are new Certified Drivers (295.73) released which I have since installed (cleanly.).  Remains to be seen if it happens again.  At least I can roll back to the last stable release as I keep them on backup.

Just a heads up in case anyone has the same issue and may read this.  My Skyrim issues happened before installing the beta drivers though so now I'm about to try and sort that mess out.

Skyrim: I Now Cannot Save My Game....Literally.

I've just about had a gutful of this game.  Really. 

I don't understand why I can play for hours one day and then the next play session, when absolutely nothing has changed on my PC from one day to the next, (the PC has been shutdown between sessions in fact) and something like I'm about to describe below occurs.   I've played and been able to troubleshoot Morrowind and Oblivion (modded Ob), both Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but I'm starting to agree with other naysayers about this game.  At least the ones with intelligent complaints, not people who say "it sucks" just because they have nothing better to say.  None of the aforementioned games gave me anywhere near the frustration and problems as Skyrim has, even from the start and I bought them all on their release days.   I even upgraded my PC to play this damn game.

The best period of all was after the 1.3 patch where I had very few if any problems for many, many hours.   I've persevered through the stages of constant random freezing until that was mostly fixed by the 1.3 patch, then the random occasional CTD's which are tolerable since they were only happening infrequently.

The comes the 1.4 patch.   More random CTD's, freezing again, still the Riften issues persist and is in fact even worse and now.... this mess...   I've done a few searches on Google and some other people are having similar issues, sometimes mod related and others just vanilla, but no real answers. 

Last night I was fighting Spriggan Matrons in a cave during a quest for the beggar who is a war veteran in Solitude.  I was retrieving his helmet.  There were several Matrons and some normal Spriggans.  While in the middle of killing the last Matron the game had a massive CTD, combined freeze where I has to reset the PC.  Unlike other total freezes my mouse still worked momentarily, but on a frozen screen so I couldn't actually do anything.   Also this time, unlike other crashes the music and sound effects continued.  Never had that happen before either.  I don't believe it was the actual creatures as I'd already killed several of them, as well as a couple of bears. 

The problem isn't so much the CTD, but the after effects of this one which seem to be permanent.  Now I CANNOT save my game.  If I try to save, whether it's Quicksave, via the console, or ESC to Menu and save, the game just CTD's.   I could initially load any previous save without a problem and play as long as I liked (pending the next inevitable CTD of course) but as soon as I go to save....I'm at the Desktop.   Now the issue has progressed so all the saves are supposedly corrupt and cannot be loaded.  What was different about this CTD that it caused this to happen?

So then I deleted my ini's, removed a couple of mods I installed recently, logged into Steam and verified the game cache which was fine, and disabled mods I'd been using for 100's of hours.   I was able to finally load from an Autosave made when I used the Showracemenu to change my character's hair many hours of progress back.  Normally all autosaves are off.   I could then save normally, BUT only a couple of times and then the CTD's started again on saving and the saves I was able to create were corrupt when trying to load.  When saving I get a file with an ess.tmp extension instead of the normal save and it's half the size it should be, obviously because of whatever is causing this.  None of my "good" saves are larger than 14mb and that's on the oldest character who is level 57.  The other character's saves are 9.5mb at level 40.

Tonight I started a completely new game, deactivated mods that I've been using for 260 plus hours over two characters with no issues, got through the entire tutorial, ran to Riverwood with Ralof, did a couple of things there as well as enlisting Faendal, then went on to Whiterun fighting wolves along the way without a problem.

When I got to where the Companions were fighting a giant near Pelagiad Farm just outside Whiterun...instant CTD.   Tried again from a save near Riverwood, as the one I made near Whiterun was corrupt, including my Quicksave, headed back towards Whiterun, and this time I had enough time to release a prisoner being led by Imperials, kill them and head for the Whiterun stables.   Instant CTD.   Once again I CANNOT save and all of my previous saves are corrupt. 

The game even thinks the saves from my other characters (which are all backed up), are also corrupt, even the ones that have never been loaded since this problem started.  How the hell does that work?  Does the CTD cause a Registry error or something because I don't get it.   As I said two characters with over 260 and more hours between them and all their saves are seemingly corrupt as well, and starting a new character ends up the same after a few hours and one CTD.  This is utter bull crap.

Tomorrow I'm going to uninstall the game again, remove all traces of it, reinstall and see if anything changes and then I'll be on edge all the time waiting for the next big problem or the same one to reappear.  If that doesn't fix it the game will be shelved for six months until it's properly patched, or more likely forgotten about entirely when something better comes along.  I enjoy it immensely, love the open world and exploration, the dragons and more, but that's not enough to get me to persevere with this rubbish.  It's not worth the aggravation.

I'm waiting for Risen 2 and I hope to goodness Piranha Bytes doesn't rush it like Skyrim was rushed to a set date.   I actually haven't been keeping up with Risen 2's progress as I usually would, partly because I don't want to be disappointed and find they've dumbed down their game and also because I almost forgot about it.  Piranha Bytes are pretty true to their style and develop for the PC first though, so I'd be very surprised if they veered from it....unlike Jo Wood and the tragedy that was Gothic 4.

I try not to get too caught up in hype, but you know how that goes with newer games.   Sadly, we would all love to believe the spin and BS hoping for something half as great as is touted during development.  
I've seen a number of people say on forums that they would never buy another Bethesda game after the ongoing Skyrim bug fiasco, and I'd bet some of the same people said it about previous games, yet bought the next one.  However, if I am unable to get this game fixed and stable after trying every avenue, and if Bethesda don't patch it properly instead of worrying about the damn Steamworks for mods (ala the latest beta patch info) I will be one who will not look at another of their games.  

Out of interest, I wonder how the pirates are doing with their versions.  I paid for mine and all I get are headaches.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Playing Two Games (with a badly bruised hand)

Last week (on the 9th) I bought Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition from EBGames and bought it home expecting to be able to play, or at least install it straight away, except I kept getting a message from Steam to say it's not available in my country.   So, after checking on the Beth blog I discovered that it should be able to be activated on the 10th which was Friday.   

Since most nights I stay up half the night either playing a game or reading because I don't sleep well, I waited until just after midnight on the 10th and tried it again.   I wasn't really expecting to be able to activate it then, but I did see some angry posts when I searched Google out of interest, to see how many people were complaining.  I also called EBGames the next morning (I wasn't the only one either) and they had no idea except that there was no restriction on when they could sell the game as it was released to them for sale on the 9th.   It was all down to Steam as far as I could see, but at least it was resolved reasonably quickly around lunch time.   It does piss me off that the rest of the world has to operate on US time when the games are available for sale here the day before it can actually be activated on Steam, but we in Australia and Europe have to wait another day.

That's the DVD version obviously, and I don't care about digital versions as I want to play the game I paid for when I get home with it not wait a day to be able to even install the thing.  I have the original game, but none of the DLC's, as I don't buy anything online, especially games which I prefer to have in physical  form.  Besides that I don't have the internet speed or patience to wait a day, and more at times, for a game to download, and then if problems occur and it has to be reinstalled for any reason, download it again.   I'll be doing the same if and when there are DLC's for Skyrim, even if it takes another year or so for Game of the Year packs or if they perhaps release a separate Expansion pack earlier.

Anyway, I don't know why but this time NV Ultimate Edition was a crash and freeze fest, unlike the original game which I never or very rarely had problems with, even heavily modded.  There have been hardware and software changes as well as OS re-installs since I last played FO:NV, but nothing that should have caused such a frustrating and hair pulling experience.  And that's before I added mods.   Anyway, to cut the story short a lot of fiddling and ini tweaks to force the game to use only 2 cores, plus getting rid of a codec pack I had installed "seems" to have fixed it.

However, I never had to make these changes last time so I don't know what the deal is.  I had the K Lite codec pack previously, and the same system, except for a new hard drive and graphics card, but as long as that's the only cause of the freezes and CTD's, I'm happy.  I was able to play continuously for four hours or so last night with no sign of a crash or freeze where otherwise it would previously freeze within a few minutes (or less) to an hour, completely at random and always outdoors, or sometimes on a loading screen from an interior to an exterior.   I ended up with a couple of corrupt saves because of this as well which didn't impress me, but since these games are known to be unstable I have a ton of hard saves in case of this happening.  That play time last night was also with all the mods I'm now using, so I hope it continues to be problem free.

Another thing I never noticed with the original version, but must have been there, is that the Audio options are absolutely useless and I've seen mention of it on various forums.  The only way to turn certain sounds down (I play with headphones) is to use the Master slider and that turns all sounds down.  Thankfully, I can interact with the radios in game and switch them off as I find them, (the ones that are found everywhere not just in the Pip Boy), as I just cannot stand the same few songs over and over and over again.  I do have a mod with many more choices, but haven't installed it this time as I prefer to be without the radio and just listen to the game theme music.   I remember in Fallout 3 there were times I used to shoot the hell out of the radios from sheer frustration, especially when the preacher started raving about world order or whatever, and I was tempted to do the same with the preacher in Megaton more than once.  If he only shut up occasionally.  Sorry, I can't be bothered to look up the correct  Why did they have to add another annoying character like him in Skyrim, but at least he's easier to avoid. 

I'm trying to spread my gaming time between Skyrim and FO:NV at the moment, at least until I get to play the NV DLC content and by that time maybe all the problems in Skyrim will be fixed.  That's optimism overdrive on my part.   I am keeping an eye on the Unofficial Patch team's thread on the Official forums and what they've already done is amazing.  This, however shouldn't be up to modders.  Bethesda should be fixing the quests and balance problems, but I can't see that when others will do it for them as has always been the case.   Kudos to Kivan and team (which I think is a team of one atm) for a monumental job though.  The list of fixes to date is humongous.

That's not to say my Skyrim game isn't stable now, mostly, but there are quests still in my list that I've already done and a few other things that aren't really that much of an issue I suppose.  I would like the Riften bug investigated and it's not only me.  (See previous posts about that for info).  I have found that I need to up the difficulty with my sword and shield warrior who is currently around level 40 as enemies are almost no challenge on Adept, even in groups.  Even Deathlords. 

I was pretty annoyed though when I read a post on the Beth forums about broken perks, especially Blocking, and discovered that the Deflect Arrows perk is totally broken, which makes the following perks not only useless, but overpowered.  Then, I found some of the Enchanting perks are broken as well.   This is ridiculous.  It's bad enough that Smithing is so easy to spam and potentially break a character build if one doesn't restrain themselves, but broken perks are inexcusable.

Another thing I noticed is a distinct lack of dragons since the 1.4 patch.  I never see random ones now even if I fast travel which usually guarantees one especially at the College, and I have to go to the specific dragon locations to get one to spawn, and then it always a frost dragon.  It appears Fire dragons have become permanently extinct.  Another thing I've noticed at level 40 post 1.4, is most of the dragon mounds where Alduin revives the dragons are still covered in soil so his dragon army is still sleeping it seems.  With my other character (lvl 57) and previous to the latest patch, these dragons mounds were always empty when I came across them, but now I can't find an empty one, except for the one at Kynesgrove, and another where I came across Alduin resurrecting a dragon while also giving me the extremely evil eye.  That was somewhere north of Whiterun I think, but I can't remember exactly and that was also a frost dragon.  Maybe that was also a scripted event.  Perhaps the leveled lists were altered in the last patch and fire dragons were left out altogether.

I do see some passive dragons that just fly around as though they are just enjoying the experience of flying in the thermals, watching the mortals below.   I think that is supposed to happen as NPC's don't react and they don't show as red on the compass.  I quite like that myself.   I am however using the excellent Deadly Dragons mod and I see enough dragons from the mod to get enough souls for my favourite shouts and the others remain unactivated, but the missing vanilla dragons problem was happening way before I installed DD, so that has nothing to do with it.   Vanilla dragons are still missing even after waiting for 30 days to reset the world.

I've decided, at least for the time being that I probably won't bother with modding Skyrim as I don't feel like learning a scripting language, not that I was great with the Oblivion one, and really most of the type of mods I would use are already being made.  Especially "realism" mods or what I call believability mods that fit into the Skyrim game world.  I might give it a whirl later when summer is over as the heat just does nothing for my creative side.

On the subject of the title of this post and my hand....  I have arthritis in all the joints of both hands and both wrists and sometimes (most times) it gives me hell.   Yesterday I was out the back playing catch with my dog, but we had to eventually give it in when the wind became really strong a thunder storm started rolling in.  Anyway, I still had my right hand on the door frame when the door slammed shut on it and it's a heavy door.  I thought I'd broken the first two knuckles and the pain was excruciating to put it very mildly.  My hand swelled up immediately, but I was still able to move my fingers so I didn't go to the hospital.  Instead I wrapped it between a bag of frozen peas and another of frozen beans for 30 minutes which helped immensely.  I wouldn't have been able to drive anyway and I didn't want to call an Ambulance for something like that, even though I'm fully insured.   I suppose if I thought it was fractured I would have had to call an Ambulance as there's no other way for me to get there but walk.  It's a long way from my house, and with an injury, but I have done it before with worse.

Anyway, today I have a lovely black bruise, a chicken egg swelling on the back of my hand and luckily it's not nearly as painful, just extra stiff.   I did manage to play FONV last night for several hours so it definitely isn't fractured.  It takes a lot for me to give in to pain anyway.   I live with it every day, not just the arthritis but other things as well.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Creation Kit Is Now Live on Steam

The Creation Kit for Skyrim is now live on Steam  I've downloaded it and opened it to have a quick look but haven't done anything else.

Bethsoft CK forum:

CK Wiki

Had a long day and I'm too tired at the moment to get too excited, but the first thing I'll be looking at doing for myself is a house with lots of named storage instead of a heap of bookshelves and weapon racks that don't work properly.   I'm hoping some nice person will make an alchemy sorter or if not I'll just add chests near the alchemy table for easier access.

As an added extra Bethesda have also released a HD texture pack which is 3.2Gb.  I haven't downloaded it yet and I'm not sure my system will like it, but I'll keep an eye on the forums to see whether people are having performance hits on mid range systems.   My graphics card will be fine but the rest I'm not too sure of.  Besides I have a lot of nice texture replacers from Skyrim Nexus that I really like so I'd rather keep them, although I don't use world textures except for wood and furnishings.

The HD textures come as BSA's with esps to activate them so if they do have a performance hit they can easily be deactivated anyway.

I'm also happy to say my game is back to running well after some fiddling, but I'm still having the odd silent CTD which is preferable to freezes by far. As per instructions for the mod I mention below I did the 16 day wait clean save and was even able to go to Riften without a freeze.  It was a very quick visit to drop off some quest items so I'm hoping it wasn't just luck of the draw and it didn't choose to freeze just then. 

It's preferable to "wait" or sleep for 30 days to reset the world but ironically when I tried that inside Breezehome soon after installing the 1.4 patch my game froze on the 15th day cycle, so this time I quick saved after every 24hrs.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, but it worked this time.

I downloaded the excellent Deadly Dragons mod which also adds lots of new crafting items, armours and other loot and I'm enjoying it immensely.  I'm currently only using the "normal" difficulty and that is almost enough to make one scared to leave the city.   Just kidding.....  I will probably up the difficulty anyway because my warrior - sword and shield is at level 37 and I just mow through the toughest enemies without even getting hurt, so it's getting to be less of a challenge than with my sneaky level 57 Khajiit.

Highly recommended - Deadly Dragons

A bit later I'm going to try out Wars in Skyrim, but at the moment I'm enjoying NOT having masses of hostile encounters everywhere I go.  I did use FCOM and WAC with Oblivion though and loved it so it's a given that I'll progress to this mod.

Happy modding everyone!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Skyrim Post 1.4 Patch and Riften Woes

I don't know.  It seems I'm either having a perfectly running game or one that CTD's every ten minutes between patch releases.  I'm trying not to be a whiner but I'm nearly at the stage where I'm going to shelve this game and wait for six months until the Unofficial Patch team do what they do best.  By that time I'll probably have lost interest and moved on to something else.  I hope not as at it's heart it's a great game albeit with a lot of problems, but it's looking that way because I'm getting heartily sick of it's problems.

I should have stayed with the Skyrim 1.3 patch but no, I had to go and update since the changelog for 1.4 seemed like it was actually worth it although I had had only one quest not complete previously and very few other issues.  I have to update anyway if I want to use the Creation Kit when it's released, and I do, so the choice is essentially removed.

There was no noticeable difference to performance for me since the game never lagged anywhere at all, including Markarth, and always ran smoothly on Ultra.   The other fixes besides performance are mainly to do with weapon racks and things I could care less about.  I did notice loading times had reduced by half so I suppose there are some performance boosts.  Instead of one and 1/2 loading screen messages I barely get time to read one most of the time.

Last night in a space of two hours or less, I had two silent CTD's, another one that had the usual Microsoft message and a weird crash around Falkreath where the game froze several times for a few seconds, resumed, froze and eventually stopped responding.  It took ages to shut it down via Task Manager...five or more minutes.   I had been to Falkreath and surrounding areas several times during the same play session for quests, so I have no idea what that was about.

One thing of note, and may be co-incidental but I don't think it is, is that the CTD's (not the Falkreath stuttering error) happened when there were enemy mages around and casting spells.  I have Marcurio with me and he of course uses magic against all foes and I've never had a problem with just him, or myself using magic.  However, it seems to be a particular spell, and I'm suspecting Ice Spike as it doesn't happen unless that one is used.   It may not be that spell but the mages use just about everything else in their arsenal and this one seems to be problematic where it wasn't previously.

It's not a mod problem because I'm only using SkyUI, Categorized Favourites, (latest versions and SKSE of course,) a crafting mod, Weapons of the 3rd Era and a few things like Essential Companions and Horses and the most important NoNPC Greetings.  I'm also using quite a few texture packs for creatures, vanilla armour retextures, and flora, but not complete world textures as I think it looks fine as it is.  

The main problems I've been having consistently before the 1.4 patch are random complete freezes in, around and south of Riften.  The rest of the entire map was perfect so there is definitely something wrong in the Riften area and Google results say I'm not the only one.  I haven't yet gone near the area since the 1.4 patch as the freezes are so random and they piss me off so much because locking down a cause would be nigh impossible.  It could be when I'm jogging along a road minding my own business and the next step...freeze.  About to talk to someone...freeze, look up at the sky...freeze.   This could be after ten minutes or an hour play time and it's completely and utterly random.

My current character visited Riften for the first time at level 20 a few nights ago (remembering past experience with freezes and my first character) and after having taken a carriage from Whiterun I arrived at the Riften Stables to be met by a Frost dragon.  The Khajiit merchants were also camped there so they and the guards followed by myself attacked the dragon....instant CTD.

**This was a reproducible CTD however and I tried at least five times with the exact same result.   I couldn't actually fast travel directly to the stables or the town as I hadn't previously been there so taking the carriage always resulted in the frost dragon appearing and an instant drop to Desktop as soon as aggro is established. 

What I ended up doing was running from Ivarstead in a round about pattern being distracted by caves and other things until I ended up on the other side of Riften near Goldenglow.  As soon as I got close to Riften docks the frost dragon appeared and this time I was able to kill it and continue on into the town.   However, now, unlike my previous character, I'm getting freezes inside the town as well.

I read somewhere in one of the many Google results that someone mentioned on the Official forums that this particular dragon could be the cause of some of the problems, but I couldn't find the reference.  I have no idea if that's true, but it seems like that particular dragon encounter is scripted as it's always a frost dragon and appears whether one walks or fast travels.  I also read in that Google result that it was suggested to let the guards and NPC's kill the dragon, but that didn't work either.   Nothing happens until, as I said above, aggro is established and then the game CTD's.  Until then for five to ten seconds I can run to the town gates but don't have time to enter, or just stand at the stables and wait for the inevitable.

Whatever the case, visiting Riften itself is the catalyst for freezing in the whole area south and in the town for me.  If I roam the wilderness below and surrounding Riften without actually going to the town I don't have a freezing problem, but since there are important quests in Riften, including part of the Main Quest, it is actually a BIG issue.

Next week EBGames is getting a Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition with all the DLC's and a few other extras so I'll be getting that and probably going back to the wasteland for awhile unless things improve on the Skyrim front.    I'll give the game a few more days, but if it still crashes I'm giving up for the time being.