• Modding interview with Goutlard

    Modding Interview with Goutlard

    Interview by Alwyn Congratulations on the recent release of a new version of your mod, Wind from the East! How did you originally become a modder of this game - did you try someone else's mod and want to change it, or did you want to change a specific feature of the game and look for tutorials and tools, or something else?

    Thank you!

    I started modding in Empire : Total War back in 2010. I first tried modifying and combining elements of pre-existing mods for my own use. Honestly, I didn't really follow any tutorials at first, it was just thinkering with the tools available at that time and crashing the game times and times again. But clumsy trial and mistake across years is certainly quite instructing, frustrating yet fun. Eventually, it became more enjoyable for me to modify the game, try to rebalance what is imbalanced and expand it in interesting ways, than it was enjoyable to play it.

    What are the problems with the way that the game represents the historical Ottoman Empire? I believe that your mod offers a more historically accurate experience, is that right? How does your mod do this?

    Oh, there are far too many issues or innacuracies in the default game haha. I have no clue how the historical research team managed to do this.

    For example, regarding uniforms alone; the uniforms of the Beylik Janissaries (the elite guards of the Ottomans) have nothing to do with Janissaries. They wear the uniforms of Ottoman Marines! In fact, no Janissary unit other than the Ceemat Janissaries have Janissary uniforms at all. They are all dressed as marines.

    In fact, among the 6 early-era infantry units of the Ottomans, only 1 has a correct name, and 2 have somewhat historically-accurate uniforms. Regarding the names of units, the Isarelys (line infantry) seemed to be based on the Icareli. However, Icareli historically were garrison artillerymen. It is quite disastrous. As for the gameplay, in the base game the Ottomans struggle with lower-class religious revolts. Historically, though, their main struggle was actually with soldiers revolting against reforms that would decrease their privileges.

    How does my mod fix this all?

    Almost all of the Ottoman units have completely new names, uniforms that are much more historically accurate. And the Ottomans begin with two default technologies;

    Millet System ; representing the legal autonomy provided to religious minorities which decreases religious unrest.
    Decentralisation ; representing the highly decentralised state of the Empire as well as the difficulties it was facing.

    As such, the player has to reform the State and centralize it. The main issue is when ; and whether or not he is ready to focus on internal threats and accept being vulnerable to external ones.

    Your mod was previously called Ottoman Total Overhaul. Did you originally focus on the Ottoman Empire and then work on other factions? Which faction(s) were the most enjoyable or satisfying to mod?

    Exactly, this mod actually had 3 names in the past. First the Ottoman Realism Mod, created by a team of Turkish modders. Then the Ottoman Total Overhaul, as it evolved into an overhal of everything from economics to the battle system. Then finally we decided to rename it to Wind from the East, because it wasn't only about the Ottomans anymore. We worked a fair bit on the Barbary States, the Crimean Khanate, the Safavid Empire and added a few units to the Mughal and made all of those factions fully playable.

    Something that felt like a breath of fresh air was creating new technologies for the Ottomans and Safavids that would represent their internal issues and provide a truly different and unique challenge to players. Though the Ottoman Empire was to survive many more centuries thanks to successful reforms, the Safavids actually collapsed during the timeframe of Empire Total War. I also really liked working on and playing the smallest factions. Venice, the Knights of Saint John, Georgia, the Papal States. They all make for a tense early game in which you have to fight against much bigger, more powerful Empires with limited ressources.

    Wind from the East has a feedback thread. Have you had useful feedback from players? How has this feedback influenced the development of your mod?

    There has been a lot of great feedback and interesting suggestions. In fact, the community found bugs and their solution on its own sometimes! Regarding crashing-issues related to garrisons, and in highlighting unintended bugs that I hadn't realised.

    In fact, the most important contribution of the community was that the community itself did produce submods (4 turns per year most notably, which is now included in the base-game) and a full Turkish translation on its own. I have also had feedback on Discord, even if my mod doesn't have a discord server.

    An interesting thing regarding feeback, and the influence of it is that I always try to take it into account, but even small changes can have significant unintended consequences. I had a few cases where members of the community suggested changes that seemed great on paper, but when implemented caused unintended issues such as factions going bankrupt in the early game and had to be reversed after experimenting.

    I like the idea that Poland can recruit two janissary units as a kind of historical 'easter egg' - an interesting surprise for players. What do you think will be the most surprising features of your mod for a player trying it for the first time? Are there other easter eggs waiting for players to discover them?

    Oh I believe the most surprising feature of my mod for player is always the fact that battles are extremely costly.

    Empire : Total War does have an interesting feature in that you pay to replenish units. And, actually following community feedback I increased recruitment costs of units significantly, while decreasing their upkeep significantly. As such, players would be incentivized to build armies over time, and not disband all armies in times of peace to recruit quickly in times of war. As such, the cost of maintaining an army in my mod is rather low. You can muster quite decent armies with even a small faction given enough time.

    However, when you'll fight in major battles and take consequent losses, you will see that replenishing armies can be very expensive. And by that I mean from 4k for minor losses to 20k. So as the war progresses your army will get weaker and smaller and you will have to merge units.. Or you will have to spend huge amounts of money to replenish your army. So you should make sure to have a decent sized treasury before going into war. And if you fail to conquer any cities, you will have wasting huge amounts of money that might have actually been better spent on development of your economy.

    Many players thought this feature was a bug or a mistake. Though many others love it, it is a rather divisive feature.

    Regarding easter eggs, unfortunately the one regarding Poland is the only one.

    Your land combat system sounds like a great feature. It looks like this encourages players to have a balanced army of different unit types, is that right? Do different factions have different fighting styles (for example some might rely more on irregular and light infantry units with 'hit and run' attacks, others might rely more on slower, heavier units)?

    Thank you ! Yes, exactly as you said.

    In my mod skirmishers and light infantry are good shooters that will outperform line infantry at a range. On the other hand they are much more vulnerable to cavalry. So, combining line infantry and skirmishers in your main line of battle actually makes sense to increase the effectiveness of your army overall. Line infantry will be good at absorbing damage, defeating cavalry, and standing ground or charging units. (Because bayonnets excel in the charge!); while skirmishers and line infantry will be great at maximising the effectiveness of gunfire.

    It should also be noted that light infantry and skirmishers do outrun line infantry so they can if managed properly do very effective hit and run attacks.

    And regarding different fighting styles, indeed European factions begin with effective and polyvalent line infantry that are good at most things once they acquire bayonets. Whereas Eastern factions in the early game have powerful cavalry and a more irregulars-based army composition. Some eastern factions (Persia, Indian factions) have very powerful armored melee units as well that, if they reach close-quarters will be devastating.

    And, as their technology improves, actually eastern factions gain access to more european-style line infantry units. So the early game and late game will be quite different for them. It also gives them an interesting variety, in that players can combine traditional and modern style units to their liking.

    What was the most difficult part of creating Wind from the East? What has this taught you about modding?

    The most difficult part of creating Wind from the East was not modding actually, but being able to let go.

    There are always things that can be improved, interesting changes that can be made, minor issues to be fixed, factions to be expanded. And if we, as the community were given the right tools by Creative Assembly, and that Empire : Total War was as moddable as, for example Medieval II, I am sure all the issues with the game would have been fixed.

    And I will be forever frustrated with both being unable to fix so many issues inherent to the game, and to be unable to create the perfect mod I would have wished to make.

    But there's only so much we can do. And at one point, we have to accept it and let go.

    What advice would you give to someone who was starting to mod Empire Total War?

    It is easier than it seems. Especially with the great tools and work that the community has put in the Pack File manager, in the ESF editor and creating so many tutorials.

    So, don't hesitate to give it a try!

    It's actually a great feeling to be able to enhance the games you play as suits you, even if you never publish your modifications.

    Can you tell us about your future plans, either for Wind from the East or any other ideas for modding projects?

    I would definitively like to improve the graphics for the western factions in the future and add a few units to factions that are a bit lacking in variety. Other than that, I'll fix bugs and improve what I can best as I can following feedback!

    And regarding the future, I'm a bit excited by seeing that a Rome : Total War remaster is coming, and that might mean remaster of other classic titles.

    Not for the games in themselves, though the new convenience features and improved graphics are definitively welcome.

    Rather, because those old games were really accessible and easy to edit, and seeing them return to a more proeminent place with hardcoded limits lifted seems like a great opportunity for modders. I'll certainly look into it myself.

    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 1 Comment
    1. King Athelstan's Avatar
      King Athelstan -
      Good interview Alwyn! Always enjoyable to get to see the mods discussed from the modders, and Goutlard's comments on modding in general are very interesting!