Beyond Earth Devs Want Mod Tools ‘Every Bit as Powerful’ as Civ V

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Posted on October 22, 2014, Phil Hornshaw Beyond Earth Devs Want Mod Tools ‘Every Bit as Powerful’ as Civ V

Expect the modding capabilities of Firaxis’ upcoming space-based entry into the Civilization franchise to be at least as powerful as those in Civilization V — if not even burlier.

The developers behind Civilization: Beyond Earth are looking to expand on the modding focus of the game even beyond what has been seen in previous entries, especially with the inclusion of Beyond Earth’s new systems. In an interview with GameFront, co-lead designers Will Miller and David McDonough said that while the mod tools are still in the works, they’re hoping at least for the same kinds of capabilities for modders that appeared in Civ V.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to offer parity (with Civ V),” McDonough said. “The modding tools are sort of in-progress right now. We have a strong commitment to supporting modding — modding was huge for Civ V and we saw some really incredible stuff. We’ve done a lot in this game to offers modders more. The way that the quests are architected in the code, and the way a lot of the data is exposed, a lot more of it is scripted in XML, so modders have a lot more power. The tools themselves are still being polished up, so it’ll take a little more.”

Beyond Earth includes a number of new systems that change the way it plays as compared to Civ V, including the new “tech web” that replaces the more linear technology tree of the previous title, and a quest system that brings players a bit of an unfolding, procedural story that also lets them choose specializations for their units as the game progresses.

Both of those new systems, and more, should be available for players to mess around with, Miller said. That’s because the developers have worked to script those elements in easier-to-alter XML, rather than tougher coding languages.

“The way a Civ game is put together is very data-oriented,” Miller said. “There are no art tools – there’s no Unreal Editor sitting on top of the thing that makes it easy to interact with. It’s very much a proposition of scripting and data. And we’ve tried to expose as much of that as possible with the new systems, and as we’ve gone back into the old ones and changed them for Beyond Earth, we’ve tried to do the same. Because a lot of the core functionality has traditionally been in C++, and we understand that a lot of our modders don’t know C++, and there are actually some benefits for us to expose things to script for ourselves, because the turnaround can be faster.

“So as Dave said, the quest system, the covert ops system, the tech web, a lot of the new things that we’ve put in the game are way, way more accessible than other systems have been in Civ in the past, from the scripting and data perspective.”

It’s worth noting that like Civ V, Beyond Earth won’t support modding in multiplayer games (although modders have found workarounds with Civ V, as detailed here, and might be able to do the same for Beyond Earth).

But in terms of single-player modding, expect to see the return of the World Builder, for a start, the developers said. That set of tools is currently being polished up, McDonough said. And with the scripting elements exposed, that should at give Beyond Earth modders quite a bit with which to mess around.

“It should be every bit as powerful, if not more so, than Civ V,” McDonough said.

Stay tuned for more preview coverage coming this week ahead of the launch of Civilization: Beyond Earth on Oct. 25. Check out our feature on how Beyond Earth works more fiction into the Civ framework, and stay tuned for the complete (huge) interview with Miller and McDonough, coming Friday.

Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Find more of his work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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