Sins of a Solar Empire is often described as a 4XRTS game, or a game that tried to merge the action and tactics packed gameplay of a Real time strategy game with the deep, complex, empire wide strategy of a 4X turn based game. It's up to debate whether Sins succeeded in this goal, but I think all can agree that of the 4Xs of "explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate", Sins is much more focused on the exterminate than on the others. This mod seeks to give more depth to the other 3Xs of the game by adding additional game elements or refining the existing ones to reward players who give more strategic thought to the non-combat side of the game. Combat will still be the center point of the game, but players will find that the non-combat options available will be much more rewarding. Spying, exploring, sabotage, diplomacy, culture, and economic development have all been added or changed in innovative new ways. Regardless of what you think Sins is, this is the 4XRTS it should have been.

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GoaFan77 recently built himself a new PC. He takes the opportunity to go off topic and talk about just what kind of hardware Interregnum was built with and to a lesser extend what sort of modding tools we use.

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Greetings all,

While we are nearing completion of a new 3.1 graphical update patch for Interregnum, you may have noticed the mod hasn't been getting that many official updates recently (the community of course has more than made up for it with their screenshots). Well there is a good reason for that. Two weeks or so ago, I was busy building my first PC! (And then spending a week or more getting everything I used to have installed on the new rig.) So I thought I'd use the occasion to briefly go off topic and highlight just what sort of hardware E4X and Interregnum were made on, what I'll be using now, and what types of programs we use to bring these mods to life.

But before we get to the new rig, here's what I was working with until this point. My trusty (and still functioning) 5+ year old laptop! It was a low tier gaming laptop back in the day, and ideal for college since having a roommate means sometimes your dorm is not a good place for gaming and/or modding. But with only 4 GB of RAM and a 2.33 Ghz dual core I-5 processor, well I'm certain the vast majority if you were getting better performance on the mod than I was. The 1366x766 or so maximum resolution was also annoying for making the HUDs for larger monitors, since I could not say test them on the more common 1920x1080. I was even running out of space on the 580GB harddrive, and its battery life is now 30 minutes at most.

Despite that, basically everything done on Enhanced 4X and Interregnum up to Alpha 3 was done on this laptop. May your last years be good to you old friend, enjoy your modding retirement!


Well, out with the old, in with the new. With only some minor damage to my sanity, I built the new rig and it is performing great.

With four 4.0 Ghz CPU cores, 16 GB of RAM, a 2 TB harddrive and an SSD, my new desktop is 2-4x better than the laptop in every way. But truly the biggest improvement is having dual monitors on my workstation back home. Sins is one of the few games were mod changes can be loaded into the game while its running. Having a second monitor allows me to be working on Sins on one screen while keep text/image/3D model editors open at the same time. Before I would lose several seconds by having to alt+tab to these programs. On heavy modding days, that could happen a few hundred times easily. Now I can see a model in game while having its texture open at the same time.

This is of course very good news for anyone following my projects, since this productivity improvement should hopefully go a long ways to combating the dreaded effect of not having as much time to mod anymore. :-p Curse ye real life...

And since I'm already off topic, did you know that 99% of the work done on Interregnum has been done on open source or otherwise free programs? Granted, many of the ship models were done by other people who likely used programs like 3DS Max heavily. However, I myself stick to using these free tools for the most part.

  • Eclipse IDE - If you don't know what an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is, think of it as a text editor on steroids with extra support for managing large software project. Basically all the coding for the mod happens in here. Ideal for Sins thanks to ZombiesRus' special plugin for it, which allows it to catch many mistakes as you make them!
  • Git - Version control software that documents the project and makes sure we can always go back to earlier versions of files in case we really [insert preferred profanity here] something up.
  • Paint.NET - In an industry dominated by photoshop, you might be surprised to learn all the UI work for the mod any many graphical things was done entirely in Paint.NET. This free program gives you a lot of image editing power while being fairly light weight, so I find it ideal for general graphics work.
  • GIMP - For image editing tasks that require something more advanced, like ship bump maps, I use the also free GIMP program. It is also the preferred editor of ERock72, our new graphics leader, and you'll seeing a ton of his craftmanship in 3.1.
  • Softimage XSI Modding tool - While softimage XSI is now officially dead, it is none the less still one of the better 3D modeling tools available to modders for free. More importantly for us, all Sins models need to be sent through XSI before we can get them in game, so for Sins mod makers you really have no choice but to use this program at least a little bit
  • Audacity - Open source sound editor to handle the occasional audio edits we have to do, including Interregnum's opening theme mash up.


So if there's a point to this post, I suppose it is that while having nice expensive mod making tools is a good thing, you can make a very well done mod with fairly modest equipment. As long as you don't factor in all the time you waste doing it... because if time really is money, and you like money, stay well away from this hobby! :p

-GoaFan77

Comments
Admiral-Ash
Admiral-Ash

I think my old laptop, that is just barely working right now, is only slightly better than yours. My old one had 6GB of RAM, but only had a 400GB harddrive. My currently one is better, but not by much, 8GB RAM, 1TB harddrive, but I'm not sure about the graphics. I hope one day I can have one with a 20-32GB RAM and awesome graphics. By then they'll have computers with 200TB Harddrives. I still remember having one with a 5GB harddrive!

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Coldonne
Coldonne

Yay new tech! I still want to build myself a computer, probably going to have to if I'm in the Graphic Design field.

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GoaFan77 Author
GoaFan77

You technically don't have to, but it is far cheaper to build high end PCs yourself than to buy them premade, since there aren't that many. I didn't see any PCs on Dell for example that had similar specs to mine.

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mangomango999
mangomango999

Definitely ask for help, on this forum or others, when picking your parts. There is even a site: Pcpartpicker.com Everyone loves to give advice. (Me to of course.) We are a community of givers.

There are also many popular youtube guys who spec out builds based on different pocket books like low, medium, high and super crazy money builds.

And then do build it yourself. You will have trepidation, you will have a few "damn why am I doing this moments" but they will pass and you will do a great job. But be prepared because after you build one you will want to build more. And of course everybody who knows you will consider you a PC God and ask you to build one for them. It's true.

You save so much money and learn so much the first time. Good luck with it. :)

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ElfFriend
ElfFriend

As a tech enthusiast I find the way the specs are listed

With four 4.0 Ghz CPU cores, 16 GB of RAM, a 2 TB harddrive and an SSD

incredibly cringe worthy. They aren't very informative about your current hardware. I mean it would be nice if you posted the full spec list which basically includes the CPU manufacture/name, RAM speed/manufacture/timings/etc, SSD manufacture/name/space, HDD manufacture/speed (but usually people don't care about HDD's unless they are exceptional) As well as the PSU, motherboard, and GPU? Otherwise it seems as though you are using onboard graphics (which I don't think is possible with dual displays) and your pc components can somehow communicate and are powered through magic? I guess it would also be nice to know what case and more importantly what monitors you are using. Specifically the monitors since if you're a content creator it would probably be better if you have monitors that are as colour accurate as possible.

Anyways, with that said, I'm glad you finally built and set up a desktop! It's rather easy as long as you factor out the part picking which can admittedly be a rather lengthy process if you want to get the best value.

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GoaFan77 Author
GoaFan77

That was intentional. I didn't want this topic to become a debate on specs, who has a better computer than who, I am an idiot for getting the parts I bought etc. :p I just wanted to put enough to show that it was a major upgrade, while leaving the precise details vague.

Yes I do have a graphics card, it is very new model and has 4 times as much VRAM as my old one. :p Though I don't think Sins really cares that much. I invested my extra spending money on the CPU over the graphics card since for Sins and RTS games in general, that gets more use.

Yeah, I was messing around on pcpartpicker for several months before I decided to commit and just buy the things. :p I don't know if I'd say it was easy though, the most I had done before with hardware was install a new graphics card. Even with full theoretical knowledge of how PCs work and their individual parts, assembling them is a skill in itself I think. Next time should be easy by comparison at least.

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ZombiesRus5
ZombiesRus5

Looks like a nice setup. Can't go wrong with a custom built desktop. I'm still kicking on the one I built in 2009 pretty much so I could play Sins online without lagging all to hell.

It's what I've done all my modding on too ;) Dual monitors are the biggest requirement for me now, though I'm thinking a third monitor will be added when I finally build a new desktop with a higher end graphics card.

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GoaFan77 Author
GoaFan77

I will probably be getting a third monitor at work sometime in the coming months. I didn't want to request the third one until I got my second monitor at home. Otherwise it would have been way to depressing to get back from work and go from three screens to my little laptop screen. :p

Don't know if I'll ever need a third one at home though. I have a pretty big desk and its already struggling to hold the two of them. Yeah I'd angle them with three, but not sure if its worth the desk space.

I guess I could go with four if I mounted them on the wall like a TV. I think my rig has enough display outputs for that too. :p

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coloneltrukkcrasha
coloneltrukkcrasha

Congratulations, looks awesome!:)

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TyrannaDan
TyrannaDan

Such a great feeling having a pc you built yourself, and its addicting!

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Loco15
Loco15

Heh, my pc has a dual core 2.70 Ghz, 2GB of ram, uses onboard graphics and has 300 GB of HDD. And you know what? That's relatively "new" around here.

I swear, all you first world people are crazy. Or maybe my country is just too ******. Granted, if I sold my inner organs and buyed a pc piece to piece I could get something better, but not even halfway what most of you guys have.

Now I'm scared that I won't even be able to play E4X on small maps soon.

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GoaFan77 Author
GoaFan77

Well just because I'm upgrading my PC doesn't mean the mod is going to get more demanding. :-) For the most part its the game engine that determines that. It just means I can do development work faster.

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A100percentBEEF
A100percentBEEF

Goa uses one of my screenshots as his wallpaper.

I've officially done my duty to the Empire.

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