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Relative performance impact of different types of mods


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Hey guys,

I've been working on modding Skyrim "AE" over the past couple of weeks for my YouTube channel. I wanted to ask a general question and get your impressions. I have a very fast processor but am stuck with a GTX 1660 (6GB) video card with the current shortage. I play in 1080p.

I'm wondering what the relative performance impact of different types mods is:

  • High-res textures (I usually aim for 2K, not 4K)
  • Using an ENB
  • Adding ENB light sources
  • Spell effects and other similar eye candy
  • Interior lighting and weather mods
  • Weather mods (including rain and fog)
  • LODs
  • Tree and grass mods

My current load order (Re-Engaged ENB, Noble Skyrim/Skyrim 2019 plus tons of 2K texture replacers, Relighting Skyrim, Windows Shadows) is taxing my video card at 100% and I'm trying to figure out what I can scale back to get maximum quality graphics but a little bit better performance. I'm still getting 40-60FPS most of the time so the game is entirely playable but I'm at the limit for sure.

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In order of performance impact...

1. ENB (very high - try using a lighter ENB)

2. Tree mods (can be very high depending on the mod)

  • You can sometimes improve performance by setting fTreesMidLODSwitchDist=8192 in SkyrimPrefs.ini under [Display]. This depends if the mod was built to utilize this engine feature.

3. LODs

  • This can be tweaked with DynDOLOD.
  • Using Billboard4 instead of Level0 for trees can net you a significant performance boost, and they still look great.
  • Grass LOD, if used, can have its density lowered without too much loss of distant detail. I personally don't mind setting this as low as 35.

4. Grass mods (depends on the mod)

5. Shadow resolution (Setting iShadowMapResolution higher than 2048 can cause significant performance penalty. Lowering to 1024 can improve performance significantly)

6. ENB Lights (typically only when a bunch of them are on screen, like if there are a whole bunch of candles or similar)

7. High-res textures (typically not as much of a problem, but if you are reaching your VRAM limits, this can certainly help)

The rest of these items I don't really associate too much with performance issues. Weather and lighting mods typically don't hit performance very hard.

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39 minutes ago, robmtl said:

Hey guys,

I've been working on modding Skyrim "AE" over the past couple of weeks for my YouTube channel. I wanted to ask a general question and get your impressions. I have a very fast processor but am stuck with a GTX 1660 (6GB) video card with the current shortage. I play in 1080p.

I'm wondering what the relative performance impact of different types mods is:

My current load order (Re-Engaged ENB, Noble Skyrim/Skyrim 2019 plus tons of 2K texture replacers, Relighting Skyrim, Windows Shadows) is taxing my video card at 100% and I'm trying to figure out what I can scale back to get maximum quality graphics but a little bit better performance. I'm still getting 40-60FPS most of the time so the game is entirely playable but I'm at the limit for sure.

From my own XP and what I think I know:

  • High-res textures (I usually aim for 2K, not 4K) - increasing texture res costs in terms of VRAM and memory management rather than FPS in my XP (which really should not be impacted)
  • Using an ENB - small to major cost in FPS (and possibly VRAM), depending on the settings used (look at the main "Effect" toggles ... these are the main features that dictate what ENB features are enabled. Some cost a lot while others cost very little.
  • Adding ENB light sources - small to major cost in FPS as previous
  • Spell effects and other similar eye candy - Mostly GPU dependent, but CPU can also limit. I would expect mostly FPS drops like ENB, resulting in lag.
  • Interior lighting and weather mods - I don't expect this will have much impact outside of some increased VRAM usage
  • Weather mods (including rain and fog) - Same as previous, but rain and fog can depend on how it's implemented and density, but I honestly don't know if either taxes the GPU much without ENB (with ENB is another matter though, see previous)
  • LODs - Can have small to major FPS hit (3D LOD models) and VRAM hit (3D LOD models and texture billboards)
  • Tree and grass mods - Same as previous (using "Level" vs  "Billboard" in mesh rules has a dramatic impact to FPS hit)

The best ways to keep your GPU happy and run and 50+ FPS is to:

  • Use sensible LODGen tactics and mesh rules for DynDOLOD (high setting is fine, but ensure tree rule is LOD4: [Level0|Billboard4], LOD8: Billboard4, LOD16: Billboard)
  • Be selective for ENB Effects toggles (test impact of each independently using Shift + Enter or toggle (Shift + F12)
  • use 2K max textures (for big stuff) and 1K max textures (small stuff)
  • Keep uGrids at 5 and defaults for DynDOLOD grids/texture resolutions
  • Avoid script intensive mods and mods known to be taxing in terms of scripted events.
  • Reduce screen resolution (but 1080p should be fine)
  • Optimize your display settings
  • Consider SSE FPS Stabilizer for dynamic, on-demand LOD (and other INI settings) adjustments

VRAM really isn't much of a limiting factor if you have at least 4 Gb in my XP ... it's more about memory management and drivers ... and having a 64-bit system with ≥ 8 Gb system RAM)

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Z gave a much more rounded answer. I would just quickly say Re-Engaged ENB is probably your biggest issue. You can turn off settings in the enbseries.ini to gain some performance back. Other than that, trees and their LODs are probably the next most expensive thing on performance followed by grass. For example you can gain performance by simply using Billboards4 (I think that's the one with an extra plane of branches over standard LOD) in DynDOLOD rather than 3D trees to gain some performance without much drop in quality.

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Thanks for these answers, guys!

I will probably consider tweaking the ENB for sure. I've already turned off bloom and blur effects (because I don't like either at all) but may look into other tweaks there. The most important thing for me is that there be a nice, sharp contrast of shadows and lights with a colour tone that is neither too washed out (I just don't like the way Skyrim looks without an ENB) nor too saturated.

I having actually generated LODs yet as I was waiting to see what mods I wanted to use.

What I'd like to do is scale back the ENB a bit (as well as tweak some graphics settings) and then go for these textures. Trying to see if I can trade a bit of ENB quality for texture quality.

At least until I can pick up an RTX 3080 for less than $1000 lol (so until 2025).

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