• Modding ten years after - Empire: Total War

    Modding ten years after – The Empire: Total War modding scene today
    by Quintus Hortensius Hortalus

    Last Sunday Empire: Total War had its tenth birthday. This is a good time to look at the Modding scene which is still active today.

    When you think of modding and Empire: Total War you might think about DarthMod, the Additional Units Mod, American Civil War – The Blue and the Grey, the Ornamentum unit pack which was incorporated into many mods made by a team around danova or Imperial Splendour to mention some of the maybe best known mods. But this was long ago from around 2009 to 2012. What state is Empire modding in today?

    While looking at the TWC-index Medieval II: Total War has the most viewers followed by Rome II. Then on the third place are either Rome I or Empire, both leaving newer games like Thrones of Britannia or Attila behind them. This is quite interesting when considering that Empire isn’t moddable to the extent of the other games. People are still being interested in Empire. The result is the same when looking on ModDB. DarthMod is usually under the Top 50 mods followed by Imperial Splendour on place 100 – 200.

    But what does this mean for the modding scene?

    DarthMod received its last update in 2013 and other great mods like American Civil War – The Blue and the Grey or A Proper Empire: Terra Incognita haven't been developed anymore.

    But when looking back on the last year, the Empire modding scene is still active. The biggest surprise was the return of hip63 at the end of last year and that he revitalised The American Revolution Mod joined by Geronimo2006. Also other mods like Empire Realism by JaM, Colonialism 1600 AD by Geronimo2006 or Imperial Destroyer by Lordsith were updated during the last year. The War of 1812 by rohan97 had received an update at the end of February and the last update from an Empire mod was the anniversary beta by the Imperial Splendour team (PikeStance, oleg2242, Cro_Hunger999, myfate and me) for their late campaign "Rise of the Republic". Ottoman Total Overhaul by Goutlard sadly received an update only on ModDB.

    And these are just the bigger mods hosted here on TWC. Several ‘minor’ mods were published or receive an update too. The most popular of them is the Additional Units Mod made by Swiss Halberdier.

    Also Bran’s Empire Campaign AI by Bran Mac Born as well as his DarthMod submod. Alwyn, author of several mini-mods, released his Simple Navy Mod. Another unit mod is Vanilla Units Enhanced for all European Nations! by Bavarian Grenadier. In addition PikeStance released Imperial Splendour submod adding more Battle Smoke and oleg2242 released his submod Corps de Conde for Russian service (unit pack).

    Some new modders appeared on TWC and released their work: Durango released his Interface Visual Enhancement Mod and Frank Garrett released his tweak Unlimited Elite units Mod. Submods were released too by new modders, ATTAREQ released his Imperial Destroyer submod Star Destroyer and myfate started modding with his Imperial Splendour submod for improved Naval Battles and Lancers.

    The newest member of the Empire modding scene is MAIAN who released just a few days ago 3 submods for Imperial Splendour, a more blood submod, a fog removal submod and a realistic battle submod. Finally 3 mods on ModDB received updates: Regiments of American Revolutionary War 1775 -1783, Jacobite rebellion and the Spanish mod ALEXTHESPANIARD MOD.

    So modding Empire isn’t dead yet. Of course activity ceased over the times when new games were released, modders grew older, got full-time jobs or even founded their own gaming studio like DarthVader who was joined by husserlTW. But the previous paragraphs have shown that many mods are still being updated. New mods, on the other hand, are rare and are mostly submods. The same accounts for modders. Most modders are veterans of TWC modding and continuously worked on their mods for years.

    So what keeps modders working on Empire or joining the modding scene?

    To answer this question rohan97 states that:
    With the Empire engine you can do as much as you like because it covers a period which you can change to whatever you want and due to the campaign map already having much of the world it is really a great game for changing to other time periods.
    At first Empire’s special features contributed to its long mod support. What makes Empire modding unique is the world map divided into the 3 theatres, Europe, India and North-America. No other Total War game had such a map and this was often seen as a major disadvantage of Napoleon: Total War. But another advantage of the world map is that scenarios outside Europe could be created, as recently in The War of 1812 mod. This and being – apart from Napoleon – the only game focusing on a musket warfare scenario might have contributed to its longevity. Especially when looking at other history games such as Europa Universalis, which certainly lacks in the warfare aspect as it only allows more or less auto-result battles and therefore offers no player directed battles. Another example is Napoleonic Wars from Mount and Blade which offers only small scale battles and no campaigns. At last Empire was the first game to offer naval battles in the Total War series. Age of Sail battles have been fascinating people around the world since Hornblower and the Aubrey-Maturin series.

    This is also stated by Lordsith:
    I like the time of the period of the game, and it's large strategic map with almost the whole world. Battles with muskets and cannons are much more fun than in melee periods, especially naval battles, IMHO. So that is my main reasons why I still working on Empire total war.
    I joined the [Imperial Splendour] team because at first I really wanted to help them finish the mod earlier and experience the realistic atmosphere the mod provided, but over time it became more of an obsession in trying to achieve accuracy regarding all aspects in the given time period.
    While I owned earlier games prior to owning Empire, I was playing Empire when I first visited TWC. I actually loved the Napoleonic period. I love how each branch of service (Foot, Cavalry and Artillery) complimented itself. The reason why I bought Empire over Napoleon was that it was more grand strategy oriented. To be honest I love the whole premodern period. When I came to site I wanted to talk strategy but instead discuss historical inaccuracies.
    or JaM:
    It covers one of the most interesting periods of history with plenty of options and different types of warfare. It was the first Total War with naval combat, which even today you won‘t see covered in many games. At the same time, it was the first Total War game I started modding on my own. So a combination of those factors makes me return to the game again and again.
    What is also striking is that several mods are focusing on a rather short time-frame such as The American Revolution Mod, The War of 1812 or Rise of the Republic – the late campaign from Imperial Splendour. This shows one of the strengths of Empire. The game itself is easier to handle on such a short time-frame when focussing on historical accuracy. It begins with the unit uniforms. As Empire has no uniform transition system you can’t see the uniforms evolve through the 18th century following several styles in fashion. With a short time-frame you only need to create one uniform which makes the development much easier. The same accounts on the historical characters system used by Rise of the Republic, explained here (I hope you allow me to quote myself).

    In addition a maybe larger interest in the Revolutionary Wars on the side of modders and players may contribute to this fact too.

    But surprisingly it seems like all the shortcomings of Empire were are contributing factors to people who saw the potential of the game and wanted to fulfil that through modding. Many things were half-completed at the release and I think historical accuracy wasn’t taken in high regard during development.

    But read the statements from myfate:
    The most important reason for starting modding is I'm just not satisfied with the game and I 'd like to make it satisfying. And somehow I enjoyed the modding more than playing the game, it's like making the story in my mind real, I think it's far more interesting than just playing games.
    I started modding out of necessity, I like the 18th century but even more the formations that were used at that moment, for this reason I try to modify what I consider to be "historical errors not important".
    Bran Mac Born:
    Empire was a total mess-the campaign AI did nothing-it was passive-diplomacy did not work-the battle AI was wonky. I enjoy the time period of the game and wanted to play the game but could not, so I tried some of the mods and found them wanting. Darthmod seemed ok but needed some fixes and so I started with that and after play testing I decided to go full out and re do most of Darthmod it. Then I applied those changed to the vanilla game also. Once I completed it Empire was now in a playable state for me to enjoy.
    Well I suppose I was drawn to modding around 2009-10 partly because I felt the smaller factions needed a more diverse unit roster and more historical uniforms. Around that time I was researching Portuguese uniforms, and discovered that during the War of the Spanish Succession they were mostly white coated, whereas in default Empire Total War it was more a blue-grey colour. So I began by simply changing the colour to white, by replacing the textures. I then bought some books about Portuguese military history, including Manuel Ribeiro Rodrigues' book about 300 years of Portuguese military uniforms (around the time of the Icelandic volcano [Eyjafjallajökull], which delayed the arrival of the book from Portugal). With the help of Google Translate and the pictures in the book I created the Portuguese Unit Pack mod, which was later incorporated into the American Revolution mod.
    I was told by several to mod it. At 40+ that was intimidating. With Encouragement, I began to mod. I continue to mod because I work with a great mod and a committed team of great modders working hard to bring the best game imageable for Empire. I am speaking of Imperial Splendour. When version 3 is completed, it will be like nothing seen before. Any player that loves the time period would find a new love for a great game and a great time period in history. I want to ensure the dream is realized.
    or Alwyn:
    I found that I enjoyed experimenting with changes, discovering unused or underused features (such as the cancelled Fourth Rate Frigate), using those features and seeing the effects in the game (especially when I can base this on historical research - in the case of the Fourth Rate Frigate, with your [the authors] help on the historical research).
    Wanting to change features to make the game more challenging (for example, removing gabionades, which restrict cannon to a narrow firing arc, enabling the player to neutralise the enemy's artillery by outflanking the enemy army) or to remove features which I see as less historical.
    All of them saying that their motivating factor to start modding, and even until today as in the case of myfate or MAIAN, was the shortcomings of Empire. The most important aspect regarding those shortcomings is to increase historical accuracy.

    This still doesn’t answer the question of why keep modding? For me it’s a part of my personality – I just can’t stand leaving things unfinished and Imperial Splendour is far from being finished. In addition I have a special interest in that time period since I started to read the Aubrey-Maturin series and developed a fascination for the Electorate of Hannover, its society, political structure and law. Despite having played other games featuring that time period I think Empire offers the best groundwork for a great game featuring that period. The possibility to create faction specific technologies allows individual developments for each faction, as well as the startpos and historical character mechanics allow to add many historical characters. So Empire offers really in-depth alterations of each faction in order to make them individual.

    JaM and Lordsith already stated similar motivations. Another contributing factor can be the community here at TWC. Players can point modders to bugs or inconsistencies in the game or their mods itself. This, in turn, can arouse the ambition of modders to repair them.

    Let me again cite Bran Mac Born:
    I keep modding Empire because I get a lot of requests for special mods and tweaks from players all the time-happy to help them out.
    Following this aspect, another aspect of keeping modding is that you learn step by step more about modelling, creating textures, the game, simply history or improve your English when not being a native English speaker (as well as other languages as you have to understand sometimes sources not written in English, for Geronimo2006 it was Portuguese).

    The [historical] research helped me understand the past better and with that the present, it gave me an insight how trade treaties functioned, what the main trading centres were, and, most of all, it helped me understand the ideas of the 18th century enlightenment and how it was expressed in reforms in the fields of bureaucracy, economy and society, modding is not just for playing mods, it expands your capacity and enriches your knowledge as well as giving you a basic level of understanding foreign languages.
    In addition if you look at several statements you saw that many of us started modding with Empire. There is a sentimental reason to keep modding Empire too.

    So we see a dedicated, but of course smaller, modding scene still improving Empire and bringing it to a new level or even trying to do something new. Modders are attracted by the world map or time period and even by the flaws of Empire to improve them. Also modders keep modding because of the love for the time period covered in Empire, to ‘get the job done’ or to educate themselves and improve abilities.

    At the end I can just say, reinstall Empire and have a look, you might have a very different experience as 10 years ago.

    But I’ll leave the last words to -Durango-
    Empire, to me, was 1000 small steps from greatness at release. Bugs, imbalances, lack of naval invasions, fort lag - we know by now what gave ETW a lacklustre reputation in the eyes of many players. But so many of those issues turned out to be very much fixable by the community's talented modders. Piece by piece, we create, test and polish our additions to bring this game closer to the potential it set out to reach. Whether using large or small mods (I focus on niche aspects myself) the game is now rightfully fantastic! It really reminds us not to judge a book by its cover, and instead look at what improvements are possible. That, and the fact that the time period and scale of Empire is worthy of modding effort simply on the grounds of no other game delivering anything close to the same experience. I'm not the only one out there hoping and praying for a phenomenal sequel in the years to come.
    PS: To anyone who is out there and wants to start modding, go to the workshop where you find help editing what you want. To those who started to add tweaks to his or her personal Empire or mod version: Release it! Nothing is better as sharing your work with the community and receive feedback on it and help to improve your work. We don’t bite and are happy about every new modder
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      It's good to see coverage of new Empire modders as well as new releases of established mods. I enjoyed reading the thinking of different modders. Great article!
    1. makanyane's Avatar
      makanyane -
      Really interesting to get the background about why the modders have chosen to work on it! Thanks for the article.
    1. Quintus Hortensius Hortalus's Avatar
      Quintus Hortensius Hortalus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alwyn View Post
      It's good to see coverage of new Empire modders as well as new releases of established mods. I enjoyed reading the thinking of different modders. Great article!
      Quote Originally Posted by makanyane View Post
      Really interesting to get the background about why the modders have chosen to work on it! Thanks for the article.
      Thank you both for the feedback and praise
    1. Lusitanio's Avatar
      Lusitanio -
      Great article! Nice to know that the modding community in ETW is still very active
    1. Swaeft's Avatar
      Swaeft -
      Great article Quintus! My compliments
    1. rohan97's Avatar
      rohan97 -
      i really enjoy reading this article good work.
    1. -Durango-'s Avatar
      -Durango- -
      Amazing retrospective! Well written and thorough in listing developments during the last few years. Anyone who wants to start playing ETW is now going to get linked here by me every time.

      If there is one image that visually sums up why I love this game, it's this one:
    1. bs98909's Avatar
      bs98909 -
      Is the photo from the movie "Last of the Mohicans" where the British surrender the fort to French and not the game? I would have loved for TW to have had this kind of imagery in the game. This would have been a lovely and realistic for a tactical retreat after surrendering a city, etc...
    1. Quintus Hortensius Hortalus's Avatar
      Quintus Hortensius Hortalus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lusitanio View Post
      Great article! Nice to know that the modding community in ETW is still very active
      Thanks, and yes, it's definitely worth to have a look at the ETW section here once in a while

      Quote Originally Posted by rohan97 View Post
      i really enjoy reading this article good work.
      Quote Originally Posted by Swaeft View Post
      Great article Quintus! My compliments
      Again thanks for the nice words. Much appreciated

      Quote Originally Posted by -Durango- View Post
      Amazing retrospective! Well written and thorough in listing developments during the last few years. Anyone who wants to start playing ETW is now going to get linked here by me every time.
      Thanks, and yes, this picture sums up a part of the 18th-century culture and society very good

      Quote Originally Posted by bs98909 View Post
      I would have loved for TW to have had this kind of imagery in the game. This would have been a lovely and realistic for a tactical retreat after surrendering a city, etc...
      THere some mods out there creating new event pics. And btw. original paintings are always the best
    1. SagezTW's Avatar
      SagezTW -
      Very good article. Thanks to all modders who make Empire as good as it should be.
    1. Arthum's Avatar
      Arthum -
      Thank you, I just fell into love with Empire and NTW all over again, so all you work and effort is well appreciated !

      I'd also like to add this mod for your consideration, which is both rather recent,keeps getting updated and looks very promising in it's evolution (I'm in no way affiliated with it):
      Regiments of the American Revolution

    1. NorseThing's Avatar
      NorseThing -
      A great article with a good selection of mods to take a look at. Now that I have Steam, maybe I should take a closer look at Empire. Heck I am only 10 years late lining up to the start gate. It would not be the same as a 'no show'.

      Of course I have not yet worn out my welcome with M2TW....
    1. Swiss Halberdier's Avatar
      Swiss Halberdier -
      Thanks a lot for your interesting and very well written article!
    1. Bran Mac Born's Avatar
      Bran Mac Born -
      A informative article well written
    1. Quintus Hortensius Hortalus's Avatar
      Quintus Hortensius Hortalus -
      Thank you very much! Btw. I mentioned the Regiments of the American Revolution And at NorseThing, it's now a cheap game and with an interest, for that period it's worth a try!