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This History of Modding



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Joined: August 23rd, 2009, 11:09 am

Post April 8th, 2010, 9:11 am

This History of Modding

I've been considering writing some things about modding. Not the verb modding as it applies to Starcraft, but rather sort of like the importance of modding to Starcraft (none) and the concept of modding in relation to Starcraft. I was hoping to start out with the first bit mostly about the general idea of modding and why it's important, but after that I plan on going through different mods and looking at what makes them successful/unsuccessful (not in terms of how successful they were in terms of being played but more along the lines of game design and philosophy) but I haven't really followed modding for very long or very closely.

The mods that I have played and would consider writing about so far is STF (first mod I played), AO, ad astras, and open rebellion. I've looked for other mods to do stuff on, but I'm looking for the better (more finished) and interesting mods so that I can look at them and discuss them (probably at length). Rather than spending a tonne of time trying to look up different older mods and things that I've overlooked, I figured I would just ask here to see if there's someone who could write me a up timeline of modding or important mods or fill in the holes of mods that I've overlooked (because I'm sure there are a ton).

Short descriptions of their importance would be good, as are links or even if you want to say something I can consider quoting and placing into my articles.

ive noticed that a lot of mods are really really bad in terms of balance and design in general. for example, open rebellion is so bad that im pretty sure that most of the design was based completely on making a starwars mod rather than trying to make a game that's fun to play. im pretty confident that it is impossible for an imperial player to win vs. a rebel player who knows what theyre doing. on top of that, if the rebel player doesnt play a very specific strategy, theres really no way for him to beat the imperial player. the main problem is that snowspeeders are so stupidly powerful in that they are a gas free air unit available from the same placement as a factory that does a ton of damage with good range. the only choice the imperial player has is to rush for their mech units the little missile hoverboat and the walker, but both of those units require not only the imperial factory but an extra tech building on top of that. imperial players arent able to establish map control at all, especially since the only unit with the mobility to counter snowspeeders (their own air units) take a factory, then a hanger, then a tie launch bay which delays them so much its ridiculous. the only chance (theoretically) that imperial players have is to go for a really early rush with multiple barracks and no gas to try to attack the rebel and keep the snowspeeder count down while teching or expanding themselves, because even if the imperial player manages to get a mech unit in time, snowspeeders can take them down so quick that the imperial player will be constantly fighting a downhill battle, and thats not even considering the fact that snowspeeders can just zip around and kill workers.

if rebels dont kill the imperials early, then its impossible to win because the difference between the power of the higher tier units is so ridiculous. tie bombers are so much better than their y-wing counterpart that i dont even understand how its possible to decide to design something like that. rebel vs. rebel would be completely ridiculous because itll just be snowspeeder spam the whole game until one player dies. imperial vs. imperial at least has some potential to be interesting, but to have only 1 out of 3 matchups playable is so bad that i cant believe that it was playtested before hand because it is obviously not fun and not balanced.

ad astras feels like it was thrown together really quickly, at least in terms of game design. theres interesting things in it, like having to research the 3 trees in order to tech rather than building buildings, or the sanctions thing. at the same time, i dont see how having to research things instead of building buildings contributes very much to the game outside of the limited building space thing, and the sanctions are bad when you consider the choices that you get and the viability of them and when they come into the game. re the sanctions, most of them seem really useless. the two different reactors are bad because in order to gain 100 minerals per turn you need to spend 1500 minerals (takes 15 turns to pay for itself) and to detract 100 minerals per turn you need to spend 3000 minerals (30 turns). these might gain a little bit of usefulness in team games, but this is a really really limited thing. like maybe in a 4v4 you can have some players go for the mineral producing ones, so you only need to wait 3 turns to gain a benefit (in terms of the team) but its really abstract and probably isnt that great of an advantage anyway.

the nomad platforms might be pretty useful because you can get a ton of factories and it also lets you protect trade routes and strike from more places on the map, but command platforms (the defense platform upgrade) are completely useless. proto platforms cost like 10k minerals and im pretty sure won't beat anything for cost. maybe if you get the splash one it'll help clean up some masses of larger ships, but they are so expensive and limited in use (and slow) that i dont think they are worth anything. the spell that shoots all that shit is pretty cool, but you need to get a specific, high tier unit, and you need to save 200 energy for its use and then you can only use it once. i dont like the ability because if the player hits your fleet with it then it can basically take the whole thing out without much trouble, so its like a superweapon and it becomes about using it for you and denying it from the perspective from the other player.

the warp jumps seem like a cool thing, except it takes so long to charge up so its useful as like a one-off thing and then by the time you can use it again its like 4 minutes later in the game. it doesnt help that they are fixed on the map so its pretty easy to stop and monitor, so it only really becomes useful as jumping really slow ships late in the game or recalling if you pass the other guys fleet accidentally. the scarabs are really cool and probably the most useful sanction because they can take out a ton of fighters and tactically its always best in this game to stack your fighters because it ensures all of them can attack at once, so it discourages the opponent from using optimal formations while also being able to score some kills.

i read iskatumesks article about fleet mods and one thing that he brings up is that how the concept of the fleet mod devalues map control, which i think in this game doesn't apply. i think that this game, if played by good players, would revolve a lot around map control and information. to reinforce my point, i am confident that there is only 1 valid opening in this game, which is to get a trade station to get some merchants while getting factories and pumping out as many wraiths as you can. if you skip wraiths and your opponent finds out (not hard since you start with 2 of the 2nd fastest ships in the game, explorers) he can punish you for it. if you tech too fast your opponent can also punish you, because none of the single tech ships are very useful (for cost) and even the double tech ships have trouble with a ton of wraiths. the build that ive been practicing with is trade/fac and then i get another fac and then a science station while pumping merchants and wraiths, then i get weapons/engineering so i can get the ghost ships with feedback. the feedback ships make it so that i can disable and/or damage a lot of the other tech ships. the other ship on the feedback ships tier is the lamia corvettes or whatever, which have restoration which makes them huge feedback bait without having any advantage over feedback ships.

i doubt that many games would get into the bigger ships, unless its a huge map and nothing happens for the first 20 minutes. this doesnt seem like very fun.

i tried to think of ways to slightly adjust ad astras that would make it more fun and streamlined, but there is nothing that i can come up with. the game, by design, is flawed and it would take a major rehaul of the units and probably the tiers in order to come up with something that's balanced, and for a game with only 1 playable race this is pretty bad. having 4 ships that are basically exactly the same of each ship, and to have a lot of the ships be kind of mushy in terms of design (the wraith, the valkyrie, the lamia). ships like the one who is supposed to be good against small fighters (the tyrant i think? the one that uses stukovs voice) is only good against fighters once you get the tech to make orochis because otherwise they get killed for cost by fighters.


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Post May 24th, 2010, 3:24 am

Re: This History of Modding

An interesting read, AuirZ. Other mods that stick out in my mind:

Gundam Century: One of the few full graphical conversions with custom models. It predated StarGraft, I think, so tech-flow follows Starcraft.

Warcraft III TC: It crashes. A lot. For the time, though, it was fun. Developed by Infoceptor's staff, which at one point was sent a Cease and Desist by Blizzard to remove the mod (as the real War3 was then under development).

Dominion War: A Star Trek mod with full custom graphics, once hosted at Campaign Creations. Federation has an ungodly amount of ships.

Zeji Conversion: Custom graphics, sounds, and even a campaign, what's not to love? Made by Campaign Creation's own RCX.

Planar Erratus: A recently-released mod by Bajadulce of BroodwarAI. New graphics and AI.


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Post May 24th, 2010, 5:21 am

Re: This History of Modding

In technicality, ITAS has map control importance in the form of intelligence warfare which I also said in that article (I think, maybe it was another article? I can't even remember anymore). I was referring more or less to things like ramps, choke points, and stuff like that.


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Post June 12th, 2010, 11:34 am

Re: This History of Modding

Hey Aiurz. That's quite a detailed critique of both OR and AA and enjoyed reading your opinions (have read all of your posts in Hercanic's STF forums @ Ccreations). Extended details and mod reviews would be a nice addition to the wiki here as well as a fantastic reference for those seeking information about said mods and you have a lot of valuable input. I kept checking back in hopes to read more about other mods, but you appear to have discontinued your analysis? So I've dug up my account password and logged in to add my own 2 cents about the aforementioned mods as well as list a few more.

First, as few may know, I worked very hard and spent countless hours converting both mods you've reviewed to single player versions (ORAI and AAAI) and so I feel very connected to these. While both AdAstras and Open Rebellion have their faults, as does every mod, they are both unique in their own way.

Open Rebellion being quite easily the most professional of all mods in terms of the 100% homebuilt 3d models that were then rendered for Starcraft. Gundam Century can also be labeled as such. While rendered models aren’t unique to Starcraft, animated ground unit ones most certainly are (most models rendered for SC mods are non-animated air units). And so Open Rebellion's claim to fame is just that. Realize that modern tools such as Firegraft with its wonderful exe edits, as well as stripping .got templates, were not developed nor known about at this time. Ash himself said the mod was left uncompleted. If he works like myself, the presentation and the graphics were assembled first, game balancing and such to follow. And it appears that game balancing was definitely left hanging.

Many have complained about the airspeeders being too overpowering and rightfully so. Not sure why they were placed where they were in the tech tree.

Turbo Towers should require a second source for operation/placement as well. Think of Starcraft's bunkers, photon cannons, and sunkens. All 3 require additional support in the form of rines, pylons, and creep (missile turrets being an exception, but limited to an air attack only). Rebel turbo tower rushes are just as threatening as a speeder rush due to unlimited placement opportunities.

Most would agree the Imperial tech tree seems a bit bloated as well.

I unfortunately have had very little opportunity to play the mod other than Single Player, but have had a blast fighting the AI (some replays of yours truly with ERV scores posted here). Unfortunately, this was one of the first mods I recreated and so there are several bugs that resulted due to my inexperience. I almost feel obligated to repair the mistakes, and would very much like to return to the AI version of the mod. We (BWAI) have become the caretaker of the mod proper and host the creators Open Rebellion web pages. A modernization of the AI variant complete with modern modding techniques and tools would be a nice 2nd generation rebirth of the mod. I'm sure Ash would approve.

While Open Rebellion was difficult to convert to single player, AdAstras was by far much more challenging due the multitude of hardcoded obstacles that had to be overcome to allow the AI to "work". Unfortunately many of our threads at BWAI were lost after our meltdown, and the thread that described the trials and tribulations of building AAAI appear to be forever gone.

While LordAgamemnon will be the first to admit he isn't the most ascribed graphic artist, AdAstras caught my attention by how simple and yet elegantly the mod was put together. It certainly wasn't just "thrown" together.

Should an aspiring modder dissect AdAstras to gain insightful knowledge of the master (or any of LordA's mods for that matter), the first thing that will strike you, is the time consuming and painstaking task that went into building triggers for this mod (built prior to ProTRG I might add.) While Starcraft's resource gathering based economy is nearly perfect, AdAstras did a wonderful job taking that bold leap to try something new… and it works well.

Researching tech as a replacement for required buildings is a great way to take advantage of Firegraft's new requirement features and use it extensively in my own creation as well. Not only does this save space and is uniquely different than the Scraft tech tree we are accustomed to, but it provides an additional perk. Should a main base and all its buildings be destroyed, any given unit can still be constructed elsewhere once its required tech has been researched. This is huge! Imagine a Zerg player being able to churn out guardians even after his only hive, spawning pool, queen’s nest, and spire were destroyed. A healthy combination of both tech and building requirements make for an entertaining mod.

AdAstras unique concept of handling upgrades however might be its best feature and is often overlooked! Unlike the typical SC unit that can be upgraded globally, all of AA units are forever destined to dance with what they came equipped with. This is to say that a fleet far removed from its base can't be upgraded at central headquarters by the push of a button. Rather, your army must be strategically built so that it doesn't become outdated by the time it reaches its destination. Obviously, this was the concept and the idea, but the mechanics didn't quite pan out accordingly. Still the notion is a refreshing one and is what I find the most appealing about the mod and the creator's attempt to make something completely unique. This mod is a gem despite its mechanical shortcomings. Myself, a long time turn-based fan, can appreciate the subtleties of a slower thought provoking game.

Well I could go on about almost any and every mod created, without much negative to say about most. There were quite a few duds that's for sure, but occasionally an individual broke out of the mundane to create something very unique and everlasting. While I haven't had the time to explore the vast number of mods out there, I have played quite a few. Here are some mods that are worth mentioning and would gladly write a few words about what makes them special.

Gundam Century by Stuart Ng
Open Rebellion by Adam Cassara
Zenji Conversion by RazorClawX
Starcraft Team Fortress by Hercanic
Armageddon Onslaught and ITAS by IskatuMesk
Ad Astras and Project Miranda by Lord Agamemnon
Antithesis Rising by Voyager
Ultimate Doom by BSTRhino
BWAI by the BWAIProject team
...and several others, I've failed to mention.. sorry!

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