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Thread: EB2 Dev Blog

  1. #1
    EBII PM Member JMRC's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Lisboa, Portugal

    Default EB2 Dev Blog


    This is our first EB2 Dev Blog entry, which probably should have been started a long time ago, but circumstances did not allow it. Until now.

    The objective of this Dev Blog is to provide regular updates (I wish that we can post it every two weeks) on what we are doing in the mod and to share some of the developments that we are making and decisions that we are taking. It's also important to pass the notion that we have been working on the mod without stop, since it was started several years ago. It is true that along the way we worked with more or less intensity, we focused more in this or that areas, but we always managed to keep progressing. What really missed along that route was the feedback to the interested community of EB fans and other players in general, and that is what we are going to solve now.

    With so many things already made, it is very hard to decide where to start. I want to get on par with where we are standing, so in future entries we can present recent developments and not those made months or even years ago. So perhaps the best way to speed up, is to give you a few numbers, which define the huge amount of work that we have already put into this project:

    - more than 180 units are currently selected for the 1st release. From those, 164 are fully finished (model and textures)
    - there are more than 50 other models already made, from generals, officers, standardbearers, horses, elephants, chariots and a siege weapon
    - this represents around 880 texture files, occupying about 2 Gb of HD space
    - 250 fully-rendered unit info cards and an equal number of info cards also rendered (I say rendered because we did not use ingame screenshots to make the cards)
    - 80 stratmap character models
    - 26 stratmap resource models
    - about 50 new stratmap building models
    - 100 stratmap voice files and 150 battlemap voice files in the new Sanskrit voicemod, made for Taksashila faction
    - 1150 new animation files in the brand-new animations for: Macedonian phalanx formation, Hoplite phalanx formation, moves for Javelineer, Pilum-holder, Legionary, Officer and Standardbearer, Slinger drawing from side pouch, Slinger drawing from chest pouch, Shield grabbing for horizontal shieldhandles, Archer drawing arrow from left quiver, Archer drawing arrow from right quiver and Archer drawing arrow from back quiver. We also improved on the community-made chariot animation.

    I think these numbers speak for themselves, however even in the unit department we still have a lot to do. We are reusing many things from EB1, but all that above is all-new stuff.

    In future dev blogs we will describe the mechanisms behind the reforms, and how they come to influence the availability and replenishment of the units in the

    Further on, we have developed new tools, some of them already released to the community, and whose objective is to provide more simplicity and validity scripts for the modding processes, such as writing descriptions, and so on. Because the list is very extensive and a bit technical, I've put it in the area below.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    • CUF: tool to compile fonts and text descriptions. Supports folding multiple "font styles" into a single CUF file for better formatting in descriptions and provides a more robust alternative to M2TW for generating strings.bin files from text.
    • SD: tool to compile SD files from UI code and TGA pages. Alternative to the M2TW engine which provides error checking (with actual error messages) and does not suffer from some crippling M2TW bugs. Supports a simplified XML format as well as the M2TW SD.XML format. Additionally it provides more robust handling of TGA files than alpaca's original tool for working with SD files.
    • XIDX (packer/unpacker for M2TW IDX/DAT archives) Alternative to the original XIDX which now runs on Linux and can deal with M2TW versions of the original RTW files formats with new support for the EVT variant (events.dat/events.idx).
    • PACK (packer/unpacker for M2TW PACK archives). Alternative to CA's unpacker which may additionally be used to manipulate PACK files (add, replace or delete files) and runs on Linux as well.

    WIP (to be released)
    • EVT (tool to deal with binaries in events.idx/events.dat, alternative to the M2TW engine for converting sound code)

    • Scripts to build tools or fetch them from our FTP server (used for setting up a dev copy of EB2)
    • Launcher script which can additionally "register" or "unregister" the mod with CA's Launcher program. (Enables dev copies in arbitrary locations.)
    • Minimalist touch utility for Windows written in C to alter file timestamps. Originally used to trick the game engine in accepting stale strings.bin files, no longer required.
    • Minimalist launcher written in C which provides a "normal user" version of the dev launcher script. To be used as a fallback option when 8.3 pathnames are not supported.
    • Restructure Aradan's EDUMatic to abstract VBA calls and port to LibreOffice.
    • NSIS Installer scripts for EB2 installer
    • Script to partition the mod in "packs" and generate installer code for them
    • Script to check animation files names (comparing versioned animation file names with unversioned Vanilla placeholders to make sure they do not overlap).
    • Script to automate building the installer from the mod's "source" and pack results in an ISO file (can be burned to CD/DVD)
    • Scripts to build CUF files from TTF sources.
    • Scripts to build SD files from XML sources.
    • Scripts and XSLT stylesheets to convert XML files into strings.bin files (ongoing port from plain text to XML). Allows us to do more things with fonts (CUF files), removes need for maintaining additional "lookup" table code and enables better error checking.
    • Script to check name labels (descriptions) against name declarations (code)
    • Script to validate unit descriptions (strings.bin file) against EDU, checks for missing descriptions.
    • Script and XSLT stylesheet to convert certain description XMLs into RTF so they can be proofed using a Word processor.
    • Utilities to analyse EVT binaries and speed up reverse engineering them.

    WIP (Internal)
    • Scripts to compile XML sources into EVT binaries and decompile EVT binaries to XML source.

    This first entry was a quick wrap-up of what we have done in the technical areas. In the next entries we will talk about factions, reforms, religion/culture, other game mechanics and much more.

    Below you have a very small sneak-peek. I know that I was a bit scarce here, but I have to get back to work now and finish that last anatolian unit. ;)

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Portraits of the Captains:

    Unit Cards:

    Nabatean Early Lancer

    Erínamesh ana-Arabim (East Coast Levies)

    Machimoi (Native Egyptian Infantry)

    Machimoi Phalangitai (Native Egyptian Phalanx)

    See you next time!

    "Death Smiles at Us All,all a Man Can Do Is Smile Back."
    Maximvs Decimvs Meridivs, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, Iberian Gladiator.

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  2. #2
    EBII PM Member JMRC's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
    Lisboa, Portugal

    Default Re: EB2 Dev Blog


    Well, here we are bracing for a new post in the Dev Blog, with the intention of giving an update on what has been done in these last weeks and speaking about some features that will help bring more immersion in the mod.

    Despite the fact that we are in Summer time and so there are many team members on vacations, we still manage to have enough people aboard the vessel to do some good advances in the mod, in a few areas: stratmap, unit development, UIs, descriptions and game mechanics.

    a) regarding the stratmap, we focused in the creation of the models for the watchtowers and multi-level ports for all cultures and they are mostly finished. Next, we will make the renders with special scenes of the ports for the UI icons and building detail pictures. Hopefully, it will be finished in the following days. They look simply great, specially because they were made in a much higher scale than the one which actually gets into the CAS models to be seen in-game. So, we hope that the rendered scenes for the UI will make justice to the detailed work being put into each of those 20 or so port models.

    b) in the unit dev department, we finished a set of basic units for the Eastern factions, which followed a previously developed pair of medium and heavy Anatolian cavalry units. Thus, we filled the gap that we had left in the recruitment on the areas of Anatolia and Caucasus. The Lusitanian General was also finished, as well an the iconic unit of Baktria, both with tremendous visual quality. The Baktrian Hippotoxotai is further enhanced by a very beautiful set of armoured horses, sporting scalemail, lamellar armour and decorative objects.

    c) the UIs have undergone a few changes, mainly with the incorporation of the new icons for an as yet unrevealed faction, as well as some fixes. We have started to work on remodelling most of the UIs, with the help of a new 2D artist, and in future dev blogs we hope to show some pics of these remodelled UIs. We still need to make the banners of the empty settlements for the new factions, but that will need to wait until after the UIs.

    d) in the text description areas, we made more progress in the Celtic unit descriptions, which are basically finished, but there's still a lot of descriptions to be made here.

    e) regarding the game mechanics, we are in the process of implementing the tribal system in the Aedui, Sweboz and Lugia factions. Because it's an interesting mechanism, I'll explain it below.

    The Tribal System
    I will speak a little bit more about the tribal system, since it's a very important part of the mod. It has some slight changes from faction to faction, so I'll describe it in general terms.

    The tribal system is composed of several parts: tribes, ethnicities, retainers/nobles, chieftains and achievements.

    Each faction has a varying number of tribes (8 to 16), which are represented by tribal buildings in EDB, and which become available for construction under specific conditions (depending on other buildings, historical events, religion/culture values, etc.). These buildings represent the expansion/migration of that particular tribe into a certain region and provide an increase to the religion/culture of the faction, along with specific bonuses of the tribe. The building description will provide some historical background for the tribe. Some factions will allow more than one tribe per region, while others allow only one. Most of the tribes will have their initial buildings located in regions controlled by the rebel faction, although some of them only appear in later stages of the game, so they will not have an initial building and only after a certain event will they become available. On the other hand, some tribes' buildings will no longer be available for construction after a certain event, to represent historical cases where those tribes stopped contributing to the development of the confederation (faction). Because there is a maximum number of buildings that can be constructed at any moment (depend on the historical importance of the tribe and the total number of settlements owned by the faction at that moment), these tribal buildings must be destructible, so the player can decide where he wants the tribe to expand.
    Feature for the player only: if a tribe loses all of its tribal buildings, it means that it is now "extinct" and the player cannot build any more of that tribe's buildings; this means that no more generals will get that ethnicity and in time it will disappear from the game. In the case of the tribes that only appear later in game, they will emerge through the creation, through scripting, of the respective tribal building in the historically correct region and this "tribal extinction" rule will only apply to them from that moment.

    Each tribe has an associated ethnicity, which is given to each new general who has not inherited an ethnicity from his father. As the general evolves in the nobility ranks, he will eventually have a chance of becoming the chieftain of his tribe (given by his ethnicity). In the case of Adopted or Man-of-the-Hour Generals, the ethnicity is derived from the tribal building in the settlement where they appeared, so the more buildings we have for a specific tribe, the greater will be the chances to have generals with that ethnicity.

    This multi-level trait allows a general to climb the ranks of the tribal nobility, mostly through combat deeds. This increase in ranks will allow him to become (if conditions allow it) the chieftain of his tribe. This means that there will be tough competition between the generals to rise in nobility ranks, in order to become the tribal chieftain.

    There is only one Chieftain per tribe at any moment, although it is not possible to ensure that a tribe always has a Chieftain at any moment (the number of generals is not enough, the conditions may not have been met etc.). Only the Chieftains can gain points in the Authority attribute, so we assure that only Chieftains can compete to be the next Faction Leader. The Chieftains gain Authority points by military deeds and for other specific conditions like being the Chieftain of a "Powerful" or "Very Powerful" tribe in the faction.

    The achievements are points that each tribe gains along the time, and which allows it to get his status from Irrelevant up to Very Powerful among the other tribes of its faction (there are six levels of importance). Those points are calculated according to the number of tribal buildings in existance for that tribe, the number of generals with the tribe's ethnicity and some extra points if the Faction Leader also has that tribe's ethnicity.

    Misc things that can be done with the tribal system:

    1. historical events, where a faction is rewarded for:
    a) raising a specific tribe to a certain status
    b) creating X tribal buildings for a specific tribe
    c) creating a tribal building for a specific tribe in region R of the campaign map

    2. victory conditions, where a faction can only win the game if it manages to:
    a) raise a specific tribe to Very Important status
    b) have a Faction Leader with a specific ethnicity
    c) destroy specific tribes of a specific enemy faction

    3. Tribal buildings allow the recruitment of very specific regional units, related to that tribe only.


    Below you can see some screenshots, not entirely related to the tribal system, but to the scripting mechanisms that we have implemented:

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    "Death Smiles at Us All,all a Man Can Do Is Smile Back."
    Maximvs Decimvs Meridivs, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, Iberian Gladiator.

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  3. #3
    Bored Member Tux's Avatar
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    Dec 2004
    Romania, Klausenburg

    Default Re: EB2 Dev Blog


    It's been a while since the last update as we've been busy on sorting some things out.

    In this dev blog I will try and cover Unit Cards in EB2.
    With EB2 we wanted to bring more life to the still parts of the game, like the unit info cards, and bring something more than before.
    Thus we opted with the similar idea from RTW and EB but to bring them to a new level, and I was assigned to do some unit scenes to be easily used for creating unit cards.

    The scenes created tried to cover most of the areas of the regions where they live, but also the diversity and because of these tens, close to a hundred, of scenes were done.
    Scenes like you may previously seen in the previews:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    And many more:

    Of course this is only half the job as afterwards we need to add a bit of diversity by creating certain poses and altering the scenes a bit.
    As you may notice in the following unit cards:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    And more cards for those interested:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    And we also wanted to apply this to the ship units, some of which you already may know:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    And siege units:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Finally, we also use these scenes for rendering the small unit cards:

    I hope you have enjoyed this blog section.
    See you next time!
    Last edited by Tux; 02-07-2013 at 12:05.

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  4. #4
    Bored Member Tux's Avatar
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    Dec 2004
    Romania, Klausenburg

    Default Re: EB2 Dev Blog


    As you all may have noticed we have stopped previewing our factions, that is because we are close to a release and also because we have covered most of them.
    And for that reason we have decided to change other areas of the game which weren't previously planned for the first release, like the climates.

    The climates suffered various changes, like new terrain textures, grass textures(with vegetation specific to the climate), geography changes(vegetation density, mountains and hills distribution, etc.) and in some cases even new vegetation.

    First I will show a comparison with some of the vanilla climates and later I will continue covering(via eye-candy) the climates that you'll see in EB2.
    So brace yourselves, image heavy follow up.

    Sandy desert, before:


    Mediterranean, before:


    In EB2 you'll have the chance to field you armies in 11 climates: Mediterranean, Steppe, Temperate Deciduous Forest, Temperate Coniferou Forest, Highlands, Alpine, Semi Arid, Sandy Desert, Rocky Desert, Dunes Desert and Floodland desert.


    Temperate climate coniferous:

    Temperate climate deciduous:



    Semi Arid:

    Rocky desert:

    And finally our newly introduced climates to the M2TW engine:

    Dunes desert:

    Floodland desert on the river Nile:

    Finally please note that all of this is work in progress and all you have seen may suffer further changes and improvements in the future.

    I hope you have enjoyed this blog section.
    Merry Christmas!
    Last edited by Tux; 12-20-2013 at 09:32.

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