In this article, we use the terms CK, record and mod. CK is the Creation Kit, the tool used to modify Skyrim, and a mod is a modification to the game. Records are the individual things that you can create - items, NPC's, etc.
Naming conventions are basic guidelines for how you name your items, quests, and really everything you create, in the Creation Kit. By name, I mean the EditorID - the way the CK refers to your item, or quest, or NPC; it is also, indirectly, how Papyrus, the scripting language in Skyrim, uses any properties. (If you understand what properties are, then you'll know what I mean, otherwise, it's not important to know for this post.)
Naming conventions are less important if you are creating a mod for your personal use only, but if you want to distribute your mod to the community, they're quite important. The main reason is conflicts. If you name your quest something extremely simple, such as "whiterunquest", or if you name your house "riftenhome", then another mod that gives an item, NPC, or quest the same EditorID willconflict with yours. This means that parts of, if not all of, your mod will be overwritten by the other mod, depending on load order. Or, if your mod is above theirs in the load order, you can completely overwrite theirs. This causes dozens of headaches in the long run, especially since changing the EditorID is so difficult once you've begun to add to that item. For example: I create my house, "riftenhouse" and I begin to add new features to it - an autosorting chest, a special door, a secret basement with a portal leading to all the main cities. Then, I realize my mod conflicts with another, and change the EditorID from "riftenhouse" to "MWaggRiftenHouse". However, many of my new features are broken, since they no longer refer correctly to my house. Some may automatically fix themselves, but several won't, which results in the hassle of going through all the scripts and items I created, and making sure they work.
There is another reason to use proper naming conventions: organization. Even if you're not a very organized person, using the right guidelines should make it easy to find your quests and items. Rather than having a dozen swords, all part of one mod, named "corsairknife", "longsword", "woodenspear", etc., which is difficult to track down, naming conventions can help keep things organized, using prefixes, certain names, and more. So let's get into that, shall we?
Naming Conventions: A General Guide
There are a few general naming conventions that you should follow for all your mods.
Prefixes - Items and Other Records
Prefixes are by far the most useful way to name your things. Unlike suffixes, you can search for all your things two ways: Typing the prefix in the Object Window Filter (in the Object Window), or typing in your prefix while selecting a record in the right side of the Object Window. For suffixes, you can only use the first method. Note: Do not start your prefix with a number. It messes up the CK.
The longer the prefix, the easier it is to find in the Object Window, but I don't recommend prefixes longer than 4 (5 at the very most) characters because it becomes more tedious, and there's no real reason to. Besides, it makes your record names far longer, which is a bit annoying. A few methods for choosing your prefix:
The first letters of your name: This is useful because you can gather all the records from any mods you made into the same place. If you're testing more than one mod that you've created, this can help a lot. You could do your initials:
MW for me, or MRW, since my middle name begins with R.
Or the beginning of your name:
Matt for me, or MattW.
Or a combination:
The first letters of your mod: This is good because it makes working with your mod a dozen times easier, and more intuitive. If you ever forget, then it's pretty easy to remember. If other people are messing around with your mod, it's a lot easier for them to modify it for their own personal use. I recommend 2 or 3 characters for this. If I'm making a mod called TutorialMod, I could do:
TM, or TuM, or even Tut, though that one is fairly common, so I might do: MWTut, if I were going to do that. (Even though it's a bit longer, that's fine. It still works.)
Another great example of a prefix is YourInitialsYourModPrefix. (i.e. MWNWSpear - MatthiaswaggNewWeaponsSpear.)
Prefixes are all you need. To use my earlier example, with the weapons, look how much easier this would be: "MWWLongsword", "MWWSpear", etc. (MWW is Matthias Wagg Weapons.)
Prefixes - Papyrus Fragments
Thanks to the anonymous comment that caused me to add this.
As I've already said above, prefixes are powerful things. And a lack of them can mess with your entire mod. Papyrus Fragments can conflict, too. These are snippets of code that run at a certain time. You can find places to enter them in dialogue, quest stages, and much more. They're very important to scripting, especially in quests.
Unfortunately, their names are randomly generated by the CK. While it's unlikely, it means that it's completely for your mod to conflict with another because your Papyrus fragment was randomly named something the same as a Papyrus fragment in another mod. Even if you do everything else right, this can still happen. So how do we fix this? Note: If you have a fragment with the same name as a mod in a .bsa (or yours is in a .bsa, or both), then the last loaded mod's script will take precedence.
Thankfully, the CK has a built-in function to add prefixes to the begin of fragments, which can decrease, and almost eliminate, the chance for conflicts with other mods because of Papyrus fragments.
Navigate to Preferences, by choosing File>Preferences, or clicking the button to the right of the Save icon, on the main toolbar. It looks like a sheet of paper. A window should pop up. Go to the Scripts tab (you may need to scroll to the right, click the arrow buttons at the top of the prompt to do this), and enter a prefix in the box provided (it's labeled Fragment file prefix). Make sure to make it the same as the rest of the prefixes in your mod. It can only be 4 characters though, which is yet another reason to keep your prefixes below 4 characters. If I were making a mod called "QuestMammoth", I would probably do this for the prefix:
I would do a shorter one because Q is a pretty rare beginning to a prefix. If you had a more common one, like "TheronFollower" you would want to make it something like this:
Since a lot of mods start with "the" or other t names.
Once you've made your prefix, click Apply (not Close). Now, any Papyrus fragments generated for your mod should begin with that prefix. (If you're switching between mods a lot, you will need to change the prefix every time to match the other prefixes you used in each mod.
Warning: Be sure to use the same naming convention/prefix throughout the entire mod, and if you can, throughout all your mods.
Specific Naming Conventions:
These are naming conventions or handy tools that are specific to each type - i.e. quests, weapons and armor, etc.
Quests are probably the easiest to organize, because of an extra feature they have: the Object Window Filter. If you navigate to your Quest, and then the Quest Data tab, you should see a box labeled "Object Window Filter". You can put in a word or a name here, followed by a backslash \. This creates a subcategory for all quests that have YourSubcategoryName\, which can be found by clicking the + sign next to Character>Quest. Here is an example (we will call our subcategory TutorialQuests, but it can be whatever you want):
- Open up my TutorialQuest, and go to the Quest Data tab.
- Look for the Object Window Filter (middle right), and type in "TutorialQuests\" (without the quotes).
- Save and exit the CK, then reopen it.
- Expand the Quest section (+ button) under Character>Quest.
- You should see TutorialQuests. Expand it. Your quest should be located in there.
Quest Prefixes for me usually go like this: First two letters of my mod name, or my 2 letter initials + the quest initials/number. For example, for the mod "DoomedWhiterun", which adds a bunch of quests to destroy Whiterun, I would do one of these, for the quest DoomedWhiterunKillJarl:
DW01 (I can usually remember which numbers go with which quest, but it's fine if you can't, you can try something else.)
MW01 - I also don't recommend this one.
MWKJ - I don't recommend this one.
The DW ones are good, in case the mod DoomedWhiterun turns into DoomedCities, in which case you can then add DM for DoomedMarkarth quests, and DR for DoomedRiften quests, without having to change the prefixes for the original quests. Of course, you could also do something like: MW00 - MW09 for DoomedWhiterun quests, and MW20 - MW 29, but then you're constraining yourself to a certain amount of quests. So I would recommend the first two.
Items usually can use the same prefixes as those in the Prefixes section, but there is a way to categorize them so you have subcategories for your new or modified items. It does require some extra steps, and a knowledge of changing texture paths in NifSkope (if you don't know what that is, then you shouldn't be doing this).
If a new (or modified) item uses a model located in a folder (under Skyrim/Data/Meshes), then it is given a special category in the CK. I believe it needs to also have a 1stPerson.nif file there as well (if applicable). This category is under Items>Category>YourModCategory (name of the special folder you created for your models). For example, let's pretend I created a mod called "NewWeapons" (which is a horrible mod name, by the way). I've made a new sword called NWLongsword, and I've created special textures and two new models for it (1stperson and regular), named accordingly. I create two new folders: NewWeapons under Skyrim/Data/Meshes, with the subfolders "Weapons" and "NWLongsword". I place the .nif files in there. Then, I create a new folder ("NewWeapons" again), and create the subfolders "Weapons" and "NWLongsword". I place this new folder in Skyrim/Data/Textures, and put my textures into NWLongsword.
When you make your item use these models in the CK, it will create a new category for all the items using those models, in my case, the subcategory (Under Items>Weapons) is called NewWeapons. This allows for easy organization.
To use this method for models that are duplicates of existing ones (i.e. I copied the steelsword.nif, 1stpersonsteelsword.nif and all of their textures) and placed them in a folder (like above), you need to change the texture paths in your .nifs. Otherwise, they will use the textures in the standard game, which can be overwritten. So go into your .nif files and change the texture path to the ones you copied to your special texture folder. Make sure they aren't hard-coded. Look up what that means if you don't already know.
This method applies to all items, though you only need 1stperson.nifs for weapons (as far as I know).
I don't know any other way to subcategorize or organize the other records in the game yet. If I figure out how to, then I'll update this post.