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On Item Sorters - What to Know, What to Look Out For

Captain LaserBeam

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Everything below is my own personal opinion and thoughts on item sorters. I do not represent anyone but me in what I'm stating below. As a long time Complex Sorter user, these are things I have learned from my own personal experiences and observations, and I am sharing them in hopes that they may help some people and may start some further conversations that may provide even more tips and tricks to help other users.

Sorters - How They Help
In a game with Fallout 4 that also has such an active modding community where new content is being added on an hourly basis, item sorters can be a real lifesaver when it comes to managing your inventory, managing your workshop workbench contents, and even dealing with all of the various UIs in the base game and in extensive mods like SS2. As such - I - like many others - have used them extensively in a number of playthroughs. That said, we're noticing that a lot of folks on the forums who have SS2 issues seem to share the common denominator of using item sorters.

How Sorters Work
"How can an item sorter cause issues with my game?" you might ask. "It's just something to help me deal with organizing all my stuff." Yes and no. Complex Sorter, a personal favorite of mine, tags everything in the game - weapons, armor, miscellaneous items (notes, holotapes), radios, and even quests. This is one of its best features. The way the item sorter does this is it creates overrides for every form it processes. This essentially means it mods the mods that it comes across, grabbing each and every quest, weapon, armor, armor modification, holotape, and other miscellaneous item it comes across and edits it - inserting it in the final sorter plugin that goes at the end of your load order. This is where problems come in.

How SS2 Works
A mod as complex as SS2, which also features frequent updates, runs into some serious problems with this. Anyone who has looked at SS2 under the hood knows that it makes unconventional use of a lot of the base game's features and forms. That menu where you select your building plans? It's a barter menu. The building plans themselves? They are weapons. The building plan classes? Armor modifications. Workshop framework and SS2 also use quests to inject game content from the core mod and all those SS2 add-ons you might download. The spawns in city plans and in building plans? They're miscellaneous items - the same as scrap items, holotapes, or notes in the base game. The list goes on! I won't get into it too deep, but SS2's use of these forms in an unconventional way to achieve what it does is extensive.

The Update Problem
As item sorters come in and relabel and edit all these forms, saving their edited version of the form at the end of your load order, you essentially have something overriding everything else that loads last so it can have the desired sorter tags on it. That means when updates and bugfixes are made to SS2 quests, or even other forms such as building plans, city plans, etc. - that sorter plugin is overriding all of those fixes and replacing it with the old version that existed whenever you ran the sorter the first time. So, for example, if you ran complex sorter on SS2 version 3.0.0 and it tagged your quests, your quests in that sorter plugin are frozen at SS2 version 3.0.0. Any further updates made in 3.1.0, 3.2.0, or 3.3.0 are not being inherited because the "tagged" version of the quest that your sorter plugin contains has overridden those changes. This can create even more serious problems if more extensive changes are made as part of the mod, with quests pointing to potentially new forms or other game play mechanics and changes that rely on new forms. The sorter plugin may potentially block those changes as everything "sorted" based on 3.0.0 of SS2 is going to be stuck that way. That's why sometimes we see users reporting that a specific bugfix, update, or change is not working right for them. If you have sorter plugins at the end of your load order, we do not know what version of SS2 those sorter plugins were made from - and thus they may contain outdated forms.

What To Do?
The good news is that you are not completely screwed in this circumstance. There are a couple of solutions available to you, and if you start a new playthrough, here are some things I recommended.
  • Update your sorter plugins every time SS2 is updated. I know, this is painful and takes a long time - especially with a long load order - but it will prevent you from having problems. Simply delete your old plugins and re-run Complex Sorter (or the sorting tool of your choice) and then enable them. If your new sorter plugin has the same name as your old sorter plugin, FO4 will properly recognize it.
  • Avoid Quest Tagging. It's super convenient having all your quests organized and tagged, but SS2 makes a lot of quest changes with every release. Every time add-on authors update their add-ons, they are also making quest changes. As I mentioned above, SS2 uses quests in some unconventional ways. If sorter plugins are overriding quests with old versions, you're going to have a bad time. In my opinion, it's better to just avoid the quest tagging at all.
  • Avoid Radio Tagging. SS2 also makes extensive use of radio frequencies (i.e. "Jake's Private Frequency"). This may not be the update problem, but something about tagging seems to cause issues with this. Again, something I would avoid. There aren't that many radio stations in the game.
  • Be Wary of Sorter Patch Plugins, Especially Old Ones. I'm not talking here about complex sorter processing files, I am talking about actual plugins. When you are looking to download, check the mod details. When was that sorter patch made? If it's old, it might be out of date and causing issues. Those who make sorter patches should be updating them frequently to reflect changes in the mods they are patching.
IMHO these are good practices to follow for more than just SS2, as sorters can impact many mods that are frequently updated and utilize many different types of forms to do what they do.
 
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IMHO, these are good practices for more than just SS2. Because this can affect any mod that is updated on a regular basis and contains a lot of forms, it can have additional benefits.
Alot of information so thank you for taking your time to explain. I always love learning things like this, and really appreciate when someone takes time out to help others to understand how things work.
I think for now I personally will avoid the sorters.:grin
 
Alot of information so thank you for taking your time to explain. I always love learning things like this, and really appreciate when someone takes time out to help others to understand how things work.
I think for now I personally will avoid the sorters.:grin
They are a double-edged sword. As an alternative, you can manually exclude SS2.esm, the XPAC for Chapter 2, the XPAC for Chapter 3, and SS2-Extended entirely when the you are in xedit preparing to launch the sorter. Just uncheck them. Then the sorter will not process any records for the main SS2 files.
 
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