Install Script Tutorial
This tutorial comprises three elements:
1) A short demo scenario
2) A pdf file showing you how to create a custom install script for your modpack, campaign, or scenario; and
3) A .txt file which is an install script template.
You can read the tutorial at the Scenario Design Forums before downloading, if you wish:
Install Script Tutorial: Part 1
Install Script Tutorial: Part 2
Install Script Tutorial: Part 3
I hope you find it useful.
Feel free to post any comments, suggestions, or observations either here or at the forum.
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Phew... It's been a while since I reviewed anything, but this gem was too good to pass up on. However, my approach to this review is radically different.
Do not misunderstand my intent - I am fully aware of the splendor of the customized launch graphic, the miniature map, the new Anastasia unit and the modded buildings. However, I feel that it is the - usually hidden - work and effort Dave_Earl put into the making of this, which he has very clearly detailed in the included .PDF and on the forums, that is the essence of why this project is a must-know and must-have for anyone who plans on modding anything. Ergo, I shall focus on that, and leave the undoubtably highly positive reviews on playability and visual impression to others.
So, what makes this utility so brilliant?
If any of you have ever tried your hands on creating a semi-professional campaign for Starcraft: Brood War, you will probably remember the pain of having to download and configure a myriad of tools and gadgets in order to be able to modify whatever it is you wanted to modify. Until this utility, the same was largely true for us AoC designers, especially when it came to proficiently utilizing modpacks. We were all bound to the constrictions of j_c_a's otherwise expertly crafted Mod Pack Studio - if the end user didn't have that tool installed, they couldn't run the mods included in the project they downloaded. Dave_Earl's clever use of DRSBuild (a tool from the AoE era, no less) eliminates that handicap, by means of extracting and backing up the original files in your graphics and interface libraries, and replacing those resources with the modded ones. Sounds good? It gets better.
Just modding the game without having to use MPS isn't enough. Let's be honest - it is rather cumbersome to have to run a batch file every time you wish to swap from the mod you were playing to the vanilla version of AoC... And what happens when those aren't the only files included in the modpack?
Ever since the release of GeniEd (and later the AoK Trigger Studio), most designers have been messing around with previously inaccessible data, usually to great effect. Nearly every campaign uploaded today features modded engine and language files (I'm not even starting with the custom .MP3's), all of which have to replace the vanilla ones without compromising AoC's data. Since we people are by nature a lazy bunch, we really don't want to do all that by hand. That's, once more, where Dave_Earl steps in.
By combining the powers of DRSBuild with the nigh-InstallShield Wizard-like functions of the Nullsoft Installer, he effectively reduces installing a mod(ded campaign) from having to back up a host of files and replacing them with new ones... To having to tell the installer where you've installed AoC. That's it. No hassle, no nothing. You tell the thing where you installed the game, and he does the rest. Copying files, backing up files, applying mods, everything. And not just that - it even provides you with a convenient uninstall tool, should you grow weary of the modified files. Sounds great? It gets even better.
We all know the horrors of mods gone wrong - permanent overwrites, having to reinstall AoC time and again... Imagine a wrong NSIS script template, that completely obliterates your fresh AoC install. Nightmare? Indeed. However, Dave_Earl has the answer. By not only including a 25-page long .PDF that explains everything you've ever wanted to know about effectively modding AoC, he's also delivered the template he used to build his installer - which, combined with some reading at the NSIS site (or perhaps even better, by using the HM NSIS Editor), allows even the most computer illiterate person to successfully build an install script. None of us are computer illiterate, of course, but some careful exaggeration helps to drive this immensely important point across.
So what is the net result? A well-documented release of what SC:BW modders wish they had; the whole nine yards. This is the complete deal, people - with this, everything you see at your screen can be transferred to others with the click of a button. In my not so humble opinion, the documentation behind this incredible utility actually dwarfs the utility itself - a utility that, on its own, is already magnificent.
That's it, that's all - give Dave_Earl a big hand, send him flowers, chocolates and your undying gratitude, and start downloading!
Edit (04/18/07): Corrected some minor spelling mistakes.
[Edited on 04/18/07 @ 10:24 AM]