This one is a biggie - weighing in at a hefty 1 gig of texture files. NebuLa1's ambitious project is to replace nearly all of the textures in the game with higher resolution versions. So far, Skyrim HD offers a noticeable improvement to how nearly every surface in the game appears. The wood grain of the planks in Dragonsreach look crisper, the waterfalls look more fluid, and even the cobblestones of the roads appear more realistic than the large, bland flagstones of the original texture.
Be warned, Skyrim HD will tax your system's RAM something fierce. NebuLa1 recommends 8 gigs of RAM with at least 2gb of free memory and a graphics card with some onboard memory is a must. That said, I can run the game plus Skyrim HD with a middling system (nVidia 285, 4 gigs RAM, Core Duo 2 CPU) but even then the load times are extended by a second or two. The boost in visuals is enough of a tradeoff for me, but your mileage may vary especially if you have a lot of other mods installed and you like to watch Netflix or listen to The Escapist Podcast while playing. (If you're experiencing FPS hit, you might want to check out the Skyrim 4 GB .exe file - see below.)
It's not technically a mod, but 4GB Skyrim is important to us PC gamers nonetheless. Bethesda hard-coded a limit in the Skyrim executable file which limited the RAM it could use to only 2 gb, essentially making any extra memory your system has useless. 4GB Skyrim fixes that by altering the way Skyrim boots up. When you click on the new .exe file, you're playing the game from the same files but now all of that memory is ready to be chewed up by all the fancy new texture you've installed.
Now, some of you may balk at downloading and running an .exe file on your machine, for worry of viruses or trojan horses or worms or whatever new word for nasty thing that poops in your computer case people are using these days. And you are right to be vigilant, but I trust Skyrim Nexus and the moderators there have thoroughly checked the skyrim4GB.exe for any malicious intent and found nothing. I've been using it for the last week or so, and I haven't found any viruses on my machine.
Only pretty flowers with a kickass FPS rate playing Skyrim. Do it. Join us.
That's all I've got this time around. I'll be playing Skyrim a lot over the next few weeks, and continuing to download and test mods. For now, I'm still going to concentrate on mods that don't alter the rules too much, but when the Creation Kit comes out (Bethesda has promised it for January) then I may spread my wings a bit. That is, if I can resist the awesome new cooking recipes in Cooking Recipes Pack by Wolferoo. I'm a sucker for crafting ...