Starting with beta 4 of Elemental, the modding tools for the game have begun to be made available.
This article will serve as a very very basic primer on how modding works in Elemental.
During the beta process, the team will try as much as it can to help users learn what can and can’t be done with the existing modding tools. Those who need a lot of hand holding should probably wait until after release since the team will have very limited time available to document what is what until post-release.
That said, the basics are fairly straight forward and I’ll go through them here.
The Legal Stuff
To get this first part out of the way, all of the content that comes with Elemental is copyrighted by Stardock Entertainment. We spent a lot of time and money producing the content that comes with it. You may not distribute this content to be used for non-Elemental related purposes. As you go through the Elemental folders, you will quickly see why most games restrict what is readily accessible. We ask modders to respect the artistic effort that went into creating these assets.
Elemental is very data-driven. What this means is that the game itself contains very little “hard coded” content. This is the basis of what makes the game easy to mod.
The formats we use are:
XML. This can be read in with a plain text editor. Nearly everything in the game is XML. Our editors output to XML.
PNG. This is a popular graphics format used on most web pages. We use it everywhere for static images.
MP3. For songs in the game, we use MP3, a popular audio format.
WAV. We also use WAV files, a popular sound format for sound effects.
DXPACK. This is the format that DesktopX uses (www.desktopx.net). We use it for all of our user interface related elements.
HKB. This is the Havok format. The Havok site has a free exporter for it to use in 3D Studio or Maya or what have you. However, you will need our converter to use it with Elemental which we’ll be releasing shortly.
The Tools (as of Beta 4)
We include two of the tools with beta 4. The Map Editor and the Tile Editor.
In Beta 4, when you choose one, you have to wait until it loads all the data (we’ll add a fancy load screen later) so at first you’ll be looking at a black screen for a bit.
The Tile Editor
Use the middle mouse button (holding it down) to adjust the rotation of the screen. Hold the left mouse button down to move the screen around.
For Beta 4, just save your tile.
The saved tile goes to your my games folder in documents (documents\my games\elemental)
Opening up your tile in a text editor just shows its XML:
In Elemental, file extensions mean very little. The game goes by XML keys (<TileDesigns> in this case).
The Map Editor
THE MOST IMPORTANT KEYS IN THE EDITOR:
+ and – on the 10-key will increase and decrease the size of the cursor.
RIGHT-CLICKING on the map will cause the selected terrain or object to be applied.
For mountain height, hold down the right mouse button while dragging the mouse. It’s dangerously fun.
When you create something in the tile editor, it is not assigned to anything in particular (a quest, a goodie hut, a city improvement, etc.) thus it is shown as a prop. It won’t do anything by default.
In one of our upcoming entries, we’ll show you how to make quests and goodie huts. But they’re fairly easy to make. Here’s an example:
<Name>My Weird Village</Name>
<Description>This weird village will give you stuff.</Description>
<Desc>Scouring the area, you find 30 gildar!</Desc>
Throw that into your quests folder and it should automatically show up in the game (I haven’t tried this yet but…in theory).
Quests, Items, Adventures
Once players get a handle on the basics, we’ll start talking about how to make items, quests, adventures, etc.
Sharing your Creations
You can share your creations in one of two ways.
Way #1: Impulse::Reactor
If you hit Shift-Tab you get the Impulse:Reactor overlay. One of the options is mods.
The mods available in game will eventually be heavily moderated.
For users who want to avoid our deliciously evil moderating ways, you can simply share mods with others the old fashioned way. Just drop them into your my games\elemental folder in the proper place and they’ll just show up.
For Beta 4, we’re only letting maps be shared because our moderator tools are very primitive and the map format isn’t likely to change between now and release.
One caveat about beta 4 (and it’ll be easy to find out which users didn’t read this article) – the game will spawn resources on the map even when you have chosen not to. This is a temporary thing that will be addressed by release so go ahead and continue to choose the save option to not allow things to be spawned because the game will use it later.
Hope this helps and have fun!