Version 1.1 (Sep. 15, 2009)
Mythic Mods >> Gluby's Comprehensive Guides >> Magic Visual Effects Mods
This guide covers mods that systematically change, replace or eliminate various pervasive visual effects associated with magic items and spells.
While it sounds quite optional and taste-based, it is likely you will quickly find that one alternative or another is preferable in the three areas of mods primarily covered by this guide: those that change the "plastic wrap" magic item shimmer, those that change the "blue swirl" magic item inventory icon background, and possibly those that change the "magic egg" visual effect associated with shield spells.
The fourth section, Other Spell Visual Mods, is a sort of catch-call where I place mods that may be of interest, but they certainly do not have the "must-have" status that those in the first three categories have.
Bethesda's default visual effect for magic items, in its unmodified form, is almost universally beloathed. Most consider it annoying and unpleasant to the eyes, akin to cheap plastic wrap (i.e. or, as one person accidentally-but-quite-appropriately put it somewhere, "Suran wrap"). It's an eyesore.
A mod that fixes this seemingly minor detail, either reducing it or eliminating it altogether, is pretty much essential. However there is a good variety to choose from, some using transparency or reflection-mapping to achieve different effects ranging from a more subtle shimmer effect to a complete elimination of it. Furthermore, some change the effect to approximate crackling electricity, waves of energy, and so forth.
Do not be shy about trying different ones out to see which one you like; they are easily swapped in and out, particularly with Wrye Mash's "Installers" feature. Unless specifically indicated otherwise, all of these are simple pluginless texture replacers.
No Plastic Effect Enchanted Items v1.00 [Rhino]: Completely eliminates the magic item shimmer by replacing the shimmer textures with totally blank (black / transparent) textures. [Jun. 2004.]
Pluginless NoGlow [Plangkye]: An alternate replacer that, like Rhino's No Plastic Effect Enchanted Items, eliminates the magic item shimmer by replacing the shimmer textures with blank textures. [Nov. 2008. Equivalent to Rhino's mod; either one will achieve the desired result with no difference.]
Reduced Plastic Effect for Tribunal v2 [Saralas, ed. MP*Canus]: Reduces the plastic wrap effect to a minor glimmer by replacing the magic effect textures with a set using transparency and more subtle, "crawling" glimmers. Version 2 was released by MP*Canus to fix an incompatibility introduced by Tribunal. An identical fix was also released by MagicNakor as Tribunal Shimmer Reduction. [Nov. 2002.]
Magic Glow as Reflect Maps [DzeI aka J]: Replaces the magic item shimmer effect textures with a set that uses reflection-mapping instead to make the items slightly shiny, reflecting light according to the angle viewed instead of emitting the standard animated shimmer effect. This slightly different methodology has been generally well-received, though it has the drawback of reducing the aesthetic effect of modded weapons and armor that use reflection-mapping textures. [Nov. 2005.]
Max's Glow v1.0 [Max a.k.a. ~NOBODY~]: Replaces the shimmer effect textures with a set that approximates something of an electrical effect. [Dec. 2004.]
Better Glow v1.2 [Tapani_doe]: Replaces the shimmer effect textures with a relatively rapid succession of bright, flashy glimmers. The effect is more active, and some have commented that it is still too like plastic wrap, and that even the slowed-down version 1.2 shimmers a bit too quickly. [Apr. 2005.]
Magic Aura Replacement Textures [BunnyX]: Provides four different sets of replacement textures for the magic shimmer effect, making it appear similar to waves of energy or electricity moving across the item at a moderately-rapid rate. [Jan. 2003.]
New (Improved) Magic Shimmer Effect [Tclord]: A replacer similar to BunnyX's Magic Aura Replacement Textures that approximates electricity or energy crackling across the surface of enchanted items. Also comes in a Low-Intensity Version with a more subtle effect. [Feb. 2004.]
Subtle Magic Glow v1.0 [atteSmythe]: A magic item shimmer replacer that offers three variants: Faint, which makes the original moving effect more subtle and transparent; Fade, a new texture that fades in and out but doesn't move; and Static, using the the same base texture as Fade but without the fading effect. [May 2006.]
Thaedyn's Super Sublte Glo [Thaedyn Vyr]: Another variant of reduced-intensity shimmer texture replacers that aims for an almost imperceptible shimmer effect. [Jan. 2005.]
Enchantment Effect Tweak [Gilrad]: Three sets of shimmer textures that achieve different effects: one with several straight, parallel lines that move across the item; one with a lightning effect; and one with a variant glow effect. [Oct. 2004.]
The default icon background for enchanted items in inventory (the blue swirl) is generally considered obnoxious, and is so visually overpowering that it often makes it difficult to discern the actual item. A number of replacement textures have been released to replace these effects, and can be swapped in and out at will to suit one's preferences.
Alternate Enchanted Item Icons v1.1 [Rob B.]: An acclaimed mod that offers two sets of replacement magic item icon backgrounds, one similar to Bethesda's but more vibrant, and the other a more subltle light ray twinkle/glimmer effect. [Feb. 2006. Includes the default Bethesda icon swirls textures if the player wishes to revert to the originals icon swirl.]
Better Magic Items v1.1 [Tapani_doe]: Replaces the magic item icon background with something of a gentle light ray twinkle/glimmer background. The textures have a blank notch in the lower-right-hand corner that somewhat spoil the visual effect. (The notch appears to have been intended to accommodate the number display for item quantity, but poorly fit it in all instances I have seen, including the author's screenshot.) [Jun. 2005. Includes the default Bethesda icon swirls textures if the player wishes to revert to the originals icon swirl.]
Blue Dot Magic Icons v1.0 [Andoreth]: Replaces the magic icon swirl with a bright blue dot in the upper-left-hand corner of the item icon. [Aug. 2003. Includes the default Bethesda icon swirls textures if the player wishes to revert to the originals icon swirl.]
Enchanted Icon Selection v1.1 [Nigedo]: A set of five replacements for the standard icon swirl that, instead, provide a small icon (a star, a sun, or a triskelion) in the upper-right-hand corner of enchanted items. [Nov. 2003. Includes the default Bethesda icon swirls textures if the player wishes to revert to the originals icon swirl.]
Magic Icon Blue Swirl Removal v1.0 [Godslaw]: Completely eliminates the icon swirls by replacing the textures with transparent ones. [May 2003.]
Magic Icon Border (Icon Replacer) v2.0 [Marbred]: A set of 11 more subtle alternatives to the standard icon swirl, including the author's preferred texture, a faint starry background. The author provides a good graphical catalogue at the PES download site, but the in-game screenshot is blurry; a much-better in-game screenshot of one of Marbred's available icon swirls can be found at Fessic's Favorites blog (direct image link here). [Nov. 2007.]
New Miscellaneous Art v1.0 [Cantina Boy]: A mod that, among other things (specifically, replacement crosshairs and levitation effect), provides four new alternative magic icon backgrounds. [Mar. 2007.]
Many dislike the visual effect for the Shield spell. This section covers mods that seek to ameliorate the "Magic Egg" effect by various methods.
ShieldVFX Retextures [Nzdawghaus]: A pluginless mod that replaces the textures for the shimmer particles used in the four Shield effects with textures that are more subtle, making the globe more subtle but still visible. Contains two versions: one that minimizes the particles, and one that eliminates them entirely. [Oct. 2005.]
New Shield VFX [Vilkacis]: Replaces the shimmering oval shield effect with a shimmering globe that, according to uncharitable feedback, looks more like a soap bubble. [Oct. 2002.]
No Shield Effect [wesslen]: Completely eliminates the Shield effect and reduces the glow of items that have been enchanted with the Shield spell, using the same method as those that eliminate the "plastic wrap" magic item shimmer by changing enchantment colors to back via a plugin. [Feb. 2004. Conflicts with Shadre's Improved No Glow and magic item shimmer reduction mods that use the plugin method (see the FAQ). If used together, be sure this mod loads after Improved No Glow in your load order so that its settings override it. If added to an ongoing game, enchanted items that are still being worn when the game is restored must be unequipped then re-equipped for the effect to be removed from them.]
Magic in Morrowind is color-coded according to school of magic. In this category are mods that alter that scheme, either to change the colors or to make them brighter or dimmer.
Enchantment Colors Enhancer v1.0 [Evil Sorcerer]: Changes the colors of each magical effect, brightening many of them from dull faded colors to brighter, more saturated colors, with each effect color being unique. The mod accomplishes this by changing colors in-game, and does not change any textures, and thus can be combined with one of the above mods that only change the shimmer textures. [Feb. 2005.]
Enchantment Colors De-Enhancer v1.0 [Evil Sorcerer]: Does the opposite of Evil Sorcerer's Enchantment Colors Enhancer, adjusting all magic effect colors to instead be more subtle. Like its predecessor, it does this by changing the actual color settings in plugin, rather than replacing the magic shimmer textures. [Feb. 2005.]
Luminosite Elementaire (Elemental Glow) v1.1 [Vinz75]: Similar to Evil Sorceror's mods, this mod changes the magic effect colors to conform to the colors used for the corresponding schools of magic. Fire is orange, cold is blue, lightning is white, poison is green, and so forth. The colors appear to be gentler than the default. [Apr. 2003. Readme is in French.]
Why don't you provide screenshots?
Because, for most categories covered in this guide, static screenshots cannot really convey the effect very well, and animated GIFs are too much work (and still might not get it across well).
For the magic item shimmer reduction mods, this is one area you will really need to try different mods out and keep what you like. If it helps, Thaedyn's Super Sublte Glo is a good place to start; it mostly eliminates the shimmer, keeping just the faintest suggestion of it.
For the magic item icon background mods, I may put screenshots in the guide later.
Why should I avoid using a magic item shimmer reduction mod that uses a plugin to get rid of the effect?
Because this methodology comes with some undesirable side effects that are no longer necessary, thanks to the Morrowind Code Patch (MCP).
There are two possible methodologies for reducing or eliminating the shimmer:
- The Plugin Method: Changing the enchantment magic effect colors to black (which translates to transparent in-game) using a small ESP plugin.
- The Texture Replacer Method: Replacing the textures the game uses for the shimmer (the game engine cycles through 32 of them) with more subtle ones or transparent ones.
There are significant disadvantages to the plugin method, because it has two problematic side effects. First, its change to enchantment colors also affects the map icons created by Detect Creature, Detect Key and Detect Enchantment spells, making them black/transparent as well, and rendering these spells useless. Second, it interferes with reflection-mapped custom mod items, ssuch as GhostNull's Glass Weapons Enhancer and any of Phijama's high-quality weapons mods.
While the map-icon problem is avoidable via a compromise (see the entry Shadre's Improved No Glow v1, below), the reflection-mapping problem cannot be avoided with this methodology.
The texture replacer method is simpler, pluginless, and achieves the goal without spoiling detect spells or object reflection-mapping. It used to have its own minor drawback due to a graphical glitch in the Morrowind game engine that caused magic items to be rendered in fog and underwater with an unpleasant bright-blue sheen, regardless of the texture change. However, this drawback has since been fixed by the MCP, leaving no drawbacks for the texture replacer method.
Thus, since the MCP, there is no longer any reason to use the plugin method. However, the entry for Shadre's Improved No Glow v1 is listed herein for reference purposes.
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As with my other guides, I have drawn heavily for inspiration and research on the work of the Morrowind Mythic Mods team, and these guides are largely built upon their efforts.
Thanks to the ES Forums community for information provided and questions answered, with particular thanks to the following: Jac and Plangkye.
And, of course, thanks to those whose who have shared their time, energy and talent with the community in making and releasing these mods
I welcome feedback. Corrections, suggestions, things I've missed, broken links, additional information that would be useful, better technical explanations, hey-that's-kinda-obtuse-writing and all other kinds of feedback help me to make these guides better, so don't hold back. I'm not touchy.
I can be contacted at the Bethesda ES Forums, or by e-mail using the Contact Us links on these pages.
For licensing and permissions information, please see the Permissions section of my main guide.
Mythic Mods >> Gluby's Comprehensive Guides >> Magic Visual Effects Mods