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Ghost Mountains?

It is well known that, as far as computer RPGs go, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from Bethesda is a masterpiece on many levels: the level of immersion, the attention to detail and the rote but comfortable storyline that supports the main quest, which on its own delivers many, many hours of enjoyment to even the die-hard gamer. Never-mind the fact that there are hundreds of auxiliary quests to whet your enjoyment even further.

But what is slightly less well known is that the Elder Scrolls community, had here, offers a treasure trove of additional quests and missions, along with other casual (or more severe) augments to include improved armour and weapons, fashions, player homes, cosmetic workovers to include face, hair and figure, architecture, landscaping, and even a few outright ruleset outfittings to include better levelling and a complete combat makeover; all done as a labor of love by players and developers like us. I shall return with a list of favorite “mods”, as they are called, in short time… but first I need to express an issue with one of my favorite plugins.

Valenwood Improved is one of the more popular mods, and for good reason: it opens up an entire region of Tamriel (the game continent) for expansion. From all appearances, it is a pretty and robust affair, but I came across this rendered quirk in my travels:

Ghost Mountains... and Floating Trees beyond

Ghost Mountains... and Floating Trees beyond

(This is the coast line at the Cave of Dusk in the southeastern part of the Valenwood province).

Now, I confess I have stumbled late into the party with the whole modding phenomenon, having logged over 150 hours on the XBox 360 with only 40 hours so far with the “moddable” PC version (once I accepted the sale price for the GOTY edition for the PC from Steam last XMas, the gameworld opened up and swallowed me whole). And yet, I’m no slouch when it comes to software development, and I fully understand that the “loading order” for the dozens of mods I have integrated into the game plays a crucial role.

But even after deactivating all other plugins, and reinstalling the VI mod, AND cherry-picking the textures, meshes and LOD files for replacement… I cannot shake the artifacts you see here. For you experts, this occurs in the Silvenar region, also. I can tell you that this mod is in conflict with the Beyond Cyrodiil – Campsites plugin as well, at the West Mountain Valen Inn, and to a lesser extent the elven village of New Valen mod.

The image above portrays (at least in the far background) what is called in the trade “vertical clipping”. Essentially, there is another mod competing for region space with a mountain-scape which interferes with the VI mod proper. Hence, the “ghost mountains” and floating trees if you were to examine this further. Upon approach, the artifact vanishes (the trees remain)… which I assume is the result of the player “crossing the line” with regards to LOD. But there are also “land-tears”, which is what it sounds like; you can fall into a rift and drop to the bottom of the world… i.e., the developer’s mesh design platform. Reminders like these tend to understate the immersion enjoyed beforehand; it is not an altogether pleasant surprise when it happens without warning.

So, here is my cry for help. If anyone has come across this anomaly please feel free to contact me your humble servant with a posed solution on how to fix this. If I were told this is a conflict that has survived all along and created mistakenly upon design, I would believe it, because I have exhausted all other options on this end in explaining this conflict!

3 comments

  1. admin

    Small update: it has been suggested that the similar and excellent ElsweyrAnequina mod, if placed out of sequence, will force the image corruption depicted here. Seeing as how they occupy adjacent cells of region space, this is a sound presumption. However, even with EA deactivated the problems remain.

    Clearly, the LOD or mesh (NIF) files need to be replaced, but having tried this there is still no evidence of change. Perhaps if I knew which files to swap out? Again, reinstalling VI is of no avail.

  2. Knightwalker

    Hey – replied to your PM on nexus forums with some suggestions. I actually went here AFTER sending the reply unfortunately. I mentioned about trying with the Distant LOD turned off and reading the above I understand the way you are looking at it now.

    The Oblivion Engine has a certain way it loads the game world (Wilderness worldspace) area. You have normal tree/landscape textures and meshes that load in the cells around your character (the detailed ones), then you have a separate DistantLOD mesh/textures that load several miles (in the game) away from you (that are very basic and have very few polygons). So unlike most other games that simply use the exact same textures/meshes but just remove detail the further out you are from them – Oblivion DistantLOD textures/meshes and normal detailed textures/meshes are completely separate and are in even in separate folders in the Oblivion>Data folder.

    Its not quite the same issue as when you have 2 mods changing things in the same cell and competing causing a land tear – thats only with the normal detailed textures/meshes – not with the distantLOD, and Landmagic should fix 95% of that anyways.

    As you get closer to the distantLOD the oblivion engine removes the meshes and you have the normal tree/landscape textures and meshes – which in a perfect world should look the same as the distantLOD textures and meshes and the transition should be seamless. And probably if there was no mods running and was just vanilla oblivion – it would be seamless transition.

    In your case – for whatever reason, whether TES4LODGEN has failed to create a distantlod mesh for that cell or a rogue mod is causing an issue – the distantLOD is NOT matching what the detailed normal tree/landscape textures and meshes in that cell actually look like, and it appears the oblivion engine is also not removing the distantLOD meshes even though your character is actually ontop of it. I strongly suggest saving a game where the above picture was taken, turning off DistantLOD in the video/game options and reloading to see if that fixes it.

    As I mentioned in the PM, I could never get the DistantLOD to work properly so I just turned it all off and made do with the Fog of War. And thinking of it, I remember I had floating low poly trees in the distance around Stirk too.

    Hope that helps a bit

    Knightwalker

  3. admin

    This did help, Knightwalker. I have a good understanding of the mechanics now; it was revealed to me though that the meshes were not “refreshed”, meaning the “archiveinvalidation” tool wasn’t doing its job properly. I performed an update, and after modifying the config file to account for a MOD whose meshes were wiped away… the land was restored.

    Hurrah to the TES Nexus community! Now for the MOD top 10 list…

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