How to ask for help

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How to ask for help

Derived from this post and thread of the same name by bben46 in the Skyrim Nexusmods Forum. Many thanks to bben46 for an excellent guide. The original advice has been slightly modified to be more "generic".

While details may vary, these are such basic questions they apply to getting help with any problems in any modded games.

Troubleshooting game problems is not like taking your car to a mechanic and just saying "it's making this noise". We don't have the car (computer) in hand to test drive or look at for ourselves. We have to depend upon YOU to provide the necessary details for us to make a diagnosis; long distance and sight unseen. The specifics of those details matter, and it usually isn't just the obvious symptoms.

Generally you should write up your request for help "offline" and paste it into your forum "New Topic" post. This is so the forum software doesn't "time out" on you while you try to find that bit of elusive data we ask for.

Details

In order to help, we actually need some information from you.

Q: Why do you need all of this stuff? It looks like a lot of work.
A: Yes, it can be. But even if you would rather spend several days going back and forth you will eventually give us all or most of this anyway. There is NO magic bullet to fix or even identify the cause of a problem, and most fixes will require some part of this info. So why not tell us all of it up front and save everyone a lot of time?

First, A short description of your problem: not a long rambling wall of text - save that for later. Just a line or two stating your basic problem.

Example: "My game crashes when I do X but only at Y location." But not too short as we do need to know what the problem really is and not just another "It's broke, fix it" type post. (Often you will have already done this, and been sent here to learn what else we need.)

Now, we need to know if your game can actually handle what you are trying to do - so tell us a little bit about your computer.

  • CPU, including Brand (i.e. "Intel" or "AMD") and model/number of cores (i.e. "Intel I3-3220")?
  • CPU speed (if overclocked, give that instead of the factory setting; i.e. @3.30GHz)?
  • Graphics card or integrated video chip on the motherboard?
  • Amount of dedicated Video RAM (on the graphics card)?
  • Native screen resolution of the display monitor (e.g. 1920x1080)?
  • Amount of System RAM (total)?
  • Hard drive free space?
  • Is it a laptop? If so, was it designed with high demand game/graphics video requirements in mind?

Don't worry if you don't know what all this means, because we do. You can find most of it in the Windows 'Control Panel | System' - and a lot more in the 'Device manager'. Don't worry if you can't find all of it - if we need more, we can tell you where to find it later. Just give us the best information you can. The good news is: once you have gathered this information, the hardware parts will apply to reporting problems with any game. Keep a record.

Other stuff you need to let us know:

  • Which version of Windows (including any "Support Packs") or any other OS ("operating system") are you running?
  • Where is the game located (Folder Path, from the drive designation down)? Typically by default for 32-bit Steam games on Windows this is "C:\Program Files( x86)\steam\steamapps\common\<game root folder>", but if you "custom installed" it somewhere else it will be different, like "C:\Games\steamlibrary\steamapps\common\<game root folder>".
  • If your game is installed under one of the "C:\Program Files" folder trees, do you run it as "Administrator"?
  • No matter what the game, one of the first things you will be advised to do is move it out of the "C:\Program Files" folder tree. This one step solution will save a lot of problems for any game. See the article Installing Games on Windows Vista+ for the "why" disabling UAC or "running as Administrator" is not enough and "how to move Steam" instructions. This should be the first thing you try. As much of a PITA as this seems, it will never get easier to do than right now.
  • Game version, to include patch level?
  • Any official DLCs ("Down Loadable Content")?
  • Are you using NMM ("Nexus Mod Manager") or any other mod manager? What version?
  • Are you using a game "construction kit" like TESCS, SKSE, or GECK? What version?
  • Any other helper programs: BOSS? LOOT? Tes5Edit? Wrye Bash? Script Extenders? Anything else?
  • Have you applied a "LAA/4GB Patch" to enable your 32-bit game to use more than 2GB of system memory?
  • Did the Game work and then stop, or has it never worked?
  • Have you tried having Steam "verify local files"?
  • If so, did you move/rename the game INI files under the "Users" folder tree as well before initializing the game setup so it will rebuild them?
  • Do you have "Hide known file extensions" enabled in "Windows Explorer | Tools | Folder Options"? (This can mask added extensions like ".txt" that cause the file to be treated incorrectly by the system or ignored by the game.)

Then, if you have mods - we really do need to know what mods and what the "load order" is. We very much prefer to see the LOOT log (or it's equivalent) on your game as that tells us a lot (and just running LOOT or otherwise sorting the "load order" may even fix your problem - or tell you what the problem is). When we ask for the "load order", we want EVERYTHING from the game master file on downwards in the list. Include everything that is installed but doesn't show up in your "load order" as well. (This will mostly be script extender plugins and mesh/texture replacement files. The name of the mod and the texture resolution size used are sufficient.) Leaving something out is like telling your doctor you are "fine", and neglecting to mention you have "shooting pain down your left arm". (Maybe it's a heart attack, and maybe it isn't. But it isn't "fine" or the complete picture.)

Specific tools for Bethesda Games

How to post a BOSS log ( deprecated as BOSS is specific to Oblivion, is being replaced by LOOT for later games, and is no longer officially being updated):

Note: BOSS is being supplanted by LOOT - made by the same people but uses a different sort method.

How to post a LOOT log

For other games, look for equivalent tools.

Further suggestions

Now you are ready to post a request for help.

Some other suggestions:

  • Always be polite, even if the suggestions you get are not what you want or expected. Not everyone here speaks perfect English and sometimes they didn't understand exactly what you were asking.
  • Profanity will be penalized and could get you banned. There is a time and place where profanity may be appropriate - this isn't it. If you cannot comment without profanity, learn to.
  • Please try to use punctuation capitalization and standard English - we are not going to grade you on this, but it does make it easier to understand what you are trying to say.
  • Using SMS?Twitter or similar limited line length shorthand is not recommended - this is not your cellphone where you need to abbreviate everything, and not everyone will know what your abbreviations mean.
  • Using abbreviations for mod names can be confusing as not everyone may be using that particular mod or even abbreviate it in exactly the same way - suggestion, the first time you use it put your abbreviation - then put the full name inside of parentheses - Example SKSE ( Skyrim Script Extender)
  • Always thank the people that help - No one is required to help and they do it of their own free will.

Post back to let us know what worked - or didn't work, and include any new information that you find. This helps everyone.

  • Don't be afraid of being seen as a n00b. We all were at one time and someone was kind enough to help us. Now we are passing that on.

References

Nexus wiki articles referred to by this article:

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Nexus wiki articles that refer to this article:



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