Tuesday, February 23, 2021

It's So Different Here: Modding Valheim

Mrs Bhagpuss tried Valheim yesterday and, as I feared would happen, didn't get on with it at all. It wasn't the gameplay or the graphics or the setting. It was the control system; specifically, the camera movement.

She finds any game that takes a screen-centered approach, which is most action-oriented games these days, induces motion sickness within minutes. Sometimes within seconds. It affects her so badly it usually takes her a couple of hours to recover.

Sometimes there are tweaks you can apply to reduce the effects but Valheim is still very bare-bones in that respect. Other than switching off camera shake (which I'd recommend in general) there's not much you can do.

Unless you go the mod route, maybe. I was wondering how long it would be before the moding community got to grips with Valheim. With three million copies sold already, not to mention the game coming with a wide range of console controls pre-installed, it didn't seem like it would be long.

This afternoon I spotted a news item on Massively:OP reporting the creation of a first person view mod for Valheim. That's not going to be much help with Mrs Bhagpuss's issue but it sounded promising. I clicked through to find a site called Nexus Mods, an aggregator of mods for lots of different games.

They already have five pages of mods for Valheim. Over eighty in total. I don't usually check for mods or add-ons for games I play so I don't know if that would be reckoned a lot or a little after just a couple of weeks but either way I would bet it's just the beginning.


I had a browse through them all. I wasn't really expecting to find a "Make Valheim Play Like World of Warcraft" mod although I certainly wouldn't rule one out eventually. After all, one of the few add-ons I have installed for WoW is one that makes that game play like Guild Wars 2. That's exactly what the game needs before Mrs Bhagpuss is likely to be able to enjoy it.

It was really interesting to see what modders had focused on in these early days. As you'd expect, a bunch of mods aim to remove specific "annoyances", anything from the famously unpopular restriction on taking ore through portals or the very old-school requirement to run back to your corpse to pick up all your stuff. 

There are portmanteau mods that bundle a bunch of quality of life improvements together, including one rather brilliantly named "I'm No Masochist", which "aims to reduce/remove the masochism required to enjoy some of the base game's mechanics". Oddly, other than the corpse recovery thing it seems to be some very minor tweaks to things I hadn't even have realized were problems, like how much fuel you can put in a kiln or how close you have to be to a piece of furniture before it gives you the comfort buff.

Naturally, one person's pain is another's pleasure, so there are also mods to make the game more challenging. Or more annoying. I'd go with more annoying. Remember the mod that lets you take ore through portals? How about one that disable portals completely?

Okay, I can see the point of that one. Portals do change the game. On the other hand, you could just not build them and not use any anyone else builds if you're on multiplayer, although that might get you some funny looks. Either way, it hardly needs a mod. Just a modicum of self-restraint.

A more straightforward difficulty slider comes with the mod called Expert Mode. That one spawns all mobs as 2* toughies but leaves their loot drops unaffected. The ironman pose is somewhat undermined when you learn the same mod can be reconfigured to provide EasyMode instead, weak mobs that drop extra loot.

I can't see myself using any of those. The default difficulty and convenience levels seem just about right to me. It's one of the reasons the game's so compelling. If there was a mod that removed the need to kill the bosses to progress, I might think about that. It already seems like an artificial construct. I'm not sure the game benefits from those awkward interruptions any more than I felt Final Fantasy XIV benefitted from shoving dungeons and trials into the single-player storyline.

There are quite a few mods that I would consider using, for example the ones that improve the way the game looks, like Cinematic Valheim. Those all require you to install ReShade, though. I've looked at that before and decided against it although I know some bloggers around here swear by it. I'd also give a thought to True Creative Mode although I think it's pretty much what PotShot was describing, just rolled up in a neat wrapper.

One unusual thing about Valheim is the way your characters are independent of the worlds they inhabit. That means you don't necessarily have to choose between the variations mods provide. You could set up a whole bank of worlds all operating under different local rules and transfer your character between them depending on your mood at any given time. Or you could have different characters on each world.

So long as you stick to your own worlds I don't see a problem. Well, there might be a problem for you, if  a mod breaks your character or your game but it isn't going to affect anyone else. Moving your character from a modded world you own to an unmodded (or differently modded) one owned by someone else is another matter entirely. 

As I understand it, the console controls only work in locally hosted games but whether the system knows your character has levelled up somewhere with easy mobs that give double loot or with a mod that removes the need for endurance or corpse runs I have no idea. It seems unlikely. There will be plenty of people who have an issue with cross-play involving characters evolved under rulesets of varying perceived difficulty.


The major factor preventing me from installing any kind of mods, if I'm being totally upfront about it, is laziness. I'd quite like to know what time of day it is in Valheim. Believe it or not it really is something that's been bugging me since the start. I can guesstimate the time of day from the position of the sun and the lighting conditions but it seems a bit daft not to have a local time on display.

I've also wondered many times whether trees regrow and if so at what speed. I've chopped down a lot of trees and left a lot of bare earth. From all the seeds I've collected from them I'm assuming I can re-plant and re-forest but it would be nice if the land repaired itself, too.

There are mods for both of those. Tree Respawn makes a sapling grow back every time you destroy a tree stump. That's something I'd use. Clock adds... well, a clock, although, delightfully, you can configure it to use vague phrases like "Early Evening" rather than specific times. Chances are I'll never get around to installing them all the same.

Given Valheim's popularity I'd guess this is just the tip of the modding iceberg. It's weird to think that a game officially in Early Access is effectively competing in real time with its own community of players to see who can develop a better game first.

For Mrs. Bhagpuss's sake I hope someone can do something about the way the camera lurches. I suspect a full tab-target classic mmorpg remodeling is too much to ask, even way down the line, but I'm sure there must be improvements that could be made. 

Maybe they'll even come as part of the official game. That'd be nice.

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