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Basic file structure of a level
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All about modding Soldiers: Heroes of World War II. Don't know what modding is? Don't know what this game is? Well, you can find out here ;-)

The file mission.lng is basically the file that holds all texts used in the game. By storing this in one single file, it is also possible to easily translating the game as a whole. You do not need to use this file for your mod (texts used in the mission can also be placed directly in the mission file), but it is advisable. The only part you have to add is as follows:

        {"FirstTask" "Walk towards the town and kill any enemy you come across."}
        {"name" "First mod"}

Where b_8 denotes the 8th bonus mission (there are 7 bonus missions in the original game). Every statement within this section has the 'name' of the string and the string that is actually shown in the game.

Linking to this file is rather easy, for example in the mission file just place a link like this:
"mission/b_8/FirstTask" where mission links to this file, b_8 to the section and FirstTask to the string you wish to show.
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The games.reg file stores all menu and background parameters. So for example all the images you see when you do through the menus are just .tga files and the names and places are stored in this file.

The most important part however, if you are building a new level, is the link to all the levels, both in the campaigns as well as the bonu menus. When you are building a bonus level, you must add your level to the section "5. Bonus missions". As an example, the demo mod is added as follows:

{"First Mod"
          {name "mission/b_8/name"}
          {coopBreed "ger.infantry_smg"}
              {background "/video/bonus/FirstMod.ebm"}
          {scene "single/First_Mod:FirstMod"}

name: The name of the level that should show up in the menu (in this case it is a reference name stored in the file mission.lng)
coopBreed: Not sure, but seems to denote which side the player is on, in this case Germany
intro: This holds all parameters associated to the intro, when the mission is loading. In this case only the background image is specified
scene: the link to the mission file. In this case the mission file is FirstMod.mi, store in the directory single/First_Mod/

In this section, you can also list other parameters like music, intro text, outro etc. Just take a look in the file and you will find most.

Another part that should be specified is the following:
        {"1-katusha" 0}
        {"2-fau" 3}
        {"3-way_to_berlin" 1}
        {"4-hunter" 2}
        {"single\outfront" 0}
        {"single\mastogne" 3}
        {"single\defend" 0}
        {"single\town_officer" 1}
        {"single\tank_attack" 0}
        {"single\front_line" 1}
        {"single\hutor_chepel" 0}
        {"single\castle" 0}
        {"single\First Mod" 2}
The last line is for the demo mod and says that the player is on the side of the Germans (0 - USSR, 1 - USA, 2 - GER, 3 - GBR)
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The file info.mod holds only some basic info about your mod, like name and version. It is, like most files, a simple textfile. Here is how it looks:

     {name "Demo Mod"}
     {desc "A demo with one level showing the modding structure"}
     {version "version 1.0"}

All these field are free format, you can specify whatever you like in it. It is advisable to have the name of the mod as identical as possible to the directory name, but that is only for recognisability. It is not enforced.

If you go to the MODS menu in the game, the name of the mod will show up in the left listbox, while the description and version info will show up in the textbox if you select this mod.

There is not much more to it....
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Basic file structure of a level20/6/2007
Once you have played around a little with the map editor, it is time to start saving the files in the right directories so you can actually go and test the levels you create.

First an overview of the directory structure of your mod directories:
[Main Soldiers Directory]

Small explanation, [Main Soldiers Directory]  is the directory where you have installed Soldiers (usually c:\program files\Codemasters\Soldiers - Heroes of World War II). From there on just follow the directory structure shown here. ModName and LevelName you can come up with yourself.

Now which files do you need to have in order to have your mod and your level show up in the game:
info.mod (in [ModName]) - gives the name of the mod, description and version)
LevelName.tga (in Minimap) - minimap that is a bitmap file, I will come to this in a later post
LevelName.ebm (in Minimap) - Needs this for the minimap
Level.mi (in [LevelName]) - this is your mission file. Name of the file doesn't matter, only extension must be '.mi'
map (in [LevelName]) - this is your mapfile. Notice that is doesn't have an extension, therefore it MUST be named just 'map'
games.reg (in Registry) - this file holds all links to the different levels that will be shown in the menus
mission.lng (in Text) - this file holds all texts that are used in levels, this way it is easy to translate mods
LevelName.tga (in Bonus) - the bitmap that is shown when a level is loading
LevelName.ebm (in Bonus) - needs it for the above bitmap, don't know what exactly

Most of these files I will come to later, especially the mission and map files, as those are the most important. In some days I will try and post a very simple mod that you can download to explain the basics and also the filestructure a little better. Seeing and working with it is easier than reading this I guess.

Another good thing is, when you have gone through the modding tutorial and unzipped all necessary files, to just browse through the standard levels. They of course give a very good picture of what you all need to know.
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How to start modding18/6/2007
So you like the game and wish to start modding yourself. Great, but first you need to do two things:
  1. Download the modding tutorial. There is some very important info in there about how to start. For one thing, you need to unpack a couple of files from the game directory. These zips (or actually .pak files) contain all the text files that you need to modify in order to build your own levels, weapons or units.
  2. Download Steinfish's map editor. Although technically you can do without (as you only need to edit text files), you will see you need to use the map editor. Placing units on the map in the blind will give an interesting game for sure, but probably not what you had in mind. As soon as you have installed the editor, go play around with it. Although not very difficult, you need to get used to it. And also, save a lot! The editor has the nasty habbit of crashing on the simplest of things. And believe me, if it crashes just after you placed dozens of mines WILL force you some mean words.....
Now you basically have the tools to make a first new level. But what to do then, where do you start??

Since it is not possible (at least, I never found any clues how) to make your own map, you will have to do with an already existing map. Luckily, all of these (single player and multi player) are loaded into the map editor. So you can open an existing map from the editor, or start right away with a mission, based upon an existing map. If you have opened a map, you can add trees, roads, buildings etc. If you have opened a mission, you can add soldiers, guns, tanks, weapons etc. etc.

In a next blog entry I will go into what files exactly make up a mission and where to save these. Because once you have build your first own map and mission, you probably want to play it as well......
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What is Soldiers?18/6/2007
Since this is my first entry in this new thing called blog, let me start with what the hell I am talking about. Soldiers: Heroes of World War II is a real time strategy game developed by Codemasters. It is some three years old now and I have been playing it for about a year now. It is a war game (duh!) and takes place in World War II (another duh!). You can play on four sides (Germans, Russians, British and the Americans) with a multitude of units, weapons, vehicles and tanks. But the very, very best thing of this game is that you can control your units in a very nice way called Direct Control! This gives you almost the feeling of a first person shooter. So, real time strategy and first person shooter in one of the best balanced games I know.

Another thing that is very cool is the fact that everything, yes really everything can be blown up! And it looks good and all the rubble, burned out vehicles and even dead soldiers stay on the field. They don't disappear, they just stay there where they fell (only when you drive your tank over a corpse it will be gone....). Anyway, I do not want to go into the gory details, you should find out yourself if you like these kind of games. And yes, you can! The game can now be downloaded from the codemasters website, so go here and check out the game yourself. If you like the genre, you will probably be blown away by this game. And DO try the learning campaign, it WILL help you, even in the first level already.

But will the blog be about this game all the time? YES and NO. YES, because everything has to do with it. NO because I am not going to write about the game itself. I will write you about my experience with modding the game (SAY WHAT). Modding is actually modifying the game. With this game (as with many others) it is possible to build your own extras like new levels, units, even a whole new setting. I have seen mods for this game that takes the game to the fields of Iraq! Well, I am still in the period of building new levels which is basically the simplest of all. I am not good at 3D and graphics, so building all Dutch units of WWII into the game is still a league away..... but who knows, maybe someone who is capable of that meets up here.....

So, this was the intro, from now on you will find some more technical posts about modding. Please come back (at least one time) to see what modding really is all about. And also if you know the game already, or downloaded it through the link, please comment about it here. I would like to meet new people who enjoy this game.

See ya soon
SoldierModder aka Erwin
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