Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - Caverns of Cloud Ruler Temple

Mod Review - Caverns of Cloud Ruler Temple
( )

Overall: Needs a lot of rethinking but could be a decent Cloud Ruler Temple expansion mod. WARNING: Very long land-tear on the road up to Cloud Ruler Temple. There maybe a slight possibility of falling through it, although it seemed okay when leading two mounted NPCs up.

Why You Would Download This: The overpowered armor you get at the end after cheating your way through the boss fight.

Caverns of Cloud Ruler Temple is a short mod that allows you to add various rooms to Cloud Ruler Temple after a short dungeon crawl followed by a shopping trip/Fedex quest.

The very basics of what this mod does is add rooms and "home" space (bed and non-respawning containers) to an otherwise boring Cloud Ruler Temple, which is otherwise interesting for its rare Akaviri architecture and importance in the Main Quest, but little else.

The backstory that accompanies this mod is so superficial as to be irrelevant. A more interesting backstory might try an integration with the Main Quest. Once you reach Cloud Ruler Temple, all the Blades there will talk about the Emperor's death as being a wake-up call for them, shaking them out of complacency. Yet they don't really do anything. An expansion to the Temple and the addition of defenses and facilities could easily have been the backstory here.
Instead, we are given a badly designed dungeon crawl.

The reason I say it is badly designed is that although the author claims the creatures are levelled, you go through a sparsely populated dungeon of light to moderate difficulty (depending on your character) but suddenly encounter a deadly gauntlet of lethal traps and a stupidly difficult boss (probably depending on your level -- once you are level 20+, your available resources or willingness to do cheesy tactics and rule exploits may negate the effects of even very high levelling in an opponent) in an environment so deliberately designed to be constricting as to ruin any sense of interestingness.

The boss fight is all out of proportion for what you get in terms of the Cloud Ruler Temple upgrades, and this makes the mod pointless since you won't get any temple upgrades until late-game when you are powerful enough to overcome the final traps and fight--and by then you will hardly be interested in the Temple upgrades as you will probably have gotten something similar elsewhere.

Even assuming the boss fight were to be stubbornly retained as part of this mod, it would have been better to somehow shuffle it to the end instead, and only to unlock the powerful armour you get (for starters, you get a piece of armor enchanted with 100% resistances in multiple areas, including all three magical elements). This is post-end-game stuff, stronger than anything you'd get in vanilla Oblivion. If you cheated your way past the boss to get the Temple upgrades, you'll suddenly get this game-ruining armor completely free.

Another profoundly disappointing aspect of this mod is the Temple upgrades themselves. They are cut-and-pastes from the Imperial City and use that style of Roman-like but supposedly Ayleid-style architecture -- which is very jarring from the Japanese style Akaviri architecture. Even assuming the existing Cloud Ruler Temple architecture couldn't somehow be used, there are no shortage of mods and resources out there, such as Aurygas Akavir Fuyohin Island and Akaviri Samurai Shop with more appropriate architectural elements.

The actual services are profoundly uninspired and sometimes outright confusing. For example...
  • The store is situated outside Cloud Ruler Temple, pasted on the butt end of the building. And with no direct access from the Temple interior. Huh?
  • There are sewers added, but where does it eject? And why are the shortcuts to the new areas via the sewers, of all places?
  • Why does the dojo sell Blackwood Company Armour?
  • Why are the training weapons rated at speed 1.50 when real weapons are nothing like that? Does that not defeat the point of training when you don't get a realistic experience?
  • The small character home/room has stacks of crates and chests for storage, crammed into the same space as the bed. As a purely aesthetic preference, I find this unsightly and claustrophobic. There are many choices for storage, including smaller chests and crates and different types of furniture. Also, stacking chests makes no sense -- To get at a middle or lower chest, you'd have to move the ones above it just so you could open the lid. Players using something like Harvest Containers may therefore have animation or Havok physics issues.

A more useful inventory from a new merchant might be (especially if we are to follow the theme of improving Cloud Ruler Temple and the Blades improving the organization as a whole) to offer a variety of existing and new Blades armor and weapons, possibly introducing bows (e.g., via Akavir Japanese Archery Modders Resource), Light Armour variants of the signature Blades Armour, and a Very Heavy version based on samurai armour (e.g., the Genji Armor mod). Additionally, if these were scaled to the player's level, Cloud Ruler Temple could be a proper headquarters for a character who wants to roleplay a Blade and maintain a Blades look for their character's equipment.

Overall, the idea of expanding Cloud Ruler Temple is an overdue one. However, I feel this mod hasn't given it a proper treatment.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - Adense Epic Dungeon Update v1.6

Mod Review - Adense Epic Dungeon Update v1.6
( )

Overall: Light to medium amount of killing. Interesting environments to see.

Why You Would Download This: The scenery.

Adense Epic Dungeon is a large dungeon crawl that offers a variety of environments, which keeps the action from getting tedious and offers a welcome break from the typically same-y environments in Oblivion's caves and ruins.

The first challenge will be to get past the initial area. There are two main difficulties here, and depending on how you feel about these things, they either reflect bad cell design or Oblivion's engine limitations.

In addition to the glowing gate, which has a lot of particles for the engine to calculate and draw, the area is large and densely populated with many objects. Even if you turn your camera away from the gate and put some distance from it, your may still encounter an unacceptable drop in your frame rate.

Size isn't the issue here so much as is the number of separate items that the game engine has to process. Even items that are entirely concealed behind another object must be calculated by the engine to determine whether it needs to be rendered or not.

Fortunately, there aren't many adversaries here, otherwise combat could be unplayably sluggish to the point where Oblivion can freeze your system.

In the initial area, the design clearly trades FPS for "interestingness", although it certainly could have been done better -- There are a few areas where the author could easily have made a cell transition, thus reducing the overall load on the engine.

If you can't be bothered to exit your game and choose a much smaller screen resolution, you can get through low-FPS areas or encounters by using the console command "TLB" (ToggleLiteBrite). This appears to basically turn off the calculation of lighting, and can free up your FPS by a considerable amount even on a high screen resolution. Some areas will be covered with a plane of colour, concealing things; there is also the possibility that the visual distortion FX from summoning a creature can crash the game. But otherwise, temporarily turning this on can give you the FPS boost to fight a large battle with appropriate responsiveness to your mouse clicks and keystrokes.

The other issue in the initial areas is an over-use of rocky terrain. While this gives an interesting look and navigation, Oblivion handles rocks and slopes very poorly. There is typically no guarantee from looking at terrain as to whether you will be able to run up, or even jump up. Sometimes, your character will sink up to their ankles in what appeared to be solid rock. Other times, your character will not be able to jump when they could have in a similar situation. When running about in the wilderness, you can usually simply walk around, but here, you may very well get stuck.
If you are frustrated, you can use the console command TCL (Toggle Collision -- make sure you don't have any object or creature selected in the console, but clicking on blank space and checking to make sure there is no label in the top middle of your screen while in console mode) to ignore barriers and gravity and walk to where you need to be.
After the initial area, these issues typically do not happen.

TIP: There is one event in the early stage where you will trigger a collapse and a key will be behind the rockfall area. It is possible that the arrangement of the debris will be such that you cannot get around or over it, in which case you will probably need TCL to get past.

It bears repeating that the issues of lag and rocky terrain are more or less (depending on your computer) confined to the initial big area and once you're past that, the rest of the worldspaces in the mod should be fine.

The distribution of enemies is varied and just because you could get past a few of the grunts doesn't mean you won't be overwhelmed later in a place where enemies are clumped together.
TIP: The Barracks also features an optional boss you may accidentally trigger. There is no real benefit to defeating him and he is suddenly of a very much higher difficulty than the rest of the encounters. There is the possibility of luring him into a wide-area trap, but it is probably easier to simply not trigger him and move on.

The loot along the way is typically useful for an extended trip, with some potions, soul gems, and directly useful creature ingredients with such effects as Damage Health or Invisibility. (More repair hammers might have been nice, though).

The frequent deep darkness is novel and nicely done as it is generally not necessary to use lighting all the time (although on your first run you can't possibly know this). Sometimes mod authors will deliberately conceal deadly traps in the darkness, but this just encourages players to dispel the darkness all the time, which in turn defeats the purpose of having darkness-based ambiance.

The backstory to why the place looks so ruined has merit, but doesn't really fit with the actual environment.
Adense Epic Dungeon advertises, "It is said that Malacath has a hidden sanctuary where he tests the bravery of warriors who think themselves worthy of serving him. That sanctuary is said to be a place of challenges worthy of any warrior." We can glimpse the pre-ruined architecture, but it has too much of an Ayleid influence to really look like a warrior's testing ground that Malacath might have built. As for the later areas, it becomes hard to tell which areas are meant to be part of Malacath's testing ground.
Vaermina is invading and is supposedly the reason the initial locations look like an atomic bomb ground zero, but amphibious creatures with glow-in-the-dark bits doesn't feel like the sort of minions Vaermina might use.
Possibly depending on the mods you have, Vaermina looks like a pretty hot and leggy version of Eyja, which in turn is nothing like her statues or other depictions.

Still, if you don't let such details of how "Lore-friendly" the backstory is bother you, it works well as a dungeon crawl and there are sights worth seeing along the way. The mod offers interesting sidetrips and encounters, such as the possibility of gaining companions. Deserving of special mention is the dialogue for the first (live) orc adventurer you meet, Grom gro-Karrack.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Mod - Volendrung Enchantment

DOWNLOAD GQ Volendrung Enchantment
Alternate Download Location (requires login).

Changes the enchantment on Volendrung to be a "mighty blow" weapon more aligned with Malacath and strength instead of a "magical effect" weapon:
  • Absorb Fatigue 50 x 2 seconds
  • Damage Fatigue 50
  • Drain Strength 50 x 30 seconds
  • Disintegrate Armor 800
  • Damage Fatigue 50 x 5 ft. radius
  • Disintegrate Weapon 100 x 5 ft. radius
  • Disintegrate Armor 200 x 5 ft. radius

Charge cost manually calculated to 100. The vanilla weapon has a charge reserve of 2500, so this enchantment has 25 uses (original Volendrung was 16 uses of Paralyze and Drain Health).

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion mod - Umbra Enchantment v1.1

DOWNLOAD GQ Umbra Enchantment - version 1, version 1.1
Alternate Download Location (requires login).

v1.1 - Changed charge cost to 25. The weapon normally has a 2500 charge, so this is 100 uses.

This is a simple mod for Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to change the on-hit enchantment of the artifact Umbra to something more useful and a bit more scary, but not overpowering. The new enchantment is:

Absorb Fatigue 10
Absorb Health 10
Absorb Magicka 10
Damage Attribute: Endurance 1
Damage Attribute: Strength 1
Soul Trap 2 seconds

Charge amount manually calculated to 1 (25 in version 1.1).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion mod - GQ Conveniences

DOWNLOAD GQ Conveniences
Alternate Download Location (requires login).

Requires OBSE

This is a merged file of some of my other mods. A few have been tweaked or improved from the standalone versions.
None of these items exist in-game to minimize mod conflict and to make installing/uninstalling easy (you can put it anywhere in your load queue and do not need to Wrye Bash it). To get the items and spells related to the functions in this mod, you will need to console them in with player.additem or player.addspell and using the FormID provided.

[Absorb Ambient Magicka]
xx00FF49 Absorb Ambient Magicka lesser power

With this Lesser Power, characters recover magicka based on their Spell Absorption rating (through the birthsign or items) and reduced by their Resist Magicka rating.
The rate is 1 magicka per (100/Spell Absorption) seconds. At 50 Spell Absorption, this is 1 magicka per 2 seconds. If the character has a 0 Spell Absorption rating, no magicka is recovered.
This rate is divided by (100 - Resist Magicka)/100. At a Resist Magicka rating of 100+, no magicka is recovered.
Each casting of this power lasts 2880 seconds (1 day at the default timescale of x30) and refreshes its information about spell absorption and magicka resistance each time 1 magicka is recovered by the player. If at any time it calculates that no magicka would be recovered, the spell ends immediately.
This spell is meant for Atronachs, but can be used by anyone. In Morrowind, Magicka is recovered by sleeping, but it recovers continuously in Oblivion. The Stunted Magicka drawback in Oblivion is therefore much more of a drawback than it was before.

xx0046B9 AutoUnlock key

This key unlocks any locked door or container that does not require a key (i.e., Lock Level 99 or less). The lockpicking minigame is unchanged.
To unlock something, first hotkey the key. Look at a locked item and activate the hotkey to use the key. Your UI will probably not update immediately and may require you to move the mouse a bit, but the container or door will be unlocked.
Using the key does not count as a criminal action and you will not get a bounty.
The key is a Quest Item and is hidden while you are in Jail, but if you have it hotkeyed, it will still be usable.
You will receive XP as if you had perfectly set the required number of tumblers (e.g., exactly 2 successful attempts on an Easy lock, which requires setting 2 tumblers).

[Change Soul Gem Size]
xx0046BE Downgrade Soul Gem key
xx004680 Upgrade Soul Gem key

These keys let the player change the size of soul gems. Any souls contained are lost. Non-vanilla Oblivion soulgems can be upgraded, but only into vanilla soulgems.
The basic ratio is 3:1. Not having high enough Alteration and Mysticism skills can increase the number of soulgems required to upgrade (as much as 4 -> 1), or decrease the number of soulgems returned from a downgrade (as low as 1 -> 2). If neither skill is at a sufficient level, you will be unable to perform the change.

To upgrade or downgrade a soul gem, drop it. While having the crosshair pointed at it, equip one of the keys. If you dropped a stack, the size of the stack will not matter: If downgrading, only one will be affected; if upgrading, it still takes only exactly enough to give you one gem of the next level up.

KNOWN ISSUE: Sometimes the soul gem you looked at won't be the actual one processed. This is dependent on how Oblivion steps through your inventory looking for items.
KNOWN ISSUE: If there are other soul gems nearby, there is a chance Oblivion will run the script on them as well. There's no telling what will happen in such a case.

[Create Tools]
xx0046B4 Create Lockpick
xx0046B3 Create Repair Hammer

These Alteration spells create either a Lockpick or a Repair Hammer.
The base chance of successfully creating one is equal to your Security skill (for making lockpicks) or your Armorer skill (for making Repair Hammers), minimum 5%. If you fail, the spell will drain more magicka and auto-attempt instantly without requiring you to recast the spell. Each retry has an increased chance of success.

[Get Nearby Loot (line of sight)]
xx0046BD Get Nearby Loot key

This key lets you grab everything in line of sight up to about 1500% activation distance. It bypasses scripts that run when you pick up items or open containers, and so it can potentially break quests (although you can try to drop the item and manually pick it up again).
It collects all inventory items in containers, in dead bodies, and sitting around in the game world within a certain distance.
It WILL steal...
at close range (150% activation distance)
if the player is in Sneak mode
It will not take from locked containers.

KNOWN ISSUE - The item must be in "line of sight" according to Oblivion's calculation (using the GetLOS function). That is, you may sometimes see something on-screen, but if it is not mathematically in line of sight, it will not be affected.
KNOWN ISSUE - It can grab items from a body that is normally flagged or scripted to make it impossible to open (e.g., the body of the Emperor).

[Magicka From Soul Gem]
xx0046A3 Get Magicka from Soul Gem key

This key empties a soul gem and converts the soul inside into units of an Ingredient. To use, Hotkey the key. Drop a soul gem to be converted. Look at the soul gem and activate the key via the hotkey.
The amount of "Distilled Magicka" ingredient received varies according to the Magicka values for each soul level (may vary with a mod), Mysticism skill, and Luck.
Each time a soulgem is emptied, Mysticism skill is increased by 1-5 uses, depending on the soul level emptied.
Works on stacks of gems.
If used on a non-vanilla Oblivion soulgem that is pre-filled, it will be replaced by a non-black vanilla soulgem with the same maximum soul capacity

The ingredient obtained from this mod has these properties: (changed from original mod)
Fortify Magicka Multiplier
Restore Magicka
Fortify Magicka
Spell Absorption
Without mods, nothing in Oblivion or the official expansions uses the Fortify Magicka Multiplier. You can either ingest this ingredient (for a few seconds of a percentile increase to Magicka) or use Master-level Alchemy to make a 1-ingredient potion. Because of the hardcoding of this Magic Effect, everyone typically starts with a rating of 0, but a net multiplier strength of 10 or less has no effect. Above 10, every 1 unit is +10% of your Maximum Magicka.

KNOWN ISSUE - If there is more than one soulgem near the one you are looking at, more than one gem might be grabbed by the script although only one is processed properly.
KNOWN ISSUE - Clearing a pre-filled gem also clears a "stolen" attribute -- We destroy one pre-filled gem of the same type and create one new empty gem.

[Trap Soul]
xx0046B0 Trap Soul (Petty)
xx0046AF Trap Soul (Lesser)
xx0046AE Trap Soul (Common)
xx0046AD Trap Soul (Greater)
xx0046AC Trap Soul (Grand)

Five Conjuration spells that let the player capture a soul (once) from an already dead target. A soul gem is created automatically.
If the target creature is an NPC (soul level 5), a Black Soul Gem can be created, but there is an increase in Infamy (to offset the plentiful-ness of NPC souls).
The base Magicka cost is equal to half the vanilla Soul Gem Capacity of the corresponding Soul Gem when Conjuration skill is 50. Essentially, this spell converts personal magicka into item charge.

[Trap Soul version 2]
xx00F873 Trap Soul

This is an alternate style of Soul Trapping to the one above.
If (target Willpower x target Level) < (caster Willpower x caster Conjuration skill), then the creature's soul can be trapped and a Soul Gem is created based on the creature's Soul Level. Current Actor Values are used instead of Base Values, so if the target's willpower has been Damaged, or the caster's Willpower or Conjuration have been Fortified, then these affect whether the spell is successful or not. The caster gets only one try with a corpse. If the attempt fails, the "soul has fled" and casting this spell again does not grant another attempt to capture the soul. NPC souls can be captured, but results in 1 point of Infamy. Level 0-3 = Petty Soul, 4-8 = Lesser Soul, 9-15 = Common Soul, 16-24 = Greater Soul, 25+ = Black Soul Gem. This on-touch spell has a 5 ft. radius because often it is difficult to target exactly the corpse you want from a pile. [Upgrade Arrows Generic]
xx0046A0 Upgrade Arrows Generic key

This key has two functions:

(a) Convert Arrows
Arrows are upgraded to 0.05 weight, silvered, and 50% faster. This requires a combination of Alteration and Armorer skills. 2:03 AM 6/22/2010The required skill is (alteration + armorer) >= (arrow damage x 2.5), and at most 3/4 of that value can be from your Alteration skill).

(b) Upgrade Arrows
If the arrow is already a Converted Arrow, Equipping the key will cause the arrows to be upgraded. 3 Arrows are converted into one of the next higher damage class. The required skill is twice that of Converting Arrows.

The mod supports arrows that have a damage rating of 1 to 30.
Successfully performing either action improves Alteration and Armorer skills slightly for every 3 arrows Converted or Upgraded.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Oblivion Mod Review - The Scarlet Monastery

Mod Review - The Scarlet Monastery
( )

Overall: Download this for a short vacation to endless mindless killing of minion mobs. Gets tired very very quickly. Still needs polish.

Why You Would Download This: You have nostalgia for World of Warcraft's Scarlet Monastery but are not hung up on having a very accurate translation. You want a break from thinking and questing, and instead switch to a marathon of combat, but without introducing a pervasive change to your game (such as by using Martigen's Monster Mod or Adrenaline Oblivion).

The Scarlet Monastery is an uncomplicated hack-and-slash mod. The actual Monastery may have conflicts with the local geography and you may see part of it buried in a mountainside, but all the action takes place in interiors, so there's no harm done and your load order probably doesn't matter too much.

If you stopped playing games like Diablo II because it involves mindlessly hacking your way through mobs of enemies, trawling loot for sale, and killing bosses over and over again to get special loot, then you may want to give The Scarlet Monastery a pass. The variety of special loot is small to begin with, and not worth the effort to re-run the gauntlet even for a 50-50 chance of getting something new.

If you actually like mind-numbing fights, then you will appreciate the monolith outside that allows instant resetting of the monastery so you can do the run again without having to wait or sleep the time away. This makes it convenient to try things such as artificially levelling yorself up or down with the "player.setlevel" command and playing through The Scarlet Monastery at different levels (although you will probably find that your overall experience is largely the same no matter what your level.)

If you are looking for a faithful re-creation of The Scarlet Monastery at the level of abilities, spells, and special loot stats, then this mod isn't it. If you are satisfied with the layout and general cosmetics of The Scarlet Monastery, then this is a fair effort and just for nostalgia you could give it a go.

Some of the loot is interesting, like gloves with a continuous Restore Health 2/second, or enchanted spaulders that use the amulet slot and are therefore complimentary with any other armour you may have.
Except for these unique items, this mod is actually very boring.

Some of the loot requires a closer look and cleanup, like Herod's helmet which has a continuous Drain Health 1 (what is the point of suppressing 1 point of Health?) and Mograine's mace, which hung in mid-air when he finally died and couldn't be picked up normally.

None of the abilities of the items appear to be strongly related to the actual loot dropped in World of Warcraft (which are actually quite boring -- most of the wearable items simply provide armor and stat boosts).
Since such license with the original items is being taken, it would have been nice to see some minor changes, such as Mograine's mace becoming one-handed so that he can use his unique shield.

There is room for a lot of improvement in this mod, although a fair amount of effort has been made to incorporate Scarlet Monastery visuals (such as armor with a custom texture) and the signature scripted final boss encounter with Mograine. Regular troops could have their iron armour recoloured red, for example, and swapping clubs for something else (what kind of army gives their troops primitive clubs?).

The minions you encounter typically carry a good quantity of gold, and clearly you are not meant to haul all their gear to the store in a Storage Sack. There is also next to nothing in terms of decent loot from containers. The combination means there is very little in the way of post-combat logistics and you can, if you wanted to, keep moving from fight to fight until the boss battles, and not really feel you're missing from picking up every saleable scrap.

With so much same-ness to the enemies, especially in the way they fight, this mod can get really tired really fast. With World of Warcraft, at least each enemy type had its own set of abilities and fought more differently than in Oblivion. In Oblivion, fighters all generally fight the same way, and mages need to have their spell lists and staff spawns very closely managed in order to distinguish the various types.
In The Scarlet Monastery, I felt that the fighters and mages were so much the same that their names were merely cosmetic, and there was very little difference whether my character was level 10 or 20, except that at level 20, there was a chance a mage could actually get a useful staff from Armamentarium or Franscesco's lists and possibly kill your Altmer or Apprentice character in one shot.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion mod - Train Skill On Hit

DOWNLOAD GQ Train Skill On Hit
Alternate Download Location (requires login).

This mod attaches a short script onto the Player Character. When the player is hit, it checks to see if the Block, Light Armor, or Heavy Armor skills were improved. If not, it improves either Acrobatics or HandToHand (depending on which ESP) is chosen.

This mod is for characters who like to play with less armour (e.g., you prefer to wear stylish outfits rather than have actual armour); or if they have replaced armour with non-armour-slot items. For example, if you play with Kafei's Armored Circlets, which uses either the Amulet or Tail slot, those slots do not typically get hit in combat, and so you would never get any armor skill training for using them instead of a regular helmet.

Choose only one of the ESPs (if you choose both, whichever is loaded last will be the only one that is used). The script is very simple, and if you want a different skill, or to integrate it into another script on your player character, it is very easy to cut and paste.

Before you install this mod, you may want to use RefScope to make sure you are not already running a mod that attaches a script to the Player Character.

KNOWN ISSUE: Depending on what mods you are running that change a New Game, you may get a CTD (crash to desktop). Simply unload this mod, start your new game, and load it later from a savegame.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion mod - Chapel Altars become WayShrines

DOWNLOAD GQ Chapel Altars become WayShrines
Alternate Download Location (requires login).

This mod changes the script on the small round altars in each Chapel (in front of the painted glass windows depicting the Divines) so that they use the Wayshrine script instead. You can therefore complete a Pilgrimage in any Chapel.

Because it changes the script on an existing object, it can be Bashed. I recommend you instead put it at the very end of your mod load queue, do your Pilgrimage, then remove it from your load queue.