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Thread: Lessons Learned: Advice to aspiring modders

  1. #1

    Default Lessons Learned: Advice to aspiring modders

    I have been working on a Dragonlance mod for a little over a month now. For the first two weeks I was doing nothing more than editing the vanilla game for the sake of becoming comfortable and, more importantly, confident in working with text files and editing regions and so forth.

    Right now I have a team of 2 and a half... myself, my close friend Paula who is my skinner, and an individual working on his own version of the same "world" whom I've had limited discussions on sharing resources with. Perhaps I'm not the right person to hand out advice with so little experience and no released work, but I think I am qualified to give encouragement.

    Upon beginning the first thing I noticed is how, to a certain extent, the information on modding M2:TW is pretty fragmented. Advice on the campaign map will lead you to an extensive tutorial on modding the R:TW map, with the warning that there are 'some differences' with little more information. (Incidentally, don't worry, this is because the differences are few, minor and for the most part self-apparent once you begin working on it). If you are like me, you'll try to get a feel for just how big a job it is... by sifting through tutorial after tutorial, noting the issues others have had, asking questions, playing with utilities such as Caligula and TiME (trust me, at some point you'll seriously consider switching over to R:TW for this reason).

    At some point, you will become discouraged. It will seem like a mountain of work if you're doing a total conversion the likes of Anno Domini or Fourth Age.

    And a lot of what you hear from other modders regarding the amount of work may discourage you. It does come off as an impossible task at some point.

    Last night my skinner came over and quickly got through about 4 units. She owns a Mac at home and can't skin them there, so she comes to my place, or does them at work. At any rate, this means I go days with units with the wrong skin and such, even though the unit name, stats, description, all that, is correct. Last night we completed the basic units for one faction and began work on another...

    So I booted up and tested. It was a sight I've longed for... to see a formation of Solamnic Knights of the Rose smashing into the front line of the Nerakan forces, seeing Tarmac brutes fleeing for their lives before the Solamnic forces... a thing of beauty. Solamnics, with their long, flowing moustaches and open faced helms, bright, gleaming Plate of Solamnus armor, on the backs of their powerful Caergothian (read: Andalusian) chargers, sending hundreds of blue painted barbarians running for the hills made every moment of confusion, discouragement, and frustration worth it. Every CTD, every lock upon loading, every restart, everytime I threw up my hands and thought there's no way I'd ever get this, absolutely worth it and has redoubled my determination.

    Tonight, I should finally be able to get a look at my completed strategic map in-game. I'll be able to see the volcanos of the Lords of Doom rising above Sanction, ships sailing through the Gates of Paladine en route to the Jewel of Solamnia, Palanthas, the forests of Darken Wood, the sands of the Plains of Dust, swamps of Sable's realm, and the swamps of Nordmaar. I know most of you have never heard of these places, but I've been a Dragonlance devotee for most of my life, and to see these places come to life EXACTLY as I pictured them because it is my vision of them that is being translated on screen...

    I guess what I'm saying to you aspiring modders with no coding experience, no skinning experience, no modeling experience: Don't let the enormity of the project overwhelm you. Learn a little bit every day. Don't bite off more than you can chew... on one day, add a region to the vanilla game. Next day, add a unit. Take a day to create a faction. Turn a faction leader into your favorite fictional character. Every day take a few minutes, maybe a couple hours if you have it, and make one adjustment, one change, until you become used to it, comfortable with it. Don't be afraid to ask questions, here or on twcenter (but take the time to look for your answer first, no sense asking what's already been answered).

    With patience, determination, and a little sweat (figuratively speaking), you'll be as capable as anyone here at basic editing. That's all you need to get started.
    Last edited by adembroski; 03-11-2007 at 21:31.

  2. #2
    Harbinger of... saliva Member alpaca's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lessons Learned: Advice to aspiring modders

    Very nicely written, I think this deserves a sticky

    By the way: You're right about the fragmentation of useful information. The problem here is that writing tutorials is a pretty unrewarding task and something a lot of people don't dare (because writing a good tutorial is hard indeed). The simple collection of existing data is even more boring and means going through a lot of old threads and stuff searching for some snippets of information to use.
    There might also be some way of thinking that people shouldn't be presented everything on a silver tablet because anybody who really means to change his game (and has the potential of becoming a good modder) will be able to bite through these initial problems and figure out a good deal himself.
    For more experienced modders (eg most people who started with RTW, me for one), there's sometimes also the problem of seeing exactly what the problem is and what is really required.

    Since you have a pretty good writing style, how about writing some tutorials yourself? You may help others circumvent some of the problems you faced (heh new smilies)

  3. #3

    Default Re: Lessons Learned: Advice to aspiring modders

    Quote Originally Posted by alpaca
    Very nicely written, I think this deserves a sticky

    By the way: You're right about the fragmentation of useful information. The problem here is that writing tutorials is a pretty unrewarding task and something a lot of people don't dare (because writing a good tutorial is hard indeed). The simple collection of existing data is even more boring and means going through a lot of old threads and stuff searching for some snippets of information to use.
    There might also be some way of thinking that people shouldn't be presented everything on a silver tablet because anybody who really means to change his game (and has the potential of becoming a good modder) will be able to bite through these initial problems and figure out a good deal himself.
    For more experienced modders (eg most people who started with RTW, me for one), there's sometimes also the problem of seeing exactly what the problem is and what is really required.

    Since you have a pretty good writing style, how about writing some tutorials yourself? You may help others circumvent some of the problems you faced (heh new smilies)
    I've considered it, but I'm not yet confident enough to do so. Perhaps once I've made some real headway on my mod I will add to it all...

    The main thing I'm considering is a catchall that would link to other tutorials... a "Total Conversion To-Do" list to help people organize their plans before hand. Thats what I've been looking for... it doesn't exist, so perhaps I'll make one.

  4. #4
    Harbinger of... saliva Member alpaca's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lessons Learned: Advice to aspiring modders

    Quote Originally Posted by adembroski
    I've considered it, but I'm not yet confident enough to do so. Perhaps once I've made some real headway on my mod I will add to it all...

    The main thing I'm considering is a catchall that would link to other tutorials... a "Total Conversion To-Do" list to help people organize their plans before hand. Thats what I've been looking for... it doesn't exist, so perhaps I'll make one.
    Well I'm sure people would help you out with the details and other suggestions if you ask for it

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