LowSpecGamer: How to improve performance on Skyrim

By: LowSpecGamer

Every once in a while, we are graced with a game that is truly an experience, a journey so vast that it keeps us awake years after the original release experiencing a world of breath taking beauty. Well... you may have to forget about the beauty part. This is the LowSpecGamer, where draw distance is a myth. Forget about detailed faces and realistic weather, because we are going to make this game run. This game has a nifty auto-config function that detects your computer's setup and adjust the graphics to one of its presets accordingly. In my case, the default configuration is the low pre-set on 720p.

Let's see how it does. Well. Not too bad I say. We are in the middle of nowhere so there is not much to make the game slow.

But that is a good start. Now we just need to find a fight or something. Well, that's convenient. Where's the dragon? There it is. As long as there is nothing but the dragon and we keep our distance it is not too bad. The closer we get, the slower it goes. Especial animations like the ones that play when you kill a dragon are particularly slow. Let's see if there is anything for us to change on the configuration to improve it a little bit.

There isn't that much that we can reduce now. We can disable sky reflection on water, take textures down to low, and put object fade to its minimum value. Let's see if there is any difference. Low textures make everything look so muddy, and yet you can still see some appeal in the artistic style of the game. Try to do some fighting outside and all goes wrong. We are fighting two enemies and the framerate can barely keep itself over 25. We deserve better, time for the first tweak. Skyrim has a couple of configuration files that control most of the settings.

LowSpecGamer: How to improve performance on Skyrim

These files are located in documents, my games, skyrim. Now, most of the graphical settings in these files can be controlled in the startup panel just as we have been doing so far, but there are some hidden options that are not in the panel and that we can change to increase performance. The first thing you are going to look for is "bDoDepthOfField" and put it to 0 to disable depth of field. Next, look for "uiMaxSkinnedTrees" and set it to 10 to reduce the quality of the textures of the trees on the field. Now, look for "fShadowDistance" and set it to 600, which is its minimum possible value. This controls how far from the player the shadows begin to render. There is a pair of variables called "ishadowmapresolution" primary and secondary that further control the quality of the shadows.

You can set them both to 512, which is their minimum possible value. Finally we have "iShadowSplitCount" that we can change to 1 to further reduce shadow quality. All done.

Let's save the game and test it. Before the maximum I got on this area was 30, now its almost 40, so there is definitively an improvement. I do not know if you can tell in this video but the shadows are literally showing up in front of me as I walk.

Maybe you will see better in daylight. See what I mean? That is the effect of the variables we just changed. Well, sometimes you need the extra performance! The problem with having such low draw distance is that enemies see you way before you have time to react. But hey, we are fighting and magical effects used to slow down everything significantly, while now we see a solid performance. The draw distance is making it hard to play thought. Well, maybe there are other ways to increase performance without sacrificing ourselves so much. Do you know what I mean? There are hundreds of mods for skyrim.

Some people will even go as far as to say that modding is the best reason to play. And that is good news for us, because that means there are many performance enhancing mod for us to try. And I am going to show a few of my personal favorites. All of these you can find on Nexus Mods and you can easily install them using the Nexus Mod Manager.

All the links are in the description. As I mentioned before, the drawing distance was starting to become problematic, so I increased several of the settings as you can see here to fully test the effect of these mods. First we have Skyrim performance plus. This mod decreases the textures on all particles falling from rain, snow, leafs from trees and so on.

While it will probably not increase your performance it will prevent your framerate from dropping when there are many particles in the air. Then we have two really good ones. Bethesda Performance Textures for Armor, Weapons and clothes and performance textures for creatures and animals. These two mods where made by taking the textures used in the game for all these elements and reworking them so they would have a smaller file size preserving as much detail as possible. This means that I can do something like increase texture quality to high, gaining a lot of detail, and still preserve a playable level of performance. Now, combine this mod with Skyrim performance plus and you can get playable framerate using high quality textures and during bad weather! Performance that is maintained even while fighting.

Good job I say. What a great combination of mods. Finally, we have Skyrim Project Optimization. This mod utilizes something called Occlusion Culling to hide an unrender certain elements while you are not looking at them in certain indoor areas of the game, including most of the plot relevant ones, allowing you to transverse inside building with buttery smooth performance. Now I ask, what is your favorite performance mod for Skyrim? Do you know a good one that I should mention? Tell me on comments, reddit or twitter.

No, really, I want to know. I want to try them. Now, someone asked me how mods that expanded Skyrim by adding new areas and quests affect performance on a low end computer, such as the amazing falskaar mod that adds a new entire area to skyrim with its own set of quests. Now, obviously the effect of performance depends entirely on each mod and its implementation, but in my experience areas created by mods such as Falskaar experince less performance that in normal skyrim areas, probably due to the fact that they could be less optimized than the main game. I tried to check if performance was being reduced because of conflicts with my other mods but turning all other mods off did not increase performance.

If anything, mods like optimized textures helped run other mods better as long as they used the same standard Skyrim textures and you can use most of what I have shown you here to enhance your game, even when playing modded quest. Just remember, performance while using expansion mods can vary very wildly. Now I got the Skyrim bug again because I made this video, so I am going to go climb a mountain or something. See you next time.

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