Command & Conquer 3 mod support - part 1

Mod support: a comparison between C&C3 and Supreme Commander

March 11th, 2007

In this article I will give a brief overview of the state of mod support of the upcoming C&C3 and the 1-month old Supreme Commander.

C&C3 Mod Support

Before the first C&C3 community summit back in December, news on mod support on C&C3 was still scarce. Life was good. We only heard a faint quote that the game was switching to XML files instead of the (ancient) INI files: finally! Then, in the C&C3 demo, we have observed that there are still several INI files left... and we are cannot find where the unit settings are. Actually, we do know they are probably in some manifest file, but it is some weird file format. It will take weeks to decipher it all. The alternative is waiting for a Mod SDK to be released by EA. The Generals Mod SDK was released just 3 years after the initial game release. The First Decade edition of Generals still has broken mod support 13 months after release. So if I read that EALA is moving towards a system of patching where C&C3 would receive LOTS of SMALL patches, fairly frequently... then I have to take that with a grain of salt.

Unfortunately, we have another great quote to make things worse:
Steppo wrote:
I had also asked them about the ability to mod Command & Conquer 3. I myself had been hoping for something a little more user-friendly than the traditional BIG replacement that we've been tormented with for several years on end, preferably something more like an in-game browser or mod-switch utility. Alas, there is no such plan for that in the future.
So, here we have a definitive answer on one of the top requests from the mod community: please give the users of a mod an easy way to select between different installed mods! But no, we have to cobble up our own tools which are not compatible with other tools and which break when a new game version is released...

Supreme Commander

I really only need one quote by Chris Taylor to sum it all up:
Q. On a scale of 1 to 10 how flexible is Supreme Commander going to be for modding? A 1 being able to change basic things like unit stats such as cost and health, and with a 10 being able to easily convert the entire game into something else.
CT - I would really hope that we are in the high end of that scale, at least an 8 but hopefully a 9. We know there is something we overlooked that was hardcoded in the game, but that doesn't mean we can't release an update to correct that. SupCom was not only architected to support modding, but we build something we call the mod manager right into it... and though there will be wrinkles to iron out, we are very excited about this approach.
There even is a special Mod Developer Support Forum. I have received more support from them in one week than I got from Westwood/EA in the past 7 years. Wow!

Closing remarks

If I were to rank C&C3 mod support right now, it would score 0 on the 1 to 10 scale. We cannot even change unit stats such as cost and health in the demo. I urge EA to reconsider their position on mod support. If they are not willing to put resources into support for mods, then I do not see why I should spend weeks on reverse-engingeering stupid file formats. I know others in the modding community will continue their work, but I will not if it has to be like this.

Update: One week after writing the above article, I visited the C&C3 launch event in Germany and got a chance to talk to Amer Ajami. An article on my visit to this event forms a natural extension of this article. Therefore, this article is part 1 and the other article can be seen as part 2.

Click here to go to part 2 of this article

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Koen van de Sande

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