An open letter from the Kingdoms of Arda team, and the total-conversion mod community

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MadVader

Duke
M&BWB
We have progress!
1. Hiring an intern to write documentation - DONE
2. Other stuff than hiring an intern to write documentation - PENDING
 

Shaxx

Squire
they aren't going to change. 2 whole years of people complaining on the forums about the state of game is has done nothing, so at this point the overhaul modders are at risk of wasting their own time on a mod that will never be possible. It's not about "dreaming big" when you're up against an incompetent company.
This so far has had far more success than I could have imagined.

1.) It was acknowledged.
2.) Reportedly they had a meeting to discuss it.
3.) They have made promises.
4.) Supposedly they have put an intern on documentation efforts.

I mean, we will see, things do not happen quickly around here, but my expectations while very low have been surpassed.

I will point out however, on point number 4, even if true, one of the rumors why they are in development hell is that they put a lot of the workload on interns who have very little academic certification, experience and who have a high turn over rate at the studio, so even if they pick things up they are gone soon after and it starts all over again. So who knows how it will turn out, but again, that is just a rumor.
:lol:So they have to make it moddable the moment it hits market with EA, just because they worked for 11 years on the project? Nice logic.
The 'moment' it hit early access was a year ago, of which it was just a measly 10 years of development in order to hit EA.
Also no one said you can't have that. I'm stating a fact - if you wanna blindly ignore that, suit yourself.
And the 'fact' is that it takes time, 11 years is for game development an extraordinarily long period of time. That is longer than the lifespan of the PlayStation 3, an entire console generation on which was born many a triple A title, conceived, developed, released, conceived, developed, released.

They have had time, and they have time, this is going to be in early access for years to come, this needs to be asked for now.
:lol: It's not my problem that you have issues with understanding what's written there.

Completely refuted? :lol: Calling me the one that is denying the reality? Fun and also proves that you don't understand what I'm posting.
You live in your own world. I am jealous.

Anyway not gonna waste my time with this.
Yet here you are.
We have progress!
1. Hiring an intern to write documentation - DONE
2. Other stuff than hiring an intern to write documentation - PENDING
O_O
 
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Osium

Regular
Imagine asking a dev team to cater to modders, before the game is finished.

Honestly, this is yikes. I'm a modder myself, I love modding, I love modding communities. This is well beyond putting the cart before the horse. Starting any sort of overhaul mod when the game is in a constant state of flux is just a massive headache. It's going to be one step forward, and two steps back, CONSTANTLY, until they reach a point of stability in the code, which will come with a 1.0 release.
 

Shaxx

Squire
Imagine asking a dev team to cater to modders, before the game is finished.

Honestly, this is yikes. I'm a modder myself, I love modding, I love modding communities. This is well beyond putting the cart before the horse. Starting any sort of overhaul mod when the game is in a constant state of flux is just a massive headache. It's going to be one step forward, and two steps back, CONSTANTLY, until they reach a point of stability in the code, which will come with a 1.0 release.
Exactly, it has only been 11 years of development and everyone knows it takes at least 20 to get decent modding support.

The franchise is known for it's modability, this title was touted from it's earliest developer diaries and showcases as being more moddable than it's predecessor. Modding support is not just something that can be slapped on at the end, it has to be kept in mind throughout the development process and quite a few red flags, as previously outlined in the joint letter, exist at this stage.

Massive total conversion mods themselves as just one example can take years to complete, there is however plenty of work that can be done prior to release to reduce that time. The issue here is that a number of those things that could take years off their development once the clock starts ticking with a full 1.0 release are needlessly hindered or impossible.

The other issue is that full release is an unknown number of years away on a beleaguered project, plenty of time for a modding community to die, for the game's player base to slip into the earth, this needs to happen now. And if for no other reason than the fact that with these changes, and nearly without them, the modding community can finish this game faster than TaleWorlds can.
 
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Aiedail516

Veteran
WBWF&S
Imagine asking a dev team to cater to modders, before the game is finished.
But that's exactly the point, isn't it? They're asking TW to change the way they approach the development of the game now, so they won't have to go back and fix things later, when 1.0 releases.
 

adrakken

Sergeant
M&BWBNWVCWF&S
If you want someone who is communicating the needs of the community to the developers, that's what the community managers like Dejan or Duh are for. It's not like we moderators have some kind of privilege access channel to the developers. Mind that John_M is another moderator who wrote here in favour of the open letter, who is actually a moderator at the Bannerlord modding section and who is also leader of the 'Kingdoms of Arda' mod team, probably the base initiator of the open letter.
Wait, they did not create a chain of communication for you moderators?!? Mods see an issue, pass it up to someone that passes onto the manager that can speak to the devs? Ugh...that explains a lot then. These boards are not operating as virtually any other developer forum I have experienced...also did not notice John Ms post. checking for that now. Thanks for not getting too defensive mate.
 

adrakken

Sergeant
M&BWBNWVCWF&S
Ark is an unreal engine game...snipped since its just a dismissal

Broadly speaking Earendil is completely right.
Yep, when you dismiss everything that goes against a thing, its completely right.

We can just toss out the fact that over 85% of the games on modding sites like Nexus were released after 2015 or that Steams Workshop has more than 3x the amount of games using it today than it did in 2015. That hurts the narrative that GAMES ARE HARDER TO MOD! Anything, ANYTHING to not have talk about how they are hard-coding things that DO NOT NEED TO BE HARDCODED...which is what is making modding more difficult HERE.

THAT. IS. WHAT. IS. DOING. IT...not that all games everywhere are harder to mod, which is clearly a lie since we have to dismiss everything that isnt harder. It is that they are making choices that are making it harder, choices that do not have to be made...you do know there is a chance they made changes like this without KNOWING its effect? It IS possible. Sure that points to their lack of programming skills or forethought but they are human and it wont be held against them if someone sees it, and changes it. That right there is actually how games are changing...smaller developers working more openly and closely with the community and I even gave an example in the post you were quoting from which you ignored in your need to dismiss what I was saying.
 
We can just toss out the fact that over 85% of the games on modding sites like Nexus were released after 2015 or that Steams Workshop has more than 3x the amount of games using it today than it did in 2015.

I don't doubt that there are more mods now that there were in the past, but that's because the number of games and players has skyrocketed in the last few years, as well as the number of game developers (who often start out modding). That doesn't mean it's not harder.

Back in the 90s and early 00s for example most games were made by a small handful of people and were relatively simple and self contained, and could realistically be reverse engineered even if there were no official tools. Most of the overhaul mods from back then were made by one person. That's just not possible anymore. No single person or even a small team can reverse engineer a game because there is just so much data, so modders are stuck using runtime hacks, code injection and other stuff that has its own limitations. Warband had like 4 proprietary file types, most of which were so simple even i could understand them, and the resource format was cracked fairly easily back in the MnB days. Bannerlord on the other hand has tonnes and tonnes of formats which are, as far as we can tell, impossible to reverse engineer.

That hurts the narrative that GAMES ARE HARDER TO MOD! Anything, ANYTHING to not have talk about how they are hard-coding things that DO NOT NEED TO BE HARDCODED...which is what is making modding more difficult HERE.

If by "hardcoded" you mean "compiled into the .exe" then yeah, sometimes dumb stuff like constants or even textures do get compiled into an .exe and make it harder to mod. But that's been a problem since .exe files were first invented. If you teleported taleworlds of today back to 2005 and told them to make a game, it would still be easier to mod than a modern game, simply by the nature of what old software was like.

If you go to the modding discord you'll see mostly professional or graduate artists and coders working on mods, whereas 10 years ago it was the total opposite, with a tiny handful of people who actually knew how to code, with mostly amateurs. The big overhauls everyone remembers from warband were mostly made by people with little or no former coding experience, while today that would be almost unthinkable.
 

eddiemccandless

Knight at Arms
WBNWVC
Wait, they did not create a chain of communication for you moderators?!? Mods see an issue, pass it up to someone that passes onto the manager that can speak to the devs? Ugh...that explains a lot then. These boards are not operating as virtually any other developer forum I have experienced...also did not notice John Ms post. checking for that now. Thanks for not getting too defensive mate.

Moderators are just players. You could be a moderator if you hang out long enough, express interest for it and I guess prove over time that you are a stable human being (I am sure there's criteria, I don't really know what they are). The point is that moderators don't have any privileged access. They can pm community managers, but so can you. Community managers like Callum, Dejan and Marda are who brings word to the team (and a few developers interact with people directly in the forum, and I am sure than a good deal more lurk on it).
 

[BRE] Roudrac

Grandmaster Knight
WBNWWF&SM&BVC
You may be wondering why the majority of mods released for Bannerlord are small-scale tweaks, faction/culture overhauls, and generally don’t change the core gameplay of Bannerlord. The reason behind this is that TaleWorlds has put up artificial roadblocks throughout the game’s code that severely impede (and often, make it completely impossible) to make any large scale changes.

Just out of curiosity, did Taleworlds ever said they were going or planning to offer the opportunity to modify core features of the game through modding? I'm very ignorant about modding, but I remember two points from the dev blogs on that:
6. With Warband the list of hardcoded features lessened as time progressed. Will this be the same for Bannerlord as you decide over time what should and shouldn't be hardcoded?
Most probably.

10. How is the code split between hard-coded (engine) and modsys (open to the modding community)? What level of access do we have to the game UI code, AI, etc.? Could you provide us with an example of what will likely remain hard-coded?
Unlike Warband, the vanilla game scripts will not be directly modifiable by modders. However, it will be possible for modders to add new scripts as plugins and also have modifications for XML data files.

Does that imply permanent "roadblocks" in the coding?
 

pinkycatcher

Recruit
The fact that they're reading this is very promising and as someone who doesn't play with mods or mod themselves, I'm still glad it's being looked at.
 

Lord Venedik

Recruit
WBWF&SVC
97jEZtzh.jpg

-TW
 

Bloc

Archduke
WB
Bannerlord on the other hand has tonnes and tonnes of formats which are, as far as we can tell, impossible to reverse engineer.
This is correct but I also want to note that modding in Bannerlord is waaaaay easier compared to Warband even in this early stage. Because reverse-engineered or not, some parts are basically free-for-all at the moment - you can literally see what TW dev wrote in the code. Which wasn't the case for Warband - even after they released that weird-module system.
Seeing some people say stuff like "Modding support is not just something that can be slapped on at the end," in this thread just shows their ignorance. Because that's not the case in Bannerlord at the moment. Even moving from module_item.txt ( where you see magic numbers and object names ) to more structured item.xml is a huge step for modding support for many of the non-deeply technical people. Providing official modding tools in EA is another plus. Having gameplay logic accessible via certain tools ( dotPeek, dnSpy etc ) is another plus.

OP and overall the letter has valid points as I said in my first post. However, they are missing the fact that, currently, the module system doesn't look like it's designed to support Total Conversion mods anyway. I mean game literally enables Native + SandBox modules by default and makes it impossible to disable it from Launcher UI. The current system is more or less the same as Skyrim's module system - which was not TC friendly but "small modification" friendly. Having documents, removing internal keywords won't make life too easier for TC modders - since they will still need to completely copy-paste some of the Native code, change it or write it from scratch.

@Jance @John_M and of course, @Callum , I'm wondering your thoughts about the following:
I mentioned this before but for Total Conversion mods, the best thing to do for TW would be separating the copyright/sensitive code from the gameplay logic DLL's and then publishing the entire Gameplay source in Github or any other place. This might be daunting for TW to do at the beginning but It comes with several pros, rather than cons.
- With this way, Total Conversion modders can simply download the entire gameplay logic as a VS project solution, do their tweaks, change whatever they want, built it from that and name it MyCoolNative2 and tell players to use only that module in module folders.
- With this way, you wouldn't have to patch anything, you wouldn't need to reverse engineer it and you wouldn't be "angry" about hardcoded stuff since everything will be accessible. TW also wouldn't need to change their unorthodox style and continue what they are doing.
- With this way, community could make PR's to populate/comment on methods and help out the documentation. Also since it will be a Git comparer, seeing module system v1 to v2 changes would be extremely easy to track by modders - they can even argue about certain changes in merge-pull request branches if this goes too complicated in the future.
 

Fellington

Recruit
I hope Taleworlds takes this open letter seriously. All of it I mostly agree with. I know @Callum has responded to it saying it's being looked at but we need more communication I reckon.
 

Xylord

Recruit
This is correct but I also want to note that modding in Bannerlord is waaaaay easier compared to Warband even in this early stage. Because reverse-engineered or not, some parts are basically free-for-all at the moment - you can literally see what TW dev wrote in the code. Which wasn't the case for Warband - even after they released that weird-module system.
Seeing some people say stuff like "Modding support is not just something that can be slapped on at the end," in this thread just shows their ignorance. Because that's not the case in Bannerlord at the moment. Even moving from module_item.txt ( where you see magic numbers and object names ) to more structured item.xml is a huge step for modding support for many of the non-deeply technical people. Providing official modding tools in EA is another plus. Having gameplay logic accessible via certain tools ( dotPeek, dnSpy etc ) is another plus.

OP and overall the letter has valid points as I said in my first post. However, they are missing the fact that, currently, the module system doesn't look like it's designed to support Total Conversion mods anyway. I mean game literally enables Native + SandBox modules by default and makes it impossible to disable it from Launcher UI. The current system is more or less the same as Skyrim's module system - which was not TC friendly but "small modification" friendly. Having documents, removing internal keywords won't make life too easier for TC modders - since they will still need to completely copy-paste some of the Native code, change it or write it from scratch.

@Jance @John_M and of course, @Callum , I'm wondering your thoughts about the following:
I mentioned this before but for Total Conversion mods, the best thing to do for TW would be separating the copyright/sensitive code from the gameplay logic DLL's and then publishing the entire Gameplay source in Github or any other place. This might be daunting for TW to do at the beginning but It comes with several pros, rather than cons.
- With this way, Total Conversion modders can simply download the entire gameplay logic as a VS project solution, do their tweaks, change whatever they want, built it from that and name it MyCoolNative2 and tell players to use only that module in module folders.
- With this way, you wouldn't have to patch anything, you wouldn't need to reverse engineer it and you wouldn't be "angry" about hardcoded stuff since everything will be accessible. TW also wouldn't need to change their unorthodox style and continue what they are doing.
- With this way, community could make PR's to populate/comment on methods and help out the documentation. Also since it will be a Git comparer, seeing module system v1 to v2 changes would be extremely easy to track by modders - they can even argue about certain changes in merge-pull request branches if this goes too complicated in the future.
Technically, the game does support Full Conversion mods in a certain manner. Where content is concerned, you can prevent the loading of all SandBox and SandBoxCore content into your campaign by using a custom campaign type. This was successfully implemented in previous versions of the game by Jance (and us, to a lesser, buggier extent haha.) If you create your game with say CustomCampaign instead of Campaign or CampaignStoryMode, only xml content marked with the gametype="CustomCampaign" tag will be loaded. This leads me to think this may be the way the designer of this system intends total conversions to be done. However, creating custom and functional GameTypes is quite difficult at the moment. I think your proposal has some pros and cons, but it would certainly be an improvement over the status quo. I look forward to seeing what TW comes up with.
 
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Maroon

Grandmaster Knight
WBWF&SNW
This is correct but I also want to note that modding in Bannerlord is waaaaay easier compared to Warband even in this early stage.
Easier to mod for people with in depth coding knowledge. The entry barrier is quite a lot higher for Bannerlord than for Warband, since you need more knowledge about modern programming concepts. Once you're in: you do have a lot more to work with (or rather, you should have a lot more to work with, if the code was actually approachable, which it currently isn't), but it really is harder to understand.
 

Bloc

Archduke
WB
Easier to mod for people with in depth coding knowledge. The entry barrier is quite a lot higher for Bannerlord than for Warband, since you need more knowledge about modern programming concepts. Once you're in: you do have a lot more to work with (or rather, you should have a lot more to work with, if the code was actually approachable, which it currently isn't), but it really is harder to understand.
But modding support doesn't mean it will be super simple for everyone. If you simplify it for in-experienced people, it basically means you have to simple it down as well. Which is opposite of what mod support means because when you say "We will increase our modding support coverage" it basically means you will grant more possibilities to modders and you cannot do that without increasing the complexity. In Warband's case, we had a shadow/shallow version of the actual game in some module system, it was more like a code sandbox - but you were extremely limited. This is not the case in Bannerlord since you have more or less the same power over the engine/game with any Gameplay developer in Taleworlds right now.

For me, modding support means the game itself will support modding without having too many hardcoded/hidden values. And by hardcoded, my understanding of hardcoded is different than this letter. Having constants in readable, changeable C# code is not "hardcoded". Having engine functions that you have no chance of changing is hardcoded. i.e. you cannot change certain ways how AI works at the moment. Because its deep inside the RGL. i.e. you cannot generate terrain on-the-fly, because this is also handled at rgl and you cannot change it by assigning values to vertices etc via C# gameplay code.

If they do what I suggested, then I'm 100% sure that some people will also create custom tools for non-technical people to create their own mods without any coding knowledge. Let that be XML unit generator with UI, or item tweaker. Doesn't matter. But in order to do this, and much more, you need something you can work with that is not a shallow copy of the game.
 

Maroon

Grandmaster Knight
WBWF&SNW
But modding support doesn't mean it will be super simple for everyone. If you simplify it for in-experienced people, it basically means you have to simple it down as well.
I'm not saying it should be made easier. I agree that a high level of modding support is only possible by giving modders access to the "nitty gritty", actual code. I guess I'm just using a different definition of what makes modding a game easy. Accessing and editing certain behaviour is easier in Bannerlord than it is in Warband (which I think your point was?). Getting started with modding, on the other hand, is a lot harder in Bannerlord than it is in Warband.

Having constants in readable, changeable C# code is not "hardcoded"
I mean, isn't it? Sure, it's not 100% impossible to edit (like everything stuck in the exe file), but it's... 95% impossible to edit instead. If you have to replicate and replace complete libraries in order to edit a few particular values, that's not exactly mod friendly.
 
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