With all the hype surrounding the release of Skyrim VR, you may have heard your friends boasting of the amazing health benefits of playing while running in place. But if you’ve recently purchased an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, you may have noticed that the basic (vanilla) version of the game looks very…2011.
Though Bethesda did us all a massive favor by porting Skyrim to VR, many feel the vanilla version of Skyrim lacks both visually and immersively. This is a problem for a game that costs $60, and if you’re planning on running for miles through a massive open world, then you need to turn that 2011 release into something that seems to fit the year 2018. In other words, you’re going to need to mod.
Now, before you scan through this and get scared away keep in mind, we’ve simplified this to be as easy as possible, and I guarantee if you follow each step you’ll be a pro by the end. If you’d rather watch videos than reading, I’ve included references at the bottom and throughout!
In the past, many people have shied away from modding because they felt it was too difficult or daunting. If you’ve ever scratched your head and wondered, “what the heck is a mod?” or “how does my friend’s game look so good?!” then this article is for you. We’ve gone through and found a simple, sure proof way for anyone who has basic computer skills to turn their game from a bland 2011 gimmick into a thriving VR game-changing title.
What is a Mod?
To put it simply, a Mod is a modification to an existing game that improves it’s graphics, gameplay and in some cases adds completely new mechanisms. Mods are made by programmers who see an opportunity to improve a game they love and share their creation with the community. Modders rarely get paid, typically do it for enjoyment and are the reason I can burn up to 2,000 calories jogging in place for 4 hours.
In other words, Modders give us another reason to have faith in humanity. So if you meet one, shake their hand, buy them a drink and thank them. They’re a shining example of what can be done when people share a common interest to make their community a better place. They can also turn dragons into Macho Man Randy Savage.
Final thought: Poor Chris
Another reason we wanted to create this is for the Chris’s of the world. You see Skyrim VR is the first game I have ever modded. Being that I was a nub, I turned to my friend Chris who is experienced in modding multiple games. Poor Chris patiently answered (and still does answer) every dumb question I threw at him. I feel for poor Chris and all the Chris’s of the world. So I wrote this guide to help answer any and all questions you may have about modding Skyrim VR to help give peace to Chris and Chris’s like him. This guide is designed so that if you can copy, paste and follow basic instructions, then you can become a modding master and eventually learn to leave poor Chris alone.
So to get you running in scenery that looks like this (above), we need to follow a few steps. Here is an overview of what we’ll be walking through together:
- Purchase and Download Skyrim VR
- Enable the ability to Mod Skyrim VR
- Download Mod Manager Software
- Find Mods To Install
- Install Mods
- Put Your Mods in the Correct Load Order
- Play and Repeat!
So as you can see, this is a very simple process that we’re going to break down into small manageable steps. Before we do anything, please make sure you have downloaded and installed Skyrim VR and by the end your game will look something like this (Though ENB is a separate process.)
2: Enabling Mods:
Now that you have Skyrim VR installed we need to enable the ability for us to Mod Skyrim VR:
- First, launch the game once and then quit. Seems silly but please do it.
- Next, open your File Explorer
- Navigate to: Documents>My Games>Skyrim VR and open SkyrimPrefs.ini
- Scroll to the bottom of the text (ini file)
- Paste this:
6) Click save and close
And you’re done!!! With the first part…
You’ve now enabled the ability for us to Mod Skyrim VR.
3. Download and Install Modding Software
Now that you’ve unlocked the ability to Mod Skyrim VR we need to download a Mod Manager program that will make modding simple and easy. Some people swear by a program called Vortex. For various reasons, I prefer Nexus Mod Manager (NMM) but I’m old fashion. Many experienced modders prefer Vortex as it automates a lot of the manual steps required by NMM. If you’d rather explore Vortex follow this link for a series of videos that will explain how to use Vortex in detail. This article will only focus on NMM.
Nexus Mod Manager
- Sign up for a free NMM account
- Download and install Nexus Mod Manager (NMM)
- Find where you installed the file and RIGHT click on NMM and select “Run as Administrator.”
- Cancel the auto search (“Stop Searching” button) at the bottom right of the screen.
- Click the “…” button right below where it says Skyrim Special Edition.
- Select the folder: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\SkyrimVR\
- It’s going to yell at you and tell you this is not the correct file path. Ignore it.
- Click the little check mark above, and ignore the warning that it couldn’t find the .exe
Boom! You’ve now enabled the ability to download and install Mods.
A common question here is: “Do I need Skyrim Special Edition (SSE) to do this.”
The answer is no. We’re going to trick NMM into thinking Skyrim VR is SSE.
4. Find and Install Mods
Time to go shopping! This is the fun part:
Depending on your computer, you may be able to support tons of mods at one time, or your system may crash after 20-50. So far most people report that any VR capable NVIDA 980ti and above handles most mods and tends to remain stable. Some use 250+ mods. Personally, I have an NVIDA 1070 with an I5 processor and have over 60 mods installed. For the best results use a NVIDA 1070 or higher (or AMD equivalent)
Downloading a Mod
To download a mod, you can either search the NMM database for Skyrim Special Edition (SE) mods or check out this handy spreadsheet created by the amazing Skyrim VR modding community. If you go to download a Skyrim (non SE) file, it will get an error when attempting to download. Clicking on a mod will take you to a description. From there you can click on files and download the mod to your computer using NMM.
I highly recommend researching what mods you want to install before installing them. One of the major reasons is because some mods install “over the top” of other mods making them compatible and filling in holes the previous mod did not address. For instance: If you want to install the “Static Mesh Improvement Mod” then you’ll need to install “Skyrim 2017 Textures mod” first and then when prompted, overwrite the existing mod by pressing “yes to mod.”
It might seem daunting at first, but a little research goes a long way. I cannot recommend this spreadsheet enough.
5. Install Mods
Once you’ve done your research and downloaded all the mods you want to start with the next step is to install your mods!
- First, take note of any mods that need to be installed on top of other mods (if any do).
- Make sure to install the base mod first. Otherwise just start installing!
- To install a mod, just double-click on the Mods in the mod tab of NMM. A check mark means the mod is installed. It may ask you some additional questions for customization. Do you as you please. To uninstall a mod double click again until it has a red circle with a line through it.
- Once you’ve installed all your mods, navigate to …c:\users\appdata\local\Skyrim Special Edition. If you don’t see appdata then this is how you unhide it:
- Copy the file called “plugins.txt”
- Now press the back button or navigate to appdata\local\Skyrim VR
- Paste “plugins.txt” and replace the existing one if it’s there.
Keep in mind; you’ll want to do this any time you install new mods before you play. Otherwise, any new mods will not load when the game launches.
For a complete rundown of everything we just covered here is a video that covers everything we just talked about in under 3 minutes. Once you’re comfortable with this process move on to the last step!
6. Order Mods
You could technically skip this step, but I highly recommend it for both performance and bugs that may arise. The final step is to correctly order your mods in the boot order, so they load correctly when launching the game and don’t conflict with one another.
- The first step is to download a program called “Loot” (Load Order Optimization Tool)
- Click on Lootinstaller.exe (ignore the rest) and download Loot
- Install Loot
- Go to C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\SkyrimVR
- Copy SkyrimVR.exe and paste it in the same folder. It will probably save it as a copy.
- Rename the copied file: SkyrimSE.exe
- Run Loot
- Make sure Skyrim SE is selected from the drop-down menu in the middle (screenshot incorrectly has Skyrim.)
- Go to Settings (top right, three stacked dots drops down a menu with Settings)
- Find the row with Skyrim: Special Edition, select install path and change it to your VR folder (probably C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\SkyrimVR)
- You may need to restart Loot.
- Loot will now import all your mods and show you a list on the left of the current order.
- You can also scroll down the middle list and see if any mods are misbehaving.
- Next, we’ll sort the mods by pressing the list icon at the top right which is to the left of the download icon.
- The list icon will now change to the word apply. Click apply.
- You can also use TES5Edit (advanced) to correct any of these errors if Loot doesn’t fix them.
6.1 Tweaking the Settings
Another optional improvement is to change the game settings. Some people want to adjust certain aspects of the game such as how the bow works or when trees are loaded in the distance. To do this, we go full circle back to the original INI file. If you’re not a programmer that’s fine. There is this simple configuration tool that does all that takes the work out of editing the INI file.
- Download the simple configuration tool (Bilago)
- Navigate to this Reddit thread
- Browse any of the settings you may be interested in changing.
- Open the configuration tool and begin typing the “name”
- Make the edits they suggest.
Here is an example of “Tree Stuff” (Courtesy of u/Rallyeator)
Skyrim Tree Settings Disabling "skinned trees", stops trees from popping in, this slightly reduces tree quality, but these values do the workaround First you should deactivate "skinned Trees" in menu or via .ini [Trees] bRenderSkinnedTrees=0 __ [Display] fMeshLODLevel1FadeTreeDistance=6144 (3072 default) fMeshLODLevel2FadeTreeDistance=4096 fTreesMidLODSwitchDist=8192 (4096 default) [Trees] uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender=100 (40 default) __ and for more trees in far distance set [TerrainManager] fTreeLoadDistance=25000 (12500 default)
If this seems too much for you, that’s ok. It really is simple though. For instance, if you want to change fMeshLODLevel2FadeTreeDistance=4096 then start typing: fMesh and it will pop up. Find the value and simply change the number to 4096. That’s it.
Feel free to do this with any an all tweaks suggested in this Reddit thread.
7. Play and Repeat
That’s it! You’ve done it! You’re ready to play. You’ve officially accomplished what many are afraid of attempting. Your reward is a superior game and an ongoing knowledge of how to keep tweaking and adding content from the ever-growing community.
A Couple of Things to Remember:
Any time you download and install a new set of mods make sure to run Loot (if you choose) and make sure to update your plugins.txt file. When the game launches, it will look at the plugins.txt file, and if you haven’t updated the file by “copy and pasting” it from the Skyrim SE folder into the Skyrim VR folder, then it won’t know to load the mod. Also, each time you run Loot, you’ll want to update the plugins.txt file, so the mods are in the right order.
This guide is here to help you get the most out of modding Skyrim VR, but I highly recommend scanning r/skyrimvr to see how amazing this community truly is. Here are also some video sources that will help with anything that may have confused you. If you’re interested in learning how to use Skyrim VR to burn calories by running in place, I suggest you check out this game review and this article on how to run in place while playing.
How to Install Mods in Skyrim VR:
How to use Loot:
How to use Skyrim VR Tweaker Bilago