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CK Basics: Lesson #4

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CK Basics Lesson #4: Design Refinement


Welcome Back, Student!

You have come a long way as a modder, already you have a good feel for some of the most important skills you will ever require to modify Skyrim. In this lesson we will look at refining our work in preparation for a release, take a look at the ins and outs of dynamic lighting, localizing and pathing exteriors, and cleaning the final product for launch. Modding for you is a bit different from modding for others. When you mod for yourself, it's forgivable if things are a little shoddy in spots, after all who will ever know? When you release a mod you want to make sure it is clean and that it's something others will be interested in playing; not every mod is release worthy material learn to know the difference.

Certainly not everyone will enjoy every mod, mod playing is all about preferences and customization, but if you are going to release something you should give some thought to what you're offering potential players and strive for peak performance. For example, loading a vanilla chest with uber weapons and cheat items then dropping it in the center of Whiterun is technically modding, but what does it offer? Very little since many players try to balance their games and don't appreciate uber weapons and cheat items spoiling the quest experience. Always put in the time and care to develop an idea properly and you will enjoy releasing your work to share with others.

Let's finish up, eh? :wizard:

Part I: Dynamic Lighting

As we learned in earlier lessons, the lighting scheme is a blend of ambient lighting, lighting templates, and handplaced lighting objects like candles, fires, and bulbs. One of the trickiest aspects of lighting is finding the right balance of these light elements and the best solution is to try different things and test it in game. This is especially true in large interiors like dungeons and keeps, but even a modest farmhouse needs the right ambiance.

In the basic sense, Skyrim has 4 types of primary light sources: Omnidirectional, Shadow Omnidirectional, Shadow Hemisphere, and Shadow spotlight. This graphic will show you how to identify the light type and what it does.


For small interiors like a house or tavern, the light types you will most likely use predominantly are Omnidirectional and to a lesser extent Shadow Omnidirectional. Are the light objects in your house/tavern Omnidirectional? If not, exchange them now for some FarmInteriorLight01 lights which are.

Shadow lights can create some neat effects but you have to be judicious in how you use them. For starters, only four shadow lights can be visible at once, so as you move from room to room, lights will fade in and out in response to this limitation. Best to keep no more than four within the player's field of view at any given time. They are also resource heavy as they create additional polygons to be rendered so too many will lag performance.

To make shadow lights render in the CK, click on preferences>shaders and check the flag next to Shadows to include shadow lights in the rendering.

Now let's take a look at some of the most common features of a light object and make one of our own. In the Object window, double click on FarmLightInterior01 to open its base edit box.


Just like with containers, let's start by giving the light a new ID: aaDRTutorialLight01, click OK and select Yes to create a new form. Then find our custom light in the object window, and open its base edit box so we can change it up.


Edit the Type, the Color, and the Flicker effect to create a haunting new light for your upstairs bedroom area. When your changes are finished, click OK to set them and drag your new light into the Render window. Shadow Hemisphere lights cast shadows in one direction, face the rounded side of the hemisphere toward the objects you wish to cast shadow from.





:smarty:Smarty Says: Are the bulbs to your shadow lights all red and rendering no light in the CK? Try checking the flag next to shadows under Preferences>Shaders. If that doesn't work, close the CK, go to your skyrim folder, and open the SkyrimEditorPrefs.ini. Find the setting bDrawShadows=0, change that 0 to a 1 and save the ini, then restart the CK. Your light bulbs should be white and rendering light properly.

In some ways you can say it's hard to overdo lighting in Skyrim, and in other ways it's easy. In Oblivion you could add dozens upon dozens of lights in one room to a quite blinding effect. That same abundance is not as easy in Skyrim. Too many lights can cause all sorts of problems, visual artifacts, flickering, fading, banding. Etc. It can also take a heavy toll on performance. Fortunately there's an easy way to tell how your lighting scheme measures up. With your interior loaded in the render window, click on Preferences, click the Shaders tab, and check the flag next to # of Lights. Your house will illuminate into a color spectrum.


What color is your house? :lmao:

  • Red/Violet: Objects illuminated in Red and Violet are being illuminated by too many light objects at once.
  • Blue/Indigo: Objects illuminated in Blue are well lit without overlaps
  • Green: Green objects are not being illuminated by any light objects.

If your house is rendering in Red/Violet, try reducing some light objects until you have a cooler profile.



A good rule of thumb is to use handplaced lights to illuminate NPCs, switches, or special points players need to be able to see clearly like puzzles, clues, and prizes. Leave the rest up to your lighting templates and ambient light settings. :good:

:smarty:Smarty Says: Testing and tweaking is an important part of preparing your mods for release. It allows you to put forward the best work you can. While testing your lighting schemes you may also want to test the fps rate in your cell. Does your camera still lag or stutter inside the house? You may need to cut back on the clutter. Some clutter objects like those containing transparencies can be particularly hard on fps so go sparingly to maximize performance.

Part II: Exterior NavMesh

Before we begin on this section please note that NavMesh in the exterior can be incredibly buggy in the CK, just do your best. Let's return now to the exterior of our house to tidy up the exterior NavMeshing. Switch the cell window to Tamriel worldspace and look up our claimed cell, double click to load it in the Render window. Once there, click the NavMesh button to enter NavMesh mode.

Toggle Grass OFF to improve performance in the Render window, the NavMesh in the exterior can be resource intensive. When you're in NavMesh mode rotate your camera under your house so you are looking up at the foundation from below. This way you can see where your NavMesh needs adjustment


Wherever possible you want to highlight individual nodes underneath your house, drag them out from underneath, and reposition the triangles into the open space, rather than just deleting nodes and triangles automatically. Remember that deleting anything from the vanilla game can cause stability issues with other mods that edit the same thing so take care to do this sparingly. In some locations you'll find deletion is the only option. It is safe to delete individual triangles that are part of the cell mesh but you don't want to wipe out the entire vanilla mesh for that cell. Do this work in small sections and save often when manipulating the exterior NavMesh.

:smarty:Smarty Says: Do you have islands? Islands are small groupings of triangles that are not attached to the main NavMesh for that cell. You never want to delete an island. If you find one in the way highlight any loose islands of triangles by clicking on them to highlight them in green and then drag the loose island under the landscape or high up in the air where it cannot be accessed.


Repeat this triangle re-positioning under all of your exterior statics including trees and clutter you make have moved. When that's done, you need to add to the path around your farmhouse and up onto its front deck surface. Begin by rotating your camera topside, then highlight a node on the existing mesh and build onto it rather than starting a new NavMesh. Take the NavMesh up the steps of the farmhouse and along the wooden deck. Make sure "Select Edges" is turned off on your NavMesh toolbar or you might find yourself placing nodes on the ground below the deck.


The last task to mete out for our exterior NavMesh is to lower or raise any floating or buried nodes where we changed the landscape's shape. Click on the nodes one at a time. Tap the F key to drop floating nodes to the ground and use the Z key to raise buried nodes back to the surface.

:smarty:Smarty Says: Did your NavMesh turn green? Don't make any changes! Remember a green portion of the NavMesh is selected and active. If the whole thing turns green and you make a change you can accidentally move the whole NavMesh or make an irrevocable change.

Part III: Finalizing NavMeshes

When your mesh is complete and error free inside and out, it's time to finalize it. Finalizing locks your mesh in and makes it ready to be traversed by NPCs. Meshes that are un-finalized will not function properly. To do this simply bring up the NavMesh toolbar and click "Finalize Current Cell's Navmeshes"


Make sure that before you finalize your NavMesh, you have your door teleport links established and your teleport markers properly placed. That way when you finalize the cell a green NavMesh marker will appear in front of the door to allow NPCs to have access. Please note, this is not the same sort of green as clicking and highlighting a triangle in green. If no green marker appears, try adjusting a single NavMesh triangle under your door marker and re-finalize.


Exterior cells need to be finalized too in order for NPC AI to behave properly. NavMeshes cannot cross cell borders so make sure to Tap B to show the cell borders while NavMeshing in exteriors. Build your navmesh close to the cell border and line your nodes up with nodes in the neighboring cell. When you finalize, a green link will appear on the cell border to show they are now linked properly for NPCs to cross between them.


:smarty:Smarty Says: Does NavMeshing in the exterior kill your fps performance and chug your PC to a crawl? Tap N to hide NavMeshes in all exterior cells except the active one to improve performance drastically!

Part IV: Localizing and Dragons

Nearly finished now, Students, just a couple small things left to address in order to wrap up our class work. First let's talk about Locations. Remember we saw a Location menu in the base edit dialog for our interior cells? Locations determine how a cell behaves in relation to the rest of the game world. Is it clearable? Where is the nearest horse marker? What is the parent location? That's what an assigned location is for. If you build onto an existing location as we have here with Half-Moon Mill, it's acceptable to select that location for your cell to include it in that localized data. You can also duplicate locations by giving them a unique ID.

Let's look at the Object Window under WorldData>Location and double click on the HalfMoonMillLocation to open its base edit dialog box.


  • ID: This is the CK Editor ID
  • Name: This is the In Game name for the location
  • Parent Location: Choose a location from the drop menu to be used as the Parent Location.
  • Music: Allows for selecting a special music type for this area
  • Unreported Crime: Select which crime faction this area belongs to. Matching it up with the parent location is good if it's nearby, or can be left blank.
  • Keywords: Rightclick>Add to add keywords related to this location, for example LocTypeSettlement
  • Location Ref Types: Location Ref Types detail the various markers and refs in that location for use in radiant story telling and AI.

Change the form ID for HalfmoonMillLocation and create a new form, then open that form and experiment with making some changes to your locational data. Add a horse marker [use an XMarkerHeading for this purpose, under WorldObjects>Static] to your stable and add it to your custom location. Change the music, or edit keywords. When you're finished. Double-click on your exterior cell in the cell view window to open its base edit dialog and set your custom location as its location on the common data tab.

Last but not least, let's talk briefly about Dragons! :tesa:

They are pesky blighters those dragons; seeming to appear at random and descending upon unsuspecting townsfolk. In reality, their fate is already predetermined by Dragon perches. A Dragon Perch is a piece of furniture that can be placed atop your exterior statics and set upon by dragons, allowing them to claim your house as a perch for spewing fire and causing mayhem.

To mark your exterior statics for dragon battles, drag a DragonPerchRockL02 from under WorldObjects>Furniture and drop it onto the roof of your house and/or stables.



You can use more than one to offer variety in the possible dragon strikes. Using dragon perches is a good way to immerse your location into the game as magically untouchable locations would seem strange or out of place.

Part IV: Good Housekeeping

:smarty:Smarty Says: Anything you changed in a .esp on accident, like a neighboring cell you didn't mean to change needs to be cleaned out. If you leave it, it's considered a dirty mod. Dirty mods can be a major source of game crashes and conflicts.

In this section, we're going to discuss mod cleaning, a very important part of modding. However, at this time there is no real reliable way to clean mods, even the CK is bugged and cleans improperly. For now, this section will be left here as is until TESVEdit is released. I encourage current students to revisit this section then. In the meantime, do the homework and head to your final exams. :good:


For your homework this go around you will be posting your classwork from this lesson and finishing up the course in preparation for the exams. This Main Assignment is worth 15pts Post your screenshots here when your assignment is complete.


  • Post Before and After screens of your lighting under color spectrum view
  • Post a screencap of your custom light
  • Post screens of your exterior NavMesh
  • Post screens of your interior and exterior green NavMesh finalization markers
  • Add a Dragon Perch to your exterior
  • Create a new location for your exterior based on HalfmoonMillLocation
  • Post Screens of your Mod Cleaning skip this for now
  • Complete at least two of the course Credit Challenges




When your points have been awarded, head on to the CK Basics: Final Exam

  • Upvote 3

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I have to say, it's a good tutorial! Sometimes, things are really frustrating, just like when you're working on a real mod, but practicing on something less official is good. I also got a lot better in NavMeshing after this last lesson :):good:

So here is what I made (you can click to open full-size image):

Color Spectrum (before & after):



Custom light:


Exterior NavMesh:


Green NavMesh finalization markers (interior & exterior):



Dragon Perch:


Custom Location:


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That's enough for me, I was struggling with this last one.

Thanks, I learnt enough to make my own player home.


Edit: I checked the navmesh with Lydia & she was able to follow me anywhere, taking the path to the front door when I run through the scrub.

She didn't look for cover when the dragon attacked though.

I was unsure about naming the stable marker but it seemed to work.

Thanks again for the tutorial.

Edited by olnorton

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Before and After screens of lighting under color spectrum view







Custom light



Exterior NavMesh



Interior and exterior green NavMesh finalization markers




Dragon Perch



New location for exterior based on HalfmoonMillLocation




Credit Challanges are also completed, check them out :)

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Before and after lighting





Custom light, and the other I did for the cellar then swapped with all the farm lights in the rest of the house. I only decreased the radius on my custom light so they would not overlap.



Navmesh and dragon perch




External navmesh finalization marker and other assorted markers



internal navmesh finalization markers


And the cellar one.



Custom location


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Looking great, one thing I'd note is you need to pull your door markers forward more, especially with ladders so that the green triangle activated is one on the floor and not floating. You also should not path any ladder they can't actually climb. You are ready to finish Credit Challenges and head to your Final Exam, good luck! :good:

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Here we go!
- lighting under color spectrum view (sorry, I don't have a "before" view; I set these lights in a previous lesson):


- custom light:


- exterior NavMesh:






- exterior and interior green NavMesh finalization markers:




- Dragon Perches:


- location:


The two first Credit Challenges are there: http://tesalliance.org/forums/index.php?/topic/6841-ck-basics-credit-challenges/?p=110912


Edited by ladyonthemoon

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OK, Lesson #4!
Lighting Before.
Lighting After.
Custom Light: Haunting!
Custom Light Grits Style.
Exterior NavMesh.

Just the Mesh.

No Warnings.


Here are the finalized NavMesh Markers:
Interior to Basement.
Basement to Interior.
Front Door Inside.
Front Door Outside.
Bring On the Dragons.
New Location. (And the horse marker works! Woo!)
Here are the links to Credit Challenge 01 and Credit Challenge 02.



I am definitely struggling with exterior NavMeshing. I get the idea of squishing and stretching what’s already there, but in practice I keep making huge messes and starting over.


Edit: I went back and worked on my NavMesh some more then updated the pictures.

Edited by Grits

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I make a lot of little mods, mostly for me, but I occasionally share them, and some of them I've even uploaded for everyone's use.


But I mostly mod during the winter months, and I forget so much over the course of a summer.  I keep coming back to this set of tutorials, and I most definitely recommend this entire set to friends who get interested in modding.  A lot of the info even applies to the Fallout games, apparently.  (I don't play them, but I have friends who do.)


So I just wanted to say again, Thanks DarkRider!

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I'd say you're ready for your exam Brady! Good Luck! :clap:


(I will update the roster shortly, I'm without a mouse atm and my touchscreen does scary things to the roster format :D )

  • Upvote 1

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credit challenges tomorrow morning ^_^




i saw 2 rowboats in the cell already. if it's crucial i have one, the fisherman gets stranded...  :D


Edited by longpinkytoes

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Hi Dark Rider,


I'm asking the question here because part of this course is relevant to it: about exterior navmeshes, what about using collivion boxes "L_NAVCUT" instead of modifying them?

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Hi Dark Rider,


I'm asking the question here because part of this course is relevant to it: about exterior navmeshes, what about using collivion boxes "L_NAVCUT" instead of modifying them?


It's possible to use collision boxes to modify navmeshes in special cases, it probably isn't ideal in a general all purpose sense though as flat collision boxes blocking navmesh on an uneven terrain can cause other navigation issues like not allowing actors to pass the collision field depending on how it sits. Also in cases like a stable where you need navmesh on the interior but not where the walls are you would have to move/modify the mesh, it wouldn't work to just conceal it. That technique is more sound for temporary concealment of navmesh in areas the player cannot access at first but later can once the box is removed for example.


Of course the decision is up to the modder, these classes do not cover every technique out there for the sake of keeping things concise and not overwhelming beginners, which is why that technique was not under the purview of this course. Additional navmesh techniques would make a good page in the level design course however :yes:

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