Troubleshooting

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Contents

Common Issues and Solutions

A Brief Note on "Archive Invalidation"

"Archive Invalidation" (AI) is what TES/Bethesda games use to enable "loose asset files" (such as mesh/texture replacers) to override the contents of "Bethesda Softworks Archive" (BSA) files. All the vanilla "assets" are in game provided BSA files. Some (but not all) mods also use BSA files. In order to get loaded, a BSA file has to match the first part of a ESP filename (but how many characters are significant is not clear). So for an ESP named "VMods.esp", the BSA "VMods - Assets.bsa" is valid, but "VMAssets.bsa" may not be. The use of spaces and hyphens to separate the matching part from the BSA identification is common (i.e. "VMods - Assets.bsa"). As the name suggests, AI "invalidates" the BSA files, telling the engine to instead read the loose files if their date/time stamp is newer than that of the BSA. However, mod creators are advised to never put "replacement assets" in a BSA. The game engine will be unable to determine which BSA is the correct one to use and thus produce random assets from all that match the asset file name and path.

In order for AI to work, however, the engine must be told to look for those files. Newer versions of Wrye Bash automatically enable this, just by opening WB and viewing the load order (this can be turned on/off in the INI file, if you wish). If, for some strange reason, you happen to use OBMM or it's successor NMM, you must update it each time you add/alter files (just click on Utilities, Archive Invalidation, and make sure "BSA Redirection" is marked). Do NOT choose any other option - they are outdated and won't work properly. (The whole subject of "ArchiveInvalidation" is explained here. Though a little dated, it is still accurate in the fundamentals.) Most Mod Managers now include "BSA Redirection" as their default method of AI. Any "standalone" mods to do the same thing may or may not be implementing the same technique. Read their descriptions carefully.

Restoring Vanilla Textures

Issue: "I overwrote some mesh/texture files and now I want to replace them with the vanilla versions again. What's the easiest way to do it?"

Considerations: Assuming you haven't altered the files in the vanilla BSAs (beyond optimization) - and you shouldn't - then this is simple. All you have to do is DE-activate your form of "Archive Invalidation" using one of the methods listed above.

Solution: If DE-activating "Archive Invalidation" is not feasible due to other mods needing it, then you can extract the vanilla files from the BSA and replace the modded loose files with the vanilla ones. Note that the loose file dates need to be later than the date of the BSA. (See the Utilities page for the appropriate tools.)

Deformed Body Parts

Issue: Some part of an actor's body is stretching away into the distance, or is otherwise greatly deformed.

Cause: This is caused by using an incorrect skeleton for the mesh, or the actor has an incorrect skeleton. Underlying any actor is a 'skeleton.nif' mesh file that provides anchor points for various elements of the anatomy, such as the head, body, extremities, joints, etc. Other meshes that overlay the skeleton, such as skin, clothes, armor, wings, etc. expect to have certain anchor points to which they can attach to obtain the geometry of their shape. When they fail to find an expected anchor point, the stretching results. This is most commonly seen with clothing and items designed for BBB effects, but can occur with anything designed for a customized skeleton. Also note that beast races use beastskeleton.nif because they have tails; if a Khajiit/Argonian has a normal skeleton assigned, it will have a long stretchy thing springing from its rear end.

Solution: You need to identify and install a skeleton compatible with not only the texture having the problem, but one that does not cause problems for other textures. This requires careful examination of the mod requirements. The most common solution is a 'compatibility skeleton', which attempts to provide the anchor points for all known mods. Not all are created equal, even if they provide the necessary anchor. It may be necessary to test and compare them.

Mesh is missing in game

Issue: The mesh shows up in the game Construction Kit or Editor and doesn't show up in-game. The Nif file is present in the correct folder.

Cause: Usually this is because the Shader flags are set wrong or the mesh isn't parented to the skeleton properly.

Solution: This is something the mod author needs to resolve. Blender never seems to get the shader flags set properly for clothing and armor when exporting. For clothing parts like a t-shirt or armor that only covers some skin, you'll need to go into NifSkope and check "SF_skinned" and "SF_shadow_map". For human parts like the arms, you'll need to check "SF_skinned" and "SF_facegen" and you'll need to change the shader type to "SHADER_SKIN". It should be "SHADER_DEFAULT" for the armor/clothing part. Blender usually gets the rest of the flags right. You can compare the flags to what is set for Bethesda's clothing Nifs to double-check yours.

Added objects missing

Issue: Added objects (i.e. weapons and armor) from another mod to mine, including to level lists. But after leaving the game editor or adding in another ESP, the parent mod's objects are suddenly gone.

Cause: Each added object needs to be "edited" in your mod to show up, even if you are not making any changes to the object.

Solution: Locate the "base object" of each item added to your mod and double-click on it. Then click on "OK", and repeat for each added object. Now save the plugin. The added objects are now part of your mod.

Attached object flickers

Sometimes when looking at an attached object at an angle, it seems to flicker or disappear.

Cause: Anything attached to armor needs to be "weighted" in order to move with the body correctly.

Solution-1a: See the tutorial Creating an armor for Fallout for the basic process.

Solution-2b: If you have already taken care of "weighting", then it's possibly caused by a scaling issue with the added part. Discussed in this thread. Easy fix still. Import that part into Blender, right click the part to select & press <Ctrl+A>, and from the menu select - "Scale & Rotation to ObData".

Custom textures appear in NifSkope but not in game or the GECK editor

Cause: In order for NifSkope to see a texture (most commonly for clothing & armor) while in that editor, the texture files need to reside in the same "work folder" as the meshes. This may require extracting the texture from a BSA.

Solution: NifSkope does not care about texture Mipmaps, but the game and GECK do require them to be included in the same ".dds" file. Also, the path to the textures must be in "relative" format. (See sub-topic Relative vs Absolute Pathing.) Prior to distribution, the textures and meshes must be copied from the "work folder" to reside in the appropriate "Data\texture" and "Data\meshes" paths, which may require editing the paths again.

With clothing or armor, check that the following were performed:

  • Did you run the ".nif" file through Blender?
  • In Blender, did you parent any clothing/armor pieces to the skeleton? Take care as to what "slots" are used. See sub-topic Invisible Body Parts.
  • Did you copy the bone weights from the skeleton to the clothing/armor?
  • After doing the work in Blender, did you go back to NifSkope and set the flags in "BSShaderPPLightingProperty"?
  • Is the path to the texture correct in "BSShaderTextureSet"?

Deleted NavMesh

Issue: NavMesh pathing was introduced in TES:Skyrim and used in later Bethesda games. "Pathing tells NPCs where it is safe to stand and walk in any given cell[;] it helps them process and define the parameters of the world they live in. There are established paths in exteriors and interiors." - TESAlliance ESV: Skyrim School, Creation Kit Basics

Cause: Once created NavMeshes should never be deleted from the vanilla game (or any plugin that others depend upon) or they cause game instabilities; rather they should be placed where they are inaccessible if not needed.

Solution: Download and follow the Guide for fixing deleted NavMeshes by AndrealphusVIII. (Illustrated and written for Skyrim but the procedure works for deleted NavMeshes in general).

Invisible Body Parts

Issue: My partial body armor/clothing mod is making the rest of that body part disappear.

Cause: In the game Construction Kit or Editor, it's important that you pick the appropriate slot for your clothing/armor.

Solution: If your mesh contains the body, then use the upper body slot. If you want the default body to be visible (because your mesh doesn't include it) then you can't use this slot. If you are making a poncho, for example, you don't want to use the upper body slot since your poncho will make the character's body and clothing/armor disappear.

Strange Symbols

These "missing mesh markers" vary by game, as in:

  • "WTF" on a Yellow background (Oblivion & Skyrim)
  • White "!" on a Red background (Fallout)

Issue: They indicate missing meshes or textures.

Cause 1:

  • The most likely cause is that the missing mesh/texture did not get installed from the mod into the appropriate subfolder under the game "Data" folder.

Solution 1a:

  • This often occurs because the BSA file or other "art assets" are in a separate (not-so optional) download file.

Solution 1b:

  • If the mesh/texture appears normally until you create a "merged plugin", it is an indication that you failed to include "art assets" in your merged file.

Solution 1c:

  • See "ArchiveInvalidation" above, especially the link where the subject is explained. Game patches can cause the date of vanilla BSA files to change. "[BSA Redirection] relies on date precedence to override the BSA. This is generally not a problem, since most mod files are more recent than the standard Bethesda ones. Still, if you run into problems with some textures not loading, you may want to check the dates on the files. All replacement files must be dated more recently than the associated BSA file. If they're not, you can either give the BSA an older date or give the replacements a more recent date." It may prove necessary to extract the vanilla files from the BSA as "loose files" in order to restore them. The same may apply to replacement files if the ESP file associated with the BSA is merged. (BSAs are only accessed from ESP files with the same filename.)

Cause 2:

Relative vs Absolute Pathing

  • Another common cause for mod creators or converters with this problem is the editor's default path format. The 'mesh' (*.nif) file contains the filename and path to the texture file it uses in the BSShaderTextureSet node(s) in Nifskope under each NiTriStrips node. Expand the node tree until you see what you're looking for. This path must be in "relative format" to the "Data" folder (i.e. "textures\<SpecificSubFolderPath>" rather than "absolute" format (i.e. "C:\<PathToGameFolder>\Data\<SpecificSubFolderPath>"). (See this MSDN article on the subject of "fully qualified vs. relative paths" for details.) This due to the game using "Data" as it's default directory, as well as the unpredictable upper path differences in game install locations on different machines. If an "absolute" path format is used but does not exist, the game cannot find the file and tries to use the closest match. This may not manifest until the mod files are installed on a different system or partition.
To see a texture in your 'mesh' (.nif) while working in Blender, it is necessary for the texture file to be in the correct folder on the disk drive. For vanilla textures, this will require unpacking them from the BSA to the appropriate "Data\textures" folder. Note that if while editing your 'mesh' file you have made the "Meshes" folder your default directory, your editor will not find the texture with a relative path starting with "textures\" because Windows and the editor are not the game, and will start searching from the "current default drive and folder" (i.e. "the working folder", which in this example is "Meshes") instead of from "Data\" and there is no "Textures" folder under "Meshes". In this instance you can use "..\" to indicate the editor should starting looking from the parent directory of "Meshes", which is "Data". If you are planning to put the mesh and texture files into a BSA file, you must ensure their relative paths do not begin "..\", because the game assumes "Data\" is the start point of it's search.

Solution 2:

Cause 3:

  • The least most likely cause is that the mod author failed to include the missing mesh/texture in their archive package.

Solution 3:

  • In this instance you should contact the mod author directly.

Solid Surface Colors

Issue: Strange solid colors appearing in parts of textures (i.e. White, Black, Purple):

Cause: This is a classic problem of the Gamebryo engine. The available texture memory reduces over time and if no further spare video memory is available the engine shows only white (Fallout 3), black (Oblivion) or now purple (Skyrim) fields instead of new textures.

Solution 1: Try to go inside an interior cell such as a house, cave, or dungeon; save your game, open the console and enter "pcb" (for "purge cell buffers"). Now reload your game from the desktop. In Oblivion and the Fallouts that helped a lot (but not in every case) against missing textures. Note this is only a temporary solution. Take it as a warning that you are running out of memory due to game "memory leaks" and will soon CTD. You should make a "full" game save and reboot your computer.

Solution 2: These solid colors may also be an indication that you are approaching or exceeding the maximum number of mod plugin files the game will accommodate. Reduce your Load Order if you are near the game's cap.

Black Surfaces

Issue: The surface of an object appears all black or without detail.

Cause: This is usually caused by a missing 'normal map' (*_n.dds) file (see the glossary for more details). Basically this is the same situation as with a missing mesh, only the file belongs among the Textures.

Note: The equivalent 'normal map' for LOD terrain is a "*_fn.dds" file. Far objects use a "*_far.nif" file.

Solution: See General Solutions, below.

White Surfaces

Issue: The surface of an object appears all white or all an unexpected color.

Cause: This is caused by a missing 'glow map' (*_g.dds) file. (see the glossary for more details). Basically this is the same situation as with a missing mesh, only the file belongs among the Textures.

Solution: See General Solutions, below.

Pink Surfaces

Issue: Pink Screen or textures.

Cause1: Usually this means you are running out of graphics VRAM (the physical memory on your video card); typically from too many High Resolution Texture replacement packs. These pink textures can show on faces, hands, and hairs, but also can happen with entire loading screens. When you start seeing this "pink stuff", a CTD is just around the corner.

Cause2: If you are on Windows 10, the game can handle less "High Quality" / "High Definition" textures than in Windows 7 due to how Win10 handles DirectX 9 games. The video RAM gets locked at 4GB maximum (even if you have a TitanZ card with 12 GB on board), special thanks to Microsoft's implementation of DirectX 9 games in their latest OS at the time of this writing. So in short, if your game ran fine in Win7, it will not and cannot handle as many textures as it could before upgrading to Win10. This can cause your symptoms of pink textures, or worse a CTD, if you had more than 4GB total of video memory loaded in Win7.

Diagnostic: You can see if reducing the in-game "texture quality" setting from "High" to "Low" makes a difference, or if reducing your screen resolution down to 800x600, or both, makes any difference to confirm the above are the cause.

Solutions: There are several things you can try:

  • Uninstall some HQ/HD texture replacement packs.
  • Run the game at a lower screen resolution.
  • Reduce the texture file resolution down by half each time (i.e. from 4096x4096 to 2048x2048, 1024x1024, or 512x512). See the Utilities "DDSOpt" and "Optimizer Textures" on the TESTG site.
  • Upgrade your video card. However, note the limitation in Windows 10 in "Cause2:" above.
  • For advanced users: If you have a Windows 10 Education, Professional, or Enterprise edition you can use the included Win10 Hyper-V system and try running the game in a Win7 "virtual machine". See this page for the hardware requirements and a walk-through of the installation process. Note this requires you to have or obtain an ".iso" file of the desired OS install media. (If none of this option makes sense, you probably don't want to mess with it. Otherwise, educate yourself as it is beyond the scope of this wiki.)

Invisible or Solid Surface

Issue: Mesh cannot locate it's texture file. Usually the object will appear to have the entire surface of a solid color (i.e. White, Black, Purple) or appear fine in the editor but invisible in the game.

Cause: The 'mesh' (*.nif) file contains the filename and path to the texture file it uses. If an "absolute" path format is used but does not exist, the game cannot find the file and tries to use the closest match. The mesh editor in use may default to using the "absolute path" or "fully qualified name" (FQN) format (i.e. "C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\Oblivion\Data\textures\<filename>.dds"). This texture path must be in "relative format", relative to either the "Meshes" folder under the "Data" folder if that is your current "working folder" or "default directory" (i.e. "..\textures\<SpecificSubFolderPath>"), or to the "Data" folder which is what the game assumes is the "working folder", rather than "absolute" format. (The "..\" stands for "parent of the current folder", which in this case is the game's "Data" folder: parent of the "Meshes" folder.) If you intend to pack your meshes and textures into a BSA file, you must make the path relative to the "Data" folder (i.e. "textures\<SpecificSubFolderPath>"). This due to the game starting it's search in that as the "working folder", as well as the unpredictable upper path differences in game install locations on different machines.

Solution: It will be necessary to edit the affected mesh file in NifSkope and change the texture file path from "absolute" to "relative" format. Report the issue to the mod author. See also Solution 2 under "Strange Symbols" above.

Blinking Hair/Shadows

Issue: Hair/Shadows appear to "blink" or become transparent from some angles.

Cause: This is also known as the "Multiple Transparencies Issue", and appears to be a fairly common problem with game engines of this generation in how they attempt to deal with overlapping transparency. The model has to be assembled in a very specific way (generally from furthest to nearest overlapping component) to work correctly, and then there still can be some instances of "blink". It is a limitation of the game engine.

Solution: Unfortunately, there is not a simple one. If you can't live with it, the mesh must be rebuilt (but still with no guarantee as to the final result). See the following "TES Construction Set Wiki" articles.

Basic transparency fix:

  • Textures with transparency need to be saved in DXT5. (This is to have transparency recorded in the texture level.)
  • In Nifskope with the Nif file loaded, go to BSShaderLightingProperty and in its flags, check SF_Alpha. (This is to allow the Alpha to be shown.)
  • Then add a NiAlphaProperty, give it a flag of 4845 and adjust the threshold around 100. (This is to have the alpha rendered properly and to have the "black border" around the edges removed.)

Tutorials:

Lines in the Ground

Issue: See Example

(Note: It turned out that the apparent ridgeline in this image was caused by simultaneously using the QTP3 and Landscape retexture mods, but it illustrates the issue.)

Cause: While this might appear to be the result of a landscape retexture gone bad, where two areas of land don't meet in a way that allows the textures to blend, or are of adjacent cells and are assigned by different mods, it is not actually landscape textures causing the problem: it's vertex shading. One cell quadrant has the artificial landscape shadows (vertex shading) and the opposite side does not.

Solution: Simply remove one of the conflicting landscape retexture mods.

OR

Just follow these simple steps. (Thanks to mhahn123 of the Bethsoft Forums for this solution.)

For applying vertex shading to landscape, it's fairly simple, but takes some experimenting to get the right look:

Open up the landscape editor as you normally would. Be sure the boxes at the top right which are labeled "Flatten Vertices" and "Soften Vertices" are unchecked. Next look down at the bottom right and place a check mark in the box labeled "Edit Colors". (This overrides the standard texture selection menu and allows you to paint solid colors.)

Now choose your colors. Just above the Edit Colors tab, you will notice a left and right button labeled "Select Color". Click on these and select your colors. (Left side corresponds to left mouse button and right to right mouse button.) Once you select colors, you need only click a mouse button to apply shading to the landscape. Light to medium shades of grey usually work best for landscape shadows ... but play with it to get a feel for how it works. Typically set the left side color to plain white and right side to a shade of grey. You can use the white to undo your shadows if they get too dark. Remember to uncheck Edit Colors when you want to go back to normal landscape textures.

Distant terrain/LOD flickers rapidly

This problem seems to occur more frequently with high-end systems, but across all sorts of platforms and video cards.

Cause: Known as "Z-fighting" or "stitching", this is a complex problem in 3D rendering where two or more "primatives" such as "layers" have similar or identical values in the "z-buffer", so they essentially occupy the same space. The result is the pixels from each layer "fight" to be the one displayed on screen, especially when the point of view changes. This causes a flickering, noisy display of first one then another color pixel. See the "Z-fighting" article from Wikipedia for the full technical description.

Solution: There is no single solution that applies to every system, and some of these effects cannot be resolved by the player. See the S.T.E.P. Project Guide Z-Fighting for examples of the issue in Skyrim and some INI tweaks that may help. A Fallout NV user tried some similar suggested by Gopher in this video and had the most success with adjusting the "fNearDistance=" value. He reports that anything above "10" results in clipping with arms and weapons in first person mode, but a balance can be reached with some testing.

General Solutions

For Wrye Bash/BAIN users: With Wrye Bash (WB), package the vanilla BSA files into BAIN archives (create Projects for them, and then archives from the Projects), and install them at the very beginning of your BAIN install order. Then enable 'Auto-Refresh Bethsoft Content' in the context menu of the WB Installers tab (BAIN). (Right-click on any of the BAIN column headers to see the context menu.)

  • If you HAVE NOT already removed the mod from your Bash Installers folder, disable it (or just any problematic sub-packages) in BAIN by unchecking the package, select just that mod in your install order, and 'Anneal' from the context menu to remove the unchecked packages. Then again in the context menu select 'Anneal All'. This should determine the winners of any and all mod file conflicts among the remaining packages and correct them, including installing missing files.
  • If you HAVE already removed the mod from your Bash Installers folder, in the BAIN context menu select 'Anneal All'. This should determine the winners of any and all mod file conflicts and correct them, including missing files.
  • Rebuild your Bashed Patch, because you have altered your installed mods list.

NOTE that if you do not have the vanilla BSA files packaged as BAIN archives, WB cannot restore vanilla files that BSA Redirection has told the game to expect to find as loose files.

For other users: Using a tool such as BSAOpt, unpack the missing mesh (*.nif) from the 'mesh' BSA (i.e. 'Oblivion - Meshes.bsa') file into the game's meshes folder (i.e. 'Oblivion\Data\meshes'), and/or unpack the missing texture files (*.dds) from the 'texture' BSA (i.e. 'Oblivion - Textures - Compressed.bsa') into the game's texture folder (i.e. 'Oblivion\Data\Textures'). Be sure to include the appropriate sub-folders, adding them if necessary.

If neither of the above work: You can ask on any game-related forums for help, but you are now in a time versus effort trade-off dilemma. At this point, things are seriously messed up and it will most likely be faster to simply reinstall the game than to chase more elusive potential solutions. Take this as an opportunity to read up on and follow the 'best practices' for installing your game and mods to increase your odds of 'getting it right'. (TESCOSI has an excellent set of guidelines for this.)

Backup your 'save game' files from your 'My Games' folder, uninstall the game, and completely reinstall. Avoid installing in the default location of 'C:\Program Files' - instead, create a 'C:\Games' folder (or similar) and install there, even for Steam games. (See the Installing Games on Windows Vista+ article, and Steam users should also read the Steam and Mods article as well.)

Install one mesh/texture replacement mod at a time and verify in game with a test character that you do not have any problems, before proceeding to installing the next mod. This enables you to KNOW which mod is causing your problem. Also, be sure to read each mod's description - aside from mods that alter the same things, some are simply incompatible.

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