The "New Horizons" mod for the 2003 Pirates of the Caribbean game by Akella is a continuation of the famous Build mod series. Developed as Pirates of the Caribbean Build 14, "New Horizons" continues where Build 13 left off, adding more new content than ever before.
We figured it's time for you people out there to get a bit of insight into how we do things. As both the game and our modification stand out a bit from the crowd, we would like to tell you how we do the modding and why. Edit: We are working on a fix for Build 13 - see below
Posted by piranha on Feb 15th, 2009
Welcome to the first development update on our mod, "Pirates of the Caribbean: New Horizons".
PotC was released in 2003 as a third-person RPG. As a base for modding, the game had both its advantages and limitations.
The foremost disadvantage of the game was the title - the storyline had virtually nothing to do with the Disney-movies. It was also rather bugged and a patch was never released. Actually, Akella's ambitions on the graphics level have always been quite low. Although the game's graphics were fairly good upon release, by now they're dated compared to newer games. Of course Akella considers gameplay more important. So do we, I guess.
The greatest advantage of this game is how the engine handles the code. The game compiles the code before it loads. This makes it easy to modify the code without requiring any external programs. If you know a bit of coding, you'll quickly familiarize yourself with the game's language, a mix of C and Perl. Obviously as time passes, graphics cards are just getting better. We no longer have complaints from people, who can't run the game due to lowspec graphics cards :o)
First, we are not working towards the goal of being famous, acknowledged and awarded. We do this, because we really want to and we do it ourselves.This does not mean, we are a closed modding-community, only letting people in we know or only work as individials on our own mods. Quite the opposite. If you have an idea and you can mod - great, make it real! If you can´t mod, we¨ll help you out as much as we can, but you need to do the most part yourself. There is room for everybody, but we do have some common goals and those are 1st priority.
Second we have no boss, no deadlines. Nobody gets angry or disappointed, if you do not stand and deliver. As we are doing this in our sparetime, what is more important than real life?
This is probably the reason why this mod is over 5 years old, and most of the modders have been members for more than 2 years. To us, modding is a hobby, as much as it is a learning process.
The Game Engine
The game engine is called Stom 2.0 (1.0 was used for Seadogs, 2.5 was used for Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales). It handles a pre-defined, huge basic area of water.
The game engine divide this huge area into squares and load them as locations. Via "locators", islands are tied together into this basic area, resembling the Caribbean. And the islands are again divided into smaller locations, tied together via "locators" etc etc down to the smallest prop, that has its own "locators". With the help of a matematical system, the engine manages the location of the player at all times and what square to load, if the player is exiting one location and enters another.
As PotC was released back in 2003, there are of course certain limitations to the visual quality. What bothers us most, is the lack of dynamic lightning in the game. But as Akella will not release the sourcecode for the DLLs, nor help us port the shaders and dynamic lightning from Storm 2.5 to PotC, there is really nothing we can do about it.
However, we recently found out how to adjust the azimuth of the sun, and access the scripted part of the lightning via the console, saving files flagged ".col" - so its not all bad!
As we only got contact with Akella recently, we had no modsupport for 4 years, and had to make our own tool for editing the game (yeah it´s called TOOL). We could move things around, add stuff already in the game, place locators and add new textures. But we could not import anything because of the mixed results, mainly a reversed lightning bug on every shipmodel. Fortunately, this has recently changed. We can now import/export models forwards and backwards between all platforms, thanks to the help of Seaward.ru (the Russian modteam and gamedevoper behind the forthcoming City of Lost Ships-game).
Now i am mentioning models, please say goodbye to the fancy editors and scripted animations, you probably know from editing Half-Life, Quake and FarCry. If you want to mod PotC, you need to say hello to Maya 5.0! Everything is models in PotC - islands, locations, props (of course) and ships. Models are made of two parts, heads and bodies. But then again - learning Maya or 3DSMax wont hurt, if you really want to be a gamedesigner?
This is probably the simplest* thing to do after character/location cloning and putting new character/ship-models into the game, but it does indeed require some programming skills and logical thinking and willing to test and test again and fix and be frustrated and test again before finally making it work.
* = comes with experience
We´ve got a lot of people in at the moment, working on Build 14. The workflow is better than ever. A great opportunity to introduce you to the guys and who´s doing what.
Since the release of Build 13 in 2007, people noticed minor bugs, along with some texures and dialogs missing. Well, we´ve spend a lot of time correcting and testing some fixes, progress says ready soon.
Update 1, 2 and 3 are all included in "B13_Final.exe", the release will be update 4.
Hopefully, this would be the last update for Build 13 (/me cross fingers).