Community hints, tips and tutorials
Introduction to Pack Files
A Pack File is the way CA packages their configuration data. These are what's getting updated in patches (apart from the software themselves) and what's being edited when modding. Pack files reside in the data/ folder of your game installation and establish a virtual file system that is being loaded by the game. They can be opened and browsed by the PackFileManager (see "Other Tools" section below). There are several types of pack files (in order of being loaded by the game):
Only one boot.pack exists at a time; it contains data needed during the very first initialization (like the loading screen image).
The "Shader" files contain graphics rendering code, in uncompiled form because that is dependent on the user's graphics card. Compilation is done upon first startup (and the reason the first start of the game takes so long). After the first start, the compiled data is loaded from a cache directory.
"Release" packs contain CA's game data upon first release.
"Patch" packs carry additional data upon game updates. Entries embedded in the packs themselves ensure that patch files are loaded in the correct order.
"Mod" files are the type intended to be used by modders. For the game to load them, there needs to be an entry "mod <packfile>.pack;" in the user script file in the user setting directory (location depending on game and Windows version). The load order within mod packs is determined by the order they are entered in the script file. (Note that for Shogun 2, the user script file is created automatically by the Mod Manager)
"Movie" files are supposed to contain visual and sound data, like graphics and music. Those are always loaded after all other packs; because no entry is needed in the script file, many modders create packs of this type to make it easier to install them. However, no load order can be established between them, so using them for mods might be a problem for compatability between mods. Also, the Mod Manager ignores packs of type Movie, so you won't be able to activate/deactivate them, or put them on Steam Workshop. They will get loaded though.
Workarounds for Known Issues
Campaign processing starts Game/Mod Manager
This is normal behavior; to create the campaign startpos.esf file, the Assembly Kit needs to access game code ; the game will stop after processing is finished. If you have mods installed, the Mod Manager will come up; you'll have to start the game manually from there.
startpos.esf does not get added to mod pack
The rules.bob files in the campaigns subdirectories are wrong. You can just delete them altogether .
Edited groupformation doesn't get added to mod pack
When editing the groupformation.xml files, it will get added into a pack of its own in raw_data/EmpireDesignData/GroupFormations.pack, which will also not be recognized as a mod by Mod Manager. What you need to do is change the type of the pack to "Mod" in PFM (see section "Other Tools" below) and "Save as" another pack file. If you want it in the mod.pack you created, you need to extract groupformations.bin from the GroupFormation.pack and add it to your pack with PFM.
Created pack file is 22 MB
When BOB creates a pack file, it often adds files that were not edited; namely in the directories "BattleTerrain" and "UnitVariants". These can be deleted safely from the mod pack with PFM afterwards; MMS also has a feature to remove these automatically.
Other Tools (all Warscape games)
The Assembly Kit is great, but you might want to look into some of the modding tools that existed before it which offer some additional features.
MMS - MultiMod Support
- creates backups of the data of the mod you're working on
- allows to work on several mods in parallel without them conflicting with each other
- provides easy access to TWeak, BOB and PFM
PFM - Pack File Manager (the original community modding tool)
- opens and modifies pack files
- supports ETW, NTW and TW:S2
- allows to edit or view many contained (binary) file formats
- useful for post-production (like removing superfluous entries)
EditSF - allows editing of ESF files
- save games
- battle replays
- startpos.esf (probably obsolete for S2; can be edited with TWeak now)
DB <-> TSV export - command line tool
- extracts binary DB files to TSV and back