Starting with next year's Imperator: Rome (opens in new tab)—which impressed Tom in his hands-on this week (opens in new tab)—Paradox's grand strategy games are going to be much easier to mod thanks to an upgrade to the engine the developer uses, according to engine team lead John Wordsworth.
In an interview with Venture Beat (opens in new tab), Wordsworth said that a major upgrade to the ten-year-old Clausewitz engine will provide far more tools to modders, allowing them to easier create custom UIs, complete overhaul mods or simply change the terrain of a map.
The next iteration of the engine will still use Clausewitz, which Wordsworth described as simply a "bunch of code that you can use to make games", but the addition of software called Jomini (named after 19th century general Antoine-Henri Jomini) will allow Paradox to create new tools that both developers and modders can use across future "top-down map-based" games.
“Modders always ask us why we don’t give them the tools we use to make the games, but we don’t have any. People are the tools," Wordsworth said. "That’s the biggest thing we’re changing. So we’ve got two tools engineers in our team, and we’re recruiting two more. Half of our team is going to be building tools, going forward.
“Modders should be able to make super-fancy UIs without editing any code in the game. I think it comes down to that: We want to put as much power as we can into the hands of the people who are making content. They shouldn’t have to ask a coder for help."
Wordsworth plans to put all the new tools that internal developers will use in the hands of modders eventually. "Instead of appreciating us from afar, you can get your hands dirty. See what we do, how we work, and have a go yourself"—unless, of course, "someone from legal comes in with a big hammer and says I can’t". Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Even on the old engines, modders produced plenty of weird and wonderful creations for Crusader Kings 2 (opens in new tab), so I'm excited to see what they'll do with the new tool set.