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07.04.2011 23:00 [Sonstiges (englisch)] News from the modding frontlines

Despite the difficulties and lack of support by publisher and developer, there are still valiant warriors who try to extend the possibilities of Risen modding. Armed with disassemblers and debuggers, they ride on their compilers into the battle against the windmills that Piranha Bytes and Deep Silver have constructed.

It's been about 18 months since the release of Risen. The successor starts to bare itself in front of the audience and rumor has it that it will be released as early as this year. Time to summarize the development so far. Not everyone is reading our editing forum and some who do might be scared off again by the C++ mumbo-jumbo they encounter there. In this article, we'll try to give you a short overview of what has been achieved until now. We will stick to the perspective of the "normal gamer" who wants to play mods and not create them.

The Challenge

What's so difficult about modding Risen? It worked with Gothic and that's much older!

The plain truth is that for Gothic, we had a modkit with wich you could do (almost) everything. People only had to learn how to use it correctly. But with Risen, we lack everything. The community has to take the game apart piece by piece, determine how all those pieces work together and then figure out how to integrate their own changes into that structure. If you just want to replace a few textures or models, you "only" have to analyse the game data and find ways to slip the game your modified data. But if you want to do new or different things in the game, you need to modify the so called scripts. Scripts control - well, basically everything you see in the game world. In Risen, they are located as binary code inside a DLL that is loaded when the game starts. And just as if their lack of support were not enough, PB/DS decided to further block the progress by encrypting that DLL. For reason that probably only they can understand.

The current state of development can probably best be summarized by: Many things are possible. Somehow. But most of it has to be done manually and - alas - laboriously. There are still no comfortable tools that could be used without programming skills. And of course, this affects the mods that actually are available. Most of it is nuts and bolts stuff. Single fixes, replaced faces or armor, changes of balancing, etc. Naturally, even those mods are very important. They did valuable pioneer work and contributed to the understanding of the process as a whole. But if you expect full or partial conversion mods like Nehrim, Diccuric or Velaya, then you will be disappointed. You can't blame the modders for that. To approach a large project like that with the tools that are currently available can be compared to mowing the lawn of a football field with a nail clipper.

Playable stuff

So, how does the average gamer (homo ludens) profit from the attempts of the modders? Basically, anyone who is bored by the original game has three option to spice things up a bit.

The Mod-Starter
This project by our Russian user LordOfWar is available in Russian, English and German. The program connects to the internet and lists a selection of rather simple mods (i.e. texture and mesh replacers, balacing changes, etc.) that are available online. The user just selects the mods that he or she wants and the Mod-Starter will automatically download and install the modifications. And they can also be uninstalled again by a simple click.

--> To the Mod-Starter

The RQMS-Fix
NicoDE, one of the hardest working developers of the community, created this fix primarily as a usage example for his RisenSDK. Still, it works and fixes the long standing problem that the widely loved but not officially support and thus, never officially fixed RetroQuestMessageSystem caused loss of experience points under certain circumstances.

--> To the RQMS-Fix

The Unofficial Patch
PowerGamer, another very hard working member of the community, went through the trouble to fix some bugs in the game that the developers never seemed to care about. Though there has been an official patch as well, it did not even fix the plotstoppers that were well known at that time. For example, the player could play himself into a dead end if he talked to some people in the volcano fortress in the wrong order. Furthermore, the games likes to mislay some hard earned experience points (i.e. during a levelup or when you are currently transformed). Those - and many other - bugs were finished off by PowerGamer.

--> To the Risen Unofficial Patch


Basically, Risen can be modified. But it's too late. The foundations have been made but until they lead to tools which are comfortable enough to attract the interest of a broad range of people, Risen 2 will long be available and draw away everyone's attention. It spoils nothing to say that the probability that there will be some larger modification projects for Risen some time in the future is "minimal".

What remain is the faint hope that the achieved knowledge and tools can be adapted onto Risen 2 with little effort and speed up development there. And a critical remark addressed to the officials that with just a few hours of just one single programmer at PB who's familiar with the game, we could have been where we are now one year ago.

Further informationen:

  written by foobar