The Creative Assembly have released the raw table data for Empire and Napoleon on the Total War forums. The files should help modders looking to change in-game properties find the files they need to tweak within Total War's complex file structure.
As well as this gesture of support for what used to be one of PC gaming's most prolific and passionate modding communities, The Creative Assembly explain why they've been unable to provide the same level of mod support that fans have enjoyed in older games like Rome and Medieval 2.
Creative Assembly's Craig Laycock explains that the complexity of the engine used to create Empire and Napoleon has proved the main barrier to the creation of mod tools. "Back then, the game engine was a hell of a lot simpler than it is now," he writes. "There was a fraction of the database table files we use today, and these were basic, easily-editable text files. Compared to today’s binary files, which we’ve had to implement to fight naturally expanding load-times, they were a doddle to mod.
"Likewise, today’s campaign map is vastly more complex and data-dense than Rome’s, which was basically a simple TGA file that could be edited in photoshop. Today’s maps demand way more complexity in order to allow for better path-finding and AI. In addition, Rome’s campaign map was tile based; today’s campaign map is seamless for better movement, making it that considerably harder to mod."
Rome and Medieval are some of the best loved entries in the Total War series thanks to some of the incredible mods created by the community. Total War modders could move the game to a different part of the world, add astounding levels of historical accuracy, add new units or rebalance existing ones. The Creative Assembly say that they recognise the value of Total War modders, and insist that the lack of mod tools for recent titles isn't part of a ploy to boost DLC sales.
"Back in the Rome days, Vercingetorix created tools that were absolutely key to the explosion of Total War modding; tools such as the CAS exporter and the unpacker. You were happy, we were thrilled and some fantastic mods (such as the breathtaking Europa Barbarorum) were born, and enjoyed by thousands, us included. We’re still in awe of what people achieved with Rome and Medieval II’s engines."
"Please understand that we’re not trying to constrain modding in any way; we simply haven’t been able to support it as well as we really wanted to," explains Laycock. "This isn’t a conspiracy to make you buy DLC over creating your own content… if that were true, there never would have been the possibility of making unit-packs for Empire and Napoleon. The fact remains that modders have made many such excellent units, and enriched the game for thousands of Total War players.
"We still want to help though, and we think the best way to do this is to give you the raw database XML and XSD files."
"Going forward, we’ll be working on a better strategy to support modding, and we’re now planning what we’re going to do for Shogun 2. But we’re going to stop promising specifics that we’re unable to deliver, as we all know how well that’s worked out in the past."
For an overview of some of the greatest fan-made Total War creations, check out our pick of the ten best Total War mods.