Summary of the news in the TC Modders Open Letter thread

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bonerstorm

Veteran
For those who might be confused at references to the ongoing conversation about the future of modding in Bannerlord, I've compiled some relevant tidbits across a few threads and conversations so it's easier to understand without reading an entire novel.

I don't want this post to prompt any distracting brigading on that thread or duplicate the ongoing + technical Modder/Dev conversation there, so I'll ask y'all to please confine the discussion to what this discussion portends for Bannerlord's future from the perspective of fans. To be explicit: that thread is doing a good enough job of getting dev attention and focusing on the relevant tech instead of general complaints, so please don't @ them here.

I've updated this - let's just call it an article - a couple times since I started keeping track and will do it again if I see anything new.


FIRST REPORT:
3 months ago the teams of 12 Bannerlord TC mods signed an open letter begging the TW devs for relatively simple fixes to problems that make complex modding impossible in Bannerlord.

Even if those fixes happened today, those mods would still take years to produce... so further delays are pushing TC mods far into the distance. Moreover, they pointed out that building BL without mod support in mind wouldn't save any time, since it would take much more time and effort to build mod support back in later.

We recently got our first substantive "we're making changes" response to that letter.

Basically they responded to concerns about the biggest problem keeping TC mods from happening - the haphazard over-use of access modifiers - by saying that they're going to make the problem both worse and better on a case-by-case basis. No explanation. No elaboration.

Bloc - the modder behind Freelancer and others - publicly ragequit on hearing the news. Kingdoms of Arda modder Jance stopped short of that, but vented frustration at total lack of TW communication on this or any issue at all. The other responses weren't much better.

@Bloc suggested the only rational explanation for this behavior is that the devs want to block off portions of the BL code to protect future DLC/microtransactions from competition with modders.

He also clarified that he wouldn't have been frustrated with any of this behavior if TW hadn't spent years hyping modder-love saying things like "Modders have always played a key role for the Mount & Blade franchise" and promising full access to the engine + dev tools on Day One.


UPDATE #1:
TW Dev Duh replied to the thread, stating unequivocally that the internal flag is NOT an attempt to restrict modders but is in fact something they use to enforce good code practices inside TW.

To quote: "Access modifiers are not added because of modders. It's done as part of our work and for our work."

Modders called BS on this explanation, saying things like "bad practice ship for TW's codebase is already sailed", "Your product will be valued first by its functionalities, not how pretty and neat the code base is." and "Actually replacing (or even just disabling) those systems is nearly impossible because of the nested/hard-coded dependencies, which is critical for total-overhaul mods."

They suggested that TW could easily solve the problem for modders AND maintain good coding discipline by simply removing access modifiers on release branches.

The dev's had already responded to that suggestion with "No" and apparently haven't changed their minds. (edited to clarify timeline)


UPDATE #2:
Echoing many TW defenders on Steam and Reddit, one forum user repeatedly tried to get the devs' attention by asking whether the devs WERE actually restricting modders contrary to what Duh said but had a really good reason: copyright law.

The devs ignored those @'s and then a forum mod then smacked that user down for derailing the thread with that nonsense.

UPDATE #3:
Beta e1.6.0 is likely to land this week, yes. Is it possible it won't due to some unforeseen event? Yes. So don't hang me by the rope if it doesn't :grin:

EDIT: LOL Reddit mods just labeled this post "MISLEADING".

Was getting too many upvotes, I gather. But they can't stop the signal.

If you are hearing this, you are the resistance.

EDIT EDIT: ROFL THEN THEY DELETED IT.

EDIT EDIT EDIT: ROFLCOPTER THEY UNDELETED IT!!!


UPDATE #4:

Kingdoms of Arda modder Jance - the OP of the the Open Letter - called me out for putting this conversation on blast, suggesting that my "(arguably) inflammatory posts" aren't helpful.

I respectfully disagree. I obviously have an opinion, but I believe it's better overall for us fans to be able to click the links and follow the conversation to judge for ourselves. This community has suffered from a lack of insight into the goings-on with this game and the result has been rage on either side based on rumor rather than fact.

With that said: PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF **** DO NOT BRIGADE THE DEVS. That would be the single worst thing for everyone - conversations with TW are a rare thing and we shouldn't make them rarer by defecating where we eat.

UPDATE #5:
1.6.0 has dropped!

And then it got pulled!

I don't know what happened after. Will update when I have time to figure it out. This meme is funny, though.

UPDATE #6:
GOODNEWSEVERYONE.jpg!!!

There is now a dedicated and detailed discussion thread for the access modifier issue. KOA modder Jance replied, "This is a fantastic start! This will open up alot of doors for modders"

Fans are @'ing Bloc to see if this changes things enough for him to come out of ragequit retirement.

Reactions to the 1.6.0 release are mixed but surprisingly positive given the recent fan angst. Aside from modding concerns, people are happy that smithing is finally getting some love after a long period of neglect. Some users reported that the post-pull hotfix is stable and playing solidly - with only minor issues introduced.

There is confusion about an "Elephant DLC" module that apparently dropped with the first iteration of the patch - nobody is sure if this is an accidental leak or an inside joke or both. It could give credence to concerns about devs limiting mod access to skeletons so modders can't upstage paid DLC for elephants by just modding in their own - but so far the community is reacting with cautious optimism.

AFAIK, despite a number of official replies in the patch thread, nobody at TW has clarified the "Elephant DLC" situation.

WRONG! Callum made a somewhat vague statement saying it was an accidental release of experimental product.
 
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Thank you! I think that this is a pivotal subject in determining Bannerlords succes. Late patches, lack of communication, we all held back and remained positive that the end product would the worth long and arduous journey. But this, does not spark joy. Mods spark joy.
 

WhyAmIHere

Good summary thread, though i suggest editing the "promising full access to the engine + dev tools" and "Modders have always played a key role for the Mount & Blade franchise" links so as to not go through an intermediary steam page, just for ease of use
 
Gotta save the link to this thread somewhere. It is a great compilation that can be referred to anyone ignorant and curious about the situation.
 
I don't want to get into an unrelated discussion to the proper one, but this post is rather misleading.

That is simply false. The open letter got an initial response by Callum shortly after being shared

We want to thank you for the time and effort you have put into coordinating with each other to communicate your concerns with us. Modding has always been a massive part of Mount & Blade, and Bannerlord is no exception to that! We of course want to do what we can to support you in your efforts wherever possible.

It will require some time to address all your concerns, but we held a meeting today regarding your letter and reviewed our feedback and bug reporting processes, along with the specific points you raised. We decided to set aside some time next week to discuss possible solutions and ways in which we can support you more, such as with more extensive documentation. In the meantime, we will be reaching out to gather some more modding-related feedback and suggestions.

and its most substantive response to date was shared by Dejan here

Hello creators! First of all, thank you for writing this open letter and bringing it to our attention.

Last week, we went ahead with a meeting to discuss the concerns raised in the open letter, along with a collection of other pressing modding-related issues that we gathered via feedback.

As you might imagine, some of these topics are pretty big and in many cases, it is going to take some time to implement solutions, but we have already started taking steps towards resolving the issues and wanted to share this with you.

To start, we have decided to hold regular modding meetings to discuss feedback and other modding-related topics from the forums and Discord to ensure that issues like these aren’t allowed to fester.

In addition to this, we think that providing clearer warnings and assertions for the tools should help to point you in the right direction when trying to diagnose an issue, or at the very least, provide you with useful information to include when requesting support from us. We’ll be adding them within the next few patches.

So, with the more general things out of the way, let’s move on to the core topics we discussed at the meeting:
  • Custom Campaign Maps
We have identified a number of bugs with modifying and creating new campaign maps and will be looking into fixing them. We have also discussed a couple of potential solutions that we will be exploring to enable modifying of the MapWidth and MapHeight for the walkable area and camera. Ultimately, the message we want to convey here is that this certainly isn’t intended and that you will be able to add custom campaign maps when we have decided which path to take and implemented that solution.
  • Custom Skeletons & Body Meshes
We’ll be adding a system in the future to allow you to change faces, hand meshes, and body meshes, as well as, a system to add new skeletons to the game. Please bear in mind that you will likely have certain limitations when adding new skeletons for agents capable of combat in order for the native combat system to work properly.
  • Code-related documentation
We hope to start providing a reference for the API. In addition to this, we will be reaching out to collect specific requests for documentation to be brought to our developers for review and extend our efforts to make more documentation, similar to this explanation regarding Sealed Class Extension. We encourage you to request specific documentation in our updated forum section for Official Tools & Modding Feedback.
  • Hard-coded behaviour
In this case, we feel that the best approach would be for us to know specifically what you are trying to achieve so that we can find an appropriate solution. Please let us know which specific problems you’re facing here. With that being said, we will be doing a review of our code to see if there are places where we might have used “internal”, or any other modifiers, unnecessarily.

In addition to the topics from the open letter, we identified the following points that we will be going over in the dedicated modding meetings to find solutions.
  • Total conversion mod load order
  • Enable Cloth Physics on CraftedItems
  • Allow attributes on Items to determine weapon damage
  • Extrude function for AI meshing
  • Subdivide function for AI meshing (into quads not tris)
  • Allow single axis scaling of assets before placement
  • Ability to name a new paint layer upon creation
  • Mesh keyframes documentation
  • Documentation for skeletons for reins/horse harness and their implementation
  • Documentation on implementation of custom quivers
  • Add a duplicate mesh option
  • Add attribute to hide head (xml)
  • Ability to disable the usage of generated widget code
As we have said previously and will say again, modding is a huge part of Mount & Blade and we will do what we can to work alongside modders to help you fulfill your modding ambitions. However, we do want to be clear now that there will be some instances where we will be in disagreement about how a problem can, or should, be resolved. Moving forward, we ask that modders include more details about what they are trying to achieve when making suggestions, requesting support, or leaving feedback, rather than just suggesting a solution to their issue on its own. This will help us a great deal when exploring potential solutions, some of which may already be present. It would also be helpful if everyone could share future feedback and suggestions in the Official Tools & Modding Feedback section of the forum to ensure that your comments are processed correctly.

This specifically addresses different parts of the letter contrary to what you noted here
Basically they responded to concerns about the biggest problem keeping TC mods from happening - the haphazard over-use of access modifiers - by saying that they're going to make the problem both worse and better on a case-by-case basis. No explanation. No elaboration.

In this case, we feel that the best approach would be for us to know specifically what you are trying to achieve so that we can find an appropriate solution. Please let us know which specific problems you’re facing here. With that being said, we will be doing a review of our code to see if there are places where we might have used “internal”, or any other modifiers, unnecessarily.

The post you reference from Dejan
We have gone over the usage of the "internal" keyword, the changes of which are coming with e1.6.0. We can discuss this further after you've seen the changes.
follows all of this and gives an update that the upcoming patch does have an initial set of changes in line with what was announced in the more substantive reply.

This is further clarified here - explaining that the addition of some internal keywords was in response to the frustration that the open letter expressed about them being too random / inconsistent.
Just to clarify and avoid giving a false impression: We have gone over "internal" usages, added and removed some internal modifiers to make it less random / more consistent. So we haven't "removed all the internal modifiers".

There are some more coding-related changes relevant to you modders coming with e1.6.0 but let's wait for the patch. It's coming soon as always, we have some more blocker issues to resolve.

I sense that a more detailed proposal is on the way? :smile: What is it that you're trying to achieve and why? Have you tried doing it already and if so, what's the blocker? You can either respond here or preferably make a new dedicated thread here, please.

After an inquiry by Jance about what access modifiers are used for by us
I've probably asked this 20 times already, and have yet to receive a conclusive answer. The lack of an official response has led to all sorts of speculation (I personally think it is someone non-technical high up in management pushing for this), so it's only further damaging TW's reputation as long as they aren't transparent about this.

I responded that they are used for what most anyone uses them for
Access modifiers such as internal and private are a code design choice to enforce good practices and ensure that specialized parts are not misused. They are a part of our software engineering work and not there to enforce / enable mod compatibility.

Especially considering that this is an ongoing project, it should be no surprise that we intend to continue to use these tools for our work where appropriate. Having said that, we did go over the code to review their application across a broad range of classes - as was announced in our initial response to the open letter. The adjustments that will come with v160 aim to reduce inconsistencies as well as unnecessary limitations. As a result some modifiers were added while others were removed (alongside other changes).

This, however, certainly doesn't mean that the game is unmoddable. Indeed, there are already rather complex mods available to players. Furthermore, it doesn't mean that we will not make further adjustments to resolve issues that are highlighted by the modding community. This is why we noted:

In this case, we feel that the best approach would be for us to know specifically what you are trying to achieve so that we can find an appropriate solution.

We won't drop the conventions that are important to our work, but we will examine problems that people are facing to understand if there is a bug that we can address, an unnecessary limitation that we can remove - or simply a lack of documentation that we can respond to.

At this point, the best approach would be to go with what Dejan said
Let's wait for the patch to drop, evaluate what has changed, and see if it's a step in the right direction for you guys to make the modding easier and more accessible. After that, we can discuss the remaining issues further.


So TLDR - We responded to the open letter with a number of things that we will work on to improve the situation and asked for further problems to be highlighted for us to examine them. We have since shared that v160 will have some related changes and that we will continue to work on roadblocks that modders face going forward. At this point, we are waiting on the patch to hit so that the discussion can be more grounded on the actual changes rather than conjecture.

Edith -
They suggested that TW could easily solve the problem for modders AND maintain good coding discipline by simply removing access modifiers on release branches.

The dev's responded with "No."
Dejan's response that you linked here as "no" is a response to an open source fork of the game, not a blanket replacement of access modifiers. The latter was responded to in the initial substantive reply that I cited above.
 

bonerstorm

Veteran
Thank you for the update. The cliff this studio is going towards looks steep :/
Thank you for taking the time in compiling this.
I appreciate the moral support.

I've been thinking for a while of compiling a master list of BLackpill links across the years on this forum.

This whole dev process has been so long that I'd forgotten things like the list of cut content posted last year on Reddit... the fact that infantry AI was nerfed on purpose because devs thought it wasn't "fun" for spearmen to be effective against cavalry... or even the fact that BL was supposed to come out in some playable form by the end of 2016. And I only just heard about the drama with @MisterOutofTime a week ago.

If enough people find it helpful, then that'll be my magnum opus before taking another 4-6 month hibernation from the forum.
 
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Alfonso_M

Squire
I don't want to get into an unrelated discussion to the proper one, but this post is rather misleading.


That is simply false. The open letter got an initial response by Callum shortly after being shared



and its most substantive response to date was shared by Dejan here



This specifically addresses different parts of the letter contrary to what you noted here




The post you reference from Dejan

follows all of this and gives an update that the upcoming patch does have an initial set of changes in line with what was announced in the more substantive reply.

This is further clarified here - explaining that the addition of some internal keywords was in response to the frustration that the open letter expressed about them being too random / inconsistent.


After an inquiry by Jance about what access modifiers are used for by us


I responded that they are used for what most anyone uses them for



So TLDR - We responded to the open letter with a number of things that we will work on to improve the situation and asked for further problems to be highlighted for us to examine them. We have since shared that v160 will have some related changes and that we will continue to work on roadblocks that modders face going forward. At this point, we are waiting on the patch to hit so that the discussion can be more grounded on the actual changes rather than conjecture.

Edith -

Dejan's response that you linked here as "no" is a response to an open source fork of the game, not a blanket replacement of access modifiers. The latter was responded to in the initial substantive reply that I cited above.
Can we know at least what is going to bring the 1.6.0. Update? Modders, playerbase and clanes would appreciate so much if they could know what is, for sure, coming to the game.

Also, thanks for replying to this thread this late of the day. Any act of communication from developers is a relief, even if it is about a subject so controversial.
 

bonerstorm

Veteran
That is simply false. The open letter an initial response by Callum shortly after being shared
Fair enough, but that was a nonspecific promise to open dialogue and review processes rather than an action plan for making changes. That's why I specified:
substantive "we're making changes"
I don't want to be a jerk about it, but I don't consider the original responses to be "substantive" as they did not contain specific commitments with timelines. I work in communications and I consider this to be a rather generic PR statement.

I'm not knocking it. Responding within 24 hours to a PR crisis with a promise to do better is absolutely what any company should do, even if the situation involves complex issues so you can't make specific promises with the confidence that you can keep them. Still... not substantive.
The post you reference from Dejan
This is further clarified here
That was a substantive response, but I've got to say it was unfortunate the way it was rolled out. The delay was frustrating for a lot of people, but it probably should have been delayed further if it couldn't be made with detailed explanations for what is going on and why.

I don't think it would have garnered nearly the negative reaction as it did if there was a little extra flavor attached to it. Just to give you an example of what I would have written off the top of my head:
We've heard your frustration with the access modifiers issue and so we're removing the majority of them - roughly 80%. We cannot remove them all because certain systems, such as localization, are dependent on the internal modifier to remain stable. In those systems, we found that we had to add the modifier in to a few places where it had been mistakenly left out. If you have specific questions or concerns about the tech side of things, I'd be happy to relay those to the devs so I can get you a solid answer.

One critical difference between the sample statement I just wrote and what was posted is the very understandable jumped-to-conclusion that there could possibly be more internal modifiers in the future than there were originally. That may sound crazy to you, but people arrive very quickly to worst-case-scenarios when they're operating in the dark and trust is at a minimum.

One of the first pieces of comms training I took to heart years ago which has been enormously helpful is that setting reasonable deadlines for simple goals - and then meeting them - is an easy and powerful way to earn trust. Simple things like "We've heard your feedback and will meet about it on Tuesday. We'll post an action plan on Thursday detailing our strategy going forward, including when to expect regular updates on the issue." Giving yourself a week to do 2 hours of work isn't that much - but it conditions the customer to believe you can be relied upon.

Another thing that helps earn trust is to leave the door open for questions while making clear that - because you the dev have a job to do - the community rep can't be pulling you out of work on a moment's notice to give accurate technical answers. This lack of clarity and "wait for the release" statement that accompanied it really hurt y'all in the trust department.

So TLDR - We responded to the open letter with a number of things that we will work on to improve the situation and asked for further problems to be highlighted for us to examine them. We have since shared that v160 will have some related changes and that we will continue to work on roadblocks that modders face going forward. At this point, we are waiting on the patch to hit so that the discussion can be more grounded on the actual changes rather than conjecture.
That's mostly fair. What I'm getting at, though, is that you don't have a tech problem.

You have a communication problem and a trust problem.

What we've been trying to communicate with TaleWorlds staff is that we feel there is a fundamental disconnect between TW's future vision for BL and what we've been promised over the years. Also that we feel very distinctly that our input has little to no impact on the development process. You and @Callum can say all you want that you care about our feedback, but at this point we just don't have confidence in those statements anymore.

I honestly believe this situation could be turned around fairly easily with a new communications strategy where you engage in honest dialogue and make hard commitments that you keep - even if the commitments are fairly minor and the deadlines are soft (assuming you update us on delays).

Speaking of frank conversation: I understand that a lot of the Single-Player features that I liked from Warband and Viking Conquest are not making it into the game.

That sucks. I'd rather you changed your mind. But I'm sure I and others would be happy to horse-trade with you about what features we want to see in this thing by release. I'd be overjoyed to lose out on some of the things I want if I feel like I have any impact on the final product.

I don't know what the deal is with you and TW and @mexxico right now - but as an angry fan I can tell you that he TOTALLY calmed the savage nerdbeast in me in the fall of 2020 because he personally listened to my concerns and took them into account - even when he was telling me things I didn't want to hear. A little bit of sensitivity and openness goes a long way. The news that he's leaving was probably a critical factor in the negativity you're seeing on the forums right now.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that if people are suggesting that there are nefarious financial reasons for why you're doing things, it would be helpful if you could clarify that they're wrong.

For instance, can you promise now that there are no plans to implement microtransactions or content packs into the SP campaign that would conceivably be a financial incentive to restrict modding? This should be a fairly easy statement to make and it's troubling that it hasn't happened already.
 
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Genava

Veteran
Echoing many TW defenders on Steam and Reddit, one forum user repeatedly tried to get the devs' attention by asking whether the devs WERE actually restricting modders contrary to what Duh said but had a really good reason: copyright law.
I never said that. I was asking if they have considered the issue.

I know you are a political zealot but you should calm down this side from your personality because you are jumping to conclusions and making things up from nothing.
 

Noschkov

Sergeant at Arms
Can we know at least what is going to bring the 1.6.0. Update? Modders, playerbase and clanes would appreciate so much if they could know what is, for sure, coming to the game.

Also, thanks for replying to this thread this late of the day. Any act of communication from developers is a relief, even if it is about a subject so controversial.
I think this would be rather useless at this point. They are planing on releasing the patch this week(so today or tomorrow) and it would coust unneeded time to post about it when we should get the patchnotes in less then 48 hours(if there are no more bugs found)
 

Alfonso_M

Squire
I think this would be rather useless at this point. They are planing on releasing the patch this week(so today or tomorrow) and it would coust unneeded time to post about it when we should get the patchnotes in less then 48 hours(if there are no more bugs found)
Obviously, because when I posted this they didnt announced when the next patch was going to be released. In fact, they did it THREE MINUTES after I asked in the 1.5.10 thread.

So yeah, it is useless now, but it wasnt at the time I wrote this.
 

Grank

Sergeant Knight at Arms
WBNWVC
In this case, we feel that the best approach would be for us to know specifically what you are trying to achieve so that we can find an appropriate solution. Please let us know which specific problems you’re facing here.
Let me add on this a little bit. The best approach to this issue is actually very clear and abiding to the general coding convention: Making adequate public programming interfaces. Provide modders public getter and setter functions that will retrieve and modify your private/internal data in a safe manner, and public functions that encapsulate your smaller private/internal functions.

The modders already know of this I'm sure, but they know it's extra work since you have to write the value checks on setters and stuff, so that's why they asked for a plain removing of the internal modifiers. It's the fastest and easiest solution for TW. If they're really worried about coding conventions that much, they should be making proper programming interfaces.
 

adrakken

Sergeant
M&BWBNWVCWF&S
The big question is, how is it TW hires members of a TC modding team, yet somehow do not understand how they are making TCs difficult to make? This BS has made me lose faith in the future of this game and I have started actively telling people to hold off buying it until this clears up.
Base Bannerlord, like M&B is not a good game. its a great FOUNDATION to mod off of, like Fallout, The Sims, ARK, Conan Exiles. But unlike those games, this one becomes great via Total Conversions.
 

Genava

Veteran
The big question is, how is it TW hires members of a TC modding team, yet somehow do not understand how they are making TCs difficult to make? This BS has made me lose faith in the future of this game and I have started actively telling people to hold off buying it until this clears up.
Base Bannerlord, like M&B is not a good game. its a great FOUNDATION to mod off of, like Fallout, The Sims, ARK, Conan Exiles. But unlike those games, this one becomes great via Total Conversions.
I think TW struggles with its development and it has issues in the quality of its staff and of the work made. They had constraints, maybe to keep the code inline. I think the internal issues in the development overcomes their wish to have a game better for modding.
 
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