The Elder Scrolls titles, especially Skyrim, are the game to play when you want to experiment with mods. However, stuff seems to be changing soon. One of the developers of SKSE (Skyrim Script Extender) modding tool extrwi reported on Reddit that the upcoming Skyrim: Anniversary Edition rerelease for PC will be “disruptive” to the game’s modding scene. extrwi wrote that the functionality of mod plugins and tools (especially the ones using SKSE and contain .dll files) would break because Anniversary Edition is changing the compiler to Visual Studio 2019 instead of the 2015 version used in Special Edition.
The reason for this is that as part of the [Anniversary Edition] update, Bethesda has decided to update the compiler used to build the 64-bit version of Skyrim from Visual Studio 2015 to Visual Studio 2019. This changes the way that the code is generated in a way that forces mod developers to start from scratch finding functions and writing hooks. Class layouts are unlikely to change, luckily. I didn’t ask specifically, but the most probable reason for this is that the Xbox Live libraries used for achievements on the Windows Store are only available for 2017 and later. Some games have worked around this limitation by building the code that interacts with Xbox Live in to a secondary DLL that is dynamically loaded by the game, but they didn’t choose this option.
Plugins using the Address Library will need to be divided in to “pre-AE” and “post-AE” eras. Code signatures and hooks will need to be rewritten. We will all need to find functions again. The compiler’s inlining behavior has changed enough that literally a hundred thousand functions have disappeared and been either inlined or deadstripped, to put it in perspective.
Unlike Special Edition and the 2011 original Skyrim release with a separate listing on Steam, Anniversary Edition will be released as a patch to existing Special Edition installations. They expected the mod scene to be “broken for an unknown length of time” after the Anniversary Edition release. Of course, as extrwi pointed out, the worst thing about this change is the fact that not a few mods have been abandoned by their creators at this point. After all, Skyrim is a 10-year-old game. Players and content creators have come and go.
What You Should Do To Save Your Mods Once Skyrim: Anniversary Edition Drops
The obvious thing you shouldn’t do is harass both Bethesda employees and/or plugin developers about this problem. The patch is coming whether you’re like it or not, and modders are going to work as fast as they can to fix this issue. But for things that you should do, though, modders suggest backing up your game executable file and turning off automatic updates in Steam. Never launch Skyrim: Special Edition from your Steam Library, only from a mod manager or skse64_loader.
Also, the automated modlist tool Wabbajack might be of use once the patch drops. Halgari, one of the developers, is planning to release a modlist that will help you to downgrade your Skyrim: Anniversary Edition exe. Once the downgrader is released, Halgari suggests you should do these steps:
- Download Wabbajack.
- Install Skyrim: Anniversary Edition via Steam.
- Install the Wabbajack “downgrade modlist.”
- Copy the files from the modlist install folder into your Steam Folder.
- Continue to mod as you would today or download any Wabbajack list that requires the downgraded Skyrim.
Let’s hope Wabbajack can help you back up your files, and the essential mods can be played on Skyrim: Anniversary Edition again fast. Stay tuned at The Nerd Stash for more nerd and gaming updates.