View Poll Results: Do you want modding tools/SDK for XCOM?

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Thread: XCOM: Enemy Within Modding questions

  1. #1
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    XCOM: Enemy Within Modding questions

    OK, I didnīt see a thread for this so Iīll start one. When I heard the announcement that there is going to be an expansion pack for XCOM, I was electrified, perhaps we will finally have an SDK or other modding tools that I and the whole modding community have been waiting for.

    Currently the only way to mod the game is by .ini mods and hex editing and I consider it to be a small miracle that we have all the mods that we have today. However, a jewel of a game like XCOM deserves a good modding community and a good set of modding tools and I am hoping that this long awaited expansion will finally open the flood gates of creativity by giving us those tools.

    So, my primary question is: Will we have Mod Tools/SDK with this expansion?

    Personally I would pay for a good SDK and so would many other mod makers.

    I am hoping and praying that the Gods of gaming will allow the answer to my question be yes. :-D

    Also, if there is going to be an SDK, then I would wish for a Modding sub-forum to be opened as soon as possible.

    Cheers!

  2. #2
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    We will not get any tools with this expansion. Confirmed by one of interviews.

    They admitted this would be too hard for them to release, but they instead pushed more things into INI files according to the article.

  3. #3
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    Can you put a link to the interview?

  4. #4
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    It is in the sticky, but not sure if on the first page

  5. #5
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    It was in one of the very first ones out. Pretty much exactly what gucimir said, too hard but have moved more into the ini files to make it easier to access. We are not going to give you the tools but you can sort it yourself. I cop out in one way but good they are making it easier for those in the know!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by guciomir View Post
    We will not get any tools with this expansion. Confirmed by one of interviews.

    They admitted this would be too hard for them to release, but they instead pushed more things into INI files according to the article.
    So they don't mind us playing around with the INI files? I thought that was a bit of a grey area - or was that messing around with the EXE file?

  7. #7
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    Ini files holds configuration. Think of them like options in text file. No harm to code when you change some values there. Exe files are a different matter

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by guciomir View Post
    Ini files holds configuration. Think of them like options in text file. No harm to code when you change some values there. Exe files are a different matter
    Sectoid Squisher is referring to how presently, the only way to get your changes to apply ingame is via injecting the modified .ini file into the exe. From what I understand, this is part of an anti-cheating system for MP that just happens to also make it a lot harder to mod the game.

    Kind of a gray area. It does break the EULA, I think, but I can't see Firaxis or 2k going after the fanbase like that.

    At least that's how it used to go. I don't know if intrepid modders have figured out a way around it or not.

    I'm hoping that EW allows the game to read from loose ini files for SP. I mean, most of the really awesome mods were made from simply changing the ini files around.

  9. #9
    What do I want most?

    Steam workshop support. It makes mods easy and intuitive to install and gives the modders an easier way of getting their hard work out there where people can see it!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jopo-80 View Post
    So, my primary question is: Will we have Mod Tools/SDK with this expansion?
    Quote Originally Posted by DazzD View Post
    It was in one of the very first ones out. Pretty much exactly what gucimir said, too hard but have moved more into the ini files to make it easier to access. We are not going to give you the tools but you can sort it yourself. I cop out in one way but good they are making it easier for those in the know!
    There's countless benefits to a thriving modding community for a game. However, should that game and its most popular mods reach a certain level of usage/success, a very powerful monster could reveal itself. If unleashed and not dealt with swiftly and properly, it creates countless other monsters and within a year - well, it can all go to hell. Most gaming companies want to avoid this monster.

    That monster has one main body but several heads to attack you with. The monster's body is called Greed and just a few of its lethal heads have names like: copyright violation, egomania, and core game install fragmentation. Like any monster, they all come at you at once. That's what most game companies with officially released mod tools have to deal with.

    So if everyone on this topic works the next three months to make a great XCOM mod named NEMESIS and we get 3,000 people to download and use it, that's great. We all did great work, improved the game and community, we all share the spotlight - so it's all good. That's what usually happens because its what some call "under the radar". There's no "money or fame" in it.

    But I humbly tell you from harsh experience, the second you create and support a game mod that surpasses 75,000 downloads for a current release version, an evil rumble whirls in the distance. Forum trolls don't have anything on what's waiting for you then. That's just the start of things. It's when you soar past 100,000 downloads/users that magazines take notice, fan websites want to do interviews, other mod teams get jealous (it's natural), and - eventually - people come at you from all sides because they see "money and fame" in what you're doing. The reality doesn't matter. It's the possibility that you're their way of "making it".

    That's when the monster appears.

    That's when every other weekend you're getting forum posts, emails, or maybe phone calls from those trying to cash in the attention because "you stole my stuff and put it in your mod! I demand you" - ad lib here. Then the company releases a new patch and, presto - some 100,000 gamers have game crashes because your mod conflicts with the official patch. Almost as bad, it won't crash, but for the 23-30 days it takes you to update your stuff none of your 100,000 (plus) users can use your stuff after each official game patch release.

    Usually that's when the company's "legal department" or one of your friends with a legal background advise you that so and so on your team gave permission for some gaming magazine in another country to market and provide a download for your mod. Great? Not really. Especially when they didn't tell you about it so in the documentation/readme file giving credit to the authors or website links to resources, its outdated because only you have the most recent versions. So within a month you've got really upset people, both on and off your team, who aren't getting credit for their work, their website link is wrong so now people can't find them, etc..

    In short, you never provide gamers with tools to modify your own game. If they're really good at it (and some of them are), you'll be kicking yourself in the butt two years later when more people are playing the free modded version of your game than the real one you're trying to sell.

    Again, that's when another company offers you a once-in-a-lifetime dream deal for your game, its character, or what have you, and they love certain features. That's when some of those features are part of a free mod made from gamers, not the company. Then there's an uproar from said gamers that you stole it from them and they should get credit or part of the money or - you get the point.

    There's plenty of other reasons. These are just mine. I'm all for mods and the modding community. Ahem, that is, using third party tools.

    P.S. For instance, they probably don't want to see people playing XCOM a year from now with gamers using 50 soldiers, all armed with lightsabers, wearing Nike apparel, soldiers customizable so their body face and armor matches those from the Harry Potter movies, and instead of aliens for some reason you're fighting naked smurfs or wookies or something - all to ripped mp3 versions of music from Lady Gaga, with none of those talented actors or singers or companies getting a single penny of royalty or permission for it. Yeah, a living nightmare.

    Best to keep it "under the radar". If you and maybe a few thousand people play your mod, then its fun for everyone and its not a financial/legal threat to those that make their living off their face, voice, talent, or product.

  11. #11
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    [Applauds Smoofs post]

    Well spoken Smoof, well spoken.

    Personally I make mods mainly for myself and if someone happens to like them fine. Also, if my help is needed in some mod project, I am more than willing to help, although I must say that I donīt yet boast too impressive of a skill array, but Iīm learning all the time.

    As for XCOM, I thought that all you needed for modding is the Unreal Developer Kit and I immediately downloaded the free for non-commercial use thingy. My disappointment was great when I discovered that I could not do anything with it as the game uses some sort of a custom version of the file packaging tools.

    I mean, if the devs wanted to make the game more accessible, couldnīt they somehow enable the game to read unpackaged .upk files, so people could add their own 3D models, textures, sounds etc.?

    At the very least give us a map editor or access to those files so we can create new maps.

    Heh, I already mentioned in another thread, that I would like to add Finland to the Council, make a terror mission in Helsinki and help to make a fan based voice pack for Finnish soldiers/civilians.

  12. #12
    Dang Smoof, that puts it into perspective for me. Thanks!

    It's sad that happens though. The possibilities with this game were endless! But alas, it still is one of my favorite releases from the last year or so... Even without the beauty mods could bring.

  13. #13
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    @Jopo-80

    Thanks. I applaud what you're doing. You're making a lot of people happy. I encourage you to continue having fun modding games. I merely suggest not to aim too high for your mod's success because you just might get it.

    As for your skill array, don't be too hard on yourself. You're already doing stuff most people can't or won't. You'll only get better. Those that made the game are passionate, talented, and likely have years of experience. Many game companies invest staggering amounts of money to develop their game engine and unreal is in a class all its own. Some of them secretly hope to have so much success that they can either license their game engine to others or, just as well, can re-use that same engine in their other games, just modified.

    I'm sure after years of development they want to keep the heart and soul of the game safe behind several layers of digital protection, so they retain the most control of the overall direction of the game going forward. If a small group of talented gamers with the right tools could quickly and easily modify their game directly, within a year or two its no longer their game. Plus, most mods are free. Their game isn't. So Firaxis isn't so much trying to prevent you or I from easily modding their game. They're trying to keep other game companies from easily modding their game and selling that modification. What you and I would do for fun many would do for potential profit.

    Its possible map editors and more access to various game files and data happens over time, as others in our community (possibly you) work on things. However, I'm sure there's plenty of things in the game's engine/core that are immune to tinkering at this stage. The trick is finding out (with a minimum of time and grief) which potential feature of a mod is technically possible and, if it isn't, coming up with creative workarounds.

    Usually, the closer you get to the specs and tools the dev team uses to build the game the higher the learning curve to use said tools. Needless to say, I wasn't my team's programmer and it became an inside joke that I "always wanted them to come up with tools so I could use their tools". So they may not want to release what tools they have to help the community out merely because tons of people like me would need simpler tools to use the tools they release lol.

    @Razor Rex

    You're welcome. That's just my experience. Perhaps that's not the norm. There were about two dozen other mod teams (over 150 people) that I associated with at the time. Some of them are now working at game companies while others quit working on games so they could have fun again just playing them. Like me. I'm not just burned, I'm plasma rifle fried. I'll never beta test anything again in my life lol. I'll also never demand any dev team fix any specific "bug". Plus, I'll never tell them to do it quicker.

    Even so, it was a great experience and our team made several hundred thousand gamers happy. We would have been satisfied if only 25 people were using it. We were doing it for fun as much as helping others that played the game we loved. Sadly, over time it showed us the true nature of humanity, both good and bad.

    Apparently, there's too many people who want attention and don't much care how they get it. So when there's a spotlight on you, regardless of whether you earned that spotlight or not, at a certain level "in comes the crazies", each of them desperately saying and doing everything to "be known" or associated with what you're doing. They think you're their way of "making it".

    If it becomes successful enough you'll find plenty of people that'll claim your work as their own. That's when you start spending more time defending yourself and your work without actually working on your work. In my opinion, that's why so many game designers quickly leave a massive long term project/game after its released. Some of them then turn to modding, so they can limit their time and grief to only a few weeks or months and across several projects. And by staying "under the radar", they know they won't have to spend hours every week in forums defending themselves.

  14. #14
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    The companies that make games that focus on Mod support, usually they just let it run free to ump up sales, and then make DLCs or expansions based around some popular mods, but do it on a professional level, in the game code, basically using the mod community to field test ideas, and they just patch when stuff breaks.(Dawnguard is an instance of this, vampire mods were popular but lacked professional quality, so Dawnguard came in and said Let me show you how it's done. another isntance, is Crusader Kings 2 Legacy of Rome DLC, which allows you to create the roman empire, another popular mod.)

    for a company it's the most effective hands off method to appeal to what the community wants in your game. However, it requires a live and let live attitude or policy to content infringement.

    so from a company standpoint it keeps sales high as there is a constant flow of free content, and they don't need, nor should care about the plight of any individual modder.

  15. #15
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    Firaxis talk about "possibly" adding full mod support at a later date at PCGAMESN

  16. #16
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    I understand the difficulty in providing complete and detailed mod support.
    That is not exactly required.

    "Mod support", that would go a long way, could consist of:

    • A "mods" folder in a place like "my documents\EU\mods", where unpacked script files can be placed and where these files automatically override their baked namesakes.

    • When modded files are detected, this also disconnects the Phone.
      (so the game can no longer phone home to the Cenobite dimension)

    • A tool to unpack the packed files to make them readable with generic tools. Even if it does everything at once. Whatever.


    Right now, modders have to jump through hoops - but they are used to that.
    The bad part is that using mods is technologically demanding. And most users do not know much more about their computer than how to turn it on.

    If mod installation instructions read like "unzip into the blahwatever folder" a lot more users would be comfortable with doing that - instead of "hacking their windows" and messing with unknown Steam settings to get anything to work at all.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dannysquid View Post
    Firaxis talk about "possibly" adding full mod support at a later date at PCGAMESN
    Thanks for the link.

    What I translated from that article is along the lines of what I've already said. At this time they don't plan to provide further access to tools and information to help gamers mod XCOM. What they're doing is the next best thing, moving certain game data into locations that modders (with the talent and proper third party tools) already know how to access. I applaud them for doing that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gazz View Post
    I understand the difficulty in providing complete and detailed mod support.
    That is not exactly required.
    Required? No. Smart to have up front? Yes.

    I'll bet you a ton of Sectoid corpses the week they release any official mod tools they'll be a dozen threads in the support forums for using said tools. Most of them will include titles like "where's the manual", "this tool is bugged because-", "why isn't such and such feature listed", and among my personal favorites, "why couldn't they just make a youtube video instead of forcing me to read through all this".

    Speaking from experience about personal favorites, for support the greatest volume of emails/forums topics I had to deal with were along the lines of things to do (or not do) that were clearly printed, in bold, at the top, of the first two pages of the mod's manual.

    For all intents and purposes, nobody reads the manual. So like Firaxis you build the manual/tutorial into the game or mod and suddenly "everyone" complains about you not having an in depth manual. Oh, it hurts my brain. Like I said, I'm just glad I'll never deal with that stuff again. Much more fun killing aliens lol.

    Within a month the forums will be ablaze with insults and annoyance that if they released a tool they should have spent the time and money to do it right, which in so many words means releasing all the documentation to use the tool, with pictures and examples to do so, plus they'll demand a "starter mod base file" so everyone could just download the thing and start changing numbers and get results. I could be wrong but probably not.

    So once again it comes down to what do they focus on. Continue as-is, letting modders do what they can with their game. Or release tools that give modders more access, tons of gamers (usually the ones that can't even mod) complain about the "lack" of documentation, and then they demand for more tools so they won't have to learn even the basics of modding.

    Besides, within weeks of releasing mod tools the other problem comes up. That's tons of gamers complaining "why did they work on releasing mod tools instead of fixing that (name bug here)?! That's not fair! I want (put gamer demand here)." For that and other reasons, decision makers probably did the same as I would in an instant - focus exclusively on the game itself.

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