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Merge Plugins used only for merging plugins, but through MO


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#1 Uhuru

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 11:38 AM

I made this post on the Merge Plugins Forum advising a user of a way to manage mods using MO's mod isolation capabilities, it's most advanced application is to manage FoMods for Multiple profiles, especially when those profiles use different options and/or mods that affect many of these types of FoMod choices. A typical example is using different weather mods, my ENB choice give 5 of these:

Vividian ENB - Weather and Lighting - Vivid Weathers - CoT5 - RCRN - Pure Weather - Purity - NLA by Mangaclub and Benhat

 

Many FoMods also have options for these, and I gave clear examples of how I split these FoMods to enable the multi choice options, to be used. Providing one set of files, for all profiles, whatever options are chosen. See the spoilers in my post.


The main thing I'd add is to do the isolation after merging the plugins, not before, as merging may need to copy certain file-specific assets which requires the plugin to be in the same folder as the mod asset files. In this case you just want to make certain you uncheck the "Copy General Assets" option from the Integrations tab of the Options window.

 

Now the FoMod methology is the most complex implimentation, but the separation of Plugin(s), from assets can be applied to ordinary mods for plugin only merging in MO.

I have considered Mator's response, and I'm sure he's mistaken, what he says applies to the recommended process, but I never said anything about using the recommended method.

I believe I understand exactly how MO works in my system, but I could be wrong about Merge Plugins functionality, and as I'm advising people, I want the advice to be correct.

Rather than what I think is correct (or Mator), that is much more important than which is right.

 

THe fact is I'm taking on full responsibility for ordering the assets to match the merging, for easy switching of profiles, where merges may be different, or not used is more important to me than ease of any particular process.

My principle is to do the work required to in advance, so that when I change the profile, it is immediatly ready to go.

 

Instead of either reinstalling all the Fomods, or having profile specific installs for each one, I simply activate the choices I desire, once for each profile, due to this each play ready at once, no matter how different the choices made.

My SSD thanks me, with freed up Gigabytes of space. The same basic principle is applied to the merged plugins when an included plugin isn't used, another merge already exists, or the individual plugins can simply be activated.

 

Mator's recommended methods work fine for one profile, or if the same choices are made for all profiles, but I prefer the flexibilty of keeping the mods pristine and ready to use.

 

So now that long explanation is over, lets get to the simplicity of the method I use, to merge mods.

 

Merge Plugins Method used

Merge Plugins is used, as if Mod Organizer didn't exist, I ignore Mator's instructions, as far as his tool is concerned (All 3rd party tools in MO), it is the Skyrim Data Folder, it's merging the plugins in.

Given that fact, I use the basic system, exactly like the Manual and/or Wrye Bash user would, all I want merging is the plugins, just like they do.

What happens in MO's mods folder, is under my control, and I take full responsibilty for getting things correct in MO, Merge Plugins has one job, merging the plugins, nothing more.

 

This makes his response, irrelevant, MO mod management isn't part of the merging process I use, and I don't need to uncheck the "Copy General Assets" option, because I never check the I'm using MO one, thn auto checks it.

I don't tell Merge Plugins what I'm using, because it doesn't need to know that, all it needs to do is Merge Plugins within the games Data folder. Mo and I manage what's in MO's Mods folder, so it doesn't need to even see it.

 

MOMA (Mod Organizer Manged Archives)

We need a name or acronym for this, I know of none for this system, so offer this feeble effort

How I use MO's BSA options, I go with full MOMA. I never considered BSA extraction as viable or even desirable for Skyrim, using MO.

It still surprises me that the WB supporters pick on that, as it's used by WB users much more than MO, indeed getting STEP to kick that bad habit, brought from WB use, was the main problem I saw

MOMA gave me the best of both worlds, BSA size on my SSD, with Loose files management of assets, I never so any need to extract anything, much as STEP now does, if a specific file inside the BSA needs changing, I extract the file, but still use the BSA.

I honestly don't know why BSA extraction, or built in LOOT even exist in MO.

Tannin always said, something like, "MO should use 3rd party tools, when available, if they can do a better job". My memory puts the phrase, "MO won't reinvent the wheel", in my head, but memory always lies, it's unreliable as source material.

Full LOOT sorts better, due to the UI and user editing feature, MO lacks. BSA extraction, I'm not as clear on, BSAOpt for extraction and BGS's Archive.exe to remake them?

 

Summary

I can't see anything I'm missing, or know of anything that changes the situation, but as I said at the start, it's getting this right that's important, if I'm telling people I'm right, and Mator's wrong, I need to be sure it's correct.

If Mator's right, and I'm the one whose got it wrong, I need to understand why, so what is correct is more important, than who said it.

Feedback is appreciated, and though explaining my methology is not so easy, using the methods described, is much simpler, than explaining them.


Edited by Uhuru, 18 May 2016 - 12:00 PM.


#2 z929669

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 11:46 AM

Thanks for contributing, Uhuru ... long time, no see ;)

 

Anxious to get Mator's input ant that of others regarding your approach. Seems reasonable to me, but I am not yet an 'expert' at using mator's tools.



#3 Kelmych

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 04:35 PM

I have been using Mator's Merge Plugins for a while and I haven't yet found situations for my mod profiles when Mator's procedures weren't adequate. Certainly the choice of resources included in the merged plugin can be done manually as you suggest and there could be situations when this could be necessary.

 

Personally I use the full version of LOOT.

 

BSA Extraction is needed at times, and it is often more convenient to do it with MO.

  • It's needed when merging some mods such as the selected towns/villages when using the modular version of Expanded Towns and Cities. Eliminating a few of the towns/villages allows it to be compatible with Immersive Citizens - AI Overhaul. The BSA Extraction can be done manually. of course, but using Mod Organizer works for the mods I have been merging.
  • For mods with BSAs it is needed when selectively hiding a few of the resources with MO; this is sometimes necessary when providing compatibility among groups of mods.

I agree if you have some fairly complex merges your approach seems better.



#4 Uhuru

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 05:57 PM

Thanks Z, Goy the urge to help out again, though I haven't been modding Skyrim, in since end of 2014. I still help MO users where I find them, got some thoughts on that, but this thread is for Merge Plugins.

I have been using Mator's Merge Plugins for a while and I haven't yet found situations for my mod profiles when Mator's procedures weren't adequate. Certainly the choice of resources included in the merged plugin can be done manually as you suggest and there could be situations when this could be necessary.

 

Personally I use the full version of LOOT.

 

BSA Extraction is needed at times, and it is often more convenient to do it with MO.

  • It's needed when merging some mods such as the selected towns/villages when using the modular version of Expanded Towns and Cities. Eliminating a few of the towns/villages allows it to be compatible with Immersive Citizens - AI Overhaul. The BSA Extraction can be done manually. of course, but using Mod Organizer works for the mods I have been merging.
  • For mods with BSAs it is needed when selectively hiding a few of the resources with MO; this is sometimes necessary when providing compatibility among groups of mods.

I agree if you have some fairly complex merges your approach seems better.

I understand the Step methology for hiding certain files, I would do this using the external tools I mentioned (BSAOpt extract only and Archives.exe repacks), this is my understanding from reading both STEP guides and Skyrim revisited, though I never tried to follow the mod choices, I use them has general good practice guides.

The issues you mention are part of the responsibility, I take on myself, that goes under my responsibilities for asset management.

Generally for merges, this means arranging mods (split are still treated as one mod and moved as a complete block), in the same order, as plugins to be merged.

 

Trying to get to the basic explanation, as I understand things

Basically I'm using Merge Plugins as though, my game is manually/Wrye Bash installed, eg what Merge Plugins does if MO is unknown to Merge Plugins, the VFS is the Skyrim Data Folder, and Merge Plugins has no knowledge MO exists.

in other words if Merge Plugins, only merges plugins with Manual/Wrye Bash, it should be the same using MO, without ticking the using MO box, or the NMM one either, but that's a new feature of Standalone.

 

I'm in the process of catching up, with new changes since the end of 2014, so my past experience, is with the Merge Plugins xEdit Script, not Standalone, but for MO it appears the same, to me.

With the using MO box, you are telling Merge Plugins to use the MO Mods folder to Merge, both mods and assets, and Mator's methology makes sense for single profile use, or fixed merges used in multiple profiles.

 

I have vastly different profiles, which use my Split FoMods with completely different selections, and though the setting up takes much longer, I save more time with profile switching, and also use Profile specific mods for things like FNIS results, and Dynamic Patchers, so when I switch, the profiles good to go without any extra work, switching from say, Purity to RW2, is a breeze. Without these methods, I must reinstall every affected FoMod, or use lots of "wasted" SSD space, to have multiple profile specific ones, even when 90% of files are identical.



#5 Mator

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 11:43 PM

My initial response was mistaken it seems.  I got the procedures and requirements for the handling of general assets and file-specific assets confused.  (I haven't done development work on or used Merge Plugins in over 6 months now).  That said, I don't know if asset isolation serves to simplify the merging process enough to be worth recommending as the primary process, especially considering the manual steps involved.  If you want to avoid asset duplication and a cluttered load order you might be better off using MO's Optional ESPs functionality, though I could argue against that as well.

 

Your process can simplify things.  I think it'd be most valuable if you put all of the plugins you want to merge in a single mod in MO, that way you can easily enable that mod for the purposes of merging.  I'd actually recommend using entirely separate profiles for merges that exceed 100 plugins though, as that allows for the quickest re-merging experience possible.

 

EDIT: And it should be noted that, even if you isolate the plugins from their assets, Merge Plugins should still handle file-specific assets assuming the mods containing the assets are active in MO.  It is of the utmost importance that those asset-containing mods are enabled when the merging takes place, else Merge Plugins will not be able to handle file-specific assets as described on page 44 of the documentation, which will break most merges.

 

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Edited by Mator, 18 May 2016 - 11:46 PM.

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#6 Uhuru

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Posted 19 May 2016 - 04:00 AM

Thanks for responding Mator, I honestly think how you do things is fine for the average user, even ideal for most, who are never likely to use many profiles, like I do, and most wouldn't want to take the time to split FoMods.

It's an advanced technique, initially designed solely for FoMods, and limiting my mods SSD footprint, currently 126GB (thats with around 18 months of inactivity), on a 476GB Games SSD.

With over 300 games active, all wanting SSD space, I also use Link Shell Extension to manage what gets on there (Actively playing), while allowing any game to be started from my logical Franchise groupings with proper names (WTF steam).

When I started using your xEdit script, I had to adapt the system for Merge Plugins, to work with my already existing system, where Mod Isolation is essential to how it works.

 

To be clear all assets required must be active with the desired plugins, this discussion is about how Merge Plugins works, only using the real/VFS Data folder, and getting those contents right is always the users responsibility.

The fact that Merge Plugins can see the MO Mods folder content is very powerful, and I think it should be there, and remain the standard method. I'm not trying to change that.

If the user takes full control of tasset and plugin management within MO, and never tells Merge Plugins that MO is used, only the user can be responsible for any asset management mistakes.

 

I understand the asset management issues involved, and probably could have explained it much better in my post. I try to be clear about these things, but experience tells me Forum posts are not ideal, in fact the worst places to provide documentation.

My initial posts was intended to address the OP's issues and get to the bottom of why his assets were missing, I suspect it may have been the BSA hiding issues that Kelmych mentioned.

If so they would remain using my techniques, and the correct answer could be found, where if my technique workred for his issue, the results could be added to the basic dictionary, as additional steps required for merging those mods.

OP never responded, so the discussion ended with your post. I'm aware of your current work, and thought coming here was a better place to discuss this, without confusing the average MP user, with advanced techniques they don't need to use.

 

The exellent docs you provide are much better than forum posts, which was the initial reason I approached STEP, with the idea of MO support taking over the Wiki, only to discover STEP was switching to MO, and offered the Forums as well.

The very best thing in my humble opinion, was something I never thought of, STEP testing has become the unofficial MO Quakity Assurance, MO is far better due to that, Tannin can't fix bugs he doesn't know about.

 

Even I rarely bother splitting FoMods when the Mod is under constant development, my general rule is it must only be changed every 3 months, to be worth doing, as the initial process is a more involved install.

As for separate mods for each plugin, that is only required for plugins that have alternatives, so that the chosen plugun can be activated, I do group unchanged plugins in the core plugins mod, but that detail wasn't needed to explain the core techniques.

I have made Forum Posts about these details when purely discussing the FoMod splitting, but that initial post was in response to a specefic issue the user was having, and was more to test if the technique changed his results.

 

I intend to add this to MO's advanced documentation section, which is the one section we need to improve most, but that's for the MO Wiki. I would suggest at most, a link to that for those who want to use it, on the Merge Plugins page.

You make the best tools for ordinary users, we control freaks, can work our magic, with what you already provide, i don't think your Mod needs changing, for how I use it.

 

I'm happy that my advice is correct, because incorrect advise, is worse than no advice. If it wasn't, then I needed to know why, and adjust to make it work right.

Not make change your advice to meet my specific needs, you must cater for the average user, not advanced ones. So please keep giving that average advice, MO and Merge Plugins support, is easier with the average user dealt with.




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