Now that this kalpa for the USKP is complete (for you non-lorehound types, kalpa = cycle) it's probably time we make public our plans for the next one.
Due to an increasing number of odd engine related bugs it's been decided among the team that we will need to convert the USKP (and therefore all the DLC patches too) into what's called a "False ESM". That is, and ESP file which is flagged as an ESM by way of changing the flag in TES5Edit.
So why would we want this? There are a few classes of bugs this has already been shown to help with in internal testing:
- Seemingly random crashes in and around major cities, and other areas where a lot of data is edited.
- The "landscape foliage" bug in which a child worldspace begins displaying landscape foliage from its parent worldspace because an object in the parent worldspace was edited. This is readily apparent in Darkwater Pass.
- The "LOD trees show up at close range" bug. This is where you will sometimes see trees that are clearly intended to be displayed as LOD sitting within the currently loaded cells, sometimes even merged into the real trees. As described here.
There may be others, but these 3 classes of bugs are confirmed to be correctable by converting to a false ESM.
So you might be asking then. Why not a proper ESM file? Two reasons mainly:
1. Steam cannot support ESM files, we'd have to cease distribution there all together and not just for the USKP.
2. Other mods are relying on the filenames being ESP files and not all of those mods are currently being maintained anymore.
It's already been verified that Wrye Bash is OK with changing the flag. It will not complain when the files get bumped up into the ESM section.
With proper CRC checks, BOSS won't complain either. Though I'm hoping some other method can be used to detect it ongoing because having a growing mountain of CRC checks won't be helpful. Perhaps version number parsing from the description field.
I cannot vouch for how NMM will react since I don't use it, and I'm not sure anyone else on the team has tried it either.
Who knows what Mod Organizer will think.
We will bump all the version numbers on all the patches up to 2.0 when this happens. We don't have a time frame yet, because there's also a giant mountain of vanilla bugs piled up in the tracker to address too. But when it happens, all of the patches will be updated at the same time.
Our proposed changes in the load order for the game will look like this:
Unofficial Skyrim Patch.esp
Unofficial Dawnguard Patch.esp
Unofficial Hearthfire Patch.esp
[The rest of your stuff]
The main reason for this should be obvious. It will generate much less interference with things following on in the ESM group, and at the same time allow us to undo some of the changes in each DLC patch that are only there because the USKP canceled them out due to its own edits.
Best of all, thus far in testing, it poses no risk for converting them in the middle of an active playthrough, even with a lot of other mods loaded.
So anyway, that's where we're headed now. We've already kind of leaked hints at it, so now it can be considered confirmed rather than rumor
The ESM Conversion Checklist
Wrye Bash Support - Supported as of release 304.2.
NMM Support - Works as expected, NMM flags the files with a warning but allows them to move into the ESM group.
Mod Organizer Support - v1.0.0rc1 and up has been confirmed to work.
TES5Edit Support - Supported as of release 3.0.31.
BOSS Support - Working in 2.1.1. (was some confusion here, but it *IS* working)
Checklist items need to be completed before we move forward on this.
We're planning to go into beta on all 4 patches Saturday (October 5). I expect we'll have a minimum of 2 weeks testing, perhaps longer, to see how all this affects things and to validate that none of the new fixes coming in with this are broken.
With that in mind, I figured this is as good a time as any to say so. Once this round of beta testing is complete, the USKP will no longer be distributed on Steam. Leaving the 1.3.2c version up there is already causing us problems and we can't in good conscience leave it up there after 2.0 has gone live. So anyone still using Steam to get the USKP needs to transition to one of the other available download sites.
We're also going to have to check to see if Steam will accept a falsely flagged ESP file and deliver it back to the user intact as such. I mention this now because if it doesn't, then ALL of the unofficial patches will have to be taken down from Steam and everyone using those too will need to make provisions to change to another download site.
So keep that in mind for those of you using Steam.