Graphics Mods And Me


Partially in preparation for Fallout 4, I’ve started a new Fallout 3 character and finally jumped into heavy modding of the game. “Heavy” might mean something different for me compared to what it may mean for a lot of people who mod Bethesda games. I actually tend to get very cautious with mods, particularly mods designed to change a game’s graphics and art assets.

I went through some lengthy deliberation before finally deciding to install the most popular texture pack for Fallout 3 — “NMC’s Textures.” If you look at Fallout 3’s vanilla textures in 2015, see how absolutely muddy they are, and have the power to mod them, I imagine most people would at least try. I almost never use texture mods though because I think most tend to stray too far from a game’s original art direction.

This is why when I started modding Skyrim I didn’t mod any of its textures or art assets or character models, save for one mod that changed all female armor to get rid of boob-shaped plates. Most fan-made characters or character model swaps I see (like custom companions for Bethesda games) just look like fan art to me, mostly anime fan art in the case of Bethesda games. That’s really how I see most graphics mods. There is definitely some great fan art out there, but once you start modding graphics, on some level you no longer fully trust the original developer’s artistic choices.

I inserted a pretty heavy ENB into Skyrim, but while everyone else likes playing around with the color balance and mood of the game, I simply used one that added some more advanced post-processing to the original color scheme. I prefer things like that which simply “upgrade” a game or make some mostly objective adjustments. SkyUI is another example, which completely re-organizes Skyrim’s menu interface but still looks like it belongs in the game Bethesda developed. I never messed with any of those vegetation mods either. There is a huge variety of them, but too many of the ones I see in screenshots make thew hole country look like somebody’s front lawn.

A texture pack that actually stays entirely true to the original art while simply upgrading its resolution is something I’ve found to be rare indeed. That’s partially why I keep posting updates for the in-progress retexture of Resident Evil 4. It is simply amazing how drastically that project improves RE4’s art assets while keeping them faithful. The NMC pack does try, but it just isn’t as successful. I admit the guys working on RE4 have an advantage — access to a lot of the exact same sources used for the game’s original textures.

I think most people who mess with mods have agreed that one of the worst examples of changing a game’s original look is the Half-Life 2 Cinematic Mod. If you don’t know, it’s the one that changes all the lighting to look like a Michael Bay movie and the character models to look like film actors instead of more down-to-earth people. Alyx Vance in particular get’s transformed into a Brazilian model with exposed Lingerie. All that said, the mod was originally made for the creator’s own private use and has a lot of options, including one to stick with original character models.

I guess that’s my ultimate point about graphics mods. They’re kind of like do-it-yourself remasters when you think about it — different people figuring out what needs to be improved and what should be kept the same. Some mods like all the ones for the S.T.A.L.K.E.R games seem designed more as remixes to surprise people who’ve already played the base games over and over. It’s also just a part of what PC gaming is really about — flexibility and choice. If some people want to go all out and install 50 gigabytes worth of mods to turn Skyrim into a barely-recognizable game, they can do that, but I’m fine just playing the game with a nip-and-tuck.


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