This is a sort of walkthrough aimed especially at newer modders who are getting into Ultimate Skyrim via Belmont Boy's excellent guide and have an interest in adding mods for (arguably) more interesting or intense weather and somewhat higher-quality visuals.
I'd like to say before I begin that Ultimate Skyrim, configured directly out of the manual, is quite stunning visually given the FPS possibilities. But if you want to squeeze a little more eye candy out of the installation - assuming your rig can handle it - here's your starter guide.
Note: this is work in progress and may change. There will be glitches. I will only post changes I have found to be stable.
The following is a guide to more or less help you build the same mod configuration that I am currently playing. But if you don't want the additional texture weight, it is possible to just swap Climates of Tamriel out and put Vivid Weathers in for little performance loss.
The quickstart manual:
Of course, if you want to add a few other visual enhancements, feel free to read on for detailed instructions.
Guide Version: 0.3.2
The current version is certainly more system-taxing than the default Ultimate build, but not a great deal. I can run this installation with the ENB on (Depth-of-Field disabled) and most textures at 2K (or 2K normals with 1K maps) at 40-60 FPS depending on the location and the circumstances. My specs on the main test rig:
If you run with no ENB (or with ENBoost alone), or if you disable a few more ENB options (especially Ambient Occlusion), you can increase FPS significantly without altering the setup. The only situations where I notice things dragging (and when they become difficult to make smooth with my default ENB config) are during intense rain or snow storms in NPC-heavy areas.
If this sounds workable to you, especially if you prefer Vivid Weathers to Climates of Tamriel, give it a go!
Before you start: copy your existing Mod Organizer profile so that you will have a clean working area to mess with this and, if you end up not liking it, you can go right back to your working installation.
The following instructions should help you get your system set up with the same configuration I have. Begin by downloading the following mods, and if you have options for texture sizes, judge by your current hardware. With the specs I listed above I am usually running 2K textures or 2K textures with 1K normal maps if the modder has made that option available.
Begin by disabling these mods from the US installation (if you installed them) - that is, uncheck the box in the Mod Organizer (MO) left pane:
You'll also need to reinstall the Ultimate Skyrim compatibility patches. (Use a different name if you want to retain your previous profile.) The only change to make here is to not install the Climates of Tamriel + True Storms patch.
I recommend installing the mods in the download order I provided above. Several of them will need to be shifted around after installation - I will provide load order files and hand-holding guidance here to get you through that.
We'll need to rebuild our Real Shelter Patch after we're done. For that purpose, I reinstall Real Shelter under a different name in MO.
For any installations that provide a texture size / quality option - i.e., Vivid Weathers, Realistic Water ENB Textures - I recommend a 'Medium' or 'Moderate' choice, again depending on your hardware. For Vivid Weathers, I recommend the Extended Rain additions, and you'll need the Falskaar and Wyrmstooth patches if you have either of those mods installed. DO NOT INSTALL EXTENDED SNOW for Vivid Weathers, as this conflicts with Real Shelter and you will have problems. In addition, there is no need to install patches in Vivid Weathers for AOS or True Storms because the patch linked above as part of this build handles all that for us and prevents us from needing to re-enable AOS.esp and TrueStorms.esp as masters. Finally, make sure you don't install any patches for ELE as this lighting is not used in the base Ultimate build.
For WICO (Windsong Immersive), I recommend customizing (choose what you like) - I go with Less Flush Face Textures, Clean Body Textures, and the USLEEP Patch only.
For the EEO USLEEP Patch, if you're doing my build, leave the default option in the FOMOD selected.
For Embers HD I like to install the Forges add-on, the HD Fire Effects patch, and the Realistic HD Blacksmith patch along with the fireplace and lava options.
For Farmhouse Chimneys, I recommend using the parallax meshes; be sure to check 'Live Another Life & Cutting Room Floor' and also select the patches for ETaC, Falskaar and Wyrmstooth (assuming you have all of these in your build). Don't select any of Arthmoor's villages.
For RUSTIC Monuments and Tombstones, I use the ELFX patch option in the FOMOD.
I put Vivid Weathers just after Climates of Tamriel (which you should have disabled), just before True Storms. The VW True Storms and AOS patch should go at the bottom, below the Ultimate Skyrim Compatibility Patches.
After DVA (Dynamic Vampire Appearance), I place the following in this order:
Realistic Water ENB Textures and Watercolor should go right after Realistic Water Two.
After Ruins Clutter Improved (which follows SMIM), I place the following in this order:
Then you should have Vivid Landscapes Dungeons and Ruins and HD Terrain Enhanced Pro. Follow those with:
After these should come No Snow Under the Roof, etc. Moving farther down, place RUSTIC Windows after aMidianBorn (amb) Farmhouse Stonewall addon. Much farther down, place HQ Paper after Book Covers Skyrim - Lost Library.
Near the bottom, just after the (now disabled) RealVision ENB, place the following:
...after which should come Ultimate Skyrim and the patches.
Place FarmhouseChimneys.esp and FarmhouseChimneysFalskaar.esp just after Dawn Of Series RS Patch.esp.
Under WetandCold - Ashes.esp and before Holidays.esp, place these:
Under Randomized Word Walls.esp, place the following:
Moving down over halfway, place FarmhouseChimneysLAL+CRF.esp after Alternate Start - Live Another Life.esp. Closer to the end, place Chesko_Step418_SN.esp and AK- Modesty Mod.esp after WWNightEye.esp.
After RealisticWaterTwo - Falskaar.esp, you should have:
...and after this comes Ultimate Skyrim and the patches. Finally, place the True Storms and AOS Patch (Ultimate Skyrim - Vivid Weathers + True Storms.esp) just after the other Ultimate Skyrim compatibility patch ESPs.
If you're going to use the Vivid Weathers ENB - which I recommend - jump into your Mod Organizer folder and go to mods/Vivid Weathers ENB Install. You'll find the files you need to copy into your Skyrim folder in "Vivid Weathers ENB Install Files". Before you do this, you will need to remove the RealVision ENB files. You can do this via the provided installer that Belmont Boy uses for the installation in 'Final Steps', or you can use a tool like ENB and ReShade Manager, which I prefer. The Manager makes going back and forth between ENB configurations easy.
Once you've switched from RealVision to Vivid Weathers ENB files, you will also need to tweak your enblocal.ini file. I'll cover this in the next section.
I could walk through the small tweaks required, but it would probably be easier for you to just pull over my config files and then make other changes as necessary for your system.
Assuming you have a new MO profile, you can just overwrite your INI files in MO with my own, copy my enblocal.ini to your Skyrim folder and check your loadorder.txt and plugins.txt against mine if you're paranoid. If you want to disable Depth of Field (or other settings) by default in the ENB, you can do that in the enbseries.ini file that you recently copied into your Skyrim folder.
Important: WICO and EEO require you to update the Reqtificator.ini file. I recommend reinstalling Ultimate Skyrim (3.4) under another name (if you want to keep old profiles), because that installation contains the file that needs to be modified. Find the mod in your Mod Organizer/mods directory, navigate to [your US folder]/SkyProc Patchers/Requiem, and overwrite Reqtificator.ini there with the version of the file in my download archive.
At this point, it is necessary to rebuild some of the patches in the 'Final Steps' segment of the Ultimate Skyrim build. To be safe I recommend that you back up your old ones and rebuild all of them - FNIS, then Real Shelter (make a new executable in MO for your reinstalled plugin if you followed me on that earlier), iActivate, Automatic Variants, DynDOLOD, and finally the Reqtificator.
If you got here, congratulations! I know this adds a fair bit of clock time to the already-heavy Ultimate build, but for me the visual boost - and the weather change - are worth it.
I check the Ultimate Skyrim subreddit frequently as /u/rodericktech. If you run into trouble or find that this guide is missing a step or otherwise broken, please let me know. I don't have the time, unfortunately, to walk everyone through minor issues by hand, but if you follow these instructions closely I think you should be fine.
If your game has serious bugs / glitches that you think may be related to this configuration, do let me know.
I owe thanks to /u/SrGatonegro, who improved this initial build by putting a patch together that eliminated the need for re-adding AOS and True Storms as masters while making the Vivid Weathers addition cleaner.
Many thanks to Belmont Boy for the work he has done on Ultimate Skyrim in the first place. He has transformed Skyrim into a game I enjoy coming back to again and again. I hope this little contribution to the community expresses at least part of my gratitude.
See you around - unless you take an arrow in the knee,
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