Elemental: Modding

Published on Saturday, February 20, 2010 By Brad Wardell In Elemental Dev Journals

We get a lot of questions on how moddable Elemental is.  The best way I can answer that is to tell you what our objectives are.

Elemental is a game built on our new Kumquat engine.  Our previous games were developed using an engine we referred to as Pear.

Because it’s our engine, we are free to distribute it in whatever way we want.  Experienced modders can hopefully chime in the comments area to explain to others the importance (in terms of modding) that we own the whole engine and thus are under no constraints.

So let’s walk through some frequently asked questions:

Q: What kinds of mods would you expect modders to be able to make with Elemental (Kumquat)?

A: I would expect someone to be able to create pretty much any type of game with it. More specifically (more realistically) I would imagine there being mods that let people make total conversions to games of the same genre (i.e. A space strategy game, a Civilization type game, a Master of Orion type game). 

Q: What kinds of mods do YOU, Brad Wardell, plan to make?

A: I want to make a Temple of Apshai type mod.

Q: What are the tools we would need to know to mod?

A: We have chosen Python as our scripting language.  Post release we plan to keep full time developers to be dedicated to exporting more and more APIs from Kumquat to expose them to Python. 

In terms of UI, we use DesktopX.  All the .dxpacks in Elemental (and Galactic Civilizations) are made using DesktopX.  It’s a free download. DesktopX version 4 is in development presently. You can find the .dxpacks in the screens directory.

In terms of graphics, we use .PNG files for static images (the game literally reads in .PNG files from the gfx directory).

In terms of models and animation, we use Intel’s Havok. We also have a tool we’ll be releasing that makes Havok files work with Elemental.  These are all free. What you make your models and other 3D assets in is up to you. We use Maya and 3D Studio (depending on artist preference).

To organize all these pieces together, we use XML which tells the game what .dxpack to use or what .PNG file to use or what Havok files to use.  We do not hard code any paths into the engine so you could put them wherever you want.

Q: When should we start modding?

A: That would be Beta 5 which is scheduled for this Summer.  It will be during that time that we start to release our own example mods.

Q: What are some example mods you would make?

A: We would try to cover the full range with our samples.  Here are some specifics of what we plan to provide during Beta 5 and after release.

1. Adding your own maps to Elemental to share via the metaverse (ImpulseReactor’s virtual shared drive system)

2. Adding your own items, spells, technologies, buildings, city improvements and share via the Metaverse.

3. Adding your own races (our example will probably be elves or dwarves or something based on player feedback).

4. Creating your own 3D assets and putting them into Elemental.

5. Using your copy of Elemental to make a totally new TBS game (GalCiv like or MOO like or Civilization like or HOMM like or MOM like or whatever).

6. Using your copy of Elemental to make a totally new type of game TBS (my sample, which will be public domain when released, is the aforementioned Temple of Apshai).

7. Using your copy of Elemental to make an action or RTS game.

Obviously, how much is done here depends on how successful Elemental is commercially so these aren’t promises as much as what we are planning to do.  We used Pear from 1997 through 2007.  Kumquat will be with us probably for the next decade at least.

Relevant Screenshots:

DesktopX is our tool of choice for creating screens. Powerful, easy to use (once you get used to it) and battle tested. You can even export your creation as gadgets.

Elemental will include the Kumquat Tile editor for letting people create their own 3D scenes using 3D assets made by others. For modders, it means that the “pipeline” organization is provided by the tools. You don’t have to coordinate lots of different people to get a mod done, you can each contribute to a pipeline and use as you wish.


Modders can create their own 3D models in whatever program they want and then export it to Havok’s format.

Artists use either Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator to create as many assets as possible in vector format. This way, as hardware improves, we can update our games years later with free new, better graphics. This was most obviously seen in GalCiv II: Twilight of the Arnor. It’s a technique we highly recommend.


Hope this helps.  We’ll be talking a lot more about modding this Summer.