2008 till 2022 - So many years and we are still here ...

raystuttgart

Civ4Col Modder
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
8,621
Location
Stuttgart, Germany
Hi guys,

now that a new year has started I looked back again how this all started.
And thus also history of how WTP became what it is today.

And yes, it is also partially also my history as a modder ... and I admit also an important part of my life.
So please excuse if some stuff is about some anonymous modder called "ray" ...

----

So here we go, this is the story from TAC to WTP as I remember it.
Some may be blurred by almost 14 years of time so please forgive if not all is correct.

I can only tell the story from my own perspective.
Hearing the perspective of others would also be interesting.

----

Early days of 2008, when Civ4Col was released

Puh, many of you may probably not remember but we were utterly dissappointed in Civ4Col Vanilla.
So much potential wasted, so poorly implemented, so many feature of original from 1994 simply forgotten ...

But maybe that was also the reason why we modders started modding ...
And at least Firaxis gave us the source code and all we needed to create our mods.

And today I feel that this is a great game if you use mods.
So still thanks to Firaxis but especially to all the modders and the complete community.

Most of you guys may never have heard of the first modders of Civ4Col modding - but they were true pioneers.
(@Dale , @Netbandit , @koma13, @Kailric , @TC01, @Aymerick, @Ekmek, ...)

They started the first mods and figured out how we others could even do all the stuff we wanted.
They broke the ice so we others could follow in their path.

2008: The days of the first big mod projects, TAC

"Age Of Discovery 2" (by @Dale) was the first big mod that inspired many of us other modders.
It showed us what was possible and thus created ideas, desire and dreams in us others.

Almost in parallel some modders over at the German speaking CivForum started "The Authentic Colonization" and the enthusiasm in this project soon lead to a considerable amount of young modders.
In my eyes "TAC" was a great success.

The team was large, really motivated and skilled and thus also successful and efficient in creating and improving content.
(@Writing Bull, @Stoepsel, @Willi_Tell, @Fankman, @koma13, @melcher kürzer , @Schmiddie ... just to name a few. For the rest: Read WTP credits)

Of course there were many other mod projects around, but I would be writing too much, if I tried to tell their stories as well.
Thus I will continue to focus on the modding history that is related to WTP.

2011: Despair turning into Hope, birth and success of RaR

Sadly at some point TAC team decided to officially end the "TAC main project".
Most other small projects had also already failed - often without ever actually having a proper release.

Some modders however were still motivated and did not want to stop modding Civ4Col.
However, there was no common vision, nothing that could unite the remaining modders under one common project.

There were several smaller offspring project of TAC, e.g. called "TAC Werwolves", "TAC Tortuga", "TAC Iso Mod", "TAC little Venice" ...
As you see there were too many "little TAC modmods" which in my opinion was the cause that none of them could gather enough modders to stay alive for long.

One of those guys - let us call him "ray" - also started a collection of feature prototypes based on ideas already discussed in TAC which could not be implemented before TAC ended.
The project was called: "Ray's Wishlist" and was mainly intended to convince former TAC members to unite again and continue TAC for e.g. one or two more years.

However at first none of the former TAC team members could be convinced to join - although many supported his project.
For some time "ray" feared that his vision of creating the "biggest and best Civ4Col mod ever" would fail.

But "ray" was stubborn and still dreaming to create his "perfect colonization game".
So "ray" turned to modders over at CivFanatics and found cooperation partners.

@KJ_Jannson a great modder and creator of the mod 1492: Global Colonization
@Robert Surcouf
also a great modder and creator of the mod Winds and Storms
@Androrc the Orc
also a great modder and creator of many mod components (e.g. Domestic Market and LivestockBreeding)
@orlanth also a great modder and creator of Colonization 2071 (which he continued for quite a while)
...

After a few weeks of discussion and vision sharing, RaR was officially founded by the 2 modders "ray" and @Robert Surcouf.
Just a few weeks later almost all the known-modders above also joined in and RaR was suddenly the biggest mod project in town.

Over the course of the next months and years more modders joined the team while some of the first team members left again.
It was a constant coming and leaving for some time. Many talented young modders did not stay for more than a year.

Still RaR was successfully developed for several years and became in fact the biggest and also most popular mod in pure numbers of downloads.
We were going crazy creating new concepts and implementing new features. Creativity had no limits.

Whenever somebody asked about most popular mods for Civ4Col, the most common answer was:
"Try TAC if you want to stay close to original or try RaR if you want lots of new content."

mid 2017/ beginning 2018: Hard times, end of RaR

Now I have to name especially @Schmiddie, @Nightinggale and @devolution . Although they had joined later than the first RaR team members, they were the modders that stayed longest with RaR and also carried it to its last release, after "ray" had also given up modding due to private issues.
(@Schmiddie had joined about half a year after RaR had started still in 2011 if I am correct. @Nightinggale in 2013 if I am correct and @devolution I think in 2017.)

@Schmiddie had taken over RaR-team-organisation in the last years, which must have been hard since all original project member had left. Also as I said, modders like @Nightinggale or @devolution and others were also still part of RaR team and even several RaR modmods like the one of @Commander Bello existed but it was not the same anymore as in the early days.

RaR suffered from the same problems as TAC had suffered from in the last years.
Too many different visions and not enough common goals.
RaR main project officially ended and splintered into submods, like e.g. RaR - Extended.

"ray" had officially left the project and just continued minor support until beginning 2017.
When seeing that RaR had faced the same end as TAC, he felt guilty and disappointment in himself and later lost interest in the project completely.

mid 2018: revival of Civ4Col moding, birth of WTP

But somehow the remaining modders joined forces again and the RaR mod-mods were united under one common project again.
The main reponsibles - "saviours of Civ4Col modding" (first core members of WTP) were @Nightinggale, @devolution and @Schmiddie.

Sorry if I do not write more about this, but I was simply not there and can not tell that part of the story.
I do not really know what happened. (Maybe @Schmiddie , @Nightinggale or @devolution can tell more.)

beginning of 2019: a "lost child of modding" returns home

After almost two years of complete absence (beginning 2017 till end of 2019) "ray" wanted to see if Civ4Col modding community was still alive and to his suprise he found "WTP" still being active.
To be honest "ray" had really not expected this but was really happy to see that the modders still working on the mod were very skilled and experienced.

There was no doubt that WTP was better in technical terms (e.g. stability and performance) than RaR ever was.
And of course also many improvements had been implemented but since the days of RaR only few new features had been added.

To be honest "ray" really wondered if "WTP" could regain the glory of the first years of "RaR".
Would the new "owners" of the mod, the "heirs of the power" want to continue implementing new features once again?

Would those guys even want an old modder to return although he had already abandoned the scene?
For several weeks he asked himself many times if he could join in again. Fear, old frustrations, hope, guilt, obligation ...

In the end "ray" knocked on the door of the new team and said asked "May I join in again? Could you need an old modder like me on board again?" and thankfully the team said "Yes.". "ray" got a second chance.

mid 2019 till beginning of 2022: looking back proudly on many great releases


To be honest, we had rough times as well but also many good times.
Many people joined the team and some left again.

The "core team" even though some of them take breaks sometimes.
(They dedicated so much of their life to the mod that I can not call them anything else.)
The people that are with us quite long already and definitely deserved team status:
(Sorry if I will not name all supporters and contributers here, I will focus on "still active team".)
  • @Mr. ZorG our most reliable tester, finding lots and lots of bugs before we release
  • @Kendon persistently improving our texts in great quality and huge amounts
  • @Raubwuerger creating many great events and also great improvements in UI
  • @Ramstormp having contributed lots of great improvements from his modmod
New team members that have recently helped us a lot already and are thus also "team members":
(Sorry again if I do not name everybody who contribued recently, I will focus on "still active team".)
  • @FlaviusBelisarius who works on our MapScripts and other difficult implementations
  • @Moandor who has helped us a lot with 3D graphics recently
  • @jooe who supported us with bugfixinign recently
Long term supporters, currently not active (basically also still team member)
  • @Fürstbischof who improved and translated incredible amounts of texts for the mod
---------

There were times when the mod team seemed to break apart but then we pulled it together again.
There were times when it seemed that we would never finish a release, but then we did.
There were times when huge features (e.g. "Large Rivers") seemed to never work but then they did.
There were times when motivation suffered due to job problems, health problems or simply lack of time.

But in the end, this is also a story of friendship, hard work and lots of great times as well.
For me this is also story of perseverance, commitment, loyalty, belief and dreams.
For me this is simply part of my life ...

Often our personal tastes differed, often we disagreed and sometimes we did not get what we wanted.
Many features were challenged, many design decisions questioned, many ideas rejected.

But in the end we found consense.
The "vision" slowly but surely shaped itself.

We created several great releases and I still feel they are the best we ever had.
(2.7.4, 2.8, 2.9, 3.0)
  • Happiness, a great success
  • Challenge, a great success
  • Large Rivers, a great success
  • Lakes, a great success
And we are not yet done.

January 2022: Today, we are still here!

Well we are still here !

2 great branches in development one of them the biggest we ever had.
This will become the biggest and best expansion I can currently imagine.
  • Plains ---> It is simply massive ... Lots of new bugfixes, improvements and features
  • Yields ---> Our newest baby ... We have not yet shown much of it to community
New modders have joined us and have become part of the team.
Old modders currently need to take a break due to private life.

Things are changing, things are moving on, ... that is life.
As long as there are still dreams, fun and friendship in modding there is nothing to fear.

---------------

Last words:

As long as there are still motivated modders this project will continue.
As long as one of us still finds the motivation at least some others will follow.

But whatever happens I was part of it - and at least in my heart I always will be ...
We created something that we can be proud of - maybe it is lasting, maybe it will not be forgotten ...

Best regards
ray

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
To everybdoy that contributed and made this mod what it is:
Thank you !
 
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JohnDay

Chieftain
Joined
Dec 1, 2010
Messages
47
i can say for myself that i have been playing this game for all these years. but not in the original version, but in the mod version. without the modded version it would have been played out for me for a long time. thanks for the work you do with it and i hope that i still play this game for many years to come. In any case, I'm really excited about the new version that will come.

Greetings John
 

Nightinggale

Deity
Joined
Feb 2, 2009
Messages
4,982
I can add the history of Colonization as it's seen by me. I will not repeat what has already been mentioned, which makes this more of a short "fill the gaps" kind of post.

Colonization came out in 2008 and I was excited, but ended up disappointed. Next happened something, which I will forever regret: I dropped the game without realizing that it could be modded. To be fair no mods existed at the time, but I can't help wondering what would have happened if I had started modding back then and most importantly: was an active modder back when Firaxis was patching the exe. Oh well too late to do anything about that now.

In 2011 I tried to start modding. This wasn't a success. I followed a guide on how to set up the compiler and since it wasn't well written (and I suspect even incorrect) I failed. On top of that getting the source code to mods back then wasn't easy as some, but not all releases included source code and no source code updates between releases. I dropped the game again.

2013 came, modding started
I did a new attempt at compiling again, this time using a different guide and it worked! While I originally intended to join Medieval Conquest, the lack of a source code made me move to Religion and Revolution instead. This went ok at first, but I ended up forking the mod and starting Religion and Revolution Extended because I was too ambitious while @raystuttgart feared breaking a working mod, which he then may or may not be able to fix. A reasonable concern considering he didn't know me at the time. RaRE died as I mainly did code optimization and seeing that I reduced the next turn wait by around 25%, Ray copied the changes back into RaR. I continued optimization in RaR for a total of 40% wait reduction.

Medieval Conquest resulting in mods galore
I finally joined M:C, though that didn't stop me from working on RaR. I kept switching and in many cases write code, which I copy pasted into the other one too. M:C turned out to contain a bunch of BTS code, which made me really dig into the difference of those two games from a technical point of view. M:C turned out to be buggy and slow, which made me develop tools to help me locate and fix issues. This turned out well.

In general a new era started in modding. I updated the makefile to allow multi core compilation, profiling (finding slow lines of code) among other things. I shared this with the BTS community and it is used in many mods by now including We The People.

Colonization 2071 showed up with a specific problem. Being friendly I looked at it and realized it would take a whole lot of time fixing the issues. I was tired of fixing the same issues in multiple DLL files and Colonization 2071 being based on the M:C DLL file, I proposed making a single DLL file, which can then be shared between mods. No more time consuming copy pasting code. While this merge never took place as planned, I prepared for it, developing a whole lot of approaches to make two mods use the same code without feeling like reskins of each other.

I started doing work on various BTS mods too, in particular Fallout: Tame the waste. Rather than dedicated work, it was mostly "I can't figure out why it's crashing" or "how do I get this feature up and running" kind of one off assistance.

2017: Religion and Revolution dies and We The People shows up
@Schmiddie decided to retire from modding and he took RaR with him. I had a chat with @devolution and together with Shades and Abmpicoli we decided to start a new mod based on where RaR stopped. While the latter two turned out to not stay for long and it's questionable how much code/game contents we ended up with from them, they did contribute in other important fields. On top of the name itself (I can't remember who came up with it, but it was one of those two) Abmpicoli did set up everything on GitHub and both were included regarding planning. For instance Abmpicoli objected to my proposed savegame format and a lengthy debate ended up with an even better design.

Part of my condition for going full time on WTP was to not drop Medieval Conquest or Colonization 2071. This meant the adoption of the concept of one DLL file, multiple mods. While it haven't happened yet, it still might and indeed the WTP code becomes better and better for this purpose as time goes on. In general my work on WTP builds on top of experience from other mods and a number of my creations actually started out as copy pasted code from code I wrote for M:C. InfoArrays being a good example of this. CivEffects is a copied concept, but started over to avoid what turned out to be a design flaw, which prevented a gradual implementation.

In the early days of WTP, we focused on getting a stable base for future features meaning it became mainly bugfixes and optimization. While we did have feature plans, we did not get that far prior to Ray showing up again.

Lessons learned
Through the years there have been a number of successes, but also failures. The latter is also important because they show what not to do.
1: Don't make a huge change, which starts off with breaking the game and then it's unplayable until you are done. Why? Because what if the person doing said change drops out halfway through or what if it turns out to take 3 years to complete? It's ok to break the game while working on something, but it should be playable again in a not too distant future.
2: teamwork is important
Adam Smith was right. Having a series of specialists in their fields is more efficient than a group of jack of all trades. This is most noteworthy with the AI update where the AI can finally develop colonies. Such a massive update to gameplay and it was done in a single day. I did the programming part while Ray did the xml setup. I'm convinced none of us would have been able to get it done within a week if it was done by just one person. An interesting twist to this is that the code relies heavily on InfoArrays meaning the whole thing wouldn't work without the addition of this code from Medieval Conquest.
 

raystuttgart

Civ4Col Modder
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
8,621
Location
Stuttgart, Germany
I was too ambitious while @raystuttgart feared breaking a working mod
I was never even close on your level considering programming skills - I noticed that pretty soon. :thumbsup:
So yeah I was really afraid you would program stuff that I could later not maintain because I would not understand it.

In those days I was very concerned to be able to do and repair everything in the mod myself - just in worst case. I did not want to depend on anybody else.
Modders had been comming and going these days. And a more skilled modder implementing highly complex stuff and then potentially leaving the project was scary for me.

In those days I had not known you yet good enough to fully trust that you would stay with the project and I also was not sure how long I would still stay myself.
So sorry that I was not more open to many changes you proposed - it was simply as I said beyond my skills to maintain alone in worst case.

Now after we worked several years together I know better. :hug:
 
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Nightinggale

Deity
Joined
Feb 2, 2009
Messages
4,982
So sorry that I was not more open to many changes you proposed
Don't be too sorry. Everybody else did the same hence why I had such an issue getting started anywhere. Besides I would likely have done what you did if I was you. I showed up, knew nobody and had no prior work to show what I could do. I feared showing up as a university trained engineer would make people feel like I'm a snob. Also honestly some engineers are snobs, particularly towards non-engineers. I guess there is no harm in telling now because it's no secret that I came with prior programming knowledge.

I was never even close on your level considering programming skills - I noticed that pretty soon. :thumbsup:
Now that I think about it, I bet you did notice fairly fast. I think I had access to the source code for 2 days (something like that) when I discovered an OOS bug just by reading the code. It's one of my first Colonization fixes ever if not the first. Yeah not the first time I have seen network syncing code.
 

Dale

Mohawk Games Developer
Joined
Mar 14, 2002
Messages
7,426
I can add the official pre-history.... ie: from release of Civ4Col, up to AOD2.

So Civ4Col came out, and I was probably the biggest name playing it at release. I'd been involved with Frankenstein testing all through dev of the game, and pretty much knew everything about it at that time. I was also pretty much alone since reception of the game initially was bad. :D

It was so bad that Firaxis/2K dumped support for the game very early on. :(

Another Frankensteiner who had been testing, @Snoopy, and I decided to take it on ourselves to write a patch for the game, since there was not going to be one from Firaxis. It took us a few months but the two of us (me mostly since @Snoopy couldn't code) collected all the bug reports and created PatchMod, the mod that patched the game so it worked. It basically fixed bugs, and improved the AI. No new content.

Somewhat irritatingly (I say this because they did not intend to publish a patch for Civ4Col), Firaxis then published PatchMod as the official patch. They added a few fixes of their own, but it was 100% core mine and @Snoopy's work. We did get credited in the patch notes though, so do not think I am in any way angry about it. :)

After the patch came out, I continued to work on PatchMod. @Snoopy went his own way at this point. I decided that PatchMod would now have the goal of fixing what the official patch didn't, PLUS make the game more like the original SMCol. https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/mod-snoopy-dale-patchmod.293253/

At the same time, I was working on my own dream Col mod: Age of Discovery II. The original AOD was for Civ4 (base), and I had long wanted to revisit it after doing Desert War and Road to War. I was all World Warred out and glad to get back to my most favourite time period. :)

AOD2 was really the first combination mod and took a few things from other modder's. For instance, new Civs and new Europe screen. It also contained a lot of my own original content to make the game how I wanted to play. It took me around a year to finish the mod, and I was happy to finish it. https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/latest-version-download-here.304017/

----------------------------------------------------------

By that stage, I was totally burnt out of Civ4 and left the community. I flitted in and out a little for Civ5 and Civ6, but that ended my modding.

Well, until Old World. :)
 

raystuttgart

Civ4Col Modder
Joined
Jan 24, 2011
Messages
8,621
Location
Stuttgart, Germany
I can add the official pre-history....
Thanks, it is always very interesting for me to read the Civ4Col modding history from the perspective of others. :hug:
And I think that is worth to remember that history from time to time - lots of motivation and energy of countless modders has gone into it.

Well, until Old World.
I wish you a lot of success with Old World - I read only very good critiques and reviews about it. :thumbsup:
Until now I have not tried it myself though - still too much in love with WTP which for me is the "one and only true Civ4Col".

-----

@Dale:
If Mohawk Games should ever be interested to create a Colonization type of game that has good possibilities for modding, let us know. :mischief:
We have been waiting for such a game with a modern engine offering us the same modding capabilities for almost a decade now ...
(We also would not mind or be angry if you guys used some of our ideas as inspiration - from our side as modders all we did is free and libre.)
 
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Nightinggale

Deity
Joined
Feb 2, 2009
Messages
4,982
I was also pretty much alone since reception of the game initially was bad. :D

It was so bad that Firaxis/2K dumped support for the game very early on. :(
Somewhat irritatingly (I say this because they did not intend to publish a patch for Civ4Col), Firaxis then published PatchMod as the official patch. They added a few fixes of their own, but it was 100% core mine and @Snoopy's work. We did get credited in the patch notes though, so do not think I am in any way angry about it. :)
That explains a lot, like why the exe is based on an outdated BTS exe. Not really an issue for gameplay, but it affects certain aspects of modding abilities.

Thinking back at what was wrong with the vanilla release, I think it was mainly two aspects. One is the phasing as whenever I managed to get a game going, it told me I had 100 turns left meaning the game ended before it got started. I remember being upset as this hurt empire building. The other issue was poor traderoute implementation. Both can be modded and the turn limit can even be turned off in custom games. However back then I wasn't aware of this and that's likely the key to why it was received so poorly. So close and yet a failure.

There is no reason to get upset over something you can't change anyway, but I really wish we would at least have had the exe updated to match the added modding abilities in the BTS updates.

It's also worth mentioning that getting traderoutes right is still an issue as it's still not good enough. It's still on the todo list for modding despite multiple attempts. This shows that it isn't a trivial thing to get right. However coding difficulty is ignored in reviews.
 

Dale

Mohawk Games Developer
Joined
Mar 14, 2002
Messages
7,426
I wish you a lot of success with Old World - I read only very good critiques and reviews about it. :thumbsup:
Until now I have not tried it myself though - still too much in love with WTP which for me is the "one and only true Civ4Col".

Thank you. We are having a lot of success and fun with Old World. We are looking forward to release on Steam and GOG in a few months, plus lots of other exciting things this year. :)

If Mohawk Games should ever be interested to create a Colonization type of game that has good possibilities for modding, let us know. :mischief:
We have been waiting for such a game with a modern engine offering us the same modding capabilities for almost a decade now ...
(We also would not mind or be angry if you guys used some of our ideas as inspiration - from our side as modders all we did is free and libre.)

With me on the team, there's always a voice pushing Col types of games. So you never know what will come. ;)

That explains a lot, like why the exe is based on an outdated BTS exe. Not really an issue for gameplay, but it affects certain aspects of modding abilities.

Yes, this did hurt the game from our perspective. The team making Civ4Col was a splinter team off the Civ4 team. Not many people, and it really didn't get the love it needed. For example, the UI was done by an intern, a junior programmer. They did their best, but it just lacks the class and finesse the game needs.
 
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