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Does CM need a plugin architecture?


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This is an idea for some future CM, and I realize it will probably never happen.

Browsers and many apps such as GIMP and Blender allow plugins, by which I mean a way to control or interact with the internals of an app using user supplied code in languages such as python, java, scheme, etc.  

So, I imagine...

Tactical AI:  Along with its usual work, it checks for some plugin override that modifies its behavior.  Squad advance in a line, for example.  Multi-squad bounding attack.  Different behaviors for different nations.  Implement some of those C2 rules in code instead of spreadsheets.

Scenario AI:  I haven't looked at this at all, so it is hard to say,  but maybe experienced  players could come up with better rules for managing the computer player on the large scale.  

That's my random vagary for the day.  Back to facebook 8-)

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Oh, yeah.

What I would hope for is that various people would create various plugin "mods" and some would be more popular and survive and grow, while others would just fade away.  I suppose it is possible that they could fragment the CM user space, but I doubt it.  The Cities: Skylines simulation game is a good model, where there are lots and lots of great plugins.

 

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It sounds like a nifty idea, but...

I occasionally check in to the Scenario Depot to see what user-generated scenarios there are there. There are sometimes one or two nice ones - but the amount of user-generated content in any 12-month period doesn't seem especially high.

Writing a plug-in is a much more difficult and technical task than making a scenario, so I would question how likely it is that such a plug-in feature would get a meaningful amount of use.

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I know this is an unpopular opinion, but: I don't like mods.

First of all, they fragment the community. You're suddenly not playing the same game as everybody else. So when you ask questions about tactics, you get replies that can only be used if you have the same combination of mods installed as the guy who answers your question.

Secondly, every time I have installed a mod that fixed or improved something, it also broke something else. We already see some weird pathfinding behaviour once in a while. Imagine how many things could go wrong if you also started to let users mess with the code...

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Being able to alter the basic gameplay technics/rules...NO...I don't think i would like that either...

 

What i would like though (maybe not the same thing, i know 😎) Would be for BFC to allow outside developers to 

produce various OOBs/TOEs that could be plugged into a 'free/open' basegame...

Not going to happen...i know. But i would like that...Simular to how DCS allows outside developers to release new aircrafts to their basic engine...

 

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On 3/4/2020 at 3:32 AM, Bulletpoint said:

First of all, they fragment the community. You're suddenly not playing the same game as everybody else. So when you ask questions about tactics, you get replies that can only be used if you have the same combination of mods installed as the guy who answers your question.

 


Battlefront has pretty efficiently done this themselves already. Right now you have a userbase that is:

Spread over 6 games, within those games anywhere from 1-4 different version #s, within anywhere from 0-3 Modules, and 0-1 battle packs.

CM Normandy alone, for example, has (napkin math) upwards of 30 combinations.


Further most players (apparently) do not play PVP and also do not talk about the game on public forums.

On 3/3/2020 at 5:38 PM, Freyberg said:

Writing a plug-in is a much more difficult and technical task than making a scenario, so I would question how likely it is that such a plug-in feature would get a meaningful amount of use.

I imagine there would be relatively few, but the ability to go very deep would likely attract a smaller and more committed set of modders.

 

On 3/4/2020 at 3:32 AM, Bulletpoint said:

Secondly, every time I have installed a mod that fixed or improved something, it also broke something else. We already see some weird pathfinding behaviour once in a while. Imagine how many things could go wrong if you also started to let users mess with the code...

 

I've had very much the opposite experience. Take Jagged Alliance w. the 1.13 mod for example. That game is essentially alive and playable today thanks to the hard work of those modders - any number of Bethesda mods - and entire communities built around mods in Arma.

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13 hours ago, com-intern said:
On 3/4/2020 at 10:32 AM, Bulletpoint said:

Secondly, every time I have installed a mod that fixed or improved something, it also broke something else. We already see some weird pathfinding behaviour once in a while. Imagine how many things could go wrong if you also started to let users mess with the code...

 

I've had very much the opposite experience. Take Jagged Alliance w. the 1.13 mod for example. That game is essentially alive and playable today thanks to the hard work of those modders - any number of Bethesda mods - and entire communities built around mods in Arma.

I find people overlook the problems caused by those mods.

For example, in Medieval: Total War 2, there's a big mod called Stainless Steel, which people praise all the time.

One of the things the mod does is to give heavy cavalry more "weight" so they get a bigger impact force against line infantry. That feels right in field battles, but an unintended consequence is that heavy cavalry can also basically walk through any number of defenders blocking castle entrances. It looks really silly to see ten knights on horses just mash their way through a gatehouse stuffed full of pikemen.

So what you gain in one area, you lose in another.

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On 3/7/2020 at 6:33 AM, Bulletpoint said:

I find people overlook the problems caused by those mods.

That is essentially the nature of most development though. Trade offs built on trade offs built on trade offs.

CM natively has a number of them. Mods will obviously have them. The benefit that mods bring are three-fold.

1. Players are better able to make decisions about trade-offs. 1
2. Games survive longer 2
3. Niche content can be covered 1

1 Medieval: Total War 2 has a historic mod that I played years ago (it may actually be Stainless Steel?) and while it definitely made trade-offs and sacrifices they were much different than the ones that the base game made. Personally I enjoyed the mod sacrifices far more than the base-game sacrifices. Additionally the mod existing at all allowed a far more niche take on M:TW2 than the base game would have ever allowed.

2 Yes JA2 1.13 is quite a bit different from vanilla JA2. But its easy to overlook the problems when the base game barely runs on modern hardware.

---

Generally I don't buy most of the "community" arguments against mods. I can't think of a single game where a strong modding community has been a net negative for the game's community, while I can think of games off the top of my head that essentially exist because of modding.

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On 3/4/2020 at 10:32 AM, Bulletpoint said:

Secondly, every time I have installed a mod that fixed or improved something, it also broke something else. We already see some weird pathfinding behaviour once in a while. Imagine how many things could go wrong if you also started to let users mess with the code...

This is not true. BF only lets us mod textures, 3D models, sounds, UI elements, and only from what is currently existing. You cannot add a vehicle for example, only replace the 3D model of an existing one.

Any strange behavior while using mods is purely coincidental, since there is technically no way for modders to break anything regarding AI or TO&E/OOB's according to how much free reign BF has given us. If they give us more, like access to TacAI logic or TO&E then we might break some things while experimenting, sure, but mods are always optional.

(In fact we may be able to fix to pathing problems sooner if modders could get their hands on the code, same with TO&E mistakes and oversights)

I am of the same opinion as Com-intern. An active and dedicated modding community will always bring good things to a game.

Edited by Frenchy56
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55 minutes ago, Frenchy56 said:
On 3/4/2020 at 10:32 AM, Bulletpoint said:

Secondly, every time I have installed a mod that fixed or improved something, it also broke something else. We already see some weird pathfinding behaviour once in a while. Imagine how many things could go wrong if you also started to let users mess with the code...

This is not true. BF only lets us mod textures, 3D models, sounds, UI elements, and only from what is currently existing. You cannot add a vehicle for example, only replace the 3D model of an existing one.

Any strange behavior while using mods is purely coincidental

I think you misunderstood. I'm not saying strange pathfinding in CM is caused by mods. I'm saying if users were able to mod things like pathfinding, it would open up a whole new can of worms. 

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7 hours ago, com-intern said:

Generally I don't buy most of the "community" arguments against mods. I can't think of a single game where a strong modding community has been a net negative for the game's community, while I can think of games off the top of my head that essentially exist because of modding.

Another problem with mods is that they give game developers an excuse to ship half-finished games, with the assumption that the mod community will do the rest for the work for free. It becomes very difficult for the gamers to agree on any kind of criticism/feedback about the game, because the standard answer on the forums will be "just use mods". And those mods will then fix something and break something else.

The advent of the internet and the mod community has made developers extremely sloppy. It used to be that if the developers didn't ship a working, enjoyable game, it would simply not be a success. Nowadays, it's almost assumed that the end user will have to spend a lot of time finding, installing, and troubleshooting mods.

Edited by Bulletpoint
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2 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

Another problem with mods is that they give game developers an excuse to ship half-finished games, with the assumption that the mod community will do the rest for the work for free. It becomes very difficult for the gamers to agree on any kind of criticism/feedback about the game, because the standard answer on the forums will be "just use mods". And those mods will then fix something and break something else.

Developers aren't making money off of a game that intentionally short shrifts the playerbase with the intention that mods fill the gap. What is actually happening is that the developer is making cost trade offs that rub a minority of players the wrong way. Take the newest Elder Scrolls games. It sold upwards of 3 million copies during launch weak on consoles with no modding capability.

Like I said, the doom and gloom about mods ruining a game is really just a fantasy. At worst you get a unpopular modding scene - games aren't ruined because of mods. Like can you actually think of any legit titles that were ruined by mods?

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One word on the topic of BFC opening up the game code for everyone: Theft. The reason why you don't see a dozen Chinese 'bootleg' CM titles is the game engine's resistant to hacking. 

If BFC goes the plug-in architecture route I'm pretty sure it would be for their own convenience, not an invitation for the unwashed masses to monkey with the game. I believe the 'terms and conditions' when you install specifically prohibits monkeying with code. There aren't many examples of the user base making use of what BFC already provides. Where are all the 3rd party scenarios set in real world locations with robust coordinated AI orders sets? You can get the current AI to do amazing things if you just learn the tools and put some thought into what your pixeltruppen are doing. You can't complain 'the AI sucks' when all you did was give a single 'attack' movement order to the far side of the map. That holds true for AI orders sets as much as the orders you give your own troops during gameplay.

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17 minutes ago, MikeyD said:

One word on the topic of BFC opening up the game code for everyone: Theft. The reason why you don't see a dozen Chinese 'bootleg' CM titles is the game engine's resistant to hacking. 

Honestly this sounds like folks overestimate the popularity of these games. You need people willing to seed and many more popular games lack an established seeding base making the acquisition essentially a non-starter. Really the lack of cracks for the games speaks magnitudes about their lack of popularity.

 

20 minutes ago, MikeyD said:

There aren't many examples of the user base making use of what BFC already provides.

There are plenty of examples of users doing a ton with the current set. The post-apoc. CM:SF1 mod, Heaven & Earth, several fantastic user-made campaigns (the airborne campaign from CM:BN being stand out), numerous well done scenarios and maps of real world locations. There is likely even more out there that isn't on any of the normal online repositories. I know I have 4-5 scenarios that have only ever been privately shared.

Compared to CMx1 the rate of production is lower but the increased time requirements and lack of feedback (seen in some longer threads about scenario design in the past) speak to that.

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Yea, an SOP system that could be attached to waypoints or to the unit themselves would be fantastic and do so much for the game.

Imagine having a move to contact with an SOP to crawl back 20 meters on contact instead of just sitting in the open  -  or an AT team fire a rocket and then immediately move to concealment.

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Yepp...

Or Things like when two tankplatoons advance on an objective and The first one gets knocked out...

The second one would have the capability to switching to a secondary path forward as opposed to now...

Continue down the same path and in turn get knocked out in a simular way as the first one.

That would be Nice! 😊

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4 hours ago, com-intern said:

Like I said, the doom and gloom about mods ruining a game is really just a fantasy. At worst you get a unpopular modding scene - games aren't ruined because of mods. Like can you actually think of any legit titles that were ruined by mods?

I think the Total War series is a good example of a once great franchise that went downhill. Not because of mods initially, but because of poor game design decisions by the developers. Normally, ruining your franchise leads to players abandoning it. But, largely because of mods, it still lives on. The criticism from players is stifled because the answer will always be "just use mods".

But then when you use those mods, you run into weird problems. Because the content is not properly balanced and there's a lack of consideration for the knock-on effects of tinkering with the mechanics. Like in the example of the knights I mentioned before.

Another typical example is that a game will ship with poor sound effects, and as always, people will say "just use mods". Then the sound mod will include some sounds with reverb, some not properly cut off, and some sounds really loud where they should be low, and vice versa. The sound of a brass casing hitting the floor sounding as loud as a gunshot. Etc.

I find that once I start modding, I end up with a cobbled together mess.

But I realise we won't get to an agreement about this. And thats ok. That's why I started saying "This is going to be an unpopular opinion..."

 

 

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Put it this way. I understand your issues with modding but I cannot really fathom any games where its actually panned out like that. I could easily understand you being annoyed with modding. But I can't think of any games where the overall community has been left worse off.

Total War, for example, has developed away from its historic roots and into a much more of a fantasy game. With both the Warhammer: Total War and Three Kingdoms: Total War selling well without heavy modding on a specifically fantasy basis.

---
 

Edited by com-intern
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Ironically enough, I liked the Warhammer Fantasy mod for Medieval 2 more than the official standalone title. There's games like Arma 3 and Men of War, that I never play vanilla. Bethesda games often feel incomplete without mods. All the while, I haven't ever modded CM.

Arma, old Total War, Men of War and Elder Scrolls are franchises that are built from the ground up for modularity. New games still carry over the old scripting systems, that the community, and devs, are familiar with. Current CM engines are quite unique, and fairly monolithic -- from what I understand.

The big question is how feasible it is to start from scratch on a script-based system. Build their niche game on a completely new and foreign foundation?

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