Game Modding


Modding the Game's Backdrop Screen


For those who turned off the movie that plays in the background when you are inside the game setup screens. You have probably notice the beautiful rendering of an antique world map, that you may see during the days when mariners roamed the open seas, exploring the world for the first time. While it is a great piece of artwork, what about those Modders who want to have a background image that fits their Mod's theme?

The two main set up screens that you maybe see while a Mod is activated is the main menu screen and the game rules setup screen. The backdrop is used in the other set up screens also but they do not show through as prominently. So we will only mainly deal with the two screens.

Default Backdrop


This tutorial describes how to mod this backdrop screen and provides some useful resources to facilitate the process:

  • The backdrop screen has to be 1024 x 768 resolution
  • It must also be in TGA picture format
You will also noticed that the setup screens has some elements (buttons) that cover up the backdrop screen. So when you design your mod's backdrop screen, you should try to avoid using those areas so that you can show off as much of your art work as possible. The pictures below shows the backdrops whited out so that you only see the interface elements.

Templates


Now, you may decide to draw something from scratch, scan it in, or use some kind of screenshot from your mod to create the backdrop. However you do it, you should use those templates above as a guide. But how do you make sure that your Mod's backdrop screen is ideally integrated with the interface elements?

Once you have a picture that is of the proper dimensions as noted above. You can use the templates I've provided to adjust your picture as necessary and to fine tune it. You can download the full size templates from out download section. You should also avoid using white as predominent in your Mod's backdrop picture as some of the texts that will appear when you use the interface are usually white also. Therefore its a good ideal to make them stand out so players can see and read the text properly.

Ok, so how do you use the templates? You can use the templates and simply start drawing on the white areas of the backdrop screens. But if you lack photoshop skills and a good amount of artistic skills it maybe quite a task to accomplish. Even if you have good skills, what the templates are meant to do is to be used as an overlay to check that your backdrop is well designed, rather then be used as the actual canvass.

In order to create an overlay from the templates. If you are using Photoshop. Select the "Magic Wand" tool. (This should be the second button on the top right on the tools window)


Then go to the menus at the top of the Photoshop program, then click on "Select"->"Inverse". This will select all the interface elements. Then also from the menus at the top, click on "Edit"->"Copy". Now go to your backdrop image, and then click on "paste" or hit the Control-V key. Do this for both templates and check how your backdrop image looks with the interface buttons overlayed on top. You can use the layer window to make each pasted overlay visible or invisible to see how each of them would look on top of your backdrop. Hit the "eye" button on the Layer window to change the view.


Adjust the backdrop by moving some parts of the image around or whatever you feel you need to do to make the backdrop look good with the overlays. Make sure to resize or crop your image to 1024 x 768 pixels. When you are happy with the backdrop, you can either delete the overlay's layers, or make sure they are invisible (then select "layer"->"Flatten Layers", and say yes to get rid of hidden layers to delete them). You can then save out the backdrop. Select the "File"->"Save As" menu choice and call the file "iface_wrapper1.tga". Now the file is ready to integrate into your mod. This file should replace the file of the same name in the game's art directory.

Note, however that this backdrop screen will only work for patch 2 style modding, which replaces the actual game files. So be sure to backup your original if you are activating the mod manually. However, if you are using my Mod Utility to activate the Mod, you simply install the backdrop TGA file into the mod's art directory and it will automatically shuffle the file back and forth and make a backup of the original without you worrying about it.


By One_Dead_Angel