STEP 1 - GETTING STARTED
- Skyrim Special Edition on Steam
- a legit Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1 / 10 installation (64bit)
- editing software such as Notepad++ (recommended Freeware)
- an archiving tool like 7zip or WinRAR
- latest drivers for your GPU (NVIDIA or AMD)
- a free (or Premium) account on Nexus Mods
With a Nexus Premium subscription you be able to complete the guide in significantly less time since you will benefit from the uncapped download speeds. A one month subscription costs £2.99, giving you more than enough time to complete the guide.
The specs below are recommended for those looking to install all visual mods with high settings as well as 3D tree LOD through DynDOLOD and an intense ENB preset. There are plenty options within the guide that allow you to lower its performance impact so that the modded game remains playable even on weaker machines.
- processor with high single core performance (3.2GHz or more)
- 8-16 GB of DDR3 or DDR4 memory, running at 2400MHz or faster
- a modern GPU with at least 4GB of VRAM (ideally 6-8GB)
- at least 100GB of free space on a fast HDD or SSD
- Intel i5 7600k @4.2GHz, hybrid-cooled
- EVGA GTX 1070 Founder’s Edition (8192MB VRAM)
- Corsair Vengeance 16GB DDR4-3200 Memory
- Samsung 850 Evo Series 256GB SSD (OS)
- Samsung 860 Evo Series 1TB SSD (Games)
- 1080p Acer monitor @60Hz
Never underestimate the impact that high monitor resolutions have on performance. I would consider my setup to be on the higher end of mid-tier spectrum, and on my 1080p monitor I can get stable 60FPS. With the amount of additional pixels to render on resolutions like 1440p and upwards, the hardware requirement will go up quite harshly. Don’t expect 60FPS when playing in 4K.
1.2 A NOTE ON FPS
Performance in games in measured in FPS – frames per seconds. These frames (still images) are shown rapidly in order to simulate movement. The more frames you see per second, the smoother the image and motion will appear to you. For comfortable, fluid controls the frame rate should ideally be at a stable 60FPS without dipping too often.
Some particularly performance-intense areas in Skyrim will always bring the engine, your hardware and thus the frame rate to their knees. The goal is to find a balance where most of Skyrim looks pretty while running at a stable frame rate which lowers only in the most performance-intense of places. This is what the guide attempts to achieve.
HAVOK PHYSICS AND FPS
For reasons unknown, the physics of Skyrim are tied to the frame rate. When unlocking the frame rate so that the game runs at the highest frame rate your hardware can muster, you will notice many peculiar and often game-breaking bugs – the carts from the intro (as well as many other objects or NPCs) bounce around all over the place, steps causes weird splashing sounds, and bodies of water flow much too fast. Timescale and quests can get messed up as well. The game is utterly broken.
Some may remember that “back in the day”, before Skyrim Special Edition, this was unfixable and Skyrim had to be capped at 60FPS (or lower) at all times. For Skyrim SE an INI tweak was discovered –
fMaxTime – that allowed users to cap at 75, 120 or even 144FPS provided they entered a specific value in their INI.
Thankfully nobody has to actually tweak that INI line themselves because we have Havok Fix. This SKSE plugin dynamically adjusts the INI value so that it matches the current in-game frame rate. Whatever frame rate you get in a particular region – your INI will be set accordingly, at runtime, and there won’t be any physics bugs!
FOR THE GUIDE
The guide currently includes Havok Fix but only supports playing at 60FPS. This has one simple reason: I do not own a monitor with more than 60Hz so I cannot play at above 60FPS myself. Consequently I would not be able to test any recommendations or instructions myself. I am planning to buy a new monitor with 120 or 144Hz very soon however, and there will be instructions for an unlocked frame rate eventually.
1.3 SHOW FILE EXTENSIONS
By default file extensions – like EXE, PNG or ESP – are hidden in the Windows Explorer. Since it’s fairly important to be able to see them during the installation of the guide, I recommend double-checking that you have file extensions set to visible.
- Open the Windows Explorer.
- Click the View tab at the top.
- Make sure File name extensions is checked.
1.4 YOUR MODDING FOLDER
In order to keep all files related to modding Skyrim SE in one place, we will create a dedicated directory. It will serve as a hub for all tools, downloaded mods archives, custom mods or patches, notes, backups, screenshots and so forth.
Throughout the guide I will refer to this folder as Your Modding Folder.
- Create a new folder anywhere on an HDD with at least 200GB of free space. (Don’t waste SSD space on this).
- Name it whatever you like, eg Skyrim SE Modding.
- Add several more new folders inside as shown below:
1.4 MOD ARCHIVE5
Proper organisation is key when modding Skyrim as you will come back plenty of times to update or reinstall mods, or selectively extract files. The previously created ARCHIVE folder will contain the majority of those files which is why we will create some subdirectories to help you keep an overview.
- Create several more new folders inside the ARCHIVE folder as shown below:
1.6 MONITOR CALIBRATION
Assuming you already have your monitor configured with your preferred settings for resolution and refresh rate (in my case that is 60Hz and 1920×1080), you might also want to adjust brightness and/or gamma either through your graphics card or Windows’ inbuilt calibration tool.
Note: Your monitor should have been running for at least 30 minutes before you adjust it.
NVIDIA: Control Panel > NVIDIA Control Panel > Adjust Desktop Color Settings
WINDOWS: Control Panel > Colour Management > Advanced > Calibrate display
To help you find the sweet spot for your monitor, check out these resources:
1.7 DYNAMIC RANGE
1.8 FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS
Before we finally jump into the actual guide, here are some critical pieces of information that I urge you to read carefully before continuing.
Which parts are required?
All instructions and mods are mandatory unless they are clearly marked otherwise. A large portion of mods is marked as (optional) and you may safely skip them. Do not skip required mods. There are instructions for all mods with FOMOD installers and you are expected to follow them.
Before installing any mods, you will be instructed to set up custom separators that will show up in Mod Organizer 2 and mirror the guide’s sections. Each step of the guide starts with an indication below which separator you need to place the next mods.
Please wait until after you finished and tested your setup before adding more mods. Otherwise you will no longer be eligible to receive support on our Discord should you need it.
It is very important that you do not confuse these two folders:
– The root folder (
Steam/steamapps/common/Skyrim Special Edition) contains the executables (SkyrimSE.exe, SkyrimSELauncher.exe).
– The data folder (
Steam/steamapps/common/Skyrim Special Edition/Data) contains the base game plugins and archives with all vanilla assets.