Difference between revisions of "Getting started creating mods using GECK"

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=== Animation ===
=== Animation ===
[When linking to a Video, be sure to check the page sidebar for additional, related subject videos.]
[When linking to a Video, be sure to check the page sidebar for additional, related subject videos.]
* [http://www.nexusmods.com/fallout3/mods/21983/? ACCESS: Animated Computers Consoles Electronics and Security Systems Resource] Resource Mod.
* [http://www.nexusmods.com/oblivion/mods/28326/? Adult Animation Tutorial For Noobs] by '''Coronerra'''.
* [http://www.nexusmods.com/oblivion/mods/28326/? Adult Animation Tutorial For Noobs] by '''Coronerra'''.
* [http://www.nexusmods.com/fallout3/mods/21983/? Animated Computers Consoles Electronics and Security Systems (ACCESS)] FO3 Resource and PDF Tutorial.
* [http://www.nexusmods.com/fallout3/mods/9700/? Artorp Object Animation Tutorial] Video and Blender KF files.
* [http://www.nexusmods.com/fallout3/mods/9700/? Artorp Object Animation Tutorial] Video and Blender KF files.
* [[Avoiding_Blender_animation_pitfalls|Avoiding Blender animation pitfalls]] Nexus Wiki article.
* [[Avoiding_Blender_animation_pitfalls|Avoiding Blender animation pitfalls]] Nexus Wiki article.

Revision as of 14:04, 13 February 2019



The following information is primarily taken from the Help starting out thread on the "Fallout New Vegas GECK and Modders" forum. The information is preserved here as an alternative to searching through back posts in that forum for commonly asked questions. Much of the information applies to "Fallout 3 (FO3)" as well, but the focus is on FNV.

This article provides a learning roadmap, a starting point and guide to progression; not a tutorial. Consider it a collection of suggestions and links to more detailed tutorials, articles, videos, and tools. Just from the "Table of Contents" you should get a reasonable idea of the learning curve ahead of you. Don't get discouraged. Tackle things one at a time. Just don't expect to learn everything quickly.

There is a lot of unique vocabulary related to creating mods in the following material, such as the distinction between "meshes", the 3D framework of objects (saved as Nif files); and "textures", the surface "skin" over the "mesh framework" (saved as DDS files). The Elder Scrolls Texture Guide (TESTG) site has a glossary and several pages devoted to explaining these to new mod creators and users. Rather than explaining them here, please reference that site when you need clarification. (This article does a lot of that: referral to other existing resources. Why reinvent the wheel?)

Programs and Tools

GECK Tools

  • Garden of Eden Construction Kit (GECK) (freeware.) The official "game editor" for Fallout 3 and New Vegas. NOTE that when loading files, the one plugin you designate with the "Start as Active" button becomes the one that gets edited and saved when you exit the editor. ALL of the files loaded into the GECK at the same time will automatically become "master files" to the "active file" when it is saved. In particular to this regard, see the NAM files entry.
  • GECK Extender NVSE Plugin. Project to extend GECK functionality and bug fixes. Compatible with all NVSE script extender plugins. (Do not use together with GECK Powerup (nor the Forked version), which it replaces.) Note the optional "Patcher" to make GECK 4GB aware and auto load NVSE is a separate file.
  • GECK 1.4 Powerup NVSE Plugin. (Replaced by GECK Extender. Do not use both together.) Comes in a "standalone" version for the "vanilla" GECK functions, and one for GECK with NVSE functions. It fixes and improves some issues while providing the missing messages when the GECK compiler finds an error or warning, and lets you save a script without compiling it. Considered "essential" by experienced mod creators.
  • There are now two wikis devoted to the GECK: the official one by Bethesda, which is not very well supported and a major pain to update (Five CAPCHAs per post!), and a Modding Community GECKWiki site with everything from the official one but actively updated by the modding community. While most links to the GECK wiki are to the official wiki, be sure to check out the Community one to see the latest info on your topic. Anything related to "Script Extenders" like NVSE or JIP LN NVSE functions will be more current on the Community GECKWiki site.

Image Tools

  • Category:Tools on Nexus Mods wiki has articles on various aspects of the primary tools you will be using. Check it out as well.
  • 3DS Max (1 month free trial, $185/month or $1470/year subscriptions, 3 yr student/educator license.) Commercial product by AutoDesk but the version that works with Nif files isn't free. Versions after 2013 don't seem to work with at least Fallout 4 (according to this thread) using the included official NIF exporter, though there is an unofficial "Figment" exporter plugin fork on GitHub which does seem to work.
  • Blender v2.49b (freeware.) This download includes ALL related files and compatible versions. This is the "complete" package for creating meshes for Bethesda games; including:
Python 2.6.5
Blender NIF Scripts 2.5.5
NifSkope 1.0.22
PyFFI 1.1.5
"Noob to Pro" PDF tutorial.
Check out the "Optional" files section for some additional functionality. Recommended for FO3/FNV.
  • Blender v2.49b Portable by Room207 is also a "complete" package that is preferred by some for it's convenience. Includes:
Python 2.6.6
Pyffi 2.1.11
NIFscripts 2.5.9
True Normals by Anthony D'Agostino
Geom Plugin 0.5
Mesh Ascii Plugin
UDK Scripts
Blender Tools 1.01 by Kormgar
Blender TRI file scripts and Tutorial by Kapaer and Deedes
  • DXTBmp Texture Tool (freeware.) Images can be passed to any Paint program for editing in 24 bit and then re-imported and saved in any of the 16/24/32 bit formats. Transparency (Alpha) channel of textures can be viewed and edited separately from the main image.
  • GIMP: GNU Image Manipulation Program (freeware.) A cross-platform image (texture) editor available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and more operating systems. Provides extensions through integration with many programming languages including Scheme, Python, Perl, and more. The result is a high level of customization as demonstrated by the large number of scripts and plug-ins created by the community.
  • Hairs - Eyes - Races Auto - Patcher (Mod.) Extracts all the hair / eyes / races records from every plugin loaded in your load order - then, it rewrites the list of eyes and hairs for every race found. So, if you untick / unflag a hair mod from your load order, these records won't be loaded by the game itself and consequently won't be found by this mod because they don't exist.
  • LOD/VWD Overview TESTG site wiki.
  • Maya (1 month free trial, $185/month or $1470/year subscriptions, 3 yr student/educator license.) Animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software by AutoDesk.
  • MindTex2 ($20) by Frozen Flame. MindTex is a normal map generation utility for game developers and 3d professionals. Built to rival the competition in quality without the steep price, whether you want to generate a normal, height, specular, gloss, self-illumination, occlusion, or reflection map, you can easily do it in seconds flat from a single source texture with MindTex.
  • NIF tangents and binormals updater (freeware) by zilav. A command line tool to batch update tangents/binormals in Oblivion, Fallout 3, New Vegas, Skyrim, Skyrim Special Edition and Fallout 4 format NIF meshes. The one in NifSkope doesn't handle degenerate normals, such as if your NIF has a lot of texture tiling. It also gives all around better results especially for people who use Blender and cannot reset the normals and smooth them because it lacks the features to do so.
  • NifSkope (freeware.) A graphical program that allows you to open NIF files, view their contents, edit them, and write them back out again. You can use it to quickly make changes to specific properties of a NIF file such as changing the texture, adding translucency, and more. A 3D view of the contents of the NIF file allows you to preview your changes instantly. You can even create texture templates, and import & export OBJ files. (Note: This link is the latest release and may not be the best choice for FO3/FNV. A fully compatible version of this tool (v1.0.22) is already included in the Blender v2.49b package linked here.)
  • NifSkope v1.3.3 (revision36efdd) (freeware.) A later version than that bundled in the Blender v2.49b package (with EXE and features referred to in many tutorials that are missing in even newer (v2.0+) releases, such as "import/export .OBJ files"). Fully compatible with that Blender package, and more "shader flags" are identified. While both versions of NifSkope can be installed, only one can be used at a time. Recommended for FO3 and FNV (along with the NifTools XML Format version, which has the essential "differentiated color for Collision"). Recommended for FO3/FNV.
  • NifTools Wiki (freeware.) 3D package plugins for 3ds Max, Blender, and Maya modelling tools. Note: this link will have the latest release versions. The versions bundled in the Blender v2.49b package are all mutually compatible.
  • The NifTools XML Format (documentation.) Used to extend NifSkope to open files from new games, or better understand files from games which it can already open. Version recommended for FO3/FNV.
  • Paint.NET (freeware.) Image and photo (texture) editing software for Windows, originally based upon the Paint program included as part of Windows, but with many enhanced features such as "layers", special effects, and unlimited history ("undo"). Require Microsoft's .NET Framework 4.6+.

Packaging Tools

  • BAIN Archive Tools - BAT by Surazal
  • BSArch (freeware) by zilav. A command line tool for packing and unpacking Bethesda archives. The most complete support setting the correct flags across the various games.
  • BSAOpt (freeware) Tool for extracting the contents of BSA files. Note this tool unpacks the entire BSA file. It does not easily allow for unpacking a single file.

(See the Skyrim thread BSAs and You for details about the pros and cons of "Bethesda Software Archives" (BSAs), but bear in mind such files in previous games, like Oblivion, FallOut3 and Fallout New Vegas, don't have "strict order" like in Skyrim. Games prior to Skyrim don't support overriding of assets in archives using other archives; only loose files can. If the same resource is contained in several BSA archives, those games won't use it from the last BSA on 100% of occasions. They may grab the resource from a random one of the BSAs containing the same file.)

WARNING! Do not unpack BSAs directly into your game "Data" folder; potentially overwriting any mod files. The tools don't ask you to confirm the overwriting, either. All the hair textures unpacked to "loose files" will go through the head models in that case; because that's what happens when hair is not packed in a BSA. "Best practice" is to unpack to a unique folder (they are large: 1-2GB) and manually drag the desired files to the appropriate "Data" folder as needed.

  • BSAExtractor (BSAE) (freeware) Tool for extracting just one or the entire contents of BSA files. See warning above about unpacking an entire BSA.
  • FNV BSA Decompressor Mod by zilav. Decompresses the Fallout New Vegas BSAs and repacks them into BSAs without zlib compression for performance. Also transcodes the ".OGG" sounds effects to ".WAV" format so they work. It also extracts any MP3 files to loose files because they will not play when in a BSA.
  • FOMM - Forked (freeware) Mod Manager with built-in BSA file extraction and repacking.
  • Note that FOMM has several tools bundled with it. The TESsnip tool in particular is obsolete and has been shown to cause "silent corruption" of save game files as a result. The use of xEdit/FNVEdit is recommended in it's place.
  • FOMM and FOMODS for Dummies article.
  • FOMOD Validator by Ganda

Scripting Tools

  • CIPSCIS Script Validator (freeware.) Allows you to quickly indent your script while simultaneously checking it for several basic errors, many of which are not picked up by the GECK's compiler. It works with Skyrim, Fallout 3, and Fallout New Vegas, but is not "script extender" aware. Includes it's own tutorials.
  • New Vegas Script Extender (NVSE) Site.

Sound and Voice Tools

Misc Other Tools

  • DarNified Forum Community site. Articles and questions on XML for the User Interface (UI) and Menus, primarily about the Oblivion version of DarNUI but there is a section for FO3.
  • Gamesettings profiler Mod. Adds intuitive, app-like, modding tool for debugging, testing, profiling, and dumping\printing to file any numeric GMST (gamesettings) records.
  • Tree LOD billboard creator for xLODGen by zilav
  • xEdit/FNVEdit (freeware.) A generic tool called xEdit which is renamed for working with specific games. The latest "stable" release is on the Nexus, generally under the game name version or as "TES5Edit".


Basic advice is to start with the game Construction Set/Editor (this is usually a separate, free download, not included with the game installation). There is going to be a wiki page for it with tutorials to help get you started, but note that there are unspoken assumptions that you are familiar with concepts introduced on the "Construction Kit"/"game editor" wikis for earlier Bethesda games such as:

(TES5: Skyrim came after all of those (2011) and uses a different variation of the game and script engine.) So, don't neglect those older wikis as resources. Where there appears to be a conflict, assume the later wiki or the one specific to your game is correct.

In addition to the Construction Set/Editor, you'll probably want to get community created editor enhancement tools, like the GECK "Extender" or "PowerUp", "Oblivion Construction Set Extender", etc. These allow you to perform actions not included in the default editor, like edit ESM files without converting them to ESP first, and may also give you better debugging for scripts. These capabilities vary by the tool. On the negative side, such extensions may also annoy the heck out of you with error messages, many of which you don't need/understand and don't care about. But they are always worth looking into.

There are also conversion tools which are required to export the 3D models from your modeling tool into the "NIF" format that Bethesda games use. It is very important to note that the import and export tools only work with certain versions of modeling programs. For Blender, you need version 2.49, which is older than the current version of Blender. The Nexus Oblivion mod Blender linked here is a package that has Blender v2.49 plus all of the NIF tools and includes NifSkope, all of which are the correct versions to use together. You will save yourself a lot of trouble if you install everything from this one package. If you don't, you can run into version problems and things will never work right. Instructions on the correct way to install this combination of tools can be found the wiki article here. (Note where there seems to be a discrepancy in version numbers, stick with the version included in the package.)

"Script Extenders" (SEs) are plugins to the game editors that provide additional functionality features, and were created by the gaming community to overcome perceived shortcomings. Mods the use even one of those SE functions need to specify that the particular SE is now a requirement.

Item (armor, weapons, buildings, etc.) construction and customization requires learning 3D modelling, which is NOT a quick process. You are going to invest a lot of time and patience in learning your tool of choice. The three most common tools used are Blender, "3ds Max" (aka "Max"), and Maya. There is very little discussion about Maya in the forums related to Bethesda games because while it is considered the better choice for animation, "Max" is simpler to grasp and less daunting. Both "Max" and Maya are considered "industry standard" tools, and both will do the job. See these articles for more in depth comparisons if you are going to invest in learning either product:

The Nexus has the Software Programs - 3D Modelling - Blender forum, Software Programs - 3D Modelling - 3ds Max forum, Software Programs - 3D Modelling - Maya forum, and Software Programs - 3D Modelling - Miscellaneous / Other forum areas for discussion about those tools.

The "workflow" on Blender for Nif files is considered more complex than with the others because it often takes you into the Nifskope tool, but read about the Nif Exporter plugin for Max issues in that entry. It is necessary to use the correct version and tools that work with that version of any of these products.

Because it is "free" and the others are quite expensive for most people, Blender is usually at least their first choice. "Blender Noob to Pro" is a good resource for 3D modeling using Blender, and the compatible (not the latest) version is included in that package linked above under Programs and Tools. Consequently, there is a long history of tutorials on all aspects of modelling with Blender. It is well worth the time to refer often to the Blender - Read this first thread as you progress through the learning curve. It has an extensive list of tutorials from Oblivion thru Fallout 3 and more generalized topics which still apply to the basics of modelling in Blender.

For texturing your 3D models, you'll need something that can handle ".dds" files. GIMP and Paint.Net (which is not the Paint that comes with Windows) can both handle ".dds" files. Paint.Net comes with ".dds" support built-in these days. GIMP still needs a plugin. Which program you use is more a matter of personal preference than anything else. Some find GIMP a bit more difficult to use but it also can do some things that Paint.Net can't do. Paint.Net on the other hand is, in the opinion of many, more intuitive and easier to use. Although, now that Paint.Net has a proper normal map generator that actually works available as an add-on, GIMP use tends to be even less frequent now. A lot of it is personal preference, though. Some folks just like GIMP better. Both programs work fine. You can also use Photoshop, but that's not free.

Once you have the 3D model textured (UV mapped) and maybe have generated a normal map for it as well, then you need to export everything. First, read the Working with DDS/DXT Files article by Gary "Buckaroo" Neely to understand the choices in DXT codec to choose among. Blender and the NIF tools don't export a lot of things properly, so then you have to go into NifSkope (which comes with the NIF tools) and fix it. (The proper weight of "bones" in skeletons, along with "shader flags", is almost always wrong, for instance.) Be sure to check that the path given in the mesh to the texture file is in "relative" format. (See How to fix hard-coded texture paths in NIF files.) The default format of the mesh editor's paths may not be "relative".

Once that is done, then go into the game specific Construction Set/Editor and add your custom items to whatever mod you are working on.

Getting back to the GECK, there are a few things that are broken in it. It ships with a spell checker but doesn't include the dictionary, so that's just annoying. (But you can use the language resource files from Fallout 3 as the dictionary.) If you use the GECK "Extender" or "Powerup" you can uncheck the spell checker and disable all of that annoyance at least while you are editing your mod. Unfortunately it won't remember that setting and you'll have to uncheck it the next time you edit your mod as well.

Another thing that is broken is the "lip generator" for dialog. If you have Skyrim or Oblivion you can copy their lip generator from the "sound\processing" folder to GECK's. If you have all of your voice files in place and they work already, in the GECK all you need to do is bring up that dialog in the quest editor. Your WAV file should show up down near the bottom, where it says voice type: MP3, WAV, LIP, LTF, and "path". Click on that to select it, then click on the "from WAV" at the bottom. The "generate lip file" option should now become active and you can click on it. Note that the GECK will not update the information on the screen, so it will still have an N under LIP file even after you have generated it. Close that dialog option and re-open it and then you should see a Y under both the WAV and the LIP. If you record the voice files directly into the GECK (using the record button at the bottom of the dialog window) then when you press save it will automatically generate both the WAV and the LIP files.

Common Problems with GECK

Issue - Where to obtain the GECK

  • Cause: The Construction Kit is a separate download and not automatically installed by Steam. (It is with the GOG DRM-free version.)
  • Solution-1a: You can download the "GECK. - New Vegas Edition" through Steam. It's under the "Library | Tools" tab in the Steam launcher.
  • Solution-1b: Download from the following links:
  • Official GECK Wiki by Bethesda Softworks.
  • GECKWiki Community maintained (more up to date) version of GECK Wiki.
  • FNV 4GB Patcher by Roy Batty - LuthienAnarion. Sets LAA flag specifically to work with Steam versions of FNV and GECK.
  • Recommended: The community developed optional NVSE plugins supplement the GECK, and are considered essential due to the error fixes and additional diagnostic messages (especially for scripts that won't compile) it displays. They require you to launch GECK with NVSE in order to function.
  • Script compiler warnings will now be displayed. Scripts will no longer silently fail to compile.
  • Many other warnings were restored: in cell loader, in NavMesh checker, and so on, more than in 1000 places. [back for testing in beta 1]
  • Adds a special Marker hack which makes RoomMarkers and PortalMarkers visible and transparent in the render window [since 0.1.3].
Unfortunately, cannot make them completely invisible as they should be, but it's better than having to move them all away just to see the cell.
  • You can now save scripts without compiling them (useful if you want to save your script and finish it later).
  • The spell checker can now be enabled and disabled at runtime.
  • Fixed the bug which caused the GECK to crash when user double-clicks on empty space in Form List Editor.
  • The "Edit" menu item in Form List editor will now work.
  • All MessageBox'es will now be in English, regardless of your system's language. This also means that "Cancel" will be replaced by "Yes to all" where intended by GECK developers. [since 0.1.2]
  • ESM are now active and editable directly.
  • ESP used as masters will remain in the masters list.
  • ONAM records in ESM will be preserved. No guarantee new required ONAM will be added. When in doubts, use FNVEdit to update the ONAM records.
  • Enables level 2 LOD generation for large worldspaces
  • Fixes bUseMultibounds = 0 crashes in cells with multibounds
  • Extends GDI handle limit: This cleans up opened windows better when closing them so you can edit for long periods without fear that you won't be able to save your plugin because the GECK can't open any new dialog windows.
  • Help links point to new community maintained wiki: GECKWiki.

Issue - GeckCustom INI file

The "GeckCustom.ini" may not get created in the "C:\Users\<YourAccountName>\Documents\My Games\FalloutNV" folder until you save your first modified file; not merely close GECK as some have reported. NOTE that as you have to run GECK as an "Administrator", the "C:\Users\..." folder with the INI file will be for the "Administrator" account. This can cause confusion as to where to look.

See also the wiki GECK: Tips and Tricks article.

TIP - GECKCustom INI may be missing

TIP - Disable Audio in GECK