Mass Effect Legendary Edition arrives in less than a week, and I know many of the mod developers in my scene are excited to start working on it. With that said, I am writing this to ask you to have patience, as updating the tools we’ve spent more than half a decade building is going to take some time. All of these tools were built under the assumption that there would be no more than 3 games.
I’m here to outline what’s going to be occurring with each of the major tools in the scene.
ME3Explorer (UI ApplicatIon)
ME3Explorer is going to be put into maintenance mode. This means that we won’t have further updates beyond just some simple bugfixes – it will essentially remain as it is now, and will only work on the original 3 games. We’re hoping to issue one final stable build.
We have been working for the last couple of weeks to migrate the existing UI application’s code into a new project, named Legendary Explorer. This application will (eventually) support the Legendary Edition versions of the games, as well as also support the original versions. We are doing this for a couple of reasons:
- This lets us do a refactor of the project, as the app has had some pretty messy project structure for years now
- It will better convey that the tool works for the Legendary Edition of the games
- We are upgrading the project to .NET 5, which is a pretty significant change from .NET Framework 4.8 (do not let the numbers confuse you, this is many years of change). This will require some significant changes to how we also deliver stable and nightly builds to you, and it will take some time before we can get back to automated builds for users. Using nighties will require installing the .NET 5 runtime
The latest nightlies of ME3Explorer have exe version checks, which will prevent adding LE versions of games for game paths, in the event they use the same names of executables as the current games.
ME3ExplorerCore (ME3C) is going to be put into maintenance mode. A new library, named LegendaryExplorerCore (LEC) (or just LegendaryCore, we haven’t decided), will essentially be a copy of ME3C, but with support for Legendary Edition games as well. This is being done for the following reasons:
- Projects targeting ME3C will not be broken when we have large codebase changes. While this could be accomplished via an older branch, we wanted to make a whole new project to ensure consumers of this library don’t accidentally upgrade and break loads of stuff and waste their time. The original scope of ME3C did not include LE games, and a lot of code was written under that premise, which if we added LE support, would likely break a lot of stuff.
- If you want Legendary Edition support, you switch to the new library, which will have a slightly different (but mostly the same) API. This will force you to update your application to handle the new game IDs and behavior. Apps using LEC can still work on OT games.
- If a user of ME3C wants features from LEC, they can backport it to ME3C.
ME3TwEaks mod manager
I’m not 100% sure yet on the plans for M3. I’m thinking of making a ‘new’ Mod Manager named Legendary Mod Manager, but it would be just a rebrand of ME3Tweaks Mod Manager, with support for LE games as well. This will take some time – until we know what we’re dealing with in LE, it will be hard to make Mod Manager support, and I will be working on mod development tools to start with.
Essentially, M3 would be put on ‘maintenance’ mode for some time, before it upgrading it once to support an upgrade to Legendary Mod Manager, LMM, similar to the transition that occurred when moving from ME3CMM to M3.
This plan would be for the following reasons:
- Users don’t seem to understand that ME3Tweaks is my organization’s name. Not the name of the program. I have lots of other software that I release under my organization.
- It will take some time to figure things out for Legendary Explorer Core. M3 depends on ME3C, so until we have LEC up and running, LMM won’t really be able to depend on it. Things like opening packages, lots of helper directory classes, that sort of thing.
- Mod Manager is far more complex under the hood than many users think and adding three more games to the codebase, even if similar, will require a pretty huge investment of time.
- The server infrastructure that M3 currently uses pretty heavily will need some significant changes to accommodate more games in the databases, web pages, etc.
- I want to split many core features of M3 into its own library that can be used in other projects, like how the GameTarget class is reused in ALOTInstallerCore, MassEffect2Randomizer, etc. It is a lot of effort to support these duplicates, but it is also hard to make a localizable core library, especially for programs that don’t use localizations.
ALOT Installer has some more features planned for the Original Trilogy (OT), but I simply haven’t had time to work on it. ALOT Installer will remain OT only for now.
Once Mass Effect Modder is updated for Legendary Edition (this will likely take some time) I would like to make a general purpose texture installer program that works for LE. I do not expect it to be cross-compatible with OT. A general texture installer would be nice, especially with the same UI as one of the most popular OT mods, however texture modding will not be a high priority for me to start.
Mass Effect Randomizer / Mass Effect 2 Randomizer
These will remain working for their original games. At some point I would like to revisit them for Legendary Edition but it will likely be months if not years. Work on these projects have significantly benefited ME3Explorer (+ME3C), as they stress test the library and help identify weaknesses, and also lead to new features, such as memory-safe extraction, import resolution, and new debugging tools.
ME3Tweaks ModMaker will remain as it is and only be for the OT version of Mass Effect 3. While I am very proud of the work I did for ModMaker, it is an absolutely huge project that has extremely high support requirements, and was built when I was a much more amateur programmer.
Since there is no multiplayer in LE, I don’t really see a need for something like ModMaker, which mostly was a gameplay modding tool. ModMaker worked well because multiplayer was very gameplay focused, so changes through ModMaker would be very noticeable, and could work in short spurts. This type of modding doesn’t really translate well to singleplayer which has a lot of things that are specific to each level and takes place over the course of the entire game, and also doesn’t work well due to how the game is compiled – singleplayer and multiplayer use very different strategies for asset loading.
It is a true shame there is no multiplayer in LE.
Gibbed SAve EDITORS
Gibbed has expressed interest in updating his save editors for LE. I don’t expect this will be too much work for ME2/ME3 since it doesn’t look like much has changed in those games. As I am not part of the development of these programs, I don’t have much more info on this.
I’m sure many developers want to be the first person to release a mod for LE. In the beginning there will be lots of teething, and there will likely be lots of buggy software. As someone who has to support mods through Mod Manager, there are some things that will be very helpful for later development in the scene:
- Do NOT use exe installers. These are an absolute nightmare to deal with in the scene, and if some new modding method comes along, nothing can really work with exe mods. Mod Manager can be updated to account for new processes or installation corrections. Manual installation directions can be adjusted. Exe installer based mods cannot have their install behavior changed.Exe installers are also opaque, so it’s hard to know what it will actually install. It makes identifying incompatibilities difficult, especially if only a specific configuration installs a file, but the others don’t.
- Do NOT leave mod pages with outdated main downloads paired with ‘updates’. These are a huge waste of end user’s time, and also waste tons of developer time because we end up having to support users who don’t know what they’re doing. Spend 20 minutes of your time integrating the update so you don’t waste collective thousands of hours of other people’s time.The exception to this is for mods like ALOT, which are huge, but have whole systems built for handling the update in an easy way.
- If the new games use the DLC system, DO NOT release variants of your mod with the same folder name. These are not possible to distinguish without tons of investment of my time. Many early mods in the ME3 scene did this, and the only thing it does is confuse users! What version of a mod did I install? Who knows? They’re all named DLC_CON_FUNMOD.Mods installed through Mod Manager (that are designed for Mod Manager) don’t have this problem as I tag the options selected, so even if you have 3 ‘variants’, users can see what was installed.
- Use DLC folders if they are supported – basegame file replacements SUCK unless they are absolutely required. They are hard to track, require lots of manual inventorying by me to identify where they came from, and are a pain to uninstall for users.
- Be prepared for game updates. There will likely be a few months of them and they may break your mod. If files in your mod end up being updated by game updates, but your mod isn’t updated, I may blacklist the mod from installation in Mod Manager due to it leading to different ‘versions’ of games. All mods should be built from the same ‘base’ version of the game, which will eventually be the final game update, whenever that is.This may sound inconvenient to you, but it is much more inconvenient for us developers, when we have to code around poor decisions by mod developers. Make our work easier so we can focus on better tools rather than coding around your work. You may think this is a one time cost, but adding lots of edge cases just means every time we update something else we have to make sure it still works with edge case code, which has an ongoing burden.
There will be some significant pain at the start of modding these games.
- Some formats have likely changed and will take time to reverse engineer.
- There will be no reliable cross OT <-> LE modding for some time. Please note that when I say OT <-> LE, I mean porting individual pieces, like the properties of an object, not running a mod through a converter, this will simply not be possible due to them changing to DirectX 11.
- There will be a lot less debugging tools – we will not have an asi loader, we may not have console access for a bit even. Pray that they leave some debugging tools in the game for us, because it’s going to suck BIG TIME if we are left with nothing. Why do you think there are so few ME2 modders 😉
Again, please be patient. There will be a lot of teething issues for setting up modding in these games. Remember that developers are people too 🙂