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Starting with STEP (as a SkyRe Player on a Cheap PC while Moving to Wrye Bash)


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#1 CrispyWalrus

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:16 PM

I've been using mods for a while now; I started slow but my addiction grew.  Initially I was adding a few here and there manually and then I got into NMM.  Lately I've gotten into SkyRe and some bigger mods, which really makes Skyrim a fresh challenge again and much more distinctive play through each time (in vanilla every character seems to end up an alchemical enchanter smith lockpicker regardless of mage, warrior, or rogue archetype in mind).  I am really enjoying a new game these days. 

I had Skyrim running pretty well with 100 mods on a cheap $400 desktop (Athlon X2 2.8GHz, 4GB RAM, Integrated Radeon 3000 256MB VRAM).  By pretty well I mean medium textures, medium LOD and a playable framerate (at least for my sneaky assassin sniping style-- big battles did lag) with very infrequent CTDs (far less than 1 every 24 hours game time) but I wondered if I could do better (better visuals with no FPS loss or better FPS) as there are so many ini options and other mods I've yet to try.

So even though it was stable, since I'd been updating and modding/unmodding the game for a long time now and a lot of that before I learned about clean saves and mod managers and there are now a number of mods I no longer use (usually because I found no benefit to them, or the performance hit was too great); I decided to start over again as it were completely clean of any accumulated detritus in my skyrim folders so I backed up skyrim directories and then uninstalled and reinstalled Skyrim to clean out the cobwebs.  I am today at the point where I have a shiny brand-new fresh install of Skyrim with all three DLCs patched to 1.9-- naked of any mods yet!  

I have decided that I will change mod managers since I've been filtering BASH delev and relev tags from my BOSS reports for a while and I do use some mods which mess with leveled lists I figured it was about time to learn how to make a bashed esp.  I also like that WB should also help me with mod install order, something I was always unsure about with NMM.  And since I'd noticed STEP for a while now but always felt too modded to join in I thought now might be a perfect time to get started so here I am.  I do have some questions though and I hope this is the right place for them.

I am mainly trying to follow https://wiki.step-pr....com/STEP:Guide as I am very interested in the "Performance STEP options-- Core mods only; performance options wherever possible-- as my poor box needs all of the mercy that I can spare it, but I must have STEP!"  So when I get to 1.B.1. Launcher_Settings, I am a bit confused as I don't see Performance, Baseline, and Extreme options but one directive telling me to set my game to Ultra settings (my PC always autodetects at Medium and even that is too much without tweaking). 

Is there another guide for Performance STEP or am I actually supposed to set at Ultra here?

The next section-- 1.C.2. ATI Users-- too I was also unsure about.  If I try to set my own settings for tesv.exe I get a message that an AMD pre-definied application profile already exists and asks if I wish to overwrite.  I've also seen other similar information like the RCRN's ATi AMD Radeon Tweak Guide for Skyrim.  Most of my previous mods were more about immersion and realism and less graphics as that is the weakest link in my box, but I was hoping to achieve a little better this install. 

I'm not sure if I should just leave it with AMD's defined Catalyst Application Profile, which is what I have always done or to do this too?

Onto the next section--1.E. Install Utilities .  As I mentioned I am trying to adapt to BASH now for my mod installer so I am also looking at https://wiki.step-pr...Guide:Wrye_Bash too with the main install guide.  One thing I do like about NMM though is the version checking and ability to endorse good mods.  I wanted to use it still for this and downloads.  To that end I have also found a couple relevant pages: Linking NMM and Bash Installer Directory? and the older Guide to Setting up Wrye Bash and NMM for Skyrim to make them work together.  I've got my NMM paths set in their config gui and my bash.ini set so that all seems to be working-- NMM downloads right to Bash Installers directory. 

I am just throwing this out there in case anyone else does this and knows of any gotchas or zingers trying to use WB and NMM in coordination?

I am also looking at Installing ASIS and SkyRe with some additional stuff as I do use SkyRe and had been contemplating adding ASIS for a while too.  I will probably skip the TK stuff save maybe TK Hitstop and I am not sure about magic.  I rarely play mages and SkyRe does change up spells already.  I love my Khajiit with SkyRe's Weaken Gravity spell.  So anyway, I guess the STEP stuff should always go first and I do hope by sticking to just core I won't overwhelm my system. 

There are a number of other pages I have been perusing too:

How-To's & Guides:

Forum Discussions:

Some stuff I've seen on the Nexus lately I may look more into:

I definitely intend to use HiAlgoBoost again too as I found it helped me immensely.  It does lower FPS when you are standing still but since the scene is not changing who cares.  It reduces resolution on the fly during fast movements to keep the FPS peppy even in combat or quick passing scenery.

If anyone has any comments or more pages for me or other low-end performance tweaks I missed I'd love to hear that too but mostly I am stuck at those initial STEP steps wondering about launcher and graphics settings...
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#2 DanielCoffey

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 03:17 AM

I can help with the ATI CCC part... The AMD CCC Guide advised switching from the in-game MSAA to CCC-controlled SSAA but with your limited hardware you won't be able to get a playable framerate with SSAA so stop following that guide. If you have already created it, delete the custom 3D Gaming profile you created for TESV.exe inside the CCC panel and leave it with the default one. Let Skyrim control the AA and AF settings in the .ini file. If you are struggling to get a smooth framerate I would suggest trying 0xAA and 8xAF first, loading up with the STEP mods and seeing if you are still smooth. If you like, you can try putting 2xAA on in the .ini and seeing how it goes but I suspect that you will find a smoother playing experience more pleasing to the eye even if it has a few jaggies than an AA paradise that jerks and stutters all over the place.
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#3 CrispyWalrus

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 06:11 PM

I can help with the ATI CCC part...

The AMD CCC Guide advised switching from the in-game MSAA to CCC-controlled SSAA but with your limited hardware you won't be able to get a playable framerate with SSAA so stop following that guide. If you have already created it, delete the custom 3D Gaming profile you created for TESV.exe inside the CCC panel and leave it with the default one. Let Skyrim control the AA and AF settings in the .ini file.

If you are struggling to get a smooth framerate I would suggest trying 0xAA and 8xAF first, loading up with the STEP mods and seeing if you are still smooth. If you like, you can try putting 2xAA on in the .ini and seeing how it goes but I suspect that you will find a smoother playing experience more pleasing to the eye even if it has a few jaggies than an AA paradise that jerks and stutters all over the place.

Thanks so much for your reply! :thumbsup:

I was beginning to wonder about the community aspects of the S.T.E.P. community and despairing of any reply.  I agree that you are likely correct.  I had AA and AF off before and while a few jagged edges were seen it was much more playable.  I haven't changed any CCC settings yet because I saw that an AMD profile exists and never made such changes before so was not sure if doing so now would be beneficial or not.  After much experience I tend to take most ini tweaks I read these days with a grain of salt and seeing is believing-- sometimes claims far exceed benefits.   I was worried changing my CCC settings would overwrite the AMD settings and I would not be able to get back to them should these recommended changes be bunk.  

So running the cart test with the Ultra settings the guide recommends just leads to beautiful choppiness.  According to the Skyrim Performance Monitor (already had that so used it rather than getting GPU-z) my bottleneck is definitely my GPU.  My hard disk doesn't blink, my CPU averages about 20-25%, RAM averages about 900MB of my 4GB, but my poor integrated Radeon is pegged near constantly with both its PU and VRAM.  It does use UMA so while my VRAM is only 256MB I see total video memory available should be 1.9GB.  I just am not sure that Skyrim uses UMA or if the OS does on its own, or if it isn't helping me at all.

To be honest I am not sure I have any business dabbling into S.T.E.P. or even an entire understanding yet of what it really is supposed to do for me-- total enhancement is a bit unclear and I definitely shouldn't be looking at better graphics mods.  I am really interested in other tweaks though-- fixes, immersion, and realism.  Before I had the bright idea to reinstall everything I was happily running:



This install I was even looking at https://skyrim.nexus....com/mods/14504 but wasn't sure what the effect would be-- would I see such a performance increase to offset any noticeable detail, or would the detail loss be negligible?  I've also heard turning off AA and AF but using a postprocessing SMAA can offload from GPU to CPU a very similar effect.  RCRN is supposed to be minimal FPS loss for what it adds but I don't really know.  I wish this stuff was more definitive.  So far I have not gotten back to Skyrim yet and am sitting at vanilla still.
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#4 DanielCoffey

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 06:03 AM

I am not sure just how low a GPU the STEP Performance build is aimed at but I do think that if you follow the DDSopt guide for unpacking the Skyrim - Textures.bsa and HDDLC packs (if you use them) into loose files and optimising them (in your case downsizing them to 512x512) you may be able to claw something back in terms of GPU vram used. EDIT : Also make sure you are using the lowest texture detail versions available for the hair mod and also the cloaks. Integrated GPUs are really not that good for Skyrim as I am sure you are aware. Out of interest, what GPU do you have? Compare to https://www.uesp.net...em_Requirements and make sure you are not trying to run the game on too high a setting.
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#5 MontyMM

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 07:03 AM

I was beginning to wonder about the community aspects of the S.T.E.P. community and despairing of any reply.

:?  You'll find that on here (and pretty much any forum) you're much more likely to get a response if you keep your title and topic more specific, and your text much shorter.  When you present a ton of information and multiple questions, then you'll get fewer responses.
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#6 CrispyWalrus

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 08:50 AM

I was beginning to wonder about the community aspects of the S.T.E.P. community and despairing of any reply.

:?  You'll find that on here (and pretty much any forum) you're much more likely to get a response if you keep your title and topic more specific, and your text much shorter.  When you present a ton of information and multiple questions, then you'll get fewer responses.

Well since "Starting with STEP" as a title was a bit generic and gathered no moss, I changed up the title quickly.  There is a length limit to the field or perhaps I would have mentioned my GPU there too...

How do you suggest I make it (even) more specific? 

The text was to explain where I was coming from and what I'd done in the past, and where I was at with STEP.  I have found that if you do not present such a baseline when asking for help people while trying to be helpful either tell you what you already know or throw you a red herring with information that is not applicable. 

How would you make it shorter while providing the same information details?

As for questions there were really only three.   I did bold them and set them apart from the paragraphs but perhaps there is a better way?  Since only Daniel seems to have noticed them so far, I will reiterate them here again-- sans other information:

  • Is there another guide for Performance STEP or am I actually supposed to set at Ultra here?
  • I'm not sure if I should just leave it with AMD's defined Catalyst Application Profile, which is what I have always done or to do this too?
  • I am just throwing this out there in case anyone else does this and knows of any gotchas or zingers trying to use WB and NMM in coordination?

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#7 MontyMM

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 09:00 AM

How do you suggest I make it (even) more specific? 

What I suggest is that you post one question per topic, with a clearly descriptive title.  If you have supplementary data that may be significant, such as your system config, then add that as an addendum to the query.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with your approach, but when you post a long description of your situation, with a generic title, and multiple questions arising, then fewer people will take the time to read through it all and respond.  I'm just suggesting a more efficient way of getting the information you need.
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#8 CrispyWalrus

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 09:26 AM

I am not sure just how low a GPU the STEP Performance build is aimed at but I do think that if you follow the DDSopt guide for unpacking the Skyrim - Textures.bsa and HDDLC packs (if you use them) into loose files and optimising them (in your case downsizing them to 512x512) you may be able to claw something back in terms of GPU vram used.

EDIT : Also make sure you are using the lowest texture detail versions available for the hair mod and also the cloaks.

Integrated GPUs are really not that good for Skyrim as I am sure you are aware. Out of interest, what GPU do you have? Compare to https://www.uesp.net...em_Requirements and make sure you are not trying to run the game on too high a setting.

Thanks a bunch for your help! :D

In my previous installation I had never played with the textures. All was vanilla-- base games and any mods I loaded but as I mentioned playable. My main goal with reinstall was to add any fixes and realism/immersion mods mostly while also seeing if I could eek out any better performance than what I had before.  I was thinking about either using Vanilla Reduced Textures (which seems to be all the vanilla textures already optimized by DDSopt-- albeit after being reduced in size even) or else optimizing them myself but it is entirely new to me so I was not sure what the benefit was or how difficult it would be.  In my searching I had seen: DDSopt - Optimization of DDS Textures, Optimizer Textures, and Skyrim Mods Complex Optimizer - SMCO but I was not sure which to use.  Honestly dropping in VRT seems much easier but if I don't need the reduced texture size but only optimized ones I don't want to kill eye candy needlessly.

Great link too btw.  I hadn't stumbled on that GPU table before.  A lot listed but I don't see mine but I suspect the name I have-- Radeon 3000-- is a generic umbrella name.  I checked Catalyst Control Center and my System Information and according to them I have:

I just don't see how to relate this to an entry in that table.  I did find in my last configuration that it was better to customize my graphics rather than just pick one of the Ultra to Low settings.  I was able to use High/Med settings for increased texture detail and LOD if I turned off AA and AF.  I really don't know which would be better-- more texture detail and jagged edges or less detail and smooth edges, but LOD is hugely necessary to be able to play enjoyably I found.  You need to see things at a distance or else you miss items and enemies just pop-in on you, an altogether unpleasant play experience.

Thank you again for your help!
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#9 CrispyWalrus

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 09:50 AM

How do you suggest I make it (even) more specific? 

What I suggest is that you post one question per topic, with a clearly descriptive title.  If you have supplementary data that may be significant, such as your system config, then add that as an addendum to the query.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with your approach, but when you post a long description of your situation, with a generic title, and multiple questions arising, then fewer people will take the time to read through it all and respond.  I'm just suggesting a more efficient way of getting the information you need.

I was sort of unsure whether to reply or not as I don't see topical relevancy but then I figured-- hey, at least my thread seems to be getting some attention now.  So I don't want to get off topic here but honestly I don't see how I can be more specific in title and questions but at the same time be less specific in details provided-- that does seem to be what you are stating?  I understand that you are trying to be helpful but perhaps with your suggestions an example of what you would make the title to be more specific and descriptive at least?

Again the three questions all relate to STEP 1 and where I got stuck while "Starting with STEP (as a SkyRe Player on a Cheap PC while Moving to Wrye Bash)" and the details provided show where I am at in STEP, what I am already aware of, and in extension convey my level of modding experience:
  • Is there another guide for Performance STEP or am I actually supposed to set at Ultra here?
  • I'm not sure if I should just leave it with AMD's defined Catalyst Application Profile, which is what I have always done or to do this too?
  • I am just throwing this out there in case anyone else does this and knows of any gotchas or zingers trying to use WB and NMM in coordination?
Since you seem to have read my post too is there anything you can provide related to these questions to give me a hand?

I pretty much just ignored these questions for now and did what I did before-- high settings with no AA/AF and started downloading mods I didn't have.
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