1. What are the major differences between the RA3 Mod SDK and the C&C 3 Mod SDK?
In general, the Red Alert 3 Mod SDK is very similar to the C&C 3 Mod SDK. It still uses the same XML pipeline, and still requires mods to be compiled to run. The two biggest changes in this version are the new build GUI to greatly simplify the process of compiling mods, and the inclusion of pretty much all of the required applications. Users will no longer have to download ANTLR or MVP, we've included them in the Mod SDK installer. Another advantage in the RA3 Mod SDK is that we've included our session caching code in the compilation tools, which should speed up repeated compilation of the same mod. It will help modders iterate much more quickly on their mod.
2. How will the new RA3 Mod SDK GUI help modders in their productions?
The new Mod SDK GUI greatly simplifies the process of compiling a mod. There's no longer any need to use command prompt, run batch files, or anything like that. It's a much easier to use GUI. You just check a few boxes, select your mod from a dropdown, hit a button, and it compiles. It also has an error view, which is similar to something that you'd see in Visual Studio, or other development tools. For advanced users, it also retains most of the flexibility of the batch files. One of the great things about the C&C 3 SDK was people providing customized batch files for building mods. This tool supports customizing the UI and the way that the mod is built through C# code. I can’t wait to see what sorts of features people add into the build UI to improve it.
3. The RA3 Mod SDK requires the user to download a unique 600MB Mod SDK version of Worldbuilder. This version of Worldbuilder allows users to create maps with their mod assets which they otherwise could not with the standard version of Worldbuilder. Why did we include a significantly larger version of Worldbuilder to accomplish this?
The Mod SDK version of Worldbuilder is significantly larger to accommodate compatibility with the Mod SDK as well as the game data. Due to a technical limitation of Worldbuilder, it is not capable of directly loading the patch data used by the game. While this normally doesn’t have an impact on Worldbuilder functionality, for the Mod SDK it does. The Mod SDK compiles data in a form that is compatible with the patch 1.09/1.10 version of the game. Unfortunately, this is not directly compatible with Worldbuilder which was built for version 1.0 of the game. So, to get it to work correctly, we had to provide the data directly for patch 1.09. This required providing several of the full streams, which is a lot of data. However, this makes it possible to use Worldbuilder with the Mod SDK, so you can pre-place assets from your mod onto a map, and have them show up in-game.
4. Is it possible to mod Uprising units in to Red Alert 3? You included the Harbinger in the sample mod, but does that mean modders can get all the Uprising units. If not, what would it take for a modder to create an Uprising multiplayer mod?
It certainly is possible to mod Uprising units in to Red Alert 3. The Mod SDK makes it quite easy to add new units, and really adding an Uprising unit is just adding a new unit. Unfortunately, the assets are not easily extractable from Uprising. I had the advantage of having access to all of the uncompiled source assets for Uprising, to use to bring in to Red Alert 3. So, an enterprising modder would either need to find some way to extract the assets from Uprising, or recreate them in 3DSMax, export them, and put them in the game. There are of course features present in Uprising which aren't available in Red Alert 3, but some units would work just fine, such as the Archer Maiden, or the Mortar Cycle without the Uprising code. In the near future we will look to release art asset packs of specific Uprising units to better facilitate this modding process.
5. For someone who is just starting to mod and they want to use the RA3 Mod SDK, what are some of your best tips for getting started? What if I just want to make a simple balance mod?
My biggest tip is to start simple, and do things one at a time. Lay out a plan for what you want to modify, then start implementing the changes one at a time. It's a lot easier to figure out why your mod isn't compiling if you're only making a few changes at a time, rather than throwing in 20 things between builds. Also, make sure to check out the documentation (there’s a tab for it in the build GUI), and look at the Samplemod for reference.
For a balance mod, it's relatively straightforward. Start by locating the XML file for what you want to modify in the SageXML folder in the Mod SDK, copy the file, paste it into your mod data directory, add it to your mod.xml, then open the file up and start editing. The files in the SageXML folder are read only, and it is a good idea to not change that. They’re for reference, you should always work on a copy of them. Also, the XSD files in Schemas\XSD are your friend. They define what the allowable data is for the game
6. In general, how powerful is the Red Alert 3 Mod SDK?
The Red Alert 3 Mod SDK should be just as powerful as the C&C 3 Mod SDK. We're giving users many of the same tools that we use when we're developing the game. Tools like BinaryAssetBuilder are the exact same thing we use when making the game. So, compilation time is something that we deal with all the time when making the game as well. However, I think the overall gains when you’re loading the game are worth it. The biggest advantage of the RA3 Mod SDK is the increase in user friendliness provided by the new Mod SDK GUI.
7. What type of mod are you looking forward to seeing first for Red Alert 3?
Actually, I think what I'm looking forward to most is seeing what people do with the Mod SDK GUI to add features that I didn't think of. I'm also looking forward to seeing the plethora of balance mods that will hopefully show up very quickly. This way people can actually try out their balance suggestions, and see if they actually do improve the game. I also can't wait to see what sorts of total conversion mods show up, they might take a long time, but they usually turn out to be worth the wait.
The Red Alert 3 Mod SDK is available at CommandandConquer.com RIGHT NOW!!!!