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Arthmoor

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About this mod

A highly optimized package of distant VWD meshes and textures that strives to balance image quality against performance to provide a major enhancement to the distant views throughout the game world.

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A modest approach to distant viewable objects, aka VWD.

You're all familiar with the various VWD packages, right? Some provide more than others. Some ar geared specifically toward super-high end machines. One isn't even designed to be played and will cripple anything currently on the market today. For the rest of us, myself included, we'd just like to enhance the visual experience without crippling the game. None of the available packages has been fully optimized, usually with large amounts of unnecessary data still attached.

In order to address these issues, I've decided to compile into one source as many useful VWD objects as can be reasonably applied to the game from the following sources:

AEVWD Large: Enhanced lowres textures.
UOMP: Battlehorn Castle (requires the official DLC to be activated).
Oblivion: City wall meshes only.
Brumbek: VWD illuminated windows, optimized lowres texture pack, optional QTP3 lowres texture pack, as well as several mesh and texture fixes.
Me: Machine regenerated all architecture, Ayleid ruin, and Imperial fort meshes for better quality and lower polygon counts. UOP corrected versions were used for the reductions wherever possible.

The overall goal is to provide enhanced VWD visuals while also trying to preserve performance as much as possible. This all stems from my realization that even with a high end graphics card, full detail VWD meshes and textures are simply out of the question. The VRAM usage is causing large amounts of stuttering when trying to swap out the memory and not even Streamline 3.1 can keep up. This package has brought the VRAM usage under control and has had a huge impact on overall lag and stuttering.

All of the meshes have been checked and had the following done:

* Collision data removed. If actual collision grids were still present, the branches have been deleted entirely. It's impossible to collide with a VWD object.
* Animation controllers removed. It is impossible to animate a VWD object, so this data is bloat.
* Geometry morphers removed. If a mesh had these, they've been removed, as they are only useful in animation.
* All NiStringsExtraData blocks removed. These are nearly always associated with collision.
* All BSX Flags removed. These are nearly always used for collision and animation.
* All NiSpecularProperty blocks removed. Leaving these in place causes visual anomalies, most notably the "every VWD turned yellow" issue.
* All NiBinaryExtraData blocks (tangent/normal spaces) removed. This data is not required for VWD meshes and helps tremendously in reducing memory usage.
* All parallax flags turned off. The distances involved make this useless anyway.
* All meshes have been assigned lowres textures instead of hires ones.
* Nearly all NiAlphaProperty blocks removed. If the mesh required it for transparency, it was kept. If this is left on a mesh that does not require it, visual anomalies can result.
* All NiVertexColorProperty blocks removed. These lead to some cases of black VWD objects.
* Optimization using PyFFI after the above has been done.

In addition to mesh work, all VWD normal maps have had their alpha channels removed since it serves no purpose. This will help some with VRAM, and eliminate issues with sparkly objects.

The typical VWD mesh comes out the other end of this process losing up to 75% of the data it was carrying with no loss of function. A fully optimized and functional VWD mesh will have only the NiMaterialProperty, NiTexturingProperty, and NiTriShapeData/NiTriStripsData branches left in its NiTriShape/NiTriStrips branches, and will have only NiTriStrips or NiTriShape branches attached to the scene root.

Compared with all of the other VWD options available, this is the most optimized, game friendly set of VWD objects there is.


Performance

So what's the cost in terms of performance? RAEVWD when installed with all of its options can suck the life out of even the best computer.

You may find that your PC cannot handle the strain. That is to be expected, even if you're wielding an ATI 5900 series card with 2GB of memory and a 4GHz CPU.

I can only list what I'm currently using and let you be the judge:

AMD Phenom II X4 955 3.2Ghz
8GB System RAM
AMD/ATI Radeon HD4870 w/ 2GB VRAM, Catalyst 10.6 drivers. Set to force 4xAA+16xAF.
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
QTP3 Redimized
Brumbek's optional QTP3 lowres textures for VWD objects.
Zacharot's 2048x2048 distant land textures.
All Natural (weather mod with hires graphics)
All meshes optimized with PyFFI.
Enhanced Vegetation hi-res distant trees.
Other graphics enhancers, such as trees, plants, clothing, etc.
Large Address Aware patch applied to Oblivion.exe

For the purposes of the test, Oblivion Stutter Remover was disabled to get an unblocked reading of the FPS.

Test #1 was done with the uGridsDistantCount and uGridDistantTreeRange set to 25. As you can see, despite having a rig that should slaughter this, it only manages 14fps in a stationary position overlooking the area.

Test #2 was done with uGridsDistantCount lowered to 18, and you can see the difference visually - there's not as much on the far edge of the screen to show. Of note, it does no good to set uGridDistantTreeRange higher than uGridsDistantCount since it won't display anyway. With this change, the game pulls a nice steady 30fps while overlooking exactly the same view.

Playing under normal conditions, you won't usually be able to see far enough to notice the bald mountains, and with Streamline or another fog manipulation mod, you can have the view distance matched and never even notice.

The location of the screenshot is on top of White Gold Tower, directly over the center of the Imperial City. This is an ideal location for VWD testing because there is next to nothing in the near view other than the tower mesh itself. Clear weather was chosen through the console to eliminate skew from All Natural's excellent weather graphics. So what you see is 98% VWD and 2% whatever else.

VRAM use may look high, but keep in mind that's including the hi-res tree pack. Typical VRAM usage is much lower.

There are also extra VWD objects present due to the addition of several other mods with buildings and such, Verona Bay is visible in the shot in the middle right for instance, as ar farmhouses for UL Imperial Isle, Weye's additions from AFK_Weye, and a large fort off to the left. What I can't account for is why the 18 shot is using more VRAM than the 25 shot, that result was consistent through several tests.

Typical game setups will not see as much of a performance hit as mine is taking, unless of course they're as heavily modded as mine.

I think on more normalized systems that aren't as completely bogged down by massive amounts of enhancers will do quite a bit better with this VWD package.

Requirements

TES4LODGen - needed to generate the distant view information.

Installation

The archive is provied as a BAIN package, which makes for relatively easy installation without the hassles associated with supporting OMODs.
Manual installation should be fairly straightforward as each folder is named according to what it contains, but read on for the details anyway, ok? :)

00 Core - This folder contains meshes that the game normally ships with but have been optimized. The Imperial City and castle walls surrounding other cities.
          It also contains additional meshes for Cloud Ruler Temple, Frostcrag Spire, Battlehorn Castle, and IC sewer exit tunnels.
          Also included in this folder are all of the reduced size vanilla textures, which are shared among the other categories and are thus required.
          If only the core files are used, VWD performance should improve slightly over vanilla.

01 City Plugins - The ESPs used to provide VWD for buildings in the Imperial City and the outlying cities. Both of these are entirely optional.

02 City Architecture - Just what it sounds like. The buildings used primarily within the cities.
   These are also used in the wilderness by village and town mods, but in vanilla this doesn't happen much.
   This folder can impose a significant frame rate hit, so if you're on a lower end PC, you may wish to leave these out.

03 Imperial City Architecture - Additional meshes for the Imperial City. Most of this material is not used outside of the IC.
   The contents of this folder can impose a stiff performance penalty when looking toward the IC.

04 Wilderness Architecture - Contains buildings normally found outside the major cities.
   Farmhouses, the lower class buildings, priories, docks, and wayshrines.
   Lower class buildings are also used in Chorrol, but for the most part only show up out in the countryside and on the IC Waterfront.

05 Ayleid Ruins - Contains just what it says, the meshes used for Ayleid ruins.

06 Imperial Forts - Contains just what it says, meshes used for ruins of Imperial forts.

07 Large Rocks - Contains meshes used for the 2080 sized rocks, and all of the large rocks on the Gold Coast around Anvil.

08 Ships - Contains meshes used for ships as well as shipwrecks.

09 Statues - Contains meshes used for various statues of the Nine Divines and Daedric deities.

10 Higher Detail Castles - Meshes for city walls and castle keeps which have higher poly counts than the default Bethesda models.
   These are visually more accurate and fit the pieces they're meant to support, rather than just being overly generic ultra-low poly blobs.
   This will have a slight impact on overall performance due to more polygons and more textures being loaded, but they are visually superior.

11 Higher Detail IC Bridges - Meshes for the Imperial City bridges that are seen around the Imperial island.
   These have a higher polygon count than the models Bethesda used but are visually more accurate.
   This will have a very slight additional impact on performance but is well worth it for the visual improvement.

If you want it all, just enable all of the package options and you're off and running.

No DistandLOD folder is provided. In order to actually see the results of what you just did, you need to download TES4LODGen and run it. It's a wicked simple utility that processes VWD information based on _far.nif files provided and will tailor itself to whatever mods you have installed.

If you're still using OBMM for whatever reason, TheNiceOne has created an OMOD installer script for RAEVWD.

Uninstallation

Manually remove the files you installed, or uninstall it through BAIN.

Options

The 2 ESPs included with the package provide additional placement of VWD information. Each one is entirely optional and can be left out to help improve performance.

RAEVWD Cities.esp covers all cities except Kvatch and the Imperial City. It places buildings and trees in their proper locations behind the city walls. This ESP is 100% module compatible with Open Cities (Classic or Reborn). It should not be used in combination with Better Cities (which now includes Open Better Cities) or you will end up with VWD duplication which will severely harm game performance when viewing a city from the distance.

RAEVWD Imperial City.esp places buildings and trees behind the walls of the Imperial City. It is fully compatible with Open Cities (Classic or Reborn). It is not compatible with Better Cities. Using it with Better Cities installed will result in a severe drop in game performance when the IC is in view.

Cathedrals have not been placed where missing since the Unofficial Oblivion Patch and some other mods address this. If you're not using the UOP, uh.... why not?

The cloister in Anvil as well as Benirus Manor have also been left out since the UOP deals with these as well. The UOP places the full detail mesh, so don't worry :)

Dealing With FPS Drain

If after installing this you find that FPS is still suffering, you can try the following:

1. uGridDistantCount in the Oblivion.ini file is set to 25 by default. Lowering this to 20 or even 15 will provide a dramatic improvement.
2. Use Oblivion Stutter Remover. It will help reduce the impact of loading the extra resources as you change cells.
3. Install and configure Streamline to manage fog distance. Or if you use All Natural (1.1 and up) set it's fog management to reduce the visible distance.
4. If you run Better Cities, try dropping the Imperial City VWD optional package they provide and re-run TES4LODGen.
5. If you're using any of the optional ESPs from RAEVWD, deactivate them and re-run TES4LODGen. The extra city architecture, especially at the Imperial City, can be harsh.
6. If you used the higher detail city walls and/or IC bridges, drop those.
7. If you used the ships and shipwrecks, drop those.
8. If none of that is enough, you may need to leave out all or part of the architecture folder entirely.

Unfortunately if none of that works, this mod may simply be too much for your PC to handle at all. It may be time to consider some hardware upgrades. For RAEVWD, the most effective hardware upgrade will be a new CPU.

Compatibility

The only thing this will conflict with is another VWD mod that affects the same files this one includes. Otherwise there's no issue.

Known Issues

Sometimes when viewing the world at odd or extreme angles, the VWD objects will turn bright yellow or completely black and then revert to normal when you move. One known reason for this is another VWD mesh that has specular properties enabled on it. Another known cause are VWD meshes with vertex color properties. Since all of the meshes supplied by RAEVWD have been cleaned of these problems, look to VWD meshes provided by other mods and contact their authors for assistance in getting those fixed as they know their meshes best. Not all causes of this problem have been identified yet, so there may not be anything to fix.

Sometimes you will see red, blue, or green reflections in the water where VWD should reflect instead. Possible causes for this are VWD meshes with collision data still attached, BSX flags still attached, or parallax flags which are still set. Since all of the RAEVWD meshes have had these properties removed, another mod which supplies VWD objects is likely to blame. It is also possible that some textures with RAEVWD could be causing this, so if you can identify which reflections are causing this, we can attempt to track down a way to fix it.

Occasionally only part of a mesh will go black. If this happens, that part of the mesh is missing a texture assignment. If this happens with an RAEVWD mesh, please report it in the official thread. If it happens with a VWD mesh provided by another mod, you'll need to take that up with its author.

When used with bloom lighting, the VWD objects may always show up as black. Provided you are *SURE* the lowres directory is in the right place in your textures directory, the only fix for this is to switch to a different lighting method. I'm not sure if normal lighting works, but switching to HDR will resolve this issue. There is no known way to fix this otherwise.

Disclaimer

This mod is not made, guaranteed, or supported by Zenimax, Bethesda Game Studios, or any of their affiliates.
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