Making Your Portal Mod

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This article will discuss how to create a Portal content mod, from scratch. Part of the reason for creating the mod from scratch is that Valve does not provide a specific SDK or mod template for Portal. Another reason is that creating the mod from scratch is not difficult and is of general interest to Source SDK developers that would like to learn more about how everything works. So, let's get started.

Note:Portal modification is different from some of the other Source-based games in that the source code to build the client.dll and server.dll files is not provided by Valve. However, a modder can still modify anything that isn't built directly into the game, which includes scenes, scripts, sounds, textures, and models, to name a few.

Prerequisites

To follow along with this article, you will need a copy of Portal and the Source SDK, installed on Steam.

Creating the Mod

Creating the mod consists of creating a game folder and filling it with configuration files and mod-related content. Let's assume we are creating a mod named "My Portal Mod", and that [Steam Root] is Steam's installed path on your machine. (e.g. C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam)

Create the Game Folder

Navigate to your SourceMods directory and create a folder named "MyPortalMod".

In this new directory, create a file called GameInfo.txt.

Edit the contents of GameInfo.txt so that they look similar to the following snippet. For details about the structure of this file, see

Gameinfo.txt.
Note: This page has been edited after the SteamPipe update
"GameInfo"
{
	game 		"My Portal Mod"
        title 		"My Portal Mod"
	type		singleplayer_only
	nodifficulty	1
	hasportals	1
	nocrosshair	1
	nomodels	1
       
	developer		" Name "
	developer_url		" Link "
	manual		" - "
	icon		"resource/icon"

	FileSystem
	{
		SteamAppId				400
		ToolsAppId				211

		SearchPaths
		{
			game+mod			|gameinfo_path|.
			platform			|gameinfo_path|.

			// We search VPK files before ordinary folders, because most files will be found in
			// VPK and we can avoid making thousands of file system calls to attempt to open files
			// in folders where they don't exist.  (Searching a VPK is much faster than making an operating
			// system call.)
			game_lv				portal/portal_lv.vpk
			game+mod			portal/portal_sound_vo_english.vpk
			game+mod			portal/portal_pak.vpk
			game				|all_source_engine_paths|hl2/hl2_textures.vpk
			game				|all_source_engine_paths|hl2/hl2_sound_vo_english.vpk
			game				|all_source_engine_paths|hl2/hl2_sound_misc.vpk
			game				|all_source_engine_paths|hl2/hl2_misc.vpk
			platform			|all_source_engine_paths|platform/platform_misc.vpk

			// Now search loose files.  We'll set the directory containing the gameinfo.txt file
			// as the first "mod" search path (after any user customizations).  This is also the one
			// that's used when writing to the "mod" path.
			mod+mod_write+default_write_path		|gameinfo_path|.

			// Add the Portal directory as a game search path.  This is also where where writes
			// to the "game" path go.
			game+game_write		portal

			// Where the game's binaries are
			gamebin				portal/bin

			// Last, mount in shared HL2 loose files
			game				|all_source_engine_paths|hl2
			platform			|all_source_engine_paths|platform
		}
	}
}

Restarting Steam at this point will create an entry in the game Library for the mod. Deleting the game folder we created or removing the GameInfo.txt file will remove the entry.

Configure the Mod

Initial Setup

Let's add some standard folders to the game directory that will hold our mod's configuration files and content. Add the following folders to your game directory:

  • cfg
  • resource
  • maps.

While we're at it, let's add the following optional folders, for custom content like models and sounds:

  • materials
  • models
  • scenes
  • scripts
  • sound

Create a Map List

In your game directory, create a file called maplist.txt. In it, we will list all of the mod's map names (excluding the .bsp extension). This file allows the game to pre-cache the first .125 milliseconds of sound for a map, which is enough time to load the remainder.

The following is a sample maplist.txt for a mod with two maps, named myportalmod_map_00.bsp and myportalmod_map_01.bsp.

myportalmod_map_00
myportalmod_map_01

Create Chapter Configuration Files

Change to your mod's cfg directory. Create configuration files for each chapter of your mod, starting with chapter1.cfg and continuing on to chapter2.cfg, etc.

In these files, you will issue whatever commands you want to be executed by the developer console when the chapter is first loaded. Typically, a command to load the chapter's corresponding map is used.

The following is a chapter1.cfg example:

map myportalmod_map_00

Create a Localization File

Create a localization file, called MyPortalMod_english.txt, in your game directory's resource folder.

Modify the contents of MyPortalMod_english.txt so that it is similar to the following:

"lang"
{
"Language" "english"
"Tokens"
{
"MyPortalMod_chapter1"	"The First Chapter"
"MyPortalMod_chapter2"	"The Second Chapter"
}
}

In this case, MyPortalMod is used because it is the name of the mod's game directory. "The First Chapter" is an English title for the mod's first chapter. Add any additional chapters for your mod by following the pattern in "Tokens".

Warning: This file must be saved in a Unicode format.

Note:The author (on Windows Vista) used a little endian UTF-16 encoding. In Notepad, under Save As..., this is equivalent to choosing unicode for the Encoding option at the bottom of the dialog.

Setting Up Hammer

Note:If you have not yet created a mod from the 'Source SDK' tool (creating a 'Source code only' mod doesn't count), then you will need to first create one. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to add a game configuration file for MyPortalMod. This configuration file is required to save Hammer settings specific for the MyPortalMod mod. See Create a Mod for details on this process. Do not create a 'Source code only' mod.
Confirm:Is vconfig.exe a viable alternative to creating an initial dummy mod?

Launch the 'Source SDK' from your Steam Library 'Tools' section. Make sure that the 'Engine Version' pull-down has "Source Engine 2009" selected. Select 'Edit Game Configurations'. From the pop-up menu, select 'Add'. A second pop-up will appear, asking for a name and a directory. Enter the name that you want your mod to be listed as (with respect to the 'Source SDK' tool) and enter the path to your game directory ([Steam Root]\steamapps\SourceMods\MyPortalMod). Then select 'OK' for the second and first pop-ups. Assume we named our game configuration "My Portal Mod".

Making your portal mod 00.png

Restart the 'Source SDK' tool. Set 'Engine Version' and 'Current Game' to 'Source Engine 2009' and 'My Portal Mod', respectively. Now, select 'Hammer Editor'. In the editor, select Tools > Options. A 'Configure Hammer' pop-up should appear. Select the 'Game Configurations' tab and then hit the 'Add' button for 'Game Data Files'. Select the file portal.fgd and accept the changes. These configurations will be saved and restored the next time you open Hammer from the 'Source SDK' tool with your mod name selected.

See Also