Skyrim Special Edition

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SkyVRaan - Shimmering VR Water adds a fake reflection effect to Skyrim VR's outdoor water. It breaks up the distant LOD, shows wave movement on the distant water, and gives an illusion of water depth in the distance. Also has improved realism and clarity of near water.

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Mod Description

Skyrim in VR can be a beautiful place. Staring out over Lake Ilinalta from the Guardian Stones, or at the Sea of Ghosts from the College of Winterhold is an awe-inspiring experience. That is except for the ugly, immersion breaking water LOD that looms like a blue blob in the distance in the vanilla game. This is because the reflections are removed from the water shader in VR, and nothing was done to replace it. That's where SkyVRaan comes in.

This mod started out as a project to find a way to add definition to Skyrim VR's water LOD. The goal was to tweak water parameters and textures to make something visible in the LOD. However, along the way I discovered that you can define a cubemap for an entire Worldspace, the same way you can for an interior cell. If you've ever been to the Frostflow Lighthouse Abyss, the water reflections visible there are due to a cubemap generated specifically for that location. This takes that concept and applies it to the entire Tamriel worldspace.

Unfortunately, Tamriel is too large and complex to generate a baked water reflection for, so instead I generated a cubemap with random Perlin noise, blended it with the water colors and the different water types, and then defined it for the entire region. The result is SkyVRaan - Shimmering VR Waters!

SkyVRaan - 1.0.0 Update!

Version 1.0.0 is a huge update for SkyVRaan! It's major features include:

  • Automated Cubemap and Weather Patches - This is arguably the biggest improvement for SkyVRaan. Using the amazing Synthesis patching pipeline, you can now generate a "perfect" cubemap and weather patch for your load order. The calculations for the weather patcher have been improved to create more natural, and dramatic, sunsets and sunrises.

  • New water colors - Three new main water colors are included: Natural, Natural-Bright, and Fantasy. These water colors have been specifically tuned for the new weather colors to match the scene at all times of the day. Two optional volcanic waters have been added: Pleasant and Poisonous. Finally an optional Blackreach water color.

  • New Cubemaps - The SkyVRaan cubemap has been tweaked to allow the weather and time of day to have a greater impact on the color of the water. A darker option has been added for those who find their water to bright at night.

  • Rocky Riverbeds, Algae, and WaterGrass - The clear waters looked great in most areas, but in many locations in skyrim, I found that the clear water only highlighted tiling river mud textures... Bethesda just didn't put much down there. So now I've added River Rocks and Boulders, Algae and River Grass to the underwater landscape to give you something to look at. Included are a few coloring options to help blend the rocks in with whatever landscape textures you may have installed.


Thanks, Cangar!

Thanks, Ben!

What's Included

Here are the components of this mod:

Noise Cubemap  
  • This is the texture that give the water a fake reflection effect. 
  • There is an optional darker version for those who feel that their water is too bright at night. This comes at the expense of daytime visibility.

Watercolor Patch 
  • This esp includes tweaks to the water colors and water type parameters. These have been adjusted to change color more naturally with the weather and time of day. Clear Waters includes improved clear water with increased water refraction. There are three options:

  1. Natural - This is the option which I feel gives the best all around look for Skyrim's water. It's the result of hours of tweaking and adjustments. The visibility of shallow streams, like the one in front of Whiterun, has been improved as well. This is probably the best option for most people. 
  2. Natural-Bright - This is the same as the natural option except that I've made the reflections much brighter. This water color has the best looking sunsets and sunrises, and has the best looking shallow water. Unfortunately, it is also brighter at night. It can be paired with the darker cubemap to mitigate some of this. I don't mind a little bit of reflection in my night-time water, and this is the preset that I prefer.
  3. Fantasy - I've always thought Lake Ilinalta should be a glacier lake, and I thought it would be fun to make. The result is something completely different with the Fantasy Water color.

  • Two additional water colors for volcanic water and one for blackreach water are also included.
  • The default, volcanic, and blackreach waters are in separate plugins. These can be merged.
  • I've tweaked the water to make the waterline more visible. This gets rid of the invisible water that is sometimes apparent in VR, but it exposes some vanilla landscaping that could have used more polish. I recommend using a mod like Smooth Shores SSE in addition to SkyVRaan

SkyVRaan WaterGrass
  • This esp adds pebbles, rocks, boulders, algae, and watergrass underwater to give you something to look at with the new improved water clarity. There are several different options to try to blend with as many landscape texture mods as possible

  • Because this is all technically a grass, there are three density options.
Normal Density - This was tuned around an imingrasssize=60
High Density - This was tuned around and imingrasssize=100
Normal Density w/o pebbles - Same as the normal density version, without  pebble sized rocks

  • Two river rock shades
Light - Looks best with vanilla or vanilla-like rock textures
Dark - Matches better with darker rock textures

  • Two river rock colors
Gray - Generally blends with rock textures
Brown - Generally blends with landscape textures

  • There are optional landscape textures that are made to blend with the dark brown river rock textures. 

  • Your ini should be edited to include "iMaxGrassTypesPerTexure=15". An ini is included in the fomod that will be applied automatically for MO2 users. It also includes a place to tweak iMinGrassSize.

SkyVRaan Synthesis Patchers
  • SkyVRaan Autopatcher - This automated patcher creates a custom patch for your load order. It scans all worldspaces, cells, and water statics (even mod added ones), and sets them up for SkyVRaan. 

  • SkyVRaan Weather Patcher - Because the cubemap is a static texture, and is the same during the day, at night, and during all weathers, I have to tweak the weather to change the color of the water reflections. This is how the water reflections are blended into the rest of the scene. This automates the weather patch with improved calculations for sunsets and sunrises. I highly recommend to run this patcher on all weather mods, including Onyx Weathers.

  • I recommend to run Synthesis either immediately before DynDOLOD or immediately after.
  • Information on Synthesis and its installation can be found here!

NOTE: Synthesis is in active development and sometimes has some minor issues. The developer is moving fast, and Synthesis gets better every day. Most issues can be resolved by restarting MO2 or, at the worst, your PC. Always make sure you're using the latest version of Synthesis and the latest version of MO2.

Vanilla SkyVRaan Patch
  • A patch has been included for a completely Vanilla install only. This avoids running the SkyVRaan patchers for very simple load orders. This should be the very last plugin in your load order. 

NOTE: only use this on a vanilla installation!!!!! If you are adding any mods that aren't exclusively texture and mesh replacers, then the Synthesis Patchers are MANDATORY!!!!!


Load Order and Installation

With the addition of the new Synthesis Patchers, load order is no longer a critical issue. Make sure SkyVRaan's plugins come after any water or grass mod so that it's changes apply.

 For the automated patchers:

  1. Install Synthesis per the instructions on the Synthesis Github Page. The web page has some very good gifs that show how to use the program. Make sure you look at the Wiki page.
  2. Add Synthesis as an executable to MO2 the same way you would xEdit, Loot, or zEdit.
  3. Run Synthesis through MO2, and make sure you select SkyrimVR as your game to patch. you can switch between games in the upper right hand corner.
  4. Using git repository, browse for and select BOTH SkyVRaan patchers. The gif on the Synthesis Github Page shows you where to browse for patchers. There are a lot of patchers that have been converted and uploaded to Synthesis that you can browse through.
  5. Make sure both SkyVRaan Patchers are selected and click the arrow in the bottom left hand corner of the Synthesis window. Once patching is done, close the window and enable Synthesis.esp at the end of your load order.

NOTE: I highly recommend to delete Synthesis.esp and re-run the patcher if you make any changes to your load order.

Known Issues/Weirdness
  • Bright water at night - Because the Cubemap used to create the fake reflections is a static texture, I can't change it at night or in different weathers. I discovered that I could adjust water color using the Water Weather Multipliers in the weather records. The current state of the mod is the best compromise I could come up with between visibility during the day, and brightness at night. See the FAQ for ways to darken nighttime water at the expense of daytime visibility.
  • All Water has been set to Defaultwater - The patchers revert all of Tamriel's water types to defaultwater. I believe that what I have done is to force the exterior water to use the interior cell water shader. This shader appears to have a limit of two water types at one time. There were crashes in the early days due to a lack of understanding of this limitation. Setting all the water types to default water has stopped the instabilities experienced with previous versions of the mod. This means that you get a single watertype across all of Skyrim, and you lose some of the different directions of water flow.
  • Strange Water Flow - There are some areas where insconsistent water flow is apparent. One of the easiest areas to see an example of this is near the Guardian Stones, where Lake Ilinalta transitions into a river. You can see fast moving whitewater across water that appears to move much more slowly. This is one disadvantage to using a single water type for all water in skyrim. In my original tweaks to Skyrim's water, I tried to minimize this discrepancy as much as possible. 
  • Triangular Water's Edge - There are a lot of locations in vanilla skyrim where the landscape work at the water's edge could have used a little polishing. Seams where the water meshes end are blindingly apparent as 90 degree angles. I previously tried to hide this by setting the water fog near to 0, but unfortunately, that results in invisible water in shallow areas. Things like hovering boats and completely invisible creeks. I have now set the near fog so that it starts above the water's edge, making a clear water line. Unfortunately, this exposes the areas with poor landscaping. I recommend using Smooth Shores SSE along with SkyVRaan to improve the water's edge.

I don't see any reflections on the water, fake or otherwise
  • Make sure that you have run Synthesis, and Synthesis.esp is at the very end of your load order. 

The reflections don't load when I fast travel / There's no reflections on the distant LOD
  • Make sure that the cubemapenabler.esp is at the very end of your load order. Make sure no mods are overwriting the XWEM parameter in xEdit.

The water looks strange at XX time of day or during YY weather.
  • Make sure you have selected the weather patcher when you've run synthesis. The default Water Multipliers shipped with weather mods don't always match the scene.
  • My script has been tested with Obsidian, Onyx, Cathedral, and Azurite (in dev) weathers. Weather mods with odd sky colors may not look right.

The water looks too bright at night. Is there anything you can do to make the nighttime water brighter?
  • Unfortunately, not without making the daytime water look significantly worse. This is a byproduct of the way I had to make the fake reflections. SSE's water reflections are a combination of a cubemap generated every frame from the LODs, combined with screen space reflections. So at night you'll have a dark cubemap texture, and during the day you'll have a bright cubemap texture. I'm forced to use a single cubemap for all weathers and times of day. I've done the best I can to adjust the water using the weather and watertype parameters, but this is the best compromise I can come up with.
  • If the water at night really bothers you, use the Natural water color with the darker cubemap.
  • If you want to make the water at night even darker, you can reduce "Reflectivity amount" in xEdit for defaultwater. If you reduce that number you'll get darker night time water at the expense of daytime water. You could try something between 0.45 and 0.50 and see if you like it better.

NOTE: Even when the night time water looks too bright, it shouldn't be glowing neon!!! If you have psychedelic water at night, there is something wrong with your installation! Make sure you have run the latest Synthesis Weather Patcher!!!

I really don't like the water colors you've included it's too green/blue/clear/cloudy etc. Can you make it more like mod XYZ?
  • I've spent a long time making SkyVRaan's water look as good and realistic as I possibly can. However, there's no way that I can make something that is to everyone's tastes. SkyVRaan will work with any water mod out there, so feel free to experiment! Just keep in mind that those mods were made around SSE's reflections. If you do want to use another mod, I suggest reducing the "Reflectivity Amount" in xEdit to something between 0.4 and 0.6. Most water mods set this to 1.0, which is too high for SkyVRaan. Keep in mind you will only see Default Water, Volcanic Water, and Blackreach Water.

You have too many plugins! Can I merge them?
  • Go ahead!!!

Wait? Where are the Realistic Water Two versions of the watercolor plugins?
  • Due to the way the Synthesis patcher works, RW2 specific versions are no longer needed.
Special Thanks

All the Skyrim VR Modders for their help and support:
Blazeyboyyy, frazaman, Prog0111, Rallyeator, Shizof, TheCangar1

This mod wouldn't be in it's current state without the help of Rallyeator. Just about all of the textures included in this mod were possible because of him, and he also allowed the use of his mod Rally's Water Foam.
TechAngel85 for his support regarding Realistic Water Two
JonnyWang13 for the use of his water normals, grass meshes, and watergrass textures
Pfuscher for his rock grass meshes
Noggog for Synthesis, Mutagen, and helping with my C# questions

NoiseLab15 for the program used to generate the noise cubemaps.