UPDATED NOV. 2, 2014
WELCOME! To my lovely little post on various things that can contribute to the perfect storm of stuff that might KILL your game. (Kill it dead.) (Splat.) aka "Most Commonly Addressed Issues for ETaC" aka "Stuff Jenna Says Entirely Too Often For Her Sanity." Feel free to jump to whatever you think is relevant to you:
#01 BACKGROUND TASKS
#02 CTDs / MEMORY / FOREVER LOAD
#03 LOAD ORDER AND CONFLICTS
#04 MODS & YOUR SAVED GAMES
#05 CLEAN INSTALL
Ok, so. I love you guys, I really do. BUT! Ever since I made the mistake of mentioning "load order" on yonder comments thread I have been inundated with people's mod lists... and I don't even mean people who are USING this mod - I'm getting emails from random strangers who think this mod TOTALLY SUCKS, but HEY! Maybe I can help them out a bit?! ...I can't! Really, I have no idea what I'm doing. I am NOT an expert on the subject. I might SEEM capable, but seriously. No. However! I KNOW people who are, and who do! Know stuff that is. SO! In light of the recent hostile take-over, I have decided to pool this information into one neat and tidy little spot, because I am just incredibly good to you like that.
Here we go...
One un-mod related thing to try before setting off on this great endeavor is... Killing background processes.
What I would suggest, once you've opened your task manager, is to sort by user. Do NOT touch anything not being run by you (sometimes you are called "admin" or "default" if you are boring and unnamed). Meaning leave things being run under "System" alone. ALSO! Do NOT kill "Windows Explorer" (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) or .dll files. Particularly if you don't know what they do. Actually, don't disable ANYTHING that you don't know what it does. Some of these files your OS needs and cutting them will cause it to poop itself. Not good.
Now, anything running in the background can cause a crash. Especially a program that likes to call home. (i.e. an antivirus or instant messaging program, etc.) Start by disabling everything that accesses the internet when you play. (Except, obviously, Steam.)
Next, try to take out programs using an auto update feature (Printers, Java, iTunes, Adobe, etc.) Some of these will even try to connect when the internet is disabled, and keep trying every ten minutes or so.
Then look at the rest of the programs that run in the background, they are stealing time from the game and if they don't give control back quick enough - crash. HP has a bunch of these "media center", "DVD launcher", "On-Screen Display", "Messenger Service" - The HP Media Launcher is actually VERY taxing, and tends to get stuck in load sucking up your resources. So let's take those out too!
After you have cut down the crashes caused by external stuff, we can move onto...
Let's start with some things you should know with regard to memory issues (Infinite Loading Screens - ILS; and/or Crash to Desktop - CTD) and how Skyrim handles them.
Beginning with - Skyrim's "Memory Cap" a/k/a the Large Address Aware Patch. I give you bben46...
No matter how much ram you have, Skyrim is still a 32 bit program and can only use a maximum of 4GB of that ram. This is not something that you can fix. Running a 64 bit system just allows the Windows and other background stuff to load outside of the 4GB maximum used by the game. Even with a 64 bit Windows, if you have 4GB of ram or less, you will not be able to use all of it for the game. If you have a 32 bit system then the system itself is limited to 4GB max, and part of that will be used by windows and background programs. - Again, nothing you can fix. Even if you have a million dollar supercomputer with 256 Gigs of ram - Skyrim is still limited to 4GB ram max. And when those 4GBs are used up - you will crash.
Essentially, when the RAM is used up, there is nowhere to put the new data. This is most often seen when you load a new area, go through a door, or autosave. As these actions temporarily take a lot more memory than you were using just before the crash. And yes, this memory ceiling can even be hit due to the textures you are using... (See "Textures" Section below.)
BUT worry not! There is help for you. (Per Arthmoor)...
In March of 2013, Bethesda released their final patch for Skyrim. Version 188.8.131.52.8. It has since been found [that this patch] changed something about the way Skyrim allocates its initial pools of memory, likely due to trying to get the DLC to work on the PS3 and then not bothering to make sure the PC had, you know, PC specific code for that.
The end result is ILS/CTD issues. Fortunately, the community has devised a solution to this problem in the form of a pre-load memory patch. There are several options for these now, but the one I most strongly recommend is shipping as part of SKSE now beginning with SKSE 1.7. In order to configure SKSE 1.7 to resolve this problem, you simply need to make sure your skse.ini file in Data/SKSE contains at least the following lines:
This should resolve the problem on all but the heaviest of load orders. If you still have issues, then you can try either raising the 768 value to 1024, or install ENBoost which will help further reconfigure how RAM is used by the game. There are limits to this, so be careful. [As said above] Skyrim can [still] only have a maximum of 4GB even on a 64 bit system with boatloads of RAM. Allocate too much to either of the two SKSE settings and you'll be right back where you started with the ILS/CTD problem.
Also, per siuan, in re; crashes from Helgen to Riverwood (And Please Note --- This information is not limited to crashes in that specific area, and will help you if you are experiencing crashes in ANY area. Riverwood was just the area that was being discussed at the time)...
The problem ... may have been finally figured out on the enbdev forums. Basically, as you go from Helgen to Riverwood, you are actually stepping on the borders of 3-4 cells in several places, which means that if Skyrim is not allocating memory properly (which it turns out not to be, in this instance), as you go from cell to cell so rapidly, you'll CTD. The reason you are seeing what you're seeing is that ETaC is fairly memory intensive (both VRAM and RAM), so naturally it might persist even when everything else is gone. To read more about it, you can look here.
I can also recommend using Stable uGridsToLoad, regardless of whether or not you're using high ugrids, and ENBoost, regardless of whether or not you're using an ENB. SKSE, ENBoost, and uGridsToLoad are the trifecta of having a game that runs smoothly.
HERE ARE YOUR LINKS:
#1: SKSE by the SKSE Team;
#2: CTD and Memory Patch ENBoost by Boris Vorontsov; and,
#3: uGridsToLoad by Altimor.
Lastly, an update from siuan with regard to SKSE/SSME:
SKSE has included Sheson's Memory Fix in a non-alpha version (though the alpha was perfectly stable) for a long time now, and people should be using the latest SKSE always. Many mods require it, as they added a lot of new scripting functionality. (I keep up with that thread most of the time.) If I think of anything else, I'll let you know, but as far as game stability goes, I think those are the new developments that took place in your absence. And I can say they work, since I am a screenshotter and never run anything in less than 2160p with a ludicrous amount of textures and mods.
As mentioned above, HD textures, ENBs, or even your default graphics settings can also soak up your memory, and quick-like. I, personally, don't recommend using any textures above 1-2k (if you're on a lower end system, stick to 1k.) Especially when you're using A LOT of them. If you have 2039482084 things now loading 4k high-res textures it's going to make Skyrim's game engine weep, and crash and set fire to your living room. AND! As a general rule, (not just in relation to this mod), try to be careful about how many textures and of what kind you install. (Meaning beyond just armor, items and a few landscapes here or there.) Try not to grab up an insane and unreasonable amount of high res LOD, grasses, rocks, mountains etc. and so on - aka things that would start to pile up in an exterior cell.
What I'm trying to say is... If you come to me and say you're game is crashing, and I ask what kind of textures you've got installed and it's a million different 4k texture packs... I'm going to hurt you. With my teeth. And refuse to help you. Because you're beyond saving. Nobody needs 4k textures. You'll never ever even be able to tell the difference in game you crazy crazy lunatic, you.
Also. Grass. If someone is experiencing a big FPS drop in exterior cells, one of the first things I always recommend is to drop the "Grass Loading Distance" from far to medium. See, grass isn't just "stuff" it's "moving stuff" and there is A LOT OF IT. All over Skyrim. This is especially problematic if you are using high-res grass textures. I shall now direct you to a quote from siuan...
Grass can be a huge culprit for low FPS. There are some ways to avoid the FPS drop and still have good grass. [In some cases] if you uncheck the .esp for certain texture mods, it just becomes a texture replacer. [This is true of both SFO and Lush Grass and Tress] -- I just use the meshes. My grass mod of choice is Dat Grass, WHICH SHOULD NOT BE YOURS IF YOU HAVE LOW FPS!
ENBs also put added strain on processing, so my suggestion there is just to try and tweak the settings a bit, or Skyrim's default settings if you're not using one. (i.e. set load distances to medium vs. far; set ENB graphics to medium vs. high - in a lot of cases the difference in quality is barely noticeable while the difference in performance is huge.)
Let's take a moment to talk about scripts. Beginning with mods that add scripts to NPCs and mods that add NPCs...
Now when you use a mod that affixes scripts to NPCs, (i.e. Footprints, Enhance Blood, Run For Your Lives, etc.) it affixes them to ALL NPCs, even new ones added by things like ETaC. So when you walk into a large town, like let's say Dawnstar, you get an influx of tons of scripts running on tons of NPCs and sometimes HELLO! You're magically planted back at the desktop. (Additionally, if you then add on something like Interesting NPCs, or the Immersive NPCs packs, (even MORE people, even more scripts, so on.)
Now I'm not saying you can't use all those mods together, you can, I'm just saying sometimes this makes things crashy. I shall now direct you to another quote from siuan...
a lot of scripts can pile up, and this can be bad, but not all scripted mods are bad, either. Footprints is constant and I don't believe it's a huge problem by itself, but that on top of everything else can be a mess. I know for a fact that Enhanced Blood Textures has caused problems.
However, a CTD after approximately the same amount of time can very well be a script spamming over and over, and, believe it or not, it can be a vanilla one, that is probably led astray by who knows what. (There is a notorious bard who is part of the DB questline who can cause CTDs if you don't "get rid" of him.)
AND DO NOT DO ANYTHING WITH PAPYRUS EXCEPT LOGGING BECAUSE YOUR COMPUTER WILL EXPLODE, YOUR HOUSE WILL BURN DOWN, AND THEN THE EARTH WILL COLLAPSE INTO A SINGULARITY, CAUSING A GIANT VORTEX THAT SUCKS IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.
With script spamming - This is one case in which logging can help. If you end up with an enormous log file where one script goes over and over, that could be your culprit. (Which doesn't make it easy to solve, unfortunately.) You might also want to open your mod packages to see if there are scripts in there you don't know about, and bye-bye birdie, for sure.
It should also be noted that the SKSE.ini tweak (ClearInvalidRegistrations=1) is good, but it only clears up a certain kind of script.
See Arthmoor's responses HERE.
In sum, just try and be selective about what you're installing and what it does. If you've got 10 different mods all adding NPCs to towns, and then 10 different mods all adding scripts to those NPCs, this could definitely become problematic for you.
Things like BOSS or Loot are good - Great even. Particularly for people who are not well versed in the intricacies of "load order". BUT! Sadly, sometimes human intervention is still necessary. If you've made the decision to run a thousand mods (like the rest of us) then YOU are the one responsible for policing it. AND YES! This is a giant pain in your ass. It's a giant pain my ass too. It's a giant pain in all asses everywhere... but it's important.
In sum, treat BOSS/Loot more as a guide - run it once to get all your mods into a loose order, and then go through and re-arrange.
What I personally do, along with some others, and have been successful with so far (fingers crossed) is use a kindergarten approach to load order and try and "group" my mods. Meaning that similar mods are all going together. (More on this shortly, but first...)
I give you Edeldios:
After doing a lot of mod testing over the last few months, I've discovered that most "bugs" are caused by either load order issues or incompatible mods. There seem to be 3 mods in particular that are affected more than others by load order issues and in different ways.
1. Alternate Start - Live Another Life by Arthmoor: The innkeeper in Dragon Bridge won't talk to you for the quest that will link you to what happened in Helgen.
2. Epic Gameplay Overhaul by Apollodawn: Scripts will get scrambled and your game will implode by level 30 or 40. Especially if you use Civil War Overhaul.
3. Expanded towns and Cities: Added vendors won't sell, and you may get weird mesh issues in various places.
Keep in mind that all of these issues are a direct result of improper load order. So after extensive research I figured I'd share a few tips and tricks to help anyone experiencing problems like I did.
First: Hitting the sort button on either Boss or LOOT will not finish the job, you still need to manually move some of your plugins to make things work correctly. ALWAYS make sure to follow the mod author's instructions on where to place the plugin in relation to other mod's plugins!
Second: Load order becomes more important the more mods you have in your game!
150 Plugins or Less: Hit sort and your game should be ok for the most part,
just make sure to follow load order instructions by authors.
150-200 Plugins: You are in the caution zone, you will definitely have to move
a few plugins yourself, but you may be able to get by without it. It's a risk!
200-255 (a/k/a Max) Plugins: You are in the red and are going to have to carefully move
all plugins in your load order so your game won't explode.
Third: Ysolda is your mod-mine-canary. If she doesn't give you the Mammoth Tusk Quest - your load order needs attention!
Finally: After you run sort in BOSS/LOOT, here's a general guide for getting your plugins in the right order:
#01: Your ESM Files;
#02: Bug-Fix type Mods;
#03: Game Structure and/or UI Mods:
#04: Character Appearance Mods (For NPCs and Self);
#05: Mods that Add and/or Change Locations; *
#06: Mods that Add and/or Change Items;
#07: Mods that Add NPCs;
#08: Texture Mods;
#09: Environmental Mods (things like Climates of Tamriel, Sounds of Skyrim, etc.);
#10: Mods with Gameplay Changes; Then,
#11: Reproccers, AV, and Bashed Patches.
* Note: Some follower mods do add new locations. For example, the Arissa mod adds a new cave as part of her quest line. In cases like this, Arissa, and any follower mod that adds a new location, would be placed in your load order along with anything that adds or changes a location, and NOT with mods that add NPCs.
Even after following these guidelines you still need to make sure that you properly follow plugin placement rules as outlined by the mod author.
Hope this is helpful to anyone experiencing issues with ETaC!
Note: If using it, very few mods should ever be loaded after your Bashed Patch. There are SOME exceptions, but those mods will likely tell you that upfront.
Generally speaking, all of your "fix" type mods (like HD texture pack fixes, or Unofficial patches) you want at the very tippy-top. Most other mods tend to fix things as they see them (this mod included), so you want these overwritten where necessary. Your load order is essentially just to determine a hierarchy in conflicts. In the case of ETaC... well it adds a lot of "stuff" but it really doesn't make any script, quest, companion, environmental, etc. changes. So usually you'll want to load things making those sorts of changes AFTER, but things making other environment changes BEFORE. Since things going down the list are technically, sort of, overwriting the things above it.
AND, as mentioned above, when in doubt - ask the mod authors. They'll know better than anybody else where their mod needs to be placed in relation to other mods to be able to function properly and with minimal conflicts.
Conflicts can be tricky. Very big, very bad, conflicts will be pretty much immediately obvious. But there are a lot of other kinds of conflicts that can be sneakier, and far harder to pick up on right away.
The first thing I would suggest is to re-check your mod list for anything that jumps out at you. Make sure that you aren't running any mods together that are essentially doing the same thing.
The second type of conflict is a little harder to spot, and also resolve. These are the "unintended conflicts" (aka "dirty edits"). This type of conflict can exist between two mods that seemingly have nothing in common. They can result in anything as massively infuriating as CTDs, or as minor-ly annoying as objects appearing out of place. A *wee* bit of copy+paste-ing can go a long way towards all kinds of weirdness, particularly if the mod creator isn't careful. Now, I'm not trying to come down on other modders - I know It's tough to catch. It's easy to "bump" an object in the CK (making the CK mark this object as "changed") without realizing it. But copy+paste is dirty process that can wreak all kinds of havoc. If the CK thinks the object is "changed" it will cause the containing mod to overwrite with changes that were not necessarily meant to be made.
"Player House" mods are a particularly notorious source of this, mostly due to that they're a common endeavor for newbie modders - They're quick, they're easy, and they allow you to get a feel for the CK in a small controlled environment. Newbie modders, however, are rarely mindful of copy+paste conflicts, and tend to do A LOT of accidental bumping of random objects. It's not their fault really. It tends to be a lesson you have to learn the hard way because most of the time you don't even know that you've done it, and if you aren't aware that it could cause a problem, you wouldn't think to check for it.
(Dear People: This is NOT to say that ALL player house mods will have this problem. I myself have used several player house mods all of which were 100% fine. It's just something to keep in mind.)
You can't always tell what mods might be messing with what. I realize this is a nightmare for you, so my suggestion, provided you know at least sort of what you are doing, is to clean your mods with TES5Edit or check them for conflicts with your existing mods, before installing them. (I will not explain how to do this here, as others have already written up extensive tutorials on the subject -- consult the Google Oracle.) If you do not entirely know what you are doing, I recommend going to the mod's creator and asking THEM to clean their mods. Try to do so in a way that doesn't sound like a vicious accusation (ala "you suck, your mod sucks, you smell like tire that mated with wet dog and spread pestilence and evil wherever you go, I hope your whole family dies in a fire." -- So in a way not at all like that), and I'm sure they'll more than happy to oblige.
Otherwise, the alternative would be to try to eliminate problem mods ala going through your mod list in halfsies until you track the rogue file down.
Loading a mod is not as simple as you might think. Mods often overwrite and make changes to all kinds of files. When you uninstall or "un-check" a mod from the active load, although the mod itself does not execute, the changes its made still do. Even a single, poorly written mod can be devastating to Skyrim's already unstable environment. The more and more mods you load, particularly mods that were not carefully scrutinized prior to release may be bringing you closer and closer to the brink. Orphan code or redundant code can really start to nudge your game into a crashing or become a more unstable environment. This can cause random crashes, game corruption or bloated save game files. Many mods break vanilla quests by overwriting various aspects of them, or by removing the ability for quest to be activated, triggered, or to be completed at certain stages.
My point is that there is a good chance all that there is a whole bunch of junk still lurking about in your save. Particularly if you've ever run a mod with any new or edited scripts. You can de-active the mod, you can delete the scripts, but if not properly executed, the scripts will keep on keeping on. Waiting to attack, when you least expect it. (There is a way to investigate this also, and I will again direct you to my friend "Google" as the process involves making changes to your .ini file - ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP). Essentially, YOU might forget about the mod the second it's deleted, but your SAVE remembers.
A reliable mod of yesterday is not always reliable today. This is even true for this mod, I'm certainly not trying to set myself apart. It's been a long and bumpy road to get here, nonoodles can tell you I have broken many a persons' game, many a time. With all the game updates and availability more massive and immersive mods, getting everything to run smoothly has really become more of an art than a science.
If I could bestow anything upon you, it would be the importance of making a clean, mod-free save. Things (especially scripts) have a way of cementing into your save games. When you start un-installing mods, you leave little seeds of despair that grow up to be full blown pains in the backside.
A fresh load, with saves along the way, will be a far cleaner environment to set a good mod foundation on.
And should your save be a hot-mess of scripty grossness...
For this, I give you siuan...
[Save Game Script Cleaner] is an actual save cleaner, with the Arthmoor seal of approval on it. Basically it will remove all orphaned scripts from a save, from when you uninstall a scripted mod and then save the game, and it's very easy to use. It will also get rid of renegade vanilla scripts, which is a good thing, since the Miraak boss battle script occasionally crashes my game. (Thank you, Dragonborn, for bugging out on me.) It has a lot of other features, but a lot of those are best left to people who Know More Stuff.
Here is your link: Save Game Script Cleaner by Hadoram.
Nobody wants to have to do this. I don't blame them. I wouldn't want to have to do this either. But sometimes, there's just really nothing left to do but THE DREADED CLEAN INSTALL. I'm not really going to explain to you HOW to do a clean install - my assumption is that you are already aware, or if not, are most definitely in possession of Google (hint: I can tell, because you are reading this).
All I can really tell you, if you've found yourself in this particular boat is, after your clean install: BACK UP YOUR .INI FILE. Seriously. Do that.
Once you've got your game cleanly reinstalled, try reintroducing your mods selectively. This should help narrow down any problems that you might have with what you're running.
Honestly, even if you have no desire to continuing using THIS mod in particular, I will still highly recommend checking some of this stuff out. If you're getting CTDs now, it's safe to assume you're just going to get them from something else later. Where Skyrim is concerned, it often takes a bit of finagling to get everything running properly especially when you start introducing large mods, such as this, or others like it, into the mix.
Should you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to post below, OR! You can come find me, personally, over at ETaC. I'm totally fine with you guys posting there even about things that don't relate to the mod specifically, or PM if that's easier. I'm just really bad at remembering to check in on these forums lol.