This was a short-ish session in terms of actual play time; most of the energy I spent here was in trying to adjust the graphics settings on my PC, to see if I could figure out how to get rid of the weird striping shadows problem I was seeing. Answer: yes!
- Experimented a lot with seeing if I could make the shadow problems on PC Skyrim go away, details below
- Also experimented with turning on the Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch mod via the UI on the game’s main menu, details below
- Since I was hanging out near the Khajiit camp outside Whiterun, proceeded with talking to Ri’saad once I was done experimenting
- At which point I saw that yep, he sure did have some ingredients I’d never seen before (hi there, Rare Curios content!)
- He also had a dialogue prompt I hadn’t seen before, to ask him about trouble the Khajiit were having on the road (hi there, Saints and Seducers content!)
- Proceeded from there to Bleak Falls Barrow
- Took the good fur armor off of one of the bandits I killed, just to not be wearing anything Imperial
- Killed the exterior bandits and got the interior ones inside by the fire
- Proceeded as far as the bandit who gets killed by the darts at the gate puzzle; saved there for the night
This was barely a session in terms of how much time I actually spent playing, but I’m giving this a full post anyway just to write up my experimentations.
So I had two overall things I wanted to figure out:
- Could I solve the shadow striping problem I was seeing?
- Could I get the Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch installed?
Solving the shadow problem
I tried a few strategies to address question number one. The challenge I’m dealing with here is that Savah, the laptop I’m playing around with here, is pretty old: a 2012 HP Elitebook Folio 9470m. The graphics card in it is an Intel HD 4000. In other words, on the real low end of machines capable of handling playing Skyrim.
As I observed before, I had better luck getting the game to launch on Windows 10 on this box than I did on Linux. By which I mean: I could in fact launch the game. Which was definitely better than not being able to get past the opening title on Ubuntu 20.04.
However, I still had that weird stripy shadow issue, impacting things like grass and rocks and walls, as well as weird blotches showing up on my character’s body when I viewed her in third person mode.
I wound up trying a few things, including:
- Kicking the general Windows system settings into higher performance mode
- Doinking around with the graphics card settings, to also try better performance settings
- Evaluating the settings available inside Skyrim when you’re actively playing
- Evaluating the graphics settings that you have access to when you run the launcher
Number 4 on this list seemed to finally get me the best results. By default, since the graphics card is so old, the launcher punted me down to “Low” quality. But it also left an occlusion checkbox on. When I turned that off, my shadow problem went away.
As I’ve worked on writing this tonight, I have also confirmed that undoing a couple of those attempted changes didn’t make the shadow problem come back! So I reverted what I did for items 1 and 2 on the above list. And so far so good. I now appear to have a pretty viable Skyrim game going!
(Here’s hoping that shadow problem stays solved. When I went looking for answers on how to fix the problem last night, I saw multiple reports of people having trouble solving it for good. So we’ll have to see if this fix I’ve found remains good.)
Installing the Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch
This was the other major area of interest for me. Part of the whole point of my wanting to try Skyrim on a PC is that I don’t have access to mods on the Switch build, or to a lot of the same bug fixes that in some cases do in fact actively break play. (For example: see all my various playthrough posts bitching about the cutscene being broken when you go to read the Elder Scroll at the Throat of the World, and learn Dragonrend.)
I knew already that nexusmods.com is considered one of the go-to places to get Skyrim mods. But what I didn’t know before last night is that, if you run Skyrim on a PC, you have a Mods menu option that not only gives you access to your load order, but also to a library of mods directly available off of bethesda.net.
So just because the USSEP was right there, and it was super easy to download and activate it, I tried that out.
At which point I learned two things:
- If you are running any mods, you don’t get to have Achievements
- If you activate mods you fork off a different set of save files from whatever un-modded save you were last on
I admit to being slightly disappointed that activating a mod deactivates Achievements! Just because the Switch build doesn’t have them, and hey, I like the dopamine hit of an accomplished Achievement as much as the next gamer!
But on the other hand, specifically because the Switch build doesn’t have Achievements, I’m used to playing without them. So I don’t feel like I’ll miss much by not having them. I’m way more interested in the bug fixes that the USSEP can offer me.
(How many other mods I might install besides that is an open question. My friend John has suggested, and my current instinct is to concur, that I should be real light with mods on this box.)
John also suggested a few other mods to try out, and I may or may not proceed to install those. I suspect before I go any further with mods installation, I better go make a nexusmods.com account!
Oh hey look, new content!
Once I got to a point of the game being shadow-free, I did actually proceed to play a bit in earnest. And since that save had kicked in with me hanging out just outside Whiterun near the Khajiit camp, I went over to talk to Ri’saad.
Which got me two immediate things of note:
- Ri’saad had several new ingredients I hadn’t seen before
- He also had a dialogue prompt I’d never seen before, where you can ask him about the troubles his caravan has had on the road
The new ingredients all looked quite interesting, but also pretty expensive for a starting character without much gold to her name yet. So I didn’t buy any of them.
The dialogue prompt on the other hand got Ri’saad to hand me a note describing what was going on with his caravan’s troubles: a group called Saints and a group called Seducers that had been bothersome to the Khajiit caravans. The note pointed out their last known location, and stated that Ri’saad would pay for assistance with the matter.
So yay hook for a whole new plotline!
Though I had to giggle a little that Ri’saad had a handy note writing up the problem, as opposed to just, y’know, telling the player about it.
Ri’saad did have a new voice line saying something to the effect of “it’s all here in this note”, but above and beyond that would have required yet more voice lines. I don’t know anything about the history of this content in particular so I don’t know if the creators actually cobbled together that one line out of other Ri’saad content in the vanilla game or what. But it certainly makes sense to me that building a whole new conversation probably wasn’t viable!
Still though this lets me giggle as well about the idea of Ri’saad carrying around four or five or ten copies of the same note, just so that he can hand them out to anybody who comes to the camp to buy stuff. “Here, Khajiit would like you to have this note. We will pay for assistance with these groups, and would be grateful if you spread the word.” Maybe he makes the others in the camp write out copies for him during their downtime? 😉
Onward to Bleak Falls Barrow
Since I’ve actually recently visited Bleak Falls Barrow with Faanshi, the most interesting thing I can say here about doing it with Shenner on the PC run is that having a much larger screen makes a significant difference in the visual details of everything. I’m seeing details on weapons I never parsed before, and on draugr, and on potion bottles (e.g., HOLD UP THESE BOTTLES HAD LABELS ALL THIS TIME?).
I’ll proceed with Shenner through Bleak Falls Barrow and onward to fight Mirmulnir at the Western Watchtower.
The detail alone is definitely better than on the Switch. But so far I’m not yet convinced, given the age of the machine, that the graphics rendering will be consistently better. I’ve seen some struggling to render stuff in the distant background outdoors, so far. And it’ll be interesting to see if I see any of the graphical glitches I’m accustomed to on the Switch–such as flickering bits of stones when I’m walking along a road, and such.
I’m still not entirely used to playing Skyrim with a formal controller, as opposed to the Switch JoyCons. So far I’ve been trying Paul’s PS4 controller, but I also want to try his Nintendo Switch Pro controller. I’m to the point where I’m seriously considering getting my own controller, and if the Switch Pro can viably talk to Steam, that’d give me a controller that could talk to my PC and my Switch. So that’d be neat.
Also, the layout of the X, Y, B, and A buttons on the PS4 controller is still screwing with me, whereas the Switch Pro controller has all the buttons in the same place as the JoyCons!