Mod Boosts Skyrim Performance By Up To 40 Per Cent, Could Be Faster

The "TESV Acceleration Layer" is a new mod that claims to increase Skyrim's frame rate by a clear 30-40 per cent, without affecting graphics quality... or anything else for that matter. It does this by using rewritten SSE2 instructions and removing redundant code from the game. This isn't even the best (or worst) part — according to the mod's author, the boost could be in the area of 100 per cent, if Bethesda had bothered to optimise its code.

It's a tall accusation for a random guy on the internet to level at one of the biggest gaming studios around, but then, we have stuff like Hot Coffee, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. That, and he sounds like he knows what he's talking about. But first, the mod.

The mod itself is actually a DLL that requires the Skyrim Script Extender to operate. The author, Arisu, says the library increases performance by up to 40 per cent in "all CPU-dependent situations", with cities being the prime example. It does this by cleaning up some messy routines that do things they don't need to and optimising simple functions that are called many times during each frame of gameplay.

The description also mentions that Bethesda built the game without a number of special flags that optimise code paths. Oops.

OK, so that's out of the way. What about the 100 per cent thing? Arisu's explanation is somewhat in-depth, but essentially, if Bethesda was willing to do the proper optimisations, the game would be going much, much faster. It's hard to verify how accurate this information is, so we'll need to get in touch with Bethesda and see if it can expand on the subject. The core issues with the game are its lacklustre use of multi-threading (which Arisu admits is not a simple thing to address), loads of redundant code, lack of optimisation flags at compile time and generally unoptimised instructions on critical code paths.

I have yet to crack open Skyrim, so, anyone out there who's brave enough to give it a go, please do, and let us know the results. If they're positive, then this news could have far-reaching consequences for Bethesda (and its programmers).

TESV Acceleration Layer [Bethesda forums, via DSO Gaming]

Image: Duncan Harris


Comments

    genius.

    No surprises here, wouldn't be the first time that the community had to clean up a sloppy porting job done by lazy publishers/developers.

    Bethesda? Pathetic Code? How is this a surprise?

    Did you people SEE Fallout 3 and New Vegas?

      It should be a surprise. Letting Bethesda off because of their history is wrong. I appreciate the big open world they have created but we should all hold them to a higher standard.

        It's not a matter of letting them off. It's just that they ALWAYS do this. You're right that they should certainly do better, but that's only going to happen if they lose a bunch of sales because we're sick of their crappy codes.
        Having said that though, most companies use piracy as the fall-guy instead of any problems with their product.

      Well for one thing, Obsidian made F:NV, not Bethesda.

        Obsidian built FNV on Bethesda's middleware-riddled tech. Engine issues and bugs are things Bethsoft need to account for.

          middleware-riddled?
          I have friends working for Gamebryo, the company that makes the engine Bethesda uses.
          Gamebryo treats anything Zenimax (thus, Bethesda) touches as an entirely separate set of software that is totally incompatible with the Gamebryo engine itself, and offers no support.
          It's no longer merely modified, it is essentially a new engine.

        Obsidian built FNV on Bethesda's middleware-riddled tech. Engine issues and bugs are things Bethsoft need to account for.

          Not only that, bethesda did the Q&A ( or lack there of) with FONV. Still that doesnt mean i let obsidian off the hook. Like its said, bethseda make great sandboxes and thats it.

        And Obsidian aren't the ones who developed the Fallout version of Gamebryo, either. It was Bethesda.

          Bethesda didn't actually do the QA for FNV - it wasn't in-house QA at all for either company. It was all contracted.

    I'd like to give Beth the benefit of the doubt. I mean this is a multi-million dollar company we're talking about here, you'd think any ONE of its hundreds of employees could out code some random on the 'net.

    ... That being said I'm going to download and test this ASAP, because as much as I WISH the above was true, there are many cases where it isn't and this could be one of them. I just wish people would, like, try the mod, and wait for this supposed 100% increase, before they go calling Beth bad etc. So quick to criticise with zero evidence.

      "try the mod, and wait for this supposed 100% increase"

      They are saying if Bethesda bothered to optimise code they could get a 100% increase. At the moment it's only 30 - 40% with the mod which as your second comment suggests, is true.

    That's because it's not important to them. This is basically a console port. It might've been designed primarily for PC's but it was made with console level hardware utilisation which means PC's, particularly their CPU's are massively overpowered for it. You can go and look for yourself if you have say an old i7 and see your task manager practically flat lining while running the game. Well, maybe flat lining is an exaggeration.

    Besides, this is Bethesda. They outsource most of their art to Liquid Development so their team must be pretty fractured. Doesn't stop them from making great games. But lets be realistic about this. What need is there to be effecient with CPU / GPU time? Better off being effecient with money so you can keep slowly improving the look of your games, rather then risking huge sums of money on doing everything perfectly only to either A - have a flop and collapse or B - push AAA game development into an area where only giants can afford the costs.

    from a developer standpont: CPU optimization is too expensive to bother with. Modern CPUs are pretty damn powerful, and when your CPU usage comes in at under a certain budget, no body wastes their time optimizing.

    I'm going to say bethesda didn't optimise, I'm also going to say that they've done their testing and said "We don't need to". So there.

    I can't help but wonder if the things that don't need to be done on PC are related to the console versions.
    The menu system feels like a console one, for example.
    I love the game and will likely be grabbing this mod, but it wouldn't surprise me if a game this big was let down in some areas by the 11/11/11 deadline.

    Just tried it out, got around 10 fps boost! PCs relatively old: dual core etc.

      could you walk me through where to put the actual Skse and mod files?

        You've probably figured out the installation by now but just in case heres I do it:

        Alright you download the SKSE mod first and extract the dll and exe files to your skyrim directory folder (the one with the TESV.exe).
        You then go into the Data folder and create a folder called "SKSE" and then inside that folder you create another called "Plugins".
        So it should look similar to this path "\Data\SKSE\Plugins"
        All thats left is to install the accelerator mod by placing the dll file in the "plugin" folder
        Run the "skse_loader.exe" to play

        If you're still having problems, the mod files and better instructions are on the skyrimnexus.com site :)

          Thanks! Yeah I thought this would fix the problem i have where after 30-60 minutes of play time the screen goes grey and the computer crashes. even on the lowest settings this happens and my computer can run the game no sweat on ultra anyway. all drivers are up to date. alas, it still happens :(

    First off cudos to Arisu.
    Most of the hard work done by the gaming community is generally gratis and unappreciated. For what it's worth more power to you dude.

    I'll have to give this a try. Anything that'll drop the fps on my old clunking laptop is welcomed.

    That this should surprise anyone.....? Please people. Haven't you figured it out yet? After years of getting half baked betas on release day, patches only while the game is selling. Most of the polishing down by the community rather than the studio.
    It's all about money and as soon as you part with yours they no longer care.

      Well stated. It IS all about money, but more often than not, we (the gamers) are willing to part with ours, especially for as great of a product as Skyrim is.

      The framerate drops are a serious issue and a valid complaint, and the mod community (Arisu in this case) should be applauded (at the very least) if his claims are validated, but lets not get TOO crazy with the pitchforks.

      No person/company is perfect, and Bethesda continuously releases some of the best products out there as a whole.

      Bethesda no doubt should be held accountable for their mistakes/omissions, but we should keep the criticisms in perspective too.

    this happens often when a dev releases most of the code from a game, or an editor like the TES one, people in the community spend a lot of time with the code and figure stuff out, all devs should release editors for their games!

      This was done without an official editor. Bethesda deserve no credit or thanks for efforts developed with SkyEdit or SKSE.

    I've just set this up and it seems to give me a boost of 5-10fps in busy town areas on Ultra settings. Still can't believe this game won't run at a constant 60fps on my new PC....terrible optimisation. This mod just shows how much better it can potentially run. Kudos to the developers of this mod!

    IIf only this could be done to the ps3, to fix the frame rate drops and lag. I just hope Bethesda don't block this in another update, only to somehow magically have a similar fix in another update (i.e. the memory limitations) but toned down.

      Dude, try making a new save file, as opposed to overwriting your old one. Exit, then reload the fresh save file - it tends to minimize the jutter and lag... For a while, lol. I found that repeating this process as required kept the game playable.

    How long until we see bethseda put this into an actual patch i wonder

    Before you start calling Bethesda bad etc. etc. Make your own game and attempt to tailor all customer needs and wants into the game, debug everything and make 2 other games alongside it.

      yeah but you're drawing an unfair comparison. None of us have the resources to create a game of that caliber and you're completely ignoring the fact that other (even smaller) companies DO produce those kinds of games and they ARE optimized. That's the complaint here. Why did Bethesda release an incomplete game, and get just as much out of it as companies that strive to make their game flawless? Not to mention the fact that we were basically promised a good game in interviews and trailers. I don't remember seeing frame drops in any of those enticing things.

      Hand me millions of dollars to invest into resources, and a trained & able team of developers and I'll be on my way.

    I think that the genius is that Bethesda left a hole open so the community *can* fix it for them.

    Whole little haters in here for one of the best games I've ever played...

    Where's the mod that balances the difficulty curve so I don't have to spend 8 hours grinding to follow the main story path....

      Funny you should say that. I was talking to my friend and he actually completed the main quest and only in level 1 as well. Use a kahjit, and no armour (robes are okay) and use only shouts. Also carry lots of potions and use only your fist. GLHF.

    This is what happens when the original developers at a company who worked on previous games become the senior developers in charge of the rest. Design is less of an issue because it can be somewhat timeless, but the fact is that for the rest of developers, the technology that they use and create is changing and improving so much every year and becoming more and more complex. What really needs to happen is for the people at the top to realise that there are others out there who are better at their job than they are, and to step aside and let them in to help. This is a pretty common problem in the industry, and I suspect in many other technology-based industries.

    Welp. I posted earlier and said to give Beth the benefit of the doubt. I don't know how many people actually TRIED this mod, I see a few first-hand accounts but not many.

    So here's another one. I was getting 45-50, not sure, on Ultra in busy areas. Put this mod on, 60, with the occasional dip when turning around suddenly, but straight back up to 60 in very little time. Downloaded the FXAA mod people are harping on about, and still, exact same performance. Game looks much better and actually performs better now than it did on second highest settings.

    So yeah... So much for giving Beth benefit of the doubt. The game is still fantastic, but damn, that is some laziness right there.

    Don't you think you should have at least played the game before posting this?

    talking to the author of the post...

      If this had been a review, definitely.

      But it's not a review. I'm not sure what it would have added to the post. I would have been able to test the mod, but I would have asked for more reports regardless. If I only posted about games I've played, well, we'd have a lot less news!

        Unfortunately in Australia a lot of people don't understand the difference between news and opinion.

        Considering the context of this article, its probably better that you haven't played the game, so its more likely that this particular article would be a non-biased statement of facts (news), and not just what you thought of the mod (opinion).

    After reading the entire thread, it seems that, most likely due to a bug somewhere, they decided to compile the game without optimizations (for example, it will use legacy x87 instructions instead of SSE2 or newer, etc). It could also be possible (but highly unlikely), that they 'forgot' to add the optimization switches to their compiler.

    From the mod creator, Arisu:

    "They'd just have to add the string "/O2 /GL" to their Makefile. They simply didn't compile the code with the optimizing compiler switches. I'd also recommend to use something else than msvcrt for the math stuff, but just by compiling it as optimized code would at least double the total execution speed, resolving a lot of slowdowns without any additional investment of effort on Bethesda's side. "

    From ianpatt (responsible for making mod compatible with all most versions):

    "My guess after reading the code for this engine over a long period of time (oblivion -> fallout 3 -> new vegas -> skyrim) is that at some point they got hit by a compiler bug, then used the "nuclear option" with the optimization settings. This happened across several projects, and now we have something that insists on storing the 'this' pointer on the stack and reloading it every time it's needed. (that's bad)"

    Maybe its so they can release cross platform patches easier? Its still laziness though.

    I really like when people fix games like this, with New Vegas I only just played it last month and it was great cause it already had truckloads of patches and fixes.

    Wow. This patch is phenomenal. I can run Skyrim at max settings with my shitty vanilla laptop. o-o

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