In my early days, I would carelessly and indiscriminately add large batches of mods fobbed off someone's list without knowing exactly what they did and what the implications were going forward. One thing I didn't realize is that SkyrimVR is an LTR which means any modding sins will pop up sooner or later and give you days of debugging headaches or at worst force you to start a new playthrough.
For each mod I add, I try to figure out the impact if any on the following problem areas:
- Save file bloat including scripts, object counts
- Compatibility/Future Compatibility
- Creation Engine Limits
- Reference Handle Cap (see reddit post), this is the one that makes me the most paranoid
- Mod 255 Plugin limit
- Animation Limit
Practice #1 Add only a few new mods per play session
Practice #2 Compare Performance Against Last Known Baseline and non Modded Baselines
In VR, a gamer's tolerance can vary but I can get sick or worse lose immersion around 60fps. First is capturing your baseline without mods and then understanding where the bottlenecks can occur and what your fallback solutions are. For me, I know it's the CPU not GPU that is problematic. (For GPU, I can always take out 4K/8K textures and reduce SS. But still I keep an eye out for GPU/VRAM usage always wanting to be around 80% or less)
I have an i9-9900K that is barely being used so it's not lack of processing power but creaky creation engine limitations when CPU frames take too long. The CPU frame needs to take less than 11ms(for 90fps) and on a completely clean vanilla game, my CPU frames take ~4ms. Let's just say mod greed on my part took it to ~14ms but I'm back to 6-7ms.
The first thing I do after installing mods is to check current fps and make sure I leave headroom gpu, vram/cpu still left for future. Using fpsviewer, I will do a performance test by traveling to known performance problem areas of Riften, Whiterun, and open cities like Falkreath.
One of the tricky problems with modding Skyrim is that it's not always one specific sandbag. Sometimes there is death by a thousand paper cuts and also unexpected interactions between unrelated mods.
For instance, this isn't 100% confirmed but I've read on reddit that Footprints and Wet and Cold can be problematic when you have a large number of extra NPCs which very likely added to my cpu frame slowdown. My new load order still includes all the NPC mods but doesn't include Footprints/Wet and Cold and I don't have performance problems so I will be leaving them out for the future. I love having more NPCs than footprints.
Practice #3 Monitor Save File, Check Unreferenced Scripts and Objects, Counts
At the end of a playthrough, I check the save file size compared to the previous mod load order, then open up the file in fallrim tools and check
- Existence of unreferenced scripts and objects. If they exist, I will delete them and the rerun the game on the clean save. Sometimes I'm lazy and will do this the first thing the next play session.
- Birds of Skyrim really left a lot of junk scripts around so I uninstalled.
- Placeable Statics added an ungodly number of scripts almost for every container. But I was really OCD about removing clutter around my Hearthfire homes and the mod outlined steps for uninstalling...
Practice #4 Research Mod Deinstallability/Compatibility/Future Compatibility
Practice #5 Play Large Quest Mods on a Separate Vortex Profile and Save.
The only two big quest mods I do keep in my main load list are
- Legacy of the Dragonborn (I will not be starting over for 5.0) - Not only because LotD gives your hoarding purpose but I loved having Dev Aveza docked in Solitude
- Clockwork - the house is too amazing and I worked to hard to get it...
Still here, treat yourself to my mod video.