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(Re)installing Morrowind, Pt. 3

Continued from Part 2, or start at the beginning.

So, we’re at high(er) resolution and widescreen now; what’s next? The Morrowind Code Patch!

The MCP includes both fixes to problems with the game’s base code (things hardcoded into the .exe that can’t be fixed by simple addons) and additional features to alter or improve gameplay. I recommend you read through the entire description you will find at the above link, as well as the Readme that comes with the download.

To install, download it and extract the .zip into your Morrowind folder (or just drag and drop its contents. Remember, you are NOT putting it in Data Files, you are putting it in the main Morrowind folder). Open up Morrowind Code Patch.exe (remember to run as administrator. I will keep reminding you to do that).

You will be presented with a list of patches you can apply by checking their boxes. Don’t worry about getting everything right the first time. You can change your choices whenever you like simply by running the patch again. It will load up with your previous selections intact so you can work from there. Clicking on the name in the list will tell you what that particular patch does, and I’ll add some of my own comments below on patches that I feel are particularly notable.

Note that some of these fixes remove some well-known exploits from the game. Trust me, you will enjoy it MUCH more without them, especially since you’re on PC and can use the construction set and the console instead if you really do desire to cheat!

Game Mechanics

These are optional features that alter things about the game that technically aren’t bugs. Some of them are quality of life improvements, and others affect gameplay. Many of them come down to personal preference. There are a few I’d like to point out, however.

– Toggle sneak. Usually the sneak key must be held down. If you’d prefer to toggle it, use this. This is one that comes down to personal choice. I’m only mentioning it because I got used to a toggle while on the XBox (since it was annoying to both hold down AND move the left thumbstick, I’d just double-tap it to toggle sneak on or off) so if your playstyle was similar to mine this will probably work better with your muscle memory than having to hold down the key.
– Swift casting. This is a BIG one. In normal Morrowind you must press the “Ready Magic” key to get into “magic stance” (like having your weapon out, but for spells) and then fire your spell like swinging your weapon. In Oblivion, Bethesda reworked this system so that you can use spells seamlessly while in any stance, without having to “ready magic.” This option changes the spellcasting system to be similar to Oblivion’s. The key that formerly put you in “magic stance” will now actually cast your selected spell regardless of the stance you are in. I find this to be a huge improvement, and it makes the game a lot smoother for anyone coming to Morrowind for the first time after playing Oblivion or (to a slightly lesser extent) Skyrim. You can still enter “magic stance” with the M key, if you want to.
– Pickpocket overhaul. Recommended.
– Slowfall overhaul. I haven’t played with this one much as of yet. Click the name in the MCP and read the description, and decide from there whether you prefer this functionality over the default. It DOES seem more balanced to me, and does include a bugfix.
– Two-handed weapon removes shield. I recommend this because it gets rid of an exploit, and really, it makes sense.
– Item recharging rebalance. Makes it much more reliable to recharge an enchanted item using a soul gem.
– On-use ring extra slot. Gives you an extra slot for a cast-on-use ring so you can keep two constant effect rings equipped. Is it a cheat, or simply convenience? It’s up to you.
– Fortify maximum health. ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY unless you like dying when your buffs wear off. This includes spells and potions that fortify health and also the Orcish racial Berserk power. Without this checked, your regular health is lost FIRST and then the fortified health afterward, so when the fortify effect disappears, your health can drop below zero and leave you eating the floor. You have no idea how embarrassing it was the first time this happened to me. You might think it’s intended to work that way and you’re supposed to heal yourself super quickly when the effect wears off, but there’s isn’t time; it doesn’t drain away slowly, it just disappears all at once. This is a design oversight that renders all fortify health effects useless including the source of Orcs’ much-vaunted combat prowess. Checking this box ensures that the extra health is lost FIRST, so when it wears off it won’t take the rest of your health bar with it.
– Racial variation in speed fix. Depends on whether you prefer characters’ height to affect their movement speed, or you want it to rely purely on their stats. I left it unchecked because it’s natural for taller people with a longer stride to be able to run faster, but it’s completely up to you and isn’t intended in Morrowind’s design.
– Argonian clothing choice. Recommended unless you like your female Argonians to look rather more… mammalian.
– Allow stealing from KOed NPCs. Necessary bugfix. As an alternative to pickpocketing or killing, you are supposed to be able to punch someone till they fall on the floor and then loot their items, but it didn’t work. This fixes it.
– Exhaust NPCs with damage fatigue. Combining this with the one above means you can knock someone out with magic and then steal everything off their unconscious body, and who doesn’t want to do that?
– Detect life spell variant. Highly recommended. The vanilla Morrowind spell only detects animals and not NPCs (because NPCs don’t have a trappable soul). This makes it much more useful, and more in line with the later games.

Visuals

– Rain/snow collision. Use this if you don’t want to see the rain coming through awnings and overhanging roofs and such. I consider it a must-have. You can change some settings in a file called Morrowind.ini in order to see this at full effect, but it’s not required. Take note of the .ini changes anyway, as I’ll discuss this more in-depth later.
– Bump/reflect map local lighting. Turn this on, it’s a graphical improvement that works with some of the mods we’re going to use.
– Over-the-shoulder third person camera. I tried this because I’d gotten used to this perspective while playing Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls Online beta, but it’s not the same; you can’t zoom in or out. I like the angle, but the fixed zoom distance is kind of annoying. It’s possible to accomplish this instead with MGE XE, and you’ll still be able to zoom; more on this later. Just leave this turned off unless it doesn’t bother you that you can’t zoom.
– Reduce camera clipping. In almost 100% of cases you will want this turned on.

Mod Specific

These are changes that may be required by certain mods. They are safe to ignore for now, but you might want to look them over anyway just to familiarize yourself with them. There is one I do like to check, regardless of mod use.

– NPC AI casts zero cost powers. This does make the game harder, but I find it very interesting to have to adjust my fighting strategy for the enemy NPC’s race. For example, I need to get in as many weapon hits as possible before that Dunmer fires off his Ancestral Guardian power. Sometimes I actually have to run away and wait a bit for things to wear off. It makes fights much more strategic, and planning more valuable.

Interface Changes

– Map expansion for Tamriel Rebuilt. You may need this in the future but you don’t right now. Save it for later when or if you actually install TR. Note: I’m pretty sure that once the map is expanded, you can’t get it back how it was before, so don’t use this before it’s required. I’ll let you know when, I promise.
– UI display quality fix. To quote the readme: “Seriously improves UI clarity, by fixing the code for aligning UI drawing to the screen. Text, icons and frames should appear as sharp as the source textures are, no longer blurring by up to half a pixel radius. Warning: Currently causes problems with MGE shaders (but not MGE XE), that appear as shaders applied on top of the UI. MGE expects an unaligned UI when detecting when to apply shaders, and so fails to detect the change, instead drawing shaders on top of everything.” Since MGE XE does not have this problem, this is a definite recommend if you’re using XE.
– Convenient defaults. This one is automatically checked, but I find it more of a personal preference.
– Don’t loot on dispose. This gives you the option of disposing of a corpse without looting all the items from it, by holding Ctrl as you click the “Dispose of Corpse” button. Technically you may not want every tiny little object an NPC was carrying when you, erm, stuck a sword full of justice through their face, so this gives you the option of “disappearing” the items you leave behind along with the body. Erasing items from the world does have its benefits. Just don’t hold down Ctrl while looting, unless you mean to.
– Shortcut key improvements. I love this; it feels much more intuitive.
– Ownership tooltip. Can be extremely helpful.
– Vanity camera lock. This is fun to play with if you like to take lots of screenshots of yourself.

International

These are options to help customize the game for non-English localizations. Leave these unchecked unless your language needs them.

Bug Fixes

Make sure ALL these boxes are checked. Again, some of these remove exploits, but you don’t need them anymore!

Once you’ve checked all the patches you want to use, click the big button at the bottom and MCP will directly patch your Morrowind.exe. A backup will be created called Morrowind.Original.exe. If you ever need to get rid of the MCP and simply using its uninstall feature isn’t working, you can just delete the altered Morrowind.exe and rename Morrowind.Original.exe.

During the patching process, as of version 2.3 the MCP will also redate your .bsa files and patch your Morrowind.exe for 4Gb RAM/64 bit Windows! (Morrowind, being a 32 bit application, only recognizes up to 2Gb of RAM, leaving the extra power of 64 bit useless. Now, it’s still an old game, so don’t expect miracles, but the 4Gb patch seems to help.) If you don’t understand what I mean by “redate your .bsa files,” don’t worry, I’ll explain later; all that’s pertinent now is that the MCP saves us a step that can trip up a lot of newbie modders, especially those coming from Steam.

Now would be a good time to test the game out, and maybe decide on some features you’re not sure you want to use. But does Morrowind crash instantly when you open it? It’s probably your antivirus, like I mentioned in the previous entry. Exclude your Morrowind folder from all scans and shields.

Morrowind.ini

Morrowind.ini is a file that contains some of Morrowind’s settings, and you’ll occasionally need to edit it in order for some of your addons and optimizations to work to their full potential. You can edit the .ini with any text editor. The only edits you’ll need to make right now are optional and serve to make MCP’s weather changes a little more impressive, but you can always wait until later to do it. Just make sure you back up Morrowind.ini before you make any changes!

Open up Morrowind.ini and find the heading [Weather Rain]. Then change the following:
Rain Diameter=1200
Max Raindrops=1500

Then find [Weather Thunderstorm] and change these:
Rain Diameter=1200
Max Raindrops=3000

Last, under [Weather Snow] change these:
Snow Diameter=1600
Max Snowflakes=1500

These settings increase the range and intensity of the weather so the changes applied by the MCP (collision with statics) are more obvious. You can save this step for later if you feel nervous about editing this file now or if you’re afraid your PC can’t handle increased weather effects.

EXE Optimizer

Timeslip’s EXE Optimizer improves Morrowind’s stability, especially when it comes to CTDs (crashes to desktop). You need to have Microsoft .NET 2.0 installed to run it; if you don’t, it can be found here. Download the EXE Optimizer and unzip it to a new folder (I like to keep it in a folder inside the Morrowind folder, just for ease of use). It comes with a ReadMe with more in-depth instructions. Make sure your Morrowind folder is excluded from your antivirus (as I mentioned above), or it won’t run!

Don’t be alarmed if it says it can’t find your Morrowind installation; just click “Find Morrowind manually” and navigate to your Morrowind folder. Then click “Patch Morrowind.”

The EXE Optimizer will create a backup of the original Morrowind.exe which you can go back to whenever you need to make changes to your MCP settings. Afterward, you’ll need to run the patches again (more information on this later).

Patching MGE for 64 Bit Systems

One more thing I’d like to mention is a handy little app that will patch an .exe so it can use all 4Gb of memory on 64 bit Windows. For Morrowind itself, the 4Gb patch is now built in to the Morrowind Code Patch, so you no longer need this 4Gb patch for the game, but I recommend downloading it anyway just to patch the Morrowind Graphics Extender. You can download it here. To use it, put it anywhere you like on your computer, open it, and navigate to the .exe you want to patch. Use it on whichever MGE gui you are using (MGE.exe or MGEXE.exe). This is only for 64 bit Windows.

Important Note Regarding Patch Order

If you’re using the EXE Optimizer, you need to use the Morrowind Code Patch first. The MCP won’t work if you try to apply it to an optimized Morrowind, including after your initial install when you may want to open it to change your applied fixes, but that isn’t really a problem; simply patch first with the MCP and use the EXE Optimizer afterward. If you later on want to change one of the options you’ve selected in the MCP, all you need to do is replace the patched .exe with the backup created when you ran the patch. Simply do the following:

1. Throw away Morrowind.exe
2. Rename the Morrowind backup called “Morrowind.exe.fpu2ssebak” or something similar back to Morrowind.exe
3. Run the MCP and make your desired changes
4. Run the EXE Optimizer again

All this does is revert to the .exe that the MCP can recognize; it doesn’t remove any of your changes, and then you’re just redoing the EXE Optimizer afterward. It works, I’ve done it like 6 times because I can’t figure out if I hate the over-the-shoulder camera or not. Morrowind.exe.fpu2ssebak is the backup created by the EXE Optimizer so that’s the one you’ll want to restore if you want to alter your MCP setup— Morrowind.Original.exe is just what it says: the original. Restoring that one will wipe away your MCP changes.

Continue to Part 4, in which we will learn how best to install and organize our addons.

5 comments

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  1. Paul

    Might be good to mention the EXE Optimizer here before the 4gb patch. It resolves a lot of Crash To Desktop issues. Link to the download for reference….http://timeslip.users.sourceforge.net/exeopt.html

    1. Life in Ink and Pixels

      Hey there, thanks for your input. I did check out the EXE optimizer and I had decided against including it because I couldn’t find a good explanation of what it actually did (well, not good enough of an explanation that I could explain informatively enough on this blog!) and I had no reason to try it as I have very few CTDs, so I didn’t really see it making much of a difference that I would be able to explain. However, you’re right, I should mention it here, even if I don’t have that much info about it, because it MAY help someone. I’ll edit it into the entry.

      Thanks again for your comment!

  2. Rudy

    If you do run the EXE Optimizer, your antivirus will stop the process unless you set up an exclusion rule for the Morrowind folder, as you suggested in one of your earlier blogs.

    1. Life in Ink and Pixels

      Thanks, Rudy. I’ll be sure to make a note of that when I add the section about the EXE Optimizer. 🙂

  3. Life in Ink and Pixels

    I want to note that with the release of MCP 2.3 at the beginning of April 2017 I have substantially reworked this entry.

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