Sunday, December 2, 2018

Fallacy of the Best Horse in Red Dead Redemption 2

I see numerous youtube posts and gaming articles on "How to get the BEST horse for FREE" which invariably regurgitates steps of taming a white Arabian in the wild.  But how can there be an objectively best horse when such designation depends on an individual's play style and the activities engaged in RDR2's vast open world.  While the primary stats health/stamina/acceleration/speed are important, I personally find the secondary attribute of courage to impact my gameplay much much more.  No amount of health and speed makes up for a horse bucking you directly into the path of  bullgators, a grizzly, pack of wolves, or any other kind of predator that menace the landscape.

Not that's a horse! Legs of an Ardennes totally look
like a prehistoric quadruped rather than a modern horse. 
I spend most of my time fishing in the Bayou and Arabians totally suck around gators, snakes, or any kind of predator.  I spawned a white Arabian through the St. Denis glitch and I gladly sold this high-strung high maintenance beast for a few dollars after much exasperation. An Ardennes while a slow tank will tolerate gator country like a champ!  Race horses spook easily even fully bonded and they will buck you straight into danger.

Courage Stats

In game courage behavior appears not to be a consistent blanket attribute as listed in the RDR2 compendium but highly dependent on context. Horses as in real life behave differently under different stressful scenarios, i.e. a horse steady in combat can still spook easily around alligators.  Even fully bonded, I've seen different horse reactions in these following types of stressful situations:
  • human combat, shootouts
  • wild predators 
  • traffic in town like St. Denis- I had an Arabian that was terrible around trolley traffic in St. Denis
  • in deep water crossing
The official game courage levels seem incorrect.  From the descriptions alone, it would appear War Horses have the highest levels of courage, followed by Half War horses like the Turkoman with race horses being the most skittish- however this not the case.   Through experience and in Reddit chat- Arabians are reputedly extremely skittish but the Arabian is listed with the highest level of courage(6/10) while war horses have 5/10 or moderate level of courage.   My husband proudly sticks by his Tennessee Walker(2/10) that he takes hunting everywhere and it does quite fine near alligators. Try to take an Arabian anywhere near gator country.  

Just as speed can differ for different coats of each breed, courage may vary as well and perhaps at the individual level. Even if the official courage ranking seems faulty, I listed the breeds by category ordered by the courage rating listed in the compendium. I've also added the compendium description in underlined quotes that pertains to courage below:
    • Superior
      •  Arabian (6/10 courage listed is highly dubious, just do a google search on "rdr2 arabian skittish")
    • War 
      • Ardennes(5/10 courage) -" This sturdy, brave breed handles well under pressure and will not become agitated while in combat. Ardennes horses are known for their well-built bodies as well as being brave in combat situations."  This is the breed Rockstar added as a pre-order bonus.
        • My fully bonded Strawberry Roan Ardennes is a perfectly dependable tank in combat, but he still bucked me when ambushed by a grizzly and a pack of wolves.
      • Andalusian (courage not listed) - listed as the only breed called out for courage in hunting. "This breed of horse is courageous and will not be spooked easily. Andalusian breed of horses are tough and aggressive in nature which makes them perfect for hunting. "
      • Hungarian Halfbred (courage not listed) - "renowned for its fearlessness making them perfect for loud and dangerous situations
    • War/Race
      • Turkoman(5/10)- "Turkoman is a multi-class horse with characteristics that make it perfect for racing and combat."
        • My fully bonded silver turkoman is fantastic for combat but I have been bucked during predator attacks by grizzlies/wolves/bullgators.  Turkomans also do not like being near gators.
    • War/Work
      • Mustang(5/10) -"They have traits of both work and war horses, so are strong and will not be easily frightened. This loyal and bold breed of horse are invaluable in combat situations."
    • Race/Work
      • Missouri Fox Trotter(5/10) - some conflicting reddit threads mentioning how easily it spooks, or alternatively how it's braver than an Arabian. In truth, anything with 4 legs is less skittish than an Arabian.
    • Draft: 
    • Work
    • Race
    • Riding
      • Tennessee Walker (2/10) - even with this low courage rating, my husband plays exclusively with Tennessee Walkers and they seem do fine in combat and around gators.
      • Morgan (1/10)
      • Kentucky Sadler (1/10)

Appearance - Size, Coat, Shape, Neck Girth, Gait, etc...

More than 50% of game play is trotting around on your steed. You will be consistently staring at your horses head, rear, haunches, and tail more than any other rendered objects in the game. There's no shame in choosing a horse for it's looks in a video game.

Although I had spawned the super rare Tiger Striped Mustang, it just looked too out of place and I traded it away for a Turkoman.

Arthur never looked right on the Arabian- just too "My Little Pony", too bad the stables don't offer rainbow mane. 

My Own Stables

Currently I rotate between the following 4 horses:

Silver Turkoman - really a magnificent beast- too good for Arthur but this horse does not do well around predators.

Strawberry Roan Ardennes War Horse - handles like a tank but great for something steady around
the Bayou near alligators.

Reverse Dapple Roan Nokota - One of the fastest in game (7 speed 5 acceleration), it's actually a lot of fun to ride but spooks easily. Low health and stamina(3/3) were less of an issue.

Nokota Blue Roan - I am partial to his blushing pink nose, and even traded in an Arabian, Tiger Striped Mustang for this low stat Nokota. I want to trade him in for an Adalusian but can't find the heart to sell him.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

GTX 1080ti with eGPU A Waste of $1000

After finally getting my grubby little paws on a GTX 1080ti,  I was sorely sorely disappointed I had set myself up so hard.  When you plunk down a sizeable outlay of gold for just a GPU, you really have to ask yourself honestly, how much more enjoyment will you reap on a speedier GPU. And the answer now I surprise myself with is "not that much more".  Considering that I now spend most of my precious gaming time on a PS4 with Red Dead Redemption 2, I guess my gaming life would have been just as rich had I stuck with my serviceable GTX 1070.  I upgraded in preparation for the Pimax 5K+, but I realize the OG Vive is still lots of fun. But really, I ain't got no time to be under a helmet when RDR2 is so fabulous.
SkyrimVR is unstable as before- crashing in 30 min intervals. Still can't have Apachii Divine Elegance Store, no bikini armor- can't have anything nice...  (Actually I don't approve of bikini armors but I'd like to have these mods ready in case male friends visit and want to see the full charm of modded Skyrim.)  But my SkyrimVR problems are not GPU related- it must be the aging Bethesda engine not meant to run 200+ mods despite having 11GB vRAM.  It falls over even before it reaches 9GB use.  Probably I need a clean character build but after 300 hours of grind, I loathe the thought of starting over.

Yes I can run with much higher 2x SS settings. I can run ENBs now but this is not reason enough for $1000. Stuff looks somewhat better than a 1070(though the Vive Gear VR lens swap made the biggest difference in clarity), but I realize I was utterly enraptured with the magical fantasy world of SkyrimVR even before this upgrade.

Kingdom Come Deliverance definitely needed the extra horse power to run 4K, otherwise the stuttering really ate into immersion. But playing at 1080p was still enjoyable.  4K Witcher 3 runs amazing with 1080ti, but I was still amazed even with lower fps.  My $1000 lesson is that raw GPU speed may not take your enjoyment that much further because it's engaging game play and not the most hyper realistic detail that will win your imagination. I grew up on 8 bit games, even text based ASCII RPG games which were strangely thrilling. And now that I've been completely absorbed in Red Dead Redemption on a dinky PS4(1.84 Teraflops) while  my 1080ti(11.3 Teraflops) dusts away, I happily realize I have no need to upgrade to an RTX.

From a technical point of view,  I am still impressed you can run a laptop with an external GPU. Probably the best part of this upgrade is keeping the core laptop motherboard cool.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

GPU Upgrade: Agonizing over RTX 2080ti vs 1080ti

TLDR- Alienware AGA with EVGA 1080ti SC2(with EVGA open option to upgrade in 3 months)

In the fall of 2016, I treated myself to a new Alienware 17 R4 with a GTX 1070 after limping along a few months with my HTC Vive on a subpar GPU.  This R4 has been a champ for most VR games in the last two years until I started modding SkyrimVR heavily.  I don't need buttery performance on pancake 4k games-   I enjoy amazing artistry and story telling so much on the Witcher 3 I haven't actually noticed the suboptimal fps.  However low frame rates and reprojection in a high-action VR game is not just a buzz kill- the ensuing nausea kills the session and queasiness lingers enough to avoid VR for days.  Also I spend hours agonizing over my load list and cutting mods when I want to try out new mods.

I could cut out all those greedy Skyrim mods- who needs realistic rope and individual straws in hay bales anyways or... Or I could get on the treadmill of nextgen hardware upgrades. With Pimax 8K headsets coming up and with the sale of new RTX gpus,  I had sweet sweet visions of prancing around Skyrim with 200 degree FOV in second generation VR gear.

One ponders heavily the wisdom of spending thousands to get realistic immersive virtual grass.  Gamers are often in a spectrum of spend guilt. I personally am a huge believer in video games as a positive force for growth and development.  I had some dubious mental calculation about never having wasting money on cable TV- this must have saved at least $10K in the last 10 years.  I also had dutifully saved up some septims to buy the Vive Pro which just didn't seem worth the effort.

My decision tree went something like this.
1. I need more VRAM(because 4K environment textures DO make a difference) and that would only be GTX 1080ti or RTX 2080ti with 11GB over the standard 8GB.
2. A bigger fork deciding over a brand new spanking desktop or use a external gpu on my Alienware R7.

New Box or eGPU?
My hard working husband(so sweet guy) who knows how much I love marveling in a VR fantasy world has offered to buy me a top of the line Alienware Area 51 with the RTX of choice. Area 51 currently comes with with an RTX 2080 OC (overclocked mode) with the 2080ti probably coming out later in the year when the supply of 2080ti increases.  The only reason I stick by Dell and Alienware instead of building a custom rig is for the 5 year support plan since these beast gaming machines are more prone to failure.  I've only had to replace the motherboard once in the last 2 years.

Alienware AGA vs Thunderbolt eGPU
It was time to call in the AGA(Alienware Graphics Amplifier) option.  AGA hands down is faster than thunderbolt 3 since has direct dedicated connection to the motherboard unlike the thunderbolt 3 which has to share the PCIe switch.

RTX 2080ti vs GTX 1080ti
Obviously if money was not an issue and one could get your hands on a RTX 2080ti, you would spare your brain cells of the excruciating price to enjoyment analysis.  Although such funds are ample in my piggy bank, I totally frown on paying the "must have latest greatest gpu" premium charged in the first months of a gpu's initial release.   On getting a 2080ti, I don't believe my future enjoyment of future games will have that much to do with ray tracing or DLSS.

If I think of the most amazing games I have ever played in the last 10 years and some of them not even 3D like Samarost 3, hardware ray tracing in no way would enhance these games.   But also triple AAA publishers- those who have the budget to potentially take advantage of the RTX, may not take the risk in something so proprietary for NVidia that requires such expensive gpus.  Game companies have to sell to the widest audience - that includes consoles which have no hope of hardware ray tracing in the next few years.  The GTX 1080ti which is still almost ~50%  better than my 1070 but may be barely adequate for a Pimax. There is the overhead loss of course of 10-15% in not directly plugging into the motherboard but 1080ti upgrade seemed a good compromise.

(Update- at launch, it wasn't exactly clear what DLSS was and finding out about it, it's even worse than I thought and totally useless for most of the games out.  The game developers have to send in "data" to Nvidia to have them crunch the data through hyper expensive NVIDIA's DGX SaturnV supercomputing cluster to build a learning model.  DLSS demos really show subpar results esp. with images having text- not great for VR.   Games I play- heavily modded games, older titles, and indy games- will never have RTX version of DLSS nor could it.  DLSS is misleading since it's upscaling from 1080p. DLSS2 is running 4k native. Not clear how it would impact VR games since none has been modified and foveated rendering is a better solution. )

Proprietary Alienware Graphics Amplifier vs Thunderbolt eGPU
No brainer to get the proprietary Alienware AGA external gpu chassis  over a Thunderbolt eGPU. The AGA has separate dedicated bus on the Alienware R4 instead of the Thunderbolt which would share the PCI lanes including network. Plus the AGA was on sale for $159 on Dell.

MSI vs Gigabyte vs EGVA- form factor, thermals, noise, etc...
Even when one decides on a gpu, you still have to go through the gauntlet of graphics board selection.  MSI, Gigabyte, EVGA were the 3 aftermarket manufacturers I considered due to their improved cooling systems. There is the problem with form factor as the AGA chassis allows for only 2 slot cards and MSI/Gigabyte had 2.5 slots. I read on the board the 2.5 slot cards do fit but you cannot fully close the top and I didn't want my board being prey to dust. 

The clincher was EVGA's upgrade program so if I wanted to jump to a 2080ti in the next 3 months, I still had the happy option to plunk down an extra $500 to do so.

Which EVGA 1080ti Model: SC2 vs FTW3?
Even when you chose EVGA 1080ti, you still have the final and last gauntlet of model options, FTW3 SC, SC2, Black Edition GAMING, SC2 Hybrid...  careful weighing of cooling options ICX Cooling vs ICX Technology, 2 fan vs 3 fan. I opted for ICX SC2 Gaming which had the 2 fan smaller form factor but still the 9 temp sensors and asynchronous fans.  You can see gamer nexus deep breakdown here:
Who to Buy from: Amazon vs Newegg
The final hurdle- where to buy this EVGA 1080ti SC2 Gaming. I looked on Amazon and one of the reviewers said be weary of used cards in crypto mining that had been returned and repackaged. I decided to buy it from a place with a stringent GPU return policy so I bought it non-refundable directly from newegg(and not an affiliate vendor).

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

SkyrimVR Player Home Mods

The most interesting Skyrim real estate is not from the vanilla game but from the endless creativity of talented modders. Many of these mods are worth exploring as places in their own right if not for inhabiting and is often vastly superior to vanilla.

Portable  Homes 

Modding allows for a different paradigm of callable homes encapsulated in an item in your inventory a la "I Dream of Jeannie".  Some would consider this cheating but consider it essential for a true hoarder-never leave any dragon bones behind. Portable homes can be construed as lore friendly for a mage character. 
  • Staff of Shalidor(++) upside down fun, this innovative home on the ball of a staff has a  well-lighted yet cosy interior making it a pleasant escape after the trauma of melee combat in a dark dungeon.  This mod really helped ease the dreariness of Alfthand during the long slog to Blackreach.  Also you can hear the rain and weather from your last location giving you a lovely immersive connection the the outside. My husband was quite catty- "What- your staff just hangs out rigid while you disappear". Hrrmmf.  It enters a magical plane if you must know.
  • HavenBag - Dwemer conversion (+++)- Call at your whim a deluxe spacious bachelor pad with ample weapons racks, hot tub, all the usual amenities for smithing and enchanting, oven for baking replete with a fully loaded pantry.  Dwemer architecture does make it feel more like a museum and lacks the coziness of the Staff of Shalidor but the spaciousness is calming after combat in dreary dungeons and caves. I am able to bring Meeko here and hence this is my main portable home. (The original Haven Bag is an interior of a leather bag but I chose the Dwemer version so home does not feel too crammed and cluttered.)
  • Campfire Cabin - craft and plunk down a cabin anywhere.  Allows you to also craft a portable enchanting station so I can do most of my stuff outside.  (Requires Campfire another fine mod.)

Castles, Megahomes, Villages

  • Tel Nalta II (+++)  my all time favorite SSE mod which lets you build a full fledged Tel Vanni mushroom village. The mod comes with an optional cheat chest with materials needed to build out the village. I didn't know this and it was great fun running around Skyrim gathering materials for the first few pods. This merits a post all it's own. TBD  
  • Antennaria - enough magical feels to satisfy any fantasy nerd. Artistically this is probably the loveliest bedroom in all of Tamriel nestled in a ferny overgrown grotto.
  • Aemer’s refuge  - tremendous castle with a double dragon fight to win the right to enter. Mod also places rune passage ways which can be activated from vanilla homes.
  • Leveler’s Tower - it's a massive cheat castle but way too fun not to explore to behold sights not in vanilla- a massive basement farm worked by dwemer spiders, a fight arena where you can spawn battles, the list goes on.

Functional Useful Homes

Quiet smithy with a lake view
Ruska in Riften (+++)

Placed conveniently near Honeyside's back door. I use Ruska as my base to do my smithing outdoors overlooking Riften lake. Balimund is a nice guy and all but Khajit needs quiet space to create the best armor and weapons. Ruska is an Elianora house and as such has all her signature facilities of named storage.  I actually use Hearth Craft to make a portable enchanting station which I've hid(troll skull) next to the ore chest so I can do smithing and enchanting all outside. When I had knee surgery, I did all my smithing and enchanting sitting here enjoying the great outdoors.

Mammoth Manor near Lake Ilinalta (+++)

The two story manor is spacious enough for a gang of followers and the open two story living room layout allows you to keep ready tabs on everyone. There is an ample armory downstairs. 
Also this property comes with  a separate Nord sauna down the hill by the lake's edge. Be careful, it auto strips you and anyone else if you enter the sauna inside the cabin. You do have to prove your worth to own this abandoned piece of real estate.
Mammoth tusks thematically everywhere

Hermit's Stump A hidden retreat on the way to Ivarstead, it's worth visiting at least once. This is where I do my mushroom farming as this mod has more Hearthfire plantable spots than anywhere. Probably one could mix this with Cannabis Skyrim for that Humboldt feeling.

AirBNB - casual stays when near the area

  • Telmos mushroom house on the way to Ivarstead, I love the look of the skyline near the waterfall with this house.
  • Wind Path - remote refuge next to a waterfall. You can stroll up the mountain path to the troll cave for some rather decent loot. Don't try to wash your hands or play the lute yourself in VR as this goes to black screen.
  • Viking Long House - across the docks in Windhelm when I am forced to quest in that overly Nord Nord land

Hobbit Homes
  • Island Hobbit Home - this is probably the most hobbity of the bunch. Warning If you don't have SKSE, you will get a weird green blank mesh in the alchemy room instead of the potting station.
  • Hobbiton - exterior and the foundry are beautifully done and others rooms could do with a little more work. The layout is spacious with a lot of bookshelves making the open floor plan useful if you have an army of followers.
  • Marnya - little ho hum exactly as the author intended and shares the world space with Hobbiton, I'd rather have Hobbiton than Marnya

Improvements to Vanilla Homes, Hearthfire Homes

Riften Honeyside is my home base and I keep it unmodded just to have a completely vanilla home to do clean saves. However most of the vanilla homes lack a loving home touch as Bethesda did the bare minimum.  It's almost as if the guy that does bandit camps also did the homes and just perfunctorily put few items on each surface and called it a day.
  • Breezehome by Lupus - not too over the top
  • Breezehome Porch- make use of the front unused space
  • Lakeview Extended- builds a full fortified compound out of this Falkreath Hearthfire home.  Made by the same author as the excellent Tel Nalta.
  • Lakeview Extended Basement
  • Proudspire - I had to slay so many necromancers to get this ugly uncomfortable home.  Figures Bethesda would make the most expensive home in Skyrim the worst. This mod makes Proudspire at least a little more livable but Solitude is my least favorite city and I'd rather not have to overnight in Proudspire.

Rejected Homes

Skyrim modded real estate is vast and I've downloaded 30+ more home mods and removed them for one reason or another and will note them here at least to remind myself.

My Current Skyrim VR Mod List not including Homes

(Home mods are listed here)

Mods are what makes skyrim an endless wonder of replay-ability keeping this creaky 8 year old  growing and vibrant.  Amazingly, a community of devoted Skyrim enthusiasts are still adding to the world's largest library of game mods which change Skyrim in diverse and unimaginable ways. One of the true joys of playing skyrim is reshaping the game world to fit one's peculiarities and I've probably spent more time modding than actual game play. But with 18,000+ mods, it takes time investment to separate out what will really enhance your gameplay.  My preferred mods listed here are family friendly i.e. no MXR/LL kinky stuff, this is not to say there is anything wrong with that per say but I am striving for a naturally immersive 4k realm.

Being Attacked Boarding the Dev Aveza (Legacy of the Dragonborn)

For gamers who are just starting out, I would recommend adding just 2-3 mods for each play so they can get a feel for what the mod actually does.  From a practical point of view, you want to debug and isolate incompatibilities and performance issues with small sets of changes. (True story: When I first started as a clueless noob, I mass installed about 40 mods that I got off lists from the internet. Weirdly the bandit women kept showing up naked like mannequins without nipples whenever I would loot their armor. I didn't know if this was the original game or a mod but it was definitely a creepy immersion killer. I didn't know if I should install a lady skin mod like UNP to restore biologic correctness but I ended up slapping on the "Skyrim Modesty Mod" to allow the dead some dignity. It made more immersive sense that Tamriel's females- outlaw or not- would wear some form of underclothing in the chilly Nord climate. It turned out WICO was at fault and I had somehow missed the never nude selection.)

Even if you have a powerful machine, you will break your game many times over by continually adding mods as you are building layers of instability on the original sand dunes that is the Bethesda Creation Engine. If you have just a middling machine- well then you will be spending a lot of time teetering off the edge and rolling back. Before my 1080ti/i9-9900K upgrade, my 1070/i7-6820HK Alienware would routinely crash and burn and debugging and pruning my mod list was just the cost of running mods.

But more importantly restraint is recommended for the following, think of mods like Christmas presents- don't open them all at once! Despite appearances, there is not an infinite supply of quality mods and it will be quite a long time til TES VI.

I use about 200+ mods currently on a GTX 1080ti at 200% SS running at mostly 90 FPS. I try to point out the fps hogs when I can.  The mods listed here are everyday mods exluding homes(separate list) or DLC sized ones like Project AHO& Falskaar.   Anything I consider essential, I've marked with a rating of plusses with +++ being the most critical for me.

Essential Core

Utility/VR Mods

  • Dragonborn Speaks Naturally(+++)- voice command is so much more immersive than scrolling through menus. I love the flexibility of pairing  custom console commands. I should do a separate post on this but I started using this during the Dawnguard DLC. It is however a bit humiliating when your husband is tittering when he hears "Transform me into a vampire lord"...
  • Haptic Skyrim VR(+) - Haptic feedback for spellcasting, melee weapons and bow. I love the subtle vibration when pulling a bowstring
  • showracemenu alternative(+++) - nicer than having to use console command, I use it to fork my builds from time to time to make versions friends can try.
  • vrmirror - Not just for vanity, I went out onto town with just wearing my loin cloth and got sniggered at.  I
  • Quality World Map(+++) - Take the blurriness out of the atrocious Bethesda map. IcePenguin I thank you!
  • no stagger in VR


  • Legacy of the Dragonborn- A expansion mod so complex it has it's own wiki. LotD establishes a museum in Solitude and you can even start your own explorer guild. LotD is chock full of new quests and custom characters but there is a certain satisfaction in filling the halls with the loot of your adventures. The airship Dev Aveza is included.

Custom Voiced Followers

  • Inigo(+++) - who doesn't love Inigo and his sometimes serious sometimes playful furry blue face!  He's a bad ass archer, singer, poet, witty jokester with a complex tragic backstory.  I love roaming the lands with a fellow Khajiit where he efficiently takes care of business- perhaps he is too overpowered with his ebony bow. You'll be impressed in the classy way he shows Nazeem who's who in the Whiterun market.
  • Lucien- This wimpy imperial intellectual and his hyper chatty hyper catty ways really grew on me. I love the way he sings behind me while we wander Skyrim.  Lucien shines because he has so much dialog with vanilla and custom followers. He whispered to me quite seriously, "I think Inigo has fleas."  But the way he will engage in conversation with you without you prompting his menu is fantastically immersive.
  • Hoth - So much much more than a violent tank. (to be fleshed out later) However some of his obnoxious lines that are funny at first are too oft repeated. 
  • Kaidan 2 - I installed Kaidan2 as he and Lucien have custom banter with each other. I find Akiviri stuff just not as lore friendly but after I bust him out of prison from the Thalmor,  I can't seem to kick him to the curb.  


  • WICO(+++)  - Windsong Immersive Character Overhaul- the most lore friendly overhaul out of the bunch to make NPCs look acceptable to 2015 standards. I preferred this over TCO.   You will be shocked how horrible vanilla humans look after you get used to WICO. Careful in your install, you can get naked ladies if you don't choose correctly!
  • (Immersive) Amazing Follower Tweaks -Probably the first thing anybody does with AFT is to make Lydia dance. I use iAFT to keep it lore friendly paring down those party features.   Careful,  if you already have a standard follower you might want to dismiss them first. 
  • Immersive Citizens AI Overhaul - it's hard for me to tell what is RDO vs AIO but it's nice change having the denizens gasp and say "Dragonborn, it's an honor" instead of racist Khajiit putdowns.
  • Real Dialog Overhaul- RDO
  • Modesty Mod- don't let those ladies go nude or show too much skin in the cold north. I don't know why I have this in my list except that when my Mom comes and visits, I'll going to put this on.
  • My home is your home - doesn't work with Inigo but is useful to send your vanilla followers to specific homes if you have a large squad on call.
  • Improved Meeko - makes Meeko less crazy aggro and Meeko will stop attacking enemies on sight.  I have command lines for everything but it's nicer to have it in one mod. Also I had a weird bug where Meeko was stuck in the bushes and this unstuck him.

Weapons - Armor - Gore

  • Real Bows (+++)- archery is the most believable combat mechanics in VR and deserves better and more functional looking bows.  Forsworn bows with the double limb design are so beautiful, I've hung them up in almost every house I own.
  • Ars Metallica - wouldn't smith without it.
  • Immersive Armors
  • LeanWolf's Better-Shaped Weapons
  • Enhanced Blood - it's a bit too gory but I'm too lazy to make up my mind to remove it


  • Cathedral Weathers(+++)- Currently using for a colder more diverse feel. 
  • Climates of Tamriel(++) - Vivid Weathers was lovely but the snow and rain didn't feel believable and really killed your immersion.  CoT has better snow and rain but tends to be much brighter than other weather mods. After playing for a month of gloomy overcast weather, I prefer sunny glare of CoT. (I disabled the enb preset as it was chewing up too much fps. enb vr )
  • Pure Waters (Pure Waters looks much more realistic except for waterfalls. I took out RealisticWaterTwo which looked terrible at distance)
  • Ethereal Cosmos- gives night sky a more fantasy feel
  • Ethereal Clouds
  • Wet and Cold- frosty breath definitely gives immersion in cold weather. 
Adding 4K textures gives you a Diderot effect and surrounding low resolution textures will start offending your immersion senses forcing you to update everything.

  • Skyrim 2017 Textures(+++)  - Pfuscher provides a strong base.
  • Book Covers Skyrim SE(++)
    • Rustic Clothing (++) -  Not sure you would play without this. Otherwise the vanilla costumes can chafe your eyes.
    • Rustic Noble Furniture 
    • Rustic Windows
    • Rustic Daedra, Rustic Death Hound, Rustic Spriggan, Rustic Frostbite, Rustic Cooking
    • Rugnarok - I wasn't going to waste the RAM and deinstall but everytime I look down and say "Damn, that's one fine rug"...
Meeko chilling out at Mammoth Manor- a fine house for followers to not get in your way
  • Peltapalooza -same, everything gamwich makes is generally of the highest quality except this one I am slightly on the fence about. It's better than vanilla to be sure but not as immersive.
  • High Poly Project - be amazed at the bristles in your broom, cabbages gone savoy. This one chews performance like nothing else, especially rendering all the rope in Riften. If you have the raw machine power of a 2080ti, waste it on this and see what it could be if you ramped up the polygons on useless clutter. I took it off to give more headroom to other mods but it was fun to have it for a month.


  • BirdsAndFlocks (++)- Seeing flocks scatter in the sky- guaranteed immersion for the first 12 times.
  • SkyTEST - Realistic Animals and Predators - Adds puppies to Skyrim! Author really should stress this more. This mod overhauls animal behavior in a more realistic way, adds juveniles, other farm animals like pigs.


  • Skyrim Flora Overhaul
  • HQ Bark(++) - The best bark textures in VR gaming.  However combo of SFP and HQ bark messes up LODs.
  • Immersive Fallen Trees - really does feel immersive to see giant trees fallen and making a bridge- I love running around Skyrim looking for them. 
  • Realistic Aspen Trees - adds oranges and reds for a true autumnal feel
  • HD Photorealistic Ivy(++) - so real looking. I didn't think this would make a big difference in immersion but ivy is hanging more places than you think.


  • Campfire - camping in the wilds of Skyrim with your own dog has it's own unique charms. I don't go hardcore with any survival mods like Frostfall but just want to relax out in the woods.
  • Cannabis Skyrim - Since I don't toke, I didn't think I wanted a lore unfriendly gag weed mod.  However finally I ran out of mods to try and gave it a go. My god the textures on the hemp plants are of such high quality and the comic value huge!  The shop Your Highness is a top class joint with so much attention to detail.  This mod also allows you to plant weeds all over Skyrim so you can finally embark on your Johnny Appleweed project.  Dynamic plant growth makes it fun.
  • Fishing in Skyrim VR - Although the mechanics are a bit thin, it's still fun running around Skyrim to see what you can drag in with your net.   Be careful where you throw your net.  I got human remains along with empty wine bottles in the swamps of Morthal.  Also mod let's you use a Dwemer bomb in the water- useful for getting rid of slaughterfish that's preventing fast travel.  
  • Become a Bard - in VR you don't get to see animations or actually play the instrument, but it's still fun air-playing at inns or setting the soundtrack when you want some other lore friendly music. I actually got kind of nervous first time I played at the Winking Skeever but the crowd warmed up.

Cities & Roads

  • JKs Skyrim(++) - Vanilla cities are sparse- the more you play the more you will notice this lack of richness. JK's Skyrim fills out the cities without going over the top.  JKS adds pulley system to Riften to move goods between the lower and upper levels, ladder on the roofs for thieves.  (I uninstalled Dawn of Skyrim since I didn't like the non-immersive cartoony rats it added to Riften and I prefer JKS alone.)
  • Kato's Whiterun with Trees(+++) - Making the trees much taller makes such a remarkable difference to make Whiterun into a believable old city. It's night and day.
  • Kato's Falkreath(+++)-tastefully done
  • Magical College of Winterhold- b/c vanilla is not so magical...
  • Skyrim Better Roads and Bridges
  • Immersive Roads SSE
  • Beautiful Honey Signs


  • Immersive Sounds
  • Audio Overhaul
  • No Bee Sounds+++ - I made the mistake of having a greenhouse in Hearthfire DLC and the buzz was obnoxiously loud. I was able to install the Skyrim version without trouble.

Other Immersion and Miscellaneous

  • Less Dragons++ - When you sigh when you hear the shrieks from the sky and the dramatic combat music. Dragon encounters should be a rare event.  When you realize you have 50 dragon souls and not enough shouts to fill, it's time to turn that down.
  • Realistic Boat Travel - the less fast travel you do, the more immersive the game becomes

Dawnguard DLC

  • Grave Gargoyles SE
  • Vampire Lord Retextured(Demonic)- sadly you can't see your bad ass vampire lord self, only when Lord Harkon transforms. 
  • CC's Fort Dawnguard Reborn
  • Northfire's Castle Volkihar
  • CC Fort Dawnguard Reborn 4k
  • FranklyHD Dawngaurd Armor and Weapons
  • Clear Refracting Icicle and Frost Atronach
  • Serana Dialog Edit
  • (For characters, WICO)

Reverted Mods

Ones which caused too much grief with incompatibility:
  • Open Cities - it never quite worked and prevented others like JK Skyrim from working
  • EnhancedLightsandFX - early on I had so much mod conflicts that I just took it 
  • BirdsOfSkyrim - Deinstalled due to scripting issues. I liked seeing diverse birds, and the airborn birds are fantastic. But sometimes birds are floating inches off the ground or doing glitchy things killing immersion. Also left hundreds of unattached scripts that needed cleaning.
  • footprints - performance problems

I know plenty of people love and use the above mods but I just had so many issues with the rest of my mod list that I decided to go without.

Mods too GPU greedy:
  • Verdant - Altered Forest Grass -  I could see I'd want to take screenshots with these but the stutter makes VR nausea-inducing.  Maybe if I get my next gen GPU, save up that money for the RTX 2080ti.
  • ENB- I decided that I'd rather have higher SS at 200% with 4k textures rather than have ENB.
  • KS Hairdo's - I thought it was a performance killer but I had to massively prune my list when the build became unstable.

Rejected out of personal preference
  • Lanterns Of Skyrim - added too many lanterns throughout the realm making it unnaturally bright and killing immersion of the dark night
  • Total Character Makeover -TCO characters looked too video gamey and samey. WICO NPC makeovers just looked more natural and lore friendly.
  • Cathedral Plants - looked great in the flat images but in VR, did not look as natural as the other human made 4k plant textures.
  • Noble Skyrim 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

SkyrimVR Tourism

People lollygag in Skyrim for hundreds of hours for very different reasons. I made this list to figure out how to introduce friends to SkyrimVR in less than 2 hours to give them the highlights of Skyrim.
(Don't forget to toggle combat(tcai) for your tourist if they don't want to be constantly attacked.)

Cities Tour

Places anyone can go via fast travel or lore friendly carriage:
  • Markarth - nothing beats that epic dwemer fantasy feel of a visit to the westernmost corner of Skyrim after the rather humble Nord settlements.  Since this is a vertical city with a lot of staircase jumping- let visitors know they should move rather slowly or risk getting motion sick.  The interior buildings are a bit ho-hum so this is a city best enjoyed from the outside with the exception of  Nchuand-Zel Excavation Site accessible from Understone Keep.   Also don't be afraid to jump in the water to gather alchemy supplies (but don't let anyone queasy see the dead body in a cage). Also walking out of the city gates and heading north following the river is a pretty jaunt.  Note you may get attacked by the fierce Forsworn who at best have some cool looking skull laden gear to loot.  Warning, stone beds at the Silver-Blood Inn definitely are not that comfortable.  Dwemer Museum is a total let down.
  • Riften -  After the drab grey hues of Skyrim, the warm yellow aspens of Riften give you such a cosy feel of a  pretty fishing village.  Casual tourists need not be burdened with the dark side of Riften though the doings of the mead mafia family or the Thieves Guild in the Ratway may be of interest. Be careful tourists don't inadvertently enter Honorhall Orphanage if you didn't finish the Innocence Lost quest.   Honeyside is my first home base and favorite livable city despite it's seamy corrupt underside.  Riften skies at night is a special treat.  
  • Whiterun - I remember being quite impressed by the grand hall of Dragonsreach after emerging from the provincial backwaters of Helgen and Riverwood.  I first got the LOTR horse lords of Rohan vibe here from the architecture. Also one could get rid of Heimskr for a more peaceful visit. But the real charm of Whiterun is being insulted by Nazeem or Braith for which you only need to hang out in the markets.  No one does annoying NPCs better than Bethesda.   
I find Solitude and Windhelm rather uninteresting even with extensive mods. I parked the airship Dev Aveza behind the Blue Palace via Legacy of the Dragonborn that makes it somewhat worthwhile for a visit and a fantastic place to defend from a dragon attack.  Also as a Khajiit I find Windhelm's racist guards too tiresome.

Takes some work but open to fast travel after unlock:
  • Raven Rock- Access to the island of Solstheim is only available after starting the Dragonborn quest after fetching the Horn of the Jurgen Windcaller after meeting up with the Greybeards in High Hrothgar and then a randomly generated attack by cultists.  I don't play the main story line but I did just enough to unlock Solstheim.  Dunmer architecture is so weirdly different from rest of Skyrim, it feels like another planet.  Raven Rock is the most sci fi locale in Skyrim.  For some Solstheim may not be a refreshing visit due to the black vog constantly ejecting from the volcano and oppressive ashen landscape. A visit back to cool green wooded mountains such as those of Falkreath Hold surrounding Lake Ilinalta is recommended to offset the dry dusty feels of Solstheim.

Blackreach & Dwemer Ruins

Blackreach is undoubtedly the most fantastical hidden underground world in Skyrim.  The city of giant glowing mushrooms is a total head trip.  In hindsight I could have just materialized via console command, but I dutifully slogged through endless halls of mechanical spiders and creepy Falmer starting at Alfthand with a party of 3 followers to help me.  You have to first get the attunement sphere from Septimus Signus maker north of Winterhold.  Sadly by the time I finally reached Blackreach, I was way too tuckered out to appreciate it and had to go back the next day.

(Blackreach alone is rather vast to explore. When friends don't have time, the compact cavern of the mod Tel Nalta II gives a condensed flavor or Blackreach.)

The Wilds Tour

The real joy for me is to wander around Skyrim with my furry friend Meeko.  I have not been disappointed anytime I've randomly just chosen a spot on the map or just walk out from a city. The few locations of note:
  • Sulfurous Hot Springs of Eastmarch near dragon mount (near Darkwater Crossing/Kynareth)
  • Anywhere on the Rift
  • Throat of the World

Grottos/Open Caverns

Dungeons are a bit too claustrophobic for me and I prefer grottos or open caverns with trees in them.

The Houses Tour

The vanilla homes are rather ho-hum but these player home mods are worth showing off to friends:
  • Tel Nalta II - an entire mushroom village.  The Tower Cavern with a giant dwemer spider is a great place to start the tour
  • Shalidor's Staff - a portable home inside a magical staff
  • Antennaria 
  • Island Hobbit Home - for Tolkien fans
  • Windpath - Located overlooking a waterfall, you can hike up north to get to a troll cave.

SkyrimVR Grind vs Cheats

SkyrimVR is single player game existing purely for your enjoyment only so there is no need to slog through dungeons if that’s not your thing. More than in a pancake game,  it takes real physical energy to stab enemies in VR and there is so many times you want to pop off yet another draugr or wolf pack at the end of a hard workday.

If you want to just be an explorer/tourist without having to invest 100s of hours in combat and questing, here are some command line cheats I am not ashamed to use. Console command lines in Skyrim are definitely worth knowing not for bumping up play but to get out of bugs and glitches.  In VR, it's awkward to use the keyboard (~ to enter mode, shift-~ to exit) so I normally do this at the beginning of the game before I fully gear up.
  • tmm - unlock all map markers so you can fast travel anywhere.  You can more immersively ride a carriage but if you are the kind of person that doesn't mind knowing the plot before seeing a movie, tmm.  Skyrim still holds plenty of places to explore that are not marked or will be locked unless you complete a quest.
  • tcai - toggles combat so no one will attack you.  This setting is not sticky so you will have to reapply each time. Unfortunately the only mod I found to avoid combat is only for Playstation(Ring of Peace).  There are some unintended consequences of turning off combat: if you have followers and they encounter enemies, they will stay in place in a trance without attacking. But if you fast travel, they will join you again.  If an "attack" is part of a plot of a quest line like the Greymanes vs Battleborn where one of the Greymane bros attacks you when you enter his house, tcai will not change that. 
  • coc <locationRefId> - teleports you to a place. Useful if you can't find the map maker and also takes you to any named place in Skyrim. Note if you materialize in place which need a completed quest, you may be confronted or attacked on arrival.  I.e. I wanted to see the Dwemer Museum in Markarth but didn't want to bother with the quest. When I coc'ed into the museum, guards put a bounty on me so I had to off them just so I can have a look around in peach.  Was not worth... I had to pay the bounty once I tried to leave. Sad that the life of 3 guards only amounts to 100 septims in Skyrim.
  • player.additem f 100000 - give yourself some gold if you're tired of thieving and looting. But remember, like in the real world, money gets you only so far. If you find yourself in the wilds with a boatload of septims but an ornery troll chases you a hill, well SOL.
  • showracemenu - if you get tired of having picked the wrong race(Altmer not as fun as you thought eh, orsimer is where the action is), you can change your race and looks. Note this will fork your character file so the old one will still exist separately.
  • tim/tgm - immortal mode/god mode, I never use these because that would be no fun for me although now I question why I do so much work hoarding my stash everywhere instead of carrying everything everywhere...
The console commands can do almost anything- unlock shouts, spawn items, advance skill levels that sort of thing and you have to decide for yourself what cheats you want to use if any.  I for myself decided that the grind for gaining skills- archery, smithing, and enchanting was the fun part so I limited myself to opening up map markers and giving myself 500K.

Also- there's no shame in playing novice level if you are not into combat. There's plenty of time to  work up to be Legendary.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Updated 2018 Favorite Sweat Inducing HTC Vive VR Games

Two winters ago, I hit a VR hump as I was downloading games but none of them quite held my interest. Then I played the free version of Don't Mess Up where the tennis mini-game really was fun. So I looked up "tennis" keyword on Steam and happily stumbled on the concept that the Vive was really a gym replacement.  I've easily spent thousands on YMCA membership but I've never sweated so enjoyably in a virtual space.

Here are my top favorites for a workout:

0. Beat Saber
Install custom song mod, go to and download gangam style. Enough said. Note no matter how awesome you feel slashing your sabers around, every one looks totally dorky.

1. Plannes was my first true sweat inducing experience and left my whole body aching the next day. I played a few more hours and this opened my eyes as using VR for fitness. I am still stuck on defeating the last match of the last boss. I'm convinced it's not possible.

2. Holodance - OSU! free mode opens up the world of crazy beat maps.  Skip story mode.

3. SuperHot

4. Gorn - put in for my husband. If you can take the gore.

5. Racquet Fury- best of the ping pong genre with the best physics and AI bot.  (I've also got  Elven Ping Pong)
6. Fruit Ninja/KatanaX - buy it on sale

Other sweaty selections I rarely play:
  • RaquetballNX - the 360 racquetball used to be my favorite until they changed to an atrocious orange disco styling
  • Audioshield - it was fun 2 years ago to try if you are new to this genre but is a bit tepid compared to Holodance and Beat Saber
  • Selfie Tennis - it's fun for about 30 minutes.

Titles I've returned
  • Holopoint -not compelling enough given QuiVR and of course Skyrim archery.
  • In Death- while the game mechanic is innovative, moving via throwing shards or arrow just made me queasy.