Elemental: Modding

By on February 20, 2010 2:25:12 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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We get a lot of questions on how moddable Elemental is.  The best way I can answer that is to tell you what our objectives are.

Elemental is a game built on our new Kumquat engine.  Our previous games were developed using an engine we referred to as Pear.

Because it’s our engine, we are free to distribute it in whatever way we want.  Experienced modders can hopefully chime in the comments area to explain to others the importance (in terms of modding) that we own the whole engine and thus are under no constraints.

So let’s walk through some frequently asked questions:

Q: What kinds of mods would you expect modders to be able to make with Elemental (Kumquat)?

A: I would expect someone to be able to create pretty much any type of game with it. More specifically (more realistically) I would imagine there being mods that let people make total conversions to games of the same genre (i.e. A space strategy game, a Civilization type game, a Master of Orion type game). 

Q: What kinds of mods do YOU, Brad Wardell, plan to make?

A: I want to make a Temple of Apshai type mod.

Q: What are the tools we would need to know to mod?

A: We have chosen Python as our scripting language.  Post release we plan to keep full time developers to be dedicated to exporting more and more APIs from Kumquat to expose them to Python. 

In terms of UI, we use DesktopX.  All the .dxpacks in Elemental (and Galactic Civilizations) are made using DesktopX.  It’s a free download. DesktopX version 4 is in development presently. You can find the .dxpacks in the screens directory.

In terms of graphics, we use .PNG files for static images (the game literally reads in .PNG files from the gfx directory).

In terms of models and animation, we use Intel’s Havok. We also have a tool we’ll be releasing that makes Havok files work with Elemental.  These are all free. What you make your models and other 3D assets in is up to you. We use Maya and 3D Studio (depending on artist preference).

To organize all these pieces together, we use XML which tells the game what .dxpack to use or what .PNG file to use or what Havok files to use.  We do not hard code any paths into the engine so you could put them wherever you want.

Q: When should we start modding?

A: That would be Beta 5 which is scheduled for this Summer.  It will be during that time that we start to release our own example mods.

Q: What are some example mods you would make?

A: We would try to cover the full range with our samples.  Here are some specifics of what we plan to provide during Beta 5 and after release.

1. Adding your own maps to Elemental to share via the metaverse (ImpulseReactor’s virtual shared drive system)

2. Adding your own items, spells, technologies, buildings, city improvements and share via the Metaverse.

3. Adding your own races (our example will probably be elves or dwarves or something based on player feedback).

4. Creating your own 3D assets and putting them into Elemental.

5. Using your copy of Elemental to make a totally new TBS game (GalCiv like or MOO like or Civilization like or HOMM like or MOM like or whatever).

6. Using your copy of Elemental to make a totally new type of game TBS (my sample, which will be public domain when released, is the aforementioned Temple of Apshai).

7. Using your copy of Elemental to make an action or RTS game.

Obviously, how much is done here depends on how successful Elemental is commercially so these aren’t promises as much as what we are planning to do.  We used Pear from 1997 through 2007.  Kumquat will be with us probably for the next decade at least.

Relevant Screenshots:

image
DesktopX is our tool of choice for creating screens. Powerful, easy to use (once you get used to it) and battle tested. You can even export your creation as gadgets.

image
Elemental will include the Kumquat Tile editor for letting people create their own 3D scenes using 3D assets made by others. For modders, it means that the “pipeline” organization is provided by the tools. You don’t have to coordinate lots of different people to get a mod done, you can each contribute to a pipeline and use as you wish.

 

image 
Modders can create their own 3D models in whatever program they want and then export it to Havok’s format.

image
Artists use either Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator to create as many assets as possible in vector format. This way, as hardware improves, we can update our games years later with free new, better graphics. This was most obviously seen in GalCiv II: Twilight of the Arnor. It’s a technique we highly recommend.

 

Hope this helps.  We’ll be talking a lot more about modding this Summer.

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February 21, 2010 12:03:18 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting MagicwillNZ,

Modders can create their own 3D models in whatever program they want and then export it to Havok’s format.


This is extremely good news!

Yeah but I suppose it won't be easy to create proper models and animations. 1 creature will have different animations: attacking, moving, standing still?, defending? etc.

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February 22, 2010 8:54:21 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Can anyone recommend a good, free vector graphics app?  It's one of those "I'd love to play around with it, but I'm not willing to shell out money for it" type of interests.

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February 22, 2010 3:46:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A quick search found this.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/inkscape/files/inkscape/0.47/Inkscape-0.47-3.exe/download

No idea if it exports to the required (Havok) format though.

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February 22, 2010 3:56:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

When it comes time to do that "Example Race" go with Dragon-Men, or Bird-Men, some kind of winged race.

I need a good basis and model for that when I start building Draconians for my Dragonlance Mod

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February 22, 2010 4:31:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,


Q: What are the tools we would need to know to mod?

A: We have chosen Python as our scripting language.  Post release we plan to keep full time developers to be dedicated to exporting more and more APIs from Kumquat to expose them to Python. 

In terms of UI, we use DesktopX.  All the .dxpacks in Elemental (and Galactic Civilizations) are made using DesktopX.  It’s a free download. DesktopX version 4 is in development presently. You can find the .dxpacks in the screens directory.

In terms of graphics, we use .PNG files for static images (the game literally reads in .PNG files from the gfx directory).


To organize all these pieces together, we use XML which tells the game what .dxpack to use or what .PNG file to use or what Havok files to use.  We do not hard code any paths into the engine so you could put them wherever you want.

Can you elaborate on the (software) interface between DesktopX widgets and Python that Kumquat uses?

Specifically I am asking if we will have an event driven "click button, python script runs" hooking system so I can create a widgets with buttons that have an effect on the game. Some of the goals I would have with modding relies on that sort of functionality.

I know we don't have full access to the DesktopX api within the game which is understandable.

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February 23, 2010 11:24:11 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting John_Hughes,
A quick search found this.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/inkscape/files/inkscape/0.47/Inkscape-0.47-3.exe/download

No idea if it exports to the required (Havok) format though.

Thank you.  SVG is just 2-D, I thought, and not 3-D.  It'd be good for creating custom UIs, though, along with DesktopX.

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February 24, 2010 9:28:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting John_Hughes,
A quick search found this.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/inkscape/files/inkscape/0.47/Inkscape-0.47-3.exe/download

No idea if it exports to the required (Havok) format though.
Awesome!

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February 24, 2010 10:17:04 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So what do we really need to know in order to make mods? I for one am decent enough with computers in the sense that I can pretty much fix whatever is needed in order to keep my computer running fine. I also can assemble a pc just fine.

Then again I have little to no experience with programming. If modding is made so it is 'for dummies' I would be happy to try my hand at it, but if I need to learn how to program at least somewhat from the ground up I may as well leave the mods to the people who are solid at that because I won't be much of a help then.

How long did it take you guys to learn how to mod, and what skills would you guys reckon are needed?

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February 24, 2010 1:35:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Did you never programmed ? You need a strong, really strong , sense of logic. Conditionnal thinking is needed. Being good in math is a big plus.

I now develop little programs for me and my kids with c#. I learned with pascal then C. And Visual c# express is just so easy to use (and free!). But i'm absolutely not a good programmer.

Did you create some mods for neverwinter nights, for instance ?

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February 24, 2010 1:50:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

No, I never modded anything. I hardly know anything beyond q-basix from years ago and I feel like I will have a tough time learning.

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February 24, 2010 2:43:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Get Visual c# express (free!)

A very well made tutorial for c# (for beginners)

Now Elemental will use python.

 

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February 26, 2010 3:18:03 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

If anyone is interested, O'Reilly has their Learning Python ebook on sale today for $9.99

http://twitter.com/OReillyMedia/status/9669279889

[EDIT] Now expired, but still worth it at the regular price.  Plus, they always have the buy 2 get 1 free thing, as far as I know.

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February 28, 2010 3:24:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Python is pretty much the only language worth learning as long as you don't have to crunch a lot of numbers or dig deep into low level drivers - which need to go into the ruthless world of native code; and even then, you can find an opensource library or python driven engine for pretty much anything.
I can't thank Stardock enough for picking it as their scripting language of choice.

If anyone is interested, O'Reilly has their Learning Python ebook on sale today for $9.99
Make sure to grab Programming Python (from the same author as Learning Python) as well. It's basically a 1200 pages long tutorial of real life examples; a really good read since it covers everything from system tools, parallel processing, web development etc... The only downside is that the current edition (3rd) is a little dated (2006). The latest edition of Learning Python is pretty current however.
If you really want to learn the latest versions of Python (2.6 and 3.1) - which bring their share of new libraries and syntactical sugar - maybe you should consider reading another book.

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March 3, 2010 9:08:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hey frog, can we mod the leader creation screen with more falvorful or historical leader traits. I, as a slavophile, would likea chance to have some of the russian leaders traits, while others seem to like some guy named alexander.

 

Just wondering how flexible this type of thing will be.

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March 4, 2010 9:09:22 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

When you export models into the game, will the models automatically pick up the game's cell shaded Alphonse Mucha-like art style? Or is that something modders will have to implement themseleves?

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March 4, 2010 9:22:40 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Much of it seems to be shader related from the screen shots, so I would imagine so.

 

An interesting angle from that would be can you edit any such shader types to get a diffrent look?

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March 5, 2010 1:00:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So if I make mods and want to play in multiplay with a few other people, how does that work? Do we all have to have the dame mod or will the host have a way to give them my mod at startup and if so can changes to the customization screen be transfered as well?

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April 9, 2010 12:57:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

What we really need is one example creature from the game, so that people can base size, dimension, coloration, etc. off of that. You can likely import anything you want into the game....making it look good (and blend in with everything else) is a whole different story.

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