Guide:Skyrim Launcher

From Step Mods | Change The Game


This is an ancillary guide to the official STEP Guide created to reduce the length of that guide. Users reading this are likely the tinkering type or are interested in more detail around configuring Skyrim in order to increase quality or performance, but this guide is not an essential component of a successful STEP installation. It is currently suggested to use SkyrimLE:BethINI rather than following this guide.

Suggest first reading: Skyrim Installation Guide

Skyrim Launcher Options

An initial set of graphic settings is selected when Skyrim is first launched. The settings recommended by the launcher (low, medium, high, or ultra) are typically fairly conservative, and many systems can use higher quality settings than the ones recommended by the launcher. For the Recommended hardware system and even some with 1Gb VRAM, the ultra settings can be selected initially and then some of the individual quality settings can be set to lower values if needed. For systems lesser than the recommended system (as indicated in the STEP Guide), consider using the recommended configuration or one step higher as a baseline before continuing with the tweaks outlined below. The following assume the "recommended system".

  1. Launch Skyrim from Steam and, if a menu is displayed, click on {ui|Options}}. This will establish the INI file configurations according to the detected hardware. It will also establish the registry entries necessary for utilities and applications used downstream. The launcher will display a message that "Skyrim will now detect your video hardware and set video options accordingly.", and when finished displays a message "Video Settings have been set for <low, medium, high, or ultra> Quality".
  2. Verify the monitor resolution (use the max supported by the monitor, but this can be decreased later for increased performance).
  3. Under Antialiasing, select [4 Samples], as the difference between 4 Samples and 8 Samples is very subtle and not worth the performance loss. Drop down to 2 samples as a last-resort to improve performance.
  4. Under Anisotropic Filtering, select [16 Samples] (use 8 Samples for a very slight performance gain).
  5. Click the [Advanced] button and make sure [FXAA] is UN-checked. FXAA reduces the Anisotropic Filter effect as well as overall texture detail. It is a huge performance improvement over AA, but comes with a quality cost. For more information on FXAA, and to see if it is right for you, see this post. Note that SMAA is a superior alternative to FXAA.
    • Set all comboboxes to either 'High' or 'Ultra' (consider lower settings later for increased performance).
    • Check all boxes under 'Water' (consider unchecking later for increased performance).
    • Under View Distance tab, make sure [Object Detail Fade] is UN-checked and adjust grass to maximum with all other settings approximately half of maximum.
  6. Exit and click [Play] from the Skyrim Launcher. This will create the necessary configuration files, and registry settings required by downstream applications (contrary to popular belief, the INI files are created immediately, and the game does not need to launch).

The launcher dialog can be initialized again later after the initial setup, but doing so erases any other changes that have been made to Skyrim.ini and SkyrimPrefs.ini (Note that Mod Organizer 'protects' these configuration files within its own profiles). The individual video values set by the launcher can also be edited using an editor such as Notepad++ with the configuration files (Skyrim.ini and SkyrimPrefs.ini) or by using tools such as the Skyrim Configurator and even SkyrimLE:Wrye Bash and SkyrimLE:Mod Organizer INI editors.