Oblivion Texture Overview
Oblivion is a very poorly optimized game as far as newer hardware is concerned - it only uses 1.8 GB of RAM (unless you have the LAA patch - more on that later). Although there's no upper limit on how much VRAM (video RAM) can be used, Oblivion still doesn't use more than about 1 GB. Oblivion was designed for consoles, not computers, so the requirements are pretty low - 256 MB of RAM and a 128-MB video card minimum; 1 GB of RAM and a 256-MB video card recommended. Nowadays, your average gamer's computer is a dual- or quad-core with 4-6 GB of RAM and a video card with 1 GB+ of VRAM.
What does all this mean? Oblivion's textures are, for the most part, 512 x 512 pixels of image resolution, which is pretty low. Many texture replacers, like QTP3, add high-resolution (high-res) textures at 1024, 2048, or even 4096. Using a simple high-res replacer on its own might not put too much of a strain on your system, but when you start adding other replacers or even just mods (especially mods that add more actors), they can quickly take their toll. Keep in mind, also, that many texture replacers aren't optimized. Optimizing meshes and textures can have a dramatic impact on performance. Optimizer Textures is a great tool for resizing textures, too - if you're using a lot of texture replacers, or simply have a system that can't handle the really high-res stuff, you can reduce them to 1024, which is a good balance between quality and performance.
And speaking of adding more actors… the more actors (NPCs and creatures) you have in a cell, the more processing power Oblivion is going to use to run the scripts governing their actions. Combine that with texture replacers, and you've got a recipe for disaster. So, keep in mind - if you want lots of replacers (especially large-scale ones), you should try to avoid mods that add lots of new actors. MMM and FCOM have plugins that reduce spawn rates, and Dynamic Levelled Lists can be used to control spawns from any mod.
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All 'Actors' (both your character and NPCs) use the same meshes, textures, and animations from particular race folders. Changes to the contents of a race folder affect every actor of that race. Bear in mind that replacement textures for your Khajiit character will also apply to all NPC Khajiits using the same texture, before you add a tattoo skin replacement for instance.
Animations are applied to bones of the skeleton. For the players character and NPCs, 3rd person animations are located at 'Data\meshes\characters\_male' (despite the name, animations are gender-neutral). 1st person animations are located at 'Data\meshes\characters\_1stperson'. Animation files can be placed at '\Data\meshes\characters\_male\specialanims' and then assigned to individual actors to be used instead of the default 3rd person animations, such as 'Sheogorath's walking with a cane' animation in Shivering Isles.
Popular addon 'idle' and 'action' animations include BB & BBB (see the Glossary page), which require additional bones not included in the vanilla skeleton. A replacement skeleton is required, which are listed on the Characters: Body and Races page. But BB/BBB also requires textures rigged to attach to the new skeleton bones, with the proper 'weight', in addition to the animation. So, to add BB/BBB effects to actors requires three things: a skeleton designed for the purpose, textures rigged for that skeleton, and an animation designed to provide the desired bounce effect. Only textures stating they support BB/BBB will suffice, and they must be available for your desired race and body type. Plan ahead.
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LAA Patch Overview
You may have heard of the LAA patch as a possible solution to memory limitations with some games originally written for 32-bit operating systems, notably Oblivion. In Oblivion people typically experience a CTD (Crash-To-Desktop) when the Oblivion.exe process memory usage reaches 1.6-1.75GB. LAA stands for 'Large Address Aware', which is a flag on compiled program code (exes and dlls) that informs the game the code is capable of utilizing memory addresses above the 2GB address space boundary inherent in 32-bit systems. To understand the issues surrounding this 2GB boundary, it is strongly suggested you read 2-4GB game memory limits and solutions and this article.
In practice, the LAA patch will only give a 32-bit OS access to roughly 1.8-2GB of addressable RAM memory for use by the game IF there is enough more than 2GB of total RAM. (The rest of the RAM is used by the OS itself, and any other running apps and services as well as the game engine.) With less than 3GB of physical RAM it will typically have little to no apparent effect. Where it really makes a difference is with a 64-bit OS and 4-8GB of RAM, where it can use up to 3.8GB of available RAM. (The game is incapable of addressing more than 4GB of total memory, the limit of a 32-bit addressing scheme. RAM beyond that is ignored by the game.)
The patch referred to only works on exe files, and must be applied to the Oblivion.exe file. (Steam users need to patch the <install path>\Steam\GameOverlayRenderer.dll file. ALL users should read and heed the recommendations in the Installing Games on Windows Vista+ article as well to avoid other problems associated with games installed in the "C:\Program Files" folder trees.) However, to really take advantage of the LAA flag, you need to enable it on DLL files such as those loaded by OBSE and Pluggy as well. For that, you need the more capable CFF Explorer package (same author as the patch). The thread Oblivion and Memory Usage is interesting reading as this capability and other memory related issues were explored. Be aware that only one exe needs the flag enabled, but it may require you to run that exe with Administrator credentials thereafter. Subsequent processes spawned off that exe will have those same permissions. Consequently it is not a safe practice to play the game while connected to the internet at the same time thereafter unless you explicitly trust those dlls and sub-processes to not do anything malicious.
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Texture Resources for Mod Makers
For mod creators looking for textures of all types to use in their mods, the following sites are recommended for "license free" resources. Thanks to Crackomint of the Bethsoft Forums for the links:
The focus on this site, however, is on "ready to use" mods for the player rather than resources for creating meshes and textures.
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Oblivion Texture Replacers by Category
- Architecture: Buildings (and parts thereof), Ayleid ruins, sewers, roadsigns, and other man-made objects.
- Characters: Eyes, hair, faces, body textures and replacers.
- Environment: Sky (day and night), sun, terrain, water, and lava.
- Flora & Fauna: Creatures and plants (grass, trees, flowers, etc.).
- Items: Clutter, coins, clothing, jewelry, weapons and armor, etc.
- LODs: LOD generators and LOD/VWD replacers.
- Magic: Spell effects and shaders
- Misc: Detailed normal maps, fire, blood, and other stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else.
Texture Packs (This label links to the full description page, which includes lessor known packs)
- AmpolX Textures: Focused solely on landscapes and caves, these textures are high-res (2048) and a lot darker. More "grim-n-gritty".
- CorePC's Vibrant Textures: More colorful textures for Oblivion and Shivering Isles, as well as Oblivion. Standard resolution.
- Darooz Textures: Separate archives focused on clutter, landscape, and a couple cities. These textures are very high-res (4096) and beautiful.
- Insanity's Textures: More color and depth to landscape, water, architecture, farmhouses, clutter, Ayleid ruins, caves, etc. High-res (1024, 2048).
- Qarl's Texture Pack: High-res texture replacer for architecture and some landscape. There are several optimized versions under Misc, above.
- Unofficial Elsweyr Anequina Patch: multiple texture replacements and fixes to Elsweyr, Deserts of Anequina.
- Watch Your Step (WYS) - Ubanga edition: part 1 of major retexure project for Ubanga mod; covering landscape textures.
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