Oblivion: Few Must Have Mods and a Bug

As you have probably realized by now, the fact that I started playing Oblivion means I will talk about it for a little while. I apologize if you happen to be a reader who hates that game with a passion. It is just a phase, and it will pass. I also promise to inject other topics in between my Oblivion themed rants.

That said, I wanted to talk about mods. A while ago I sat down and compiled a list of the best Morrowind mods out there. I wanted to do something like that for Oblivion. The only problem is that I don’t know the game that well yet. So here are couple of the mods that I have found worthwhile.

  1. Unofficial Oblivion Patch – fixes over a thousand bugs left in the game after the last official patch. It fixes broken quests, weird side effects, graphical glitches and all sort of other issues. I didn’t actually encounter any of the problems it fixes, but I don’t want to. Note that this mod did not fix the foliage flicker bug I mentioned yesterday. That one has probably something to do with my video card.
  2. Oblivion Mod Manager – A mod manager. I initially did not think I’m going to need one, but some Oblivion mods are distributed as .omod files which require this tool. Once I installed I found it quite useful. It makes managing the tricky mods easier, and it even has a utility which detects potential conflicts between the installed mods. It is good idea to get this if you are planning to install any mods other than the Unofficial Patch.
  3. DarNified UI – A UI redesign. I mentioned that I hated the console driven Oblivion UI. This mod tries to fix it introducing quite a few changes. It improves the hood repositioning some of it’s elements. It makes the inventory panels bigger and the fonts smaller so that you can actually see more than 4 items at the same time. It makes the map and journal windows much larger allowing you to see more. The UI is still deeply nested and broken up into components but it is roughly 60% less annoying. I recommend it. Alternatively you can try the more conservative BTmod which was used as a base for DarNified UI.

I complained about the self contained Oblivion cities last week and it turns out that there is a mod that fixes that. It is aptly named Open Cities and it does exactly what the name suggests. It removes the loading screens at the city gates, and makes them work like regular doors. It does it without any major impact on the FPS or slowdowns. It just works, which makes me wonder why the hell Bethsheda did not do this in the first place.

Unfortunately it has a pretty serious flaw – it conflicts with the Unofficial Patch mod. I don’t know why, and how but it does. The mod worked flawlessly for about half an hour, and after that it reverted back to normal. All the cities started to have double sets of gates, and once you entered them you could not leave. I was forced to disable the mod, and re-load from an earlier save. If it wasn’t for the Oblivion Mod Manager I wouldn’t know what has caused this issue. But apparently some of the fixes and scripting in the Unofficial Patch overrides the stuff in Open Cities.

In the end I opted to keep the Unofficial Patch rather than the City mod fearing broken quests, and game breaking bugs. I might experiment with it some more, at some later time. If you are not using the Unofficial Patch, I highly recommend it.

I also know that Oblivion has a fucked up leveling system. I haven’t been playing the game too long to notice it yet but I’m sure I will need a leveling mod soon. I hear that the Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul is one of the better ones out there, although I haven’t tried it. Any recommendations?

I also wanted to mention a weird bug I discovered that was not fixed by any of the patches. It happens mostly in or around the Imperial Isle City but I’m not sure it is tied to that location, or if it just happens there because that’s where I tend to hang out there a lot. It never happened to me anywhere else. It works like this: I’m walking around the city minding my own business and the game suddenly freezes up for few seconds. It goes to a black screen, it appears as if it was crashing back to Windows Desktop. But it doesn’t actually crash – it just shows me the desktop (at a very low resolution) for a split second then flickers back to black and resumes the game normally. Once it’s over, I can continue playing as normal. The only difference is that I can sometimes see my Windows taskbar icons flickering in and out in the upper right corner of the screen. Everything else is fine. When I exit the game my Windows resolution is reset to it’s lowest setting at 800×600 and stays like that until I change it. If I manage to play for few hours without this happening, and then quit the game my resolution is fine.

This doesn’t seem to be tied to how long I play. Sometimes it happened 5 minutes into the game. Other times I would play for hours, then visit Imperial City and have this crash. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. I noticed that avoiding wandering through the streets of the Imperial City and looking around to much helps me to avoid the bug. If I keep my trips short, use fast travel, and look at the road while I’m walking it doesn’t happen as often.

Anyone seen this before, or did I discover some unique combination of hardware and settings that crashes the game in a brand new way?

Update 02/20/2009 09:58:22 AM

Note: It turns out that Open Cities is actually fully compatible with UOP (see the comments). The author of the mod confirms that it was tested against it. Something else must have triggered that bug.

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12 Responses to Oblivion: Few Must Have Mods and a Bug

  1. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Never had the bug you mentioned at all. But thanks about the Oscuro mod. I will need it. And too bad that the Open Cities mod conflicts with the unofficial patch. :-(

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  2. Jereme UNITED STATES Opera Linux says:

    I’ve had a similar bug with simple games like pocket tanks or my SNES emmulator. It seems that for some reason some games turn down the resolution of your desktop while the game is running. If for some reason windows tries to switch to another window, or switch to the desktop during gameplay (I think most often for me it has been pidgin windows popping up, or something of the sort), it can accept the changes to the resolution. I’ve never had this problem with commercial games because normally they prevent windows from interrupting.

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Alphast: Yeah, I was bummed out about that too. The first couple of times I visited the cities it was incredible. :)

    Btw, that mod doesn’t work in Imperial Isle City and Kvetch. It also shipped with alternate town layouts which I didn’t test.

    @Jereme: Yup, that’s what appears to be happening. This is the only game I had such problems with.

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  4. I’ve gotten this kind of bug with ATI cards before… recently I mean. Both my 9600 pro and 9800 pro did this. The ATI program told me in a bubble that VPU recover has reset your graphics accelerator as it was no longer responding to graphics driver commands.

    This only happened when in graphically intensive games, but I cannot remember any changes in resolution. My fix was to revert to the 9600 pro and stay off these games – since it also crashed my computer the odd time out. :/

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  5. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I tried to post my list of mods but your anti-spam filter is a little bit too sensitive with external links it seems…

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Alphast: Uh, sorry about that. This spam thing has like 2 settings: on or off and nothing in between it.

    Just post the names of the mods if you can and we will google for them. :)

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  7. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Sure, no problem, here they are:
    * Cobl mod which is as much an API as a patch.
    * Let the people drink is particularly nice with Cobl. And it fits in really nicely in the landscape.
    * Dude where is my horse? is a neat one, which does exactly what it says.
    * Lost Spires is good fun and adds the Archeology guild faction (some NPCs are quite hilarious).
    * The whole UL (Unique Landscapes) series is also great, but video card and/or RAM intensive. However, it is quite breath taking.
    * Loading Screen Theme replacer is a very small change but brings additional advice, which is always useful.
    * I had already mentioned Low poly Grass. A must have on small configs like mine.
    * Unofficial Oblivion Patch… No comment, just use it.
    * Realistic Flora is a small tweak but really adds to the game.
    * Quest award leveller does not change the level of opponents but at least compensate for them levelling up by levelling up their loot simultaneously.

    Often mods will require also this: Oblivion Script Extender to be installed. I use it and it is quite fine, although the installation is a bit messy.

    And I might try Oscuro soon and this one too: Francesco’s leveled creatures.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Alphast: Nice list. I will need to change these things out – especially the horse, grass and flora things.

    Cobl looks really nice, but I’m not totally on board with the “extra races” it introduces. Can that be disabled?

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  9. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Actually, as far as I remember, there is one .esp per module in Cobl, so if you don’t like the races, just don’t tick the box of the CoblRaces.esp ; I think…

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  10. Arthmoor UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Unfortunately it has a pretty serious flaw – it conflicts with the Unofficial Patch mod. I don’t know why, and how but it does. The mod worked flawlessly for about half an hour, and after that it reverted back to normal. All the cities started to have double sets of gates, and once you entered them you could not leave. I was forced to disable the mod, and re-load from an earlier save. If it wasn’t for the Oblivion Mod Manager I wouldn’t know what has caused this issue. But apparently some of the fixes and scripting in the Unofficial Patch overrides the stuff in Open Cities.

    You would be probably the second person who has reported something like this. Out of 39,000+ downloads from Nexus alone. Open Cities does not in any way conflict with anything the UOP does. If you’re relying on OBMM to tell you this, don’t, because it’s almost always wrong about it or oversimplifies things to the point of absurdity when it’s right. Even Timeslip has acknowledged the flaws.

    The only way the UOP could do anything bad to Open Cities is if the load order is wrong. In any case, doors cannot simply arise from where the did not exist prior. Lets face it, I’d have a flood of reports about this if it was common behavior, and I’d be seeing it in my own game as I play through the cities on a routine basis on my way to nearby locations.

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  11. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Arthmoor: Thanks for the response! Yes, it was OBMM that told me the two are in conflict. I didn’t think about it at the time and it seemed plausible seeing how UOP is after all “Unofficial” and thus mod makers may not test against it.

    Anyway, did you ever see this behavior? The double gates appearing in all towns after a while, and NPC’s being unable to access the interior cells? What could have caused it? The only other mods (other than UOP) I use are DarNified UI and OBMM.

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  12. Arthmoor UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’m assuming you installed this around the 14th or so. Do you remember which version you tried? I’ve been back over the changelog again and if you were using one of the last 2.1.x versions the doors may not have been acting properly. Anything from 3.0 on should put door issues to rest for good since I changed the method of blocking them from showing up.

    The only time I myself ran into an issue was with the invisible collision box replacement I tried once. The AIs decided to use it as a path through the city for some dumb reason. It was amusing for about 3 minutes until I sat there and noticed they were walking in circles trying to decide where to go.

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