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Heroes of Might & Magic mods for Civ 2? or others?

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  • Blake00
    Since my last post I've been busy building and testing a rather fun scenario map for the HoMM2 mod! I've hit a few bugs to sort out, and I've been finding lots more text in the game files needing replacing, but overall things are going well and I'm currently building my Azure super dragon to win the game! So over the weeks to come I'll be writing up the documentation, making a tour video & some other promotional stuff, and cleaning all the WIP junk out of the scenario folder and packaging it for release!

    In the meantime I thought I'd post some more pics to show people some of the map and the faction staring locations I made and have been polishing and balancing out since. All land masses are connected by land bridges and there are many dangers lurking in the badlands between each factions homeland ensuring they have 'some' protection from each other to begin with. You'll notice that we've pretty much used all the tricks in the book to heavily pack decoration into every area making it feel more like a HoMM map, and that each faction starts in a different looking area that suits their theme (ie often the kinds of lands they'd occupy in original HoMM maps). Metro & I originally talked about making every single terrain type in the game produce the same amount of resources so that we could create truly different lands for each faction much like how they are in the HoMM games. However I noticed he never got around to doing it years ago, and while I thought about recently doing it myself I realised that I'd be taking away one of the big gameplay strategic parts of the Civ experience which is to find the perfect spots for your cities and give each city a sense of specialness and individuality, whereas if everything is worth the same then all that almost means nothing. Also I've noticed in some Civ2 MGE scenarios I've played over the years that the AI seems to beeline it straight for grassland slot areas even when there's better custom terrain using other slots so I guess grassland slot hunting is hardcoded into the AI behaviour or something. So I decided for better or worse to try and have a bit of both words (which knowing my luck will probably manage to annoy both the Civ fans & the HoMM fans at the same time lol) and give every factions starting location a decent amount of grassland slots inbetween their factions usual associated terrain and make most of these other terrains similar in resource yield (especially after they've been irrigated).

    So lets start with the good guys first!

    The Sorceress faction occupy fertile grasslands filled with lakes, rivers and dense magical forests much like in HoMM. The forests will give them a production advantage over other factions but they will eventually inhibit growth as they must be cleared to make more farmland which can take time. The Sorceresses can field multiple flying* units giving them the ability to quickly expand and explore. If they can survive long enough to obtain their extra fast top tier Phoenixes, they may become unstoppable.

    Next comes the Knight faction who in HoMM usually occupy similar terrain to the Sorceress, so to make them different in Civ2 I gave them a lot of dirt/plains terrain. Which gives their lands a look of a similar fertile paradise to the Sorcerers but clearly the those naughty humans have been clearing lots of the forests. As in HoMM the Knight's can grow quickly and some of their units are cheaper but they lack some of the special powers and abilities that the other races get (eg flying* creatures). Strong growth and overwhelming numbers of their strongest units like the Crusader will be key to their success.

    Lastly comes the Wizard faction who in HoMM2 occupied dry cracked terrain so naturally they do so in our mod too. Wizards players will need to capitalise on the fertile lands around the rivers until they can irrigate the cracked lands. They have access to flying* units and some very powerful units like the mighty titan which has more hitpoints & firepower than most other top tier units. In my test game they were the dominant AI faction.

    Next up below I'll do the bad guys and neutrals!

    But speaking of the neutrals, this little moment made me laugh, heh my enemies diplomats have been hypnotized! We can thank MetroPolis for that idea.

    Now let's get to the bad guys!

    Starting with the powerful Warlock faction, who just like in HoMM2 favour the dark volcanic wastelands. These starting lands give them a harder start than the other factions, so they will need to rely on the fertile river lands while cultivating the volcanic lands. Where the Warlock's really excel is in powerful flying* units, so if they can survive their rough start and establish a good economy then they will be able to quickly expand and overwhelm their neighbours. If they survive long enough to reach the deadliest unit in the game, their mighty Black dragon, the world will be theirs! They also start quite near the legendary Dragon City which if conquered offers great rewards.

    Next comes the Barbarian faction, who normally occupied desert, cracked and dirt/plains areas of HoMM2 however since those terrain types are used by other factions and the Barbarian castle screen has more of a cold tundra look I've given them lands that are a mix of cold snow, damp swamp, dirt/plains and grasslands. Similar to the Knights the Barbarians lack flying* units and special abilities, however their lands are quite fertile and their units are cheap, so quick growth and a strong economy will allow them to field large numbers of their strongest units like the Cyclops.

    Then comes the last of the original 6 factions, the evil Necromancer faction. The Necromancer's live in the dark swamp regions where many an unfortunate soul has wandered into and never returned. While their castle screen looks more volcanic I felt they'd better suit the swamps on the map due to it's dead trees and graveyards! The Necromancer's starting units are not the strongest however it's lands are quite large so if they can survive long enough to get to their multiple high tier flying* units like the Bone Dragon then they will become a force to be reckoned with.

    Lastly comes our special bonus 7th Civ, the Neutrals faction. The Neutrals are an alliance of previously unaligned creatures that the other expanding factions have pushed out of their homelands into the hostile desert regions. While seemingly an odd match-up of creatures they are united in their cause of pushing back against the other factions and reclaiming their homes. The neutrals are in a rather central location on the map meaning they're surrounded by other factions which can make them tough to play as. However if you survive off the fertile rivers & oasis's while you work the lands into something better and start to expand out into the even wilder savage desert lands to the south, then you can build up a large empire that can hold it's ground until you gain access to their deadly flying* top tier Genie unit!
    As previously posted, this special 7th bonus faction is heavily inspired by the desert Dervish faction in the utterly brilliant Succession Wars mod for Heroes of Might & Magic 3 that converts HoMM3 into a HoMM2 like experience but also adds cool new factions containing many of the neutral creatures from HoMM2, all with a HoMM2 art style. The Neutrals Anglo Saxon style hero comes from the excellent Palm Kingdoms 2 PC & Mobile game that is very HoMM2 like! Many thanks to both the SW (Dervish castle & village map graphics as well as their gorgeous desert Dervish castle screen graphics for the city window background) and PK2 teams (custom Heroes) for allowing us use of their graphics!

    Note: As previously mentioned sadly Civ2 MGE does not allow access to the 7th city castle map graphic slot so they will not appear like this in-game (this will be fixed in a later Test of Time version) unless you manually swap the Barbarian & Neutrals art slots around in the cities graphics file.

    (* flying creatures in this mod do not use the Civ2 flight mechanic which is reserved for magic spells. Instead flying units have increased movement and treat all squares as roads special ability.)

    And now it's time for the final thing I wanted to show you guys. Back in the early days when MetroPolis and I were making this HoMM2 mod together we pretty much had the same ideas for nearly everything, which is why we worked so well together and were able to do so many crazy things to Civ2 fueled by our shared dream of a true total conversion experience. However there were a couple of small areas where we did have different ideas...

    Irrigation & farmland:
    As a kid playing HoMM I always wanted to work the lands and make farms around the castles so I was eager go in a more 'Civilization like' direction for our mod and have irrigation & farmland around our cities with some HoMM2 cottages, houses & wells added in to still keep the HoMM feel. MetroPolis wanted more of a traditional HoMM look on the map with just some wells and houses giving things a cleaner and less cluttered look.

    Unit/creature borders:
    I wanted to keep the HoMM2 units as they were and not change them in any way, whereas MetroPolis felt they were getting a bit lost in the map and he always quite liked the bright glowing yellow borders on selected units during the HoMM2 tactical battle screen and decided to replicate that affect on our units painstakingly drawing borders around all of them.

    Originally MetroPolis was most gracious and was happy to go in my direction resulting in his ideas almost being lost and forgotten about. However I didn't forget and I recently decided to go digging through our giant CivFanatics PM convo history (100s of messages over 40 pages lol) and I found his old alternative files. Due to the huge amount of changes we'd made over the years since Metro's old files were no longer compatible at all with the current mod, however I decided out of respect for my old co-creator and because I can see (as I'm sure others will) the benefits of his less cluttered map graphics that I would convert his alternative assets over to the latest version of our mod and include them in the release! Ironically there were quite a number of new units we'd added since his old file, so I had to sit there drawing yellow borders around all of them too lol! While my ones remain the defaults these alternative files will sit in a ALT_FILES folder I'm including in the mod where players can also find all the different city background alternatives depending on which faction they choose. Some people may even want to mix and match (eg my units and his farms or visversa) which they are welcome to do! This is pretty much the last update I've got for you guys before release as there isn't much left to do on the mod now, I'm just finishing up documentation and some of the marketing stuff (eg videos and website). Shouldn't be too long now!

    Comparison shots, Left = Blake's defaults, Right = Metro's alternatives:

    Last edited by Blake00; May 15, 2023, 08:25.

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  • Blake00
    Well it's time to talk about that Dragon breeding spaceship construction replacer I mentioned last time!

    While I discovered through testing that I did not need to convert the palette for the SS.dll space ship images to work with the new custom font colours (that I showed you guys in the previous post), playing around with Matt Dempsey's Game of Thrones Civ2 Mod Dragon breeding spaceship replacement that I used in our mod still got me thinking about things. In that while yes I've credited him in our readme and yes many Civ scenarios contain elements & graphics from what has come before it still kind of annoyed me that I couldn't get his actual permission (as he's disappeared) resulting in this big chunk of the mod that Metro & I had not made ourselves other than changing the background image. Also in a game where there are buildable black dragon units you can take into combat it seemed kind of weird that you could just build this 'other' black dragon and magically win the game lol. So I started thinking about how I could make it my own plus also make it more HoMM lore friendly, and then the idea came. HoMM2 doesn't have any super dragons but in HoMM3 there is the mighty Azure Dragon, a huge blue super dragon that is far more powerful than any other dragon and that even just a mere handful of them can demolish entire armies of other units in the game. So I went hunting and found some pictures of them from HoMM3 to insert over the top of Matt's GoT black dragon. When I started testing my replacements I very quickly started coming up with more ideas (& more work lol) to improve things further. For example Matt's dragon only uses 5 frames (an egg, a tiny dragon, a small size dragon, a large dragon, & a full size dragon) repeated across the 24 growing SS Structural spaceship frames, and due to his dragon's wings being fully outstretched he also didn't really use the maximum area size available resulting in the his dragon looking a bit small even at full size.

    Matt's black dragon with our HoMM background

    So I decided to make all 24 frames look different despite only having a few source frames myself! I kept Matt's egg and made it slowly increase in size for the first 6 frames, then I created a egg hatching frame with broken pieces and a little blue head popping out, then I created 5 frames using a slowly growing version of the Azure dragon from the HoMM3 battle screen (the original image is small so it gives the dragon a nice adolescent hasn't taken flight yet look), and then to finish off I created 12 frames using a slowly growing version of a much bigger & cooler picture of a flying roaring Azure dragon which I think was from a HoMM3 addon or chronicles promotional shot. Sadly there is a limited amount of blue colours in the Civ2 Space Ship palette & I couldn't be bothered building a new palette for it so it's a bit faded compared to the HoMM3 original but it's still a pretty nice blue! I also worked out the maximum pixel area size available that you can use for each stage and put a pink border around it (that's indivisible in-game) should Civ2 modders wish to look at the images in dll file and use them as a template for their own work. Matt had also broken the OK and Launch buttons by putting some things out of order so I fixed them too.

    Blake's new Azure dragon growing

    I decided to keep the same background image I'd used with Matt's dragon which is a HoMM2 campaign shot where evil Archibald had captured a dragon king. However like with the previously posted background changes above I've switched it from the old faded look to a darker background instead and I also changed the green dragon king into a blue one! Here's some in-game shots of the egg hatching and the final fully grown Azure dragon!

    I've also successfully reintroduced the SS space ship parts back into the tech tree & city build list, renamed them to dragon ones, and given them custom icons. I've also replaced the spaceship construction sound with a dragon roaring heh.

    Next it was time to create the Azure Dragon launch and victory video sequences ensuring that now every single video in Civ2 (there's a lot lol) has been fully replaced!

    These dragon videos ended up being quite the challenge to make as...
    • Some of the source HoMM2 videos Metro & I used in 2019 that we obtained from the internet had nasty glitches in the parts I needed so I had to boot up HoMM2 in dosbox and record some fresh new videos myself (thankfully I still had my old savegames from the 90s!).
    • For these HoMM2 recordings I was unable to turn off the campaign video commentary voice track without turning off the video sound effects too (dragons flying & roaring etc) so I was forced to redo all sound effects myself. So I used in-game battle screen dragon flying and roaring sounds which worked out okay albeit a bit repetitive, so I've done my best to cover that with cool HoMM2 music!
    • Then I had the problem of trying to make the green dragons in all the videos blue to match the Azure super dragon theme which I really struggled to sort out. However eventually I found some answers on the Shotcut video editor help forums where a girl was asking how to make her yellow dress red without ruining the surrounding stuff in the video. People's answers showed me some tricks with using multiple layers of the same video combined with cropping and chroma key colour hue replacement tricks. Which as you can see below successfully turned the green dragon blue! Although not quite perfectly, as the really light green bits on the wings wouldn't go blue and if I tried to put a lighter green into the chroma key it started messing up all the surrounding brown wall stuff, so that's about as good as it gets using this software.
    • And lastly I had to go find all the Alpha Centauri spaceship text and change it to talk about your Azure Dragons destroying all who oppose them. I didn't think it was possible to change that but I recently noticed the old Atlantis scenario managed to do it for it's submarine spaceship replacement and sure enough all the text can be found in Game.txt.

    (Click to expand)

    Lastly I also worked on adding a 7th faction city graphic into the cities file. Metro & I talked about doing this years ago but because the 7th city graphic slot is not usable in Civ2 MGE we didn't bother. However there's a chance that FoxAhead may grant my Civ2UIA wish list request to allow the use of it in MGE in the future, and if not then it's not a waste of time as I'll be able to use it in the Civ2 Test of Time conversion later as ToT allows the use of that city graphic slot! Heroes of Might & Magic 2 only has 6 factions however Sir Albe and the awesome guys behind the amazing HoMM2 style Succession Wars mod for HoMM3 (which I've been playing quite a bit of lately) have kindly given me permission to use their custom graphics for their special addon 7th desert Dervish race that uses many of HoMM2's existing neutral units similar to what we've already done in our mod so it was a perfect fit! The Dervish castle has been in their mod for years but their town graphic is not even released yet and will be in their next version (which is hopefully coming soon) so it was super kind of them to give me an early copy of it for use! They've also created a cool 8th swamp Witch faction (similar to HoMM3's swamp faction but with HoMM2 style graphics!) that I'd love to possibly use in the future ToT conversion too (maybe in the 8th CivBarb slot or as another creature spawner map object similar to the ones Metro has already created) so just for fun I converted that too while I was 'in the zone', however they've not granted permission to use that at this stage so this is just an experiment and it won't be used in our mod (and even if permission is given we're aaaaallll out of unit slots in Civ2 MGE lol so it would have to be the Civ2 ToT version later).

    I converted all the original HoMM2 towns and castles into our mod waaaaaay back in 2019 so I was super rusty and it took many revisions before I was happy with the new conversions as the original castle graphics are more than 2x wider and 3x taller than a Civ2 city slot and of course don't fit in the useable diamond shape either so a lot of work was required to get them done and to ensure they were in a similar style as my 2019 cities but I think the result has turned out pretty good!

    Of course after putting in all that work to get 'back in the zone' with city conversions I started thinking about taking advantage of the situation and doing some more conversions. Years ago I talked with Metro about doing a special Heroes of Might & Magic 1 addon for our HoMM2 mod that converts most of the graphics to HoMM1 style. We sort of laughed it off as something I'll probably never get to lol, and maybe I still won't! However the greatest hurdle with that addon mod would be having to sit there converting all the HoMM1 castles and towns over so I figured why not give it a shot while I'm in the zone otherwise it would have probably never happened. Sure enough I kinda flew through it and got them all done within a day! HoMM1 castles are thankfully not quite as tall as HoMM2 ones which made the downsizing a bit easier, although their front gates are off to the right hand side which was not so easy due to the Civ2 diamond issue but I was able to move them over a bit! There was only 4 factions in HoMM1 so that also made the job quicker too haha! Don't worry though guys, I'm probably not going to do any more work on the addon until after the main mod is released so no more time will be wasted.

    So that's pretty much it for graphics now, everything I planned to do (and more lol) is done! All that's left now is looking at the unit balancing again (as I'm not happy with some of my 2020 special ability choices), then design a cool map for the scenario and then play a test game while writing up the documentation. These final things are going to take while so the updates will slow down a bit again. However once these final jobs are done, this whole thing will be finished and ready for public release finally after all these years!

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  • Blake00
    Well after many weeks of working on the Civ2 episode of my big Civ video series and feeding in all the best scenarios and mods I've found or rescued over the last couple of years it's finally in a near finished position ready to have the final stuff inserted about my own scenarios...

    So of course for that I actually need to friggin actually finish my scenarios lol.. so yes the time has finally come that I'm back working on my scenario projects and intend to get them all finished and released over the coming months if all goes well! The first one I want to finish is the biggest of them all, this Heroes of Might & Magic 2 scenario that MetroPolis and I started all the way back in 2019! One of the advantages of the 3 year delay is that I've learned a lot more about Civ2 modding allowing me to do some of the crazy stuff I posted in the previous dev diary and also look at better ways of redoing some of our old stuff. Starting with GUI and all the backgrounds! All of the old backgrounds I did were painstakingly edited down in quality to fit in the tiny original Civ2 dll files using GifX to keep things compatible with pre-MGE versions of Civ2. However next to no one plays those old versions anymore and some of our recent additions have broken support for them anyway. Civ2 MGE supports much bigger files in it's DLLs so we can do a way better job! Now don't get me wrong, I put a huge amount of work into carefully downsizing and colour reducing all those original background images but let's be honest, they didn't look good, so I've thought for years about redoing them. I also recently discovered how to do custom font colours in Civ2 which requires new colour palettes applied to all backgrounds so if I've gotta edit all the files anyway I may as well redo them!

    To get things started I applied new custom font colours giving the primary and secondary headings a bright slightly golden yellow (similar to many HoMM2 GUI titles) ensuring they don't get as lost in our leafy marble HoMM2 GUI as much as the old grey ones did, I was going to make the regular info text bright too but that had some unwanted side effects, so I instead made it darker.
    Secondly thanks to these new custom font colours, I was able to finally import the true HoMM2 brown GUI background (albeit a bit lighter still). For those who may wish to stick with the old cream one I've left it in a safe unused spot in the Icons file though.
    Thirdly I decided to take on the city backgrounds as while they didn't suffer the dll limitation issues I still used rather simple conversion techniques resulting a huge amounts of colour and detail loss. So all city backgrounds have been redone too!

    To demonstrate all these changes below is an old marketing shot I made up that shows some of the map, the GUI, a custom wonder video, the title and the city screen. You can see the old cream GUI window background, our headings getting lost in the marble leaves, and the lack of colour in the city background.

    (Click to expand)

    And here's a brand new shot where you can see the true brown HoMM2 GUI window background, bright coloured headings for the city and map windows, and the city background has much more colour in it. As a fun side effect the custom yellow font colour has also changed the city building list and the flashing end of turn message!

    (Click to expand)

    Next I started looking at Civ2's Intro.dll file to get things looking better in the main menu/title screen. Our original background was not good as the default Civ2 background lady statue with the scales etc was all brown making the file size so small forcing me to spend hours gradually taking so much detail and colour variety out of our custom background to fit in the dll that it just looked terrible! Plus its lack of quality was made even more obvious by the fact that Metropolis had crafted a beautiful custom intro video using this castle on the lake sequence and the transition between the two was quite jarring due to the huge quality difference!

    (Click to expand)

    I also didn't know until I discovered Matt Dempsey's Game of Thrones scenario that you could put giant images on the Civ2 title screen and they would still nicely stay centered even if you're viewing resolution is smaller than the picture. So knowing that I not only created a better version of the HoMM2 castle title image (that looks similar to how it looks in Metro's intro video) but I also mounted it on a giant 1080P background image using the HoMM2 addon title screen image of the dark moody sunset battlefield. Naturally I've also gone through all the extra window image backgrounds that appear as you start a new game and redone them in much higher quality so you'll also notice the cobblestone street village image on the top left is also much better too! And of course the custom fonts and new GUI background are in play here now too!

    (Click to expand)

    I then commenced upgrading all the advisor background images now that I'm free of the GifX pre-MGE leash on Civ2 dll image sizes. Previously we used fading and blurring whereas this time I simply used darkening on all images just enough to make the text in front of them still readable (yes I know I probably should have gone even darker but they're sooooo pretty lol).

    As you can see things are looking much nicer now!











    I also decided that since we're already using HoMM2 Castle screen pictures for our city background images that we didn't really need to continue using them again in all those advisor backgrounds so I decided to boot up Heroes of Might & Magic 2 and take brand new screenshots of it's good old cutscenes to make new background images for many of the advisor screens! I also noticed that we never replaced the old Civ2 credits screen either so I changed the background and text for that too.

    (Click to expand)

    I also found where Civ2 keeps that little miniature icon version of its main menu title image (lady with the scales) that appears on the start a new game and quitting windows. It's very small so I couldn't think of anything good from HoMM to put there, so for now I just stuck a Black Dragon & Crusader from our units file in there squaring off heh.

    And lastly I successfully converted all the city sky view screen image files in the CV.dll file to support the custom fonts palette which stopped it cancelling out the custom fonts everywhere else whenever you looked at your cities. The city sky view itself doesn't look any different to what you've seen us post before though other than the city name being golden yellow and more obvious now.

    That's it with the overhaul for now.. next I'm thinking about replacing Matt Dempsey's custom dragon breeding screen that we used to replace the Civ2 spaceship launch sequence in my previous post. His dragon is cool but it's not from HoMM and it needs to be a special dragon different from the regular dragons you can build as units in the game so I'm cooking up something fun and interesting I'll show you guys next time!

    After that all that will be left to do is designing a cool map for the scenario, test playing it and then we can finally release this thing!
    Last edited by Blake00; November 7, 2022, 08:36.

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  • Blake00
    Well after so long since the last project update I guess it's time to finally post a new one!

    I'm sorry it's taken so long for this guys, MetroPolis has retired from mod making (nope no fallout haha, we're still good mates and he's still eagerly following this project) which means the final finishing touches are up to me. However over 2020-2021 I decided to mostly step away from all my personal modding projects to work on a huge Civilization scifi/fantasy scenario search & rescue cataloging project which lead to an even bigger preservation project saving thousands of Civilization 2 scenarios/mods lost over the decades and uploading to CivFanatics, ModDB, & Archive org which took nearly 2 years to complete! With so many old Civ2 sites gone over the years things were in such a bad way I just had to do something about it all! Many awesome people came forward donating huge collections to help and hopefully now all this great work will never be lost again! But now that it's all finished up I can finally return to my own modding projects starting with some more work on this Civilization 2 - Heroes of Might & Magic 2 mod!

    Delaying the project was not all bad though as it's lead to a number of advancements in my mod making skill set allowing me tackle the few remaining things Metropolis & I never changed 2 years ago. We've been bragging for a while now that our HoMM2 mod practically changes everything in Civilization 2 such as units, cities, terrain, buildings, wonders, events, backgrounds, GUI, throne room, diplomacy heralds, wonder movies, game intro/start/death sequences etc. However in truth 3 things remained untouched - the Diplomacy background, the Spaceship construction, and the High Counsel Video advisors!

    So firstly regarding the Civilization 2 Diplomacy Screen appearance, back in 2019 I talked with MetroPolis about how I planned to make it look like the HoMM2 campaign selection screen with the stone wall and the picture frames. I then went to try and do it and realised pretty quickly that the bricks were too big plus there was both torch & window light bouncing off everything at different angles (see pic below), so trying to copy & paste the bricks into a bigger wall and resizing the picture frames seemed too difficult, resulting in me giving up and never doing it.

    Then I last year I saw that Knighttime had made something very similar for his awesome Medieval Millennium ToT mod and it was literally what I wanted.. a cool stone brick wall with a nice wooden picture frame.

    So I asked his permission to use it and credit him in our mod to which he said yes However a problem with using Knighttime's awesome medieval background is that I've destroyed the floor all our custom video herald monsters stand on. So I decided to take a peak in the the vanilla Civ2 throne room pv dll file to see if it had some nice floors and sure enough it did. So I recoloured one of them and stuck it in for the herald monsters to stand on and I think the end result looks pretty good. I also finally fixed the problem of modern day strength icons being displayed on the sides and have made them all ancient style now which suits better. Then finally Knighttime went above and beyond and offered to get his original source files and resize his wooden picture frame to fit our custom HoMM2 hero leaderhead's! So by actually doing work that contributed to this mod he's officially inserted himself into the HoMM2 mod team list haha. Here's the finished results which I'm really liking!

    So with that one solved it leaves only 2 things that Metro and I haven't replaced or messed with in our HoMM2 mod, which is the Spaceship and High Counsel Video advisors which we originally deemed too hard to change.

    For the Spaceship I decided to use the awesome 'breeding your own dragon' spaceship replacement from Matt Dempsey's excellent Game of Thrones mod and give it a HoMM2 background and stick him in our mod credits too so that will fix that problem. I've got some ideas for the spaceship launch and landing video replacements too which I'll leave to another day!

    Dragon breeding!

    As for the High Council video advisors as far as I know no one has ever changed them before but I came up with an idea to replace them too knowing full well it would be a massive job! Metro & I only used a portion of the HoMM2 hero portraits for our Civ2 diplomacy leaders so there's plenty of spare ones and thankfully I've worked out how to make Civ2 indeo video codec movies without needing Metro to make them for me (as he did ALL the previous video work for our mod) using freely available video editors. As you can see below I was able to do a simple & crude but successful video advisor replacement test mounting a hero portrait over the top of the original video and because I'm still using the original video file underneath it will retain all the important audio timing cues hardcoded into the game.

    So then it was time to replace them all! For starters I needed to select a 'motley crew' of suitable HoMM2 heroes to replace our existing advisors! Naturally I couldn't resist a big angry Orc dude for our grumpy military advisor, I found a nice nerdy library wizard kind of hero for our Science guy, I found a Barbarian hero with posh clothes and earrings to make a good rich Trade guy, naturally I couldn't resist using one of the dark cloaked female heroes for our Spy chick, and lastly the hardest of all was trying to replace the Elvis Entertainment guy so I went with a crazy deranged forest hero with leaves & sticks in his hair as I'm sure he's highly entertaining when he walks into town lol, and there's just nothing else in the HoMM2 hero lineup that even remotely fits Elvis sadly. I also did my best to make sure each had different backgrounds so the colour contrasts would make each hero stand out and look cool & unique! Have resized (no stretching) their original near square shaped portraits by cutting out some side stuff and extending the vertical stuff (eg drawing extra sky at top & a bit of extra clothing on bottom or in one case cleavage lol) as much as I could without it looking too bad. Extending each one even further to fill it's entire window would have been cool but beyond my limited pixel drawing abilities sadly lol.

    For those who've never played HoMM2 I should point out that Heroes faces do NOT animate so it's going to be up to me to make it happen! However before I could even start on animating them I realised that a lot of their faces were not suitable for neutral closed mouth resting faces when they're not talking, as half these guys have open mouths, gritted teeth, and grumpy frowns heh. However at least some of these open mouths would save me work later when trying to make them talk. So here's my revised neutral closed mouth hero advisor lineup! I also fixed up some of my extensions a bit more too.

    So then I had to make their mouths, chins/beards, eyes & eyebrows animate which was quite the challenge as I'd never done that before! I've got a bunch of Sierra point & click adventure games (eg King's Quest and Quest for Glory) that have animating portraits so I studied them and extracted their mouth & eye frames to learn some tricks.

    My first animation test/proof of concept was the Trade guy as he originally already had a slightly open mouth and teeth that I felt would be the easiest starting point...

    I think it worked out okay and isn't too bad work from someone who's literally never done this before lol! Creating an open mouth on a face that barely had one is bloody hard, so I wasn't looking forward to doing this 4 more times lol! I also had to make him look friendlier since you can see from his original portrait earlier that he's kinda angry looking with gritted teeth. Although I kept his frown for one frame as the Civ2 trade guy does make a lot of snarky comments so it fits heh. Basically the whole thing is just five frames - one with mouth half open, one with mouth fully open, one with a blink, another one mouth half open repeated, and one with an eye brow movement. Hopefully this plus the regular closed mouth 'resting face' 6th frame will be all I need for replacing the video segments.

    Confident from my first success I then took on these 2 who were quite difficult as they both had tiny closed mouths meaning I had to open them from scratch myself! I relied heavily on my Sierra point & click examples for these ones! Took many passes and changes before I was happy enough with them! Science guy got a Spock like single eyebrow raise and at least with the girl I didn't have to worry about eyebrows at all! I have a beard these days and noticed that my moustache moves a bit as I talk, so I gave the guy a bit of that too.


    So then came the last 2 who I knew would be quite the challenge too! It's hard to see at this small scale but if you use either browser zoom or download the image to look closer at our crazy forest entertainer you'll notice that most of the leaves and sticks animate since that cool purple menacing background makes it look like he's in a bit of a storm. As for our Orc I knew I shouldn't really make his helmet move so I needed to convey his (usually grumpy) emotions in a very limited space. Fortunately the original picture had an open mouth so I was able to make some more open and more closed variants. His bloodshot eyes already convey rage but with his eyebrows blocked by the helmet I knew I needed to do more to convey his emotion, so I did a slightly showing eyebrow frown and made his nostrils flair at the same moment which will hopefully go nicely when he screams "GIVE ME MORE SOLDIERS NOBLE LEADER SO THAT THEY MAY SHEATH THEIR SWORDS IN THE BEATING HEARTS OF OUR ENEMIES!!!" haha.


    So with that all done next came the final messy and time consuming part of creating the finished product and mounting these animations over the top of all the advisors! Their files which are comprised of 3 big council videos and 3 anarchy videos makes over 20mins of stuff that I had to replace every second of with the neutral static faces or the animating faces each time I heard them speak lol! In the end it took me 2 weeks but I got it done and am pretty happy with the results. The only issue I encountered was that some of the original default advisor thumbails were actually taken from moments where they were talking which means some of my replacements have open mouths instead of closed resting faces, but oh well other then that it worked out perfectly! You can check out the results of all this work below in this video, enjoy!

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  • Blake00
    Originally posted by EPW View Post
    You made this? Amazing.
    Thanks! This project is a joint effort between myself and another Civ2 modder called MetroPolis over at CivFinatics.

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  • EPW
    You made this? Amazing.

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  • Blake00
    Hey guys,

    Time for another update.. a way overdue one! Firstly I must be honest and say that not a huge amount of work has been done on this project since my last post in May last year. 2020 was a rough year for many people and sadly I didn't escape its unpleasantness and had a few setbacks that took an emotional toll on me resulting in months of inactivity on all my projects. However late last year I got back into them and did a truck load of work on my Command & Conquer and Red Alert 2 scenarios getting them towards a near release position, and of course also did some work on this project such as finalising the sounds for all the units (and a few other things ), making some more unit special ability balance adjustments, and I also finished work on testing technologies (making sure you can research from start to finish with no glitches) and giving them all custom graphics.

    Speaking of technologies that's something we haven't really talked about much so far, so lets do it now. MetroPolis has painstakingly designed an awesome custom tech tree for this mod where all units, buildings and magical range weapons are obtained via 8 schools of research (mostly inspired by HoMM2 hero secondary skills) with 7 levels in each school. Default Civ2 only has 5 schools however thankfully they have 4 levels with different icons which meant I had access to more than 5 slots allowing me to make the required 8 icons thankfully.

    So here’s the final product! Some icons are from the spell tree while other ones are custom ones I made where I cut a hero skill icon out from it's blue marble background and pasted it over a spell scroll background to match the other spell icons. Also the military one is actually a combination of 3 different HoMM2 spell icons!

    So where are things at? Well all that's left to do now is creating a map & decorating it, final testing, writing up documentation, and then a tour video. Then it shall be released. But how long you ask..?

    Hmm well.. I hope I don't regret this as I suck at meeting deadlines and I don’t wanna be one of the endless people making false promises on this forum about their projects lol, but I believe now I'm at a stage with all my projects that I can say that this project will hopefully be finished and released within the next 3 months. If I fail to meet this deadline you can all kick my ass lol.

    Oh and I've had a few people ask me about our planned Civ HoMM2 map since Civ maps are so different (& less interactive) compared to HoMMs. Well the plan is to try to make it as interactive as possible using a few tricks. Eg monsters (assigned to Civ barb faction) fortified in various places and on top of nice things (I believe barb units fortified in forts don't wander around the map as I've seen the trick used in other Civ scenarios so I intend to user that). Metro has also setup some cool event driven unit spawning buildings on the map too (Dragon city baby!). Plus if players don't like my map and want to use this just as a mod for their own random Civ2 maps then metros spawners will still appear which is cool (I'll write a guide to help people get all the events working on their maps).

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  • Blake00
    Well I guess I better post an update as it's been a while!

    Firstly I want to say apologies to everyone sitting around waiting. The delay in release is 100% my fault and not Metropolis's, as I've been busy working on my Command & Conquer African Campaign Civ2 scenario remaster and Red Alert 2 Siege of New York Civ2 Scenario projects these last few months. However that and my other projects are now pretty much almost at a nearly complete stage where I'm happy to step back from them and get back to finishing this one and releasing it!

    So in the meantime there's still a few new things that I can post about here.

    I've had a few requests on various sites to post about units! So I thought I'd do up a diagram showing a breakdown of all the factions and their units!

    Important things of note:
    • HoMM2 has 6 faction slots and Civ2 has 7 slots, so Metro & I thought it would be fun to make the 7th Civ2 faction a HoMM2 neutral faction that controls many of the games neutral units (similar to the Conflux Elemental addon race in HoMM3). Sadly there are only 6 city graphic slots in Civ2MGE so they've been given Barbarian graphics.
    • The neutral 7th faction's units are not quite as strong as the 6 main faction's units however they are playable for those that want an extra challenge.
    • Heroes are special leader units that can work the land, colonise cities and even fight enemies themselves if needed due to having a number of special abilities. They're no match for mid to late game units though so protect them!
    • The rather fun HoMM2 styled fan game on PC & mobiles called Palm Kingdoms 2 has a number of alternative hero graphics (that match perfectly to HoMM2's likely due to being repaints) we were able to use for the neutral faction (Saxon hero) and the uprising leaders (alt Barbarian hero).
    • There are 6 unit tiers and each tier class has set attack and defense values across the 6 factions for balancing (as previously stated the 7th faction units are a bit weaker). However fear not, they do have a full variety of different special abilities giving each race unique advantages and disadvantages at different stages of the game. Some of these special abilities are as follows:
      • Flying units (eg Roc, Griffin, Phoenix etc) treat all squares like alpine troops (1/3 move taken) making them faster than all other units on all terrain but weaker in attack if they've already moved (we debated over using actual Civ2 flying fighter & helicopter unit types but agreed it was more trouble than its worth).
      • Fast moving 4 legged horse/beast non-flying units (eg Cavalry, Unicorn, Boar, Wolf, Centaur etc) get 2 moves instead of 1. So they're not as fast as flying but they can still attack at full strength after moving "charge!!!!".
      • Slow but sturdy strong units (eg Pikemen, Golem, Dwarf, Zombie etc) with have a 1.5x defensive ability against these fast charging units.
      • Sadly Civ2 doesn't support range attacks like later Civ games do however HoMM2 range units (eg Archer, Elves, Halfling etc) have been given a 2x sight radius to spot enemies.
      • The only true Civ2 air units in the game are cruise & nuke missile slots which we've used for cool magic spells (eg Magic Arrow, Lightning bolt & Armageddon).
      • So because of the above we can now give 2x air defense ability to units famous for magic resistance (eg Dragons) allowing them to survive longer against such attacks (if I can find all the game's references to "Air" and replace with "Magic" I will!).
    • All factions get access to a number of important shared units such a ships, siege, trade, diplomacy and magical attack units. Even with the best units in the game taking walled cities is not a walk in the park if you don't use siege assistance and much like in original HoMM2 our flying units cannot cross the ocean without ships!
    • Those with a keen eye will also notice several special fortress unit buildings (Dragon City, Xanadu, & City of the Dead). These are special event based buildings that spawn on the map at the start of the game and can summon dangerous creatures (eg ghosts & dragons) while offering great rewards if you can destroy them.

    NOTE: The above configurations is WIP and may be subject to change after final beta testing is complete.

    City Buildings Update:
    I've also made some small changes to a couple of Metro's awesome city sky view buildings. I've painted a side wall onto the city walls (not easy as it didn't exist in HoMM2!) and made the walls longer (yes the perspective is still wrong but at least it blends in a little better than the original now). I've also reduced the sea platforms and added a boat unit image we didn't end up using as a tip of the hat to when new ships appeared in the city screen in original HoMM2. Oh and I re-coloured all the splash effects to Civ2 water colours instead of HoMM2s.


    And finally here's a full list of our city building conversions. Metro likes having the original Civ2 building names bracketed in the titles to avoid confusion and I quite like it too as it's nice for once not having to go to the civilopedia to see what a custom scenario building does haha. However if lots of people don't like it and feel it breaks immersion then we can easily remove them. Nearly every building in the list is from HoMM2 castle screens and very few had to be made up which was good!

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  • Blake00
    Time for another update!

    Metro Polis has finished his final changes plus playtesting and is happy with things. All that's left to do is my map creation, my playtest game and documentation writing then this baby should be good to go!

    In these final stages we've been finding a few little left over things in Civ2 to convert to HoMM2 style for extra immersion.

    Victory Sequence:
    I came up with an idea to replace the Civ2 military victory guillotine sequence (where you see all the enemy leaders faces getting the chop lol) with the HoMM1 death guillotine sequence. Once again I was heavily restricted by the image size inside of the DLL file and the view perspective is a bit off however its quite fun watching the blade come down on our custom HoMM2 leaders hehe.

    For the final victory image I decided to go with Archibald and the dragon which thankfully the DLL size limitations weren't too bad so it converted beautifully.
    (in-game shot)

    Death Video:
    Civ2 uses a small video of a underground tomb for its death/failure sequence. It's start & end bits with the text couldn't be changed sadly but I asked Metro to make one last custom video for our mod to replace the tomb video part. For this we naturally used the HoMM2 death/failure video sequence of you hanging in a cage as well as the HoMM2 addon intro video of the dark bloody battlefield of bodies.

    Custom City Screens:
    I've recently been playing around with custom city screen background for my mods and decided it would be fun to make up a transparent HoMM2 city screen for each of the 6 factions. These are completely optional to players of the scenario and Metro has also included a nice plain wooden style city background if people prefer something simpler. Here's the Human Knight background (being tested on the wrong faction haha). You can also see some of the other work we've done such as custom citizens (using HoMM2 hero faces), ToT fantasy scenario resource icons, custom HoMM2 style buildings, and of course as we've previously shown you if players click on the view button they'll get treated to a gorgeous custom city sky view with HoMM2 buildings that Metro made.
    Last edited by Blake00; November 23, 2019, 00:57.

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  • Blake00
    Last time I promised videos so here they are!

    This is a actual in-game video that shows one of our custom Herald video characters in action. Here I insult the Warlock faction leader Archibald and his black dragon breaths fire!

    This is a simulated in-game video showing off a handful of the awesome custom Wonder videos Metropolis made! In actual in-game the videos look a little grainier due to Civ2's 8bit colour palette.

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  • Blake00
    Time for a well overdue project update! Metro has been travelling O/S and I've been recovering from some nasty surgery but plenty of progress has been around those over the last month and we're pretty much finished now and just doing final touch ups, sounds, documentation and play testing.

    Throne Room:
    Metro has replaced the entire Civ2 throne room with HoMM2 castle screens broken up into puzzle pieces. As each area is upgraded you'll go through several castle types. So if you choose to upgrade one particular area a few times it will lead to some rather funny results and mixed matches lol. While we would have loved to have done a castle with individual buildings being built (similar to what Tom did with his HoMM3 Civ3 mod) the positioning of objects in the throne room is hard coded and not something we can access to tamper with. So castle image puzzle pieces was the best we could do!

    Diplomacy Herald Videos:
    Metro has successfully replaced (which was NOT easy) and tested all of Civ2's diplomacy heralds with video animations of top tier HoMM2 units (eg Dragons, Titans, Crusaders, Phoenixes etc). They look awesome and its a real thrill when the leader you're talking to gets angry and the creature does its attack animation!! I might post an example video of this here soon...

    Genie for our 7th neutral faction

    Happy HoMM2 Warlock Herald:

    Angry HoMM2 Warlock Herald haha:

    New intro video and title screen graphics:
    Metro replaced the Civ2 intro with a short piece from HoMM2's intro and I've replaced all the DLL graphics in the main menu screen and start on customized world images. Once again we suffered from severe size limitations of the original Civ 2 DLL image files so the colours aren't too brilliant in some images sadly! Also we don't know of any way to change the ugly Civ2 brown main menu background either!

    Intro Video

    Main Menu Screen

    Wonder Videos:
    Metro has also completely finished all of his wonder video conversions. These are really impressive and use a number of different videos (mostly from HoMM2) such as a Dragon breathing fire or a camera pass in a medieval library while HoMM2 music plays all leading to a frozen image with the details of our custom wonders all in the actual video! I might post an example video of this here soon as well...

    Screenshots from new wonder videos...

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  • Blake00
    Progress pictures time again!

    Metro & I have finished replacing all of the 42 Civ2 Leader pictures with HoMM2 hero portraits. Converting their faces into the limitations of the Civ2 colour palette has been a real challenge but the final results are pretty good!

    Here's some of the imported leaders (light blue is transparent in-game):

    Here is a in-game Diplomacy screenshot (note we'll probably be telling people to disable the 3D 'Heralds' as having a Zulu, a Roman or some big Russian guy dancing away in front of our leaders doesn't really suit the HoMM theme haha).

    Meanwhile Metro & I decided to 'go where no Civ2 scenario maker has gone before' (at least we don't think anyone has) and replace all of Civ2's cutscene videos. As previously mentioned we're using HoMM2 artifacts as the Wonders so we're going to make some sort of cool video that leads to a book or scroll showing what the wonder artifact does using HoMM2 icons of course.

    Here's some test shots of Metro's awesome wonder video work (note: titles won't match video as we're testing using the slot 1 Pyramids wonder)

    And last of all here's a new in-game world shot where I've been playing around testing our world decoration. For a game that doesn't have anywhere near as many map objects as HoMM does I think we've done a pretty good job at squeezing as many map decorations into the scenario as possible haha!

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  • Blake00
    Time for another update...

    I've now darkened all of the adviser backgrounds and then reconverted back to Civ 2 palette and the results have come out pretty darn good! Writing is very easy to read now.

    I won't post the whole lot again but here's a couple of examples:

    Meanwhile Metropolis decided to surprise everyone by editing the images inside of the dll file that controls what you see in the Civ2 city view screen! This is something very rarely done before so it's very cool!

    Here's a test screenshot from a savegame where I'd built most of the buildings in town and the results are pretty awesome!! He's really out done himself on this one haha:

    A while back we decided to replace Civ2's wonders with HoMM2 artifacts and hero skills. We replaced their icons with HoMM2 ones and were done with it. However to add to his above work Metro came up with a way to still have artifacts in the city view where they simply display on pedestals (since they are not buildings). Looks really nice!

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  • Blake00
    Here's another project update post:

    Metropolis has been busy working on the event code so I decided to play with background graphics.

    Now this was difficult. Civ2 doesn't normally allow you to edit adviser and event background images. They're all stored in a DLL file called Tiles.dll. Clever fans have made an editor called GifX that allows you to change these images however you can NOT go over the original image file sizes (unless you use resource hacker and break compatibility with pre MGE versions of Civ2). This is really tough as most of the Civ2 background images are low resolution grey-scale (sort of black and white) images. I really wanted to get all of the Heroes of Might & Magic 2 castle screens into Civ2 somehow as decoration.

    After a LOT of experimenting I was able to do it! I'm pleased to say that I was able to get all 6 HoMM2 castle screens into the game AND with colour! However I had to downsize them quite a bit, reduce details, and severely reduce the colours. I had to put thick marble borders around them to reduce their sizes even future.

    For remaining screens I'm putting in screenshots from HoMM2 cutscenes.

    Wonders Screen:
    This was the smallest advisor screen of them all at measly 30k. Had a take a chunk of detail out of the picture and it juuuuust fits.

    Civ Score Screen:
    I've always loved this HoMM2 cutscene of a crashed ship so I couldn't resist using it! Had to compress it quite a bit sadly.

    Intel Report Screen:
    Used a shot of the the HoMM2 Gold intro. Had to compress it quite a bit sadly.

    Top 5 cities screen:
    Used a cool castle cutscene video shot.

    Kingdom Screen:
    Used a campaign cutscene video shot where you can see Roland's Kingdom (had to massively compress sadly).

    City Capture:
    Used a shot from the final bad guy campaign mission cutscene video where you lay siege to Roland's Palace (had to heavily compress sadly).

    Took this shot from the campaign mission cutscene video where you turn the peasants/citizen's against Roland or Archebald.

    Couldn't find any pictures or cutscenes in HoMM2 showing people celebrating. So I just used a cool shot of someone worshiping some royal magical stuff from a HoMM2 addon cutscene video. I thought about using the image from the HoMM3 intro of Catherine's men celebrating but wanted to keep things HoMM2 themed.

    Creating a city:
    Took this shot of a little village from the campaign mission cutscene video where you turn the peasants/citizen's against Roland or Archebald.

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  • Blake00
    Well by sheer luck I managed to find Metropolis over at CivFanatics and he speaks great (thankfully I only speak German and English) with it (as I've wanted to make a HoMM2 Civ scenario for a while now but could not be done on my own haha). HoMM3 for Civ3 mod (mentioned in my post above) as it's creator (Tom2050) is a friggin genius lol and we're using an older game but we're just doing the best we can haha. We know it's 20 years too late, no one wants to play it and people wonder why we're wasting our time but we're having a ton of fun making it so meh, we're doing it anyway haha.

    Here's some early test screenshots ...

    One of our first terrain test shots, Civ2's GUI is VERY limited but I've made it look a bit more like HoMM2s. NO units or castles had been added at that point.

    While Metropolis worked on terrains and units I started working on cities .. As we all know HoMM games only have one town and castle image to dictate city size / development while CIV2 has 4 unwalled and walled 4 sizes. So we decided to use the town for the un-walled cities and the castle for the walled cities in the scenario. The other BIG problem is that in HoMM2 which means to fit into a short and wide isometric city cell in Civ2

    into the pink area in this little thing (actual 1 to 1 size)

    I can go over the grey areas above but NOT below the diamond isometric cell.

    My first attempt. There were many revisions to get to this stage lol.

    This castle was a NIGHTMARE as I had to change the shape of the walls to fit in the isometric cell.. still not thrilled about the skull and other stuff so will probably get revisions.

    This one ended up being rather easy compared to the last 2. Guess I'd started learning from dealing with the past problems haha. Like with the previous 2 the windows and city buildings were horribly distorted by the downsize requiring me to repaint them in. And also much like with the others the castle wall and village fence is completely repainted and reshaped to fit the Civ2 cell limits and remove downsize distortions.

    This was one tougher than I thought as I quickly realised that the brick pattern on the walls (which was destroyed in the shrinking/downsizing) was also all over the castle so I had repaint the bricks all over the whole bloody thing lol.

    Those with a keen eye will see I'd played around with the forts a bit more too. Metropolis also smoothed out the beach shore lines a bit by this stage too.

    This one took longer than I wanted as well, as the village had an annoying crisscross fence that trying to do a miniature version of on an angle was hell haha.

    FINISHED! All 6 done!

    And finally here's a shot I just took today where as you can see Metropolis has added HoMM2 units and Heroes to the game and I've snuck some extra decoration into the river tiles. Due to Civ2 not being an strategy RPG with lots of map locations to visit we're very limited in what objects we can place on the map so we've had to pull a lot of tricks like these to get interesting stuff into the maps. You may also notice Metropolis has put some ocean decoration at the river mouths too. Take note that the big Xanadu building is more than just decoration, like several other cool interactive buildings we're planning there is much danger there but also treasure too.
    Last edited by Blake00; November 2, 2019, 03:32.

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