I have recently decided to create a mod for Fallout 3. Since I am just starting out, I don't plan to talk about the details of the mod just yet. However, the project is relatively ambitious and there's no guarantee that it will ever see the light of day, so I wanted to write a couple of posts about the experience so that some utility may be gleaned from the endeavor, regardless of the eventual outcome. These posts will probably vary between simple curiosities to full-fledged tutorials; hopefully they will all share at least one thing in common, and that is to be in some way be helpful to other Fallout 3 modders and modder-hopefuls.
This will not be my first experience modding this particular engine, since it is the same engine used by the game Oblivion. I have already written a mod for Oblivion, which was in many ways a much more technically challenging mod due to what it was trying to accomplish and the ways in which it pushed the engine. Its coolest feature was arguable, but its second-coolest feature was definitely the fact that the mannequins introduced by the mod would disappear from the game after a few days time, taking all of your best armor and weapons with them. I like to pretend this was intentional; that my Oblivion character was sitting on a hoard of stolen loot inside her castle keep, cackling gleefully under the moonlight as armies of magical mannequins quietly converged on her lair in the depths of the night, dumbly ferrying the stolen booty to their evil master. In reality, of course, it was just a bug, and one I never got around to fixing at that.
The point of this digression is not just to reminisce about my past glories, but also to plan out at least a few of these posts. While I should have known what I was doing going into this mod, I found myself struggling to remember most of the important details. Further, while there were many practical "how-to" tutorials on specific topics, there were very few tutorials discussing the basic details of how mods function and interact with the engine, which are things that I had to learn the hard way and which are just now slowly percolating back into my working memory. While these practical tutorials are probably very useful for some people, I find myself to be more of an abstract, theoretical learner. A step-by-step guide does very little to help me out if it does not explain the "why" behind each step.
Keeping this in mind, I want to write a primer that tackles two main points. First, I want to talk about the fundamentals behind modding this engine, because I feel this is an area that is most lacking within the existing knowledge-base. Knowing about the basics of the file layout, structure, and data resources used by the engine make a lot of common problems much easier to understand and resolve. This will be somewhat technical and abstract, and is intended to introduce all of the basics to someone who knows nothing about modding Oblivion or Fallout 3. Second, I want to build on that basis to provide a comprehensive list of tools required to work with each of these fundamental areas. Instead of just randomly downloading tools and blundering through a "My First Dungeon" tutorial, I hope that this combination will give you a firm understanding of what each of the tools does and why you will need it.
After that, we'll just see where things go. As I make progress on the mod I will probably be making additional posts about the various things I run into. I'm sure at least some of them will be interesting :)
Posts in this series:
- Fallout 3 Modding - Introduction
- Fallout 3 Modding - Primer
All of my posts about Fallout 3 modding.