• Modding Interview with Sara Temer

    Modding Interview with Sara Temer

    Interview by Vladyvid What got you into the total war series, and what is/are your favourite total war game/s?

    I feel that my answer here will be standard enough. I started playing Total War games when my cousin installed Medieval II on my PC, and from the concept of gameplay where you are ruler of your kingdom combined with large battles was amazing for me. In the same time I also played Battle for the Middle-Earth where the scale of battles was disappointing for me (okay, mods can fix it, but I didnít know about mods back then) and Total War games gave me what I wanted. My favourite Total War games are definitely Medieval II and Shogun 2.

    Can you tell us a bit about how you joined the TWC?

    The answer here isnít surprising - I was looking for mods in LotR setting. Precisely it was the Lord of the Rings: Total War for first Rome. I also heard about the Third Age, but I had Medieval II without Kingdoms expansion so I couldnít install it. And to this day, mods are reason to visit the forum, because I usually never join other conversations there.

    What got you into modding? How it started?

    Itís a bit funny, because I started browsing game files, because I wanted to use some UI elements in thumbnails for my videos from Total War games on my YouTube channel. Next I read more about it, mostly about modding of campaign map in Shogun 2, because the lack of mods changing campaign map hurts me in Total War on warscape engine (except Shogun 2, but even in Shogun 2 there's small amount of such mods). I did some tiny mods myself, next I did submod for Morning Sun mod with custom shroud (campaign fog of war, which in Shogun 2 is in form painted map), and then I started to work on LotR mod for Shogun 2.

    Modding requires a lot of dedication. What drives you forward? What aspect of modding do you enjoy the most?

    I just wanted a LotR mod for Shogun 2, because nobody has done it beforeÖ itís probably my main motivation. What aspect of modding do I enjoy the most? When everything works, haha. Well, generally I like to design things, I'm an artist (not a programmer, like many people think) so I enjoy working on the models, some 2D things etc. Itís worse when I have to do repeatable things like prepare 190 textures for ability buttons in UI or completing tables to make every faction have start diplomatic relations to each other Ė these things are annoying.

    Can you tell us about your mod, The Last Alliance - what is the most recent version of the mod and what can we find in it? What to expect in terms of factions or heroes?

    For people, who haven't heard about my mod Ė this project moves Shogun 2 to the end of the Second Age of Middle-Earth, so over 3000 years earlier than events from The Lord of the Rings.

    Current version of the mod is alpha v0.1.6, but even in this version there's quite a lot of new content. In opposite to other modders I decided it's not worth it to publish version of mod with only custom battles, and it's better to publish campaign in the first version which will be expanded. This led to the idea of creating a prologue campaign Akkalabeth, which in concept was only a placeholder before publishing grand campaign in Last Alliance War time. But this prologue began to transform into a second grand campaign, next to the one originally planned.

    So, in mods there's a quite big campaign map, two playable cultures: Numenoreans (divided into two party) and Haradrim Ė this maybe doesn't sound too impressively, but I split it that you can play different campaigns as one culture. If you play as the Kingdom of Numenor then a civil war awaits you (which is not too lore friendly, because we donít have any script, but I hope that in the future I will make it more lore friendly), but you can also start a campaign as a colony in Pelargir and try to build Gondor on wild lands. So Iím trying to diversify gameplay.

    There are also some heroes, that have their own armors and weapons (but temporarily it duplicates to random characters, but I hope to fix it) and bodyguards. There are characters from the books, like the Numenorean Queen Miriel, but also new, like the Haradrim shah Nizar.

    Besides this there were added new animations (mostly done by CherJair), new music (by Filip Olejka + in the next patch you will probably hear music by Stan Lockfield too), changed voices, new building tree, new technologies, new UI and many bigger or smaller changes.Things lacking for now are mainly scripts, custom events, random missions, etc.

    I imagine you must be a big Tolkien fan - can you tell us what got you into his work? What is so special about the Second Age that you are focusing your mod on it?

    Well, it started from when as a child I watched Jackson's movie trilogy and from the beginning I fell in love with this world. I love Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas and other characters. I love the Dunedain, elves and dwarves. When I learned to read I reached for the Lord of the Rings (it was the second book, after Harry Potter series, that I've read) which I loved even more than the movies.

    Why I chose the Second Age for my mod? Huh, before I started this project, I did many sketches of LotR themed mods. Fall of Arnor, Last Alliance War, time of power of Numenor. History of the Middle-Earth is long enough to put there many campaigns. Finally the Last Alliance War was chosen accidentally, because another modder started such project on Shogun (which got removed). Initially I wanted to help him, but we had different visions about this mod (he wanted something like Warhammer from CA, where heroes would not have bodyguards on battlefield - for me something like this wouldn't work well in the Total War battle system), so I left this project before it really started. But in the meantime I prepared a plan of campaign map in Second Age and I started working on it, so I thought that I can continue to work in this setting (even if later both, campaign map plan and pre-alpha campaign map were cut out and remade).

    You have a custom campaign map in your mod. Can you tell us something more about creating a custom campaign map in Shogun 2?

    The creation of a campaign map involves two separate sections. Technical section, so information for the game where are regions located, settlements, where armies can make an ambush etc. And visual section, so land relief, tree models, settlement models etc. Basic tool for edititng first section is Assembly Kit for Shogun 2 - you can find there RAW files of campaign map (which you can edit in 3DS Max), which next BOB convert to game files. So, in 3DS Max I set in what place new settlements will be, I add them to database of Shogun 2 and then convert all to add them to game.

    In case of visual section then partly its possible to edit this via Assembly Kit (you can use it to convert prepared by you heightmap to game format), but for many elements (e.g. to edit trees coordinate) its required to use fan tools, e.g. the ones created by taw. Therefore, creation of campaign map isn't too hard but it's time-consuming.

    How to edit campaign map I learned from tutorials by uanime, and to this day these tutorials are base if you want to edit campaign map. But I'm thinking about writing my own tutorials. By the way, because removing vanilla campaign map was very, very time-consuming, I published RAW files with almost empty campaign map (it's possible that I will update these files soon), which should be great base for people, who want to create fully new campaign map, not focusing on Japan.

    What are the future plans for The Last Alliance?

    First of all - add all factions and lands. In the upcoming update you will see elves from Lindon together with new part of campaign map in Eriador. Later it will be time for Mordor, dwarves, Lothlorien and Woodland Realm, Nothmen, Easterlings, etc. A lot of things to do. When all factions will be playable, it will be time to polish the mod. Add things on which I don't work at this moment, because it takes too much time without any visible progress (e.g. looking for a way to add custom walls to the game). I have also many ideas on scripts and some things in Shogun that need to be repaired from technical side - but I don't know anything about it, and I don't know which things are possible and which are not. So, I need help with these things.

    Is there anything else you are working on (as far as modding is concerned), other than The Last Alliance, that you could tell us about?

    There are some things which I would like to do for Rome II, but we will see. I also help a bit in the Rise of Mordor project for Attila, so some models that you can see in this mod are my work. For Shogun 2 last time I increased amount of playable factions in singleplayer campaign - to use it in Last Alliance, but I also published a version for the vanilla campaign. Probably I will publish also some other, smaller mods.

    Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of making their own mod?

    I don't know whether I'm a good person to give advice, when I'm this kind of a mad modder who as her first project, without any experience in modding, started to work on a Lord of the Rings mod for Shogun 2, haha. Well, for sure I can say that if you want to do such large scale mod, it would be good for you if you were stubborn. Ahh, and prepare some books to read, to chill out when something in the mod doesn't work.

    And remember that when youíre working on a large project, your mod does not have to be perfect and finished from the first release. You can publish an alpha of your mod, with basic campaign which shows your idea. I noticed that many people are distrustful of new mod projects because there were many mods with great ideas which were never released. So, give people playable teaser of your mod. In the first release of the LA there was only a small map with 28 regions and one culture Ė but this small campaign gave people imagination how mod may look like in full release. You could do something similar.

    If you want practical advice how to start modding, then primarily check tutorials. Here, on TWCenter is a lot of useful information from other modders. Some tutorials are also on Youtube and in other place. If you canít find how to do something then ask other modders. But here remember that if you will hear that something is "hardcoded" it does not necessarily mean that something is really hardcoded. In many cases it is just that nobody discovered how to mod something before. As example I can give playable factions in Shogun 2 Ė everyone though that itís hardcoded, but thanks for help from taw side (he on my request updated his ui_converter) I needed only some patience to learn how to change it (to be honest I'm surprised that nobody has done it before). And on end small advice, but very important Ė just have fun from modding.

    If you found this article interesting, you might like to read some of the Eagle Standard's previous articles. A full list of these can be found here.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Lusitanio's Avatar
      Lusitanio -
      Fantastic interview!

      Sara mod will be the reason why I will buy Shogun 2 next year, just to try this campaign and experience the wars on Middle Earth.
    1. alhoon's Avatar
      alhoon -
      Excellent. Sara is a very very talented modder of S2TW. Frankly, the work Sara has done for that game is superb and went well above my expectations.
      From my few short discussions with Sara in Patreon, she has a very good understanding of what S2TW has to offer and she has been giving out help, advice and tools in the S2TW modding forums because on top of talent she doesn't mind helping others.
      Sara is a humble person as you can see from this interview that severely understates her prowess in modding S2TW.
      I will focus on just one line of the interview: "I don't know whether I'm a good person to give advice, when I'm this kind of a mad modder who as her first project, without any experience in modding, started to work on a Lord of the Rings mod for Shogun 2, haha. "
      Well, my friends, look at the images and look at the map and take a look at the mod's page and you will see what this "first project without any experience" looks like!!!! This woman is a treasure.

      S2TW has insanely high modding capabilities, more than any other Total War game and Sara knows well how to utilize those. I can wholeheartedly say that Sara makes Shogun2 (the game) and Total war Center (the forum) better.

      PS. I would like to give another shoutout to Izzy, who is also an excellent S2TW modder people should have an eye on.
    1. Flinn's Avatar
      Flinn -
      Great interview and awesome mod
    1. Sara Temer's Avatar
      Sara Temer -
      Thanks for inviting me to interview ^^

      @alhoon Maybe not humble person, but for sure critical of my work ^^'
    1. z3n's Avatar
      z3n -
      By far one of the greatest mods out there. Glad you're pursuing your dream and hope to see your vision become fully realized!
    1. izzi's Avatar
      izzi -
      Well done interview. She deserves it. One of the best (or just the best) modders on Shogun2. This will like the new Lotr mod that will be like the Third Age mod foe MedII but with the Warscape engine.
    1. Jake Armitage's Avatar
      Jake Armitage -
      keep it up Sara
    1. LordLurch's Avatar
      LordLurch -
      Excellent interview. Very impressive what you've managed to do here.