In this article I’ll be introducing you to Mod Organizer 2, the utility we’ll be using to mod our game. I’ll talk about its main features, what sets it apart from other tools and why it’s invaluable. We’ll install it and download our first mod as well.
What is Modding?
Mod Organizer 2 is what’s known as a Mod Manager and, like it’s name suggests, it manages mods. Alright Cool, simple right. But what does that mean? To understand that we have to talk about what modding is in the context of Bethesda titles. When we mod Skyrim, what we are doing in most cases is placing files into the game’s data folder. If you’re following along with my guides, you should know where that is on your computer by now. Generally what these files consist of is a plugin file and an archive file.
The plugin file names end with the extension .esp in most cases but they can also end with .esm or .esl. Generally speaking, they all do the same thing: tell the game the changes made by the mod we’re using. There are minor differences between these three file types but at this point, they’re not important to us.
Archive files contain the assets used in the plugin file and have a .bsa extension on their name. Assets include things like textures, meshes (the wire frames the textures are on), Scripts (Code used by the game engine) and so forth. BSAs are their own unique libraries with specific folders and files arranged in a particular order for the plugin file.
BSAs are not actually necessary for plugin files to function. So long as the mod contains the files in the correct folders, everything will work as intend. When there are folders contained in the mod like this, they’re called loose files. Obviously, if the mod doesn’t add new assets neither of these are needed. Again BSA’s have a minor difference between loose files in the way they are used by the game but we don’t don’t need to worry about that yet.
These two file types are the bread and butter of most mods but other extensions that can be necessary for a mod to properly function include .ini files, .exe files, .jar files and a few other extraneous examples I’m sure. INI files are settings used by the mod in text document form and can usually be left alone when modding Skyrim but the others usually require specific steps for proper mod installation. None of these are anything you should be remotely worried about this point in your modding career, but they do show up in a few mods here and there so just know that they’re necessary for the mod to work correctly.
You may also find some other loose files in the mod. These generally include documentation in the form of .txt or other word processor files. Some mod authors also like to include pictures to demonstrate changes made by their mod. Both of these are just there for you to read over and compare. Nothing that actually effects how the mod works in game.
OK, so why did I just give you this info dump and what does it have to do with Mod Organizer or other mod managers? Good question. In the wee olden days of Bethesda modding it used be that we had to move the file into a game’s data folder by hand through the file explorer or whatever it was called on older versions of Windows. Here’s the problem with that–what happens when two mods modify the same file? Well what happens in that case is that the modder has to decide which file takes priority and overwrites the duplicate file. This of course deletes the other version and now it’s nowhere to be found.
In and of itself, this isn’t a problem but let’s say you uninstall the mod that overwrote the file? This causes issues when the first mod needs to access that asset. So how do you get it back? You go re-download the mod and reinstall. With a few mods this practical but imagine you’re working with a 100 mods and each overwrites the the previous. What you end up with is a giant chain of conflicts so when you what to uninstall one mod you have to reinstall the rest. Of course, this is impractical so modders came up with a solution: Mod Managers.
These remember all the files associated with each mod so can uninstall and reinstall them freely. They replace files that were deleted because of overwrites and all you have to do is click one one or two buttons. No more manual reinstalling or hunting for all the all the files associated with each mod. Great everything’s daisy then. Go out and choose whichever mod manager you please… As long as it’s Mod Organizer 2.
Why Mod Organizer 2?
Here’s why: debugging conflicts. Seriously, that’s it. MO2 of course has a whole slew of other awesome and helpful features but in the grand scheme of things, this is the big one right here. Remember those conflict overwrites we were talking about earlier? Well just because a file is overwritten doesn’t mean that everything works as intended. File A could overwrite B and work just fine but B could overwrite A and cause crashes. Or a whole plethora of other issues.
Conflicts are best avoided where possible but when you’re using hundreds of mods, they’re basically a fact life. So when they happen, you want a Mod Manager that allows you to find the mods that are conflicting quickly and painlessly. That way, you can resolve the issue and get back back to playing–that is why we’re doing this after all.
The Mod Organizer Difference
So how does Mod Organizer install mods? Unlike other mod managers that extract mods into the game’s data files–something equivalent to tossing together a salad. MO2 keeps the mods in their own separate folders that are out of the game’s directory entirely. That way, when it comes time to uninstall, you don’t have to pick out all the ingredients individually, they’re all in one neat pile. What this also does is keep your game’s data folder in an unmodded state but also, more importantly, this allows you to change the mod installation order without actually having to uninstall or reinstall anything. Real powerful and time saving stuff right there.
Before you ask how installs mods without actually modding the game files, yes it is done with magic. Also known as a VFS or virtual file system. Each time you launch the game, a new virtual game directory is generated and so with one simple mouse click, the first mod you installed can turn into the last one you installed. The drawback of this virtualized nature is a longer initial loading time when launching the game but aside from that, you should see no other slowdowns. Trust me when I say that Mod Organizer 2, is the Holy Grail of modding.
Mod Organizer 2 Download
Enough with the information though, let’s go ahead and download Mod Organizer 2. Go over to Mod Organizer 2 nexus page, as you can see its mod number is 6194 for Special Edition. All links for this video are down below as always too if you want to make life a bit easier. I always recommend reading over the mod’s description page so go ahead and do that. Especially pay attention to the FAQ section if you encounter any problems during installation. MO2 has a tendency of being flagged as unsafe by antivirus programs because of it’s VFS nature so refer back to the FAQ if you encounter that.
We’re going to head on over to the files tab and hit manual download on the installer version. If you know how to unpack archives and prefer that method, you can always do that as well. I just find installers easier to work with. Note too that you will need an account on Nexus mods to follow these tutorials so go ahead and make one. I’ll also put a link in the description. Making a new account on Nexus kind of like navigating a maze of donation links but it is free I assure you.
Download: Mod Organizer 2
Go ahead and find the Mod Organizer 2 installer, for me downloads go to the user downloads folder but yours may be set up different. You should definitely know where that is if you’re following my guides. On Chrome you can always run it directly from the browser once the download is finished so I’m just going to go ahead and do that.
Accept the agreement, Hit next and select the folder you want to install to. It will have a location chosen be default but I suggest avoiding it and installing it to the Modding Utilities folder we made in the last video. There are two places you absolutely want to avoid installing MO2 in. That’s the Program Files Directories on your C drive and in your Skyrim Special Edition game folder. My advice is to install it to the same drive as the game and in the same directory as the steam library. Right now for me that’s on C because I’m working with two game installs for these tutorials but ideally it’s on another drive all together. Again refer back to the previous video. In this case, do as I say not as I do.
Make a new folder, it will be named MO2 which is fine for us so we’re going to keep it. Hit OK and next. Keep everything as it is here. We’re going to set MO2 to handle Nexus links manually so we don’t have to check that. Hit next. I don’t use start menu shortcuts so I’m going to check this box. But if you do feel free to fill this stuff out.
Next. For this tutorial, we’re going to create a desktop shortcut so go ahead and do that. You can always find the Mod Organizer 2 EXE file in the install directory and pin it to your task bar if you prefer. Basically just make sure you can quickly launch MO2 as you’re going to using it loads. Next and install. Wait for MO2 to install, we want to launch the program so keep that checked and finish.
Now MO2 will ask if you want to store mods and other profile information in the user Appdata folder. I suggest avoiding that as it separates your files into multiple folders. For the sake of cleanliness it’s nicer to have it all in one. Also we’ll be set this to Portable for this tutorial so there’s that.
It’s going to ask us the path to the game we want to mod so we’re going to find Special Edition. For you it will likely already be on this list, you can check by looking at the folder path right below it. You can always browse for your game if it’s not already detected though.
MO will ask us if we want to see a tutorial. We’re going to say no, as I am your tutorial. I honestly feel that there isn’t enough information in it to be too viable but I guess you can always go through it if you wish. Keep in mind though that it will have you install a mod of your choosing. I’m already going over that here so there’s really no need.
Finally, we’ll be asked if we want MO2 to handle nexus links and we’re going to say yes. This will allow us to download files directly to Mod Organizer from Nexus without having to first go through our browser. It’s really convenient, definitely do that.
And we’re in. This is Mod Organizer 2. It may look intimidating right now but I assure it’s quite user friendly. I’ll be going over it’s UI more in depth in the next video but for now I want you to click on the screwdriver and wrench icon. This will open up the MO2 settings. Go to Nexus and check automatically log in to Nexus. Enter your Nexus username and password here, this will allow you to easily download mods with MO2 without annoying loggin popups. You can also have MO2 handle Nexus links by pressing this button in case you missed it before. Go ahead and close.
Downloading our First Mod
Ok let’s download our first mod! Unlike the Mod Organizer tutorial which lets you choose, I’m going to have you download a mod you will definitely need. Go ahead and find the Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch, it’s number is 266 on the Special Edition Nexus. Like it’s name suggests, it patches bugs in the Special Edition Version of the game. And boy let me tell you, there’s a lot of them. This is an essential mod for any load order and is also required for some other mods to function. There’s really no excuse not to use it.
Download: Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch
As always, Don’t be lazy. Read over the description. Don’t worry it’s short. Click on all the helpful embedded links and skim those. Excetera Excetera. Alright head on over to files tab and you should see a wonderful little button that says mod manager download. Go ahead, click it. Because we’ve allowed MO2 to handle Nexus links we should not see any downloads in our browser.
If you pull up Mod Organizer though and go to the downloads tab in the right side panel we should see the Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch downloading. Once it’s done, double click it. Skip the annoying and inaccurate tutorial Hit manual. We can see that everything is packaged correctly so we can hit OK. Now the mod is installed and all we have to do is activate it in the left side panel.
Launching the Game From MO2
At this point you can launch our game and play with the mod enabled. Because of the Virtual File system used by Mod Organizer however, we must launch the game from MO itself. We have to do this every time we want to play with installed mods. In the upper right drop down list, we can select Skyrim Special Edition and hit run. At this point the virtual file library will be generated and the game will start.
Alright you’ve successfully downloaded Mod Organizer 2 and installed a mod, Nice work! If you found this article helpful, go check out my video and hit the like button on it, it really helps me out. If you have any questions or comments leave em in the video as always, I reply quickly so your comment will not go unnoticed.