Modding Oblivion (WIP)


This is a simple guide which will teach you some of the basics of using the Construction Set to create mods for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion computer role-playing game. You do not need to know anything about modding to start using this guide. Every step will be explained to you in detail as we go along.

Note that this guide will not teach you how to download or install mods, or how to package your mods for upload. A thorough introduction to downloading and installing mods can be found in the Oblivion Mods FAQ on the Construction Set wiki. For information about packaging your mod for release, see Modding Etiquette, also at the CS wiki. This guide is devoted specifically to the art of modding.

Sidenotes: You've probably already noticed the text on the side-bars. These notes are used to discuss points which are relevant to the discussion but not essential to know. Examples include notes about specific mods which demonstrate a particular aspect of modding, modders who have done outstanding work in a particular area, or terminology which most people are already familiar with. Reading these notes is entirely optional, so feel free to skip them.

Note 2: you will need to own a copy of the game (preferably the Game of the Year edition) and have it installed and working correctly on your system before you can start modding it. I also recommend you play it a bit, otherwise most of this will make no sense to you. :P

Xbox 360, PS3 and Other Versions of the Game: You can only use mods with the PC version of Oblivion. They will not work on Xbox 360 or PS3, so don't even try.

If you don't own a copy of Oblivion for the PC, buy one, preferably a hard-copy version. Don't get a direct2drive version, because it won't work with OBSE, which is used in most of the big mods these days. The Steam version is fine. Make sure you get the Game of the Year (GOTY) edition.

Oblivion has been out for a long time now, and is inexpensive to purchase, so you really have no reason not to buy a copy. And once you've played modded Oblivion for a while, you'll wonder why you ever bothered to play the vanilla version on your console. :)

In case you are having difficulty remembering some of the terminology as you go along, I have added a glossary to explain the numerous acronyms and terms that you may not already be familiar with. If I forget to explain something in the text, don't forget to check here.

The Construction Set


The Construction Set (or CS), is an editing tool that allows you to make changes to Oblivion, or insert new content into the game. Although it isn't required for every type of mod, it is required for most, so you will likely be using it quite a bit. (The sidebar has a brief description of the two general types of mods.)

Bethesda Softworks, the company that made Oblivion (and the previous installments of The Elder Scrolls games before it), released the Construction Set as is. That means that they no longer provide any official support for it, and they will not be releasing any new updates or patches. (Version 1.2 is the latest version.)

That shouldn't be a cause of concern, however. The tool that you'll be using is essentially the same tool that they used to create all of the environments, dungeons, non-player characters, quests and everything else that you see and interact with when you play the game. A few things had to be removed for licensing reasons (such as the code for generating new Speedtree trees) but in essence, if you can see it in the game, you can make it in the editor. This gives you tremendous freedom, but comes at a price: learning how to use the editor is going to take time, patience, and practice.

Downloading and Installing the Construction Set


The first thing you need to do is download and install the Construction Set (and the associated patch). It needs to be installed in your Oblivion\ directory, into the same folder that you have installed the Oblivion.exe file.

Vista and Windows 7 users will probably want to have it installed in C:\Games\Bethesda Softworks\Oblivion\ or a similar directory, not C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Oblivion\ because of the security features in these operating systems. (More detailed information about downloading and installing the toolkit can be found on the Construction Set wiki if you're having any problems.)

The installation should place a shortcut on your desktop, but if it doesn't you are definitely going to want to put one there or on your taskbar for easy access. I also recommend placing a shortcut to your Oblivion\Data\ folder on your desktop as you are likely going to be accessing it a lot when you're modding.

The Construction Set and .lip Files: To generate lip synch files for your mods (used to animate the mouths of the non-player characters when they are talking) you'll also need to download and install a copy of the previous version of the editor. There is a good tutorial explaining how to do this on the Construction Set wiki. Note that you do not need to install this version of the editor unless you are using an older version of Oblivion or trying to create .lip files.

General Modding Workflow


Before we start making our first mod, it's helpful to have a general idea of the workflow. Here's a quick overview of how most mods work.

The database for the original game is stored on your computer as a very large file called an Elder Scrolls master file, or .esm (specifically, Oblivion.esm). When you create a mod, you load this file into the CS and make changes to it; then, when you save your mod, the CS saves your changes to a new file called an Elder Scrolls plugin, or .esp, with a name that you give it (eg. MyMod.esp).

For the changes to take effect in-game, you have to activate this plugin (MyMod.esp) in the game's launch menu or via another mod management tool (like Oblivion Mod Manager or Wrye Bash). The next time you play the game, the changes you have made in your mod will begin taking effect; depending on the changes you've made, that may mean right away, or only after certain events have transpired (such as a cell refresh, which takes three full game days).

When you're tired of your mod, or you just don't need it anymore, you can simply deactivate it in the launch menu. (Note, however, that some mods make changes that persist in your save game, even if the mod has been deactivated. We will return to this subject a little later.)

Help, My Mod's Not Working!: There may be any number of reasons why your mod isn't working; after all, modding is a very complex activity, and it's always full of surprises. Nevertheless, there are several very common mistakes that beginners make that are very easy to solve, but highly perplexing to you as a modder when you don't know what's going on. These information boxes will appear throughout the text to help you track down and solve these 'usual suspects' of misbehaving mods.

Rookie Mistake # 1: Forgetting to Activate Your Mod: Forgetting to activate your mod in the launch menu (or a mod managing tool) is a very common mistake and should be the first thing you check if your mod doesn't appear to be doing anything when you test it.

The CS never makes changes to the Oblivion master file (Oblivion.esm) itself, so you never have to worry about your mod (or anyone else's mod) making any permanent changes to your game via a plugin. (Although changes to other files loaded by the master may persist; for example, by replacing default textures with a texture replacer that overwrites the original files. We'll return to this subject in much greater depth a little later, but for now, you might want to check out the sidebar about different types of mods.)

Now that you have a bird's eye view of the process, let's put some of this theory to practice.

Opening the Construction Set


Find the icon for the CS and double-click it to start the editor. The icon looks like a Swiss army knife: The Construction Set icon..

A Note about the Screenshots: To make it easier for you to follow along, I've left many of the screenshots at full resolution and linked to them on a separate page. To get the best results, I recommend right-clicking on the image and opening it in a new tab, that way, you can just flip tabs as you read. For even better results, though, you might want to open up the Construction Set. It is a tutorial, after all.

Here's what you see when you first open it:

The Elder Scrolls Construction Set the first time you load it up.

You can break the CS down into a few basic parts: the menu bar, which gives you access to all of the available commands; the tool bar, which provides convenient short-cuts to many of the most frequently used commands; the Object window, which lists all of the objects which can be used in your mod; the Render window, which provides a three-dimensional view of your mod and which also serves as a workspace where you will likely be spending most of your time; the Cell View window, which allows you to navigate to every location in the game and your mod; and the status bar, which provides feedback about the state of the editor and many other aspects of your mod.

In addition to these default windows and bars, many menu options come with their own windows and dialogs, like the script editor and the quest/dialogue editor, so quite a bit of the Construction Set's functionality is hidden from you on first blush. We'll come to these other elements later, though, and for now focus primarily on the main windows.

In spite of this plethora of menu options and windows, you might still be a little confused by the apparent lack of actual content. Aside from a few furniture markers, jail clothes, and other odds and ends, the file directories in the Object window appear to be pretty much empty. That's because the editor only loads a very limited set of objects by default. If you want to use any of the other objects available in the game, you have to load the files containing those objects into the editor explicitly.

The Data Browser

To do this, simply find the File menu and select Data. (It's the very first menu option.) This will pull up the Data browser.

The Data browser

The Data browser lists all of the master (.esm) and plugin (.esp) files that you currently have in your Oblivion/Data/ folder. If you have not installed any mods, then only the Oblivion.esm file will appear here. If you have the GOTY edition, you should also see plugins for Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine. (As shown in the image above.)

If you left-click on an entry, it will display the name of the person who created the file, a short description of the file, and the date and time that the file was created and last edited. (The vanilla files don't contain a description, but many modders include one here.)

If you double-click on Oblivion.esm, you will notice that an X appears in the checkbox beside the name. This is how you tell the CS which files to load when you want to work on a mod. You can select more than one file, but the CS handles different types of files differently.

Masters vs. Plugins

This is where one of the key differences between master files and plugins comes into play. Master files are only meant to be loaded as references in the CS; that is, you should only use them as a base on which to build other mods. They should not be used to make changes to other mods. Plugins, on the other hand, should only be used to make changes to master files, and should not be used as a base on which to build other mods. There are, of course, exceptions to these rules, which depend entirely on the mod being developed, but you will have to discover these for yourself in the process of creating your mod. As a point of interest, however, I should point out that the two file types are almost identical in structure; it is only the way they are used which is different.

Mod Isolation

When you load files into the CS, all of the objects contained in every file you load will appear in the editor, whether it is from a master or a plugin. If you make changes to objects from a master file, those change will appear in-game as long as you have that master activated in the Oblivion launcher. If you make a change to an object created by a plugin, on the other hand, that change may appear to work in the CS, but it will not have any effect when you play the game. This limitation is known as mod isolation and is a frequent cause of confusion for new modders. (There are ways of getting around this restriction, but that is a more advanced topic. You can find out more about it in the De-Isolation Tutorial on the wiki.)

Mod Dependency

Selecting mods in the Data browser has a second consequence: any master file you select to load in the CS will become a parent of any mod you create while that master's data is active. This effectively creates a dependency on that master, even if you never actually use a single object from it in your mod. Parent masters for a mod show up in the far right column of the Data browser.

Loading multiple masters is usually a requirement when working on mods that add entirely new world spaces, such as provincial mods and total conversions, but isn't required in the vast majority of cases. In general, you should only load the masters you need when creating a new mod. Most of the time, this means Oblivion.esm. If you've added dependency on a master to your mod and you wish to remove it, you can select it in the Parent Masters column and press Delete. (Warning! It is not advised to remove dependency on Oblivion.esm!)

Making a Mod the Active File

So now you know how to select a file, and some of the consequences of selecting different types of files, but if you try to load your selected file(s) into the CS at this point, it will probably prompt you about not having an active file selected. So what is an active file?

An active file is the file that will be saved to every time you press the save button in the CS. In other words: it's your mod. To make a file the active file, just press the Set as Active File button. (Note: you won't be able to do this until you have a mod to make active.)

Every time you want to work on your mod, you will have to go through this process of selecting it in the Data browser and making it the active file. You do not have to re-select the masters that you used to create the plugin (like Oblivion.esm), however, because that data is already linked to your mod and will be loaded automatically by the CS.

Editing other Peoples' Mods

If you set someone else's mod as the active file, you can edit it just as you would edit your own mod. This can be useful if you download a mod and it does something you don't like, or is incompatible with another mod that you like, or if you just want to add something that you feel is missing from the original. It is very important, however, that you do not release a modified version of someone else's mod unless you have permission to do so from the mod's creator. Doing so can lead to enmity between you and the original author and result in being shunned by the community.

Creating a New Mod

Select Oblivion.esm and press Ok. If the CS prompts you with a warning about not having an active file selected, just click Yes. You don't need an active file to create a new mod, and you cannot make a master (in this case, Oblivion.esm) an active file because masters cannot be edited directly. We will be returning to these points at various stages in the tutorial, so don't worry about trying to remember every detail right now. It will all make sense in due time.

Depending on the speed of your computer, Oblivion.esm may take anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes to load. (You can watch its progress on the status bar at the bottom of the editor.) This is usually when I go to get a cup of coffee.

When the CS is done loading, you will notice that the Object window has been populated with various objects. These are the objects contained in Oblivion.esm and any other files you may have selected in the Data browser. You will also notice that the Cell View window has been populated with various locations from the game. The next few sections will show you how to use the Cell View window, and Render window, and the Object window efficiently and effectively.

The Construction Set with Oblivion.esm loaded.

The Cell View Window

The Cell View window is the tool that you use to select and view different in-game locations, or cells. Oblivion uses two kinds of cells to define locations: interior and exterior. Interior cells are used to define the interiors of buildings, like inns, castles, and dungeons. Exterior cells are used to define exterior locations, like wilderness areas or the outside areas of towns.

Interior Cells

In vanilla Oblivion, interior cells are self-contained units, generally small in size, and do not have weather effects or day/night cycles. An interior is essentially a closed box that has no interaction with the external world or any other internal cell except via a special object known as a load door, or portal. When you activate a load door leading to an interior cell in-game, your character is teleported to the inside of a three-dimensional mesh (or a collection of meshes known as a tileset) that has no exits (except for other loading doors). You can't look through a window from an interior cell to an exterior cell in Oblivion because there is literally nothing on the other side of the window to look at.

Exterior Cells

By contrast, exterior cells are open, like the squares on a sheet of graph paper. When you're exploring an exterior, you're actually seeing several cells at a time (the default is 25 cells arranged in a grid of 5x5 cells with the cell you're occupying in the middle). Your character can walk, swim or ride easily between the cells, and, as you move, the game loads and unloads cells as required to keep the number of active cells the same. (This is how it maintains a steady framerate and prevents your system from crashing.) Additionally, as long as you are in an exterior cell, you are continually subjected to the effects of weather and the day/night cycle.

World Spaces

Exterior cells in Oblivion are further organized into world spaces (often spelled without the space), which are self-contained 'worlds', or landscapes. The size of a world space can vary tremendously, with some occupying only a few cells and others occupying thousands of cells. In principle, these world spaces could be extended indefinitely in each direction, but memory limits restrict the maximum size to a few hundred cells in each direction. Load doors are used to move between world spaces, just as they are between interior cells, though sometimes a scripted transition is used.

Although many world spaces are separate worlds (like the Oblivion planes), some world spaces are contained within larger world spaces, sort of like pocket dimensions. Examples of these include the world spaces used to create Oblivion's walled towns, which are located 'within' the Tamriel world space. These areas are accessed via loading doors just like other world spaces, even though they 'occupy' one or more cells of a larger world space. When world spaces are nested like this, the containing world space is known as the parent world space, and the contained world space is known as the child world space. Oblivion uses these parent/child world space arrangements to preserve framerate: both exterior environments and walled towns benefit by being separated into distinct world spaces. (Of course, if you don't like walled towns, you can always use a mod like Open Cities.)

LOD Terrain

At this point, you may be asking yourself: if the game only loads a few cells at a time, why does it seem like you can see for miles when you are playing? All of the landscape you see beyond the 25 loaded cells is actually composed of special meshes called Level of Detail meshes, or LOD, which are low-poly versions of the actual cells. These meshes are loaded and unloaded as well, but are much lighter and less detailed than the actual cells they replace and are much less resource-intensive to use. (We'll talk more about LOD later on, when we get to creating new world spaces.)

Maps, Levels, and Oblivion

This distinction between interior locations and exterior locations is not often present in other games, which typically use the same kind of processing to handle both interiors and exteriors (the 'exteriors' are essentially just very large rooms with high ceilings). Most games use the terms map or level (often interchangeably) to descibe these kinds of objects, and modders who design locations for these games are often called mappers or level designers.

In Oblivion mod teams, it is not unusual for interiors to be handled by one modder, and exteriors by another. Interior cell modders are often called interior decorators or interior designers; exterior cell modders are often called landscapers or landscape artists.

Locating Cells

To move between cells in the Cell View window, you use the drop-down selection box called 'World Space'. By default, the first option in the list is called 'Interiors', which includes all of the interior cells in the game (dungeons, inns, castles, etc.)

The Cell View window with interiors listed.

If you look at the list of cells in the left-hand column of the window, you will notice that they all reference interior locations. The cells are listed alphabetically by Editor ID by default, but you can change the order of the cells by left-clicking on one of the headers. If you click on the Editor ID header, it will reverse the order of the cells. If you click on the Name header, it will organize the cells based on the in-game name of the cell, which appears when you hover your reticle over the load door in-game and on the in-game map. (Note that not all of the interior cells have names.)

You can also navigate to a cell by left-clicking on the left-hand column and typing the name of the cell you wish to view. (Just be careful you don't accidentally change the name of the cell! That can happen if you left click, then left click again after a short pause.) The editor will automatically scroll to the first cell that matches whatever you're typing. This is primarily useful if you already know the Editor ID of the cell (which is usually the case when working on your own mods) but is less useful when trying to find cells named by other authors, though it can still be an easy way to navigate to a group of cells even if you don't remember the exact name. For example, if you know that the name of the cell starts with the letter R, typing 'R' will scroll to the first cell that begins with that letter.

If you want to move to an exterior world space, simply select it from the drop down box and all of the cells contained within the world space will appear in the left-hand column of the window. (If you want to view the main world space, select Tamriel.)

The Cell View window showing the cells of Tamriel.

While working in world spaces, you can navigate by scrolling or typing in the Editor ID of the cell just as you do in Interiors. (World spaces don't allow you to name specific cells. The names that appear in-game while you are exploring outdoors are set via regions and map markers.) You can also use the Location column to organize cells by their x,y coordinates. If you click on the Location heading once, it will organize the cells beginning with the left-most cell of the bottom row of the map, print the entire row, then move up to the next row. The very last cell printed will be the top right cell. If you click the heading a second time, the order of the cells will be reversed.

Selecting Cells

Once you've located the cell that you need, you can left-click on it to load all of the objects contained in the cell in the right-hand column of the Cell View window. The objects appear to be listed randomly by default (in fact, they are listed by Form ID, the order they were added to the cell), but you can organize them in useful ways by left-clicking on the column headings. The two most useful ways of organizing them are alphabetically by Editor ID, or by Type. (The types will make more sense to you after our discussion about the Object window.)

Loading Cells

You can render the cell in the Render window either by double-clicking on the cell's Editor ID in the left-hand column of the Cell View window, or by double-clicking on the Editor ID of an object in the right-hand column. If you double-click on a cell, it will load the cell with the camera position looking down from above. If you double-click on an object, it will load the cell with the object centered in the camera's field of view.

As an exercise, find the ICMarketDistrictTheFeedBag cell in the left-hand column of the Cell View window and left-click on it. Find the DelosFandasRef object in the right-hand column of the window and double-click it. The CS should render the Feed Bag with the camera centered on Delos Fandas, the restaurant's proprietor. Delos will also become the active object, and a red, green and blue box will appear around him with a yellow cross located at his feet.

The image below shows you what you should see once the cell has loaded.

Using the Cell View window.

Navigating the Render Window

As you can see, when you load an object into the Render window, the camera angles are not always ideal. In fact, it's not unusual for your view of the object to be completely obstructed by intervening meshes. Fortunately, you can reposition the camera anywhere you like by panning, zooming and rotating it, just like a real camera.

Activate those Windows!: Before you can do anything in the Render window or any other window you may be working in, you need to activate it. You can activate it by clicking anywhere on it, but I generally use the title bar to activate the Render window so that I don't move something by accident. When the window is active, the border and title bar turn bright blue.

I'm constantly trying to do things in the Render window without activating it first, which generally results in all sorts of crazyness happening in my Cell View window, so I thought I'd make that step explicit for your benefit. You're welcome. :)

Panning

To pan in the Render window, hold down the middle mouse button and drag the mouse. Alternately, you may hold down the Spacebar instead of the middle mouse button. When you drag the mouse toward you, everything in the Render window moves up; when you push it away, everything moves down. When you drag it to the left, everything moves to the left, and when you drag it to the right, everything moves to the right. The image below shows Delos after panning the camera up a little.

Panning in the Render window.

Rotating

To rotate the camera, hold down the Shift key and drag the mouse. The movements are fairly intuitive, so just play around with it a while until you get the hang of it. Here's another shot of Delos after rotating and panning a bit:

Rotating in the Render window.

Zooming

To zoom the camera, use the scroll wheel on your mouse (roll the middle mouse button). Scrolling up zooms in, scrolling down zooms out. You can also press and hold the V key and drag forward and backward with your mouse to zoom. Using the V key provides a much more gradual zoom which can be extremely useful for closing in on small objects in cluttered cells. In general, use the scrollwheel to zoom the camera in and out quickly, then switch to the V key to fine tune it. Here's another shot after some zooming, panning, and rotating:

Zooming in the Render window.

Top View and Centering

If at any point in your editing you've moved the camera to an awkward angle, you can reposition it over the top of the active object by pressing the T key, or center the view on an active object by pressing the C key. You can also double-click the object's Editor ID in the right-side column of the Cell View window to center it.

Here's Delos after pressing the T key:

Top view in the Render window.

The Object Window

The Object window is the window you use to view and edit all of the objects in the game. By default it appears in the upper left corner of the CS, but like all three of the main editing windows it can be moved and positioned wherever you like. You can even minimize the window if you're not using it by selecting it in the View menu, which will reduce it to a small tab at the bottom of the editor. To expand it again, simply double-click on the new Object window tab you've created or select it again in the View menu.

The Object window is divided into two columns. The first column is a directory tree which shows all of the categories that Oblivion uses to define game objects. The second column is a table containing detailed data about each of the objects that has been defined in the editor. You can drag the divider bar between the columns to increase the amount of space afforded to a column if you need to by hovering your cursor over it, pressing the left mouse button and dragging. You use the scrollbars or arrow keys to navigate the lists just like any other Windows application. (If you don't have a lot of experience using different types of applications, you may not be aware of the different ways you can interact with a standard Windows list. Check out the Using Lists Like a Pro sidebar for details.)

Object Categories

All of the different types of objects that the game recognizes are listed in bold print in the left-hand column of the Object window. Each of these object types serves a different purpose in the game and is handled by a different set of rules, or game logic. If you close all of the folders (press on the little '-' box to turn it into a '+') what you are left with is a list of the main object categories: actors, items, magic, miscellaneous, and world objects.

Oblivion's main object categories.

These are all of the main categories that the game recognizes. Actors are AI controlled NPCs and creatures; items are objects that can be picked up and placed in your inventory; magic objects are spells or spell effects, like the effects of casting a fireball or drinking a healing potion; miscellaneous objects are objects that don't fit well into the other categories, like loading screens and effect shaders; and world objects are objects that you can see in-game but that can't be picked up or placed in your inventory, like houses and crates.

Subcategories of the main object categories.

Subcategories

Within these main categories are a number of subcategories, also defined by the game. If you expand each of the main categories, these are the second level directories, which also appear in bold. These are essentially all of the categories that the engine understands, so every object you see in-game, and every object you subsequently create, will fall into one of these categories.

Each of these subcategories (with the exception of the subcategories within the Miscellaneous category) will share some characteristics with the other subcategories within the same category, but will also possess distinguishing features which allow the engine to treat them differently. For example, both Weapons and Armor, subcategories of the Items category, are objects that can be picked up, placed in inventory, bought and sold, and equipped, but they are clearly very different types of objects. Misc items (like bolts of cloth, pick axes, and tan cups) can also be picked up, placed in inventory, and bought and sold, but may not be equipped (in an unmodded game).

Folders in Subcategories

Within these subcategories, objects may be further organized into smaller subcategories by placing the art assets associated with them into folders. For example, the 3d meshes used to create the Blades armor are located within the Oblivion\Data\Meshes\Armor\Blades\ folder in Oblivion's default directory tree. If you were to create a new type of armor called 'Painbringer' armor, you could create a Painbringer folder in Oblivion\Data\Meshes\Armor\, place the 3d meshes used to create the armor in the folder and any armor you create in the CS that uses these meshes would automatically appear in the Painbringer subcategory in the Object window.

Custom Folders: Many modders take an additional step when creating their mods and create a folder within each of the main data directories (the most common ones are Meshes\, Textures\, Sound\FX\, Sound\Voices\, and Textures\Menus\Icons\) to contain all of their new folders and name it after their mod or under their modding alias; example: Oblivion\Data\Meshes\MyMod\Armor\Painbringer\ or Oblivion\Data\Meshes\JoeModder\Armor\Painbringer\.

Whether you locate new assets under your mod's name or your modding alias depends largely on the nature of the mod, but is something you should consider before releasing it. If you are a lone modder, and would like to share your custom assets between mods, using your alias as the name of your folder will allow you to share assets. If you are part of a modding team, however, you will likely have to locate these assets under specific folders named after the mod.

Note that the CS requires that some assets be located in very specific directories, which is why, for example, the sound files have to be separated into Sound\FX\ and Sound\Voices\, and icons located under Textures\Menus\Icons\. These peculiarities will be noted in the appropriate sections of the tutorial.

The following image illustrates the relationship between the Items category, the Armor subcategory, and the Blades sub-subcategory, or folder. (Note that you can create multiple levels of subcategories simply by creating additional folders within these folders. How deeply you nest these folders depends on how many objects you have and how much organization they require. Examine Bethesda's directory tree to get a feel for organizing your own assets.)

Object Data

The right-hand side of the Object window contains data pertaining to each object included in a subcategory. If you click on a main category in the left-hand side of the window (like Actors, Items, Magic, etc.), the right-hand side will remain blank. If you click on a subcategory, every object contained within that subcategory will be listed. You can further filter your searches by selecting a folder inside a subcategory to list only the objects contained within that folder. If that folder contains other folders, you can select these folders as well to further refine your search.

Each object subcategory has data pertaining uniquely to that category, but all subcategories share a few common types of data that apply to all objects.

Editor ID

The Editor ID is the name that the object has in the CS. When you create a new object, you can give that object any name you like. This name will not appear in-game, and is used purely to identify objects in the CS.

If you look at the Editor IDs of the objects in the editor, you will notice that many of them follow various naming conventions. These conventions use standard prefixes to group related objects together to make them easier to find when you are scanning a list. For example, if you look at the Weapons subcategory, you will notice that all of the enchanted weapons begin with the prefix 'Ench'. These weapons are in turn subdivided into smaller groups based on the type of weapon; for example, all of the ebony weapons are grouped together using a second prefix, 'Ebony'. If you are looking for a particular enchanted ebony weapon, then, you know where to look.

These prefixes serve exactly the same function that the folders do: they subcategorize items in a way that makes sense so that finding things is easier. Admittedly, not all of the categories will make sense to you at first, and you will likely have to use the editor a fair bit before you get to know it as well as you know the Market District, but once you understand how the naming conventions work, you will find your work progressing much more smoothly.

Form ID

The Form ID column is hidden by default, but you can open it by dragging on the line dividing the Editor ID heading from the Count heading. (The cursor should turn into a little two-way arrow with a line running down the middle.)

Forms IDs are eight digit hexadecimal identifiers that are used to uniquely identify every object in the game. When you load Oblivion, the game uses these ids to identify the objects you create, not the Editor IDs, which are created simply for the convenience of the modder. Oblivion never even sees the Editor IDs, which is why you need to use the Form ID to identify objects when you use the console.

Form IDs consist of two parts: the first two digits represent the object's ModIndex, and the last six digits represent the object's ObjectIndex.

The ModIndex is the position that the mod that created the object takes in the player's load order. This index will be different for each player and often for the same player over multiple play sessions (if they have installed new mods that change the load order). Because an object's ModIndex can change every time you load the mod, it should never be used in a script. (Editor IDs are safe to use in scripts because they never change.)

TO BE CONTINUED...

Last updated July 19, 2011

© 2009-2011 Dave Finch