Why modding FE is worthwhile long term

By on November 18, 2012 5:02:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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For those of you who aren experienced modders, much of which follows is just preaching to the choir.  But for those of you new to modding, you may find this useful..

As some of you know, FE development was led by modders.  Derek Paxton and Jon Shafer are best known for their Civ 4 mods (Fall From Heaven in Derek's case).  As for myself, I got my modding start with Civ 1, MOM, Total Annihilation, and so on.  My love of Civilization 1 ultimately led to writing Galactic Civilizations.

And this brings me to the frustrating part of modding: the limited lifespan of the mod.  I eventually got to know Total Annihilation so well that had they made a Total Annihilation 2 with a derivative of their original engine I'd been already set up to do crazy cool stuff.  But that didn't happen (and don't talk to me about TA:K).

So our approach has been to approach Elemental from the perspective of it being a platform that mods can be built with for years to come.  Many of the mods that worked with War of Magic work, with slight changes, with FE.  That's because WOM and FE are built on the same platform which we call Kumquat.  

Kumquat is a relatively new engine and we have land-based strategy games scheduled to use it and upgraded versions of it for the next several years -- and not just Elemental universe games.  So the skills and understandings of what you get from modding FE will lend itself to more modding. 

We also plan to support both Nexus Mods and the Steam workshop as we go forward in ways that make what we have today seem very primitive.  

The point being, the age old issues of short-lifespan mods is something we are hoping Kumquat addresses. We looked at Kumquat as a platform that modders can use to create increasingly ambitious mods.  I can't promise source code or scripting support yet. Resources are tight, but we will be supporting this underlying platform and the expansion of its capabilities until *at least* 2017.

If you played WOM in 2010, consider what FE is like in 2012.  Now, consider what Kumquat will be like in 2014. 

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November 18, 2012 5:10:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Cool. Slightly off topic and it may be a rather stupid question but why is the engine called Kumquat?

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November 18, 2012 5:15:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Very good to hear.

I modded back in E:wom and I brought all my 3d assets over to FE in a day. And 90% of that was spent on some slightly altered dimensions of humanoid shoulders, and re-aligning a shield.

Meanwhile, I'm really getting the hang of the 3d stuff now, how to import and export to and from the game.

Some new monsters going into next Stormworld version:

From the mmo game Ryzom, released under CC-BY-SA 3.0

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November 18, 2012 5:20:37 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great post, Frogboy. Love this philosophy on creating your games.

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November 18, 2012 5:21:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Awesome!

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November 18, 2012 8:13:48 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Sweet. I really like the ease of modding things thus far.

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November 18, 2012 8:19:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Frogboy

Nexus was the worst modding experience of my entire life and I have been modding since 1980, so I am very happy your supporting Steam and many other modders I know who had similar experiences at nexus will be happy to hear this news too.

Steams good because it supports noobies who normally would not to try mods and if the system you have developed is going to allow mods to be transferred from game to game, then the documentation for it not likely to go too out of date either and will allow for a sizable library of guides and tutorials to be created over time.

It also sounds like your not going to be changing the game in such a way as to break all the mods for it all the time and that if true is most welcome. Too many modding communities die a death because devs break the mods in patches. It would be shame for that to happen here.

Anyway it all sounds good, so far I have liked everything you posted both here and else where.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

 

 

 

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November 18, 2012 8:44:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm just hoping for documentation and a stable modding environment, where things work as expected and consistently.  I'd love to try my hand at some modding, I have some relatively unique ideas (at least I think they're unique) but don't have the time to try and discover what does what, where it does it, why it does it, how it does it, how to alter what it does, where it does it, etc...  

Brad, I also remember a dev journal where you talked about the campaign changing into scenarios, with the hopes that users like us would be able to create our own scenarios.  Will there be official support/documentation for this?

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November 19, 2012 4:40:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It should be noted that Frogboy is speaking about the 3d engine here. It is highly unlikely that pure data mods would transfer as easily.

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November 19, 2012 5:01:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Wizaerd,
I'm just hoping for documentation and a stable modding environment, where things work as expected and consistently.  I'd love to try my hand at some modding, I have some relatively unique ideas (at least I think they're unique) but don't have the time to try and discover what does what, where it does it, why it does it, how it does it, how to alter what it does, where it does it, etc...  

Brad, I also remember a dev journal where you talked about the campaign changing into scenarios, with the hopes that users like us would be able to create our own scenarios.  Will there be official support/documentation for this?

What he said, except I have lots of time, I just have little patience (Yearh Im spoiled like that )
Half of getting new users to mod would be to make it easy for them, not make them run into problem after problem.

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

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November 19, 2012 7:58:26 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Is there a brief some place that describes roughly what the current engine can do from a modding perspective ?

Or what it cannot do ?

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November 19, 2012 6:35:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Kongdej, the current problem for the modding community is the amount of hard coded and un-interactable objects in the game, as far as I can tell. I have attempted several things that, if told to a person would've made perfect sense, but because they were not set for the game it did not understand.

The "make it easy for them" part is mostly regarding the quest editors and such, which are pretty nice, but to do anything new and unique at the moment requires a lot of hard work of pathfinding in an uncharted territory full of pitfalls. Many of the new players that will consider modding will be put off by this.

Do note that as Stardock improve the AI, tags and everything related, the modding community will be able to progressively make the mods better and better.

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November 19, 2012 7:12:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Working stuff out my self is part of the fun of modding so thats not a down side for me.

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November 19, 2012 7:22:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Raledon,
but to do anything new and unique at the moment requires a lot of hard work of pathfinding in an uncharted territory full of pitfalls.

I was talking about the same thing, when I think mods I am not thinking a map pack (which probably is considered a mod), but I am thinking stuff like heavenfalls mod, or sean's mod, which changes mostly the whole gameplay due to either rebalancing, or reflavouring the world.

Changing the current items is NOT easy, some tags work differently than others, take a look at heavenfall's "object sanity" thread for further detail into that.

I ventured into the modding territory for a few days to hit a few of the problems myself, and decided it wasn't worth the effort for me.
(Then again, some of that time was spent not being able to open derek's documents, and crashing in the map editor )

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

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November 19, 2012 8:06:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would really like to know what is being done for the known issues on modding FE. Namely the fact that some things placed in the mod folder do not work correctly. I've not seen any official comment on what is being done. Until this issue is fixed, I don't see many people bothering with mods.

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November 19, 2012 8:25:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well, the devs are very good about not speculating. They will almost certainly not comment at all on modding issues until they are certain one way or the other. But knowing a little more than the average user, I can guess pretty well what is happening on their side. Sales were about par with what they wanted. Not a massive success right away, but the release was superb by the industry standards (it didn't cause mass riots and no one was killed). The word of mouth about the game will ramp up sales over the next six months. In about three months an expansion is planned. That will mean there is a low amount of capital they can invest in the game until then. So don't expect the hardest mod issues to be addressed until the expansion sales are. Do expect some minor things that they can squeeze in while making the expansion. We can for instance expect a more expressive trait system and likely some bug fixes there because that is what the expansion development is focused on. That is just my guess, but it's based on some good analysis and understanding of the way Stardock does things.

 

But as I have generally proven, there is a ton we can do modding wise. Things are good enough right now to justify things like a Tolkien mod and other big name fantasy lands. We just need people to start playing that have a love of those realms. I hope to see some of the old Wheel of Time mod ideas come to fruition as well. The key is to get other modding communities to play the game and look at the potential it has. I suspect that will take at least 6 months or so. But at least we have the Nexus to help get the name out there. And two very strong mods to demo the capabilities. I may have some bias, but I find the XML very easy to understand. I have no programming experience or at least I didn't when I started. It was fairly simple to start doing some value changes and work my way up to bigger things. And the mod forum is full of helpful people to guide you along. If you really want to make a mod, you can do it. If you only kind of want to because you think it might be fun, perhaps not.

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November 19, 2012 9:52:00 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting seanw3,
If you really want to make a mod, you can do it. If you only kind of want to because you think it might be fun, perhaps not.

Well, thats almost always true, I have seen mods to old games that were almost "Unchangable" by standards, because  the people spend months de-coding the game (Master of Orion 2 for example, had a modding community who broke down the game, and back-engineered lots of code).

I admit to being of the "it could be reaaaaallly cool to make a cool mod, so lets take a look at it" group, who just saw all the weirds that goes along with modding fe and thought "Oooh, the game will hopefully be patched someday, anyyyways look at  this game over here".

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

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November 20, 2012 4:53:43 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting seanw3,
Well, the devs are very good about not speculating. They will almost certainly not comment at all on modding issues until they are certain one way or the other. But knowing a little more than the average user, I can guess pretty well what is happening on their side. Sales were about par with what they wanted. Not a massive success right away, but the release was superb by the industry standards (it didn't cause mass riots and no one was killed). The word of mouth about the game will ramp up sales over the next six months. In about three months an expansion is planned. That will mean there is a low amount of capital they can invest in the game until then. So don't expect the hardest mod issues to be addressed until the expansion sales are. Do expect some minor things that they can squeeze in while making the expansion. We can for instance expect a more expressive trait system and likely some bug fixes there because that is what the expansion development is focused on. That is just my guess, but it's based on some good analysis and understanding of the way Stardock does things.

I am not nearly as optimistic as you are when it comes to Stardock "getting down" with modding. What we learned in E:wom, and it holds true in FE as well, if it's not used in the un-modded game you most likely can't do it. There's so much cool shit that I have wanted to do, that I simply haven't been able to. And judging by people commenting, that's what happens to most modders. Most threads that ask "is this possible?" get the obvious reply: "no it isn't".

Putting new content in is easy. Changing the game is much more difficult. That's the nature of only opening up XML and graphics to modding, while keeping scripting out of reach.

As for what Stardock "may" implement in the future, again, I do not share your optimism at all. Again and again we have been told that they will focus on modding at a certain time, and it just doesn't happen. First they said it would be after E:wom was released. Then they said it would be around christmas the same year. Then they said it would be after FE was released. And I can count on two fingers the modding-specific changes implemented since E:wom went into open beta. So when Frogboy says

We also plan to support both Nexus Mods and the Steam workshop as we go forward in ways that make what we have today seem very primitive. 

I give it a very low chance of actually happening.

 

Don't get me wrong. Stardock have put a lot of time into making sure the game is easy to mod, and building up an object-based structure that is easy to use. They just don't listen to the modders. Their coding is always aimed at the vanilla game. We can argue back and forth if this is right or not (good business decision or not), but the fact remains that this is the path they have chosen.

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November 20, 2012 5:33:34 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The means of creating a scenario needs to be re-optimized. I envision a full campaign true to the genus of Final Fantasy Tactics and Suikoden Tactics.

 

This can be done in a few ways: by having towns offer quests (which spawn at that time upon acceptance) and having champions spawn a quest to recruit instead of paying. Now, the low level champions you should be able to buy but the stronger ones you have to prove yourself to. Also, you might find a champion now who refuses to join until certain conditions are met (build x mana temples)(kill this unclaimed champion)(complete 5 quests).

 

Some of these things can be things a player is already expected to do, while other things a player might have to go out of the way to do. I would like a few rabbit hole dungeons and a system that allows 2 units to "duel" and fight without declaring war. (My sov encounters your champion. We fight and one of us is sent back home with an injury while another gets glory). The "Challenge to Duel" option might depend on diplomatic relations or payment of gold or influence (which could also be wagered in said duel.)

These options would go nicely in the core game. However this would allow the setting up of player made campaigns that ring true to a game like Final Fantasy Tactics where you have to quest through the first area to build a minor nation and some troops with 3 spots to settle. Then quest through the second area where you face a kingdom and empire at war - choosing a side makes your minor nation and your "leader" will occasionally offer you rewards or quests. Think the governor from Colonization but a cool leader and not a condescending dick. Then you have to defeat a major monster the enemy has summoned and kill a leader unit to pacify the situation - when you learn your first 3 cities have fallen under enemy control and you have to liberate them. Once this is done, peace is restored to the province and another path opens up: boats that let you explore the next area of the world.

 

You already have a good part of this in the campaign (which is very short, lacks content on terms of depth and duration but does a great job with impact and suspense).  However, i would like more options in the campaign - it feels like my character, Relias is just an inept who falls under the "Graff Rule" and you spend the whole game helping the enemy succeed. There is never a resolution - like a 1/4 a campaign. I would like 12 more chapters that bring an end to the story and involves the other characters - to reposition the importance of the games lore back into the sandbox. That is, there is a missed opportunity in the campaign to really define the game with a very deep story. Imagine xenogears, final fantasy 6 and suikoden style of a campaign.  Each character does not need their own campaign - that is, their own book because they would be featured as the main or a minor character throughout the novel.

I was aching for more at the end, and i now see the only way for this to happen is doing it - so please make my agenda easier with modding the campaign and its features - and please keep posting guides like you have been; it helps more than you think.

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November 20, 2012 9:22:54 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well I learned with stardock: (And this is grumpy, I know, sorry) Don't listen to the developers, only trust what it is when you SEE it.
To me it seems like they have 1 trillion FANTASTIC ideas, but only budget/time to implement 2-3 of them, but that did not stop them for shouting out the other 4-5 that seems really interesting to you in particular

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

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November 20, 2012 12:35:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I remain optimistic. The reason modding has gotten no love in the past is due to lack of revenue. I guess we'll have to see come the beginning of next year. By that point it will be clear. I will say that I thought it was funny that Frogboy's focus on modding after release amounted to stickying a few posts. Not sure we got anything else. He kind of ignored us in favor of optimizing, which is fine.

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November 20, 2012 12:49:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Also, remember how someone got hired to be the "mod czar"?

 

 

 

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November 20, 2012 1:24:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting impinc,
Also, remember how someone got hired to be the "mod czar"?

 

That's different. They've clearly put huge effort into making sure the variables are moddable. We should not be ungrateful about that, because it is a great accomplishment if you compare it to other data-driven modding approaches to other games.

 

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November 20, 2012 2:24:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It sure seems like the modding that was built into EWOM and FE has helped with some rapid patching. It's allowed Brad and Derek to get some balancing/bug fixing out pretty quickly. It's also helped a ton because the community can look through the XML to find out the problem. I can only imagine if the same was true for other modding things, there would be even more awesome fixes!

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November 20, 2012 2:47:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There needs to be a truly comprehensive guide as to the modding capabilities of the game engine.  Kael wrote a similar guide for Civ V, but not his own game.  Kinda makes me scratch my head a bit.  FE as it stands now is definitely not what I would consider mod friendly.

 

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November 20, 2012 4:13:43 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Heavenfall,

Quoting impinc, reply 22Also, remember how someone got hired to be the "mod czar"?

 

That's different. They've clearly put huge effort into making sure the variables are moddable. We should not be ungrateful about that, because it is a great accomplishment if you compare it to other data-driven modding approaches to other games.

 

 

Oh I'm not ungrateful. They've certainly made adding content to the game a breeze. Some things they've done has made things easier (ArtDefs come to mind). But then again, there are a ton of WTF issues with modding, some of them new, some old. I guess it's more my frustration than anything.

Hopefully it's just me bitching, and FE sells well, and they can address some of our concerns. While I don't expect everything any modder requests to get done, some of them are really good ideas, and can only help to make the core game better.

 

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