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Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

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Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 05:52 PM #1 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

Presumably Jeff must have an Editor for every game he makes, unless he has a 4-digit IQ and does not need one.
All he has to do is release the Editor, and maybe its source code too. Jeff could release the Editor as a companion to Geneforge 5. It would use the calls and features of G5.
Documentation is apparently not his thing, we could build upon his notes.
Alint would need to be updated for the Geneforge world, that is presumably not too hard. I just looked at a G4 script, it was quite intelligible to anyone familiar with BoA.

Actual Blades of Geneforge scenarios would not need to be created he could just translate the four Spiderweb BoA scenarios. If he was really pressed for time he could just skip the scenarios and let us do them.
Instead of Bas files, Blades of Geneforge would have aGF5ScenData.dat files.

This idea would need Jeff to make a slight alteration to the game so that it could work like BoA:
one scenario per scenario folder
all scenarios can access the same default graphics
all scenarios can access the same default scripts
all scenarios can use custom graphics, scenario scripts and scenario data scripts
a scenario selection dialog screen would need to be created

Until and unless this happens you would need to have multiple aGF5ScenData.dat files in your Geneforge 5 Files folder, one file per scenario. Unused scenarios would have their file names prefixed by letters or numbers: aaaGF5ScenData.dat, abaGF5ScenData.dat, acaGF5ScenData.dat...
Ditto multiple Save# and Scripts folders would be needed.

Edited by Nikki., 31 August 2013 - 10:11 AM.
fixed title after merge


Vox Vox

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 06:04 PM #2 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

I'm still trying to wrap my head around BoA editing...

Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 07:48 PM #3 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

BoA Editing does not come easy, there is definitely a learning curve. Once you understand how the calls work, you then need to know which call to apply in a given situation. You may find the limitations of Avernumscript leave you unable to do something...

Any Blades of Geneforge would have calls usually like those found in BoA, if you could master the latter, the former would be easy enough.

Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 04:11 AM #4 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

As Nethergate: Resurrection uses the Blades of Avernum engine, a new editor for it is simply made, just make a few alterations to the BoA 3D Editor. It seems you would need to alter the source files that describe what is in the bas file. Stuff that occurs in BoA but not N:R would need to be cut out. Shortcut, wholly irrelevant functions can be simply removed from the menus but left in the source code.
Instead of Bas files, Blades of Nethergate would have Celt Data.dat, Roman Data.dat and Shared Data.dat files. Outdoor.dat may not be needed for all I know, it does nothing?

Documentation is apparently not Jeff's thing, we could build upon his notes.
Alint would need to be updated for the Nethergate world, that would be straightforward as there are not too many new calls.

Actual official Blades of Nethergate scenarios would not need to be created he could just translate the four Spiderweb BoA scenarios. If he was really pressed for time he could just skip the scenarios and let us do them.

This idea would need Jeff to make a slight alteration to the game so that it could work like BoA:
one scenario per scenario folder
all scenarios can access the same default graphics
all scenarios can access the same default scripts
all scenarios can use custom graphics, scenario scripts and scenario data scripts
a scenario selection dialog screen would need to be created
Anything that is not hard-coded in BoA but is hard-coded in N:R would need to be now accessible from scripts.

Until and unless this happens you would need to have multiple Celt/Roman/Shared Data.dat files in your Nethergate Data folders, one file per scenario. Unused scenarios would have their file names prefixed by letters or numbers.
Ditto multiple Save# and Celt/Roman/Shared Data folders would be needed. Instead of a scenario data script you would alter the core data scripts directly.

N:R has provision for boats and horses, being derived from BoA.
Boat will return to its original outdoor location if you leave it while outdoors. I created a boat in the Temple of Brigantia, getting it out of the town was tough. It wound up on a piece of ground north of the Temple, that is where it returns when you leave it outdoors. It seems you can leave it while in town, it won't vanish.  If you save while in a boat, the boat will still be there when you reload the save game.
(You have to fiddle the graphics to get appropriate boat graphics.)
You can't dismount from horses when you are outdoors. Currently there are no graphics showing the party on horseback.

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 10:12 AM #5 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

Yeah, I've gone ahead and merged the Blades of Geneforge and Blades of Nethergate topics together - we don't need a bajillion Blades topics, especially considering Vogel's reluctance to touch the Blades game he HAS made.

Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 05:56 PM #6 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

Jeff is a one-man band who must do all the programming himself. I figure he still can't afford to hire a programming assistant. He is presumably busy on Avadon 2.
Someone might be able to sell him on Blades of Geneforge because it won't take much time:
Release an editor he already has.
Make some quick changes to the code, which he can borrow from BoA.

Blades of Nethergate is mostly possible now. Required changes to the BoA Editor are fairly basic, even I could do them. Open, Save and New Scenario functions will need to be rewritten, that is the biggest task and it is easy enough.
I can already view the Nethergate: Resurrection data files in the usual 3D BoA Editor, it just requires padding the front of the N:R files with BoA-looking stuff.

More thought on how it would work:
Blades of Geneforge or Blades of Nethergate are not new games, they are slightly modified versions of the original games, Geneforge 5: Overthrow and Nethergate: Resurrection.
Original game is now a scenario, in a folder by itself. The folder would hold any scripts or graphics that are relevant only to the plot of the original game. No need for a scenario data script, the original game would use the unmodified game data scripts.

Registration works as it does now, you can only play a bit of the original game without registering. Scenarios presumably can't be played unless the game is registered.
If you were registered for the original GF5 or N:R you are automatically registered for Blades of Geneforge or Blades of Nethergate.

Edited by Ishad Nha, 31 August 2013 - 08:47 PM.


Little Fyora Little Fyora

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 10:27 PM #7 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

I don't see how releasing his editor could be disadvantageous either. To add suggestions, a scenario could contain maybe 10-20 zones and as it's different from the classic Avernum's indoor-outdoor concept, each zone can have four exit-directions, each pointing to another zone, and if any of these four directions are meant to be unreachable, you block it off with trees or walls. But hey, I guess this is how his editor (probably) works like in the first place.

Even 5 developers working on making quality scenarios would, I'm sure, revive interest in the Geneforge.
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Posted 01 September 2013 - 04:29 AM #8 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

View PostLittle Fyora, on 31 August 2013 - 10:27 PM, said:

I don't see how releasing his editor could be disadvantageous either.
Because it isn't designed for public use, and therefore is 1) tailored to his own unique taste, which may not reflect the best way someone not familiar with the code would do things, 2) is poorly-documented, 3) only designed to work on his system, 4) is very unpolished and probably full of bugs.

Hell, that's assuming he has an editor at all, he might just have bunches of simple utilities that convert, say, XML into the proper data files.

The issue here is that if Jeff releases any sort of Blades thing, he has an obligation to support the people who paid for it. That means squashing bugs, writing documentation, filling out the scripting language (and documenting it). Supporting a Blades-like game takes a lot more effort than a normal game, simply because the possibilities are much more diverse. Jeff presumably doesn't want to do that (as can be evidenced by saying he would never do a Blades game again).

not to mention you know boa was kind of a flop and almost put him in the poorhouse so yeah

Edited by S▒y░░e▒, 01 September 2013 - 04:30 AM.
because if you dont keep supporting a product, that's mail fraud!


Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 05:41 AM #9 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

"Because it isn't designed for public use, and therefore is 1) tailored to his own unique taste, which may not reflect the best way someone not familiar with the code would do things, 2) is poorly-documented, 3) only designed to work on his system, 4) is very unpolished and probably full of bugs."
Blades of Nethergate, I can write the editor myself, no problem here.
Blades of Geneforge, that is another matter altogether. An Editor will be best if we can get the source code and make one that suits us.

"Hell, that's assuming he has an editor at all, he might just have bunches of simple utilities that convert, say, XML into the proper data files."
I suspect he does, check out the G1600 to G1616 Bitmaps in Geneforge 5, they are the same size as BoA Editor icons too.

"The issue here is that if Jeff releases any sort of Blades thing, he has an obligation to support the people who paid for it. That means squashing bugs, writing documentation, filling out the scripting language (and documenting it). Supporting a Blades-like game takes a lot more effort than a normal game, simply because the possibilities are much more diverse."
We can do a lot of this work ourselves to spare him the effort.

"Jeff presumably doesn't want to do that (as can be evidenced by saying he would never do a Blades game again)."
The one thing that might arouse his interest is that we are talking about extensions/add-ons to proven existing games, we are not talking about wholly new games.

Khoth Khoth

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 11:42 AM #10 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

View PostIshad Nha, on 01 September 2013 - 05:41 AM, said:

"The issue here is that if Jeff releases any sort of Blades thing, he has an obligation to support the people who paid for it. That means squashing bugs, writing documentation, filling out the scripting language (and documenting it). Supporting a Blades-like game takes a lot more effort than a normal game, simply because the possibilities are much more diverse."
We can do a lot of this work ourselves to spare him the effort.
If he's selling it for actual money, it needs to meet some standard of quality, and hoping people on an internet forum fix it up for him isn't good enough.

If he's giving it away for free, getting a release sorted out would be somewhere in the priority list below "anything someone might pay him for"

Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 05:00 PM #11 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

"If he's giving it away for free, getting a release sorted out would be somewhere in the priority list below "anything someone might pay him for""
As long as it gets onto a priority list.
Humble Bundle may be our friend here, that seemed to pay off.
If he uses an existing game there is no risk factor that the Blades of Nethergate/Geneforge/Avadon may flop.

He probably has something like Alint or Ascript for his all scripted games, said games are usually free of major scripting errors.

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 05:46 PM #12 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

you do realize that when he made the current bladeses he was already "[using] an existing game", and as boa proved there is, in fact, a risk factor.

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 06:03 PM #13 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

I can't find the emails right now, but Jeff more or less considers BoA a morass, and one that he does not want to tangle himself up in again. If he's reluctant to do anything with the game editor he's already made and released (and why wouldn't he be - it's not like we're the most active part of the community), he's probably also reluctant to sink time and money into another 'Blades' game. And that's ignoring the fact that if it weren't for Avernum 4, SW would have gone bust due to BoA's appalling sales, and the time it took to make the game.

Jeff doesn't take risks. His company barely survived BoA. I can't see him jumping on board with a whole slew of Blades games, ever.

Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 07:22 PM #14 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

The Blades of Nethergate: Resurrection/Geneforge 5: Overthrow/Avadon/Avernum: Escape From the Pit/(Whatever) games will be slightly-altered versions of the proven existing games. Just enough alterations to enable scenario formats. None of them would be new games, unlike BoA. Hence the time, effort and risk for Jeff would be minimal.
Blades of Nethergate would be Nethergate: Resurrection with a few alterations to enable scenario usage. It is mostly viable now.

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 07:57 PM #15 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

Okay, I have a question for you: would you design and release a scenario using any of those engines? Have you created anything for either of the Blades games that have been released? Any time that Jeff sinks into a game/project that does not sell is time taken away from projects that WILL sell.

Jeff has said no to more Blades games; we have to do the best with the two we have rather than think of ways to make every single game he's ever released a vehicle for user-created content.

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 08:05 PM #16 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

yes, because the only changes jeff makes to his game engines are cosmetic and definitely never anything beyond changing some avernumscript-esqe scripts and dropping in new graphics.

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 10:47 PM #17 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

BoA too essentially reused whatever engine he had lying around for the earlier Avernums. It was still a huge amount of work, and as noted nearly got him bankrupt.

There's no way he'd do that again, especially for something unpopular and story-based like Nethergate.

Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 11:25 PM #18 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

"Okay, I have a question for you: would you design and release a scenario using any of those engines?"
Would any sane person play something that I had written? Probably not. I am very much lacking in literary creativity. Actually playing something written, rather than ported, by me would be an indication of real desperation. (If you end up in Hell that is probably what you will be doing through all eternity.)

"There's no way he'd do that again, especially for something unpopular and story-based like Nethergate."
Original Nethergate did not do that well. How well did Nethergate: Resurrection do in sales?

Come on everyone, be more positive, the important thing here is that we now have an idea which is more practical than genuinely new Blades of Spiderweb games.

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 12:10 AM #19 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

BoN doesn't even make any sense. I can see wanting BoG for the real time out of combat movement and creation stuff, even though it isn't going to happen, but what need would we have for a BoN? My memory of it may be rusty, but I'm fairly certain N:R has pretty much the same engine as BoA, and anything missing that you strictly need for a scenario can be done with some creative coding with custom abilities or items and whatnot. Yes, even the differentiation between Roman/Celts ablities or whatever else Nethergate had.

I'm not sure where the practical idea is, here. It'd be difficult just getting something like BoA's source code from Jeff, let alone getting him to throw random geneforge editing stuff at us, if that's what you're suggesting.
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Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 01:52 AM #20 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

"My memory of it may be rusty, but I'm fairly certain N:R has pretty much the same engine as BoA"
It is basically the same engine with a few tweaks.
"and anything missing that you strictly need for a scenario can be done with some creative coding with custom abilities or items and whatnot."
That gets pretty tough, for example trying to replicate the interesting Druidic spell structure in BoA should be a pain. Interface of the original game is classy and professional, unlike the BoA imitation.

"I'm not sure where the practical idea is, here. It'd be difficult just getting something like BoA's source code from Jeff, let alone getting him to throw random geneforge editing stuff at us, if that's what you're suggesting."
We won't need source code for the games, only the code for the game editors. That is the situation we currently have with BoA.

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 08:36 AM #21 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

I'd almost convinced myself that making a BoG request was a naive-Spidweb-newbie-tradition-thing, so I'm happy that an old member with scripting/coding experience thinks its okay too.
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Posted 02 September 2013 - 09:18 AM #22 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

I asked Jeff during Nethergate: Resurrection about making another game using that engine with a different pair of forces in the same idea of rational fighters versus magic users.  He said that he was never going to use the BoA game engine again.

Much as some players like to make their own scenarios using the other game engines, I don't see him ever investing the time to fix up the programs he use to a level that others can use.  Jeff hates writing documentation and making sure the code is rigorous for others to use without bugs.
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Posted 02 September 2013 - 01:58 PM #23 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

View PostIshad Nha, on 02 September 2013 - 01:52 AM, said:

That gets pretty tough, for example trying to replicate the interesting Druidic spell structure in BoA should be a pain. Interface of the original game is classy and professional, unlike the BoA imitation.
You can create a huge variety of custom spells in BoA that have a nice interface, or at least a passable interface. I did this in Exodus. You can also import all the Nethergate graphics. I did this (partially) in Lord Putidus. BoN would serve no purpose, because we can do Nethergate in BoA.

BoG would be kind of fun, but I'd rather that Jeff do what he's good at, which is non-Blades games.
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Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 04:33 PM #24 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

"...I don't see him ever investing the time to fix up the programs he use to a level that others can use.  Jeff hates writing documentation and making sure the code is rigorous for others to use without bugs."
His programs would seem to be pretty good, his games are bug-free.
We can do any work here for him.

"You can create a huge variety of custom spells in BoA that have a nice interface, or at least a passable interface."
Druidic spell structure is based upon five Druid spell Circles, not the Tolkienesque dichotomy of Priest and Mage. As this involves skill points it gets tough to put it into BoA.

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 05:17 PM #25 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

View PostIshad Nha, on 02 September 2013 - 04:33 PM, said:

"You can create a huge variety of custom spells in BoA that have a nice interface, or at least a passable interface."
Druidic spell structure is based upon five Druid spell Circles, not the Tolkienesque dichotomy of Priest and Mage. As this involves skill points it gets tough to put it into BoA.

SDFs could be used for spell levels. Pretty easily I imagine.

The fact is, though, that this isn't going to happen. If you think that it might, feel free to send JV an email and find out his opinion on all this - you certainly don't seem satisfied with what everybody else has suggested.

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 05:29 PM #26 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

View PostIshad Nha, on 02 September 2013 - 04:33 PM, said:

his games are bug-free.

what

I beg to differ.

Edited by S▒y░░e▒, 02 September 2013 - 05:29 PM.
seriously dude, AAA studios can't make bug-free games how is some dude in a basement going to


Ishad Nha Ishad Nha

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 07:03 PM #27 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

Playable, free of major scripting errors, relatively bug-free?

Vox Vox

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 07:24 PM #28 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

View PostS▒y░░e▒, on 02 September 2013 - 05:29 PM, said:


There aren't many bugs there that are actually worth mentioning. I have never experienced a fatal or dramatic bug in BoA that has changed my gaming experience. Sometimes you find the odd bug, usually for obscure things. But you can usually find a way around it or simply try to read up on it. Chances are you've misinterpreted how the script may work (As I have done many times).

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Posted 03 September 2013 - 02:52 PM #29 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

If Jeff said he was ok with someone making an unsupported editor, that would be sort-of doable (obviously would help if he also gave out at least the scenario format!), but I don't think there would be enough interest in making stuff anyway, and it's not like he has anything to gain by doing it.

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Posted 03 September 2013 - 04:43 PM #30 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

It would be an alternative for anyone who was interested, everyone would know that it was possible if they wanted to devote the effort to it.
The effort would not be as great as all that. Blades of Nethergate is mostly possible now. Blades of Geneforge would take a bit longer, needing a new editor.

I am looking at what is where, I have clear plans to proceed if Jeff neither helps nor forbids the idea.
Edit:
Jeff has just sent me an email that made it clear he does not want to get involved. I have written back asking if he will permit us to do anything privately.
Only other option: we could all send an email to Jeff indicating our support.

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Posted 04 September 2013 - 05:07 AM #31 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

View PostIshad Nha, on 03 September 2013 - 04:43 PM, said:

Jeff has just sent me an email that made it clear he does not want to get involved.

If Jeff is neither friendly nor hostile towards the creation of such an editor, and if he doesn't provide the scenario format, can the GF5ScenData.dat file structure be understood by just analyzing it ?

(I hope this doesn't sound rebellious to Spiderweb loyalists; of course nothing can be done if Jeff is totally against the idea, but I would like to know how far we can reach if Jeff is unhelpfully neutral)
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Posted 04 September 2013 - 07:34 AM #32 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

I believe it could be decrypted, trial and error would yield some clues.
I was able to decrypt the A1, A2 and A3 town records for the template scenarios involved.

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Posted 04 September 2013 - 09:16 AM #33 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

If Jeff is actually ok with the creation of an editor and gives the scenario format (i.e. the relevant header files/whatever from the game) I'd be interested.

I thought there was a licence agreement thing saying that you wouldn't reverse engineer etc. (definitely one for BoA) but I can't seem to find it in the GF5 files. If there isn't anything forbidding that, I might (hypothetically) say that I'd messed around a tiny bit with the scendat shortly after GF5 came out, but didn't do much and no longer have what I did.

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Posted 04 September 2013 - 05:17 PM #34 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

We won't be making any money from it ourselves. If the idea takes off he might come on board...

I have worked out the structure of the GF5ScenData.dat file. Interestingly enough it has provision for a scenario name. This will be handy.

Special Item names, Special Item descriptions, Quest names, Quest descriptions and Item Descriptions are hard-coded, written into the G5 program itself. But they can be customized with a program that alters the text of the G5 program. A backup will be made. It can be GUI not Command Prompt. One of its options would be to restore the original game by reversing any alterations to the G5 program. So "G5Shell.exe" would carry a list of the text in the original game. It would be valid for any version of a G5 program.

Functions
(1) Restore original G5 text. The text will be stored in a data file someplace.
(2) Check version, if not the same as before it will then look for the start of the listings of Special Item names, Special Item descriptions, Quest names, Quest descriptions and Item Descriptions. This information it can store in an ini file.
It can look for the listings of default G5 objects or it can consult a scenario's data file.
(3) Alter text in Geneforge 5.exe
(4) Save the alterations to a data file. Thus it is easy to switch between scenarios by use of data files.
(5) Create a backup of Geneforge5.exe.
(6) Show which scenario is currently installed.

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 08:04 AM #35 Blades of Geneforge - How it could be done

View PostIshad Nha, on 04 September 2013 - 05:17 PM, said:

I have worked out the structure of the GF5ScenData.dat file. Interestingly enough it has provision for a scenario name. This will be handy.

How did you do that, by just seeing the files ? I got as far as downloading a hex-editor and opening the .dat file. Though I knew it was a binary, I was expecting to make more sense out of it than I actually did.
Everything is changeable, anything can be done. The universe exists to be understood.





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Blades of Geneforge, Geneforge, Nethergate, Blades of Nethergate

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