[CSM] Modders' Holy Bible

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Modders' Holy Bible

Postby Classical Modder » Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:02 pm

What makes or break a mod? What are the fundamental characteristics we should have in a client-side modification in order to certify it as a true modification?

This thread servers to debate those characteristics. New modders as well as experienced hair bags may use these references as guidelines for their future projects, perhaps a moderator could pin this also.

Personally, I always thought a true client-side mod should include as much modified content as possible. The players who will play your mod do not want a simple texture conversion or a reworked HD version of a map pack, they want a full conversion. In my opinion, that is why full-conversion mods (DC, DCF, DCX, EoD, GC, FH, BG42, FinnWars, SH) are always the most successful and have always had the most faithful player base over the years.

But what is the definition of a good mod? What fundamental characteristics should it have, and what are the characteristics amongst those said fundamental characteristics that should be used to judge future mods?

Let me break down the 10 commandments for you:

1) Knowing your objectives. The single and most important question a new modder must ask himself or herself. It is highly recommended that you sit down for a few minutes and brain storm all of your ideas and objectives for your mod. Do you want to make a simple map pack, a texture/model conversion mod or a full-conversion mod? If so, will you build everything from scratch? Will you implement mod support? Will you use objects from other mods? How long do you plan working on your mod? Do you have a modding team to help you? Do you have a budget? What is the general description of your mod? What is the era of your mod and what conflict is involved? Are you willing to do research on those conflicts in order to paint a clearer picture of what you want? AI or no AI? How will you promote your mod? All these questions and much more are crucial in order for you to set a few general guidelines that will help you reach your goals with this mod.

2) The maps. Of course, without the shadow of a doubt, every respectable mod has new maps, and they are extremely well made. Maps I think are the central aspect of the whole mod. If the maps are not well made, if the texturing is poor, the heightmap rough and not smoothed out properly, the maps and consequently the whole mod will suffer from this. Mapping is not just something you can take up as a hobby, and do as a ''partial time job''. It requires professional experience, especially in the texturing department, to recreate an atmosphere that is almost 100% real. Not just texturing comes into play, but also sound effects, ambient lighting, water texturing, ground texturing, skyboxes and of course object lightmaps and shadows, which are an absolute must for every map. Object placement is also very tricky to master, even professional mappers from Dice/EA have made a few mistakes in their maps, such as static objects being slightly above the ground and such. But the whole art of creating a map is making it balanced, and knowing precisely where every single vehicle or soldier spawn fits, and why it is there. Statics need to be well place, and not too abundant except if it is for an urban map. If you master all those aspects, you can make a decent looking map. I have yet to see a mod which matches EA/Dice's ground texturing, static object placement, lightmapping, soldier spawn and PCO placement, except perhaps maybe for FH v0.7 or DC.

3) The static objects, PCOs, hand weapons and any other atmospheric props. It is needless to say that they need to be modeled by professionals once more, and not beginners. Models in a mod are, I think, the most loyal representation of the mod itself. They're the heart of the mod, and therefore modelers must put their heart and soul into their making. Not everyone is fit for modeling, and it is definitely not something you can learn right off the fly on some modding forums (not to be rude, but these kind of things take a lot of time to master). It would seem very wise to hire actual modeling professionals to make a new mod, as their work will be certainly jaw-dropping. Of course the only issue with that is that you will need to pay them for their work and time on the models. A good PCO for example, takes months to create. Everything, from the texturing to the sound effects, menu icons and player controls need to be tweaked to perfection. For hand weapons, you will need to use actual gun sounds, of course, and actual reload animations, and certainly not copy those animations from already existing mods (I see this in a lot of mods and it's very annoying!)

4) The menu editing, HUD, in game map and Lexicon. Every mod has them modified, even if it is only slightly. A client-side mod with no menu editing will have absolutely no immersion factor. For the player that tries the mod, that's a total zero. It's all about first impressions, and if the menu is not edited at all or is too bland, the player will quit very quickly. All the big mods out there have their menus edited, and they are very well edited. By well edited, I mean new textures, new menu icons, new BIK videos in the background, new text (which is edited in the LexiconAll.dat file), background music, an intro if necessary (but not very welcomed since most players hate to waste time with that), and of course the credits to present the modding team to the player which is trying the mod. Every map of course has a new thumbnail icon in the Create Game menu, and a new loading screen. A customized loading bar adds an additional touch of excitement. In game, we want the whole HUD to be reworked, and pleasant to the eye. The weapon, ammo, health, radio command menu, weapons and hands of the soldier are modified according to the general theme of the mod. The in game map is modified and extra detail can be added on it to help the player even more (such as objective locations, locations of ammo or health supplies, etc). All these little additions play a huge impact on the overall impression the player has on the map.

5) Multiple game modes. A must for every mod. As a player, I do not want to simply play on Conquest versions of maps, I want the map to actually be converted to CTF, TDM, CO-OP, and possibly even Objective. Not only does this makes the map more original and fun to play, but it also gives more liberty to potential modders who would like to create server-side versions of the map (this is true especially for TDM or CTF conversions of a map, most server-side mods out there are for those game modes). More game modes means more variety. The maker of the map is challenged with multiple gaming scenarios he must implement for every game mode, and for the player it is even more challenging to play.

6) AI. AI, AI, AI. A map with no AI support will get next to 0 downloads. AI implementation for maps has become the norm for every mapper now. Of course, not everyone has the dedication to convert his/her map to CO-OP, and even with all the tools available to them (such as Botinator) it is still hard to get decent bot support on your map. Good to excellent knowledge on AI strategies will be required for anyone who desires to implement AI on his map. A team of dedicated individuals must work on making the AI work efficiently on the map, and most of all at least give a challenge to the player by maxing out their capabilities. Playing with bots that stand still and do nothing is a waste of time. A good AI mapper will understand this and create path maps that are challenging for the player and that will actually require team work, in CO-OP or Campaign mode (single player).

7) The level of dedication and effort you will put into your mod. This is very important. Some are willing to start modding studios, such as Trauma Studios for DC, and get a team of dedicated and professional individuals to work with them in order to generate the truest depiction of WWII on a PC. Some are more modest and will take the whole challenge of making a mod on their own. This is a no no, because no individual can take up this task alone and come up with a product of quality. Either you will spend an eternity on your mod and never entirely finish every aspect of it, or will want the whole mod to be finished in a certain amount of time, which will make them rush and come up with a mod that nobody wants to play. If you are willing to make a new mod, you must at least come up with a team of modders that are experienced, and that are divided in sections pertaining to their area of expertise (modelers, sound scripters, graphic editors, mappers, texturers, etc). There is no way a single person could have made EoD, or DC. Simply no way. And quality costs, so it's all a question of how much money you are willing to put in your project to make it as much professional looking as possible.

8) Modding support. All respectable and classic mods out there have modding files available to people who would like to mod their mod, and make remakes of them. Whether they are BC42 LST and CFG files or dev folders for ED42, these files are there and available for those people.

9) Good mod promotion. Good mods have had great promotion. They have been posted on the front pages of official gaming sites, received favorable ratings, have had official trailers, and are availalble to the public for download. Not only are those mods available on big gaming sites such as IGN, Planet Battlefield or the official EA website, but they are also present on every big forum community. Official servers are hosted for those mods as well

10) Good mods always evolve. A good modification is never finished, it is a rule of thumb. The team of devs always looks out for bugs and stuff that needs addressing on their official web page's forums, which is also essential to keep track of the latest version of the client and server version of a mod. Patches are always released. Those patches include fixes, new vehicles, maps, new objectives, and added CO-OP support if necessary.
Last edited by Classical Modder on Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Modders' Holy Bible

Postby Swaffy » Tue Nov 27, 2012 5:52 pm

I guess my mod is just a mini-mod. I can't model worth my life. And I'm always working on in-game projects and don't have any time to change the menu icons/textures. I don't really have an objective, I guess my objective is to put everything I personally like into my mod, whether it is my own work or from another mod. I try my best to keep track of where stuff came from in a plain text file if it came from another mod, and I always try to edit what I took from places to make it different.

Now that I'm understanding AI a lot more now, I can give a map descent AI work. I have some community-made maps that are only compatible with CQ that I want to add AI to, so that'll be fun. One of them has AI support, but it is flat-out terrible and the AI runs into trees and other objects.

... but my mod has some badass iron sights in it. 8-)

.'/
Last edited by Swaffy on Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Modders' Holy Bible

Postby Classical Modder » Tue Nov 27, 2012 11:44 pm

What do you think if my write out? Was it precise, or was it missing crucial elements?
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Re: Modders' Holy Bible

Postby Senshi » Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:23 am

It's interesting concepts, but they are out of time for Battlefiel 1942. They are rather an outline for huge projects that might be begun for today's game engines. And even then they are difficult, because today's engines are a lot more work in general, due to their increased level of detail in everything.

If you start modding for BF42 now and want to form a community or at least a small fan base, there's only one main point it all boils down to: Originality. Pretty much everything even remotely "common" has already been covered by mods, be it historical realism, Star Wars, World War One, Cold War, Finnish War, weird-80s-madness, racing games, BFHeroes, MarioKart etc., to just name a few. If you want anyone to actually bother downloading your mod, you better make sure there's something uniquely interesting to it. Which is very hard to achieve nowaday. Even a well-performed mod fulfilling all the criteria outlined above is unlikely to attract players if there's nothing "crazy" about it. Just take a look at what mods received at least a bit of a nominable reception in the last years: Fook and Apache's work stands out here, as both of them always strived to implement stuff that never was done before.

If you have nothing unique for this (which is totally okay, as I said, there's not much "new" left to be done), better strive to create a really well fleshed-out, balanced single map with luxurious bot support. And make sure that it really is a "map-only mod", so people can just drop the .rfa into their level folder and play from vanilla bf42. If you wanna change some stuff, do it mapside. While this might increase the mapsize a bit and cause redundancies if you create multiple maps, the overlap is pretty small for today's disk space standards, and people simply are butt-lazy :) .
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Re: Modders' Holy Bible

Postby Classical Modder » Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:39 am

Senshi wrote:If you start modding for BF42 now and want to form a community or at least a small fan base, there's only one main point it all boils down to: Originality. Pretty much everything even remotely "common" has already been covered by mods, be it historical realism, Star Wars, World War One, Cold War, Finnish War, weird-80s-madness, racing games, BFHeroes, MarioKart etc., to just name a few. If you want anyone to actually bother downloading your mod, you better make sure there's something uniquely interesting to it. Which is very hard to achieve nowaday. Even a well-performed mod fulfilling all the criteria outlined above is unlikely to attract players if there's nothing "crazy" about it. Just take a look at what mods received at least a bit of a nominable reception in the last years: Fook and Apache's work stands out here, as both of them always strived to implement stuff that never was done before.


Yes, the originality factor is the one I totally missed, thanks for pointing that out. I was thinking perhaps a mod that pushed the engine to it's limits would be appreciated by most of the remaining players (128 player maps, maybe even perhaps 200 player maps, destroyable buildings, infinite maps, infinite number of statics).

In other words, another "reality mod", but with stuff that the other reality mods out there (BG42, FH) lacked.
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Re: Modders' Holy Bible

Postby Senshi » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:08 am

FH and BG42 already push the engine to its limits. There's not much more mods of those scales can do in terms of content, graphics, sound, effects. Even then, at least BG42 incorporates some of the later perfomance-friendly finds as well, as they approach their final release (cloud system etc.) .
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