Mass Effect 2 Modding Guide

Modding Mass Effect 2 is no rocket science any more. The times where we had to endure long loading times using texmod are long over. The following guide explains how I modify my Mass Effect 2 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 2. 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 2 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 1 or Mass Effect 3, please check modding.prydeworx.com.

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 2, it is time to apply some fixes and workarounds for the most common problems. Most of these fixes don’t change your Mass Effect 2 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.

Also, if you have tweaked official files like the Coalesced.ini, you should make a backup of it, as it would be overwritten by the repair.

Note: This should be analogous to using the Steam client, but I have never had Mass Effect 2 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 vanilla Mass Effect 2, is to use the Origin client to “repair” it. All official files will then have their checksum checked, and changed/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 2.

Mass Effect 2 Modding Guide Part 1 "Repair using Origin client"
Watch this video on YouTube.

General Fixes for Mass Effect 2

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

Just don’t install any mods, yet, although a few are suggested on that page. Those are in the list below, too.

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 repaired your vanilla Mass Effect 2, 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 2 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 2 Modding Guide Part 2 "Creating Your Master Backup"
Watch this video on YouTube.

Once you have reached this stage, only the rest of the Mass Effect 2 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 2, then you have to restore to your fixed (See Updates and Fixes) 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 2 installation and click on “Restore this target” and let it do its work.

Mass Effect 2 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” submenu, 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 2 Modding Guide Part 4 "Modding with Mod Manager"
Watch this video on YouTube.

I always deactivate ME1 and ME3 when I re-mod Mass Effect 2, so only ME2 compatible mods are listed.

The following list contains my personal mod list in the installation order that I prefer. Luckily there is only one important thing to remember: “Project Variety ME2must be the last DLC mod you install.
Please have a look on this page for other mods you might like: Mass Effect 2 Recommended Mods List

If you find yourself in a position where you forgot to install a mod before you installed PV2, it is best to revert to your backup and to start from scratch.

Texture Modding with ALOT

If you really want to lift up your ME2 experience, you will have to install texture mods. Back in the day we had to use TexMod to do this, which lengthened the startup time of ME2 tremendously. But nowadays TexMod is no longer needed.

The easiest way to texture mod ME2 is to install ALOT for ME2. 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 have installed “Tali Remastered”, you have to download the “Tali Remastered Patch” 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 2 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.

When you are happy with you mod selection, hit “INSTALL TEXTURES” and let it roll. This will take some time.

MEUITM2

MEUITM2 can actually be installed either before or after ALOT.

If you install it before ALOT, the latter will override any updates added by MEUITM2, that ALOT brings itself.

If you install it after ALOT, you have to make sure you only override those parts you wish to have substituted.

Important: You MUST install MEUITM2 after ALOT, if you use any of the Blur Studios Mesh Updates!

Mass Effect 2 Modding Guide Part 6 "Installing MEUITM2"
Watch this video on YouTube.

If you want to add the “HD Realtime Reflections” from the “Update Files” section, you have to put its two mem files into either the MEUITM2 mods folder, or you have to install them as ALOT User Mods after MEUITM2 is installed.

Here are some more tips:

  • Enable Grunt, T.I.M., Jack, Mordin and Thane if you have the Blur Studio Mesh updates installed.
  • Enable Miranda if you have the “Miranda Neck Mesh Fixes” installed. (Should be enabled by default, though.)
  • Don’t install “Samara and Morinth”, “Aria”, “Liara and LOTSB Liara” and “Asari”, if you have “Asari Remastered” installed.
  • Check Remove Black Crush.
  • The MEUITM2 Intro Video is rather lengthy. As you can re-install MEUITM2 later without reverting to your backup, you might take a look first, and then decide whether you want to have it or not.
  • Do not install reShade, unless you have no intention of following the reShade guide below.

ALOT Installer again

One of the mods mentioned above makes it necessary to fire up the ALOT installer one more time:

No Headgear For DLC Armors

If you’re using MEUITM2’s Grunt, T.I.M., Jack, Mordin and/or Thane meshes, download the “No Headgear – MEUITM2 Compatibility” file from the optional files section.

Just add the Compatibility file to the User Mod list.

Note: If you have not installed the MEUITM2 “HD Realtime Reflections” update with the MEUITM2 installer, yet, you can also add its files as ALOT User Mods now.

ass Effect 2 Modding Guide Part 7 "No Headgear MEUITM2 Patch"
Watch this video on YouTube.

After you have clicked on “INSTALL TEXTURES“, deactivate “ALOT Addon” and “ALOV” from the install options. When you then click on “BEGIN INSTALLATION“, only the User mods are installed.

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_ME2.ini preset here, and use it as a starter. This preset is used for my PrydePlay videos and can be used to replicate their look and feel.

Mass Effect 2 Modding Guide Part 8 "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 ME2Game.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.
  • For all Shaders to work, 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 a lot less things you can change via configuration files in Mass Effect 2.

Note: As a kind of shortcut, you can download my GamerSettings.ini as reference.

Basically there are only two files to care about:

  • <documents>\BioWare\Mass Effect 2\BIOGame\Config\GamerSettings.ini and
  • <path to>\Mass Effect 2\BioGame\Config\PC\Cooked\Coalesced.ini

The Coalesced.ini is a very special file as it contains binary data which has to not only be kept intact, but which also has to be fixed after every editing you do. Basically there are these four rules you have to follow:

  1. Use an editor that does not mess up the binary data like notepad++. (notepad or wordpad WILL destroy the file!)
  2. Make a backup of your working Coalesced.ini before you change anything.
  3. Never touch anything that is not a numeric value right off an equal sign.
  4. Run ME2IniFixer.exe with administrative privileges after every editing of your Coalesced.ini. You have to download and extract the Fixer into the same directory where the Coalesced.ini lies.

If you follow these rules, there should be no problems. And if you mess up, just copy the backup of your last working Coalesced.ini back.

GamerSettings.ini [SystemSettings]

The following settings are meant to raise visual quality, and should be no problem on any decent hardware.

Note: It is not entirely known whether any of these settings get ignored by the game, like so many options get ignored by ME1. But adding these won’t hurt. What sticks, sticks.

UseVsync=False
SmoothFrameRate=False
MaxSmoothedFrameRate=62
MinSmoothedFrameRate=22
Bloom=True
QualityBloom=True
LensFlares=True
FilmGrain=False
MotionBlur=False
MotionBlurPause=False
AllowRadialBlur=True
DepthOfField=True
AmbientOcclusion=True
Distortion=True
FilteredDistortion=True
DropParticleDistortion=True
StaticDecals=True
DynamicDecals=True
FogVolumes=True
DetailMode=5
busemaxqualitymode=True
MaxMultisamples=8
MaxAnisotropy=16
Trilinear=True
EnableHighPolyChars=True
SkeletalMeshLODBias=-2
ParticleLODBias=-2
FloatingPointRenderTargets=True
DynamicLights=True
DirectionalLightMaps=True
ballowlightshafts=True
MaxCharacterCinematicLightingPasses=3
EnableLightEnvSHLights=True
SHSecondaryLighting=True
DynamicShadows=True
LightEnvironmentShadows=True
MinPreShadowResolution=8
MinShadowResolution=64
ShadowFadeResolution=32
MaxShadowResolution=4096
ShadowFilterQualityBias=4
ShadowFilterRadius=5
AllowSubsurfaceScattering=True
bEnableBranchingPCFShadows=True

GamerSettings.ini [Engine.Engine]

The following settings are meant to raise the quality of the drawing of shadows. Here, too, some of the settings might not “catch” but won’t hurt either.

ShadowFilterRadius=0.01000
DepthBias=0.210000
bAllowBetterModulatedShadows=True
bEnableBranchingPCFShadows=True
bEnableVSMShadows=False
bAllowWholeSceneDominantShadows=True
maxwholescenedominantshadowresolution=4096
bAllowHardwareShadowFiltering=True
benableforegroundselfshadowing=True
bEnableForegroundShadowsOnWorld=True
ModShadowFadeDistanceExponent=0
bUseTextureStreaming=True
AllowShadowVolumes=TRUE
benabletranslucenthairpass=True
bforcestaticterrain=True

GamerSettings.ini [Engine.RenderDevice]

Here is only one addition that is said to lift up the vuisual experience even more:

bUsePostProcessEffects=True

GamerSettings.ini [D3DDrv.D3DRenderDevice]

This section can be added to make sure all ALOT textures are really used to their fullest extent.

MaxTranslucencyLayers=4
MaxTextureSize=4096
DisableHWShadowMaps=False
BIOPixelShaderVersion=ps_3_0
BIOVertexShaderVersion=vs_3_0

GamerSettings.ini [TextureStreaming]

If you have a graphic card with at least 4GB memory, you can add this section to speed up texture loading and to make use of the memory your card has.

PoolSize=4096
MinFudgeFactor=1
MinTimeToGuaranteeMinMipCount=0
MaxTimeToGuaranteeMinMipCount=0
UseTextureFileCache=True

GamerSettings.ini [Engine.ISVHacks]

If you experience problems with your AMD or Nvidia card, this section might be helpful.

UseMinimalNVIDIADriverShaderOptimization=False  ; If set to True, this setting can reduce
                                                ; stuttering and hitching on GeForce graphics
                                                ; cards.
DisableATITextureFilterOptimizationChecks=False ; This setting is ATI-specific troubleshooting
                                                ; option, and should only be set to True if you are
                                                ; having issues.
bInitializeShadersOnDemand=False                ; Set to True as a workaround if you are
                                                ; experiencing crashes with an Nvidia card.
                                                ; Otherwise it is best left at False for optimal
                                                ; performance.

GamerSettings.ini [Engine.PlayerInput]

If you want raw mouse input, you need this section and the next.

bEnableMouseSmoothing=false
MouseSensitivity=0.25

GamerSettings.ini [SFXGame.BioPlayerInput]

If you want raw mouse input, you need this section and the previous.

bUseMouseDampening=false

Coalesced.ini [SFXGame.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
m_fShowLastLineOffset=-120.0

These settings mean to show the wheel up to 20 seconds before the conversation starts, and up to 120 seconds before the last line of the NPC speaking ends.

Important: Do NOT forget to run ME2IniFixer.exe after editing Coalesced.ini!

Coalesced.ini [SFXGame.BioHintSystemBase]

In this section you can deactivate (most of) the tutorial popups.

The list is too long to show here, so this is what you do:

From line 4,714 to 4,738 you change all “m_aHints=” lines from “MaxDifficulty=3” to “MaxDifficulty=0“.

Important: Do NOT forget to run ME2IniFixer.exe after editing Coalesced.ini!

The Checklist

You can use my Modding_Checklist_ME2.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 ME2, 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 2 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
    - Advanced Enemy Factions            https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/287
  Note: Maybe tweak it with the "Cloak notification deletion" update from their files page.
    - ALOV for ME2 - Relay Jump Remaster https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/245
    - Casual Hubs                        https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/319
  Note: Do not select "Cerberus Uniform" for Miranda when to romance her, that clashes horribly!
    - Aria Mesh Clipping Fixes           https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/336
    - Crouch Button                      https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/345
    - Early recruitment                  https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/384
    - Easy Armor Stats                   https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/368
    - Expanded Shepard Armory (ESA)      https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/291
    - Grunt Blur Studio Tribute          https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/333
    - Jack MEUITM2 Blur Tribute          https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/338
    - Miranda Neck Mesh Fixes            https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/335
    - Modern Weapon Pack                 https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/202
    - Mordin Blur Studio Tribute         https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/332
    - Recovered Powers                   https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/247
    - T.I.M. Blur Studio Tribute         https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/334
    - Tali Remastered                    https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/263
    - Thane MEUITM2 with Eyes Fix        https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/300
    - Vignette Remover                   https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/148
    - Project Variety 2                  https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/385
  Note: Install Project Variety for Mass Effect 2 as your LAST DLC mod!

3: Texture Modding with ALOT
    - From the ALOT Miscellaneous files: https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/68
      * Quarian Armour Lights
      * Tali Remastered Patch
    - ALOV for ME2 - ALOT Addons       https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/245
    - Asari Remastered                 https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/204
    - Dancers                          https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/243
    - Liara LotSB Black Armor          https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/355
    - No Headgear For DLC Armors       https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/376
  Note: This has three parts.
        1) The main mod file is needed first.
        2) Compatibility file for tweaked "Advanced Enemy Factions" with the
           "Cloak notification deletion"
        3) Compatibility file for MEUITM2 (*AFTER* MEUITM2 install!)
    - Transparent HUD Elements         https://www.nexusmods.com/masseffect2/mods/189

4: MEUTIM2 Config
    - Enable Grunt, T.I.M., Jack, Mordin and Thane if the Blur Studio Mesh updates are installed.
    - Enable Miranda if you have the "Miranda Neck Mesh Fixes" installed.
    - Don't install "Samara and Morinth", "Aria", "Liara and LOTSB Liara" and "Asari", if you have
      "Asari Remastered" installed.
    - Check Remove Black Crush

5: ALOT installer 2
    - Add "No Headgear - MEUITM2 Compatibility" to User Mod list.
    - Install without ALOT AddOn and ALOV

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

Final Words

This Mass Effect 2 Modding Guide looks long, but it is just meant to be thorough. The final checklist should have shown, that modding Mass Effect 2 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?

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

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