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The Modding Guide

By on July 29, 2010 1:21:07 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Draginol

Join Date 03/2001
+102

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.

The Formats

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

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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.

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For Beta 4, just save your tile.

The saved tile goes to your my games folder in documents (documents\my games\elemental)

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Opening up your tile in a text editor just shows its XML:

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In Elemental, file extensions mean very little. The game goes by XML keys (<TileDesigns> in this case).

The Map Editor

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THE MOST IMPORTANT KEYS IN THE EDITOR:

+ and – on the 10-key will increase and decrease the size of the cursor.

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RIGHT-CLICKING on the map will cause the selected terrain or object to be applied.

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For mountain height, hold down the right mouse button while dragging the mouse. It’s dangerously fun.

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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:

<GoodieHutTypes>
    <GoodieHutType InternalName="WhateverYouWantToCallIt">
        <Name>My Weird Village</Name>
        <Description>This weird village will give you stuff.</Description>
        <Medallions>
            <All>CaveGrassland_Medallion.png</All>
        </Medallions>
        <Destructable>1</Destructable>
        <TileDesign>WeirdVillage</TileDesign>
        <DrawnIcon>Gfx/TacticalIcons/Quest_Cave1.png</DrawnIcon>
        <IconSize>50</IconSize>

    <Treasure>
      <Title>Found Gildar!</Title>
      <Desc>Scouring the area, you find 30 gildar!</Desc>
      <Liklihood>3</Liklihood>
      <GameModifier>
        <ModType>Resource</ModType>
        <Attribute>Gold</Attribute>
        <Value>30.00</Value>
        <PerTurn>0</PerTurn>
      </GameModifier>
        <SFX>GoldPouch_1</SFX>
        <Image>Gfx\Items\Gold_Medium1.png</Image>
    </Treasure>
    </GoodieHutType>
</GoodieHutTypes>

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.

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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!

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July 29, 2010 1:31:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the guide, Frogboy. My main interest is in quests, which sadly you haven't gone into. I am a bit worried that they seem too restrictive at the moment. Glancing at the quest XMLs it seems like they're exclusively associated with tiles, which means it's impossible to create a quest that starts from an item dropped by a creature, or a quest that has you loot quest items from creatures unrelated to the quest itself (for example, a quest to collect wolf pelts, where the pelt is a quest item and the wolves are just regular map monsters).

These are very basic quest formats, but at a glance I don't see that they're actually supported by Elemental. If that's true, the quest variety possible is rather significantly hampered, since each can only rely on very specific tiles...

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July 29, 2010 1:33:00 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would have some additional questions about importing our own models to Elemental. Would you please have a look at this forum please?

http://forums.elementalgame.com/389340

(it also consists an image of a lowpoly wraith, done by myself )

 

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July 29, 2010 1:43:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Annatar11,
Thanks for the guide, Frogboy. My main interest is in quests, which sadly you haven't gone into. I am a bit worried that they seem too restrictive at the moment. Glancing at the quest XMLs it seems like they're exclusively associated with tiles, which means it's impossible to create a quest that starts from an item dropped by a creature, or a quest that has you loot quest items from creatures unrelated to the quest itself (for example, a quest to collect wolf pelts, where the pelt is a quest item and the wolves are just regular map monsters).

These are very basic quest formats, but at a glance I don't see that they're actually supported by Elemental. If that's true, the quest variety possible is rather significantly hampered, since each can only rely on very specific tiles...

True. These are things we would have to add later. At the end of the day, this IS a strategy game after all.  I agree there's a lot of interesting directions we can go with quests and such as time goes on.  

That said, you can actually make a quest that requires the player to gather various types of loot and bring back (the Rats in the Basement quest has the player bring back an item, you could have something else drop that item in a different quest or as part of loot or something).

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July 29, 2010 1:53:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

As long as they're being considered and will hopefully make it in later, that's fine by me. I was mostly looking for clarification. Thanks to being able to set spawn frequency on tiles (I'm assuming it implies what I think it implies), and tying monsters to them, it's definitely possible to work around some of the item-related difficulties of quest design.

My Grand Hope, if you will, is to have lots of very random quests that you're never guaranteed to get. If some monster only has a 10% chance to appear once on a map, and you give it a 20% chance to drop an item that starts a quest, you could go a lot of games without actually seeing that quest. Throw in enough of those, and you can have some very dynamic games! If the tile frequency works as I imagine, meaning that I can set a tile such that it doesn't *always* show up on a random map, some of this will be possible as well, which is a great place to start

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July 29, 2010 2:23:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Just jumped out of the Beta4 to tell you that it looks gorgeous, that extra bit of polish on everything.  Words fail me.

 

Got to go and play it properly.  The change from 3C to 4 is astounding.

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July 29, 2010 2:23:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hell yeah!!! Downloading the new patch right now!

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July 29, 2010 2:33:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT

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July 29, 2010 2:49:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So, the buttons that go with saving the tile that dont to anything now, will they allow for simple editing (having options like what the improvement does or the value of the recourse) or will it just be for sorting perposes?

Thanks in advance!

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July 29, 2010 3:05:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Is there a way to create our own civilization?

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July 29, 2010 3:08:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Looks good. Are you guys going to cover how to create heroes/champions, items, and city improvements too? Thanks.

 

EDIT: Factions too, good point, BlackRainZ.

 

So far I created some sort of a religious monument to use as a city improvement. Can't wait to continue.

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July 29, 2010 3:19:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks Brad.

Another question. The primer doesn't touch on races, yet in another post it mentioned that races would be considered mod items in the future. Would you mind elaborating a bit on the likely process for us to look at building a race. (I'm guessing it will be very involved on a number of levels).

Second question. Python hasn't been mentioned in the primer. Will we ultimately be able to access the games API and manipulate classes etc via Python?

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July 29, 2010 3:23:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I didn't realise you were turning of tactical battles again for this beta or am I experiencing a bug?

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July 29, 2010 3:23:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

city improvements too

It's all in the XMLs. Once you have your tile, just find the file that lists city improvements and work with that to add your tile to the list.

I didn't realise you were turning of tactical battles again for this beta or am I experiencing a bug?

It's not really a "bug", but they forgot to include some files (including tactical battle maps) in the distribution hence why no battles yet. They're re-patching.

Second question. Python hasn't been mentioned in the primer. Will we ultimately be able to access the games API and manipulate classes etc via Python?

AFAIK, this is planned post-release.

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July 29, 2010 3:31:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ah thanks very much Annnnatar I didn't make the connection between those missing maps and the tactical battles failiure, much appreciated for the explanation. Other than that I dont think it crashes less but it does it much more smoothly so I guess thats a plus Modding tools look nifty too.

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July 29, 2010 3:35:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Annatar11,

city improvements too
It's all in the XMLs. Once you have your tile, just find the file that lists city improvements and work with that to add your tile to the list.


I didn't realise you were turning of tactical battles again for this beta or am I experiencing a bug?
It's not really a "bug", but they forgot to include some files (including tactical battle maps) in the distribution hence why no battles yet. They're re-patching.


Second question. Python hasn't been mentioned in the primer. Will we ultimately be able to access the games API and manipulate classes etc via Python?
AFAIK, this is planned post-release.

Hallelujah! Or however you spell that crazy word. I just noticed the whole "data" folder available now. I'll be away for a while.

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July 29, 2010 3:50:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

@ Frogboy: If you don't feel like reading the post I summed it up with some numbered questions. Thanks

Incredibly Awesome!!! This is some Great Stuff right here . I have to say I'm impressed. The only thing I'm not too stoked about is the "Large" Map setting still seems too small. Is that going to get any bigger between now and release? Is that as big as it can go without 64Bit support? It's going to be really challenging to fit Krynn into a map that size. I was really hoping for something a tad bigger. The width of the Large setting is ok, at 12 squares, but the height is only 8 squares.

The next thing I'm mainly interested in is Item and Faction creation. Are creators for those coming soon? I'd like to start working on skins for items like swords and armors but I need to know how to make those items before I worry about what they look like. If it's a matter of making models for them I have a (legal) copy of 3DsMax though admittedly it's an older copy as I could never afford the upgrades on what I've made since I had the job I needed it for.

Also for some reason I can't get the "- or +" keys to change the cursor size. I'm actually re-downloading it just to make sure it's not something on my end causing those keys not to work. Also noticed location in the test game I just tried that appeared on the cloth map but not the game map when zoomed in. I didn't note what it was but if it happens again I'll make a bug report on it.

Still, this is Seriously Awesome Stuff!!!

1. Both "- and +" keys aren't changing the tool size for me. I'm looking into it to make sure it's nothing on my end.

2. Is this as big as the Large Maps are getting until we get 64bit support?

3. How do I make items like swords and armors to be used by units?

4. Is Faction Creation Coming Soon?

Thanks again and Thanks for the Awesome Work. The Whole Team deserves a Big pat on the back for this one

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July 29, 2010 4:15:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The plus and minus keys work for me. I too would like to know if the maps will get larger. I really would love to play on a much larger map.

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July 29, 2010 4:18:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I can't get things to work at all. Only the Map Editor and the Tile Editor shows up and when I try to run them, I get a black screen that hangs.

I'm going to try to reinstall everything before I start crying, though.

Props on how amazingly awesome Impulse:Reactor and the Mod upload/download looks, though. I was taken aback by how delightfully Elementalesque it all looked when I opened it up. It helps that I have an awesome avatar fit for the job.

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July 29, 2010 4:22:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This looks like it's going to be a lot of fun as things get hooked up to the mod tools.

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July 29, 2010 4:26:43 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Shouts from the bleachers ....."Extra-Large Maps!  Extra-Large Maps!  Extra-Large Maps!"

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July 29, 2010 4:48:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Was having a really crappy day, until I got home and saw that Stardock had an update waiting for me to play... everything is all better now.

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July 29, 2010 4:50:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm glad the tile editor stores rotation values in sane units.

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July 29, 2010 4:54:24 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Luckmann,
I can't get things to work at all. Only the Map Editor and the Tile Editor shows up and when I try to run them, I get a black screen that hangs.

I'm going to try to reinstall everything before I start crying, though.

Props on how amazingly awesome Impulse:Reactor and the Mod upload/download looks, though. I was taken aback by how delightfully Elementalesque it all looked when I opened it up. It helps that I have an awesome avatar fit for the job.

 

Luckman, just a note, the mod tools do start with a black screen (takes quite a while before the editor comes up).   So you may not have a problem, you may just have to be patient.   

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July 29, 2010 4:54:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

After ten minutes of testing I'm willing to declare the tile editor the best thing in any computer game ever! Amazing job Stardock guys! If the map editor and the ones not in our beta yet are of the same caliber there's no doubt Elemental will be the modding feast it's been advertised as

Edit: I too almost despaired at the black screen when launching the editor But Task Manager didn't show elemental as not responding, so I waited a few minutes and it started up nicely

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July 29, 2010 4:59:46 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

1. Both "- and +" keys aren't changing the tool size for me. I'm looking into it to make sure it's nothing on my end.

Try the + and - on the number pad (assuming you have a number pad).

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