Belannaer put together quite a good Skyrim Modding Guide and I figured I would give the same treatment to Fallout 3 (and New Vegas eventually). This is also a result of Wes streaming Skyrim and making me want to run through FO3 again.
Fallout 3 is still a great game though it is also now over 5 years old and is starting to show its age. A lot of the mods I am going to show are to improve graphics and make the wasteland look a little more impressive. If you need a step-by-step video of how to install the mods, Gopher's tutorials will cover pretty much all of the mods I do (and he covers all of the difficult to install mods); his tutorials were created a couple years ago and some of the mod installs (like NMC's texture pack) have changed slightly.
In addition to the age of the game, it has always had some serious bugs that routinely crash the game or make it unplayable (e.g. the game crashes every time you go inside a building for people with multi-core CPUs). This guide will also address some of these bugs and look at mods to help.
Modding FO3 is a little more in depth, as Nexus Mod Manager (NMM) really only became useable after many of the best mods for FO3 were created. As a result, a fair number of mods require some work to install them correctly (you can't just download with manager and activate them). It's still fairly simple though.
The focus of this list is increasing stability, improving graphics, and fixing a few of the annoyances or oversights of the game. I will have a section at the end that includes some of the more popular gameplay overhauls.
If you want to see how my game looks without adding too much stress to the system, take a look at this album.
Important Note About Installing Mods:
There are a few things you absolutely must keep in mind when modding a game, if you don't you are going to end up with a game that crashes and you will have no idea why.
- Read the install instructions. I will do my best to provide information when the mods are not simple download and install with a manager mods, but reading the instructions first can alleviate a whole lot of problems later on. Also check a mod for compatibility information, chances are that someone else has figured out if a mod doesn't work well with another mod.
- Install a small number of mods at a time. This is probably the most important thing to remember and one I actually learned the hard way (crash on start...50 mods that could be the cause, had to uninstall and reinstall them again). Not all mods work well with one another and not all systems can handle every mod. If you install every mod you want all at once and the game crashes, every one of those mods could be the cause (or an interaction between 2+ mods could cause it). If you install in small batches (I would argue no more than 3 at a time, preferably a single mod at a time) and start up the game and try to break it, you will be able to easily see which new mod causes a problem. Now, this may not be a problem with the mod, it could be that it crashes when used with another mod! Unfortunately, FO3 has that long intro sequence before you can actually do something, so learn to enjoy Liam Neeson saying "daddy."
- Mods will add bugs. The more complex the mod, the more likely it will have bugs, and the more likely it will crash your game. That doesn't mean that complex mods will do this, it just means that it is easier to break the game when using it. Save often with mods!
- The more mods you add, the less stable the game will get. FO3 can only handle a certain number of mods before it will start crashing. That mod number is going to be pretty high, but if you go crazy with modding you will crash the game. It is possible to get a huge number of mods loaded and still have it be fairly stable (I run Skyrim with 200+ gameplay and graphics mods and an ENB. The game crashes every 1-3 hours I would say), it just takes a lot of work to get the mods to play nice.
- After you install a new mod/uninstall a mod it's best to start a new game (unless the mod adds no scripts, ie .esp or .esm in the load order). If you don't do this, you will end up with ghost scripts in your save that can crash your game. You can mitigate the problems somewhat, but you will not completely get rid of them.
- Save often! The more mods you add, the more you will have to quicksave spam as anything can cause your game to crash. I'm actually reinstalling all my mods as I ran into a couple crashes when testing while writing this (who new firing a machine gun repeatedly at a stop sign would crash the game?).
- Nexus Mod Manager (NMM) or Fallout Mod Manager (FOMM). FOMM used to be the mod manager to use, but NMM has gotten far better since it's initial release and is the one I use. Even if a mod recommends you use FOMM, it's usually because the mod came out when NMM was useless, if you can't use the "download with manager" option I will let you know.
- Fallout Script Extender (FOSE). Basically no mods will work without it installed.
- BOSS. Just like with skyrim (and FO:NV, and Oblivion) Boss helps to sort your mod load order to reduce the chance of causing overwrites or conflicts (essentially, helps make sure mods work properly and reduce the chance of crashes).
- Fallout 3 Edit (FO3 Edit). A handy tool that can be used to clean up mods and help remove conflicts between mods. It will help improve stability if used correctly but can and will break mods and cause crashes if used incorrectly (so follow the instructions). It can also be invaluable when trying to find what mod causes a crash. You will use this program to create a Merged Patch of your mods (essentially combines changes from various mods to make sure that nothing is overwritten).
- You will need to install FOSE. Download the latest build here, extract it, and copy the .dll files and fose_loader.exe into your FO3 directory (this is where your Fallout3.exe and FalloutLauncher.exe are found). From now on, you need to launch Fallout using fose_launcher.exe (you can't launch directly through steam anymore).
- Download and install the mod manager of your choice (I recommend NMM)
- If you have a multi-core cpu, go to Documents/my games/Fallout3 and open 'Fallout.ini'. Change 'bUseThreadedAI=0' to 'bUseThreadedAI=1'. Add 'iNumHWThreads=2' to a new line under bUseThreadedAI. This restricts the number of threads the game can use to 2. Even if your CPU can handle more threads, leave it at 2 as going higher will cause the game to crash.
- If using NMM, click on the 'Tools' menu (the wrench and screwdriver icon) and make sure that 'Archive Invalidation' is checked. I remember FOMM having a similar option. Mods will not work without this. You can also download ArchiveInvalidation Invalidated if your chosen mod manager does not include it (the manager option also doesn't work sometimes). If you install the 'Unofficial FO3 Patch' mod, it will also install Archive Invalidation at the same time.
And with that, you should be pretty much set up to mod the game.
Mods that fix bugs, add stability, or improve performance. Some of these are going to be the most difficult mods to install.
- Large Adress Aware Enabler: You need to download this mod manually (don't download with manager)! Essentially improves stability of the game particularly when using texture mods. It allows the game to use more RAM (the game without this can only use 2GB, this can increase it to 3 or 4 GB depending on the OS). For people using a 64 bit OS, this is quite simple to install. If you are using a 32bit OS, read the instructions in the mod post and see if it is something you want to use.
- Fallout Stutter Remover: helps reduce micro stutters when playing. Makes the game look a lot smoother, though not everyone will notice a difference. Once you install the mod (you can use download with manager), you need to go to your Fallout 3 directory, then go to 'Data\fose\plugins' and open 'sr_Fallout_Stutter_Remover.ini' either change 'bManageFPS = 1' to 0, or modify 'fMaximumFPS' to a frame rate that is stable for you (one that doesn't change a huge amount).
- Fake Fullscreen Mode Windowed: You need to download this mod manually (don't download with manager)! Fallout actually runs a lot better in windowed mode for most people and has fewer crashes. This mod makes the windowed mode look like it is full screen and allows you to alt-tab. Install this by placing the 'Fallout_Fullscreen.exe' file in your fallout directory. If you use this, launch the game using 'Fallout_Fullscreen.exe' from now on (this will work with Large Address Aware Enabler). This prevents the in-game brightness slider from working, a mod covered later will allow you to change the brightness.
- Unofficial FO3 Patch: You need to download this mod manually! An extensive bug fix mod. Get it. This will only work with the English version of FO3. A German, Italian, or French version can be found here (though they are outdated versions), there is also a fully updated Spanish version. Installs with an exe. Be sure to activate the mod after installing (you can do this in NMM in the 'Plugins' tab).
- FO3 Error Corrections: fixes a few major and minor bugs with FO3 and the DLC. Should increase stability. This requires the DLC. Fixes some bugs not fixed by the Unofficial patch.
- Purge Cell Buffers: A problem that pretty much every Bethesda game has (Oblivion, Skyrim, and New Vegas also have this problem) is that the game tends to bog down and crash after extended play time. This is caused by previously loaded cells still remaining in memory and increasing the load on your computer. This automatically purges the cells and almost always improves stability and performance. Can occasionally cause crashes when moving between internal and external cells.
These mods help to improve the function and layout of the UI. Install these mods in the order I list them.
- DarNified UI: The UI for FO3 is definitely designed for someone playing on a TV. This mod makes the fonts and some other UI elements smaller among many other changes. If you click 'Add mod from file' in NMM and import the mod, it will install everything you need for you, otherwise, follow the instructions in the post (you will need to modify the font options in an INI file). If you use the Fallout Wanderer's Edition mod (talked about in Gameplay Overhauls below), be sure to pick up the DarnUI patch in the FWE download section.
- Adjustable HUD: allows you to move elements of the HUD around. If you like how the default HUD is set up, you can skip this one. Hit "yes to all" when NMM asks if you want to override files when installing.
- Immersive HUD (iHUD): Hides all HUD elements until you need them (if you hit the 'i' key it will also unhide the HUD). So if you have full HP your HP bar will disappear, if you have full AP your AP bar will disappear, etc. Your crosshair also disappears when not in combat and your weapon is holstered. This mod needs to be installed after all mods that modify the HUD except uHUD (this includes things like FWE). You can easily uninstall this mod and reinstall it if you install another mod that modifies the HUD. Hit 'yes to all' when installing. Pressing and holding 'i' will let you change the settings of the mod.
- Unified HUD projec (uHUD): Helps to integrate multiple HUD altering mods so that they will work together correctly. Install after all mods that modify the HUD (so this includes things like FWE), hit 'yes to all'.
Make an older game look better.
- NMCs Texture Pack: Modifies pretty much all of the scenery textures. Does not touch NPCs, weapons, or small clutter. Made by one person over the course of a year. The largest version is 2GB of textures...don't get it unless you have a BEAST of a system. The full and performance pack look almost identical except when you are very close to the textures. This mod is the main reason you want the Large Address Aware Enabler.
- Fallout 3 Redesigned: You can't download this mod with the manager, you have to download it manually. Bethesda continues their tradition of making NPCs look ridiculous and blocky. This mod makes all NPCs look more human without making women ridiculously proportioned naked barbie dolls; it tries to make characters match their voice, personality, or even age (for instance the 16 year old who looks 30). I will not play FO3 without this mod, take a look at the screenshots as it is remarkable how much of a difference this makes. This mod used to be named Project Beauty, the author changed the name as people thought it was a mod to make people beautiful. Once you download this manually, extract to a folder, choose the version you want (HD or regular), select all the files in that folder (you don't need the .txt file) and place them in a new folder, move the .esp's and .esm into the 'Data' folder, then add the new folder you created to an archive. This can then be imported into NMM. For step by step instructions, watch this video.
- Imaginator: From the mod page "It allows you to separately control visual elements like Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Light Output, Depth-of-Field, Focus, Motion Blur and Tint all from within an easy-to-navigate PIP-BOY menu." Helps customize your game a bit. This will allow you to change the brightness even in windowed mode! No performance hit with this either!
- Dynavision: Adds depth of field and control over various aspects of it. I happen to hate DoF, but I install this mod because the Director's Chair requires this mod. Very little performance hit.
- Cinematech: Adds film grain. Again, really don't like film grain but Director's Chair requires it. The film grain will have an effect on performance.
- Director's Chair: Combines Imaginator, Dynavision, and Cinamatech into an easy to use UI menu by hitting 'F7'. Otherwise, you have to access each one seperately through the pip boy inventory screen.
- Enhanced Night Sky: Replaces the night sky with a high-res version taken from real-life starfields. Makes the night more spectacular.
- Enhanced Blood Textures: Considering the number of people you are going to be killing, better make that blood look better!
There are also ENBs for FO3. I never found one that I thought looked good. They will impact your performance but they do improve the look of the game. If people are interested in them, I can give some more information on different ENBs available as well as how to install them.
Bethesda continues the tradition of having humans not actually move like a human, these help alleviate that.
- RH_Ironsights: Ah FO3, the pseudo FPS where you can't use the ironsights on your gun. This fixes that. This is actually from Paradox Ignition presents The Mergers, where a couple modders consolidated mods that use a lot of plugins to make load orders smaller as well as adding bugfixes. If you go to the RH_ironsights page, you will get an outdated and bulkier version than this one. Unfortunately, this won't modify weapons added by other mods.
- Fallout 3 Reanimated: Modifies existing animations to make them look better. Mostly changes animations with rifles. If you download both this and RH_Ironsights, be sure to install RH_Ironsights first, then choose 'yes to mod' when installing FO3 Reanimated, then install the Idle Fixer Update from this mod. If you install RH_Ironsights after this mod, when aiming with rifles and shotguns in third person (and when in VATS) your character will spin uncontrollably and it will be impossible to hit anything (this also effects NPCs).
Weather and Lighting:
- Project Reality: A weather and lighting overhaul. Adds multiple weather effects, changes the lighting in the world with different levels of night darkness to choose from, removes the green tint in the game, and a couple other features. This is the lighting/weather mod I use. Also allows you to toggle different weather systems and effects on or off. This is not compatible with Fellout or Enhanced Weather. This is also the weather mod that has the most recent update.
- Fellout: Removes the green tint in the game. As the author points out, "200 years since the bombs fell and somehow everything is tinted green? Things in Fallout and Fallout2 weren't green." Again, this is from Paradox Ignition presents The Mergers.
- Enhanced Weather - Rain and Snow: Adds weather to the game. Similar to Project reality without the lighting overhaul. Choose either this one or project reality, not both. This will work with Fellout.
- Dynamic Weather: Another weather overhaul mod (won't work with Project Reality, will take some fiddling to work with Enhanced Weather). Be warned, this one darkens nights by quite a bit, making it pretty much unplayable without nightvision.
- Fallout Street Lights: Useful if you install a mod that makes nights darker. Adds lights to "street lights and signs in the DC ruins".
- Realistic Interior Lighting: Changes the lighting inside buildings and caves, Darkens a lot of interior areas (as they have no light sources). Not a mod I use as it makes it very dark in some interior areas.
Minor Gameplay/Graphics changes:
Minor in the sense that they don't impact gameplay a large amount.
- Energy Visuals Enhanced (EVE): Energy weapons, explosions, and fire are all a bit boring. This improves visuals, sounds, animations, and even adds some new weapons. Ashpiles also look a lot better when you disintegrate people with a critical hit. I actually just found a bug with this; if you use Shredder Grenades (added by the mod, fire lasers in all directions) to attack Protectrons (not sure about other robots) the game will crash, these work fine on other enemies I have tested them on. It shouldn't be too big a problem as shredder grenades are carried by Brotherhood Outcasts.
- DC Interiors Project: Adds a number of interiors to buildings that used to be boarded up. If you've ever been annoyed at the number of boarded up or locked buildings, this mod is perfect. The interiors are well done and fit perfectly into the game (you won't be able to tell which ones are new).
- Hair Pack: If you want more hairstyles, pick this mod up. 24 female hairstyles, 14 male.
- Hacking Terminals is Easier: The hacking game isn't difficult, you can repeat it as many times as you want until you get it correct. This mod just removes some of the words on the screen, meaning it won't take as long. It does not reduce the science skill needed to hack the computers.
- Sprint Mod: If you want to be able to sprint without needing to install a gameplay overhaul, this mod should do the trick (it seems it has a couple bugs, but it does still work). I haven't used this mod as I use FWE.
- Enhanced Camera: You can see your body and your shadow when in first person. Also prevents the automatic switch to third person when knocked down/killed. I have not tested this one, but it looks interesting.
- Return to Sender: A new mod that has popped up on fallout nexus. It allows you to use 2H melee weapons to hit thrown objects out of the air! Haven't tested it myself but it seems to work (though whether you can actually hit the grenade that is thrown at you is another matter.
Gameplay Overhauls/Major Additions:
Mods that add quite a bit to the game. Most of these should probably not be used on the first playthrough. Save them for a second run.
- Weapon Mod Kits: A mod so good it was incorporated into FO:NV. This lets you modify weapons, just like you can in FO:NV. Want to put a silencer on your rifle? Or a new scope? Maybe you want a larger magazine for your assault rifle. All mods are also visible on the weapon.
- Fallout 3 Wanderers Edition (FWE): This is a large gameplay overhaul. It adds the ability to sprint, adds an alternate start (so you choose to skip the vault start), slows leveling experience, increases damage of all weapons (both taken and dealth), added bullet time (costs AP), adds a grenade hotkey, adds chems and drugs, reworked health and radiation, adds the ability for multiple followers (optional) and improved AI for enemies, can disable fast travel, among many other options. It makes combat much faster paced and means that not getting hit is a big deal. DO NOT install the Alternate Travel module (unless you want to go into FO3 Edit and change it from an ESP to an ESM, if you have no idea what I am talking about, don't do it) otherwise the 6.0.3 hotfix will not install. Don't worry though, the hotfix will install the Alternate Travel and Restore Tracers modules (if you don't want any of them you will need to deselect them in your load order, the 'Plugins' tab in NMM). Don't forget to save if you choose the alternate start (it will not autosave, meaning a death early on means you have to start a new game).
- Marts Mutant Mod (MMM): Adds new monsters and new textures for existing monsters to add a little more variety to the wasteland, also makes changes to monster AI. For instance "Enclave Deathclaw Alpha -- So you know those Deathclaws they Enclave are fond of harnessing? They kinda did one better, you know gave it a small boost with some protective armour... and a giant twin-pronged blade. Add to it your list of creatures under 'RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!'." This mod is fantastic.
- Fallout Overhaul Kit (FOOK2): Another gameplay overhaul similar to FWE. Adds pretty much the same things. I just found the overhaul (particularly the armor and weapons) didn't fit quite as well as those from FWE. However, this mod has been updated far more recently than FWE.
- Fallout 3 Flora Overhaul: Included in this section because it completely changes the look and feel of the game. Makes the wasteland living again with trees and grass. Another mod I have not tried, but Vurt's Skyrim Flora Overhaul is fantastic and this looks to be good as well. There are 2 lore friendly versions with dead trees.
- Real Time Settler: This mod is amazing, though a bit buggy at times. It lets you found your own settlement, you can create new buildings, walls, and turrets. You defend the town from raiders, create farms and produce goods for sale. Truly remarkable and basically adds a city building game to FO3.
- Mothership Zeta Crew: Mothership Zeta is a bit...boring once you are through with it. This mod adds new areas to the ship and new NPCs, armor, weapons, and quests.
- Vault 101 Revisited: See what happens in Vault 101 after "Trouble on the Homefront". I haven't tested this.
- Alton IL: new world area and quests. This is a massive mod that I plan to try eventually. It looks well made and is pretty impressive. This mod will not work properly with a bunch of other mods.
Want more music or ambient noises? Here you go!
- Fallout 3 - HD Audio Overhaul: Overhauls ambient sounds and adds new music to the game. I found it changed the feel of the game too much for my tastes, but a lot of people love this mod.
- Ambient Wasteland 2: Adds over 200 ambient noises on top of the current ambient sounds. Includes things like, "dogs barking, far off gunbattles, mosquitoes spinning around your head, owls hooting, etc." This is an extension of an older mod Wasteland Ambiance.
- Gunfire Sound Range Increased: From the Blackened compatibility project. This is an updated version of the mod that is tweaked, and supports DLCs, EVE, and FWE. I quite like this one, makes gunshots slightly louder close up and makes you able to hear them for longer distances.
As you increase the number of mods you install, you run into problems where they will start to overwrite changes made by another mod. This can be an annoyance, or it can even cause crashes. I'm not going to provide detailed instructions on these as what mods you need really depends on what mods you have installed.
- Blackened: Has a bunch of compatibility patches designed for the most used mods. The most up to date patches are available here. Patches available for FWE, EVE, MMM, Fallout 3 Redesigned (Project Beauty), Destruction, and DC Interiors.
- Fallout Interoperability Program (FOIP): an older collection of patches. They have compatibility patches for FOOK2, as well as Weapon Mod Kits.
Finalizing Your Mod List:
Once you have installed all of your mods, fire up BOSS and run it for FO3. Once that is done, you need to use FO3Edit to create a merged patch to help reduce mod conflicts and potential crashes. Watch Gopher's video on FO3Edit if you don't know how to use it or what it does. It is 40 minutes, but it is important to do this and do it correctly. If you understand how mod loading and mod order works, you can skip ahead to 14:55 where Gopher talks about making a Merged Patch.
If you start up a game and notice a dramatic decrease in FPS, there are two mods that can really be the cause.
- First, NMC's Texture Pack will impact systems, making loading times slower. If you notice a hit after installing this mod, downgrade to a lower quality version.
- And second, any lighting and weather mods will also impact performance. Try uninstalling these if they cause a problem.
Otherwise, most of these mods shouldn't increase the stress on your graphics card, they will increase RAM use a bit (which is why you really need the Large Address Aware Enabler) and CPU use a little bit.
I would also recommend using Optimizer Textures (I know this is a link to Skyrim Nexus, the program works for Skyrim, FO3, FO:NV, among others) to compress the texture sizes for some of these graphics mods (it won't look much worse, but can free up a bunch of RAM and VRAM in a game that already has issues with it).
Edited by TheWinslow, 19 October 2014 - 01:16 PM.