We have bad news for people playing with mods in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition. It turns out that the upcoming Anniversary Edition will break most of the most ambitious mods created for this production. What's worse, the project will not be released as a separate game - on PC it will come out as an update to Skyrim Special Edition and will replace the older version.
The person who informed the community about it knows what he's talking about, because he's one of the developers of Skyrim Script Extender, a project which extends the scripting capabilities of the engine and thus enambles the community ti create mods with features which the game wouldn't normally allow. As he explains, only PC players will be affected by these changes, as only mods that use unofficial scripts and alter Skyrim's so-called native code will suffer, and such projects are not available on consoles anyway.
The source of this modding armageddon is the fact that the on the occasion of Anniversary Edition, the devs changed the compiler from Visual Studio 2015 to Visual Studio 2019, most likely because the Xbox Achievements require at least the 2017 version to be used. Other developers have circumvented this problem by designing games so that interactions with Xbox Live go through a separate .dll file loaded with the game. It's easy to do, and Bethesda's decision not to use a solution that would have saved countless mods is all the more disappointing.
Switching to a different compiler will mean that most creators will have to rewrite their scripts and plugins almost from scratch. Developers of Skyrim Script Extender intend to make a new version, but this will not automatically update mods that use these features. Active projects will most likely be reworked, but many modders stopped working on them years ago and many among them are unlikely to return just to fix what Bethesda messed up.
A foretaste of these problems is already visible. After all, Bethesda updated Fallout 3 in the same way. The patch removed the Games for Windows Live service and changed the compiler to Visual Studio 2019. In this case the situation is saved by the fact that for a long time the modding community has focused on Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4. In the case of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition the effects of these changes will be much more serious.
How to protect yourself from the mod armageddon?
If you play with mods for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition there are two things you can do to ensure that you will be able to play them after the Anniversary Edition launches.
First, in the Steam client, go to the game's properties. In the "Updates" section, in the "Automatic Updates" drop-down menu, select "Update this game only when it launches".
Then just have the Steam client loaded and run the game through Skyrim Script Extender or the mod manager. The service will not consider this a normal game launch and will not perform the update.
Second, make a backup copy of the old version of the game. This will enable you to play the Anniversary Edition and then, when you want to play with mods, go back to your old version of the game.
We advise backing up your entire game directory, as it is difficult to judge what changes will be made by the update. If you absolutely want to save space on your hard drive, back up the minimum version (which is 99% sure to work), including the following files:
- Data/Skyrim - Interface.bsa
- Data/Skyrim - Misc.bsa
- Data/Skyrim - Patch.bsa