Packaging Your Mod
Hopefully this series of tutorials has allowed you to create a follower to your liking. Now you want to share your follower with the world, I’ll show you how to package it so you only have to distrubute two files rather than the dozens of sound and other files the Creation Kit makes.
Read on for part 10 of the guide.
Before we Begin
The official term for packaging the files together is called “archiving”.
I’m going to tell you the way I archived my follower mod. I don’t know if it’s the best way, but I know it works. Just be aware that there are other options (more on that later).
Oh… and I almost hate to say it because it’s so obvious… but you should only make an archive when you’re ready to distribute your mod. The archive you create is not easily updatable so it’s a waste of time making it if you know you’re going to make more changes before a release.
ESP and BSA Files
From the work you’ve done so far, you should already have an esp file. Go and have a look — it will be in your Skyrim directory, under the Data subdirectory. The esp file tells the game what changes your mod makes to the game. But it doesn’t contain “extras” like sounds and scripts.
(You may think you’ve not actually made any scripts, but the Creation Kit almost certainly made some for you secretly. Look in the Scripts directory under Data. You don’t need to worry about how or why, just know that they’re meant to be there and you need them.)
The good news is that your ESP file is ready to go. It doesn’t need any special changes made to it. So you’ve got one file done, you’re half way there!
The BSA file is the tricky one. It’s an archive of all of the sounds and scripts in your mod. You see, the Creation Kit has created all this stuff in various directories with dozens of files in them. You could theoretically distribute all this stuff as it is, but that’s really messy. So we want to bundle all this into one file to make it easy. That’s the hardest part of this whole archiving thing.
Settled in? Let’s create that BSA file:
- If you’ve got the Creation Kit open, close it. We won’t be needing it.
- We’re going to be working with files based on their extension. Make sure you can see file extensions in Windows Explorer. If you can’t, or don’t know what I’m talking about, read this.
- Go to your Skyrim directory. You should see a file called Archive.exe. Run it.
- You should see a window entitled TESArchive.
- You need to check some things. Check the following things: Sounds, Voices, Misc, Retain Directory Names, Retail File Names.
(I’ve ignored Meshes, Textures etc because the type of follower created in this guide series won’t use any of that stuff. If you’ve gone “above and beyond” and have included this sort of thing, then check the boxes as you need them.)
You should end up with the window looking like this:
- Using Windows Explorer, go to your Skyrim directory, and then the Data directory under that.
- Let’s start with Sound. Go into the Sound directory, then into the Voice directory under that.
- You should see several folders. First, let’s look for the one that shares the name of your mod. It should end with esp. This directory contains the majority of your voice clips for your follower. Grab that directory and drag it across into the TESArchive utility, into the large central pane. You should now see an entry similar to the one below:
(Astute readers will notice I’ve stopped using the Anne Enpisee mod as an example and am now using my Idiot in Skyrim mod. Don’t let that worry you, it all works the same way.)
- Now go back to the Voice directory. You should also see a folder called Skyrim.esm. Go into there.
- You will see a folder named after the voice type you created way back in part 3 of the guide. You won’t see any other folders unless you’ve been making more than one follower.
This folder contains your follower’s sound files for doing follower-related stuff like trading equipment, being ordered to wait and follow, etc. Why is it in this Skyrim.esm file rather than the folder named after your mod? If you cast you mind back to part 5 and part 6 of the guide, we “piggybacked” off existing Skyrim quests and added our follower’s voice there. Because we used existing Skyrim quests rather than creating our own, those bits of dialogue went into this directory.
Don’t worry too much about it… it’ll work.
Drag the directory whose name matches your follower’s voice type into TESArchive. You’ll now have two entries, looking something like this:
- Go back up to the Data directory, and this time delve into the Scripts diectory.
- This directory is more messy than the Sound directory because stuff isn’t separated by mod name, and the scripts themselves have cryptic names. If you’ve only been working on one mod then you should safely be able to grab everything. Select all the files ending in pex (there’ll be a lot, some might have stranger names than others) and drag them into TESArchive.
(If you’ve been working on more than one mod you can try to figure out what’s important and what’s not. More information here. If you can’t figure it out you could always just dump all the pex files — it’s unnecessary but it will only make the BSA file bigger by a tiny amount.)
Now you should have something like this:
- This step is optional. Notice the Source directory inside the Scripts directory? You don’t have to include this, your mod will work without it. But if you don’t include it other modders will have trouble opening up your mod. Why do you care? Well, firstly, hopefully you’re a generous person who would want others to learn from or even tweak your mod where they can. But secondly it can help authors of other mods make mods compatible with your mod.
But on the downside it will increase the size of you mod by roughly 5 MB.
If you want to include the Source directory, go into it and select all the psc files. Ignore the temp and Backup directories if they’re there. Be patient as this step can be slow. You should now have this:
- That’s all you need if you’ve made a follower as per this guide. However, if you’ve gone “above and beyond” you might have more files you need to add. Don’t ask me what they are — I’ve no idea what you added! You should be able to drag and drop the files like all the others.
- Time to make the archive! Use the menu to File > Save As. Choose a place to save the file. Ensure the extension is “.BSA”.
- Wait. The archiving process can take a while. But don’t wait forever — in my experience the TESArchive utility doesn’t tell you it’s finished, it just fills the progress bar and stops.
- Go to the location where you saved the file in step 15. You should see a bsa and a bsl file. The bsl file can be deleted.
- Copy your esp file from the Data directory inside your Skyrim directory. Paste it alongside the bsa file.
- Ensure the bsa file is named the same as the esp file. For example, if your esp file is called “My Fantastic Follower.esp”, ensure your bsa file is called “My Fantastic Follower.bsa”.
(If you find your follower can only say follower-related dialogue, and has lost the ability to say all other dialogue, you’ve probably messed this step up.)
- You’re done! These two files are all anyone needs to play your mod! Keep a copy of them somewhere safe.
Testing and Distributing Your Mod
You should probably test your archived file. Here’s how:
- We’ve got to temporarily render the files made by the Creation Kit unusable, otherwise you’ll simply be testing those rather than the archive itself. Go to your Skyrim directory, go into the Data directory and rename the Scripts and Sound directories to something else (e.g. Scripts_TEST and Sound_TEST).
- Grab the bsa file you made and put it in the Data Directory, next to your esp file.
- Run Skyrim. In the splash screen, don’t forget to look under Data Files that your mod is being loaded!
- Play the game, test the mod. The best test is to see if your follower is working when visited by a totally new character. (Use the “coc” console command to save yourself having to walk there.)
- When you’re done, don’t forget to undo the directory renames you did in step 1. Also, remove the bsa file you copied in step 2 from the Data directory as it could interfere with any future editing you do.
Naturally, an even better test is to put the bsa and esp files on another computer running Skyrim, preferably one untainted by mods. Got a friend with Skyrim?
Other Archiving Information
As I mentioned, I only gave instructions for how I know to make a bsa file. There are other ways and means of doing things. Let me give some useful links:
- Here’s a Creation Kit Wiki article on how to use the Creation Kit to make archives.
- Here are other guides to using Archive.exe — one from Creation Kit Wiki and one from the Creation Kit Adventures blog.
- One common place to make mods available to the public is on the Steam Workshop. Here’s an article on the Creation Kit Wiki about uploading a mod there.
- Another common place is the Skyrim Nexus. Learn about uploading files to them here (requires an account).
- Notice how, in my instructions, I didn’t get you to check the Compress Archive checkbox? That’s because doing so seems to wreck lip-synching, at least on my machine. That’s probably because you’re actually supposed to use fuz files instead of wav files. Not only are fuz files the “proper” way of doing voice audio, they’re a whole lot smaller than wav files.
You can convert all your wav and lip files to fuz files, but I’ve not done so personally and so can’t help you with specifics. You can learn how to do this conversion with this Creation Kit article, or you can use the Unfuzer application which looks like it would make the whole process easy.
One Final, Vitally Important Thing
Now that this guide is basically over, I should mention one vitally important thing you must do. That is to give me feedback. Writing this guide took some effort, I like to know that effort was well-spent by hearing that people are getting use out of this guide. You don’t have to write an essay, a short message or link to your mod is just as appreciated. Please?
Also, if you have any questions regarding follower mods let me know. There’s a lot of stuff I haven’t covered, so there’s plenty of material one-off articles on certain subjects.
You can leave such feedback and/or questions in the comments at the bottom of the page, or through one of the methods listed on the contact page.