Fallout and HDR
Last night when I got home I continued down the dark journey of messing about with Fallout 3 mods and trying to achieve that look I had seen in many screenshots. As of last night I had gotten a “better” looking experience but I wasn’t quite there. It seems like the thing I was missing was one of the many post processing shader injection tools out there. Apparently to get the best possible appearance you need to actually tag team them and use both SweetFX that seems to work with damned near any game, and one called ENB that seems to work with a much smaller subset of games. The above shot was pretty much my first test after turning both on and going with pretty much the stock settings. It is okay but feels a little technicolor, and the sky still seems to be a grey mess.
After trying a few more presets I settled on this one because it feels far more realistic. It is insane to see this game in action with all the shaders running. I am not sure if I can actually record footage and have it capture it in full glory since the screenshots come out a bit darker than it feels on screen. I might do some tests tonight with streaming some gameplay to see if it translates well. For those who are curious I am going to attempt to rattle off the mods that I am using to achieve the look and feel. It is pretty damned impressive that a game from 2008 feels so cool to play. Granted I need to do all the same things to see if I can get a version of Fallout New Vegas that runs this cool, because that game has far more bells and whistles available than Fallout 3.
The Mods Used
When someone posts their spiffy pictures of a modded up Fallout or Skyrim… they never seem to post the absolute list of what they used to get there. It is almost like the special sauce at your favorite restaurant that no one quite wants to give away the trade secret to. It annoys the hell out of me so as I dabbled into modded games I plan to do a complete list with links if they are available to exactly what I am using to get the effects. Here is the total rundown of everything I am using… and compared to a lot of the listings I have seen… this one is fairly spartan. Namely because I am only using graphical mods and none of the various game enhancement ones other than the unofficial patch which ultimately just fixes a bunch of bugs left in the final release of the game.
- F3 Project Reality MK1
- Flora Overhaul
- Enhanced Night Sky
- NMC Texture Pack – Maximum version
- Pure Water
- Realistic Interior Lighting
- Unofficial Fallout 3 Patch
- Sweet FX
- The ENB of the Apocalypse presets
The only puzzle that still has yet to be solved is that I cannot figure out why I am not seeing the brilliant skies that I have seen in some screenshots. I feel like maybe this is just a problem with the area surrounding Megaton, and as I have not really ventured out further I am not sure if the sky clears up significantly out there. I am pretty happy with the results of this combination of mods and post filtering however. While I enjoy my consoles, this is the reason why PC gaming will always ultimately be superior in the long run. I’ve taken one of my favorite games that just happens to be over six years old… and brought it up to something modern feeling. You just can’t do that with a console game, ultimately because you have to wait for the company to do it… and not the army of dedicated fans.
SweetFX and ESO
The cool thing about SweetFX is like I said before it works with damned near any piece of software. Since you can use a third party software called Radeon Pro to “Inject” it into your video drivers… you can make it work without any actual modification to the original game files. In spite of the name, Radeon Pro works perfectly well with Nvidia cards and I am running it with my 750 ti 2 gig card without issue. This is awesome because it means you can apply it to things like MMOs with some fairly anti-modding terms of service. All you are doing is basically wedging some extra shader work into the rendering pipeline between the game itself and your video drivers. So after some fiddling I found a preset that I liked and am up and running with SweetFX in Elder Scrolls Online. There is talk that you can use one of the versions of ENB designed to work with Skyrim to process the graphics even further, but I have not had the chance to test that out.
So far I am pretty happy with the results… there are times when especially where flame is concerned that some of the lighting gets a bit trippy. But overall I am enjoying running around in a post processing world. The big thing that changes is that the world feels more realistic to me, with far better lighting and shading. The impressive thing is that I really see no noticeable hit to my framerate. In fact it might actually have improved it since I have completely turned off all anti-aliasing because SweetFX is ultimately taking care of that now. I am guessing their processing routines are a bit more efficient than the standard ones that the games seem to use. One of these days I am going to try the trick of running at 1440p and scaling the viewport down to 1080p instead of actually using post processing, but I have not gotten around to trying it yet.
Depths of Madness
When I was not fiddling with graphical settings… which in truth ended up to be most of the night. You can ask PKdude, but I was popping on and offline for damned near all of the night trying out various settings. When I finally got around to questing I completed one of my favorite Auridon quest chains called Depths of Madness. What is cool about it is that you are essentially trying to free three people that are trapped in dimensional sub pockets that have them bound by fear, rage, lust etc. Each one is a little mini adventure that you complete to free the spirit so they can move on. I guess to some extent the quest sequence reminds me quite a bit of the whole madness of king pellagius quest chain from Skyrim. It happens in a super secluded are of the map called Glister Vale and the first few times I played the Auridon content I didn’t actually find it.
I feel like maybe the time away from the game has helped my enjoyment, because the last few nights I have been running around in Elder Scrolls Online I have really enjoyed myself. I am not sure if I am ready to return to group content again, but I am definitely enjoying the slow pace of poking my way through the veteran levels. They still feel super grindy mind you, but so long as I focus on completing quests and not leveling I seem to be doing just fine. As silly as it sounds, I am really enjoying seeing the game with the SweetFX shaders. There are times where Elder Scrolls Online felt a little technicolor for my tastes and this version feels a bit more realistic and gritty. Fallout and Elder Scrolls in general have both been very gritty games… and while I don’t think everything needs the “quake palette” I do think the game feels more realistic with darker tones.