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Back to News Listing Aggressors Testers Diary - Modding

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2018 by Alberto Casulini

Type: News

As a young player I was always browsing game files trying to find a way to change them. It was partially curiosity and partially a wish to modify the rules to my own liking, because no matter how great a game is, there is always something you want to tweak or adjust.

The option of modding was part of the game design from the very beginning as I wanted to give the players the opportunity to create the Aggressors realm with me in an easy and user-friendly way. Over time, the idea was brought even further – I decided to create a framework for strategy games of different worlds and historical eras.

 

Today, Aggressors allows you to change pretty much anything you want – everything is in an editable, and hopefully self-explanatory, format on both levels – scenario (or game) level and mod level.

To give a taste of all the options you have, you can create your own maps with units, roads, rivers and players (with all related attributes like personalities, relations, development advance), random events, objectives, winning conditions, unit names, etc. Most of these things can be easily edited directly in the In-game editor.

Once you get into it you might want to try to create your own mod.

You can start gently with changing scalar values like defense or attack power of units, defining your own technologies and invention tree, adding your own music, defining your own game resource types or government types.

If you wish to go deeper, you can continue with more advanced stuff like defining your own unit types, adding animals onto the map or creating your own terrain types.

Expert modders can use scripts to change the behavior of unit types, terrain extensions, unit improvements, random events or even create their own unique objectives, winning conditions and actions which units can perform!

Those who want to push it to the limit can even create their own AI algorithms. All this is available in today’s most accessible programming language C# (and the whole .NET Framework base).

I didn’t expect that modding features would get much attention at the beginning. Of course, we hoped that once a small community gathered around the game, players would try to make use of the tools to modify the game to their liking. We were really surprised when one of the testers jumped directly into the modding tools during the beta test and he is on the way to create an extremely detailed and very well-made scenario (and his own mod) about Holland at the turn of the millennia. We think that his opinion and view might be of great interest to all of the players like him and so we partially lifted the NDA and asked him to share his own experiences here.

 

Hi there, my name is Jean-Marc (aka Cablenexus on forums and Steam). A few months ago, I was invited to the beta for Aggressors.

The “beta” part soon turned into a “Want to play” part. The game was very polished, we had a small but very dedicated team of testers and the developer was active in the forums almost 24/7.

It soon became clear that this game is a gem in the making. Since I'm in beta and under NDA I can't speak much about the game itself yet, but WOW, it's really amazing.

As a 4x strategy addict I have played every game in the genre at least once. Of course, I have my favorites, but many date from years ago. I can barely remember the time I was having such a fun time with any game as I had with Aggressors the last few weeks.

What makes the game really unique and I hope I may say this, is the mid-game and end-game experience that is working as a kind of adaptive algorithm that continuously surprises the player with new content and choices at any moment in the game. Not randomly but reacting to the way you developed your nation and by taking into account every choice you make and made in the past. The game is not getting stale after 400 turns. Actually, that is where it starts to shine. 

I participate in smaller game projects now and then with my artwork and so it was a logic step I start to experiment with the scenario editor tools provided. There was no plan to make a real MOD yet, but just a scenario to see if the editor was user friendly and to hunt for bugs. It was my main duty to test after all.

Pavel, the creator and main developer, opted for a Holland scenario since I'm Dutch and so I thought it was a nice idea to experiment with it and stress test the editor tools.

 

 

I searched some books and the Internet for ancient maps of Holland to find as much information about that era as possible. Pavel gave me the option to use their internal tool which makes a map from a bitmap. In short, every tile in game is the same as a single pixel in any (free) image editor tools. This tool is not available yet for public usage but I hope it will be released with the game as well.

I'm used to Paint.net to create the bitmap, but there are some free alternatives like Gimp. So, I painted my Holland map in a simple 89 x 89-pixel image (which in game turns into a huge 7.921 tile map) and I was able to use it in game as a layout for my real map.

 

Since there are 10 different terrain types (but you can MOD them) available you need to spend some time to edit the tiles to your liking and to represent the real-world terrain situation. If you paint your pixel map in ten colors it takes the right terrain automatically. But you can edit every tile to your liking in the scenario editor itself. After this you can add rivers, roads, bridges, resources and settlements. If you want you can assign ownership and even territory to all tribes.

 

Since I decided to start my scenario in Holland in 50 BC, the times of the Roman occupation of the Rhyne (Rhenus) area, much of the map in the North existed of sandy water terrain that was directly linked with the North Sea (Mare Frisicum). I choose to use swamp tiles here since the Frisii, the original habitants of the North of Holland in 50 BC, learned to drain them and make use of them in the real world.

The Frisii built “terps” (small hills) on the swamp terrain to survive and their core business was dealing in cow hides so I also added cows to the game as new animals running around the map. With only some minor help from the developer, who was constantly pushing fixes and new features into the game, I was able to add 16 custom tribes in the next few days, add over 300 historical settlement names and reconstruct the full Limes (line of defense around Rhenus) of the Roman Empire with historical accurate fort and army names.

Another 200 fixed names I added to the map to setup the scenario. All kind of names that I found in real world documents and archived in the Peutinger Atlas representing the exact coordinates on the map. And now I started setting up the scenario proper.

 

 

Since the game is originally based on a board game developed by Pavel, you have to imagine that every one of the 7000 tiles has a function. The terrain, the placement of rivers, the towns, the resources. Everything can be easily setup in the editor and the more advanced editor can change parameters in XML documents editable in applications like notepad++.

I'm not a real modder and never made a single scenario in any other game before, except for myself but I share the passion for board games with the maker.

But in Aggressors I was able to setup the exact scenario I wanted to have in the simplest way I ever experienced. All this without any major issues in beta when I was populating my world with hundreds of custom settlements and units and in the night played my own map for a few hours to make it to turn 50.

All Kingdom and Tribe banners and their coats of arms are easy to edit in any paint tool, the parameters and names can easily be edited in a text editor. There is no need for actual scripting to achieve what you want, but if you feel the need for it you have all the freedom to do so.

It is all has to do with the way the game works. Everything in game is based on logic. If you set up the parameters for a scenario, the AI players adapt to their role easily. That means that if you build a few Roman cities next to a coastline, the Roman AI start to make use of this by building the important roads between their cities and resources just like they did in history.

Everything is possible to setup in an easy way. The war/peace (diplomatic) standings between tribes, the starting resources, towns and units etc. but even more advanced parameters like future relationships, loyalty and morale.

I’ve never found a game that lets you setup a scenario in such detail whilst at the same time being so simple to use that it is accessible for everyone who can use a simple paint tool.

I will now start fine tuning the scenario by giving the armies the right parameters, adding army names, adding morale, loyalty settings to settlements and units and strategically placing rivers and bridges. Eventually I will add special triggered objectives for certain events that took place at certain dates like the Batavi uprising or revolt and the war against the two smaller tribes South of the Rhyne named the Usipetes and the Tencteri.

It is possible to play with every tribe at scenario start and because of the diplomatic standings between tribes the game can be played in many different ways.

There will be a What if scenario for every tribe. I still haven’t finished the scenario and mod, having a TODO list for the next days. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done, but as I was invited to write down my experience with the game creation tools so far. I'm very enthusiastic about it.

 

 

The amount of detail offered in the game without being utterly complicated is impossible to mention in one scenario creation log. I can only say that you have to try it yourself. You can setup a scenario exactly the way you want and see the AI adapt to it like a human player in a 7000 + tile board game with smooth 3D graphics.

Even your own setup is nice to play with FOW on since you can still be surprised how the game turns out as the AI reacts and adapts to the choices you made without this being random or absurd. I can't wait for the game to be released and to see what other, better scenario makers, can achieve with the tools.

It is an honor to write about the making of my humble Holland scenario while the developer is creating a BIG FAT 4 X strategy game. Guys, support the developer and wishlist Aggressors already and if you can't get enough from it like I do, I invite you to try out my Holland – Battle over Rhenus 50 B.C. scenario soon!

Thank you for reading!

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Aggressors: Ancient Rome

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