Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide

Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide

Modding Mass Effect 1 is no rocket science any more. The following guide explains how I modify my Mass Effect 1 installation. You can follow this guide to recreate the look’n’feel shown in my Let’s Play videos like “Line of Sight: Infiltrator“.

But from there on you should go on your own journey into modding Mass Effect. Find your own preferred set of mods and tweaks.

The final part of this guide is a checklist. This list can be used whenever you re-mod your Mass Effect 1 installation. I open such a checklist each time I re-mod, just to make sure I do not forget any steps and have the order right.

For guides about modding Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3, please check modding.prydeworx.com.

Maybe not use stand-alone

I have played Mass Effect for years as a stand-alone version, installed from DVD and manually updated with updates downloaded from BioWare. This worked very well, and I never had flickering textures or weird shadow errors. These only came with the Origin version of Mass Effect I am using today.

But the stand-alone version I bought also worked differently in another area: DLC loading.
This difference caused some mods to not work correctly, like “ME1 Recalibrated“. And some mods, like “Galaxy Map Trackers“, did not work at all.

EA was not able to convert my physical license into a digital one. So I gritted my teeth and searched for Mass Effect in my Origin client. I wanted the mods to work, so I was willing to spend money to buy a game I already bought years ago. And after in investment of the enormous sum of €1.44, I had Mass Effect in Origin, including the DLCs “Bring Down The Sky” and “Pinnacle Station”.

Okay, so this vast sum shouldn’t be show-stopper for you to switch away from your stand-alone version.
However, if you’d rather stay with your DVD and not give any money to EA, then that’s completely okay.

Just be warned, though, that if you follow this Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide, the result might not what you expect. Half the stuff here might not work.
However, it doesn’t hurt to try out the modding of your stand-alone version first, maybe yours has no problem at all with being modded. If you find yourself with a fully modded version that does not show up everything you expect from the modifications you installed, you can still switch to a digital version.

Updates and Fixes

Note: If you already have an updated and fixed backup, you can continue with “Restore your Master Backup“.

After you have installed and updated Mass Effect, it is time to apply some fixes and workarounds for the most common problems. Most of these fixes don’t change your Mass Effect installation. Instead you would merely add some files, that then later get backed up, too. Therefore you have to do this only once and be done with it.

Repair with Origin client

Important: If you have already added mods to your install, it is best to delete and to reinstall your game, unless you know exactly which DLC folders to delete. The repair facility only checks official files and will not remove any additional files you added. Therefore you can not use it to return to a vanilla state after a failed modding attempt.

Note: This should be analogous to using the Steam client, but I have never had Mass Effect on Steam, so I can not say whether it is the same or not. If you are using Steam, I would be happy if you left a comment about your repairing experience using the Steam client.

The easiest way to begin with a clean and shiny Mass Effect, is to use the Origin client to “repair” it. All official files will then have their checksum checked, and changed or broken files will be downloaded again.

Warning: You have to deactivate the auto-update setting in your Origin client, or it will later destroy your modded Mass Effect.

Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide Part 1 "Repair using Origin client"
Watch this video on YouTube.

General Fixes for Mass Effect 1

The best source for fixes of common problems can be found at pcgamingwiki, and I strongly advise that you work through that page thoroughly.

The most important points for me were:

Enabling Surround Sound

If you want Surround Sound and have updated OpenAL like advised in “No surround sound“, you also need Indirect Sound.

Before you continue, please take your time to read and adapt your dsound.ini in your Mass Effect\Binaries folder.
For reference, here are the settings that worked for me:

  hardwareBufferCount = 128
  eax1 = false
  eax2 = false
  surroundPanning = "constantPower"
  maxFrequencyRatio = 2
  monoSourceBehavior = "frontLeftAndRight"
  disabled3dBehavior = "2D"
  earlyStopFadeOutTime = 0.001
  nearDistanceToStartNormalizing = 0.083
  speedOfSound = 343.5
  milesCompatibility = false

While these settings work pretty well for me, they might be non-optimal for your setup. So please invest some time into reading and understanding the dsound.ini options.

You will only have to do this once. As soon as your setup works to your liking, you will never have to deal with it again, unless you drastically change your audio hardware.

Still no Surround Sound

I had to put in my Corsair headset into BioEngine.ini as reported by ALC_ENUMERATION_EXT in EnumerateWin32. My audio section now reads:

[ISACTAudio.ISACTAudioDevice]
MaxChannels=128
TimeBetweenHWUpdates=1.000000
MinOggVorbisDurationGame=20
MinOggVorbisDurationEditor=4
TotalAvailableChannels=128
ReserveChannels=2
DeviceName=OpenAL Soft on Kopfhörer (CORSAIR VOID PRO SURROUND USB Sound Adapter)
UseEffectsProcessing=True

(Yes, it is a German windows 10 installation)
If this still doesn’t fix surround sound for you, please check that you removed/renamed the following two files:
Mass Effect\Binaries\OpenAL32.dll
Mass Effect\Binaries\wrap_oal.dll

If any of these two files are still present, the game won’t use your OpenAL installation.

Removing Mouse Acceleration

If you would like to have a more direct control over your character, you can remove the mouse acceleration and raise sensitivity instead.

  • Install the Mass Effect Mouse Fix
    It is only a dinput8.dll you have to copy into your “Mass Effect\Binaries” directory. (Where MassEffect.exe lies)
  • Edit both
    <path to game>Mass Effect\BioGame\Config\DefaultGuiResources.ini and
    <documents>\BioWare\Mass Effect\Config\BIOGuiResources.ini
    In the section [BIOC_Base.BioSFHandler_PCSettings] change
    MaxMouseSense=11
    to
    MaxMouseSense=33

Install Mod Manager

Download and unpack ME3Tweaks Mod Manager if you do not have it on your machine, yet.
I have put a link on my desktop for easier access. The Mod Manager is self-updating, so you only have to take care of this once.

Create Your Master Backup

After you have updated and fixed your vanilla Mass Effect, it is time for you to create a master backup.

You need some space where to put it, and only have to fire up the Mod Manager. The program will greet you with a list of installed Mass Effect titles for which you do not have a backup.

Open the Backup Manager, select your Mass Effect installation, and click “back up”. If you do not have the international version, but a localized one installed, you must add the correct language to back up. Finally choose a backup destination and let it roll.

Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide Part 2 "Create Master Backup"
Watch this video on YouTube.

Once you have reached this stage, only the rest of the Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide will matter to you. If no bad things happen, you will not have to repeat any of the steps above.

Restore Your Master Backup

If you have already modded Mass Effect, then you have to restore to your fixed (See “General Fixes for Mass Effect 1“) vanilla backup (See “Create Your Master Backup“) before modding it again.

As mods get updated, you might want to re-mod some day, and for this to work a roll-back to your backup is necessary.

For this you open Mod Manager, and choose “Backup & Restore” => “Restore” in the top menu. There you select your Mass Effect installation and click on “Restore this target” and let it do its work.

Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide Part 3 "Restore Your Master Backup"
Watch this video on YouTube.

Installing Mods with Mod Manager

All the mods that I am suggesting are Mod Manager compatible. Once you have downloaded them, you can either use the “Mod Management” => “Import Mod” sub-menu, or you can simply drag’n’drop the archives onto the Mod Manager window.

Upon start the program checks whether there are any updates to the imported mods, and asks you whether to update them if updates are available. You can also use “Mod Management” => “Check mods for updates” from the top menu if you wish a new check to be performed.

Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide Part 4 "Installing Mods with ModManager"
Watch this video on YouTube.

I always deactivate ME2 and ME3 when I re-mod Mass Effect, so only ME1 compatible mods are listed.

The following is the installation order that I prefer. But contrary to modding ME2 and ME3, the order of installation is, as far as I know, of no real relevance. Also this is just the list of mods that I use.
Please have a look at this page for other mods you might like: Mass Effect 1 Recommended Mods List

Texture Modding with ALOT

If you really want to lift up your Mass Effect 1 experience, you will have to install texture mods.
The easiest way to do so is to install ALOT for ME1.

The program needs a certain set of mods, but also helps you downloading them.
Some of the mods are optional, but I recommend you download at least “Improved Static Lighting“. Also, if you intent to use the default male Shepard face, you may want to download the “Alternate Default Male Shepard Textures” from the Miscellaneous Files section.

The ALOT installer also comes with an import assistant to help you import the required mods, and another assistant to import user mods.

Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide Part 5 "Texture Modding with ALOT"
Watch this video on YouTube.

The following is a list of additional “user mods” that I like to install.

After you have clicked on “INSTALL TEXTURES“, the configuration screen of MEUITM will greet you. Here you can choose further options about how your Mass Effect shall look like. Here are two important points about the choices you can make:

  • If you have imported “(Khali) ME1 Unisex New Eyes” above, then do not select “Vibrant” Eyes Style, or people will look like they had flashlights for eyes.
  • Do not install MEUITM reShade. It comes with an ancient version that is not compatible with the shaders we use below. It also turns your ingame menu into a crawl if you are using an Nvidia Quadro card.

When you are happy with the options chosen, hit “Install with selected options”. This will take some time.

MERLIN

The Mass Effect Restored Light & Illumination Natively (MERLIN) mod has been created by Catachrism, the author of MEUITM and MEUITM2. It fixes some bugs and improves lighting and shadows.

The default shadows are rather crude and pixelated, but more exact than the original ones. However, if you prefer to have soft shadows instead, you can download “Softer Less Pixelated Shadows” from the MERLIN file section, and unpack them into the MERLIN mods folder.

Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide Part 6 "Mass Effect Restored Light & Illumination Natively (MERLIN)"
Watch this video on YouTube.

Using this installer last (after other DLC, controller, and texture mods) is required for the lighting and the Ash armor mod to work properly. Don’t worry about the warning issued by the ALOT installer. MERLIN uses MassEffectModder (MEM), too, and is therefore compatible.

reShade

ReShade is in constant development, so I always update to the latest version when I do a reinstall.

And even if there is no new version since your last install, the shader packages might have been updated, and the setup program always downloads and installs the latest releases.

You can download my PrydePlay_ReShade_ME1.ini preset and use it as a starter. This preset is used for my PrydePlay videos and can be used to replicate their look’n’feel.

Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide Part 7 "reShade"
Watch this video on YouTube.
  • Start the ReShade setup program and click the upper button to select a game to manage its ReShade installation.
  • In the selection window click on “Browse” and select your MassEffect.exe
  • Select “Direct3D 9”
  • If you would like to use my PrydePlay shader config, you have to install the following packages:
    • SweetFX by CeeJay.dk
    • qUINT by Marty McFly
    • Color effects by prod80
    • AstrayFX by BlueSkyDefender
    • For full compatibility you also need RTGI by Pascal “McFly” Gilcher, available through his Patreon Page.
      For me this awesome shader is totally worth every cent, but no bad things will happen if you don’t buy it.
  • Remove the (all) shader cache file from “<documents>\BioWare\Mass Effect\Published\CookedPC“. The shader cache must be rebuilt when you start ME1 the next time.
  • For all Shaders to work correctly, you have to open the ingame ReShade settings (Normally with the key Pos1), go on the D3D9 tab, and activate “Copy depth buffer before clear operations“.
  • Just select my presets on the Home tab and you are all set.

From here you can play around with the settings to your liking. But please note that there are dozens and dozens of shaders, and it is not only important what you use and set up, but also in which order the processing is done.

Configuration Tweaks

There are many things you can configure via the ini files in your “<documents>\BioWare\Mass Effect\Config” folder.

Some of the tweaks I will show you in this Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide might not do much, or anything at all, but they do not hurt either. All options are known by the Unreal 3 Engine, but it is also known, that BioWare used a heavily modified preview version of that engine, and has hard-coded many configuration values that are no longer changeable.

The following lists roughly go through the two important ini files from top to bottom. But you can also download my configuration files here: BioEngine.ini and BIOGame.ini.

Config/BioEngine.ini

Section [Engine.Engine] and [Engine.GameEngine]

bForceStaticTerrain=False ; Can be set to "True", so terrain does not lose details over distance.
AllowShadowVolumes=FALSE ; Set to "TRUE" to enable volumetric shadows.

The following settings offer the best shadowing experience for me. The DepthBias value has been found via binary search.
It is very good for me, but if you do not like the shadows like they are, the values of ShadowFilterRadius and DepthBias are the ones you have to tweak.

ShadowFilterRadius=5.0
DepthBias=0.027583
MinPreShadowResolution=16
MinShadowResolution=32
MaxShadowResolution=4096
ShadowFadeResolution=128
ModShadowFadeDistanceExponent=0.0

To enhance the shadowing experience even more, you can add the following lines to this section. Though I am pretty sure that the Unreal 3 engine is set to ignore some of them.

bAllowBetterModulatedShadows=True
bAllowHardwareShadowFiltering=True
bAllowWholeSceneDominantShadows=True
bEnableForegroundSelfShadowing=True
bEnableForegroundShadowsOnWorld=True
bEnableTranslucentHairPass=True
bUsePostProcessEffects=True
maxwholescenedominantshadowresolution=4096

Section [Engine.Physics]

NxPrimarySceneHW=False ; Set to "True" to let your hardware (CPU/GPU) handle physics.

Section [SystemSettings]

The following settings all raise the visual experience:

ShadowFilterQualityBias=20 ; This value is in that section twice. Nobody knows whether this is needed
                           ; or by accident. But removing one doesn't hurt, so I guess the default is
                           ; just a mistake.
LightShafts=TRUE
RadialBlur=TRUE
Trilinear=TRUE
SkeletalMEshLODBias=-1
ParticleLODBias=-1
DetailMode=5
ShadowFilterQualityBias=20
MaxAnisotropy=16
MaxMultisamples=8
AmbientOcclusion=TRUE
Distortion=TRUE
FilteredDistortion=TRUE
FogVolumes=TRUE
EnableHighPolyChars=TRUE
MaxCharacterCinematicLightingPasses=9
EnableLightEnvSHLights=TRUE
SHSecondaryLighting=TRUE
AllowSubsurfaceScattering=True
AllowImageReflections=True
AllowImageReflectionShadowing=True
bAllowSeparateTranslucency=True
bAllowPostprocessAA=False
bAllowPostprocessMLAA=False
bAllowHighQualityMaterials=True
bAllowWeatherEffect=True
bAllowPostProcess=True
bAllowFracturedDamage=True
ballowlightshafts=True
DisableHWShadowMaps=True

Section [TextureStreaming]

These settings are meant for a graphics card with 4GB RAM. If your card has 2GB or less, you should not touch this section, or Mass Effect might crash.

PoolSize=2048
DropMipLevelsLimit=40
StopIncreasingLimit=30
MinFudgeFactor=0.5
FudgeFactorIncreaseRateOfChange=0.3
FudgeFactorDecreaseRateOfChange=-0.2
MinTimeToGuaranteeMinMipCount=0
MaxTimeToGuaranteeMinMipCount=0
LoadMapTimeLimit=2
LightmapStreamingFactor=0.02
ShadowmapStreamingFactor=0.02
MaxLightmapRadius=9000
TextureFileCacheBulkDataAlignment=1
AllowStreamingLightmaps=TRUE
UsePriorityStreaming=TRUE
bAllowSwitchingStreamingSystem=TRUE
UseDynamicStreaming=TRUE
bEnableAsyncDefrag=FALSE
bEnableAsyncReallocation=FALSE
MaxDefragRelocations=256
MaxDefragDownShift=128
UseTextureFileCache=TRUE

Section [DevOptions.Shaders]

bAllowMultiThreadedShaderCompile=True
ThreadedShaderCompileThreshold=4

Section [D3DDrv.D3DRenderDevice]

MaxTranslucencyLayers=4
MaxTextureSize=4096
BIOVertexShaderVersion=vs_3_0

Config/BIOGame.ini

Section [BIOC_Base.BioPawnBehavior]

m_bAllowPhysicsOnDeadBodies=True

Section [BIOC_Base.BioArtPlaceable]

m_fCorpseCleanupFirstAttemptTime=360.0 ; Seconds to wait until the first corpse cleanup attempt
m_fCorpseCleanupAttemptRetryTime=60.0  ; Seconds to wait between cleanup tries

Section [BIOC_Base.BioConversation]

In this section you can change the timing of the dialogue wheel. Personally I like it to appear as soon as possible, so I have some seconds to think about the answer without disrupting the conversation too much. The following are my personal settings, adapt them to your liking.

m_fShowRepliesOffset=20.0    ; Show wheel up to 20 seconds before conversation starts 
m_fShowLastLineOffset=-120.0 ; Show wheel up to 120 seconds before NPC last line ends

The Checklist

You can use my Modding_Checklist_ME1.txt checklist as a starter to create your own checklist.

Just be sure you add and/or remove the mods you install to your checklist whenever you change anything. Whenever I re-mod ME1, I open my checklist to make sure I do not mess anything up. And that can happen if I am in a hurry, or distracted, or … you know.

The Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide is mainly meant to explain how things work, and what you need to learn and to prepare to go on your own modding journey. But from here on, all you need in future is a good checklist.

1: Restore your master backup

2: Install Mods with Mod Manager
    - ME1 Recalibrated              : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/114
    - Casual Hubs for ME1           : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/107
    - Galaxy Map Trackers           : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/186  
    - Engineer Adams Uniform        : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/201
    - Black Market License          : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/219
    - Saren Stages Mod              : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/249
    - Wrex Iconic Armor Consistence : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/243
    - Vignette Remover              : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/104

3: Texture Modding with ALOT
    - (Khali) ME1 Unisex New Eyes   : https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/166
    - Asari Remastered (NPC & Liara): https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect/mods/111

4: MEUTIM Config
    - Do not select "Vibrant" Eyes Style when "(Khali) ME1 Unisex New Eye" is installed!
    - Do not install MEUITM reShade.

5: MERLIN

6: reShade
    - Select "Direct3D 9"
    - SweetFX by CeeJay.dk
    - qUINT by Marty McFly
    - Color effects by prod80
    - AstrayFX by BlueSkyDefender

7: Delete "<documents>\BioWare\Mass Effect\Published\CookedPC" shader cache

Final words

This Mass Effect 1 Modding Guide looks long, but it is just meant to be thorough. The final checklist should have shown, that modding Mass Effect 1 these days is far less complicated than it used to.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I appreciate any feedback, and would like to hear not only praise, but also criticism. Is any section not clear enough? Are you left with open questions?

Thanks to Maxime for pointing out that their stand-alone version has no problems with being modded.
Thanks to Beccatoria for suggesting to make the point about repairing your install more clear.

Many thanks fly out to all the awesome artists on Nexus Mods!

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